And then it is Panther Chameleons. Plus Super Effective Craigslist Search Technique.

So its quite remarkable the types of animals I’m drawn to. Aesthetic, obscure, and easily stressed. I don’t know why the stressed part. Perhaps so I have to earn it.

I’m to the point with discus that I pretty much get it. I still have a lot to learn but I pretty much get it. Water changes, water changes, did I mention water changes. Not that that setup is going, its not taking up much of my mental energy. Kind of dangerous. This weekend I knew I was in a good place with the discus because I got to thinking and craigslisting and my mind zeroed in on panther chameleons, an old obsession going back to early high school.

Panther chameleons are one of the larger chameleon species native to Madagascar and  come in many color variations associated with their geographic origins on the island. I haven’t had any in the past because they eat an incredible amount of insects and need a stable, warm climate. The last couple years we’ve been living at a turn of the century shotgun house out in the Louisiana country. Cold, cold, cold in the winter, heated by propane wall-burners and drafty through the walls and floor.

Anyway they are back on my radar. I search craigslist nationwide to see what babies hobbyists have recently hatched and what adults being re-homed. Definitely use my nationwide search strategy if you are looking for something that there is little chance of finding on your local craigslist and your not willing to pay full price for. It works like this:

1. Go to google.

2. Type in the item your looking for.

3. Then type   site:craigslist.org

4. Press enter.

5. Then narrow your search on the left side to the past month, and enjoy.

My search looked like:  panther chameleon site:craigslist.org  I came across some awesome Nosy Be Panther Chameleons. They are definitely my favorite. They are a Smurf Blue, sometimes with some white or green stripes. Only the males get super colorful. Like discus, it takes them a couple years to get their colors and are an ugly brown when young. And the adventure continues…

Photos courtesy and copyrighted by author of  ad:sale-tmsg9-2765091633@craigslist.org

Red Turquoise Discus

So I have my discus. 40 gallons of hope and potential. I wonder whether my Stendker discus grow to be everything that I hope they will be. I’ve been looking over pics and videos of Red Turquoise (Red Turqs) discus fish. Not only can do discus change color and darken their stripes, but also changes in lighting can completely alter their appearance. All this leaves me impotent to divine the future.

Instead I am left to hedge my bets. Perhaps the best examples of Red Turqs I have seen are bred by Alex Piwowarski, a German breeder. His discus have bright, deep red lines and reach near perfect large circle or disc shapes. He is expanding his breeding facility right now and Dan Espinosa with Elite Aquaria, his US distributer, is taking some time off. It almost looked like I was going to be out of luck getting my dream Red Turqs. I just found a breeder on a discus forum that has some of Alex’s pairs and my have some fry available in the next couple of months. Stay tuned. After raising my fish out, I will definitely have some amazing adult Reds for sale.

All images courtesy of and copyright Alex Piwowarski.

Collard Green Fajita Wrap

So my wife an I were at wholefoods Saturday night where there was a little placard listing the 10 healthiest greens and recommended ways to prepare them. For collard greens they suggested using them as instead of tortillas for wraps or burritos. It was on. We got some organic collard greens, a small grass-fed round steak, and an avocado for later in the week.

It turned out fantastic. Revolutionary. The greens made the whole fajita burrito feel light, fresh, healthy, and if I may, even sexy.  Props to this idea.

The way I did it was to cook both sides of the steak in a frying pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. While the center was still medium rare I took it out, sliced it thin, then diced the steak.

I cleaned the pan out and sauteed an onion, bell pepper, and a couple of mushrooms with a little red pepper, cumin, and paprika. I threw the collard greens in a correll serving bowl, covered it with a plate, and steamed them in the microwave for three minutes.

Once done. I laid out a collard green leaf on a plate, added some sauteed vegetables, the nicely diced steak, garnished with avocado and sour cream, looked down, looked up a second later when the burrito was gone, and my world had changed. Enjoy.

Sometimes Aesthetics Must Yield: A Tale of Two Chairs

So two years ago my wife and I put in a last minute bid on hotwire to get a hotel room in Houston for the weekend. We lucked out and got a great deal on a room in the posh Galleria district. Not usually our style but definitely fun now and again.

Somehow one of us seems to get sick every time we go to Houston. That time I had a stuffed nose, resigned myself to notreally going anywhere or tasting any food. We stayed to the room.

A simple, ingenious lounge chair, however, salvaged the weekend. This beautiful little piece of art just happened to fit my wife and I perfectly, side-by-side. We loved it. We worked next to each other–in that little chair–all weekend.

Upon returning home, I couldn’t get the chair off my mind and called the hotel to see if we could buy one from them or get one where they got it. Long story short, they were special ordered, the hotel chain provided the fabric to the manufacturer, and nope.

So for the last two years, I have been scouting craigslist and furniture stores for a facsimile of my little chair. Craigslist has been surprisingly disgusting and overpriced for furniture. Saturday, I acted on feeling to go to World Market where we hit a 50% off furniture sale without luck. But across the parking lot was furniture store with 5 recliners outside.

It was a sign. We’re living with a crafty little cat, my wife has cat allergies, and the chairs were cheap. We decided it didn’t make sense to spend more for the perfect chair when we’ll be moving soon, and it will get scratched and cat-dandered up.

So for now aesthetics wisely slumped to practicality. We’re quite satisfied with our comfy new chair. But I’m still looking to the day we’ll stay at the Galleria hotel, and they’ll just have to add the chair to our bill.

Catch-up on Last Saturday’s Wild* Discus Chase

So working backwards, we have the eight new 2.5″ juvenile discus and my older 5″ discus settled in after a week in their new home. The tank is definitely startling to anyone not familiar to discus. It seems the fish equivalent of prison. Concrete and a steel toilet.

Though it seems harsh, they are thriving. Discus evolved in the clean water of the tributaries to the Amazon River and cannot tolerate organics disolved in the water. Therefore in captivity they need their water to be replaced daily or near daily, especially while they are growing from juveniles. If they had gravel, it would collect their waste and uneaten food and quickly deteriorate the pristine water. Forced to choose, discus would go for pristine water over tank aesthetics, fins down.

Once they are full grown at 6″+ or the size of a saucer, substrate and plants can be added. Serious enthusiasts, however, stick with the traditional bare bottom tank. The thinking is that the art of the maximally flourishing fish beats the art of the planted aquarium with less flourishing fish. We’re talking minute degrees of distinction, but to the aficionado it is everything.

Last saturday, I left the Capital Area, braved the possible madness of the Saints’ game day furry and headed for New Orleans. The clouds were gorgeous above the causeway along Lake Pontchartrain with the city off in the distance.

I had to make a quick stop in Kenner at my favorite little coffee shop for lunch. Basking in the favor of the gods I enjoyed a huge bowl of shrimp creole and a cafe au lait. The shrimp creole: awesome. Creole spice stretches my notion of what food can be. Like I’m losing my innocence. Being opened up to a whole new world of beauty and sensation. The cafe au lait is a rich, deep coffee with chicory and steamed milk.

I’d never had the dessert before. The name was too alluring to pass up. Turns out, wasn’t for me. An almost solid too sweet custard center with an a flaky crisco feeling crust. Fun anyway. Looked up directions, got my fish, locked my keys in the car, paid the the vocally pissed-off tow-truck guy to miss the game and let me back in my car, drove the fish two hours, and acclimated them to their new paradise. Went to bed energized, excited, and more than satisfied. Now for the two years for them to reach maturity.

*Truth in advertising, it was actually a domestic discus chase.

Pure Hot Cacao, I am a God

I deemed this winter the winter of hot chocolate. Winters ago I tried a type of hot chocolate in Spain that was so thick and dark it reminded me of chocolate pudding. I didn’t think too much of it. Maybe wondered a little where it had been all my life. Didn’t think about it again.

Thinking about the Maya and how chocolate was precious, reserved for royalty, and often drunk made, me think they might have been on to something. Having the resources for royalty potentially at my fingertips I went looking for some pure cocoa power. I am a big ingredients reader and follow the KISS principal so I was determined to find pure cocoa, nothing processed with alkali. Wikipedia confirmed my suspicion, processing cacao with alkali destroys the beneficial flavonoids in chocolate.

Anyway  I found a can of pure Ghirardelli cocoa baking powder. I super heat up some milk, add a ton of cocoa powder and stir like crazy until I have a thick royal chocolate drink that can only be good for me. Thank you Maya Lords. I think I know know why I found what I found in Spain. Tragic history. It all comes full circle.

Maya vase image courtesy of and copyrighted Justin Kerr.  

Louisiana Satsumas to Satsumacello

So I was killing some time back in September driving around greater New Orleans  while I was waiting for my wife to get out of a conference. While in the car, Louisiana Eats, a local NPR show, was sharing a recipe for satsuma lemoncello. Interestingly, for people around the country who eat tangerines and clementines, satsumas are all the rage in Louisiana. They vary from green, to yellow, to orange, are super super easy to peel, have few seeds, and are awesome sweet. I thought the DIY satsumacello recipe would be a lot of fun to try.

My wife could not be persuaded beyond waiting for me in the car while I picked some satsumas to add to the ones our roommate picked up at the local grocery store. We zested them, added it to the vodka, let it sit for a few weeks, and hope to soon get around to making the simple syrup. Anyway it was fun. If you ever run across one, definitely give it a try. Your life will begin and you might even feel the need to buy the shirt.

My Wife, the Cutest Little Painted Turtle Ever

So my wife was born in the year of the ox. And she is a little worker. Saturday mornings we’ll wake up, she’ll be so sleepy, the sun breaking into the room, the warmth of the down cover and I’ll wonder how I could make it so we could lie like that forever.

But just when I’m thinking it will last, a light clicks. No relishing the warmth of the bed, no us time to mess around. She looks at me so serious, maybe with a little smile, and says we have so much to do today, and is ready to hop out of bed and start getting everything done.

I have two choices. I can climb out with her, make some coffee, an omelet, and be the best mate ever. Or I can try and hold her in bed. Tell her how beautiful she is, try to activate a little sexy switch.

What a lamentable situation. Every part of my soul wants to make her so happy and join in her zeal for getting stuff done. But nine times out of ten its just not me. I can’t. I have to make a hail mary for sexy time or do-nothing-and-enjoy-it-time-in-bed.

If I try to stall, my brain flashes images of someone’s hand holding a turtle  above the ground. The person may be trying to connect with the turtle. But the turtle lives in a little world we can’t understand. It has much to do and waves it arms and legs trying with all it has to continue its business. I feel inhuman. Holding her back from the day. From greatness. So after a try or two, I succumb to my better self and join her in the day’s many obligations and I think about the reward of seeing such a satisfied little turtle at the end of the day. And then I will be a hero.

Photo courtesy of the Dakota Amphibian and Reptile Network.

Kick-Ass Wedding Poem

So in 2009 England got its first woman poet laureate. I heard about it on NPR and was siked. Carol Anne Duffy, my new god. She read her poem ‘Valentine’ on the program and I  made a mental note to nab it. It just so happened I was about to get married in a week, I loved the poem’s truth. Romantic, fresh, and honest. Without further adieu my poem to my wife:

26 and a Patron of the Arts

So I love beauty. Have a pretty keen aesthetic sense. A lot offends me, beauty excites me. I used to think everyone felt this, but I learned that the golden mean and such are not on everyone’s radar. Appreciating beauty made me a patron of the arts a couple summers ago when I was introduced to the Maya artist Nicolas Reanda. I was surprised and hooked by his feminist perspective and contemporary feel. 

I applied for a received a scholarship to study the Kaqchikel Maya language in Antigua, Guatemala for six weeks. I’m painfully curious about the Maya. From the ancient civilization to the modern. I want to know how they understood the universe, developed the most accurate calendar, calculated astrological events millions of years into the past and the future, and how they built their civilizations in seemingly inhospitable environments.

Over the course of the summer I ended up making a couple Tz’utujil (tZOO-two-hill) maya friends. The Tz’utujil are known for fishing, running the boats, and farming the volcanic hillsides surrounding Lake Atitilan.  One friend in Antigua took me to visit his family back in Santiago Atitlan where I met Reanda. Though his realistic portraits of weathered Maya faces added him to the Lourve, his contemporary work seems to challenge the notion of Latin machismo. To me his work elevates women and humankind’s connection the natural word. To me his work is refreshing and rejuvenating.