I'm often in the habit of ignoring my aquariums when my schedule gets into a bind. While usually this has negative effects, such as burnt-out powerheads, stunted plant growth, fish jerky, etc., the neglect does occasionally yield something interesting.
Today while getting my laundry done, I noticed something unusual in my ten gallon soil substrate "natural" tank.
Despite the fact that the plants have a virtual monopoly on that tank, I haven't ever seen Dwarf Sagittaria flower before. There's a half-dozen others in there, too, in various stages of bloom and decay. I suppose it qualifies as something of a "duh!" remark, but submersed culture almost never sees flowers develop in my tanks; it's only when I allow the water level to fall (intentionally, of course) that I see the plants making effort in sending up flower stems. Anubias, Crypts, Bacopa, Anacharis, a dozen other kinds of plants all show the same behavior. Water level drops to where the leaves are just under the water surface, and they send up flowers. Mimicking nature, I know.
There's two bits about the hobby that this emphasizes; for me, at least.
First, that aquatic plant cultivators that limit themselves to strictly submersed culture are depriving themselves of one of the more interesting aspects of the hobby. Yes, I appreciate neatly-trimmed lawns of Riccia just as much as the next guy. Yes, I know it brings one dangerously close to the completely pedestrian realm of terrestrial plants, but who're we kidding anyway? It's not like the "aquatic" plants we see exist only in the bottom of several inches of water; there are wetness cycles in nature, and these plants do sometimes get dry.. This fact being emphasized by the number of bog plants in the hobby sold to unknowing aquarium keepers.
The second point is the mega-tech with water column fertilization is a nice approach to getting tremendous growth, but soil substrate techniques are definitely effective. If this tank had been one of those CO2/PMDD daily water column dose setups, I'm not sure the water level would have fallen this far without the tank rendering itself into a massive bowl (cube) of cellulose soup. With soil, you have a pretty decent supply of macros and micros in the substrate, so there's something of a buffer for neglect. Not that you can't use CO2, PMDD, regular DD, and other wonderful bits of the modern world in these setups...
Incidentally... all the dwarf sag in that tank originates from a single plant that sent out runners to colonize the tank. Will the flowers even be able to pollenate, given that the plants are all clones? I remember my BigAss(TM) Echinodorus rhizome clones having viable seeds after sending up flowers.
So, several months ago, when I first got my new laptop (yes, the ibook), I went traveling across the net to see what sorts of gimmicky and expensive crap I could buy for my system. Though intrigued by its clean design, high quality, and practicality, I was fracking appalled by the $90 pricetag of this particular stand.
It is undeniably nice. But, I hate apple yuppies, and... I'm a DIY-er.
Anyone with a bit of constructive ability should be able to figure this one out. It's just a bunch of 3/4" PVC with associated fittings, totaling about $7, with plenty of material to spare. If you had a PVC bender, you could build it even cheaper. While it does wobble ever-so-slightly, it's not irritating, and is largely mitigated when you keep your palms on the rests, or use a separate keyboard. The wobble could well be my fault, though, since I haven't actually glued mine together yet. If it *really* bothered you, I suppose it could be filled with sand, or, gods forbid, you could modify it to have additional structural elements.
Aside from the obvious benes like clearing up desk space, it's helped to keep the system a lot cooler. I haven't heard the fan kick in since I built it, which I'm sure the internals appreciate.
There's an ergonomic benefit, too. Your average computer hobbyist/professional has a really fantastically bad slouch. I say this from a position of authority, having once had such a slouch, until the last year or so. Between elevating all my desktop displays on a hutch, and this laptop stand's similar effect, my posture's improved dramatically. Not that the chin-up bar and strenuous physical conditioning didn't help, but the continuous effort typically has more effect than the sporadic. If you were going for that angle, it would probably also help to have a table-level keyboard to prevent shoulder scrunching.
For my apple-loving readership, I know all this practicality talk's irritating. In not so many words, then, what is it that makes this cheap stand better than the premade hoi polloi?
Racists, the lot of you.