October 18th, 2004

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The weatherfish looks like a cross between a catfish and an eel, a paradox that weatherfish share with many loaches. Weatherfish derive their names from the fact that when storms come, they go a little haywire, causing them to serve as skittish bellwethers. The fish belong in Asia, where they flourish. Sometimes, though, weatherfish live in United States aquariums. My reading indicates that they burrow under the aquarium gravel, surfacing for air and also to dance wildly when the barometer changes.

Lately misguided aquarists put things into waters in Florida or the Carolinas such as weatherfish. Florida provides nearly perfect tropical fish habitat, as the freshwater in Tampa naturally achieves the sought-after 74 degrees Fahrenheit. The snakehead, which looks like a snake's head grafted onto a mildly ornate fish, now gives fits to game and fish departments across the south. Snakeheads predate ferociously upon forage fish and baby game fish. It's a lesson similar to releasing rabbits in Australia, or appointing football coaches as principals of high schools.

The weatherfish now establishes itself throughout Florida waters. I think about the less than wise soul that first decided to interfere with the Florida ecosystem by planting exotics in the waterways. When I visit Miami, I love the way that exotic non-native cichlids thrive in every drainage ditch, but I know in my heart that colorful though they might be, they belong someplace else.

Game and fish departments live with a bit of sin, too. They introduce bass species outside their natural ranges, on the theory that a megabass trumps a local bass. I do not share that theory. Personally, I prefer sunfish in any event. I experience mixed feelings that I fish, because I love the way sunfish look. But until I'm willing to give up grilled salmon, I'll live with the ambiguity. I don't think fishing is wrong, really, but I do like the idea of fish unaffected by hooks.

I want people to stop releasing snakeheads and weatherfish into local waterways in any event.
Also, stop putting mosquito fish in foreign waters, where they interfere with local forage fish in distant lands. Finally, teach kids how to catch snakefish, and fry them deep in sunflower seed oil, serving them with hush puppies. In Asia, snakefish serve as a staple. I've never tried one. But I'd clean one if I caught it.
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Today begins the Texas early voting process. I arrived forty five minutes after the polls opened. I stood in a line for 20 minutes. The check-in process was easy, even though I did not have my voter registration card with me. The process of voting took less than ten minutes. I received a sticker for my shirt which says "My Vote Counted".

I noticed that several elections featured only Republican candidates, while others featured Republicans pitted against Libertarians. I think it's unfortunate that Democrats failed to field a candidate in many races. Of course, I suppose I could run for something, but I did not choose to do so. It might be fun to be a candidate who runs for a good cause, without the inconvenience of having to actually win. Maybe next election.

I'm glad I voted. I hope that the country faces a better four years ahead than the four years just past.