2007 Archives

Creepy Stairway Video

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Somehow, a Beatles tribute band performing "Stairway to Heaven" makes the song seem evil...

Janken Strategies

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Chess is highly touted as a game of strategy played by intellectuals, but this is not the game that was used between Christie's and Sothersby's to decide who would be involved in auctioning off 10 million dollars worth of art:


Theremin as played by a master

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You may have noticed that I no longer post to the Higo Blog like I used to. Since I started work at the aquarium, much of my energy has been put into starting up a blog at Monterey Bay Aquarium, and it's been a much larger challenge than I had ever suspected. Blogging has become work, and so when I get home, I don't often feel like posting about much of anything.

This makes me sad, because I am posting things on an internal blog that only a very few people will ever have access to. Meanwhile, this blog is starving for posts and new content.

So why this post, today?

A co-worker gave me a picture book of Kumamoto, and looking at it transported me back to another lifetime when I lived in my mountain village, Ubuyama. This prompted me to take a long look at my successors' blogs, and then my own, to remember what has slipped to the back of my mind.

I'm re-reading my posts from my time in Japan, and realize that I used to love to post. I was once a prolific blogger. There was a time where I would come home and look forward to concentrating my thoughts and pictures into a post. I would think of things that I wanted to post about the future and it became something that I really enjoyed.

I need to take some time to re-evaluate what this weblog means to me, and what I want to post here, and I think the best way to do that will be to start editing my blog from the beginning. As I brush up older posts, I hope to find inspiration to start writing and shooting again.

Or maybe I just need to move abroad again...

test post

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does publishing work here?

This looks fun!

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Umi Says

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One of my favorite Mos Def songs...

Little Headcrab

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Something dropped onto the nape of my neck and slowly scuttled down toward my right shoulder blade. Reflexively, I reached back with my left hand and squished the unseen creature between my thumb and forefinger with enough force to crush a Skittle.

Not feeling any pop or give, I was startled to see that it was a large tick. Intending to burn the little beast, I drowned it in the dregs of my tea instead.

There's nothing quite like the feeling of multiple hairy insect legs crawling over naked skin, and I would gladly never again like to experience it again. Especially little insects that can pass on diseases that can kill me or severely impact my quality of life...

Turtle on a Log

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Nova is dead

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It turns out that my hunch, that I wrote about in February of 2006, was correct. Nova, one of the big 3 eikaiwa (English conversation school) chains in Japan, has closed its doors to students and employees alike. How much does that suck for everyone?


If you are looking to join a much better program (better pay, benefits, and quality of candidates- the only real con is that there is much less flexibility as to where you are stationed), check out JET, which will be accepting applications up until December 3rd, I think, for next year.

Chuck Feeney is my new hero

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It's sad to look at who, in our culture, is perceived to be a role model in the media. It sucks to see people get rewarded for being jackasses, to to watch these behavior patterns virally ripple out in all directions.

That's why stories like this are all the more extraordinary:
Reclusive Philanthropist Steps into Spotlight

Would you or I do something like this if you were put in a similar situation?

Thoughts on Tacos

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As the son of two parents who grew up in L.A., and one of two brothers who spent a few years in Japan craving and trying to faithfully recreate our beloved flavour of Mexican food, I have some pretty strong opinions about tacos.

I love food that reminds me of the way food tasted when I was a kid. I love my taco shells to be made of corn tortillas, freshly fried in olive oil. I love letting the cheese, preferably a nice cheddar, melt inside as the hot oil works transforms the texture of the tortilla from dry and grainy to crispy, slightly chewy, and a bit caramelized.

In Japan, corn tortillas were so expensive, and of such poor quality, that we subsided on flour tortillas, which could only be obtained during a rare expedition to the nearest Costco. Going to Costco was almost the equivalent of making a road trip to Vegas, only better because you were certain to return feeling 10 times richer than however much you spent, and some people I knew turned a profit from going on Costco runs for others.

Meat must be prepared with the standard "taco mix", and fried with diced potatoes, minced garlic, and chopped onions. By mixing the meat with these other ingredients, you will help to stretch out the meat, but more importantly, the onions will impart sweetness, and the potatoes will add to the textural flavourscape of your tacos.

Finally, to top off the tacos, guacamole is nice. I like mine to be a simple mixture of avocado, garlic salt, lemon juice, pepper, and minced garlic.

Recently, I have decided that lettuce is to be avoided, and replaced with a 50/50 mix of chopped cilantro and green onions.

On salsa: fresh salsa, both tomato and tomatillo based are awesome. Lacking these, Tapatio, or better yet Cholula, make for good substitutes.

Tacos should be enjoyed with friends and family. This is not to say you can't enjoy a taco alone, as sometimes this is a satisfying way to eat a meal, but I find that good company brings out the full flavor, both actual and sentimental, of the taco.

This is a test. Just a test.

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lorum ipsum or something

Tequila Sunrise

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While starting the day, I noticed a red light leaking into the bathroom window, peeked my head out the door, and ran to the beach to take some pictures before work.

It's not every day that you get a sunrise like this.

Zen of Krylon

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Bluefin Tuna and air bubbles

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What is happening in Burma / Myanmar?

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Mark has been posting about the protests in these areas, and is probably closer to the action than you or I.

Read more about what's happening here.

Polar Bear Bait >_<

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Dueling giraffes are kind of cool, but I'd like to see you top this (the Morning Musume clip where they have steaks attached to their heads almost compares to this):

Fiery Sunset on the Point

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Otter Aquarist

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Congratulations to my favorite older sister (not to be confused with my favorite younger sister or favorite older brother) on achieving your goal.

I expect you to know everything about otters by the end of this year, and yes, there will be a test.

Here is the first challenge. Name all four of the otters pictured here.

Memories of a summer past

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The Golden Mahi mahi

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This Coryphaena "showing a helmet" hippurus "horse tail" shows us that dorado means "gilded" in Spanish. According to one source, the mahi converts about 90% of its food into body weight, and can reach a length of 6.75 feet (and weigh almost 90lbs).

Apparently, they can reach 28 inches in six months and maintain a fast growth rate for the duration of their short lives. A really old dolphinfish might live to be 5 years old, but "current wisdom is that they live for a maximum of 4 years".

On a side note, I am truly baffled at how many people I hear ask "What's that fish that looks like a dolphin?". I know of no dolphin that has a blunt forehead and tapered body like the Mahi mahi. Their shape does remind me of a Sperm whale, though.


Wherever they are common, dolphinfish are also a major commercial fish. In many locations around the world, dolphinfish are attracted to bundles of bamboo or cork planks, then encercled with nets. (Examples are the Shiira-zuke fishery of Japan, the Kannizzali fishery of Malta and the Matas fishery of the Balearic Island).

(from Probably More Than You Want To Know About The Fishes Of The Pacific Coast)

Besides being delicious, mahi mahis put up a great fight if you hook them, oftentimes jumping out of the water and "spitting the hook". Apparently, they're not that bright. One of my old roommates, Brian, used to tell me of how he caught them by improvising an inside-out Fritos bag as a lure.


Though mahis will flash different colors when excited, they generally don't maintain this coloration for a long time. Hormones cause these color changes, which you will generally see when they are feeding, mating, or excited.

The color flashes of an excited dolphin fish are truly wonderful, but are short-lived like fireworks. When someone brings one of these home from a fishing trip, they usually mention how colorful they remember the fish being when it was brought on deck, and how colorless it looks after it dies.

Restaraunt Review: The Grand Buffet

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I haven't reviewed food in a while, but one visit to the Grand Buffet in Seaside, California, gave my gastronomic system such problems that I must issue a word of warning.

It all started after a game of disc golf at CSUMB, when we were trying to decide on a place to have dinner. I had always passed by the Grand Buffet, but had never gotten around to trying it.

The place was pretty packed, on Labor Day, with all sorts of people, and a huge spread at the buffet. The variety, as well as the soft serve machine and chocolate fountain initially impressed me.

The food was not very good, but it wasn't awful. They had a strange variety that included Italian (pasta, pizza, garlic bread), Mexican (menudo! at a Chinese Buffet!!!), Japanese (the sushi was squeezed so hard that the rice looked like mochi), and a ton of Panda Express-style Chinese food.

I picked out a bunch of chicken and pork dishes, with some vegetables, and visited the buffet twice. It was there that I had the foulest hot and sour soup I have ever tasted. Bile, chinese herbs, and burnt something is what it tasted like.

The food was so greasy that I didn't have the desire to try dessert. Dessert, ironically, was probably the safest option at this place.

My stomach let its voice be heard by converting this meal and all following food and beverages for the next 28 hours being converted into diarrhea. This was irksome for many reasons. I was limited in what I could do and where I could go for a day, the toilet required constant cleaning, and I couldn't even use baby wipes without wincing.

I don't want anyone to go through this, so I am advising you to stay away from the Grand Buffet for your own safety. Learn from my mistakes, so that I did not eat there in vain!

Hopefully, future reviews will focus on places that serve food that don't give you explosive diarrhea. Ah, it's my own damned fault. Never eat at a Chinese restaurant that serves menudo!

Added to the playlist

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Your Matisyahu video was really damned good, so good in fact that I have converted it into an MP3 so that I can load it on my IPod.

Violin and Turntables

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Now here's a funky introduction with some Ghostface, Roots, Gnarls, and more...

Polychaete Worm

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This is a polychaete worm that I found on a piece of drift kelp magnified at x50. Little beasties look a lot meaner under the microscope.

It's nice to have a mini-lab on board when you're looking at marine organisms.

Inverted Sunflower Star

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Pycnopodia helianthoides (AKA Sunflower Star or Sun Starfish) is a nasty customer. This is the T. Rex of the starfish, and can travel a blistering 40 inches per minute to boot.

When you get one of these in a trap, it is imperative to remove them right away, or they will clamp down on whatever it is grabbing onto with up to 24 tube feet-filled arms with such force, it may be unable to extract the animal without ripping off some of the tube feet.

They also have pincers on their top side that are used to discourage potential predators. In addition, they can secrete a mild poison when agitated. In the ocean, it acts as a mild deterrent, but if this stuff is contained in a small tank, it could cause more serious damage to fish or other animals in such a constrained environment.

This is from the MBA Field Guide:

Juvenile sunflower stars start life with five arms—by maturity they sport up to 24 arms.

Most sea stars have a one-piece, semirigid skeleton. However, the sunflower star’s skeleton has a few disconnected pieces. They allow the sunstar's mouth to open wide and its body to enlarge and take in big prey. A sunflower star can swallow an entire sea urchin, digest it internally and then expel the urchin’s test—its external shell.

In Monterey Bay, the sunflower star eats—in season—dead or dying squid. After the star digests the squid, the indigestible squid pen—its internal shell, which is too large to be defecated—works its way through the body wall.

I know of nothing that likes to eat Pycnopodia helianthoides, and I can see why. Besides the toxins, pincers, and enormous size (they grow over a meter long from tip to tip), they are covered in a viscous slime, much resembling a suit made of snot (it has the texture of grated yama imo).

It might be worth handling, just to give someone a hearty handshake immediately afterwards. I can just picture the look of horror on the hand of the recipient as they quickly withdraw from the shake, with tendrils of mucus stretching and extending like strings of natto linking the tips of a pair of chopsticks to a bed of freshly stirred fermented soy beans. Mmmmmm... Natto.

Full Moon Pictures

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Taking pictures in low light settings is challenging for me, but at least the moon stays still. Here are a few shots that I took from the past couple of nights:
This picture was taken yesterday with the D-50.

The moon still looks really full on this shot from today, taken on my DMC-TZ3.

Shark Attack near my apartment!

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My sister wanted to bring a surfboard up from Orange County so she could learn how to surf, but she has changed her mind.

I'm going to see if they've closed the beach over at Lover's Point as well. Here's a link to the article:

Shark attacks surfer in Monterey Bay

*BONUS* - MBA has a new white shark on exhibit. Only 4 feet and change, it kind of looks like a puppy, swimming around the Outer Bay Exhibit with the bubble curtain up.

The Hunters

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The Yellowtails are the coolest fish in the Kelp Forest Exhibit. Not only are they my favorite sashimi fish and great fighting on the rod, but they're also fun to watch under water. They cruise around like a pack of attack submarines, and the bait fish try to keep as far away from them as possible.

Oftentimes, the other fish will use this to their advantage and snag an Anchovy that's broken formation with the rest of the school and preoccupied with watching the Yellowtail. Many a Rockfish has gotten its lunch in said fashion, thanks to the Yellowtail.

On this day, one of the 'tails was chasing a Leopard Shark, that was three times it's size, around the exhibit. It kept on rubbing against the shark, and despite trying its hardest, the shark was unable to run away.

I wonder if it was using the shark as a back scratcher, to dislodge parasites, or asserting its dominance as king of the exhibit. Maybe it was a bit of both.

We spotted an object floating in the water, and went to investigate:
From this distance, it is hard to make out. It was about the size of a small garbage can lid.

A naturalist once saw something very similar to this in the kelp forest and got very excited. "White Shark!" was the call heard on the radio, but alas, it was not a White Shark. So what was it?

It was a Mola mola, the awkward Ocean Sunfish, a ferocious predator of jellies, larval animals floating around as plankton, and perhaps seaweed and eel grass.

For some reason, my camera has been drawn towards this largest of bony fishes in different places. I am not the only one who likes the mola- I think it's the most popular fish in the aquarium. The big mola in the Outer Bay Exhibit, the one that weighs over 1000 pounds, has been given so many names by little children and smitten adults alike. If you were to tally the names, "big fish" would likely be the most common, followed by "ugly fish". I like to call it "Bob".

New Camera Day!

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I love my Nikon D-50, but ever since I traded in my trusty old battle-scarred QV-R40, I've really noticed how handy a pocket-sized camera is. I've been waiting to find one that I really liked, and finally settled on the Panasonic DMC-TZ3. Aside from having a Leica lens that boasts 10x optical zoom and virtually no shutter lag, it's just a really nicely designed camera. I'll be testing it out for a while, but here are some preliminary pictures from a 5 minute walk around my neighborhood:

A bee pollinates a California poppy, which also happens to be our state flower. Its bright orange is much like that of the Garibaldi, California's state fish.
A few months ago, Pacific Grove installed these tsunami warning signs along the coastline. I swear I've seen a design very similar to this in Japan somewhere.
This barnacle shell has been taken over by seaweed. The shell broke off, the seaweed dried out, and now it is resting on the beach at Lover's Point.

With this smaller camera, I can be more discrete when taking pictures, I can take it places where the D-50 is impractical, and I can use it to shoot in ways that the D-50 can't.

With this new camera I'll be able to shoot using a display, which should be interesting. I find that the style of my photos is a bit different when I use a viewfinder, as opposed to looking at a screen to compose a picture.

It feels good to have more than just an SLR again. I wish every day could be New Camera Day!

A tiny sea urchin rests between closed fingers.
This is a shot of a polychaete worm and the same urchin.
The blurs in the background are (rotating clockwise from the upper top) a shrimp, an isopod, a melibe, a limpet, and some other creatures. In the foreground, there are the urchin, polychaete worm, and a couple of juvinile Kellet's whelks that are either being amorous or quarrelsome. Their proboscises were extended as they wrestled together in what must have seemed to be the macro-marine equivalent of the Colosseum. No, they did not fight to the death, but if they did my money would be on the worm.

I recall that Justin and I used to use polychaetes as bait when we went fishing in Awajishima for kawahagi and other strange, exotic fish.
The kelp crabs and decorator crabs are really good at hiding, and are not very eager to be photographed. It's amazing the variety of colors that they display, from lemon yellow to grass green to brick red.


Peace and quiet have once again departed from the harbor, with the return of the California Sea Lions. Adding to the cacophony, the Sea Otters have been shrieking like banshees lately. To top it off, the gulls consistently wake me up in the morning with their vocalizations, and follow me to work with their squabbles.

There is something to be said for peace and quiet, especially in the morning when you are trying to sleep.

Sometimes, when the gulls are particularly loud and persistent, I come up with some interesting ideas. For example, I may develop an urge to hold onto the extreme annoyance that is conjured up by the squawking birds, and use it to wake up the gulls when they are trying to sleep. It is only after I am fully awake that I realize how stupid it would be to actually act on the ideas that pop into my head when I'm irritated in this too-early-in-the-morning state.

If I live long enough to develop Alzheimer's disease, will I become the crazy old man who goes out at night blasting away on the drums, exacting my revenge upon the birds? Now that's a scary thought...

If you're wondering how I've been spending my summer, I think pictures would best illustrate what I've been doing four out of five days during the week:
The Derek M. Baylis is designed to be a research vessel, and a lot of thought went into its design to maximize workspace and to make it a model for all other research and educational vessels.

Among some of the notable features, the Baylis sports a wishbone boom (click here to read more about how the sailing mechanics work using a wishbone boom) and a motor that runs on a bio-diesel blend that "sips" gas. What is a wishbone boom and how is it different from a conventional one? The best explanation that I've heard is that a conventional boom is to a wishbone boom as a stick shift is to an automatic. The rig self-regulates the shape of the sail since it is suspended and not fixed to one point on the mast.

For more information on the Baylis, as well as Tom Wylie's other cool designs, check out this link:
Wyliecat Performance Yachts: Wyliecat 65

Monterey Bay Aquarium and Sealife Conservation run educational and leisure cruises in a joint venture. The aquarium provides the naturalists (of whom I am one) and sells tickets, while Sealife Conservation provides the crew and the boat.

I usually start my day below the docks, picking up the clipboard that holds the ship's manifest. As you can tell, all of the male California sea lions are coming back from their summer down south in the Channel Islands, where they were busy mating. It's amazing how quickly they've returned, and how valuable real estate has become around the harbor.

Over 90 percent of the sea lions up here are males. The females prefer the warmer waters down south. As one visitor put it, Monterey Harbor sounds like a big frat house because of all of the noise and displays of dominance among the male sea lions.

Giant kelp is the foundation of the ecosystem along the California coastline. It serves as a nursery, a food source, a place to hide, or a place to hold on to for countless organisms. On a piece of drift kelp that we pulled up today, we found polychaete worms, kellet's whelks, bryzoans, melibes, small shrimp, isopods, amphipods, a baby sea urchin, fish fry, decorator crabs, and kelp crabs. This was a spectacular haul and a great illustration that kelp is some really cool stuff.

Kelp crabs are good at letting you know that they don't want anything to do with you. Their pincers are sharp like needles, and painful if they catch your fingers. They make searching through kelp interesting for those willing to paw through the slimy kelp.

Anyone for paralytic shellfish poisoning? That's what you might get if you drank from the codpiece of our plankton net this afternoon (By the way, codpiece refers to the portion of the net where the plankton is concentrated, as the design was taken from a cod fishing nets and that's where the cods ended up. It is not, as I originally though, named after ye Medieval jockstrap.). The plankton that we've been pulling up have mostly turned the net a brownish green, but today it was red with dinoflagellates. Besides causing the red tide when they bloom, they are also responsible for phosphorescense.

I heard the following story from someone who works at the aquarium:

During WWII, the GIs in the Pacific learned that Japanese snipers used to target those using flashlights at night. At night time, some soldiers used their cotton shirts to sieve dinoflagellates out of the water, and allowed them to dry into a powder. By taking a pinch of the dehydrated dinoflagellates, they were able to read their maps with the faint blue light produced by smashing it between their fingers and avoid the snipers, who were looking for the yellow light produced by the flashlights.

So thanks partly to plankton, the Allies were able to achieve victory in the Pacific Theatre...

In addition, phytoplankton produces an over 60 percent of the Earth's oxygen and is the basis of the food web in the ocean. It sequesters CO2 as CaCO3 (chalk), and layers of fossilized plankton give us SiO2 rich deposits as well, which we use to filter out our swimming pools (salacious earth).

Plankton is some pretty cool stuff.

If you drop a crab trap, or "benthic sampler" (there are many designs, my favorite being a clamshell design that traps mud from the sea floor), down to the bottom of the outer edge of the kelp forest, most of what you pull up is likely to be batstars. This one has it's stomach out. You may recall that starfish eat by bringing their digestive system to their food. They hug whatever they are eating with their stomach, in other words.

Some other cool facts about batstars:

The orange ones range down to Mexico and the purple ones up to Alaska, and they meet in Monterey.
They often host symbiotic polychaete worms which clean the batstars of food scraps and parasites.
Predators of batstars include, but are not necessarily limited to sea gulls, sea otters, and other larger species of starfish.
They can easily regenerate an arm if they happen to lose one.
Batstars are echinoderms, related to things like sand dollars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers. If you look at echinoderms, they all have a pattern of five points radiating from the center.
Some batstars have up to seven arms, and at each tip of each arm is a primitive eyespot, with which they can sense the presence or absence of light.

When the sails are raised, the boat starts to really show off how well it handles. We routinely hit 10 knots with a reefed main sail, without the help of the mizzen (the smaller sail in the back of the boat). Since the boom is so high, the foredeck is a pretty safe and comfortable place to enjoy the cruise. When it's time to put away the sail, the halyard is released and the sail quickly drops into the hammock below in a matter of seconds.

This is a shot of Monterey Bay Aquarium in the foreground, looking down the length of Cannery Row. We stick to this area in the bay, as it provides a relatively sheltered patch of water, and a great view of the coastline. In this patch of coastline I've seen Humpbacks, Grey whales, Common Dolphins, Risso's Dolphins, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Harbor Porpoises, California Sea Lions, Southern Sea Otters, and Harbor Seals.

200 years ago, there were grizzly bears feasting on whale carcases, and 300 years ago there used to be a giant sea cow, the Steller's sea cow, that munched on the giant kelp. After the sea otters were almost hunted to extinction, there were long periods of time where the kelp disappeared from the coastline. Only after otters started to re-populate the coast did the kelp forests return and stabilize.

By telling these stories, making ecological connections, and facilitating discussions, we are able to really educate and inspire those who come along for a ride on the Baylis.

Urban Graphics

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Some of the most accessible public canvasses in the world reside under one bridge or another, even in Monterey.

Unfortunately, graffiti in the US is dominated by taggers who lack skill and so desperately feel the need to be noticed.

Will the wild popularity of manga and anime in the States result in a shift from tagging to creating more legitimate works of public art? Hopefully, the answer will be yes.

CS Nerds

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Hahaha, it reminds me of the good old days...

Happy 33rd

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To my brother, "irreverent Atom Boy":


I will celebrate your birthday by toasting you, and drinking a cold, crisp Fat Tire Belgian Ale.

One more firework

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I think this one turned out the best of the lot. Shooting at night is a bit more challenging, especially when you don't have a tripod. Luckily, the walking path provided a stable rail, providing the camera with a stable base.

Dusky Point

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Mid-year Resolution

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Why do most people make new year resolutions during the start of a new year? If you need to make a change now, chances are that you will forget about what it is that you want to change if you wait until the next year rolls around.

I know I've been really light in the amount of posts that I've been writing since I've started my job. I could list off reasons why this has happened, but that would make for a boring post.

Instead, I'm going to start taking more pictures and doing more post-worthy things. I guess this means that I have an excuse to buy the "necessary equipment" that I require to do the best job that I possibly can.

Damn, I should make resolutions more often.

Fireworks outside my apartment

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Last night was the Pacific Grove Chinese Lantern Festival, happening right next to my apartment. We sampled gyros, baklava, and calamari from the vendors who had set up food stalls next to the beach.

The residents of Pacific Grove obviously put a lot of effort into this event, as they had erected a faux pagoda on the tip of our small breakwater. A team of swimmers clad in wetsuits pulled a limo-sized dragon float through the water while a court of formally clad girls danced to multi-ethnic music (Japanese, Arabic, and Spanish songs were part of their repertoir).

We walked around for a bit, awed that so many people could fit on the beach and on the park at Lover's Point. Then we went home.

Just after the sun had set, we popped our heads out of the apartment to see this:





I love being able to see cool firework displays right outside of my apartment. In this respect, living in PG is kind of like living in Juso, where I was able to walk down to the Yodogawa and see one of the best firework shows in Osaka. It's as if I am destined to live in places that are home to other people, like me, who like to watch and play with fireworks.


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...[fringeheads] have a great fondness for empty bottles and cans; the bigger the container opening, the bigger the occupant. In some areas, such as the beer bottle field at the head of Redondo Canyon, southern California, nearly every bottle will house a fringehead. A fish usually lies in its home (which it considers its territory) with just part of its head exposed. Fringeheads are extremely aggressive, and they will lunge at intruders (even divers) with jaws snapping.

This is an excerpt from "Probably More Than You Want To Know About The Fishes Of The Pacific Coast", a most excellent book by Milton Love.

A Pupfish Mystery

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I had already accepted that I would never see a live Death Valley Pupfish (I'm assuming that's the fish they're talking about). When I first heard about these guys, reports about their survival were pessimistic, but after reading this article I don't know what to think. Awesome.

It has happened in Japan, and it happens here.

To the postal workers around the world who check my mail from foreign countries: Would you all please start at least taping the envelope shut?

It's just common courtesy.

Fun with Insects

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I used to catch bees and hornets and placing them in the freezer for a few minutes. After they had stopped moving, I tied a thread around their thorax and waited for them to warm up in the sun. There was something inherently hilarious about taking a bee for a walk.

It seems someone has one-upped me using flies and a match. Ah, being bored leads to strange diversions.


No Contest

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PBF executes this scenario way better than Extralife.

Mystery Cephalopod

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I love takoyaki and I love fried calamari, so what might be even better?

The octosquid might...


Garrapata is one of the best places to hike around Monterey, because it starts out on the coast, leads inland through cactus patches and chaparral, and ends in a grove of redwood with a seasonal waterfall.

A bunch of us went to go have a small party under the moon on a small mountain next to the ocean, but the winds kicked up and we cut it a bit short. Nonetheless, it's always fun to go out and kick back with good company when you're looking at a sunset, the heavens and moon, or falling blossoms.

If it wasn't usually so cold or windy, I would be more inclined to do these things here on a regular basis. Maybe I should just have more bonfires...


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I saw a whale yesterday, when I was working on the boat, but it wasn't as spectacular as this.

Bonus links:
Twisted sea otters via Mika
Girls with spears and harpoons via Justin

Fun with Star Wars

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Check out Robot Chicken's Star Wars Special here:


My Neighbor Bambi

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Unless you live near Nara-koen, it's not every day that you see a fawn grazing in the yard across the street. It's not like that where I live either, but this is the second time in a month that I've spotted deer right outside of my door:


Can you spot the Bambi?


I kind of wish that there were bears around here to keep the Bambies company. Then again, it's nice to be able to throw away the trash without worrying about being attacked by large carnivorous animals.

This morning, I was able to participate with two other researchers in capturing one of the 30 pound bluefin tuna out of tank #3 at the Tuna Research and Conservation Center. After stretching a slightly too small wetsuit on, we climbed down into the tank, which had been drained down to about 3 feet of water (about 1/3 of its normal level).

Two others herded the tuna into a modified length of blue, rubberized tarp. The tarp, 3 feet tall, was clipped onto the side of the holding pen, and there were 5 foot poles spaced at about 5 feet apart. The poles provided handles with which to maneuver the partition, and provided a surprisingly balanced mix of rigidity, weight (for the bottom of the curtain), and buoyancy (to hold up the curtain to the top of the water).

Once the chosen tuna was corralled into the enclosure, I closed the gap, and the two others began their work. I thought it was going to be an epic struggle between man and fish, but it was all over quickly. Once the fish was maneuvered between Alex and the partition, he gently hugged it and placed it in the stretcher where it was taken to another tank. It was amazing to see the tiger stripes on the sides of the fish when we were doing this. Tuna look so cool!

Changing subjects, a few weeks ago, I saw something that shocked me. I was working on the Derek M. Baylis, a boat under contract with the aquarium, when I spotted a sea otter dragging something that looked like a sea gull around. I took a look through the binoculars, and confirmed that it was indeed a dead bird that the otter was dragging around and playing with. Just to be sure, I asked a crew member to confirm this, and he was also taken aback with what he saw.

Talking to the folks who work at the Sea Otter Research And Conservation Center, I found out that otters will "take care" of sea birds who try and mooch their food. If a sea gull picks on the wrong sea otter, sometimes it will get throttled, or dragged under water where it will drown.

So do otters eat sea birds? Yes, to some extent, though birds are not part of their regular diet. If you put yourself in the place of an otter who is tired of having his food stolen by sea gulls, it is not hard to imagine yourself mauling one. At least for me, it isn't. Those dang birds used to get into my potato chips and other stuff I brought to the beach when I was playing in the water in Huntington Beach!

The lesson that I took away from this otter encounter was that otters are not as cute and cuddly as they look, unless they are in pelt form. Then, and only then, they are the softest, cuddliest furry thing that you will ever feel.

Gnarly Theremin

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Justin bought this weird instrument a bit back, but I have a suspicion that he hasn't been using it. Well dude, here's something to aspire to:

Anyone Wanna Go?

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Take a look at who's playing at this concert:

Rock The Bells

If you're down to go see this awesome show (either in San Bernadino or San Francisco), let me know!

I haven't seen a line up for a hip-hop concert this great since Dave Chappelle's Block Party!

Mysticeti Jump

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This is a really good set of jump pics!

New Haniwa

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After an 8 month hiatus, I am have started to work on haniwa again.

For inspiration I've been thinking a lot about my childhood memories, of places I've been, of people I've met, and of music I love. Places I've traveled, movies I've watched countless times, and books I've read have also featured prominently in their creation.

It's been a challenge to actually break open a bag of clay and to actually start making something, but once I'm doing it I love the process. It's like that with a lot of things I find, whether it be cooking, exercise, or reading. In my mind, I know it's going to be fun, but I still need to push myself to actually do it.

Other notes:
I've taken the Komainu (guardian dogs) and reinterpreted them. The ungyo and agyo themes seem to work well as octopi.

I think I'll do a set of Japanese kana characters. Doesn't it look like he's saying "O"?

Patterns from kimono, ancient pottery, and other graphic sources make great sources of inspiration for patterning.

It's kind of nice working only with clay, and not messing with glazes and such. I'd like to start working with wood burning kilns in order to see what kind of effects that I can get by manipulating heat, ash, and clay mixtures.

Cash vs. Credit

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In Japan, I very rarely used my credit cards and regularly carried large denomination bills on my person.

In the States I use my cards more, and only use cash when I have to. Cash is reserved for places that don't take credit, splitting the bill when eating with friends, and as a reserve plan, just in case I need it.

I like being able to use credit cards everywhere, but only because I am very wary of over-spending on my limited paycheck.

What I don't like is trying to find a place that will accept large bills. At some places, you can sense the reluctance to accept them. Some places won't even take them. I can't remember one time someone wouldn't take a 10,000 yen note when I was in Japan. It just didn't happen.

Then again, there were few times where trying to use my credit card was easy over there. Usually, the clerk looked at it as if it were a puzzle to be solved, and a few minutes later summoned other clerks and then the manager who would either apologize that they didn't accept credit cards (I suspect that some of them may have accepted them, but didn't know it themselves because no one ever had used one in their store) or would take over control of the register and demonstrate part of why they had risen to the ranks of management.

It's hard to say which form of payment I like better. On one hand, I can do almost anything I need to with my credit card. There's no going to the ATM or planning how much I will need before going out. One major benefit is that as long as you report a card missing or stolen, if you lose your wallet the only money you will lose is the actual money in your wallet.

On the other, having to handle money, instead of just signing receipts, makes process of paying for something less abstract. You can actually see your money entering or leaving your possession. Unlike a credit card, thieves on the internet can't literally pick your pocket.

I don't know which I like using better, cash or credit. It would be nice to have a lot more cash though.

I'm going to end this post on something a bit off topic:

I really like bartering. Trading something hot off the grill for a beer, trading some chips for some cookies, and trading a book for a CD. It's been transactions like that which have given me the most satisfaction.

I think we should bring back bartering on a larger scale. Can you imagine paying your taxes in candy, or trading a chef some fish that you caught in exchange for a free dinner? Ah that would be awesome!

Changing Sleep Patterns

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I notice that it's a lot easier to face the morning now than ever before. I never liked waking up, but up until I started high school, I used to force myself to wake up on the weekends so that I could catch the morning cartoons.

Between high school and college, I gave into the urge to sleep in whenever possible. Up until 2 years ago, the sun coming up signaled time to go to bed on days that I wasn't working.

Now, I wake up an hour before work in order to shower, cook and eat breakfast, and walk to work. Sleeping in means staying in bed until 10:00 a.m.. It's nice not to feel dead in the morning, and I'm curious to see if, one day, I will routinely rise in time to watch the sun rise without feeling like my head is full of fog.

It feels so strange to not feel weird about going to bed early, and to actually want to go to bed early. I had to train myself out of trying to stay awake for a few years after college. In the end, it helps to live in a community made up of older folks, where there is nothing to do at night time.

Is this what it's going to be like as I get older? Is it going to continually be like how it was when I finally started to appreciate spicy foods (before I was a teenager, I didn't like spicy foods), beer (it took me until my 2nd year at UCSB to really appreciate the taste of good beer rather than the entertaining effects of drinking beer in general), or going to sleep early? How many things are there like this? I guess I'll just have to wait in order to find out.

Comments II

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I've turned off comments for now. Too much Spam. I don't like Spam.

I will turn them back on in the future, but for now I've had enough Spam. Damn Spam!

According to this story, it appears that hammerheads and possibly other species can reproduce without a father.

Here's an unrelated story on a new anemone found on the bones of a dead whale.

This is why I love marine bio. It seems like every month there is at least one new exciting discovery!

Bad people

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I really don't know what to say about this story from Kumamoto:

Some people should really not reproduce. So much unnecessary suffering and hardship is caused by people having babies that will not be adequately cared for.

And whose idea was it to create an anonymous unwanted baby drop off? I can't see how anyone would ever think that was a good idea! They were practically inviting this kind of thing to happen.

The poor kid is at the mercy of a bunch of idiots. It's things like this that make me depressed to be a part of humanity.

Pocket Puppy

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This post is dedicated to my little sister, who asked for me and Justin to post stuff for her to read in between tests:


This is Yvel. She now has a new, stupid name, but her real name is and shall always be Yvel. When she was young, I used to carry her around in my pocket and she would fall asleep.

Yvel was the smartest of the puppies, and the craziest. She would stop at nothing to attack your toes, and relentlessly smashed through obstacles in order to lick her victim. She also had the strange habit of hopping around like a little bunny.

Aside from her name, it sounds like Yvel is doing well. I have heard that she dines on filet mignon, drinks expensive mineral water, and rolls around in a Bentley. I bet she liked my pocket better.

Deep Focus

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The Deep has some awesome photos of deep sea creatures, many of them taken by MBARI, and featured in Mysteries of the Deep (not to be confused with the National Geographic series of the same name), one of the shows at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Check out the impressive gallery on the book's site (the link is on the bottom right corner).

It's coming out in June. Check out the preview here.

On the way up from Huntington Beach, Kohei and I picked up some fresh, wild-caught shrimp in a small town right before we reached Santa Barbara. If you are familiar with that stretch of coast line, it's the place that used to have the banana plantation back in the day.

Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures, but the place selling the shrimp was like something you might encounter in Mexico or a rural coastal village in Thailand. I saw no signs advertising their shrimp, only a broken down taco truck converted into a produce stand, which also sold long skateboards.

Kohei inquired if they were the place that sold shrimp, and the young dude cleared some lettuce off of a battered box, and removed the lid to expose some really fresh shrimp. It still had bright pigmentation, and the only smell was of fresh sea water.

I drove off with my mind blown that such a place could exist, hidden from everyone other than the locals right next to the 101. This is what I had grown addicted to in Japan: finding places that no one else knew of that were extraordinary. Since returning, I've found such places, but not nearly as frequently as I did in Kyushu and Kansai.

What was the chances of finding 2 places that surprised me in one day, covering a stretch of California that I have driven through countless times? Well, it was pretty good that day.


"What do you recommend for lunch?" is a question I've asked Ko on many occasions, and he has never done me wrong. Tri-tip burgers in Long Beach, Pink's Hotdogs, and the best chili fries in L.A. are only a few things that we have enjoyed on an afternoon. This guy knows good food, but I was still more than a bit confused when he recommended a Chinese place for Mexican food.


We walked into the restaurant at about 2pm, and there was no one to show us to a seat. Instead, we walked up to a window next to the kitchen, wrote down our order on an order pad. We summoned the cook, and he shaved a seemingly insignificant portion of meat off of the stack, serving us 3 tacos apiece.


This beautiful ball of sizzling pork reminded me of all of the great chunks of roasting meat I've sampled, notable those of the kebab places in Pike's Place Market in Seattle, of tacos in Mexico, and of Churrasco in Kobe.


The salsas and condiments were top rate as well. Notably, they served their tacos with a side of canned pineapple that perfectly complemented the tacos. Pico de gallo, cilantro and onions, jalapenos, sliced radishes, guacamole, and other toppings rested underneath two Shisars, a lacquered hyotan, and a samurai helmet display. Could this place be any more awesome?


The owner clearly liked fishing and hiking in the mountains, as he decorated the restaurant with mounted fish and family pictures in the Sierras. I have no idea about the history of this restaurant, but I intend to return and find out. It will give me a good reason to go back and enjoy some of the best tacos I have ever tasted!

On the China Bowl website there is no mention of tacos, but take my word for it: it is well worth your time to stop by this place if you find yourself passing through Santa Maria. Long live Chinese tacos!

Views from my daily commute

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This is what I get to look at every day on my walk to work:

It's a little under 2 miles from my apartment to work, and takes about 18 minutes to walk from start to finish. Of course, I'm talking about walking at an Osaka pace, so it would really be more like 25 minutes at a leisurely stroll.

Every morning, I am very aware that I could be sitting in traffic on the 405. Yes, I know that I am a lucky bastard.

This is Hopkins Beach, the home of many sausage-shaped harbor seals. I saw some newborn pups last week, so there'll probably be a lot more of them when I get back to Monterey.

Thanks to the changing seasons, the sun is higher in the sky when I walk to work. It's kind of cool getting up in time to watch the sun rise, but I much prefer the longer days of summer.

I hadn't realized how large my backlog of photos has grown since I've started working at MBA. For the sake of posting, I think I need to take more vacations.

A Simian Mug

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Take a look at this fish. What would you say its face looks like?


The monkeyface-eel lives along the coasts in tidepools and eat mainly algae and crustaceans. A friend of mine has gone fishing for these, using a poke-pole, and says that they taste pretty good, though cleaning them can be problematic. Their skin is so slippery that it is hard to cut a fillet off of their body.

Dishonesty sucks

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Alright, I have a bone to pick. Some jerk ripped off my pictures, and his page got Dugg to the #1 spot today:

(This site has been completely changed now, thanks to the support of readers like you!)

Here's the Digg link:

And my original post:

If you're as disgusted as I am by this individual, please drop by the West Virginia Blogger's site and Digg and let everyone know how you feel.

This sucks: I'm flattered that the Digg community liked my content enough to earn a #1 ranking, but I'm pissed that someone would post the content and not give any sort of credit where credit is due, let alone ask permission.

Who does this individual think they are? Wouldn't they think that I'd be keeping track of my page after I'd been Farked and increasingly thumbed-up on Stumble Upon? Ultimately, in seeking attention through Digg, he pwned himself.

The following is a comment that I left on the guilty blog:

As the owner of the pictures that you posted without my permission on your site, I am asking you to take them down.

I also think that an apology is in order.

Re-posting other people's content without making it clear that you had nothing to do with anything other than copying and pasting stuff to your own page is dishonest and misleading.

I think you owe it to yourself to modify your behavior.

I hope that you are as disappointed in yourself as I am of you.

All right, I'm through for now. Gonna go to bed.


The comment above was successfully posted to his page, but he deleted it like a coward. Below is the comment and response that he left, after deleting the other one:

# Adam Says: April 8th, 2007 at 12:25 am

Yo, if you’re going to repost images from my site, the least you can do is give credit:
# Bucky Says:

April 8th, 2007 at 1:40 am


I didn’t get the images from your site. They were sent to me as an email FWD.

Nice blog BTW.

I could really care less about what "Bucky" thinks of my blog. What I want is for my pictures to be removed, and for an apology. Is that really too much to ask?

Just to give fair notice, I've just posted this:

I couldn't care less about what you think of my blog.

I will ask again:

1. take down my pictures
2. apologize

I will remind you that my content is protected by a Creative Commons license and I DO NOT give you permission to have them on your site. It doesn't matter how you acquired them. For the record, your excuse is pitiful.

Erasing my comments will not make me go away.

along with the other comment that he erased. OK, now I'm really going to sleep.

***Update 2***

Bucky has blocked me from commenting, but I really need to get some sleep. Let's see how things pan out tomorrow.

***Dirt off my shoulders***

Thanks to everyone who backed me up on this, and thanks to everyone who dropped by my post and left comments.

Both of my requests were ultimately met, with a twist.

He kept the post, deleted all of the comments pertaining to my post and from those who backed me up, and has posted a story (that has already been Dugg in the past by someone else, big surprise!) to bring in residual traffic. It's kind of funny to see how much he still treasures getting exposure. It's also amusing to see how poorly the old comments match up to the remodeled post.

I wish I would have kept a record of the comments that urged him to do the right thing, as no one really was overtly hostile. Most of the comments were civil, and sounded like something a nice first grade teacher would say to gently nudge a misbehaving child in the right direction. It would be a stretch to call any of the feedback that he received "flaming", though Justin's challenge of letting the comments stand used some colorful language. I have a feeling Justin would make a good high school teacher, and perhaps a preschool teacher as well.

Lastly, check the comments to this post. I was a bit surprised about his request, but will chalk it up to sleep deprivation and extreme embarrassment (on his behalf, of course).

Reminiscing of Ryukyu

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Watching this conjures up memories of awamori, umibudo, goya champuru, taco rice, and stewed pig's feet while listening to the laid back twangs and beats of the shinsen and taiko, accompanied by hauntingly beautiful vocals of a dialect that I love to listen to, yet do not understand.

Little Evil vs. BJ Penn

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The 3rd season of Ultimate Fighter has Jens Pulver and BJ Penn as coaches on opposing teams, and they're going to fight on the last show!

Both of these fighters are among my favorites, and despite being conflicted on who I want to win, I know it's going to be a good fight.

In other news, Sam Sheridan's book, "A Fighter's Heart" is really good. I remember watching him on National Geographic a few years back, and it's interesting to see how he's progressed in his fighting career. This guy trained with Team Miletich and got a magazine to foot the bill in return for writing about his experiences. He has that special mix of eloquence and grit, the qualities that make a warrior poet.

Use the pliers...

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This fish has big teeth:

Puppies of Spring

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This set was actually taken in the Fall, but the 7 seem more like harbingers of Spring to me. As much as I don't like small dogs, these puppies were the best puppies in the world. They weren't the smartest, nor the most ferocious or dependable, but they were the happiest dogs I have known.

I hope that they're all living happy lives. I feel like an uncle to them.

Killer and Pinky are under the care of my parents, Yvel (now named "Chanel") now rides in a Bentley in Carmel, Cat and Spanky are also millionaires and live in a multimillion dollar house near Monterey, Blaze lives in Fountain Valley, and Monster resides with a Veterinarian in Huntington Beach.

These are a bunch of lucky dogs. Thank goodness for that, as they would have zero chance of surviving in the wild. They have very few wits amongst themselves to fend off wolves, coyotes, and mountain lions.

These dogs, my dogs, now eat filet mignon and drink only expensive mineral water. That's kind of cool, hahaha!


A tale of two fishes

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What's the difference between the words "fish" and "fishes",? This was explained to me a few weeks ago in a lecture about fishes (and if you feel I've left anything out, please let me know):

Fish (I'm just dealing with the noun form, pertaining to language used by aquarists, keep in mind) can mean an individual or a group of the same species of fish.

Fishes, on the other hand, deals specifically with the plural of two or more species.

So does this mean that the sentence "I eat a lot of fish." is wrong if you enjoy eating salmon, tuna, yellowtail, barramundi, and other types of fishes? I don't think so, but I'll ask around.

Anyhow, on to the pictures. One fish pictured is a gar. The other fish is a goldfish. One of them ate the other one, and though the outcome was predictable, I was not expecting to see the following play out.

I don't know enough about gars to hazard a guess at which species this is, but I can tell you that it is the King (or Queen) of the tank.

Maneuvering by using mostly its muscular pectoral fins, the gar slowly positions itself for a meal.

The attack is lightning fast, and devastating to the goldfish. Pressure sensitive canals are lined up along its snout, and function much like a lateral line, letting the gar sense changes in water pressure. It attacks by lining its prey up right next to its mouth, and then snapping it up with its needle-like teeth while flexing its body to one side.

For some reason, the gar spat out its meal, and started to drag the disemboweled goldfish around. It reminded me of a master walking his dog.

After a few minutes, the intestines finally snapped, and the gar finished its grisly meal.

LOTR: the Passing of the Torch

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Brian Herbert, with Kevin J. Anderson, took up the Dune universe's story after his father, Frank Herbert, passed away. I thought he did a very good job in staying true to his father's vision, and really enjoyed the two books of his that I read ("House Atreides" and "House Harkonnen").

I am very interested to read "The Children of Hurin" by Christopher Tolkien (son of J.R.R. Tolkien), which is coming out next month. Just like Brian Herbert, Christopher Tolkien used his father's extensive notes to complete a work in progress that was never finished.

One of the major themes of the worlds of these books are the legacies that previous generations hand off to future generations. It is fitting that the sons of two great authors, Tolkien and Herbert, have finished the work that their fathers had started.

Whale Bomb

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I remember hearing about another whale exploding on the streets of China a few years ago. Well, it happened again in Taiwan. This time with a Sperm Whale:


Why would the researchers wait until now to move a whale from the beach. Did they not think about the consequences of letting a whale decompose for 2 months before doing a necropsy?

Can you imagine the carnage? Putrid whale entrails splattered on the buildings, cars, and the street with such force and volume that it stopped traffic...

National Geographic, April 2007

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The latest issue of National Geographic magazine is exceptional, which is the highest praise I can give it. I've grown up reading this magazine, and the two main stories are both on topics that I love.

The main story is entitled "Saving the Sea's Bounty" and is broken down into:
The Majestic Bluefin
Safe Haven in New Zealand
Village of Empty Nets

The smaller story is entitled "The Roots of Hip-hop".

Both stories are really well done.

You can take a look at what's inside at the National Geographic Magazine website.


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For the moment, comments are down, so don't feel bad if they aren't getting posted. I'll be working on updating this blog, and will let you know when comments are back online. Thanks for your patience.

月見 over Pacific Grove

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One evening, the moon was intensely bright and illuminated everything on my walk home from work. Ignoring my hunger, I grabbed my D50 as soon as I got home, and snapped some pictures.

This is a view from my front door. Lacking a tripod, I improvised by resting the camera on a rail, and using my SOG multitool to get a better angle.

I wanted to see what it looked like in front of the trees in the distance, so I put my shoes back on and headed over to the Point.

There were many families down at Lovers' Point, mostly Hispanic. I thought it was cool that as I was shooting, more and more of them showed up, and started having picnics on the grass. It was a cultural remix of the tsukimi parties that I'd attended in Japan.

As the seasons transition from Winter to Spring, I find myself remembering all of the flower viewing parties that I enjoyed in a time not too long ago.

Located not a minute away from my apartment is a park located right on the beach, with public picnic areas and barbecues. Now all you(and you all know who "you" are) have to do is drop by, and we can enjoy grilled meats and vegetables while watching the sun set by the Bay. Beer is in the 'fridge... Let's 'Q.

Sea Animal Submarines

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You have two marine animals to choose from:

Fabien Cousteau's Shark

Innerspace's dolphin

Aphex Mickey

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(thx Brent)

IV TV meets Troops

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There used to be a cool show on public access television in Santa Barbara called IV TV that chronicled the happenings in Isla Vista, U.C. Santa Barbara's college town. This was the best independent TV show ever, and dealt with controversial topics as well as the crazy stuff that went on back then.

One of the craziest shows captured the aftermath of David Attias slamming his car into 5 pedestrians, killing 4 of them. I was one of many that night that was out on those streets that night. I think the whole town felt united in their rage and sadness, following this senseless act. IV TV was on the scene, and showed us what happened.
(for more on this topic, check out this post)

It was in college that I was introduced to the Troops vids. These shorts were pretty cool, and gave us a glimpse of the Star Wars Universe in much the same way that Dante and Randall speculated about the loss of innocent life as a result of blowing up the Death Star in The Return of the Jedi.

I watched the following video, which brought back memories of IV TV and Troops:
Stabbing at Leia's 22nd Birthday

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Ah, it brings back so many memories...


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Like my brother, I get a real sense of satisfaction from keeping a car in good condition. I don't particularly enjoy washing, waxing, vacuuming, shampooing, or doing the other things that make a car look great, but it feels pretty good to know that it is being maintained in the best condition possible. Waxing a car is a tedious, time consuming process, but when you wipe away the haze to reveal a mirror-like finish and see a previously hidden depth exposed, it is all worth it.

Most of you don't take the time to wash and wax your cars yourself, and unless you do, you won't understand the exact feeling I'm talking about. No, taking your car to the car wash won't accomplish the same thing.

Since I've returned to the States, this is the 3rd car that I'll be involved in selling. I'm getting it into the best shape I can before it's going to be sold, as I have done with the previous two cars.

On another note, I know I haven't been posting any great posts or new pictures lately, and I apologize for that. Give me a bit more time to figure things out and to regain my equilibrium while I develop my focus. I'll be working on it, even if it isn't apparent right now.

They Might be Science

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TMBG are cool because they explain seemingly complex scientific things through song.

One of my favorite TMBG songs describes fusion on the Sun:

"The Sun is a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees The Sun is hot, the Sun is not a place where we could live, But here on Earth there'd be no life without the life it gives."

link-check out the cool animation of the bio-mechanics of the ear.

Do you want to see what they were able to do with the circulatory system? Check out this cartoon titled Bloodmobile.

Mola mola mola mola mola

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The Sunfish (aka Mola mola, Headfish, Mambou (Japanese), or as many children and adults call it, the Uglyfish) is one of the Aquarium's most popular attractions.

I would write a post dedicated to the Mola mola, but Fogonazos already has. Take a look here:


Octopuses don't have tentacles

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That's right, octopuses don't have tentacles, they have arms. Squids have 8 arms and 2 tentacles.

So how are tentacles different from arms? They are usually longer and, in general, only have suckers at their ends.

If the cephalopod doesn't have tentacles, it's most likely an octopus. If you want to get even more confused, check out why the Vampire squid isn't quite a squid or an octopus here.

I hate discovering that things that I've believed since I was a child are wrong! Sometimes I'm just not in a mood to be humbled, I guess. In search of knowledge, the road is windy and endless.

Apparently the arms and tentacles of the cephalopods that we know and love fall under the term "muscular hydrostat". According to Wikipedia, a muscular hydrostat is:

"a biological structure found in animals. It is used to manipulate items (including food) or to move its host about and consists mainly of muscles with no skeletal support. It performs its hydraulic movement without fluid in a separate compartment, as in a hydrostatic skeleton. The principle behind the hydrostatic skeleton is that water is effectively incompressible at physiological pressures. Thus, a fiber-wound chamber full of water will act as a constant-volume system. What makes the muscular hydrostat unique is that it relies on the same principle, but there is no water-filled cavity. Instead, the bulk of the organ is made up of muscle, which also has constant volume and is effectively incompressible, its main material being water. Thus, instead of a cylinder wrapped with muscle and connective tissue that changes its shape, a muscular hydrostat is a cylinder made of muscle."

So what is a muscular hydrostat? The bodies of worms, the trunk of an elephant, the arms and tentacles of cephalopods, and the tongues of animals.

So even now that I know this, I don't think it's necessarily important for me to correct others who say that octopuses have 8 tentacles, just as I don't think it's important that people stop using the term "Great White Shark". After all, even if you use these incorrect terminology, people will understand what you are talking about.

Language, in itself, is an imperfect metaphor for us to make sense and communicate these ideas of our perception of reality, so isn't being understood more than sufficient most of the time? If not, most people wouldn't care to debate the issue anyways...

I guess I'm still experiencing lingering annoyance at my ignorance, but since I've typed this out of my system, I feel much better!

Here's a story about the largest known creature that has muscular hydrostats:

link (via my Mom)

"(Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni a.k.a. the Colossal Squid) attains a size larger than the giant squid. Giant squid is no longer the largest squid that's out there. We've got something that's even larger, and not just larger but an order of magnitude meaner."

On a lighter note, take a look at this Conservapedia entry on the Pacific Northwestern Tree Octopus. Ah, good stuff...

Flashbang Cephalopods

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It appears that Taningia danae, a deep-sea squid, uses "bright flashes to disorientate potential victims", much like Ts and CTs use flashbangs in order to blind, confuse, and incapacitate their opponents in CS.

Check out the story here, and don't miss the video.

Fire in the hole! Me ga mienai!

Ah, sometimes it's fun to revel in one's own nerdiness.

On a side note, I am willing to bet that T. Danae tastes nasty. I know that the smaller, bioluminescent hotaru ika (firefly squid), considered a delicacy in Japan, doesn't rate among my favorite calamari dishes.

Is Mencia a theif?

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***Update 5***
Um, this is getting to be pretty hard for Mencia to explain away...

***Update 4***
Carlos Mencia and Bobby Lee weigh in on the feud.

***Update 3***
Techdirt discusses the irony of the DCMA taking the side of Mencia, who allegedly plagiarized other comedians' acts, against Joe Rogan, who exposed Mencia.

Also, this video actually works (for now):

***Update 2***
Ah, this keeps on getting better:

Joe Rogan got banned from the Comedy Store as a result of the video. Luckily Joe has his gig as a UFC commentator and other venues to perform comedy to fall back on.

Mencia might have won this battle, but it will be interesting to see if his credibility can remain intact in the long-term. For that matter, I'd like to hear his perspective on all of this.

(This video is the one that the DMCA had taken down)

My brother and I enjoyed watching the first season of The Mind of Mencia, but then his stuff started getting old and repetitive to the point where I would change the channel if his program came on. I noticed that others felt similarly about the show. Why had Mencia's show started off with such a bang and then fizzled out?

Joe Rogan's account of his on-stage confrontation with Mencia gives the reader a possible explanation.

Did Mencia, or "Ned", really steal some of his material? Why is he not forthcoming about his non-Mexican heritage?

The video and Rogan's entry are undoubtedly biased against Mencia, but after reviewing the video I am left questioning the integrity of Mencia and his material.

Tabehodai for white sharks

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Like Calvin, I don't like to think of apex predators as scavengers. This is fascinating footage, but it is kind of disappointing to my childhood perceptions of white sharks, like the theories of the T. Rex being a scavenger made Calvin angry.

From a conservation standpoint, it is essential to dispel the myth of sharks as killing machines. The overwhelming majority of shark attacks on humans are accidental, and more people are killed by lightning each year than by sharks. Jaws is what we imagine a creature as awesome as the White Shark to be.

This isn't to say that shark myths shouldn't be preserved and enjoyed. Jaws was a good movie, and sharks make great antagonists in a story. These stories, however, shouldn't be used as justification for hunting sharks to the point where they are unable to sustain a healthy population.

Much in the same way that people should stop blaming violence on TV and in video games for the violence that occurs in the real world. When we're children, most of us can figure out the difference between the pretend world and reality. As long as some of us are unable to (which I am guessing is a very small minority), or, more commonly, are desperate for a scapegoat it will continue to be frustrating for those of us who have to watch these things unfold.

(thanks to Justin, via Maven, for the link)

Shucking Lobsters

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What does an uncooked lobster that has been stripped of its shell look like?

(scroll down)

I'm not one to cry for lobsters, or anything else that I eat for that matter, but I would imagine that being processed in this fashion would hurt. For us, this would be the equivalent of not only peeling away the skin, but more importantly, extracting all of our bones as a whole.

Giant steps are what we take...

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The Police are reunited!


I have always felt cheated that I wasn't able to go to a Police show, but now I might be able to listen to their music live and in person.

I feel the same way about Bob Marley and the Wailers, but maybe it's for the best. Bob is immortal.

I don't think the Police will be disappointing, but then again I didn't think that the Star Wars Prequels would be anything less than awesome. If things don't pan out, I can ignore the new stuff and just keep on listening to their older recordings.

I only wish I could do that with Star Wars, but my copies of episode 4-6 show Greedo drawing his blaster first and all of the other "enhanced" bollocks that George Lucas appended onto his original works.

On a side note, isn't "bollocks" a great word. We should all use it a bit more often than we do.


A Grim Fairytale

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"After a long search for a better way to stop extreme bleeding, the U.S. Army has purchased more than 400,000 bandages made from chitosan, a polysaccharide extracted from the exoskeletons of Icelandic shrimp."
Another cool thing about Chitosan: it's a carbohydrate, so people that are allergic to shrimp can use it, since the proteins are the culprit of a histamine reaction. link

The scent of cloud seeds

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Did you know that DMS, a gas produced by phytoplankton, not only serves as a nucleus for water to collect and form clouds, but also is responsible for the Ocean's distinctive smell? Read more about DMS in this article, or here.

Frilled Shark Video

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This eel-shaped shark was spotted a few days ago off the coast of Shizuoka prefecture. Prior to reading about the Frilled Shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus) I had no idea that sharks other than the Six-gilled Shark had six gills.

An Outsider's Perspective: Tenrikyo

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Japanzine did a pretty good write up on the Tenri City and the Tenrikyo religion:

<blockquote>Unlike the Mormons' inner sanctum, the Tenri main temple is open to unbelievers. We were allowed to walk anywhere we wanted within the 800 meters of the building. In some rooms people were casually praying (doing the te-odori hand dance and singing), while in others, the solemnity and seriousness of prayer was quite tangible. We walked by women receiving the Sazuke, or Divine Grant, an official license to begin spreading the word and recruiting followers.

To my dismay, no one tried to convert us while we were there. We found everyone to be quite friendly, and encountered zero hostility. As an added bonus, arriving a few days after New Year, we also received massive bags of mochi, free, from God herself!</blockquote>


Of Boners and cataloguing fish

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I have embarked upon a mission to catalog all of the fish on exhibit, including common names, scientific names, and Japanese names, along with interesting facts about these fish.

One thing I discovered while consulting "Probably More Than You Want To Know About The Fishes Of The Pacific Coast" by Milton Love (I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the fish of the West coast of the U.S.) is that I have been mixing up the names of 2 similar, but different, fish.

Many people I have talked to have told me that "katsuo" is Japanese for "bonito", but this is wrong. The Pacific Bonito is "hagatsuo" in Japanese, while "katsuo" is actually a Skipjack Tuna, a species that only reaches about 40 inches in length.

Generally, Bonito, or "Boners" as some people like to call them, are not considered a delicious fish, but Love says that if you bleed them right away and keep them moist and cool they are good to eat.

Another interesting thing about Bonito, tuna, and other tuna-like fishes is that if you don't store them properly, they can develop scromboid poisoning which is caused by bacteria breaking down the flesh and creating histamines. The symptoms include "nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea..." (Love, p.315).

No treatment is listed, but I'm guessing that maybe you should treat this like food poisoning, maybe take an anti-histamine, and if things get bad enough, definitely seek professional help. Better yet, if the tuna smells funky, maybe you shouldn't eat it. If the can is bulging and releases a rancid gas when you pop the top, it's best to not eat that stuff. Scromboid, botulism, it doesn't matter- it's not worth risking your health!

This is a bit off of the topic, but my friend Matt asked if we have Albacore on exhibit. We do not, and it seems like they are not an easy fish to keep in captivity, so we probably won't be having any of those any time soon. Nor are there any Blue Sharks in the Outer Bay Exhibit.

Here's another weird tidbit. The Bluefins and Yellowfins are very, very hard to tell apart on exhibit. In Love's book, an easy way to tell these tuna apart is to look at the second dorsal fin. The Yellowfin's pectoral fin reaches the origin of the second dorsal fin, while the Bluefin's does not. Also, the Yellowfin's finlets are yellow, just as the name implies.

Yet, on exhibit, these two fish have morphed to such a degree that even the experts can't easily tell them apart. Whatever the case, the largest fish in this exhibit (estimated weight 600 lbs) are the Bluefin, which can get over 1000 lbs in the Pacific. Those fish are found closer to Japan, which is unfortunate for those of us in the States, and for the tuna. Irony is a b*tch sometimes...

White Shark Released

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After 137 days with Monterey Bay Aquarium, the juvenile male white shark was released this morning. I feel lucky to have been able to see this one up close for the past month and to learn so much about it.

Here are some interesting bits of information:

The male shark was originally caught by MBA's white shark experts, by line and hook, just off of the coast of Malibu, California.

It's age is estimated at just over a year old.

This white shark was 5-feet, 8-inches, and weighed 104 pounds when he was first put on exhibit. Upon his release he had grown to 6-feet, 5-inches long and weighed 171 lbs.

This is the second white shark ever successfully kept on exhibit anywhere in the world. By "successful", I mean that the shark was able to safely navigate the exhibit he was placed in (the Outer Bay Exhibit) and took food. Monterey Bay Aquarium has been the only aquarium so far to do these things.

The female white shark was with the aquarium for 198 days and reached 6-foot, 4-inches with a weight of 162 pounds. During her time on exhibit, she grew 1 foot, 4 inches in length, and put on 100 pounds!

The male shark was released just off of Point Pinos, and was tagged with a 90 day PAT tag.

This shark never attacked any of his exhibit mates, instead feeding on plenty of wild-caught salmon steaks which were personally delivered to him on the end of a pole (the salmon was tied to the pole with an easily digestible cotton string, in order to prevent the voracious tunas from nabbing it).

During his stay, the white shark generally cruised towards the top of the exhibit with his dorsal fin occasionally breaking the surface of the water.

Flashes from people taking pictures seemed to cause the white shark to spend less time towards the front of the glass, and more time in the back of the exhibit where he was a little harder to spot.

It was amazing to see how many people's perceptions of sharks as malevolent, murderous monster were changed by simply watching him calmly cruising around the exhibit.

"Why isn't he attacking the other fish?" is a question often heard in the Outer Bay Exhibit. When people find out that these creatures don't kill everything in the oceans, and in fact help to keep the wildlife populations healthy, they want to learn more and generally start to develop an interest much different from the morbid, sensationalized portrayals that they are used to seeing on TV and in the movies.

A lot of people seem truly surprised to learn that most white shark attacks on humans are accidental. A human with four limbs sticking off of a surfboard looks like the silhouette of a sea lion or a seal from below. Upon tasting human, most white sharks don't seem to come back to for seconds. It's kind of like biting into what you think is a caramel flavored chocolate, and finding out that it is in fact the chocolate covered fruit and nut loaf.

Isn't it cool that the aquarium keeps its animals' welfare first and foremost in mind, when considering whether or not to keep them on exhibit or to release them. From what I've seen at aquariums around the world, this is not always the case. 

Time for 24

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When I was in Japan last year, I looked forward to seeing a new episode of 24 each week. It was one of the highlights of the work week when I could discuss the show with my brother and a few like-minded friends.

I believed Justin posted this site last year, but I'm going to put up this link again:


It's about to start, time to go! 

Happy New Year!

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Killer and Monster wish you all a happy 2007!