Lewis Weil

My job and hobbies have been taking care of others. My entire life I've had pets and aquariums. My job is taking care of 90 different households and their full range of problems. I'm the CEO, so I also take care of the company and my colleagues. I took care of my dog. When he died I thought I would redirect my energy into my corals. Then the blizzard ended that.

I miss Bub so much, I would much rather still have him. I wish I hadn't lost my corals. But for first time in my life I don't have another creature depending me. I have me. I'm going to give myself my energy for awhile. The notion of this terrifies me. I could always tell what my animals want. Dogs bark. Fish tanks I know by instinct. What do I need?

During the nearly week long power outage I saw talk about how much it must suck to have an electric car when you don't have power. True, you can't recharge at home off the grid. But it actually was wonderful to have my Leaf last week. Electric cars are enormous batteries that happen to have some car seats sitting on top of them. Before the blizzard I made sure my car was fully charged and then I sealed it up and put away the charging cable. We had no power for days, but we several kilowatts sitting in the driveway. My mom also has an electric car. It was great for both of us because you can safely go sit in the car to warm up without worrying about carbon monoxide. I've heard from people who slept in their EVs in their garages. You can't do that with a gas car. We were able to use my car to keep our power banks charged. I would charge them during the day and then we could plug in our phones and stuff at night. I let my neighbors know if they needed emergency warmth they could warm up in my car. We were iced in, no one was going anywhere, so it didn't matter that I had limited range. But I did know if I really needed to I could find a charger in a part of town that didn't lose power. Gas pumps need electricity too, so no one was refilling their vehicles in neighborhoods without power.

I'm now considering getting solar panels and battery backups so we can avoid this in the future. But that is tbd.

i found a small miracle today. some of my corals are still alive. they are in bad shape and may not make it, but they aren't dead yet. i am still planning on removing the tank, for reasons i'll elaborate on some other time. but what started as a plan to tear the tank down turned into a coral rescue.

i had the tank covered and the room locked up the last couple days because it smelled awful. in the freezing cold, in the dark, and without reliable water there wasn't much i could do.

yesterday we got power back and it seems to be staying on. our water is flowing. so rather than wait for the tank to smell even worse i decided to break it down today. i gathered my energy, physical and emotional, for a grueling and sad task. with aquarium projects you are dealing with water, living creatures, and electricity. you have to have a plan, be careful, and not stop until you are done. my plan was to remove all the electrical equipment so i could work safely. remove the dead animals. and then drain as much of the water as i could. the tank was full of bare coral skeletons and lots of detritus.

but there were a couple corals showing signs of life. enough that i thought they could possibly be saved. luckily i had some clean seawater already mixed and on hand. i removed all the equipment as planned. removed the dead corals. and then siphoned off as much funk as i could and then added back clean seawater.

most of the corals died, and it was sad pulling them out. but amazing several small corals and a large beautiful “platygyra” brain coral was still alive. this is a very delicate animal. i am shocked it survived. if you know what to look for it is particularly expressive, for a coral. it is alive and looks pretty good! im going to give it a few days and make sure it pulls through. but right now i am very pleased and encouraged to get to see it.

i had high hopes for it when i got it and was especially sad about the idea of losing it. they can live hundreds of years. it would be terrible for its life to be cut short because it ended up with me. i've talked with a few other aquarium keepers and many are in the same situation, losing most or all of their animals. and it hits them just as hard. once i know this coral is going to make it i hope to re-home it to help someone rebuild their reef.

heads up this post is a huge bummer. seriously, please stop reading if you don't want to be sad. we all have sad things we are dealing with. mine are far from the worst, but they are mine. i'm not fishing for sympathy, i just got to get this all out of my head.

as i write this it is thursday february 18. i haven't really found the words to convey the situation in Texas, and specifically in our neighborhood in austin. winter storm, blizzard, extreme cold don't capture it. this is unprecedented but may be a new normal event. we all saw the forecasts and knew it was going to be extremely cold.

last thursday, feb 11 it was sleeting when i was in the car in front of the veterinarians office making the decision to put our dog to sleep. it was icing while i waited for my wife to arrive at the vet to come say goodbye. i was scared for our safety but we needed to say goodbye. we had to say goodbye to him in an entryway to the office because we couldn't both go in due to covid rules. i went inside with him and walked out without him.

the next day we ended work early and made a run to the grocery store before it dipped below freezing again. it was precarious and we almost didn't go. i had a very scary experience in a sudden ice storm a few years ago and am very wary of going out in winter weather. we got supplies for the weekend and made a plan to stay inside through monday. the forecast was for it be very cold and some possible snow, with the temperature hitting its lowest monday morning.

that is not what happened.

late sunday night we got notice that due to incredible demand on the power grid there would be rolling blackouts. they were to last around 45 minutes. the power went out and we went to bed. i woke up, surprised, in a cold house the next morning. the power had been out all night. we filled bowls full of snow and put them in the fridge and freezer to try to protect our perishables. later we moved our supplies of milk and eggs to a cooler filled with snow. my saltwater aquarium full of delicate corals had dropped in temperature and not had circulation for 12 hours. i start heating tank water on the stove, thankfully the gas stove was working. and then floating the bags of hot water in the tank to try to keep it warm. i blowed bubbles with a tube to oxygenate the water. i've done this before. ive been in blackouts. ive been in cold weather. but never anything like this. we got power again in the afternoon on monday for about an hour. but lost it again very soon after that. i couldn't keep up with the regimen to take care of the tank, and take care of the house, and myself and my wife, and running the stove in these conditions is a carbon monoxide risk. plus i couldn't keep doing it throughout the night. the temperature kept dropping. everything in the tank died. i shut the door to the room and can't bear to look inside. aquariums aren't like other pets. they don't love you back. you don't miss looking into their eyes and taking them on trips with you. but you still care. i had grown most of the corals from little rescued pieces into big thriving colonies, a lot of time and energy went into it. it is a source of warmth and joy. and i couldn't save it. after losing my dog i thought i would redirect my energy into my corals. but i then i lost them just a couple days later. i couldn't save either one.

we had another hour with electricity on tuesday. on wednesday we never got power. even just a few minutes to reheat the house helps a lot. as the ground and walls lose heat the house gets that much colder. we had taken to doing chores, cooking, and cleaning when there was daylight. and then sheltering in a bedroom to concentrate our heat at night. thursday morning, today, we got power back. we are keeping the house warm but largely trying to act like we were, to conserve energy. conserving power helps the grid expand back out to more people.

my mom in south texas lost water and power but she managed to get a hotel room. it was awful knowing that my 72 year old mom was trying to get through the blizzard by herself but she did ok. thankfully our family in other parts of texas are doing ok too. there are many who are much worse off than us.

its been infuriating but not surprising seeing that the neighborhoods that lost power were historically segregated parts of town. all the critical infrastructure in austin is built in wealthier, whiter, parts of town and didn't lose power at all. and if people who had power had reduced their usage more homes could have kept their power but that largely didn't happen.

some local leaders showed initiative and moved heaven and earth try to help but most relief came from individuals helping each other, neighbors helping neighbors. the governor and a particular senator are damn cowards and are not accepting any of the blame. they've been in charge for decades yet somehow say this catastrophic failure is the fault of people who literally and figuratively have no power.

we still have power now but are ready and expecting to lose it again. normal feels so far away. we can't even shelter with friends and neighbors because there is still a pandemic raging, the one that again state leaders have made so much worse.

it might be days still before we reliably have power. between dealing with my dog's illness and death, and then a week without power i've been mostly away from work and feel tremendously guilty and anxious about it. i usually wait until night to use my phone's internet connection to get online. its something i can do in the dark. but seeing horror stories, blame, and sadness on social media isn't helping. if you read this, i'm sorry. we all have our own bummers to deal with, and these are mine.

Yesterday we let go of our beloved dog Bubblegum. It was sad and difficult but we got to say goodbye with no regrets. We had an amazing life together and it was his time.

I'm so grateful to have had him in my life. I'm grateful to Austin Dog Rescue for giving him a chance, to Austin Vet Care, CVCA, and AVES for taking such good care of him.

There are countless memories I could tell of the giant pitbull in the pink harness. I'll be sharing them the rest of my life, he was truly special. He loved everyone, he never met a stranger. His tail was always going and he just wanted to love. He loved adults, little kids, babies, he was so gentle with puppies. People would often ask to have him be the first dog that their young children met.

Bubblegum showed me that love is not finite and that it doesn't matter what hardships you've seen you can still radiate joy. Thank you for letting us be your people mister. We love you Bub.

reference images of corals of 27 Jan 2021

On Jan 27 2021, I set up my light timer to ramp up and down and have less intensity. I had noticed the corals were washed out, some that were shaded had better color than those getting full light. These images are so I can check again in a few weeks to see if their colors have changed. I also started dosing Red Sea Reef Energy AB+ on a doser.

I want to take better pictures and thus am learning to use real cameras. Most frequently I take pictures of my sourdough, aquariums, dog, and ecological restoration projects. The photos I've taken with a phone are ok but don't capture the feeling and beauty that I wish they did. Using better equipment, and learning how to use it, will hopefully help me take pictures to inspire and give joy to people. Rae lent me her DSLR weeks ago but today was the first time I could psych myself up to trying it. It is an intimidating piece of equipment, that belongs to someone else so I am extra nervous using it. And I am a fairly shaky person, and quite colorblind. The photos aren't great but the important thing is I finally did the thing and took the photos! Aquarium photos are extra challenging, these are the only remotely decent photos from the shoot. You have to start somewhere and I am proud I finally did.

Pachyseris coral Zoanthid coral shot of the tank

Over the break for the holidays I have been playing the Switch port of Mario 64 and it makes me feel like a kid. The game is not for everyone and it definitely shows its age but to me it is special. It was one of the first open world 3D games and it is just a sweet, silly, glitchy game. When it came out the main 3D games with computer games that were very dark and serious. Mario 64 is more dreamlike. Its clear they were experimenting and having a good time making it. What other games do you race penguins, or chase after eels, and shoot yourself into the sky out of a cannon so you can fly around rainbows. Just running around and seeing what you can do is as much fun as the game. Future 3D games are much more polished and technically superior, this game kinda stands alone as a special, weird, joyful experience.

I had an epiphany recently. Music is a language. You probably already know that. I had heard people say it but never really got it. Music is a language but it is not like a spoken or written language. Spoken words, words signed with hands, convey information. Music is a language that doesn't transmit information but it can transmit a feeling or sensation in a way that words leave lacking.

This is still kinda surreal for me, but I am now on the Board of Directors for the non-profit Ecology Action. Ecology Action runs Circle Acres, a 10 acre restored forest off of Montopolis in East Austin. The site of Circle Acres for decades was a quarry, then an official and illegal dump. A group of volunteers took it upon themselves to clean it up and do ecological restoration. What was literally a dump is now a beautiful urban forest and savannah. I kinda love that old concrete pipes still lay in the shadows of giant healthy trees. The remains of East Side Drive are dumped on a hill in the park. This was the road that was torn up to build I-35 and reinforce Jim Crow segregation in Austin. Arrowheads and bison bones are still found occasionally. The history and future of Austin are written in the trails of Circle Acres. I would love to give anyone a (socially distant) tour of the forest.

Ecological restoration is one of my most passionate interests, and I truly believe it should be the primary task of humanity for the next century. We owe it to the planet and future generations to put back as much nature as we can. Grasses, flowers, and trees are the infrastructure of the future. On moral principle we need to rebuild habitat for wildlife. For our own survival we need to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and clean our water and air. Nature isn’t something that only exists in large remote parks, seeing trees and hearing birds is a human right, not a luxury. Nature exists for its own right. If a place can be wild it should be.

Circle Acres is the biggest ecological restoration project I’ve been involved in and I am excited and humbled to join it. I hope my skills and network can help build on their success and build community interest in Circle Acres. It will be fun to help Eric Paulus, the manager of the forest, with his various restoration and trails projects.

If you have been in Austin awhile you might remember Ecology Action when they were running the recycling center downtown. All non-profits hope to fulfill their mission and not be needed anymore, and the City of Austin now has a robust recycling program. The non-profit shifted their efforts and resources to help the self organized volunteers at Circle Acres. The non-profit owns the land and manages it, and coordinates with the neighborhoods and city parkland that surrounds it. When I first got to Austin I was blown away by the recycling center downtown, I had never lived somewhere with a program like that. It is beyond my wildest imagination to now be a part of that group to help continue their mission.

If a dump can turn into a forest we have hope, anything is within our ability.

this used to be a garbage dump Anthropocene Forest Eric discussing native plant restoration plans The joke is now Ecology Action recycles the land

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