31 Things, Day 20: Admiring an aquarium

31 things I'd rather be doing right now

My mom bought a 10 gallon aquarium when I was in the seventh grade. We kept a few tropical fish barely alive for a couple months, and every couple of months would replace the poor dead fish with new ones. We really had no idea what we were doing, and thus did just about everything wrong.

Fast forward fifteen or so years, and I floated (ha) the idea of owning an aquarium to my wife. I told her that I would do all the research, would get everything used on ebay (found a local pickup), and a few months later we had 37 gallon aquarium in our apartment. She was hesitant not so much for the expense, but the reason – why? Hard to say, really. They just look beautiful, even cute. Even soothing.

Vitaro Aquarium, circa 2005

The actual Vitaro Aquarium, circa 2005

But owning and and maintaining an aquarium is not a simple hobby. There’s lots of things to consider: best fish for your water pH, fish that play nice together, maintaining water temperature with the ebbs and flows of your own region’s climate, the type of filtration, chemical testing to be sure nothing is out of balance, weekly water changes, monthly tank cleaning, proper feeding so every fish gets something, dealing with ich…. it’s a lot to keep track of, and becomes more of a chore than something fun rather quickly.

And even though we were doing all the right things, no fish we owned lived longer than one year. Was it the quality of the fish we were buying? Were we too lax in our fish mixing? Should we have had a quarantine tank like the book suggested? We don’t know.

When we moved into our first house 7 years ago, the fish had all died a month before, and we agreed not to replace them, to make the move easier. The empty (smelly) tank came with us to the house, but stayed empty, in the basement, for several years. Then the kids came, and when they were toddling around, they got into everything. I kept picturing them knocking the aquarium over, and I just couldn’t bring myself to setting it up again. I wouldn’t care about the water damage and dead fish, I was more afraid of the kids getting hurt. We eventually gave the tank and stand to a friend for his bearded dragon.

Poor Gourami, we hardly knew ye

I do miss those platys, gouramis, rasboras, guppies, corydoras, and tetras we once had. They were soothing to watch. Maybe someday, when the kids are older and can contribute to maintaining it, we’ll get a nice big aquarium, and keep some larger fish like an oscar cichlid. Until then, we’ll have to settle for the local Petsmart.

So that’s another thing I’d rather be doing now, admiring an aquarium.

31 Things, Day 19: Dine out

31 things I'd rather be doing right now

Our family is on a strict budget because we have a goal of being rid of student loan and car loan debt 4 years from now. It means that a lot of luxuries that we absolutely could afford have to be put aside, while keeping our eyes on the bigger picture. But sometimes it hurts! Dining out is one of those things. Both my wife and I enjoy dining out for a lot of the same reasons:

  • You get to eat something really tasty you didn’t have to prepare and cook
  • You get to eat it hot
  • You get to eat it at a pace of your choosing
  • You don’t have to get up to get something, because your server brings it to you
  • You don’t have to wash the dishes, pots or pans when you’re done

Problem is, they charge you money for all that nice service. (The nerve!) So our dining out experiences number only a handful of times a year. A lot of those times involve my children. I love my kiddos, but they don’t make meal time easy, at home or out. Sure I want to treat the kids now and then, but it’s not the relaxing experience I crave.

What I’m talking about here is just me and my wife. I would love to be able to take Bethany out once a week. The ability to do that may not happen for years, but it is a goal I am reaching for. We don’t have really expensive tastes, though those kinds of places are nice once a year. No, for us, a nice dish of pasta at the Olive Garden with a glass of wine and some uninterrupted conversation is a nice little window into the peace that awaits us in heaven.

So that’s another thing I’d rather be doing now, dining out.

31 Things, Day 18: Lay down

31 things I'd rather be doing right now

I’m two days behind on this 31 day challenge, but there’s a good reason.

Paul Reiser had a stand-up comedy special in 1992 called 3 1/2 Blocks from Home where he went on a tirade of all the things that life bombards you with, and how marketers think they know what we all supposedly want. “You know what we want? We just want to lie down, that’s all!” It was really funny, and I never forgot it. (I’ve searched for it, but I can’t find a YouTube clip of it; you’ll just have to take my word for it, sorry.)

If given the opportunity, I would most certainly rather lay down than move. I’m lazy like that. But lately I’ve been bombarded by a lot of those things that life throws at us, and it seemed much more than usual. So you know what I did this weekend? I lay down.

And it was wonderful. Nothing more to be said.

So that’s another thing I’d rather be doing now, laying down.

31 Things, Day 17: Read more nonfiction

31 things I'd rather be doing right now

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Although I prefer fiction over nonfiction, I find it’s good to read a couple nonfiction books every year to keep myself educated about something real. Also, it helps mix things up a bit.

Over the past few years the topics I’ve read about have been varied:

  • A lot of books about writing, so that I can becoming a better writer. The two best so far that I can recommend are Stephen King’s On Writing and Larry Brooks Story Engineering. Both have totally changed my mind about what it means to be a writer, especially in the creation and the architecture of a story.
  • Books about being a better husband and father. After all: happy wife, happy life. Seriously though, I strive to remind myself of how to be a good servant leader of my family, and these kinds of books help me do that. Recommended: His Needs, Her Needs, Bringing up Girls, and Bringing Up Boys
  • Books about understanding myself better (not exactly self-help, but has that flavor). Some notable ones I’ve read lately are Seeing Through Cynicism, and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
  • Books that are just interesting based on my own hobbies or career, such as software engineering (Want to learn to program Java in a fun way? Head First Java)

I’d like to read some history books and biographies, but haven’t gotten around to it.

Currently I’m reading a book that is blowing my mind apart (and scaring me quite a bit) that talks about how Artificial Intelligence will be our last invention – and then it will kill us all. That is, unless we make AI very carefully, which this book hopes to convince AI programmers to do. It’s called Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era. That’s not ominous at all. But it’s also very interesting.


So that’s another thing I’d rather be doing now, reading more nonfiction.