Sunday, September 23, 2007

Random ??? Sunrise/Sunset - guessing game

I had wanted to upload the latest of my journeys, the Amazon, with a random beautiful sunset, but those pictures are buried somewhere on my other storage drive, floating somewhere in hundreds of .avi files (I'm going totally digital, sort of a hopeless, endless project of replacing my 1000 plus dvd's with big black stacks of hard drives).

Anyhow, to keep you from saying I'm a hopeless tease, here is a random sunset, certainly not as spectacular but no less exotic. Any guesses as to what ?? city?? this is? And is it Sunrise or Sunset and how do you know?

Friday, September 14, 2007

For My Internet Angel

Years ago, when I was involved in helping Chinese students pass the horrific F1 visa interview to study in the U.S., my sister asked for my help. She wanted to know how to get a visa for a family with a sick child who needed heart surgery only available in the U.S.. I threw a wet blanket on her party at the time and basically told her it was impossible.

About one year later, ceaseless internet work paid off for my sis. She managed to bring this case to the "internet tribunal", where, as it turned out, some important people had children with the same condition. They pressured the power structure, and the kid was allowed to have the surgery. His family still lives in Los Angeles today.

I sort of forgot about it, even though my sister was invited on the Oprah show to congratulate her internet heroism. Then the other day, I was using a photocopied version of an Oxford press 'learn idioms through stories' book, when I saw this picture (click to enlarge it enough to read the story). No mention of my sister, but that's definately the guy that called me up when I was living in L.A.

Congratulations, Durian lovers!

Congratulations to those of you below who correctly identified the fruit as Durian. However, did you Wiki it? I was surprised to find out that Durian comes in red (actually yellow-orange) colors, in a nearly thornless version, and that recently a Thai scientist invented an odorless Durian species (where's the fun in that?). I wasn't able to identify the species or type of cultivar from the article, but my guess is that it is an ordinary D. zibethenius.

Other fun facts:
Most exotic animal believed to eat Durian: Orang Pendek, the Sumatran version of Bigfoot.
Most unexpected animal involved with the plant: bats, which pollinate the flowers.
Most common substitute (used to bring down the cost): pumpkin
Most unusual food use: this one is a toss up, since one could say all uses of durian is unusual, but I'd have to go with using the burned rind as an additive in baking.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

It's time for the old Fruit Guessing Game!

Known as the King of Fruits, this is the only fruit that, on a regular basis, kills people by falling on their head (unless you are one of those sticklers who insist that Coconuts are 'fibrous drupes', when anybody can tell they are 'nuts').

Coconuts bean people who are walking, napping, or sunbathing unawares under the tree (and some can be 20-30 meters high!). This was notably documented by Captain Cook in the 18th century.

According to a kind of urban legend, this fruit beans people who are waiting for it to drop (for maximum freshness and marketability) from the tree, which can be up to 50 meters high. According the version I heard, the reason they are directly under the fruit when it falls is that the high price of the fruit (according to Wikipedia, in Singapore, some species can be as much as US$40/kg of flesh.) creates a sort of cut-throat competition among the harvesters.

Again, I heard this story travelling around Asia, and have repeated it many times, and it just seems like it should be true, looking at those cruel, medieval spikes that will puncture your hand quite easily. A vendor once tossed one of these heavy, dangerous things at me as a kind of joke, and maybe to test how quick my reflexes were.

So, I'm assuming that all of you know this fruit, right? Hint: it smells awful to most people.