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January 23, 2003: Fishy

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Richard is off at choir practice at the moment. I am not, however, because while I'm feeling much better today, I'm still prone to breaking out into fits of coughing and wheezing at the slightest provocation. And something tells me that this just wouldn't fit well with any sort of choral music written for church.

We just got home a little while ago - or rather; Richard drove up, dropped me off, and dashed back out into the fog to get to choir practice. This is because we drove down to San Francisco this morning and didn't time things well at all, as we ended up getting stuck in the worst of the rush-hour traffic to get home. Ah well. It was still a fun day, primarily because we went to one of Richard's favorite places - The California Academy of Science.

We didn't have any particular schedule in mind, so we just started wandering. For the first few hours we had to contend with hordes of school kids, usually all wearing their school color, clutching print-outs of questions, and accompanied by one or two harried looking adults. After lunch, however, the short people disappeared back to their respective classrooms and the museum was suddenly a lot quieter.

They have an exhibit going on right now that is a huge room of skulls. And when I say huge, I mean that this room is easily the size of a small gymnasium, and filled with tables upon tables of skulls. The back wall was covered in skulls, all apparently arranged in some order that I never quite figured out, mainly because I was focusing more on the skulls at eye level instead of the ones I had to crane my neck to see.

It was in the skull exhibit that I learned all about the nifty thing that is shark teeth. I knew that sharks could just grow new teeth if they lost one, but what I hadn't realized is that they have all those extra teeth in waiting. With the skulls you could see behind each fang was an entire set of replacement teeth, all neatly folded down behind the jaw, ready to pop out at a moment's notice should a tooth disappear. I thought this was incredibly fascinating. But then, apparently this is something everyone else in the known universe knew about but me. So shark teeth. There you are.

Once we were done with the museum, we went to the planetarium and got to see a preview of all the nifty things that will be happening in our skies in the coming year. Of course, in order to see most of them we'd have to make an awful lot of trips to places like Africa and Antarctica, so it's doubtful either of us will actually see them in real life. I liked that fact that the guide pointed out some of the constellations as she went through, to give us references for where we'd find all the cool planet things that are going to be happening this year.

One of the constellations that I always recognize is Orion. That one's easy. Three little stars for the belt, and two above and two below. I could never figure out which two were his knees and which two were his shoulders, but I didn't care because by golly, at least I could find *that* constellation in the sky, unlike any of the others (with the occasional exception of the big dipper). Well come to find out, Orion has more to him than a crooked belt, knees, and shoulders. There is also a curved line of stars for a shield, a few near his waist for a dagger, and even a club above his head. And once I saw that shield I realized that I'd actually be able to recognize yet another constellation every time I looked up at the sky because right next to the shield is somebody-or-other the bull, and one of the bright spots in the bull's horns is one of the planets (I think possibly Saturn).

Unfortunately, as I peered excitedly out the window on the drive home in search of Orion, I couldn't see the shield stars at all. So much for having it all figured out. I'll try again when it's not quite so foggy outside and maybe, just maybe, I'll actually track down constellation number three. I think after this I'll stick with the three though. They're hard enough as it is to find without tossing in all the others that don't even look remotely like what they're supposed to be.

We also wandered through the aquarium, and of course saw a lot of water-dwelling creatures. There's the usual assortment of fish in all colors of the rainbow, plus all the other non-fish water-life, like the snails and anemones and mollusks and such. But the coolest fish of all (well, I think they were fish. Are eels fish?) were these little black-and-white striped burrowing eels. There were at least three in the tank that we could see. Each of them was probably six to nine inches long. And they all looked extremely put out.

They had obviously been quite busy with the burrowing recently, to judge from the way the little white rocks on the floor of their tank had been shoved around. As we watched, they would dart underneath a piece of coral and rummage around, and then emerge, mouths slightly agape. And then the best part happened. They would glare at us through the glass, and then spit an entire mouthful of rocks at us. Then they would turn around and go back into their little burrow, leaving one to stand guard at the entrance and peer at us suspiciously, before the rock spitting would commence once again. It was wonderful. I could have stood there and watched these peeved little eels spit rocks all afternoon. I mean, usually fish are pretty boring. They just swim around and look bored to tears. They're not normally an interactive sort of pet. But these! I wanted to bring them home with me. My plan is to feed them until they're a lot bigger, and then figure out how to train them to be attack eels. Then I'll station them at all the doors to spit rocks at any intruders. Normally I might be worried about introducing fish tanks into a house with seven cats, but I'm thinking that even *my* cats would have to develop a healthy respect for ornery rock-spitting attack eels.

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