Death-Defying Diners Shoo Away Safe Sushi

For those who like to live dangerously, the pricey Japanese treat Fugu (Puffer fish or Blow fish) has achieved an almost mythological status in adventurous dining. Eating Fugu is synonymous with risk taking because if incorrectly prepared, even a single bite could mean certain death.

So you would think that the introduction of non-poisonous, commercially farmed fugu would be welcome news in the puffer-partaking community, right? Well, wrong. After all, what fun is that? Do you think a squeaky-clean Puffer fish would amaze and impress your friends?


But many fugu chefs – who are traditionally bound to commit ritual suicide with their own fish knife should one of their customers expire after eating one of their meals – said they preferred to take their chances with the potentially deadly wild varieties.

“It’s a very tasty fish, but that’s not the only reason people choose to go to a fugu restaurant,” said Shinichi Ueshima, the chef at the Dote fugu restaurant in Yokohama.

“It’s obviously more than a little exciting to go to a restaurant knowing that it might be the last meal that you ever eat,” he said. “Where is the enjoyment in eating something that has no risk in it?”

At Osaka: Whole fugu for sale at Kuromon Ichiba for up to 27,000 yen (about $270) from A Culinary Photo Journal on Flickr

Certainly, the Fugu chefs themselves have much invested in the toxic thrill of the classic experience. For 50 years, only specially licensed elite chefs are permitted to prepare and sell fugu to the public. Getting there involves a 3-year apprenticeship culminating in rigorous testing that only 35% of applicants pass. (There’s no room for a slight mistake in this particular occupation!)

That should make you feel better about putting it all on the line for the ultimate extreme meal, especially since the potent neurotoxin in question, Tetrodoxin, Tetrodotoxin (Toxin typo! See comments) is not affected by cooking and works by rapidly paralyzing the nerves and preventing the lungs and other body systems from working. There is no antidote and death can occur within minutes. (It does not cross the blood-brain barrier so the victim remains fully conscious.)

Thrilling, right? But not a cheap thrill…Fugu can range anywhere from US$30 up to a $200 full course meal.

Photos: Whole Fugu from A Culinary Photo Journal on Flickr

Fugu Restaurant from tiptoe on Flickr

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Questions

Via Elton J. Mello (@medindoagua on Twitter) we were directed to the incredible Flickr pool “Water…Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, Creeks” with 26,249 members and a visual feast of 360,000+ photos.

Including this mesmerizing shot by Gilderic, The Mystery City… a very different and more spiritual perspective on urban water and its place in a city’s “soul.” What lies beneath the surface is more elusive and mysterious than a mass of molecules, don’t you think? Just as we might strain to see into the building’s windows, we also keep trying to see below that shining, reflected surface.

The mysteries of the city are hidden.

Deep into its houses and buildings.

Deep into the reflections on the waters of the river.

Deep into the soul of its people.

Les mystères de la ville se dérobent.

A l’abri dans les maisons et des bâtiments.

Dans les reflets flottant à la surface du fleuve.

Dans le coeur et l’âme des ses habitants.

La Meuse, à Liège (the river Meuse, Liege)

Who Says Turkeys Can’t Swim?

As you’re pondering what to do with all that leftover Thanksgiving turkey, ponder this from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. In the Letters section of the October 2008 Conservationist:

One morning my daughter and her friend were canoeing across Little Tupper Lake in the Whitney Wilderness Area when they saw a large bird land in the water and start swimming. They paddled up to take a closer look and were surprised to see that it was a turkey. Fortunately they had a camera with them and were able to snap a couple of quick shots. I’ve never heard of a turkey swimming. Is this usual behavior? Or was the turkey forced into the water to escape some danger? Donald Hughes, Albany, Albany County

What a remarkable photo. Your daughter and friend were very lucky to witness some behavior that is rarely seen. While wild turkeys can swim for short distances, it is not a preferred mode of travel. These large birds are “built” for walking and running on land. When in danger, running, rather than flying, is their preferred mode of escape. However, turkeys have powerful wings and are capable of rapid, short flights that range from several hundred yards to one mile in length.

The fact that your daughter saw the turkey land in the water confirms to me that this was likely a last resort move on the turkey’s part. Most likely the bird was unexpectedly flushed from its location near the shore by a predator or person, took flight to escape, “ran out of gas” half way across the lake and had no choice but to swim for it. -Michael Schiavone, DEC Wildlife Biologist

Who knew? And here’s another sighting from my neck of the woods: from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks:

James Trogdon filmed this oddity at Eldorado Reservoir on May 19, 2007. The turkey flew into a cove and landed in the water, swam 300 yards to shore, and walked out.

Slummin’ It at Hyde Park

Is this a photo from a poverty-stricken location in the developing world? No, it’s from the men’s restroom in London’s Hyde Park on the occasion of World Toilet Day, November 19, 2009. (Why just the men’s room, I wonder?)

The charity WaterAid made it “real” for London loo-goers who surely expected flushing toilets, soap, clean water and a reasonably tidy facility. Instead, visitors came face to face with the deplorable conditions that are endured by nearly half the world’s population.

Watch the report on “Loo-ve Been Framed” by Cynthia Chandran for Asianlite on YouTube:

Here’s another take on the event by Lincolnshire Young Journalist Academy’s Jake, from Sleaford’s Carres school newsroom (I think the kid has a bright future in journalism!)

A Kinder, Gentler Lobster Boil

Are you “soft” on seafood? If you can’t bear the sound of that “screaming” lobster as it’s plunged into a boiling stockpot, take note: we’ve run across a new product (via named the CrustaStun, which offers a more humane way to get that fresh seafood to diners’ plates. Somewhat like a shellfish taser, the device electrocutes the animal with an instant current which anesthetizes and kills shellfish within seconds.

There are two models–“The Stunner” for food processors and the “Single Stunner” for restaurants. No word yet on development of a home model…the George Foreman Mini-Stunner, maybe?

In the “more than you want to know” category, here’s the science behind the device, as explained on website:

The application of a stun (110 Volts – 2-5 amps) causes an immediate interruption in the functioning of the nervous system of the shellfish. By interrupting the nerve function, the shellfish (be it Crab, Lobster or other) is unable to receive stimuli and thus by definition, cannot feel pain or suffer distress (Dr. Dave Robb 2000 – Bristol University – paper on sentience in Crustacea, Baker 1975, Jane Smith 1991, Bateson 2000, Sherwin 2000 & Gregory & Lumsden 2000). The prolonged application of the stun causes a permanent disruption which kills the shellfish.

If you’re simply not bothered by the death-by-boiling method, current and pending legislation could make your violent sadistic meal prep against the law! Their website also notes that:

New Zealand & a number of Australian Provincial States include Crabs, Lobsters and Crayfish within the definition of animals requiring humane treatment in handling and killing; NZ; Animal Welfare Act 1999.

It is unclear whether Crabs, Lobsters and Crayfish are included within the current UK Animal Slaughter Regulations. They are however likely to be specifically included in the Animal Welfare Bills currently going through the UK & Scottish Parliaments. This would require them to be ‘humanely killed’.

h2o mp3: I Washed my Hands in Muddy Water – Elvis Presley

When Elvis recorded the 1971 album Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old), he was successfully resurrecting his music career after being mired in a endless rut of Hollywood B-movies. In fact, that year Presley was named ‘One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation’ by The Jaycees and the City of Memphis named part of Highway 51 South “Elvis Presley Boulevard”. A star was reborn!


I was born in Macon Georgia
Met my dad in the Macon jail
Daddy said “Son, if you keep your hands clean
You won’t hear them bloodhounds on your trail”

But I fell in with bad companions
Killed a man up in Tennessee
Sheriff caught me way up in Nashville
They locked me up and they threw away the key

I washed my hands in muddy water
I washed my hands but they didn’t come clean
I tried to do like my daddy told me
But I must have washed my hands in a muddy stream

I asked the jailer when my times up
He said “Son, we won’t forget
But if you try to keep your hands clean
We may make a good man of you yet

Play the track


Download I Washed my Hands in Muddy Water – Elvis Presley
Low-fi 64kbps file for sampling.
Like it? Support the people who make music. Buy this track at

I’m Holding My Breath for this New Museum

Jason deCaires Taylor (via

Jason deCaires Taylor (via

Soon, Cancun may be noted for something more than Spring break underage drinkers. A national park in Cancun will soon feature sculptures of human figures situated in the seabed, with the first four “going down” this month. These are the beginning of what will eventually be hundreds of figures in “the worlds largest underwater museum.” From BBC News on November 19th,

According to the park’s director Jaime Gonzalez, one of the aims is to reduce the pressure on the natural habitat in other areas of the park by luring tourists away from existing coral reef, which has suffered damage from hurricanes and human activity.

One of the sculptures is La Jardinera de la Esperanza (The Gardener of Hope). It features a young girl lying on a garden patio, surrounded by potted plants. When it is installed four meters below the surface, the work will include propagated coral in the empty pots. This well-established reef conservation technique will rescue damaged coral fragments by providing a suitable new substrate. The base incorporates habitat spaces for other marine creatures such as moray eels, small fish and lobsters.

“It all happens rather quickly – within two weeks, we will see green algae,” says artist Jason deCaires Taylor, who is in charge of the project. “Then within a few months, juvenile algae will appear and the project will progress from there.”

La Jardinera (photo: Dr. Jessie Voights,

La Jardinera de la Esperanza (photo: Dr. Jessie Voights,

The BBC article also included this observation from Dr. Paul Jepson, a lecturer in conservation at the UK’s University of Oxford, who applauded the idea of the museum.

“Conservationists need to find different ways of engaging with the world. Artists should get involved in environmental matters so it is not just scientists trying to get the message out there,” he said.

And I wholeheartedly applaud that. In fact, that why I write about “Water and Art” and exactly why it matters.

Vicissitudes by Jason deCaires Taylor, Grenada, West Indies

Vicissitudes by Jason deCaires Taylor, Grenada, West Indies

Detail, Vicissitudes by Jason deCaires Taylor, Grenada, West Indies

Detail, Vicissitudes by Jason deCaires Taylor, Grenada, West Indies (via

Ready to Rinse Away Your Plastic Waste?

Is this beginning of a new class of “something in the water?” The Harmless-Dissolve bag is a new approach to eco-packaging, a biodegradable, compostable water-dissolvable bag that almost disappears before your very eyes. (Shown here: the November, 2009 issue of CR Creative Review, which incorporated the new packaging.)

According to the website, it is a…

…water soluble polymer which completely biodegrades in a composting environment, in a dishwasher or in a washing machine. It has no harmful residues and will biodegrade into naturally occuring substances.

Food for thought? No, more like food for our ravenous micro-friends:

Harmless-Dissolve is non-toxic and is degraded by micro-organisms, moulds and yeasts. These organisms can occur in both artificial environments, such as anaerobic digesters, activated sewage sludge and composts and natural environments such as aquatic systems and soil. The micro-organisms use Harmless-Dissolve as a food source by producing a variety of enzymes that are capable of reacting with it. In the end the bag becomes carbon dioxide, water and biomass.

Eco-tasty! (Except for the the term “biomass,” which strikes me as a little fuzzy and ill-defined.)

For envelopes, Harmless-Dissolve can be made in any size, printed full colour process using biodegradable inks and finished with a biodegradable peel and seal lip.

Which prompts a fantasy scenario of receiving my water bill in a water-soluble envelope! (The check is NOT in the mail!)

Would-Be Inventors, P&G Wants Your Idea!

You know that great idea you had for purifying water? Boy, if only you had some way to get that to market, why, you’d be rich!

Actually, your timing might be perfect! Since you live in the age of open collaboration and “crowdsourcing“, maybe, just maybe, your idea is just right for Procter & Gamble, the 8th largest corporation in the world by market capitalization and 14th largest US company by profit. (And supposedly, the folks behind game-changing business innovations such as modern “brand management,” soap operas and Pringles faux chips!)

P&G’s “Connect & Develop” brings it to the web with a database of inventions and innovations that P&G is actively seeking. According to the website,

P&G’s Connect + Develop strategy already has resulted in more than 1,000 active agreements. Types of innovations vary widely, as do the sources and business models. Inbound or out, know-how or new products, examples of our success are as diverse as our product categories. We are interested in all types of high-quality, on-strategy business partners, from individual inventors or entrepreneurs to smaller companies and those listed in the FORTUNE 500 — even competitors.

What’s there for the water innovators? Consumer-driven P&G is in fact, actively seeking three “solutions” for water purification and drinking water technologies:

Ready-to-Market Water Filtration Technologies Jun 29, 2009 Ready to market technologies including pitchers, faucet mounts, u …more Water Purification
Manufacturer/Marketer of in-home Drinking Water Technologies Jun 29, 2009 Water filtration, purification, or treatment devices marketable … more Water Purification
Water Filtration Technologies Featuring Several Levels of Filtration to Reduce Contaminants Jun 29, 2009 -Single or multiple stage filtering technology or device capable … more Water Purificatio

So water-invention smartypants, download that form, get everything signed, sealed and delivered and just sit back and wait for the checks to roll in. Oh, and don’t forget my finder’s fee.

Another Reason I’m an Anglophile

Just when we think our crush on the country, culture and people of England was getting out of hand, along comes a note from Ferrers (aka The Pie Man) to further stoke our Anglophile tendencies. He pointed us to the delightful BWTAS –  the British Water Tower Appreciation Society. The group “exists to connect enthusiasts of water towers to share their enjoyment of their artistic, cultural, architectural, historical, social and engineering significance.”

We’re in favor of that! But the best part of their “about us” statement is this “It is a society that tries not to burden itself with administration duties, committees and all that stuff (although it has them). It is whatever the members can make of it themselves.”

What will become of Jumbo, the largest remaining Victorian water tower in Britain?

What will become of Jumbo, the largest remaining Victorian water tower in Britain?

Visit their website or follow them on Twitter, but be sure to set aside some time as it is packed with tons entertaining information, not only from the UK but from all other world. (In fact, I saw plenty of US-based water-tower stuff that I’d never come across myself elsewhere!)

The Society has organized exhibitions of water tower arts and crafts, given talks, organized tours, written guidebooks on water towers, and appeared on radio and TV. Its diverse membership includes architects, artists, historians, civil engineers, utility company employees, tower owners “as well as ‘just plain folk.”

If you’re UK-based, lucky you! All the rest of us should bookmark the BWTAS site in our big-fat, “someday” UK travel folder.