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May 25, 2005

A Chameleon's Environment

The following response occurred on another entry. I prefer to answer it here, as that entry is getting rather long:

I have a 5-6 week old CB Veiled about 3"-4" long. I have it in a small 12" Depth x 18" Width x 20" Tall Screened Reptarium. I have a UVB Fixture and a 50 Watt Halogen basking lamp. I also have a drip system that gets filled 2-3 times a day with warm spring water. It is filled with lots of climbing areas and fake leafy vines. I have his basking area 3"-4" away from the light and ample areas to thermoregulate. I have a few questions for you.
1: The timed lighting system turned off the other night, and when it came on the next day (12 hour cycle) he gaped his mouth a lot and he positioned himself hanging down from his vine and shook as if he was trying to regurgitate something. I also noticed him bulging his right eye. He also leans to one side when he is resting on his perch or vine. There is no yellow in his stool indicating dehydration or newly formed wrinkles of any kind. Is there any problems that you foresee or am I being an overprotective Veiled keeper?! He also seems not to like misting at all!
2: What size should he be to move him to a new cage? I am building a cage that will be 24" depth x 24" width x 48" Tall
3: I was also wondering about lighting. I was thinking of using 2 of the 8 and a half inch Compact UVB Mystic Fluorescent bulbs and fixture available at www.bigappleherp.com and a Repti Halogen bulb and reflector dome for heat, light and UVA rays also available at www.bigappleherp.com. These will go on top of my larger cage that I build. Will this lighting be more than sufficient? And where can I find rock walls or large pieces to decorate my Reptarium once it is done?

Going through the questions one bit at a time:

First: On asking me questions. I recently read that there's a "saying" in the chamelon world that, "most keepers can keep a chameleon alive for 2 years because that how long it can take to kill one through poor husbandry." Well, I've only had one other chameleon, and that one lasted less than 1 year. While I do have a chameleon, I am by no means an expert. If you really have a concerning question, while I wouldn't discourage you from asking me (and anyone else who might have a clue), I would also encourage you to join this chameleon forum and ask your question there. There are amateurs and experts there who will answer your question, and who will referee one another's answers. (And don't be afraid of your mailbox filling up - it's actually an unfortunately slow list.)

I have a 5-6 week old CB Veiled about 3"-4" long. I have it in a small 12" Depth x 18" Width x 20" Tall Screened Reptarium. I have a UVB Fixture and a 50 Watt Halogen basking lamp. I also have a drip system that gets filled 2-3 times a day with warm spring water. It is filled with lots of climbing areas and fake leafy vines. I have his basking area 3"-4" away from the light and ample areas to thermoregulate. I have a few questions for you.

About the lamps: Did you know that you can buy UVA/UVB basking lamps? (One brand. Another brand.) I consider having bought one of those to be one of my best investments so far. What the chameleon really needs is that UVB, especially, for Vitamin D3 synthesis, so it doesn't really do much good for it to be basking under an ordinary heat lamp, does it? Next, the florescent lamps, while they are purchased for their UVA/UVB, don't produce the heat that makes a chameleon want to bask under it, right? I will never buy another regular flood again. I do, however, have a 48" fluorescent light, and have recently added a UVA/UVB fluorescent coil lamp (to help illuminate the depths of my 6' Reptarium), I don't think I'd go back to relying upon them exclusively. I attribute the better bone structure in my current chameleon compared to my previous chameleon primarily to the UVA/UVB basking lamp (which, unlike the other fluorescent lamps mentioned here, actually get warm enough to encourage basking).

1: The timed lighting system turned off the other night, and when it came on the next day (12 hour cycle) he gaped his mouth a lot and he positioned himself hanging down from his vine and shook as if he was trying to regurgitate something. I also noticed him bulging his right eye. He also leans to one side when he is resting on his perch or vine. There is no yellow in his stool indicating dehydration or newly formed wrinkles of any kind. Is there any problems that you foresee or am I being an overprotective Veiled keeper?! He also seems not to like misting at all!

My chameleon can't stand misting. Many chameleon owners report the same thing, especially if they mist with room temperature water. It's often recommended that hot water be used, always testing first by spraying your own hand to find out how far away you need to mist from in order for the air to adequately cool the water before it hits the chameleon. I've also seen advice not to mist chameleons which are stressed by it - and I rarely mist mine. The Chameleon Journals has a "scare page" about the water needs of a chameleon, and I keep that in mind, but since I make it rain in the chameleon's cage 3 times per day, 1 minute per session, I don't worry too much about it. Still, given that scare page, I do mist occasionally, hoping to circumvent any eye problems (especially) which may come from the lack of a wet enough environment.

I've seen that kind of gaping behavior, also. Maybe it doesn't mean anything, maybe it does. In the case of my current chameleon, it usually means that its skin is starting to itch and it's about to shed. If your chameleon wasn't so young, I'd wonder about its skeletal structure. If I were you, I'd start filling my mind with everything there is to know about metabolic bone disease in chameleons. If anything kills your chameleon, it'll probably be that. (And it wouldn't hurt to get an x-ray done of your chameleon at the age of around 4 months so that you can see how you're doing.)

2: What size should he be to move him to a new cage? I am building a cage that will be 24" depth x 24" width x 48" Tall.

My advice is to move it to the new enclosure as soon as you can. Chameleons don't like to have their environments altered, and the longer you keep it where it is, the more accustomed it'll become to its current set-up. But more than that, ask yourself why you should restrict it to such a small space? I'll bet you can't find any answers which benefit the chameleon, but instead the answers you find will serve your own convenience. (And what's neat about your question and your set-up is that you seem to really care and to be willing to apply the diligence necessary to properly keep your pet!)

3: I was also wondering about lighting. I was thinking of using 2 of the 8 and a half inch Compact UVB Mystic Fluorescent bulbs and fixture available at www.bigappleherp.com and a Repti Halogen bulb and reflector dome for heat, light and UVA rays also available at www.bigappleherp.com. These will go on top of my larger cage that I build. Will this lighting be more than sufficient? And where can I find rock walls or large pieces to decorate my Reptarium once it is done?

Like I said earlier about lighting, I no longer like the idea of providing any kind of basking (i.e., heat) lamps which don't also supply UVA/UVB. However, I also include fluorescent UVA/UVB lighting to supplement the UVA/UVB basking lamp that I use, and also to help illuminate the cage. Maybe I'm paranoid about the skeletal structure of my chameleon, but maybe not. Metabolic bone disease seems to be the primary killer of chameleons and I prefer not to take chances. I also wonder about 50 watts being enough. I used to actually use 250 watts, but now I use only 100 watts and I wonder about it being enough. Given the small size of your enclosure, I can understand the 50 watt limitation, however. Also, with regard to the UVA/UVB lamps that I've been recommending, your enclosure is way too small for them, as their UVA/UVB properties require certain minimum distances from your pet.

With regard to the rock wall, I can't say that I share your enthusiasm for it. The chameleon isn't going to want to have anything to do with it, and it seems to me that if it's provided, then food may hide within its cracks, and the chameleon may attempt to crawl on the wall in order to get to the food. Chamemeleon feet aren't exactly designed for that purpose, so that would concern me. As for other decorations, I suppose you can find them in any pet store. But the chameleon mostly just wants plants and vines to crawl upon, and plants are pretty darned decorative, aren't they?

Posted by Jeff at 09:37 AM | Comments (255)

May 24, 2005

The Filibuster Seems Saved

The Houston Chronicle:
"This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats," said James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, the Christian evangelical group.

Frist, however was forced to accept the deal after seven Republicans embraced the compromise and thus denied him the necessary 50 votes he would have needed to change the Senate rules to end judicial filibusters. Republicans now hold 55 seats.

And some people say that the Republicans are just a bunch of right wing religious wackos.

Posted by Jeff at 01:40 AM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2005

Veiled Chameleon Ears and Hearing

I just noticed something odd about chameleons: no signs of ears. I wondered about that, so I did some searching of the Internet and found little said about this strange omission from chameleon heads. I did find one little tidbit, though:

Initiation of substrate vibrations during courtship has also been reported recently in vertebrates. The veiled chameleon, Chamaeleo calyptratus, produces plant-borne vibrations that may be used in communication (Barnett et al., 1999). This is especially intriguing because Hartline (1971) noted thirty years ago that structures for hearing in chameleons and snakes were at least superficially similar, and thus chameleons might detect substrate vibrations (Barnett et al., 1999).
--American Zoologist, Vibration and animal communication: A review

And to think I've been tip-toeing around at night and keeping my music low during the day for the little critter.

Posted by Jeff at 09:39 AM | Comments (79)

Pepsico's Indra Nooyi's Graduation Remarks

Pepsico's Indra Nooyi, commented on by Day by Day Cartoon

I saw today's Day by Day Cartoon and wondered just what on Earth the cartoonist was on about. I searched the Internet and found it difficult to find the remarks. Instead, I found a lot of commentary about the remarks, and it just didn't seem to me that she'd actually said anything all that bad. In a nutshell, the commentary suggested that she asserted that the rest of the world views us as giving them the middle finger - flipping them off. Well, maybe that's true. She's a major player in a global corporation - perhaps she has the experience to know. So why are people trying to kill the messenger? It occurred to me that, perhaps, she said it in a way that suggested that the United States actually is giving the middle finger, as opposed to just being perceived that way. And, perhaps, she suggested that whatever the United States is doing which translates into giving the middle finger is something that is near and dear to our patriotic hearts. It's one thing to be an honest messenger, but it's quite another to jump on board and support the message. So, I had to know - I kept up my search until I found her speech. Here it is, with interspersed commentary:


Good evening, everyone.

Dean Hubbard, distinguished faculty, honored graduates, relieved parents, family, and friends, it's a distinct pleasure to be in New York City this evening to celebrate the biggest milestone to date in the lives of you, the young men and women before us: your graduation from Columbia University Business School.

It may surprise you, graduates, but as big a night as this is for you, it's an even bigger night for your parents. They may look calm and collected as they sit in the audience, but deep inside they're doing cartwheels, dancing the Macarena, and practically speaking in tongues, they're so excited. This is what happens when parents anticipate that their bank accounts will soon rehydrate after being bone-dry for two years. So, for everyone here this evening, it's a very special occasion. And I'm delighted to share it with you.

I am keenly aware that graduates traditionally refer to our time together this evening as the calm before the storm. Some graduates -- perhaps those who minored in self-awareness -- refer to the commencement address as "the snooze before the booze." However you describe my comments this evening, please know that I understand. It wasn't that long ago that I was in your place. And I remember the day well. I knew that I owed my parents -- my financial benefactors -- this opportunity to revel in our mutual accomplishment. Yet, as the guy at the podium droned on about values, goals, and how to make my dreams take flight, I remember desperately checking and rechecking my watch. I thought, "I deserve to party, and this codger's cramping my style!"

In one of life's true ironies, I am now that codger. Well...I'm the female equivalent. A codg-ette, I guess. And I now understand that values, goals, and how to make dreams take flight, really are important. So being a firm believer that hindsight is one of life's greatest teachers, allow me to make belated amends.

To that distinguished, erudite, and absolutely brilliant man whom I silently dissed many years ago: mea culpa. Big, BIG mea culpa!

This evening, graduates, I want to share a few thoughts about a topic that should be near and dear to your hearts: the world of global business. But, I'm going to present this topic in a way that you probably haven't considered before. I'm going to take a look at how the United States is often perceived in global business, what causes this perception, and what we can do about it. To help me, I'm going to make use of a model.

So far, so good, I suppose, though I can't help but notice that she's really saying, "I'm worth listening to," in a passive aggressive manner. Passive-aggressiveness, it seems to me, tends to annoy people most when it slips under the radar unnoticed. People don't know why they're irritated, they might not even know that they are, but it tends to close their minds a bit nonetheless. Well, it seems to me, anyway.

To begin, I'd like you to consider your hand. That's right: your hand.

Other than the fact that mine desperately needs a manicure, it's a pretty typical hand. But, what I want you to notice, in particular, is that the five fingers are not the same. One is short and thick, one tiny, and the other three are different as well. And yet, as in perhaps no other part of our bodies, the fingers work in harmony without us even thinking about them individually. Whether we attempt to grasp a dime on a slick, marble surface, a child's arm as we cross the street, or a financial report, we don't consciously say, "OK, move these fingers here, raise this one, turn this one under, now clamp together. Got it!" We just think about what we want to do and it happens. Our fingers -- as different as they are -- coexist to create a critically important whole.

Fans of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged may wince a bit on that last line. It's awfully reminiscent of Orren Boyle saying that the steel industry must be preserved "as a whole", by which he really meant that the profitable steel companies must be made to pay subsidies to non-profitable ones. Those "critically important as a whole" arguments are usually code for socialism, and the rest of her speech doesn't do much to pull us away from that interpretation.

This unique way of looking at my hand was just one result of hot summer evenings in my childhood home in Madras, India. My mother, sister, and I would sit at our kitchen table and -- for lack of a better phrase -- think big thoughts. One of those thoughts was this difference in our fingers and how, despite their differences, they worked together to create a wonderful tool.

As I grew up and started to study geography, I remember being told that the five fingers can be thought of as the five major continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America. Now, let me issue a profound apology to both Australia and Antarctica. I bear neither of these continents any ill will. It's just that we humans have only five fingers on each hand, so my analogy doesn't work with seven continents.

Clearly, the point of my story is more important that geographical accuracy!

First, let's consider our little finger. Think of this finger as Africa. Africa is the little finger not because of Africa's size, but because of its place on the world's stage. From an economic standpoint, Africa has yet to catch up with her sister continents. And yet, when our little finger hurts, it affects the whole hand.

Are you starting to see this "as a whole" concept starting to shape up? It's not "my" interests, or "my family's" interests, or "my state's" interests, or "my country's" interests...instead it pushes all of those aside in favor of "the whole hand". (But the "whole hand" analogy falls very flat - more below.)

Our thumb is Asia: strong, powerful, and ready to assert herself as a major player on the world's economic stage.

Our index, or pointer finger, is Europe. Europe is the cradle of democracy and pointed the way for western civilization and the laws we use in conducting global business.

The ring finger is South America, including Latin America. Is this appropriate, or what? The ring finger symbolizes love and commitment to another person. Both Latin and South America are hot, passionate, and filled with the sensuous beats of the mambo, samba, and tango: three dances that -- if done right -- can almost guarantee you and your partner will be buying furniture together.

This analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents leaves the long, middle finger for North America, and, in particular, the United States. As the longest of the fingers, it really stands out. The middle finger anchors every function that the hand performs and is the key to all of the fingers working together efficiently and effectively. This is a really good thing, and has given the U.S. a leg up in global business since the end of World War I.

However, if used inappropriately -- just like the U.S. itself -- the middle finger can convey a negative message and get us in trouble. You know what I'm talking about. In fact, I suspect you're hoping that I'll demonstrate what I mean. And trust me, I'm not looking for volunteers to model.

Discretion being the better part of valor...I think I'll pass.

What is most crucial to my analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents, is that each of us in the U.S. -- the long middle finger -- must be careful that when we extend our arm in either a business or political sense, we take pains to assure we are giving a hand...not the finger. Sometimes this is very difficult. Because the U.S. -- the middle finger -- sticks out so much, we can send the wrong message unintentionally.

Unfortunately, I think this is how the rest of the world looks at the U.S. right now. Not as part of the hand -- giving strength and purpose to the rest of the fingers -- but, instead, scratching our nose and sending a far different signal.

I'd challenge each of you to think about how critically important it is for every finger on your hand to rise and bend together. You cannot simply "allow" the other four fingers to rise only when you want them to. If you've ever even tried to do that, you know how clumsy and uncoordinated it is.

Even though the above furthers the point that I've been making, I'm going to skip commenting on why (hopefully, that's obvious). Instead, I'll point out another message which is being weaved between the lines, and it's a message which supports the first: She's saying that the United States should not be pursuing its own interests, but instead following the example of the rest of the world.

She very cleverly words that point by suggesting that if the middle finger, the United States, is extended while the others are not, that it's us that has done it and that makes us wrong. That, in and of itself is offensive, since it categorizes independent action in and of itself as being wrong, regardless of what that action is. But what is truly clever about her wording is that it puts the United States squarely into the role of the assertive party. But there are two ways that the middle finger could find its way standing on its own: first, the way she suggests, with it suddenly extending itself away from the other fingers, but also second, by the other fingers abandoning the middle finger and closing into a fist below it. This is the way that, I think, most Americans see the international political landscape right now: the rest of the world has failed to be the friend to America that they should be, and which America deserves them to be. But Indra's comments seem to be judging right and wrong by popularity - and that's just plain relativism. It's no wonder she's stepping on toes.

My point here is that it's not enough just to understand that the other fingers coexist. We've got to consciously and actively ensure that every one of them stands tall together, or that they bend together when needed.

My point exactly. Rather than standing tall together, much of the rest of the world has left America high and dry. Australia, interestingly, has supported America very strongly, however. Australia did not leave America high and dry, but instead remained a good, true, and strong friend. Perhaps there is more to Indra's leaving Australia out of her finger analogy than originally meets the eye. Isn't it interesting that her "five continents" are the United States (in the lovely role as the middle finger), three less than "rich" continents, and Europe, which gets praised as being "cradle of democracy...[which]...pointed the way for western civilization and the laws we use in conducting global business." The European way is the right way, the U.S. is a middle finger, and the other three are significantly different culturally from the U.S. Why did she rule out using Australia in favor of the others?

Today, as each of you ends one chapter in your young lives and begins another, I want you to consider how you will conduct your business careers so that the other continents see you extending a hand...not the finger. Graduates, it's not that hard. You can change and shape the attitudes and opinions of the other fingers -- the other continents and their peoples -- by simply ascribing positive intent to all your international business transactions. If you fail, or if you are careless, here's a perfect example of what can happen:

A U.S. businesswoman was recently in Beijing, China, on an international training assignment for a luxury hotel chain. The chain was rebranding an older Beijing hotel. As such, the toilets in the hotel had yet to be upgraded. There were no porcelain commodes, just holes in the floor. Until recently, this was the standard procedure in China.

Now, 8,000 miles removed from the scene, you and I -- and most Americans -- can shake our heads and giggle at the physical contortions and delicate motor skills necessary to make the best of this situation. We're simply not used to it. But to loudly and insultingly verbalize these feelings onsite, in front of the employees and guests of the host country, is bush league. And yet, that's exactly what this woman observed.

In the hotel's bar, the woman overheard a group of five American businessmen loudly making fun of the hotel's lavatory facilities. As the drinks flowed, the crass and vulgar comments grew louder, and actually took on an angry, jingoistic tone. While these Americans couldn't speak a word of Chinese, their Chinese hosts spoke English very well, and understood every word the men were saying.

And we wonder why the world views many Americans as boorish and culturally insensitive. This incident should make it abundantly clear. These men were not giving China a hand. They were giving China the finger. This finger was red, white, and blue, and had "the United States" stamped all over it.

This, it seems to me, was a strange turn for her to take. I doubt that anyone, up until this point, in her audience had this in mind when they heard or read her speech. While she's obviously correct about the rudeness of those individual's behavior, I have a hard time believing that she put much thought into it in terms of her overall speech. Or - more cynically - that she intended it to really be what she was getting at in her speech. Surely she realizes that every country has its angels and its jerks, and that individuals in other countries meet both American angels and American jerks and assess them individually.

Graduates, it pains me greatly that this view of America persists. Although I'm a daughter of India, I'm an American businesswoman. My family and I are citizens of this great country.

This land we call home is a most loving and ever-giving nation -- a Promised Land that we love dearly in return. And it represents a true force that, if used for good, can steady the hand -- along with global economies and cultures.

Yet to see us frequently stub our fingers on the international business and political stage is deeply troubling. Truth be told, the behaviors of a few sully the perception for all of us. And we know how often perception is mistaken for reality.

We can do better. We should do better. With your help, with your empathy, with your positive intent as representatives of the U.S. in global business, we will do better. Now, as never before, it's important that we give the world a hand...not the finger.

In conclusion, graduates, I want to return to my introductory comments this evening. I observed that as big a night as this is for you, it's an even bigger night for your parents. I ascribed their happiness to looking forward to a few more "George Washingtons" in their bank accounts. While this is certainly true, there is another reason.

Each of your parents believes that their hard work has paid off. Finally! They believe that maybe -- just maybe -- they have raised and nurtured the next Jack Welch, Meg Whitman, or Patricia Russo.

Don't disappoint them. Don't disappoint your companies. And don't disappoint yourselves.

As you begin your business careers, and as you travel throughout the world to assure America's continued global economic leadership, remember your hand. And remember to do your part to influence perception.

Remember that the middle finger -- the United States -- always stands out. If you're smart, if you exhibit emotional intelligence as well as academic intelligence, if you ascribe positive intent to all your actions on the international business stage, this can be a great advantage. But if you aren't careful -- if you stomp around in a tone-deaf fog like the ignoramus in Beijing -- it will also get you in trouble. And when it does, you will have only yourself to blame.

Graduates, as you aggressively compete on the international business stage, understand that the five major continents and their peoples -- the five fingers of your hand -- each have their own strengths and their own contributions to make. Just as each of your fingers must coexist to create a critically important tool, each of the five major continents must also coexist to create a world in balance. You, as an American businessperson, will either contribute to or take away from, this balance.

So remember, when you extend your arm to colleagues and peoples from other countries, make sure that you're giving a hand, not the finger. You will help your country, your company, and yourself, more than you will ever know.

Thank you very much.

More of the same.

And here's why her whole hand analogy either falls flat, or is monumentally offensive: Countries are independent, fingers are not. That is, fingers are not indpendent in that their actions are governed by one mind which controls them all. That one mind wants to pick up an orange, and those fingers, bereft of independent thought, take orders from that mind and grasp the fruit. So the analogy either falls flat because, unlike fingers, countries are independent, or she's presenting the highly offensive assertion that the United States needs to subordinate its independence to a higher authority. And who might that be? The United Nations? Who?

Indra Nooyi deserves to be in trouble for her comments. Ostensibly, she's in trouble for saying that the rest of the world views us as giving them the middle finger. I think its far more complex (and damning) than that. This is not simply a case of killing the messenger.

Posted by Jeff at 05:32 AM | Comments (15)

May 20, 2005

Karl Rove Did It (and the essence of anti-Americanism)

Someone recently said to me:

Lesson...Satire needs to have some basis in truth to work. Blame Bush goes nowhere.


Moscow News: Russian Villagers Blame U.S. as Lake Disappears

A Russian village was left baffled Thursday after its lake disappeared overnight, Reuters reported Friday. Though there is probably a perfectly natural explanation, some of the villagers were quick to blame the disaster on the United States.

NTV television showed pictures of a giant muddy hole bathed in summer sun, while fishermen from the village of Bolotnikovo near Nizhny Novgorod looked on disconsolately.

"It is very dangerous. If a person had been in this disaster, he would have had almost no chance of survival. The trees flew downwards, under the ground," said Dmitry Zaitsev, a local Emergencies Ministry official interviewed by the channel.

Officials in Nizhegorodskaya region, on the Volga river east of Moscow, said water in the lake might have been sucked down into an underground water-course or cave system, but some villagers had more sinister explanations.

"I am thinking, well, America has finally got to us," said one old woman, as she sat on the ground outside her house.

The problem with Blame Bush, if any, is that it does not paint an exaggerated enough caricature of a lefty anti-American. Its attempt at satire is too close to the truth.

Liberal Reality
(Image is clickable.)

Posted by Jeff at 02:44 PM | Comments (2)

May 17, 2005

Now here's a thesaurus I would buy

Evan Coyne Maloney has pointed out a tremendous liberal bias in Roget's Thesaurus. The editors of that text clearly demonstrate a very strong political bias and an attempt at passing that bias on to you.

A new entry to that discussion comes from a reader of Maloney's weblog, professor David Clemens from Monterey Peninsula College, who proposes the following as synonyms for "conservative" and "liberal". They seem right to me:

conservative: rational, well-mannered, respectful, protective, sober, modest, patient, judicious, moral, pious, patriotic, virtuous, polite, gentlemanly or ladylike.

liberal: relativistic, tribal, hyperbolic, ends justify the means, fearful, authoritarian, do-gooder, self-righteous, utopian, dogmatic, patronizing, licentious, Orwellian.


Posted by Jeff at 01:18 PM | Comments (1)

May 14, 2005

Substrate - actual use

On an earlier entry, I showed what substrate I use and how to prepare it. In this entry, I'll show how I use it:

Chameleon cage

To the right is my entire chameleon "cage", which is more of a mesh enclosure called a "reptarium" by its manufacturer, Apogee. The reptarium is ready to be cleaned (you may notice some flecks of debris on the floor of the reptarium). Notice that you do not see the Eco Earth substrate mentioned above.

(Just as a side note, notice also that the three hanging plants are not hanging from the mesh enclosure, but instead are hanging from strings which are attached to the ceiling. This seems to me to be a very useful, yet under-used technique for decorating chameleon cages.)

Cleaning the chameleon's cage

So, to start out, what I do is remove everything that's on the bottom of the enclosure. In this case it's a waterfall, a decorative piece of driftwood, the chamelon's tree, and a small shelter for crickets when they're looking to get out of the rain. Then I remove everything that they were sitting upon until I reach the mesh at the bottom of the enclosure.

The bottom of the empty cage

You'll notice a couple of flaws in the mesh on the bottom of the enclosure. That's because the bottom used to be the top, and the chameleon's basking lamps burned right through the mesh. The instructions for using the enclosure said that wouldn't happen, but - it did. Thus the top became the bottom and I covered the holes with duct tape. The mesh enclosure is sitting inside a plastic liner (scroll to the bottom at that link) which protects the carpet from moisture and other products generated within (*smirk*).

The first thing I do is place an assemblage of raised flooring on the bottom of the cage to provide an air gap between the bottom of the cage and the substrate above.

Flooring for the bottom of the cage.

Here is a photo of the flooring assembled on the bottom of the cage:

Flooring assembled and installed.

Then I spread weed blocker across the top of the flooring. Note that I do not cut the weed blocker to fit the cage - the roll is just sitting outside out of the way and still attached to what is lining the bottom of the cage:

Weed blocker contains the substrate.

The next step is to add the substrate:

The substrate added on top of the weed blocker.

Now comes the reason why I didn't cut the weed blocker as part of a previous step. I scroll out enough of the weed blocker to fold it back over the top of the substrate - and then I cut it. This prevents the chameleon's food from burrowing within the substrate and prevents the chameleon from accidentally ingesting it. It also gets wet, and holds a little bit of water on top of the weed blocker; thus there is some water which evaporates and never makes it into the substrate. Still more importantly, enclosing the substrate this way makes it very easy to remove during the next cleaning. I simply pick up all of the substrate at once, containing it within the weed blocker.

The substrate is now contained by the weed blocker all around.

Although I don't show the step here, I then cut one more length of weed blocker from the roll and place it as an additional layer on top of what you see in the photo above. This additional layer may be changed much more often than is necessary for the substrate, thus keeping a sanitary floor without having all of the work described here.

Much better!

The only step left is to replace all of the knick-knacks.

The finished job.

Though I'm going to save the details for a later post, the reason that I use this substrate, and the reason that I said that I like the substrate to be bone dry before placing it within the cage, is because of how I hydrate the chameleon. A lot of water - a lot - makes it to the bottom of the cage. This substrate is VERY absorbant. When water enters it, it soaks up even better than a sponge and distributes the water throughout its fibers. Thus the water doesn't present a drowning problem for crickets, and it has a better chance of evaporating before the next hydration. In addition, because it is so absorbant, it holds a great deal of water, thus providing for a lenghty amount of time between changes. In addition, when it's damp, it's helping to increase the humidity of the air above. It's quite useful.

Look forward to a future post on making it rain, automatically, every day.

Posted by Jeff at 12:27 AM | Comments (137)

May 09, 2005

A Trip to the Veterinarian

My veiled chameleon and my cockatiel both had their first trip to the veterinarian today.

A cockatiel and a veiled chameleon visit the veterinarian.

The cockatiel was, for the most part, just along for the ride - at least I thought so, anyway. I was really only going because I wanted an X-ray done of the chameleon. But the next thing I knew, I was watching a needle stick into the bird's jugular vein and about 1/2 tablespoon of blood being pulled through that needle into a syringe. So that bird has had a hard day! If I had lost that great of a percentage of my blood, I'd have lost consciousness and gone into convolutions and spasms (it's happened before). The poor bird took it well, though. I was also surprised at how good he was at sticking to my shoulder. I'm starting to think that I could take it outside and it wouldn't fly away (though I've no intention of trying).

The chameleon was transported within this Kritter Keeper.

The chameleon, however, had an even harder day. I did everything that I could think of to try to keep its stress level down as much as possible, but near-disaster happened. When the vet was attempting to remove the chameleon from its carrier, the chameleon grasped the top of the lid with both front feet and hung on. I reached over to help by getting his feet undone, and that's when the chameleon moved into "rapid flight" mode. The next thing we knew, we were hearing the sound of the chameleon's body smacking against the hard floor from about 4 feet in the air. Not good. But it doesn't seem any worse for the wear.

A cockatiel and a veiled chameleon visit the veterinarian.

You can see the eggs showing up in this X-ray (and no broken bones from a fall!). I expected that. In addition, I was hoping that he'd give a glowing report on how big and strong the chameleon's bones are. Well, it was nearly glowing, but not perfect. Do you see the chameleon's toes? Those should be a darker white ("lighter white"?) to be perfect, but the rest of her bones are looking pretty thick.

The veterinarian gave me some rather specious arguments about supplements and gut loading with Fluker Farm's cricket gut load and cricket quencher. He made a speech about the vitamins and minerals in those things not being "organic", and therefore not adequate. He said, "You can smear vitamins all over Wonder Bread and give it to your children, but they're not going to grow." Yeah, well, that's obvious, but that's a macro-nutrient thing, not a micronutrient thing. And the cricket gut load is not on Wonder Bread, it's inside of animals (crickets, mealworms, waxworms, etc.).

But that's not the main thing which was wrong with his argument. Instead, he was putting his attention on the antecedents (what the food is made of) rather than results (the empirically observed results of the food on the animals). Does he honestly think that Fluker Farms just adds a bunch of vitamins and minerals to some grain and then think, "Well, the nutrients are there, it must work!" That would be silly. When the food fails to nourish, the pets die. When pets die, people get discouraged and fail to buy more. Or if they do, they'd tend to try different feeding techniques and Fluker Farms would lose the business anyway. No, be reasonable here: a company is going to test its products and let its formula evolve to best suit the animal.

Nevertheless, I'm taking his advice on gut loading to heart. While I'm quite sure that the Fluker Farms cricket gut load is probably better for the chameleon than is most food that parents feed their kids, I think it could be made better by using fresh vegetables. The vet warned against using any kind of lettuce, or chard, or spinach. I asked about the spinach, and he responded by mentioning something in the spinach which binds the calcium (I think), so it wouldn't do any good. It sounds like he knows what he's talking about with the vegetable thing. He also said not to feed the crickets carrots. In short, he said to stick to three types of greens: collard greens, endive, and dandilion greens. I only know of one store that sells dandilion greens, and I'm not sure whether its year 'round, but at least the other two are readily available. And they're still going to get the commercial gut load occasionally, as well as the cricket quencher. Mostly, I intend to mimick closely these gut loading recipes from ChameleonNews.com.

A cockatiel and a veiled chameleon visit the veterinarian.

And, in case you're wondering, that's a giant piece of feces and uric acid, compliments of the chameleon about 1/2 hour before my appointment with the vet. The chameleon was really good to provide that sucker. I was so proud. (Vet reports no signs of parasitic infection.) Ya gotta have one of those when you head to the veterinarian!

Posted by Jeff at 02:04 PM | Comments (513)

May 05, 2005

Eco Earth and Forest Bed Substrate

Below is the substrate that I use in my chameleon's pen, Eco Earth. (Here is the link to how I use the substrate, which is not simply lining the bottom of the pen with it). The current page is about the substrate itself, as opposed to how it is used.

Forest Bed, Eco Earth, Substrate

The "Forest Bed" pictured to the left is a different brand from Eco Earth, but ultimately the same thing: ground up coconut husks pressed into bricks. You can often find both in a pet store, often with different prices, though I can't imagine why - they seem to be the same weight (though one brand makes a smaller, more dense brick than the other). What's neat about the link to the Eco Earth I've been using here is that it's only $5.99 for 3 bricks. The lowest price I've been able to find where I live is $4.99 per brick. Of course you have to factor in shipping, which if you bought nothing else you'd get as inexpensively as $5.95, for a total cost of $11.94. That's a savings of $3.03 as compared to the stores around here (sales tax may present yet a greater savings). The Internet rocks! Anyway, moving swiftly on....

Forest Bed Substrate Expanded

The instructions say to add 1 gallon - 4 quarts - of water to a container with the brick to expand the substrate, but because I want the substrate bone dry before I put it into the chameleon's pen, I use as little water as possible. In the case of these pictures, I first used 3 quarts of water, which ultimately wasn't enough, and I needed to add another 2.5 cups. You can see how large the brick grew after absorbing the water! (The measuring stick is 8 inches long.)

Forest Bed Prepared

Drying the Eco Earth substrate is the major pain in the asterisk about using it. Consider what your climate is like, then ask yourself how long you think it'd take to evaporate a gallon of water from a bucket into the air. That's about what you have to expect when it comes to drying that gallon of water out of the substrate. It can take days. For this reason, it's a good idea to have it prepared and dried out long before you anticipate needing to use it.

Drying Forest Bed Substrate

To dry it, I put it out into the sun using a method which will help to prevent any breezes from either blowing it away, or blowing foreign debris into it. In this case, I used a box, open on one end to the sun, and kept the other sides up to block the wind. It took a few days, considering it was done in April when the temps aren't too high and the humidity is.

Dried Forest Bed Substrate

You'll notice that when it's completely dry its color will have reverted back to the color of the original pressed brick. At that point it's ready for me to use. Dryness is important given my method of hydrating my chameleon - but that's an entry for another day! (Check back soon.)

If you're interested in seeing a time lapse video of the expansion of the bricks, you may see it at the link below. However, because the video is such a large size, and because I don't want people embedding it on outside websites, I've placed it within a protected area of this website which requires a username and a password. They are:

Username: Veiled
Password: Chameleon

Note that they are CaSe SeNsItIvE

"Expand" AVI file (12.0 MB) (MediaPlayer or RealPlayer)

"Expand" animated gif (26.33 MB)

Posted by Jeff at 10:27 PM | Comments (10)

May 04, 2005

Hewlett Packard Customer Support

A solution to the disappearing Canon Multipass Printer Ink.

Isn't having customer support work well just THE greatest experience? (Well, outside of some really great sexual ones, of course.) I've become a bit jaded about support when it comes to computers because support personnel seem to never be up to the task...but this one worked out great!

I have an HP Pavilion Desktop Computer and pre-installed on the system is a program called "HP Instant Support". Frankly, I don't know much about it, except that I've used it 3 or 4 times. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with the warranty period (unless it is sending information about my warranty to personell when I use it, or checking warranty information before allowing me to run the program), but for some reason the guys at Hewlett Packard seem to be ready to talk to me at a moment's notice, night or day, through this little chat program. And check this conversation out:

Jeff: (Wed, May 4, 2005 at 09:57:18 PM) My memory card reader is no longer functioning properly. When I plug in a memory card, the drive no longer shows up in Windows Explorer and I can not browse to it. The menu which used to automatically pop up when I'd put in the card no longer pops up.

Status Message: (05/04/2005 09:57:22 PM) Welcome to HP Total Care. We are assigning your request to a support analyst. This may take a few minutes. We appreciate your patience.

Status Message: (05/04/2005 09:58:23 PM) Support analyst Allen has been assigned to your request.

Allen: (05/04/2005 09:58:23 PM) Welcome to HP Total Care. My name is Allen. I am currently reviewing your Support request 4350144 and will respond shortly, so please remain connected to the internet.

Allen: (05/04/2005 09:59:21 PM) Do you get any error message?

Jeff: (05/04/2005 09:59:33 PM) (As a side note, this "Help and Support Center" would not accept my primary email address and gave the reason that it wasn't a valid format. I suspect that it didn't much care for the hyphen, "-", in the domain name. Someone should fix that.)

Jeff: (05/04/2005 09:59:45 PM) No. I get no error messages associated with the flash card.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:00:34 PM) I've rebooted twice to see if that'd help. I don't know what to look for to track down the problem.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:01:07 PM) (So much for my CompTIA A+ certification.)

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:15:27 PM) I have 2 flash cards. Both work in my camera, neither works in this computer. Both worked last week, and one worked a few days ago on a friend's computer. Today is the first time I've had problems. I've been using them for 15 months in this computer 'till now.

Allen: (05/04/2005 10:19:21 PM) Please perform following steps and then let me know the result.
1. Click Start, Run
3. Click OK
4. Click STARTUP tab
5. Uncheck the "shwicon2K" program
6. Click OK
7. Restart the system
If you are getting a message "System Configuration Utility you are using the selective startup for troubleshooting your system", I suggest you check the check box in that window and click OK. This occurs if you are using the Selective startup option and not using the normal startup to reduce the number of startup programs.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:22:05 PM) The "shwicon2K" program is not listed within the MSCONFIG/STARTUP list. I searched the registry and it doesn't exist anywhere.

Allen: (05/04/2005 10:23:51 PM) Okay, please restart the computer and then let me know what happens.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:24:45 PM) Okay. But just to make sure that you understand what I meant, I'll be rebooting after having made no changes at all. That wasn't on my list to uncheck.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:29:11 PM) I'm back.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:30:13 PM) The drive doesn't show as existing.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:33:11 PM) It has no moving parts, it doesn't generate heat, and it's got a dust cover. It seems like an odd piece of hardware to be having a problem.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:38:52 PM) There is an LED on the face next to the ports for the cards. The LED is lit. I have been attempting to use SD type memory cards. I just tried the older "compact flash" type of card and it doesn't work either.

Allen: (05/04/2005 10:39:24 PM) Please perform the steps and then try once again.
Please right click on My computer and then select properties and then select hardware and select device manager and then uninstall the card reader option and then restart the computer and try to insert the card and then let me know the result.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:40:39 PM) I was looking for that earlier. Where in the Device Manager should I expect to find the card reader?

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:42:56 PM) I don't appear to have anything like that in my Device Manager.

Allen: (05/04/2005 10:43:24 PM) Under the USB drive.

Allen: (05/04/2005 10:45:24 PM) are you able to view usb controllers?

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:45:45 PM) I have 4 Intel USB Universal Host Controllers, 2 webcams, 4 root hubs, and an unknown device.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:46:55 PM) The "Unknown Device" must be my UPS.

Allen: (05/04/2005 10:49:24 PM) please uninstall the 4 root hubs.

Allen: (05/04/2005 10:49:25 PM) And then restart the computer.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:50:22 PM) http://www.veiled-chameleon.com/weblog/httpdocs/images/blogcontent/support1.jpg

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:51:20 PM) Is there a way to save the current configuration before doing that?

Allen: (05/04/2005 10:52:24 PM) You need to uninstall it and then restart the computer and then it will come back.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 10:52:36 PM) okay

Jeff: (05/04/2005 11:02:07 PM) Okay...the memory card reader problem seems to be over. It's found the memory cards and the option to copy picturs or play media files with Real Player or Media Player, etc., has returned. The root hubs have returned. My Tripp Lite UPS entries all (5) have yellow question marks in Device Manager (4 additionally have exclamation points), one of my webcams has a yellow exclamation point, and the found new hardware wizard is wanting to run.

Allen: (05/04/2005 11:02:43 PM) Jeffrey, Can I go for a break?

Jeff: (05/04/2005 11:02:45 PM) So unless you have some reason why not, I'll complete the process with the Found New Hardware Wizard.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 11:03:06 PM) Sure. I'm guessing that you've solved the problem for me already.

Allen: (05/04/2005 11:03:43 PM) Please right click on the yellow exclamation mark and then uninstall the drivers for the web cam and then restart the computer.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 11:04:07 PM) okay.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 11:04:46 PM) actually, that was the new hardware - the drivers have updated. Now I've got conflicts to go through.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 11:05:13 PM) I've no more conflicts. We can probably close this support request. Thanks much for your help.

Allen: (05/04/2005 11:05:43 PM) Till you perform the steps I will go for a break and come back and assist you further on the issue.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 11:05:52 PM) (I had no idea that the card readers were USB. I likely would've swapped the hardware.)

Jeff: (05/04/2005 11:05:57 PM) Okay.

Jeff: (05/04/2005 11:06:17 PM) I'm rebooting and I'll reload this. Message me when you're ready.

Allen: (05/04/2005 11:30:47 PM) Wow!!!!

Allen: (05/04/2005 11:30:48 PM) Jeffrey, Our focus at HP Instant Support is to ensure that you, our valued customer, always receives a satisfactory support experience. Have we accomplished this for you today? Is there any other technical issue I can assist you with?

Allen: (05/04/2005 11:31:47 PM) You are welcome Jeffrey, in my next message I will send you the closure request. If you are ok with closing the case, then please either click the Close Request button, or check the Close Request box and click Reply to close the case.

Thank you for using HP Total Care and providing us an opportunity to serve you through HP Instant Support. You may also receive an instant support survey. We would appreciate your feedback. Please contact us again if you require any further assistance.

Our exclusive Owner Services will help keep all of your HP and Compaq products up and running. Please visit our Web site at:


Jeff: (05/04/2005 11:32:01 PM) Nope, that's it. Thanks again!

Jeff: (05/04/2005 11:32:48 PM) (oops...sorry...was typing when the last message came in...send another close request?)

Status Message: (05/04/2005 11:33:17 PM) Your support analyst would like to close your request.
Select the Yes button to close the request.
Select the No button to keep it open.

Allen: (05/04/2005 11:33:17 PM) Thank you and have a good evening.

Status Message: (05/04/2005 11:33:39 PM) This request has been resolved and will be closed.

Posted by Jeff at 11:41 PM | Comments (48)

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