Tag Archives: the rogue who came in from the cold

James Burke Never Saw This Connection Coming: Sea Monkeys and The Empire Strikes Back

Some people wake up with a start and wonder, “Did I remember to take the trash out?”

I wake up with a start and wonder, “Did I remember to feed the sea monkeys?”

I don’t wonder if I took out the trash until the sound of the approaching garbage truck reminds me. Then I treat the truck driver and my neighbors to the entertaining spectacle of an over-the-hill, on-the-high-end-of-the-weight-scale-for-his-height man frantically dragging out the trash cans in nothing but his tighty-whities and a thong.

I’m always misplacing the left flip-flop.

It isn’t a pretty sight.

I know. I’ve gotten complaints.

But back to the recent, but not tax write-off, additions to my household:

Recently, my kiddos received sea monkeys as a birthday gift. I dutifully set up the small tank, followed the instructions, and watched my kiddos jump up and down in excitement.

Five days later the first sea monkeys finally appeared, long after my kids’ interest, much like some of the water in that tank, had evaporated.

Their interest, unlike the water in the tank, briefly reignited upon the aquatic primates’ arrival, forcing me to move the tank to a place they couldn’t reach (and therefore see, grab, and spill) it. This led to a rapid return to non-interest on their part.

Truly out of sight, out of mind.

But the sea monkeys were only out of their sight and mind.

Not mine. I can see them just fine.

To paraphrase Khan Noonien Singh: They task me. They task me and I shall have to feed them!

The problem is, they can see me. And one of them has taken to staring at me when I walk by.

If these guys were the size of dolphins, they'd freak people out. And probably eat them, too.

He’s staring at me!

I imagine he sees me, then after I’ve wandered off, flutters over to the rest of his clan and says:

Hark, ye, for I have seen our Lord and God, and he is old and slightly pudgy. There can be only one meaning to this! Our harsh and vengeful God commands us to eat when there is food and grow large with it, so that in times of hardship, there will be much wailing and gnashing of whatever it is we have that passes for teeth, but no death by starvation and far less cannibalism than would otherwise be required. Thus is the wisdom and the will of our God, He Who Is On The Upper End of the Weight Scale For His Height.

He wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Because days can go by before I remember I need to feed them.

I feel bad about this.

But also annoyed.

Because these damned sea monkeys are yet another responsibility I’m saddled with thanks to the gift of Instant Life® foisted upon me by a well-intentioned-but-still-inconsiderate friend.

They’re alive. They depend on me. I have to take care of them.

I can’t just stop feeding them until the water is cloudy with their half-dissolved remains.

That’s cruel.

And I can’t just dump them down the drain (or, even worse, into the toilet).

That’s murder.

Having sea monkeys is a lot like having children. Once you’ve got ’em, you’re pretty much stuck with ’em.

Except there’s only a moral, and not a legal, requirement to feed sea monkeys.

Plus you don’t have to clothe sea monkeys. With kids, you do. Eventually. Shortly after their school starts complaining, in my experience.

Fascist public nudity and potty training laws!

But back to sea monkeys.

I feel trapped by this tiny clan of briny swimmers. I can’t in good conscience just kill them, and if I keep feeding them and refreshing the water, they’ll just go forth, within the limits of their tank, lay more forsaken eggs, and multiply.

At least when they turn 18, I can throw my kids out and not feel too many qualms.

But these prolific gilled primates? I can see no end in sight to my obligation to care for them.

I’m well and truly screwed.

Or am I?

I’ve always been a bit of a dabbler in the dark(er sides of) Science, and I can’t help but recollect an experiment I did back when I was ten. Despite the backwards brine shrimp technology of that period, I had some sea monkey eggs and managed to successfully hatch them.

And believe me, in those days you had a better chance of hatching sea monkeys from a handful of dirt floating in a concentrated solution of lye than from the eggs you bought through the mail.

He also makes a great landscape piece in your 200 gallon sea monkey tank.

The main ingredient in carbonite? Ground up brine shrimp eggs. True fact.

At the same time, The Empire Strikes Back had just come out. That movie, obviously, raised a lot of questions about the efficacy of cryogenics, and I set out to find some answers.

I took a single brine shrimp, put it in a small vial of water, and froze it.

A couple of days later, I thawed it out.

The sea monkey lived.

Not for very long, if I recall correctly, which may or may not have been related to the sudden onset of freeze and then thaw.

But its momentary survival opens up a fresh avenue of escape for me.

I can freeze the bastards until someone comes up with a reliable way to resuscitate them.

Sure, there may be long-term (or, depending on the results, short-term) issues with the revival side of this option, but once they’re on ice, I have plenty of time to find a fix for that aspect of the problem.

Or put it off indefinitely…

I think that guy who keeps staring at me has a name now:



Posted by on 25 October 2013 in Angst, Life, Parenting, Science!


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