Six dead kids, and life-threatening injuries in others

I heard the noise it made, last night, and the sirens. I’m balanced on that awful edge between horror and anger. The fuckers. the damned corrupt fuckers, they’ve managed to kill six kids. For stupid bloody profit, a quick buck. As you can see here, the folks that built this travesty took their money and ran long ago:–By-Richard-Brenneman

So now it’s corporate shell game time! Trace the money, Lay the blame! Find the culprit! The original developer here:

“DeClercq said a top-notch contractor built Library Gardens and used “the best steel guy in California.” DeClercq couldn’t immediately remember the name of the contractor (he was in shock) but said the company was located in Point Richmond and used union labor.”It was a reputable local general contractor. They hired the best steel and concrete subcontractors. It was a very strong team.””

I’m not really sure where those best steel and concrete workers did their thing, though, since the photos of the fallen balcony show rotted wooden beams that simply broke off. It shouldn’t have been built like that; it should have been better maintained, but, heck, our Planning and Permit department is funded solely by developer fees, and this thing made a lot of money for a lot of people. The guy who headed Planning when this went through retired, and he now contracts with developers to “help” them get their projects okayed by the city. The only rein on development here is citizen outrage, and the city is pretty good at ignoring that. Enforcement is a joke: there’s an unpermitted, uninspected, and totally illegal wooden rooftop deck atop a three-story house a block from here that zoning knows all about. It’s been there about four years now. I hope it doesn’t just slide off one of these days – and that builder is working on literally a half-dozen other projects – Planning loves his stuff. It’s the wild west.

The comment sections on the news articles – god help us – abound in blame for the silly students. Thirteen of them out on a balcony, obviously just asking for it. Welp, the thing was 5 X 10, according to the BBC, and it had French doors opening out onto it. Silly them thinking it was solid and meant to be used. Guess that’ll learn ’em! Because, god knows, an eight-year-old balcony in an EXPENSIVE building can’t be expected to hold anything more than a stored bike, I guess.

Some of the comments also assume the students were dancing or jumping – though I think most likely they were out there smoking. Yes, the building manager did say he thought perhaps the balcony had fallen because maybe the kids had been jumping or something. But that was just an idea he had. He wasn’t there; he saw and heard nothing; he knew nothing. I mean, he is a paid manager, and there was a party there loud enough that the police were called, but he hadn’t gone to deal with it. He had no special knowledge of what was happening before the thing fell. Because lousy management is a complete package – all complaints – noise, maintenance – are equally ignored. That guy was just talking through his hat, trying to imagine what could have made a piece of his building fall off. He might as well have said sunspots. But just tons and tons of comments blaming the kids. People just suck sometimes.

Our fearless leader mayor hasn’t made any comment yet, not even a simple condolence. I guess it is all difficult, given that he is totally committed to making Berkeley more like Manhattan – what a great idea! He’s announced a news conference for later today, but for now he’s been busy with other concerns:

Berkeley city officials have shut down access to public records regarding the construction of the apartment complex, which was completed in January, 2007. Normally, they would be viewable upon request but zoning office staff cited a pending police investigation and request by the Berkeley city manager that the records not be made immediately available.” [L.A. Times]

The guy’s gotta have priorities, you know. Quick, a broom! Lift the rug! We should be able to cover up all this crap if we get right on it. I mean, what the hell did they build this thing from anyway? A neighbor remembers seeing the OCB supplies sitting out in the (pre-drought) rain, and being concerned that they were going in already waterlogged. Now I’m wondering whether the whole thing will just collapse into a pile of sludge if we ever get regular rains again. I guess that’s why the developers sell these things as fast as they can – hot potato time – cash out before it falls apart! Dang, these things make the 1960 crackerbox buildings look solid by comparison. The thing is, they’ve been throwing up dozens of these crappy buildings all over town – hundreds and hundreds of units. And lots of the buildings have pretty little balconies and other decorative outcroppings.  I’m wondering how many deathtraps are out there right now.


And now there are fish in it!

It’s still a work in progress. I’m still fiddling around with the lights – there’s a fancy programable light coming Friday, so it will turn on and off on its own. And maybe more plants. But the bones of it are set, and probably this is it for fish.

full tank

So that’s the tank, with the golden minnows and the neons hanging out up in the clear top space. That’s pretty much what these guys do. Mostly they clump in schools by kind, but sometimes they all swim together in one big pack. And there are these guys:

2 gourami

That’s a pair of dwarf blue gouramis, two males. They are said to be gentle with other fish, but get aggressive and territorial with each other. I crossed my fingers, though, and got two. After all, the tank is pretty big, and all planted up, and it seems to be okay. At first they did a little fancy displaying at each other, and a couple of times one of them shoved the other. But since then they’ve taken to the opposite sides of the tank. They make the occasional quick foray into each other’s bit, and sometimes they meet each other in the middle, when there is food to be chased after. But all they do is swim about a bit, then settle into their respective corners. So here one is escorting the other back across the middle of the tank. Mostly they just sit in their own plants and swirl around.

And this is the best shot I can get of the corys. Silly things are always either zipping around really fast, or sleeping under the plants.


Here they are turning about, getting ready for another dash across the tank. They bop about in groups – I’ve seen as many as nine of the twelve of them in a pack. Or else they just sit on the bottom, making me me think maybe they’ve died. One or the other. This lot are babies, and rather adorable. They’ll be about twice as big when they’re grown.

So that’s the tank. Still being ignored by cats.

Moar little fishes

I added a half-dozen panda corys. They are a little disoriented. There were like forty of them in the pet store tank. So in my bigger, all planted up tank they can actually lose track of each other. I think I have to get more.

But it is so cute – the golden minnows keep coming down into the plants and staring at them.

And fishtank update

I got a lot of different kinds of plants. I’m sort of thinking I may even do a second tank later, so I could use these to propagate plants for it. See, that makes splurging on them now practically fiscally responsible, right?

Well, anyway, the tank is now properly set-up with a layer of potting soil, then gravel, then very generously planted and filled with water. The new LED light came, and it is pretty nifty. For one thing, it stays cool. Also, in theory, I can program it to turn off and on, but it isn’t being simple. The directions say  I press the set button and I get a green light and start setting on and off times, except that I don’t get a green light. Sigh. I will work on it some more later, because it would be convenient to not have to fuss with it, but for now it turns off and on just fine so we are go.

I did a number of water changes when the first lot of water picked up a yellowish tinge from the soil, and now it seems over that. We’re not down to zero ammonia yet, but the planted-tank gurus tell me I can go straight to adding all my fish – the plants theoretically gobble up the ammonia. Instead I’m being wimpy and treating it like cycling a new tank, and so adding fish gradually, watching the water chemistry and planning on some more water changes if needed.

I did get a bunch of golden white cloud minnows, and they are hanging out comfortably, doing fish stuff.


So ten of these guys. Mostly they just school around, except that there is always one fish that isn’t sticking with the crowd. I can’t tell yet whether it is always the same one guy, or whether the outlying fish thing is a rotating position. But it is cool to see them exploring.

If things seem stable, I may add some more fish over the weekend. I just don’t quite know to what extent I really Believe in the experts and all. We’ll see how it goes with these guys in place. At this point I’m thinking ultimately these minnows, a bunch of maybe miniature corys, and than a school of cardinal tetras, after I’m sure the tank is working. Then also maybe something else, maybe a betta or maybe a couple gouramis. I think I’ll hold off on things that tend to multiply until I have a second tank available. Maybe.

And maybe I will set up a betta in a small tank on the table, since Tom seemed a bit unhappy that I moved the fish tank over to the window. It would give him something to interact with in the mornings. But when I look up bettas online, it says the fish likes to be quite warm, but then I see them in stores at room temperature. Hmmm. It would be easier to set him up there if he only needed a light, but I wouldn’t want to be treating him poorly.

No rush on that, though, since I don’t want to overwhelm Tom with fish, but I think he might like a small betta tank, like five gallons?, with a light and plants. Maybe when I’ve got this one all set. And I’m not yet discussing a possible second tank in dining room at this point….

There was this accident

I had a fish tank. For years. Your basic tropical fish, sitting on the kitchen table so you can watch them over your coffee. Or they can watch you. I’d been ignoring it, rather, for a while, but once you set up a tank and it is chugging along, it doesn’t take much for it to keep going. I’d been thinking for a while that I might just pack it in, so I was just waiting out the last fish in it, who were starting to get elderly. Then the heater went wacky, and killed them all. I came down in the morning to find an absurdly warm tank with my last six fish all dead. Sigh.Thinking about it, I realize I’d bought the thing in like 1995, so it isn’t astonishing that it failed. Still, I would have imagined a heater that broke would just stop working, rather than the thermostat failing to turn it off. It made me really sad. So I think all this might be guilt. Anyway, I’ve cleared away the old tank entirely, and I’m starting over. New, bigger tank (thanks, Criagslist!), and an entirely different set-up. This time I’m going to try setting up a Walstad tank: method. I’ve always had a rather planted up tank, but method supports the plants better, and generally uses less chemicals/machinery. Basically, running with this method you have a tank full of plants, with fish, being a little eco-system where the plants are consuming the fish waste and there is no need for an external filter. We will see. Now I’m waiting for the new light to arrive – LED, cheaper to run and programable, so the plants remain really happy – and to get some more plants before I start adding fish. Also I’m putting it right at the kitchen window to make use of the sunlight as well. Once I get some fish, there will be photos! Though there won’t be anything too fancy. Too many of the coolest fish end up getting really big. Instead I tend to like mostly smaller, and fortuitously relatively cheaper fish: platies, mollys, corys, and sometimes even guppies. The kind of guys that hang out together and seem less bored. So I am back in the fish tank biz – R.I.P. little previous corys. I I

I haz a rain barrel!

Though, of course, it isn’t raining here these days. But I have plans. It’s taken days to set up, but so far here’s what seems to be working.

I threaded a hose underneath the sink out the same hole as the drain pipe, to empty into the barrel. At the top I’ve got it attached to what used to be the faucet of a small drink dispenser that is now sitting in the sink. This way I can just rinse things directly over it, and drain the (relatively) clean water out to the barrel. Many people just toss rinse water out the back door, but you can’t really reach any plants easily from there, and it scares the cats. The little dribbles will add up and eventually water stuff along the side of the house.

I’ve also got a hose with a funnel set up by the tub, and I’m hoping I can syphon cleanish water into it. For now it just drains directly onto the other side yard.

Maybe I can keep things relatively green. Maybe. We shall see.

Another rain barrel is in the works, to go in the laundry room and capture rinse water. I’m thinking I can thread a hose out where the dry vent goes through the wall. That’s for the back yard.

This drought really, really, sucks.

Useless cats

That’s pretty much what we have at this point.

Nikki is locked in now, because we kept getting calls from people worried about him wandering around out in a busy street. That and two unexplained major injuries that I sincerely hope were accidents. So he’s in, but sulking. And — cats have their own rules on these things — he appears to think he’s not allowed to sit with us, and instead beds down in the front hall where he can pounce on the other cats at 2am.

Sextus is also locked in, but he keeps escaping. When he’s outside he reverts to feral and won’t let anyone come near, and it takes days and days to get him back in. Then he sleeps on my face for two days straight, because indoors he is my cat. I think maybe something is off in his brain.

Sisko and Doc have their own code for asking to go in and out, and seem to be reasonable enough in their comings and goings to be okay. Sisko just wants to sit on the front porch and watch people go by.

Wolfie watches for the door when Doc or Sisko are coming and going, and comes in to nap and visit. He’s a very satisfactory little kitty.

Habibi is a drama queen and attacks the door viciously to indicate her desires. She used to sit on my lap in my chair, but seems to have forgotten how.

And the visiting feral, Loper, sits in his cat bed by the front door, getting patted around 1am. I also feed him, but about half the time he ignores it, and it ends up going to the possum I refuse to consider a pet. (Possum is willing.)

But I shouldn’t call them useless, because someone gifted me with a rat yesterday. Probably Sextus and Doc working together.