Squid Week

It’s not everybody’s cuppa, but Te Papa is thawing the colossal squid they were given last year (some local trawlers caught it and brought it in — I remember it made the news), and are holding a series of lectures and etc. in conjunction with the dissection. While they’ve got a crack team of specialists assembled, they’re taking advantage of the opportunity to do some work with giant squid and other specimens in the collection as well.

They’ve got a SquidCam set up so you can watch the dissections live. Woo ! And they’ve got a blog so mollusc-o-philes playing at home can keep up with developments and ask questions. Lots of photos of Scientists At Play in their Natural Environment. Scroll to the bottom for the adorable photo of Olaf, from Tonmo* getting silly with one of the Architeuthis tentacles.

*The Octopus News Magazine Online, “Your Octopus, Squid and Cephalopod Information Center.” I note the Cephalopod Science Moderator is Steve O’Shea, the New Zealand squid chaser they did that Discovery Channel special on. Since Steve is also on the Te Papa Squid Team, Tonmo’s getting a lot of traffic lately.

Apart from the Doom and Gloom

There was some good stuff going on this weekend, in amongst all the rest.

We got to help out a friend up the coast with the loan of one of our studs (we have more than one — that still just weirds me out). She picked Hyouki ! She drove down on Sunday to pick him up and take him back to her place, and we had a nice chat. We had warned her after our attempts to put him with Holly that he was still a mite awkward, but she rang us later in the afternoon to say he did the business just fine (well, with a little help getting lined up anyway). Our little boy’s all grown up *sniff*.

We also got a call from the people up Paekak Hill that we’d visited… last month ? a couple months ago ?… anyway, they’d just had their first cria born to one of their females, and wanted to make sure they were doing all the right stuff & what to look for & etc. It was a good antidote to the misery with Latte to hear from new owners all excited by their very first birth. And it was a girl, too !

And finally, we’ve had a lot of really nice offers of dinners and distractions from friends, and anecdotes from other breeders who’ve been through similar stuff, to help relieve the suckiness. It does help to know you’ve got friends and you’re not alone when you get stuck behind the eight ball like this. Thanks, guys.

Expected outcome

Even as I rushed Yale to the vet (with our neighbor Bruce driving) I was very realistic about his slim chances. Julia confirmed my fear, pneumonia, full involved, on top of the hypothermia. We tried oxygen, but within 20 minutes it was clear he was brain-dead.

We brought him home, and his little heart finally quit as we were almost back.

I have put him out in the paddock so Boo can have a few hours to realize what has happened to her little Fawn boy. Right now she is just freaked out and distressed. We will bury him later this afternoon, along with Latte, after her Post-Mortem.

Can't catch a break

I’d really like to know what gods we’ve pissed off, and what we need to do to mollify them. Latte died last night, which was expected, and — in the cock-eyed bizarro world we seem to be living in — fine. We were discussing over breakfast this morning about how it would be good to get back to normal, with just some bottle-feeding and no sick animals to fret over. Then Stephen goes out and finds Yale, Cariboo’s little boy, flat and cold (but alive-ish) in the paddock. It did rain quite a lot last night, but it wasn’t windy and it was actually quite warm. He’s a week old, and strong (or so we thought, anyway), so a bit of rain shouldn’t have been a problem.

Stephen brought him in and put him in a warm bath, and has been on the phone to the vet. I got a call just now that he’s not doing well at all. Stephen’s mostly keeping him going with the respirator, and is waiting for a neighbor to pick them up and take them both to the vet (since Stephen can’t drive and pump the respirator at the same time).

Bloody hell.

Fading away

It doesn’t look like Latte has a lot of time left. For the first day or two after the diagnosis she was doing okay. While she could not stand, she was hungry and relatively perky. The vitamins and other supplements probably helped give her a boost. But over the last 24 hours the light has started to fade from her eyes. She is as comfortable as we can make her, and she still eats (though I have not seen her chew her cud in a few days).

On Monday I will take her into the vet to be euthanized. Afterwards we will do a post mortem examination to see if we can learn anything from her death. A sad time. Poor little Enfield is going to lose his mother. He has been on a bottle since birth, as Latte never could provide enough for him. I will wean him over the next month.


They’re having “Downtown Eco-therapy” in Midland Park at lunchtime today. You rock up and they give you some seedlings pot up in coffee bags — they’ll be used later to reforest an old landfill somewhere on the south end of town. They give you an apron and gloves to go over your office togs, but all the people I saw seemed to be really enjoying getting their hands dirty.

Neat idea, I think !

Ten trip ticket

One of the times I was at the vet with Flopette last month I joked with Julia that I need a ten-trip vet ticket to save money. If only I knew…

Yesterday was another alpaca-emergency run to the vet, this time with Latte. Latte had always had problems with scouring- ever since we got her about 1.5 years ago. Periodic tests of the loose poo never revealed anything definiative (negative worm eggs, negative bacteria, negative coccidia). Over the last few months her poos had been getting much better, but she was still quite thin. Her cria last year (Nabaztag) had sucked many kilos off her, and she had never gotten them back.

Then, a few weeks ago, she started scouring again. We put it down to “another episode”, and did our best to provide additional feed. Then in the last few days she started to loose weight fast. Monday night she was a mess, lethargic and unhappy. Tuesday morning she could not stand on her own, and could barely walk- off to the vet! (a neighbor helped me carry her up onto the ute). We got the bloods off to the lab, and the initial results came in that evening.

They were… complicated. Like the sort of blood work analysis you would give a medical or veternary student to test their diagnostic skills. Massive anemia (she is probably only alive at that low a red blood cell count because she is a camel adapted for high altitude). Massive muscle wastage. Some liver enzmes up. Lots of other weirdness.

Most likely diagnosis- Lymphoma (or maybe Leukemia). Yes, it looks like she has cancer. Probably has had it all along, and the periodic scouring and weight-loss problems were due to it.

We are giving her treatment for her symptoms. At this point there are three possible outcomes. (1) She dies in the next few days. (2) We have her euthanized if she remains too weak to stand in a few days. (3) She recovers for now.

In the event of (3) she is retired, as the stress of pregnancy/lactation would probably cause another relapse. And even so she would probably die in the next year or two.

At least she does not seem to be in pain, and still has an apetite. I try to keep her warm, comfortable, and fed. We will see what happens.

Have I mentioned we are not having the bestest year ever here? To quote Ivanova from B5: “I seem to be burning off Karma at an accelerated pace.”

Last one of the season

Just a quick announcement that Cariboo dropped a little fawn boy on Sunday. Since the weather was dodgy (I think she’s been crossing her legs for a week or two, now, hoping it would get better), she quite sensibly had him in the shelter.

Good girl !

Mutant Vegetables

How mutant do you like your carrots ?:
wacky veggies

They came out of our very own garden, that Stephen built, and Kerry helped us plant. (I suspect the weird shapes were the result either of overcrowding or too much nitrogen.)

Garden !

In the interest of full disclosure, although the mutant carrots were from just last night, the photo above is of the garden in January, when we took out the first carrot thinnings. We have since had several weeks snacking on sugar snap peas, weeks of all the strawberries we could eat, a tomato-lanche, some lettuces, several actual full-sized bell peppers, a bunch of wax and cayenne peppers, assorted herbs, and a couple more carrots each the size of my forearm (feed a family of four with one carrot, seriously).

Although the garden spent several months in amazing lush good health, it’s currently becoming something of a sea of corruption, overrun with green shield beetles, little midgy fruit flies, strange caterpillars, and various wacky molds and fungi. Partly this is the weird weather we’ve had this year — long long dry followed by very wet — partly it’s the fact that we were taken by surprise by the amazing rampant growth and planted stuff too close together. It was physically impossible to even get to most of the tomatos, and they really didn’t get enough ventilation all packed in close together. And partly it’s because we just couldn’t keep up with the maintenance — pruning and thinning and getting all of the split or bird-pecked tomatos off and away. All-in-all, though, it’s been a tremendous success, and Stephen’s already built three additional boxes to spread things out and plant more for next year.

While I’m posting photos, here’s where the conservatory is at: not done, but getting there.

Conservatory in progress

And because we’re always posting photos of the alpacas, here are a couple cat shots. Jake in his favorite spot on the beanbag:
Jake on the beanbag

And Azami, tucked down into the box of comforters my mom sent us (Azami sez thanks, too !):

Tucked in

Argh, argh and more argh.

Okay, not feeling the Open Source love here. Yes, I know it’s free, and therefore I don’t really have any right to bitch. Yes, I know that 90% of my problem is that I learned graphics manipulation from the Adobe Hegemony, and that my notion of “intuitive interface” is therefore biased by my early training. Yes, there are some things that Inkscape and GIMP actually do much better than their Adobe counterparts.

AND YET. Dammit, when I use a selection tool, like, say, the marquee or the lasso selector, I would expect that it would, oh, select something. As in, whatever tool you use next — like the Move tool, for instance — would operate on the selection, and not the whole freaking layer. Or just the selection frame itself. No, you haven’t made a selection, you’ve made a selection frame. What can you do with it ? Not a damned thing. Is there a point ? Not that I can tell. RARGH.

Stupid, simple things that take all of a minute and a half to do when one knows what one is doing are taking upwards of an hour, as I stagger my way through the menus like a drunken moose, hoping to accidentally crash into some method of doing whatever it is I need done. (Why, no, the documentation does not help. The documentation consists of: “Need to select something ? Use one of our selection tools !”)


Also hating the Adobe Hegemony for taking the classic Calvin $60,000.00 glass of lemonade route and pricing themselves out of reach of normal people.