Local glass blower saves the day


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When I broke my expensive Aqua Design Amano Lily pipe intake tube, I went to a local (Eugene, OR) glass blower to see if he could replicate it for cheaper than the costly ADA product. He could. Alejandro Hernandez at Studio West charged me $30. I had paid almost $100 for the ADA version. As you can see from the picture, Hernandez used slightly thicker glass tubing, so hopefully it will stand up to my periodic cleanings better than the ADA version.

And, like the ADA product, once it’s in the aquarium, it virtually disappears.

The only thing Hernandez didn’t do was sand down the intake slits. It could be a problem later for algae growth, and I’ll report on that, but for now, it looks fine. He used borosilicate glass, essentially Pyrex. And he tells me that Eugene’s rather large community of street glass-blowers (they make bongs) specialize in borosilicate glass and could easily have done this for me.

I use 1/2 inch Lees tubing to connect the glass pipes to the filter, and the fit is fine.

Delighted so far.

What trust looks like


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I had the privilege of interviewing Karen Anderson three years ago, a strong woman doing battle with melanoma. At the time, I was midway through radiation treatments myself for breast cancer and found her both remarkable and pragmatic. Her notion that she could trust herself and her life, resonated with me. At the time of the interview she was tumor free. But these days, she is back in the thick of the battle.

Her blog about it, Life with Melanoma, is a treasure for its blunt truth and humor, whether she’s writing about hospital visits or the joys of lawn mowing in bare feet.

I highly recommend it, and I salute her for being so completely present in every aspect of her life.

Highest best use of Runge

Among the last things I expected on a weekend visit to Portland: To have former  University of Oregon basketball coach Jody Runge serving me coffee at a bed and breakfast. Honestly, I couldn’t decide whether to ask for her autograph, or insist that she sit down so I could bring her coffee.

Here’s what I remember about Runge’s tenure as the woman’s basketball coach at the University of Oregon from 1993 to 2001: great leadership, great poise, and relentless pursuit of equal treatment for women players and coaches in college sports. It didn’t play well back then and the powers that be at the time cut her loose. Who knows why. I have never covered sports as a reporter and don’t know the politics of collegiate competition.

But Runge had leadership skills and to watch her teams play made my heart race. I grew up in the pre title IV era when girls and young women didn’t compete in team sports and the first time I  attended a game featuring a female team competing at anything, it was Runge’s UO women dominating the basketball court.

I wept. Had to go stand behind a pillar and get control of myself.

OK, I’m embarrassed about admitting that, but watching those young women giving it their all, and watching Runge looking fabulous and powerful on the sidelines was proof positive how far our gender had come in my lifetime.

Sadly, we haven’t come far enough. Runge got canned despite her winning record, eight straight NCAA Tournament berths during her tenure. Now a man has her job. For the last decade, she’s been living in Portland, owner of a lovely little bed and breakfast, which I stumbled onto purely through serendipity. It’s a great spot in the fun historic Irvington neighborhood. I am guessing that being a business owner with much more control over her fate has much to recommend it for Runge.

But those of us thrilled by her teams at Mac Court, we miss Runge. Apparently so does ESPN. They caught up with her for this profile last week. Their point: There are no second chances for women in college sports while male coaches with winning and losing records move school to school, no problem.

Anybody who thinks women are done in the pursuit of a level playing field can think again. Here’s what ESPN’s Kate Fagan and Luke Cyphers wrote:

Female coaches, no matter their records, often find themselves on the outside looking in. In 1972, when Title IX was passed, women coached 90 percent of women’s teams. By 1978, that number had dropped to 58.2 percent. This year, it’s down to 42.9 percent, according to the most recent survey by Brooklyn College professors emerita R. Vivian Acosta and Linda Jean Carpenter.

I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask Runge whether she prefers her current life to the world of collegiate sports. But from a purely selfish point of view. I want her back on the court.

The Ethan zone


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In 2009, my nephew Ethan helped me plant a Mexican orange. It was small and now it’s tripled in size and as you can see is blooming like crazy, the blossoms gently fragrant. There’s heather (which bloomed in the winter) in front and rock rose (which start to bloom in the next month) to one side. I doubt Ethan remembers this event or the visit to our house, because he was just four years old at the time, but I suspect that his grandma Irene remembers. She watched us dig the hole in the rocky soil, knock the plant out of its container, put it in the ground and gently fill in around the roots.

We did it on a lovely Mother’s Day weekend with family from Canada to California gathered. Now I rarely look at this part of the garden without thinking fondly of my nephew and that visit.

On Mother’s Day, I want to thank my mother for helping to orchestrate this memory. She is a woman with good instincts who understands the human need for connection.

The forgiving garden



Winter was hard on the rue, which looks begraddled. The deer have munched away on the rugosa rose, which nevertheless is spreading on suckers and looks a little crazy. The artemesia was a knobbly mess till I cut it back. Sow bugs and slugs munched the rising shoots of the calla lilies. The weeds, of course, thrived.

Still, my little spiral garden of mostly herbs and deer resistant perennials doesn’t look half bad on a sunny morning, despite my winter and early spring neglect.

It’s a good reminder that a little bit of work (in this case, a couple hours of weeding and sweeping) can make a big difference.

Here’s what’s blooming on the shady side: sweet woodruff (the plant in the banner picture at the top of my page) the corydalis in pots on the front step, the bleeding heart, the Mexican organge. Soon the rose campion will be blooming electric pink, and iris buds burst open.

Part of gardening is knowing what can survive my sporadic ministrations.

Ashley Judd and the crime of aging


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Apparently, those who follow celebrities have been talking trash about actress Ashley Judd’s face. From what I recollect of her movies, she has a lovely face. Miffed by the ridiculous focus in the celebrity reporting realm on the apparent puffiness of her face and what it says about our culture, she wrote a little something for The Daily Beast to rant against this dangerous obsession with the perfect female figure.

I think she’s a fine actress, a lovely woman and an OK writer (tip to Ms. Judd: never ever use the world “promulgate.” Even the people who know what it means really don’t like it that much), but she said something in her piece that I really liked. Here it is:

“I do not, for example, read interviews I do with news outlets. I hold that it is none of my business what people think of me. I arrived at this belief after first, when I began working as an actor 18 years ago, reading everything. I evolved into selecting only the “good” pieces to read. Over time, I matured into the understanding that good and bad are equally fanciful interpretations. I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself. I thus abstain from all media about myself.”

I’m so on board with that. But it’s difficult to keep myself from being spun by other people’s opinions. Believing in one’s own worth, appreciating but not embracing praise, hearing but letting go of criticism. That’s a worthy goal.

Note to self: Try not to envy Judd for her face, puffy or otherwise.

Failure is an option



I blogged in January, that 2012 would be my year of finishing undone projects. I blogged in February that if I expected to finish anything, I should probably make a list. Now here I am in April, and I’ve made very little progress on anything other than setting up my gorgeous new planted aquarium.

Which was not on the list.

I could trot out some of my favorite aphorisms to inspire myself to do better. Journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step. Definition of crazy is doing the same thing and expecting different results. Etc.

Or perhaps, I could look more deeply at why I say I want to finish these projects but then fail to take the steps to completion.

I don’t need to finish my novel. I don’t think the world is pining for it.

I don’t need to lose 20 pounds. I weigh 160, and the world’s not going to confiscate my privileges if I stay 160 pounds.

I could leave my mosaic projects undone forever. The only fallout from that is that when people visit the house and see exposed wallboard where window sill should be, they probably wonder about me. But honestly, I think people wonder anyway, regardless of what you do.

On the other hand, I have a high-stress job in an industry in turmoil (journalism), so if I write good stories on deadline, treat my family with a reasonable amount of respect, and generally keep my yard up enough that the neighbors don’t call the city on me, haven’t I fulfilled my obligations?

Couldn’t I cut myself a little slack?

I don’t know. I do want more, but I can’t figure out what to do next.


Filter flow rate, part 2


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I have read that planted tanks should have a filter flow rate that turns over the tank volume 10 times per hour. My filter, the Eheim classic 2213 claims a flow rate of 120 gallons per hour and I just tested mine. It’s flowing at about 78 gallons per hour. My 36 gallon tank, heavily planted with lots of rock and substrate, probably has just 31 gallons of water in it, all said and done. So it’s turning over the tank volume just 2.5 times an hour.

The tank has been set up for two months. The plants are growing the fish are healthy. I think I’m just taking a wait and see approach on this. Maybe it’s not ideal but it ain’t broke, so I’m not fixing it.


Moi, the budding expert



So excited! A friend asked my advice about starting up an aquarium for his kid. Here goes. (Note that these are my opinions on a freshwater aquarium, based on my experience. Others may have different ideas, suggestions. Feel free to comment/elaborate.)


  • Bigger tanks are more forgiving and stable than smaller tanks, probably don’t go smaller than 20 gallons, unless you’re just going to get a betta (I love bettas! If you get a betta, don’t go smaller than 5 gallons no matter what any fish store person tries to sell you.) A glass tank will hold up better over time than an acrylic tank. Avoid weird shapes and tanks with narrow openings. No matter how cool it looks, if you can’t easily reach every area inside the tank it will be a bear to clean.
  • Filters. I’ve had three and by far the easiest to use and maintain is AquaClear’s hang on back power filter. It’s a great little work horse. If you really get into this hobby, then I’m a big fan of the Eheim canister filters.
  • Lights: Depends. If you don’t want live plants in your tank, you don’t need a lot of light and several tanks come with a hood that contains a light. If you become obsessed with plants, then lighting becomes important. Homework will be required. There will be math. And you will spend money. Here’s a good primer.
  • Plants: It’s possible to get some realistic looking fake plants. For live plants, java ferns work even in low light and you don’t even have to plant them. Just tie them to a rock and they’re good. I had fun at one point adding a floating plant, water lettuce.
  • Livestock: This is the  hard part. Everything above is influenced by what kind of fish you want to keep. Goldfish are easy, hearty, dirty fish. Angel fish are gorgeous but aggressive. Bettas are slow moving, beautiful and entertaining, but hard to keep with other fish. Figure out what you like and then build the system that supports them.
  • Substrate: It could be gravel, it could be sand, it could be soil. Depends on the livestock and the flora. Please don’t choose some horrible fake crap or I will have to reassess our friendship.
  • Placement: In figuring out where to put the tank in your house, here are a couple of things you should consider. To keep a healthy tank, you need to do a 10-20 percent water change every so often (I do it once a week, but you could do it twice a month I think with no problem). You can buy a hose with a faucet fitting that will allow you to both suck water from the tank and refill it, or you can do the water change with a bucket. that along with cleaning the tank will mean that there will be dripping and spills. So placing the tank where you can do easy water changes and where you don’t mind spills (I put down a big towel  when I’m working on my tank) is important.
  • Warning: It’s a big glass box of water and lots could go wrong.
  • Keep it simple: If you have no idea whether you will like having an aquarium and keeping fish, I would suggest getting a five-gallon tank and a betta. They are easy. It’s not a huge investment and you can figure out whether it will be interesting for your kid or not. You can often find a used tank at St. Vinnies. to help keep the price down.