Dragonfruit in Bloom

Four or five months ago, Nam’s mother had couple of pitaya plants shipped back from her hometown of Surin (famous for their annual elephant festival and silk weaving). They were pitiful little things tied to a curious looking concrete dais-in-a-planter type of setup. I kept meaning to take photos of them back then for before and after comparison photos, but it was only a few weeks before they started shooting up, doubling, tripling, and growing to ten times their original size…. And they aren’t even full grown yet.
The thing is, we kind of forgot about them sitting there in the yard, because aside from their utterly alien appearance close up, they were just green plants on a green background, and truly unremarkable otherwise… during the day. Last week we went out for a drink for the first time in a while and returned around midnight. This is what was waiting for us:

Feed me, Seymour!

Get outta my way! – Survival of the fittest.

God must have been going through his “Giger” phase
(all photos by Nam!)
Bonus “strawberry pear” trivia: In Thai, they call the pitaya (aka dragonfruit) a “dragon’s egg,” which is probably the most apt name for anything, ever.

Fugu me? No, fugu you!

From the “you shouldn’t be eating salmon in Thailand anyway” department:

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) – Unscrupulous vendors in Thailand have been selling meat of the deadly puffer fish disguised as salmon, causing the deaths of more than 15 people over the past three years, a doctor said Thursday.
Although banned since 2002, puffer fish continues to be sold in large quantities at local markets and restaurants, said Narin Hiransuthikul of Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University Hospital.
“Some sellers dye the meat of puffer fish and make it look like salmon which is very dangerous,” Narin said.
Narin said over the past three years more than 15 people have died and about 115 were hospitalized from eating the fish.
The ovaries, liver and intestines of the puffer fish contain tetrodotoxin, a poison so potent that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it can “produce rapid and violent death.”
The fish is called fugu in Japan, where it is consumed by thrill-seeking Japanese gourmets for whom the risk of poisoning adds piquancy.
Every year, there are reports of people dying or falling sick in Asia from eating puffer fish. Eating the fish can cause paralysis, vomiting, heart failure and death.

(Full story)
I call bullshit on this story. It sounds like an urban legend. Color aside, puffer meat neither looks nor tastes anything like salmon meat… and anybody that unfamiliar with the fish in question wouldn’t have to be convinced that it was salmon in order to buy it. It could just be sold cheaply, as is. Why go to the trouble of dying it?
Also, the second to last paragraph about Japanese eating fugu for thrills is something oft-seen in the foreign press, but was never evident in all the years I was living in Japan (everybody I knew ate fugu because they liked the taste). I’ve even heard claims from Japan know-it-alls that fugu chefs leave just enough tetrodotoxin on the flesh to give a thrill (but not enough to kill), but I never saw any evidence of this either. The two fugu chefs I asked about it laughed at the question. They also stated that the chances of convincing a licensed fugu chef to prepare fugu livers, ovaries, or intestines for a customer’s thrills are pretty much zero these days.

Carabao’s Made in Thailand Cover by Farang

In my ten months here, I’ve heard this song (which was written by Carabao) performed live dozens of times by many bands… As corny as this clip might seem, this guy’s rendition is the best I’ve ever heard.
I basically cannot stand pop music from any country, but Thai pop is especially insipid IMHO. The traditional Thai music is fascinating, though, even if I can’t understand 90% of the lyrics. It has a lot to do with the energy of it, the groove, especially a live performance.
(thx t)


Just a quick heads up – I’ve been on various missions and adventures (aka school seminars) the past week and didn’t have net access. Now I’m back and have no net connection at home and no time, so I’ll try and bounce back to get something up here on the weekend.

Quick note about comments

Commenting here may take multiple tries and/or some patience… Please hang in there. The blog software I’m using is due for a major overhaul very soon, and things should get better. In the meantime, don’t let my overworked server and bloated software get in your way – LET YOURSELF BE HEARD! – the other three readers of this blog will appreciate it.

Kelp Highway

Were America’s first inhabitants Japanese fishermen?

Erlandson has been working with marine biologists for the last few years and believes Japanese fisherman could have been following the kelp highway which would have flourished even during the ice age. The kelp would have been attractive to all kinds of fish because it provides shelter and as well as giving nutrients to other sea creatures.
Mike Graham, a kelp expert who helped Erlandson, told New Scientist, “It’s quite likely that Japan’s ancient inhabitants were familiar with these systems before they came over. What people saw, as they moved, were familiar species, familiar ways of life, familiar associations.”

Well, if anyone would ever try to eat a garibaldi, it would be a Japanese fisherman.

Korean Hostage Crisis as Seen by Overseas Korean Volunteers

Yesterday, I asked a group of four young Koreans who have come to teach our students computer skills the following questions:

  1. Were the Koreans who were taken hostage missionaries, or what? Is it important to make the distinction between missionaries and volunteer workers?
  2. Are average people in Korea blaming the US for what happened?
  3. Are you hopeful about a diplomatic solution?

Their answers were:

  1. Yes, and YES(!).
  2. No.
  3. ….

So there you go. The news says that progress is being made and the Taliban is promising release today or tomorrow. That would be nice. The Taliban ain’t exactly nice guys, though. I hope everything works out, but let me say this: If you aren’t prepared to sacrifice for your beliefs, why hold to them at all?

cute fish (and not-so-cute fish)

Go see for yourself:
(To my knowledge, I’ve only eaten one of the fish on that list. Hint: It wasn’t the coelacanth)
In related news, the last of my impossible fish died a few weeks ago, I think. The red one was the first to go, and blue was the last. The whole tank got hit with some horrible gill disease that killed all inhabitants – impossible fish, algae eaters, tetras, and Japanese goldfish. The blue fish hung on a whole month or so longer than the second longest survivor (purple, I think), but in the end he just wasted away. Eventually, we put him outside in a ceramic fountain we have in the garden (aka “the hospital tank”) and (presumably – I haven’t seen him since, but there are places to hide in that fountain) let him go off to the big fishbowl in the sky.
RIP, blue.

24 Treehugging?

Before I got crippled in the bandwidth department, I was on the front lines of 24, seeing more than a few episodes before they even aired on television, so it pains me to read this: Jack Bauer’s Next Mission: Fighting Global Warming
Cry me a river if Jack Bauer drinks California Condor blood for dinner with a dugong fetus apertif; all I really care about is that he kicks ass constantly and consistently… Fuck the Prius delivery routine, fuck solar powered cappuccino makers, and fuck these arbitrary carbon footprints – for fuck’s sake are you all wearing palm frond skirts and organic hemp pantalones, or what? – and give me Jack shooting people’s mothers in the kneecaps in the name of national security already… Is that too much to ask, or what?
Besides, let’s not forget which channel produces 24 – this ain’t the Discovery Channel, yo.