PSYCHO Junkyard

Book Review- (Sivantha Kaikal) by Sujatha

Sivantha Kaikal by Sujatha review by Vijay Venkatesh            

                Before anyone reads this review, I would first like to admit that my tamil-book-reading skills had dwindled over the last 10 years or so for the plain reason that I never had a chance to get in touch with one. Thanks to my fellow friend Premnath for constantly singing the Sujatha anecdotes that actually got me into reading my first book of this renowned author (a short story).

                Despite all the huddles and my personal drawbacks, I managed to finish the book in a below average time. I was happy with my effort of finishing my first tamil novel and happier that I picked a good one. A good novel does not mean a great story which brings a wow factor in the reader's mind. It can be a plain story with extremely interesting narration, crisp dialogues and eye-catching screenplay. I am sure that all Sujatha fans would agree to that but this being my first novel of Sujatha I should say the man milked 10 litres  from a starving cow.

                The first thing that amazes me is how a story of a modern genre was written almost 30 years back and how it still fits to the modern trend. The addition to detail to every single aspect of the story was even better. It is easy to close a scene with a group of men playing a game of cards in some well known club in some famous place in India. But to research on a game of Bridge, to get all the technical terms behind it, to decide the moves of a player, and to bring out a scene out of it is something extra-ordinary. On that aspect I give all credits to this writer (even though I happen to be the last known man on earth to appreciate him, I feel its never too late).

                Having said that, the next thing I would give credit to is the set of dialogues in this short story. Especially the climax, makes one think of different mindsets/perspectives to a single scene. Be it a plain prayer to god or a guy who was just about to have sex but stopped because his best friend was in a critical state of health, the author has delivered a man's unfiltered feelings and emotions very well.

               Overall, the book was a great read and an inspiration for me to realize that language is no barrier to appreciate a good story. I felt the story could have been a bit stronger but I'm no expert to judge a genius tamil writer. Looking forward to read his other books and share more reviews.

      Rating: 4.5 /5
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Next Steps...


      So my attempt to blog again seems to have gone well so far. Probably because the topic I chose was the easiest and my favourite too. The only thing I told myself when I started my aquarium post was to at least post 5 blogs about it. I am glad I reached that milestone. That brings us to the question "What next?". The so called psycho junkyard does not quite live up to its name. Moving ahead, I will sincerely try to add more junk to my blog in the form of movie reviews, book reviews, random thoughts that I get while I'm at the loo, starting at the walls and of course the aquarium adventures. Lets see how it goes..
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Discus Dreams

                    Day 64 now and I have quite a few updates to share. First and foremost, all that I mentioned in my previous post seem to have helped in getting rid of the algae. I finally got to see the brown tinge fade away and the greenery spreading out. In the process of all this I lost a couple of my Amano shrimps and 3 Red Cherry Shrimps. But rest of the tank (fauna and flora) are healthy as ever.

                    A few plant additions. I was quite worried about the carpet growth on the rocky side of my tank. I had planted some glossostigma but they didn't progress that well. Its plainly because I chose to do that in a very wrong time when I was fighting algae and reducing my lighting period. Now things are back to normal. So my lighting period has been restored to 8 hrs a day ( 4 hrs in the morning and 4 in the evening). So I replaced the glosso with dwarf hairgrass. They have been doing well and finally giving some green color to the barren rocky hill. My wife and I felt we had made the tank a little too green now. You can see that from the image on my homepage. The Rotala wallichi gives a nice rose tip and gives a great effect, but I felt there should be more red added now. Currently I am on the lookout for some red plants. My next pic update should have the plant.

                A digital lighting timer was a long time pending addition to my tank. I personally enjoy keeping my tank less automated so I get to spend dedicated time with it. But with some curiosity on how the timers work and keeping my future travel plans in mind, I decided to go for one. I got a Frontier Digital Timer from ebay and it took pretty less time to setup and works like a charm. So my lighting period now is 7 to 11 AM and 5 to 9 PM.

               And the final update as the picture above shows, is a dream come true moment for me to add 4 beautiful discus fishes to my tank. Its been a long pending item. I was a little scared of adding them as I hear from people that it is a sensitive fish and adding discus to planted tank makes it a double challenge for you. Well! What's in life if its not challenging? I thought if I came this far , then why not take a step further. So came the brave moment when I got these little beauties. My biggest worry right now is that they haven't eaten much in the last week. As I understand that they are too shy initially and take some time to settle down, I wait with fingers crossed....
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Algae wars

            This part of my life is called "Fighting Algae".No aquarist can escape from this and I am in a way glad that my turn came in at a very early stage of my planted aquarium venture. You must have enjoyed the beautiful picture of Riccia fluitans that I posted a few days back. This is the sad state of the moss now.

Why did this happen? Quite simple. It all boils down to the basics.

The first and most important mistake is maintaining the levels. A newly planted tank always takes its time to get the balance right. If you thought you got the levels right, you cannot just maintain that in the initial stages. Because, your plants are growing, your nutrient levels are changing, you add more fish, you feed them. With so much going on, one has to be alert and keep a watch on the plant growth levels and keep a lookout for algae. The first and most basic solution to most problems is a regular water change. I guess I neglected it a little too much. With 4 X 54 watt lights on, CO2 at 2-3 bubbles per second, I should have kept a watch on the nutrient levels and did weekly water changes.

Leaving all the analysis aside, here is the problem in hand. How to get rid of them? Damage control begins! I have got a lot of suggestions from folks in indianaquariumhobbyist forum and here is what I am doing right now.

- Did a 20% water change
- Brought the CO2 level up a little
- Brought down light intensity ( only 2 tubes on now) and reduced photoperiod to 6 hrs
- Added an initial 20 ml of Seachem Flourish Excel and 5 ml on alternate days
- Did a manual scraping of some algae on glass and most of the hair algae using a brush.
- Some pruning of plants
- Added some micro and macro nutrients to boost plant growth

After all this, there is a fair amount of progress. The hair algae have cleared up on one side of the tank but my Riccia still has a long way to go. But such big change in water chemistry always comes with a cost. In my case, it was the death of 2 of my Amano shrimps and 2 Red Cherry shrimps. :( I hope there is no further damage and things get restored soon.

This too shall pass..

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So far so good

          It has been 4 weeks now. Quite a satisfying progress. The plants have established pretty well. There was some algae attack to take care of in between but it was not all that serious. Some green dot and hair algae had shown up ( which I believe is quite expected a new planted setup) but my algae eaters have done the job quite well and kept things under control.

        I now have populated the tank with Siamese Algae Eaters, Cherry Red Shrimps, Rummynose Tetras and Neon Tetra. Did a mistake of getting a pair of Bolivian Rams. They were not supposed to be good companions for the shrimps and I got feedback from folks to get rid of them. Dejection or loneliness seems to have got to them before me. They quit the aquatic world shortly and brought the shrimps out of their hideouts.

        I am continuing to do weekly 10% water changes and regular trimming of plants. The only worry right now is the carpet grass not getting spread on the left. I see some grass budding out but nothing significant. Got to do something about it...

       Here is how the tank evolved so far:

    Day 1:

    Day 4:

    Day 7:

     Day 22:

    Day 24:

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Week 1 - Learnings

     The first week of any new venture is always said to be the most adventurous one. It is no different in a planted aquarium case. A lot of things happened over the last 7 days and as promised I would be sharing every bit of my experiences.

 The CO2 mishap:

     The first and biggest of all things that happened was that my CO2 regulator kept giving a lot of problems. Every time I regulate it to 2 bubbles per second , it ends up getting slow or fast. I was told that sometimes the new regulators might have this problem and it would settle down in the course of time. On the third day I realized that the regulator went totally nuts and leaked all the gas. So I had to get this regulator replaced with a new one. Things look much better now.

 Floating plants:

     One thing which I still need to learn well is the art of planting. Every day I get back from office to only see a few plants floating. To my surprise, I seem to have done a good job planting the carpet plants well. Its the bigger ones, especially the Cabombas which were finding it tough to find a grip. I almost decided to tie them to some stones until they get rooted, but they finally gave in. In fact I'm quite happy that the cobombas are the one who established themselves well compared to the other plants.

 Burning leaves:

     I guess this is quite expected in the new tanks. A lot of leaves started blacking out and withering. It worried me a bit initially but it didnt take too long for the new leaves to sprout out.


     Again, an expected thing to happen in a new tank setup. I saw quite a few spongy stuff around the driftwood and some leaves. Did regular water changes and also introduced 6 cherry red shrimps on day 4. Now the tank is crystal clear.

 Finally some fishes:

     After 7 days of watching the tank evolving well and the shrimps adapting to the environment, it was green signal for the fishes to come in. Got 5 pairs of neon tetras. They are quite attractive indeed but my long time dream is to grow discus fishes. I do not want to introduce them in a hurry. So a little more time before I bring those majestic creatures into the tank.

Above all, one big advancement in this week is that I got to learn some plant names. So I realize that these plants inhabit my tank:

1. Marsilea
2. Cabomba
3. Cryptocorynes
4. Echinodorus
5. Hottonia palustris
6. Rotala wallichii

More updates to follow...

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Evolution of a reader

There must have been times when you have been in long train journeys where you have nothing to do. You only get to do some visual work. Enjoy the scenery, the people , etc. You walk around the train and see a good set of people totally engrossed in their novels/newspapers/magazines. You wonder what they really enjoy about sitting in a place and reading. You wonder and wonder and you get back to your berth , wrap yourself in your little space again.

And then the wondering gets to peak and you get to talk to your reading friends about what they really enjoy about reading. You get the same constant answer. "Why don't you give it a try?". You very much want to give it a try but your so called inner ego shields you from doing it. And so you carry on saying its not your kinds. And then days pass . You get more and more curious. You want to give it a try. You take a book that might interest you. For a start, a medical thriller. You start with one book and you end up reading two, the second being the oxford dictionary. You give up again thinking this is definitely not your kinds. You forget it all for a while and be back to your happy outdoor calorie-burning activities. And then you travel time and suddenly you are in a mood to try it all again. You start reading Harry Potter. You read the first book and the second and third and fourth. You are not so well in love with any of the characters. You don't find the faintest of attachments with any of them . You know the series goes dull and the pages just got more for money making. But still you keep reading it all aloud and make your inner self close its ears.

And so your reading spree begins. You feel you have crossed the first barrier. You are not bothered about all those aspects good readers want: writing style , strong characters , philosophy, blah..blahs. You keep away from all those. You only pick books where people go into meaningless missions into dense forests, find talking gorillas , showing them routes to the hidden treasures . You end up reading every such book and you are totally happy about updating all those read books in your shelfari account. You are simply too proud that you are about to finish reading a hundred books.

And then one fine morning you get to read a blog of your friend about books he/she has read. You see a quick light in your eyes. You run through the entire blog series to see how many of those books you have read. You hardly find any. You wonder whats going on. You start reading the blog. You read about the characters, the mood , the style and what not. And then you walk to your book-shelf , visually run through the books and try to recollect about those books you have read. You only see a blank line running in your head.

And then you decide to give one of those books a try. You quickly narrow down on a couple of books and start reading them. Suddenly you feel everything makes sense now. You get to really think about what you are reading. You involuntarily begin to appreciate the writing style, the imagination , the perspective. You now get to realize all those 90 books you have read do not tag you as a reader. Your journey as a reader has just begun.

Well, if any of this is not you, it certainly is me .
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