A Fish Story (As In, Somewhere In There Is A Story And Fish)

Know that widely-circulated myth about goldfish (or really, fish) having 3-second memories? Researchers actually debunked it years ago. Well but Disney says Dory fish can be forgetful, so Brutus must be a forgetful fish. Oh wait Disney also put an octopus behind the wheel of a truck but of course no one would believe an octopus can drive

Hank needs to keep his eyes on the road though (pic from tumblr.com)

Anyway, Bored Panda posted about this Goldfish Who Refused To Die (won from a fair - not unlike the ones we've got now - then living in a tank that hadn't been cleaned in 1.5 years) who prompted some good samaritan to redo the entire thing complete with all the aquarium attachments:

   

...and since we'd gotten 8 goldfish in two visits to Tai Tong Ecopark in similar fashion, I thought to mention that the stall lady had managed our expectations that these things would probably only live a week...

It's going on 3 weeks and we still have 6 - one died right after we brought everyone home from the park, but "only" the second one died last night.

Tai Tong Ecopark, we want our money back. The fish we got from you are still alive. 

So we now live with a Border Collie on meds twice a day (therefore also her disposable baby bedmats because the meds make her drink a lot of water), a hamster, two kids who produce a mountain of junk modelling and Legos, and 6 goldfish. We recently added two suckermouth catfish to eat the fast-growing algae in the tanks, which get quite a lot of sunlight outdoors, and then two guppies to replace the dead goldfish (go figure)

The old dog likes to make her presence felt when the kids are messing about with their toys which is why she is lying as close as she can to the tracks Rockstar is assembling

She lies a little less close when we trim her - the apartment/ bedwetting means I bathe her rear end every few days (all these animals are my gym!) which made her thick curly fur more prone to tangles... So in between swings at the playground Hamster Ninja looks for snarls and cuts them off with her little kiddie scissors

The apartment was just too cluttered so we put the fish in large flower vases from the supermarket, out on the balcony. A previous helper often lost our lobsters when the top of our old tank wasn't secure after she changed the water - lobsters have a habit of clambering about, and the water filter and air tubes were always fair game. So we'd return them, claws waving and stabbing maniacally about as you picked them up from under the furniture, to the tank. However, if you don't find them before their gills dry out, they die.

This time round we thought anything in a tank might have a better chance outside in large enough water containers to not need plug-in aerations, and Hamster Ninja and I change the water ourselves. It was a commitment she made in order to get to bring the fish home and get to set up "tank" again. Rockstar should appreciate that his little sister, perpetually noisy as she is, has endless energy to mother all manner of creatures in our home, including his. 

Now all I need to do is fill large covered Tupperware with filtered tap water and leave it outside. In the course of her messing with the hamster and checking on her fish after school, Hamster Ninja then scoops out the old water every few days right into the balcony drain hole next to the vases tanks, and replaces it with water from the Tupperware. Extra free labour entertainment for her, since she's always looking for something else to do with the animals (she watches little tv). She says the goldfish now peck at her fingers (I think they're either attracted to the salty sweat on her skin after school, or fish are stupid :D)

By now they've survived the last typhoon 8 outdoors, we seem to have way less critter casualties with Hamster Ninja doing it, leading me to Yet Another Caffeine-Fueled Epiphany: If you have to train your helper and keep reminding, reminding, reminding her to be careful, why not spend all that energy on your little kid instead? At the end of the day, the time invested is about the same, and you come away with the benefits your own child will have, from learning to take care of other living things.

Caveat: Your child with give you reproachful looks when you flush the dead fish down the toilet.

What? We knew the first one for like, a day. It was raining. I saved the dead bloated thing in a bowl for her to examine very carefully and then I got THE LOOK when I put it in the toilet. I am NOT digging up the Waterfront Dog Park for funeral services for every dead goldfish that comes through our home so I flushed the second goldfish before she woke up BUAHAHAHAHAHA.

We uh, knew Blackie for almost 3 weeks. I was LAZY. I know. But I will get better at writing Fish Eulogies.

Next animal - Sophie the Russian Dwarf Hamster:

She was originally living in this elaborate modern hamster run that Rockstar had the responsibility of assembling/ reconstructing at the time (maybe 6 months ago, with Gemma, before Sophie); that's not all of it, it actually spans about 2 desks, but I forgot to take a pic before dismantling it

This modern, formerly-gorgeous, very-educational-to-build plastic thing is an absolute pain to clean, and it took up so much space (picture above is after we already took apart the extensions that span two desks). So this Youtuber must have a gadzillion housekeepers, or at least a gadzillion cage parts. We only have a large trashbag-full. But we can all live vicariously through other people's Youtubes :D:

Also, the stuff we had, both Gemma and Sophie quickly outgrew and then you'd see their eyes totally bug out when they moved from room to room. Don't buy the hamster stuff marked "for Dwarf hamsters". Even if you have a Dwarf hamster. The tunnels are really, really small and your dwarf will struggle even if it isn't fat, and just stuffs its pouches.

So we got wire cutters and a bunch of cheap, small cages.

Hamster Hi-Rise a la most Hong Kong homes - narrow living space that takes up much less room - only about a third of a little kiddie desk, compared to the original 2-desk-wide one.

3 little wire cages piled up, and choice parts from previous cages. This little studio home also boasts a Mezzanine floor (in light blue), so it's 3.5 levels that also house a sand pit for digging, traditional running wheel, two climbing tunnels, couple food stations and nap burrows, a Sylvanian families light-up fireplace and a bathroom sink with mirror.

The bathroom dresser is especially important - Sophie uses it as a step up onto the Mez floor. My personal favourite however is that by unhooking two little clips the entire wire portion comes off and I can shake the entire bottom tray into the trash - the wires make the cage much cleaner because only the bottom floor ever gets wet or dirty. Total cleaning time every 2-3 weeks is now down to 5 mins. (Nope, our helper has never touched the hamster cages in the 1.5 years we've been having hamster. Everyone is much happier this way, and no animals get hurt.)

*Pavlov Effect actually works on fish too - researchers found they could train fish to swim back towards familiar sounds months after they had been released back to sea, especially if say, you played the same sound when feeding them while they were still juveniles.

While that has implications for fish farming (you can theoretically raise fish directly in their natural habitat and still be able to farm them), it's also a nod to erm, animal "training" in general - if you appeal to an animal species' built-in defence mechanisms or whatever it is they evolve in order to find food/ not go extinct for reasons other than starvation, you'll find most living things can be "trained"... 

 
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Kennedy School Y6 Swim Gala

"...We want to encourage... children (to) try their best..."

Sports Ambassadors Got Style a.k.a. If you haz brightly coloured 'fro, you iz someone in sports :)(they're usually sporty kids, on at least one school team, and charged with encouraging the other kids and getting them more enthusiastic about sports)..

 

The kids really walk up to and sit in the chairs at that far end before approaching the starting podium, "just like in the Olympics," another mum tells me 😀

Huge event, with pages and pages of carefully organised heats, and both serious swim rounds and easier or "fun" rounds, totalling a whopping 4 hours in that blazing sun. Lotsa prior warnings from the school, that it was going to be super hot and sunny, and boy it really was. 

"...There's some children who never thought they could win a swimming event and here they've won some..."

 

Rockstar had 2 scheduled events (and swimming is by no means his thing.) Ok, I feel like a fluffy swim story is in order - my beloved Brisbane former boss used to describe to us in the dealing room how in Australian competitive swimming, they pick the kids for serious training quite early, and at least partly based on size/height. Somewhat incongruously, given our surroundings, he would talk about sheer arm span and hand size and what-not... and how those chosen kids trained and trained dawn til dusk from young and it was their whole life and later on their whole career... and I might be tempted to say Well My Kid Used To Be In The Lowest 5th Percentile For Size So Bye-Bye Competitive Swimming 😀 (though by now it's closer to 30th Percentile), but there were some pint-size "bullets" from his school torpedo-ing about the pool that day, it wasn't just the (very) tall kids who were strong swimmers (though some really were that amazing)..

And then my former boss would talk about how when he travelled in and out of Aussieland he'd drop that his (now former) son inlaw Kieren Perkins was coming to pick him up at the airport, and watch the Oh Great, Another Fruitcake flicker of irritation cross the face of the immigration officers checking his luggage...... until they looked up and saw Mr Perkins waiting at the Arrivals gate.

(Yes, most of us met him, he used to come into dwarf the little dealing room, and introductions were just art, in their meh-ness:

Boss: Hi --- meet my son-inlaw. <pause> His name is Kieren Perkins.
Local RM: Oh, hello. You must find Hong Kong quite different. Have you been to Yat Tung Heen? You must try their dim sum.
Boss: He's a competitive swimmer you know. He's swum in the Olympics.
Local RM: <looks the towering Mr Perkins up and down again> Oh yeah, can see that. You look like a swimmer. Well hope you enjoy your stay <wanders off>)

😀 Anyway. As for school swim meet, you should see the serious swimmers, some of those kids in the big events like 200m Butterfly/ Crawl/Backstroke/Breaststroke are really, really good. Like, Hang-On-That's-Not-A-Grownup-Charging-Up-And-Down-The-Pool It's A Little Kid -good. I asked another parent if their child trains and swims competitively and they were, "What? No, just.. <10 year old girl in question is bearing down the length of the pool in a brisk butterfly stroke> for fun.." Um, ok. 😀

Everyone got to "compete," and most of 'em in several events (I should amend that to say some kids sat out some of the events they were listed on), just as though they were all strong swimmers.

There was so much effort put into organising this thing, with each child's name listed in each lane, volunteers pairing up to time them, and two "head timekeepers" doubling up to help check the times kept by the volunteers. Many of the kids were also moving between swimming in an event, picking up times scores and running them to the teachers, and cheering their friends and houses on.

There were also the "fun" races, where you have to get a beach ball across, or move with boards and noodles...

..and moving across the pool when attached to two other kids and their noodles 😀

...And thats all she wrote baby, thats our four hours in the sun!

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The Greig City Academy Sailing Club – A first, from a London Inner-City School

Something I found, about the same time I discovered there was such a thing as "sailing" after switching CNBC on one Sunday morning  😛

They've been working on this for a few years, the following Youtubes are from when they first got their boats (some from eBay*!) and then did some of their own refurbishments as part of school work in 2015, saying for some of these kids it would help keep them away from "crime and unsocial behaviour"..)

Several years later, just 775 views at press time... I especially liked when they said "if you work hard at something, at the end, there are great rewards"

This one, posted not by the school but by Halcyon Yachts also from 2015 with the beautifully meh introductory comment, "Greig City Academy, an inner city state school in London, have bought an old race boat" 😀

...and here's the prestigious Rolex Fastnet race they just competed in 2 years later (minute 11), placing 144th out of 368 entries...

 "They started from nothing... A group of teenaged students led by their Geography teacher took on sailing's biggest offshore event, the Rolex Fastnet Race... Until 3 years ago, none had any idea about sailing, let alone racing 600 miles offshore... and why should they, the Greig City Academy is an inner London school in a deprived area...there couldn't be fewer links to the sea...and even fewer to sailing..."

pic from article

Movie rights, anyone? (Haha they're probably already in talks... super funding opportunity for this inner-city school 🙂 )

ps: This article really struck me, because it occurred to me how hard it must have been for some of these kids to reach their goal - yet they managed anyway. Some of my mum's students used to be so exhausted in class - not from tuition or ECAs, but from helping their parents in night market stalls, or waiting tables or raising younger siblings... 

My mum taught (English) in upper secondary public schools her entire ~40 years of work life, and some of the schools were in the toughest neighbourhoods (by "tough" I mean "drove-her-new-car-to-school-and-it-got-carved-up-before-lunch-because-no-one-knew-yet-that-it-was-hers tough") and yes that was the apology she got, along with offers to beat the perpetrators up... 

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