Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba woke this morning with a sunbeam and an earworm. This is not good. Extracting a sunbeam from one’s anatomy (he won’t say from where) is no fun. And as for that earworm …
1. If morning has broken, who broke it?
2. Can it be fixed?
3. If blackbird has spoken, what’d it say?
4. Does Babelfish have a translation tool for ‘blackbird’?
5. Didn’t our mothers always tell us don’t fall? If we’re going to anyway, YFNA supposes it’s better to do it on the grass than on, say, the concrete. But then mothers would probably complain, “You’re wet!”
6. Where do you mine sunlight?
7. Isn’t planet Earth already in enough trouble from people mining stuff?
8. If we have a nude day on our hands, shouldn’t we be trying to find clothes for it? There are decency laws, after all. Even in Hawai‘i.
(YFNA is in Hawai‘i on a work assignment. Yes. He said work!)
Sorry, you still can’t have any. Same reason as last time.
You remember the last time, when Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba told you how there came to be fish fry in our household.
Specifically, this fellow and his (her?) ten siblings, which are just about a month old now. They remain in the aquarium set out just for them, and they’re still under the watchful eye of Daddy, who has been standing guard since Day 1.
YFNA explained “Daddy” the last time too, how he got stuck with the kids after his mate laid eggs in his shell and then ran off to the bar. On account of because with these fish (Pearly Ocellatus, Lamprologus stappersii – or is it Neolamprologus stappersii, or Neolamprologus meleagris, or … oh, never mind) …
…the parents take care of their fry. Rear cichlids successfully and get a free show, and you have no idea whether you’ll get Leave it to Beaver or Married with Children or Three and a Half Men.
Well, there’s a new batch of fry in YFNA’s aquaria, and a new free show. Which is, of course, none of the above. Would you believe “Under My Thumb”, the oh-so-un-PC tune by the Rolling Stones in, like, 1966? (Look, you already knew that YFNA was around when elephants had fur, right?)
“Hold on there, Amoeba!”
“You just said that Daddy’s still in the special tank where you moved him, while the Lady’s in the big tank where she started, and where she’s been downing Mai Tais all this time. Shouldn’t we be talking about, like, immaculate conceptions here?”
Oh, yeah, right. Sorry. Y’see, when YFNA moved Daddy and the kids into the special tank, he also moved somebody out. That ‘somebody’ was another male Pearly Ocellatus – who had been placed in exile because, before YFNA put a stop to it, he’d killed off three of the original shipment of six Pearlies. Since he’d already shown that there wasn’t room in the special tank for anybody but him, he got shifted back to the big tank, with fingers crossed that The Lady would survive the experience.
She did, but she wasn’t happy about it. Any time Bully got near her space, she went postal on him, sent him off with his tail between his fins.
At least, that’s what happened with the lights on. When they went off, they must have come to some kind of accommodation (blindfolds, maybe?), because a mere three weeks after the move, there were new fry to guard.
And it was The Lady who was guarding them. None of this night on the town in skanky gowns stuff while hubby staffed the nursery, bottles and Pampers in hand. Uh uh. Bully sat in his comfy armchair in the center of the tank while The Lady huddled in the corner, her hair in curlers and the kids squalling and crawling at her feet.
YFNA doubts that Her Nibs was at all happy about this, but the textbooks, which plainly state that the female guards the brood in this species of fish, smugly consider themselves vindicated.
Now, on the previous occasion, YFNA rescued Daddy and the babies from the big tank, which is full of several other kinds of fish, all hungry, and their frypans. This time – well, YFNA likes keeping fish, but not to the point of bankrupting himself and Quilly. Nor has he any plans to open a fish store anytime soon. So he left this new batch of babies to test their wiles against their cold, cruel world.
YFNA couldn’t offer you a fish fry, dear readers. But the other fish in that big tank sure got one.
He: ” … and I did some sampling at the floor of the Pololu Valley, right about here. It was quite the hike to get down that cliff face, I’ll tell you.”
She: “Lovely. Can you come home now?”
He: “Love to. After they give me what I need to pay the rent.”
She: “Sigh. I know. That makes sense, but …”
He: “I am not making cents!”
She: “Um … tell me something I don’t already …?”
He: “Absolutely not. That would be counterfeiting!”
She: “And when did you start having this thing about carpentry?”
She: “If you’re doing finish work, you want the counter to fit, don’t you? If it’s too big, it sticks out; if it’s too small, stuff falls in the cracks. Either way, the customer complains.”
He: “Oh. That. That’s how the breakfast bar got invented.”
She: “It is?”
He: “Of course it is. ‘Dang it, boss, whoever drew these plans was clueless. This counter design don’t fit noplace!‘ ‘Relax, cuz. Just stick it out in the middle of the kitchen and throw a few high stools around it. They’ll never know.'”
Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba was sitting at his computer, polishing his tin cup preparing yet another grant proposal and generally minding his own business, when the following sentence popped out onto the screen:
YFNA was about to press “Send” and move on to the next task, but this sentence grabbed him by the shirt collar, hauled him back, and demanded that he look at this.
Specifically, at the yea and the nay.
They’re spelled different.
But they sound the same!
Shouldn’t it be, like yea and nea? Or yay and nay?
But you can’t really use yay in this context. It looks too much like you’re in the crowd at a football game, not a meeting where votes are taken and decisions made. That would be an insult to the dignity of the football game.
But if you can’t use yay, how are you going to convince people to pronounce nea so that it rhymes with say? Aren’t they more likely to say nea rhymes with sea? And if they get into that habit, and apply it to yea as well, aren’t you going to wind up with people in the US Congress deciding on the fate of Medicare by proclaiming yeee or (k)neee?
Talk about insulting the dignity of the football game. And are we really sure we wish to know into what part of our collective anatomy they’re going to put that knee?
Awhile ago, this hack writer by the name of Twain wrote an essay, “The Awful German Language”, complaining about just how close to impossible it was for he, Twain, to make any headway trying to converse in that language.
Seems to YFNA that Twain needed to look just a little closer to home. Just sea-ing.
No you can’t have any. At least not until they grow up.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba supposes he’d better explain.
Some while ago, YFNA set up some aquaria. Seeing as how the adoption of more traditional pets is incompossible with our retaining permission to live in this house. Not that some of the more traditional pets haven’t tried to adopt us, or at least claim our space. But let’s leave those plot complications for Charlene, eh?
The fish chosen for these aquaria all come out of Lake Tanganyika in Africa. There’s a reason, in addition to their being pretty or weird-looking and (more or less) easy to keep. Ever hear of Darwin’s finches? That’s a group of birds, all of which are descended from a single pair that flapped (or got flapped) from mainland South America to the Galapagos Islands, found that they had the whole place to themselves, and set up shop. Eventually, the birds evolved from one pair – and therefore one species – to a flock of species (a “species flock”, natch) each one of which was adapted to all the different ways to make a living (an “ecological niche”) on the Galapagos and acquired bill shapes to match.
The same thing happened in Lake Tanganyika and its neighboring lakes. When Tanganyika first opened up, about 10 million years ago, a single pair of cichlid fish (the “Tilapia” you buy in the fish market is a cichlid) fell in, and its descendants are now adapted to all the different ways to make a living in the lake. Some of the ones in YFNA’s aquaria swim in open water and look like sardines, some live among the rocks and look almost like worms. And some are tiny things that live in snail shells.
YFNA set up the aquaria with sandy bottoms, threw in a bunch of snail shells from the garden (another plot complication for Charlene) and from beach-combing in various places we’ve visited, and when all that had settled down, added the fish. Presto. Hours of entertainment watching the fish carry (yes, carry) the shells from one place to another, squabbling over them in the process, and burying them in the sand so only their lips showed. Then guarding those shells, and ducking down into them anytime a threatening-looking Amoeba walked by.
Until, of course, they learned that the “threatening-looking amoeba” carried food.
Ever see a fish beg?
So YFNA was feeding the menagerie about a week ago, when he saw these specks on the sand outside of one of the shells that the male (more about this in a minute) shell-dweller was guarding closely, and kinda frantically. Quilly came over to see. “Oh. Look! Babies!”
Now, as you know, baby dogs are puppies, baby cats are kittens, yadayadayada. Baby fish are called “fry”. (Were you wondering how long it was going to take to get to that explanation I promised?) Don’t ask me why “fry”. Ten of these things will fit on your little fingernail. Filleting them is out of the question. Maybe it’s supposed to be foreshadowing. “Your fate, Finn, awaits on some human’s stove”.
The other fish in the aquarium didn’t have stoves. Just as well: good luck with getting gas or electricity in there anyway. Not to mention that it’s danged hard to manipulate a frypan with fins. Or a filleting knife. It didn’t matter. What did matter was that these fry weren’t going to have lives to foreshadow, Daddy’s best efforts notwithstanding, unless YFNA did something.
Fortunately, for once, the best laid plans of mice, men, and amoebae amounted to something. YFNA reached into the tank, which caused Daddy fish and most of the fry to duck into the shell Dad was guarding, then picked up the fish-laden shell and carried it to the other aquarium, which had been specifically set up to receive them. Some of the fry didn’t make it back into the shell. No worries. YFNA got out his trusty turkey baster, sucked up the wanderers, and squirted them into the new tank. Where all is now well. Apart from the baleful stare that Dad gives YFNA every time he walks by.
So what’s all this about “Daddy?”
Well, dude, one of the gnarly things about keeping cichlid fish is that, unlike many other kinds of fish, the parents take care of their fry. Rear cichlids successfully and get a free show, and you have no idea whether you’ll get Leave it to Beaver or Married with Children or Three and a Half Men.
In this kind of shell-dwelling cichlid, what’s supposed to happen is that the female fish gets (ahem) invited to occupy a shell in the male’s territory. The eggs get laid in that shell, and the female sticks around to take care of the fry while the male guards the territory and keeps all those other fish and their frypans away.
Family life in this particular pair of fish seems to take the form of the female getting into the male’s, ah, shell, laying the eggs and then cutting and running. Leaving Dad to do the parenting thing. Makes one wonder what would happen if there were more than one male around in that tank. Which there isn’t, so I guess we’ll never know. At least, not until those fry grow up. Oedipus, anybody?
I will say this. Dad’s job, and mine, in bringing up these fry is surely going to be easier, not to mention cheaper, than it will be for the babies that some of our blogging buddies have been coming up with lately.