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AGA Convention Tape Review

I was fortunate enough to speak at the Portland Aquarium Society and the
Seattle Aquarium Society meeting a few days back.  Naturally if I was this
close to the source of "The Tapes" I had to buy them.  I actually got to see
how Erik Olson pieced the talks together digitally.  Although I was at both
conventions (and taking notes) it's good to get a copy of these.  They
certainly are worth the $50 for both.  It was after the first convention
that I "converted", ie found CO2 and the true meaning of light (power
compacts with a real reflector) so going back and hearing these talks again
will certainly be worthwhile.  I've already listened to about 1/2 of Neil's
talk, most of Paul Krombholz's talk and the majority of David Lass's talk.
Kim from AH Supply also helped with David's demonstration and personally
showed us why the 96 watt PC with reflector is called the "retina burner".
I use them for interrogation every chance I get now and the plants really
love them too but I still can't see like I used to.  Fortunately for you the
video is bright but it doesn't have that same burning flesh feeling!  During
the convention I had remembered laughing at Paul's "bag O'hot-air" trick, or
DYI CO2 (breath stupid) but I forgot or wasn't receptive to some of his
other ideas.  I guess another year of keeping plants has helped me
appreciate this more.  Neil also reminded us that there is more than one way
to keep an aquarium green.  There is a lot of information there and I'm
going to have to go back through it again.  Charlene's talk reminded us of
the difficulties of keeping plants alive in really deep (public) aquariums.
Princess Karen {oh, can't call her that anymore, she's editor-in-chief now
so it's sir :-) } also has a talk about the nutritional needs of plants.
The audio on her talk was a bit noisy so I didn't listen to it all the way
through just yet.  For the most part the video on tape #1 was reasonable.
The slide projection system for the first convention was really less than
adequate so it made it hard to catch all of the beauty of some of the slides
but you'll certainly catch what is going on.  Erik miked all of the speakers
so you didn't get that "video camera in the back of the room" audio and the
speakers can all be heard quite nicely.  Is it worth the extra $20 to buy
this tape in addition to the 2001 tape?  I think so, even if you were in

2001 Convention - This tape took Erik a lot of time to piece everything
together just right.  For those of you that were at this convention you know
it was long and your backside must have been hurting if you sat through all
of these talks.  It still was worth it but I'm sure there are some places
where your brain went to sleep and could use a refresher.  For those of you
that didn't attend this is certainly a worthwhile purchase.

For the intro and the first speaker Todd Stailey (photographing) the mikes
were crossed and there was a lot of cross chatter.  Still Todd's slides were
on powerpoint and Erik got copies of all of the powerpoint presentations so
they look really good on the video.  The audio isn't so bad that you can't
hear what's going on but it is a bit screechy.  Next year's convention
dude - get the mic set before you start!!  The second speaker on the tape
(Wim von Drongelen) should be of interest to all of the Dutch Aquarium
bashers that we've had on various lists lately.  It would be nice if they
would watch Wim's talk and hear him talk about how a Van Gogh painting and a
Dutch tank are related.  Now you don't have to follow the Dutch aquarium
design to the hilt BUT knowing how they think about this stuff will really
give you a leg up on designing your own AGA contest winner.  Wim's talk will
certainly help on your way to creating a masterpiece.  The next talk I
briefly listened to this time but will be worthwhile reviewing again.  That
was Greg Morin's talk about Seachem products and the planted aquarium.  At
one point he did mention in his talk that because of an APD discussion about
one of their products they did change the formulation.  A manufacturer that
actually listens to their buyers!  Now if we could just get Tetra to remove
that "no water changes" cr*p off the market.  Also there is some chemistry
in his talk so seeing the powerpoint slides again might help it sink in for

Tom Barr was the next speaker on the tape and Erik really outdid himself on
this one.  He morphed Tom's head onto Tomoko Schum's (the wonderful
translator for Amano) body during the entire talk.  Ok just kidding but it
would be kind of funny to see this Marine-type dude's head onto such a
slender young woman :-)  For those of you that were at the talk... well Tom
had a little bit of a problem with the forward button on the slide
projector.  Through the magic of the computer he didn't miss a beat this
time.  I'll blame that on nerves but if you invite him out to your club and
he hits the reverse button just bark "drop and give me 20" and he probably
will :-)  As always Tom reminded us although sometimes the plant stuff can
seem a bit tough it's not really rocket science.  Tom also showed some
really nice planted tanks.
After lunch Erik Olson showed the AGA 2001 contest winners followed by
Nozomi Hayakawa with the ADA 2001 results.  Yeah, makes me sick too.  I did
see one of these winning tanks in person too and the tank looked even better
which really leaves my tanks in the dust.  However I guess I would say armed
with the final two talks I just might have a chance sometime in the future.
Amano's talk was great, I think everyone that was there will freely admit
that.  If Tomoko Schum hadn't been there translating though it could have
been difficult.  It was only later that I realized that she wasn't his
official translator and had volunteered her services.  It was great that we
had a translator that also knew something about plants.  Tomoko, if you are
listening, if you are looking for a plant, just ask, we'll find it for you.
We all owe you!  Erik painstakingly took the first part of Amano's comment
about a slide and then gracefully slipped into Tomoko's translation.  At
some points it was even in step with his hand gestures.  It also helped that
Tomoko was such a clever translator and would also emphasize items of
importance.  This was even more evident in Amano's aquascaping workshop.
Amano has a quick wit and that was translated very effectively by Tomoko.
If you groove on the Amano books then you really should have this tape.  If
you are neutral then you should buy the tape and see for yourself.  If
you're negative and still feel that way after seeing this tape then you
probably curse the sun every morning too :-)

And Erik said:
"Cost is $30 for each video, both for $50.  It is only
available to AGA members (Amano stipulated this part, and I'll be
checking!).  Checks payable to Aquatic Gardeners Association.  Send to me,
Erik Olson, 306 NW 82nd Street, Seattle WA 98117.  e-mail me first if
you're not in North America.  Please allow a lot of time for delivery, as
they're 6-hour tapes and I'm duping them myself."
that would be:     erik at thekrib dot com

BTW the website is: http://www.aquatic-gardeners.org/  membership info on

and Karen said: "Don't let not being a member stand in you're way... there's
an easy, and inexpensive answer.... Just join!  Membership in North America
is only $15, $28 elsewhere.  Our magazine, The Aquatic Gardener, was a great
resource before, and we are in the middle of a redesign to make it even
better. (including lots more color!)"

I would bet that if you need to join sending the membership $ along with the
$ for the tape would get you quicker results.  That last issue was nice, so
it's worth the extra.$

If you've been on the list for some time and haven't talked to or met some
of these people it would be a perfect time to meet Greg, Tom Barr, Karen,
Erik Olson (father of "The Krib"), Neil,  & Paul K, all who are fairly
frequent posters.

Of course by not going to the convention you missed the plant trading frenzy
on Friday night, getting to hear Amano say in almost perfect English "Bud
Light" as he recognized my hometown's most famous product.  (Killian's just
doesn't have a good marketing arm in Japan).  You also missed the
opportunity to send plants home with Amano (I did).  You also missed the
opportunity to talk face to face with a lot of the members of the audience.
One hour of talk in a critical mass group of experts on any subject is worth
a year of emails.  Boy that was fun and like the year before I learned alot.
Perhaps after viewing these tapes you'll get the bug and make plans to come
to the next convention.  I'm ready!

Gary Lange