Monday, March 31, 2008

Florida ocean life washed up on beach

Strange doings down in Florida, beachwatchers found oodles of ocean creatures washed up on beaches.

The speculation is that extra-cold water, 9 degrees colder than normal, stunned the animals so that they couldn't hold their positions in shallow water and they got captured by wind-driven currents and dumped onto the beach. A natural event that turned into a bonanza for collecters.

Let's hope it's not just the result of another dead zone. (Note: image not from this event.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

What does your poo say about you?

I only used to worry about poo if it was getting into the water supply and hurting fish. Now it seems that poo is the hot new thing. People are inspecting their poo and talking about it. All because it can tell you a lot about your health.

From an article at, the writer says:

I looked, all right? This morning, I took a long and unflinching gaze. How do I say this without sounding boastful? There in the bowl was a real beauty, my reward for yesterday's hearty oatmeal breakfast and black bean and rice dinner. It was the kind of (how do we settle on a comfortable euphemism?) ejecta that would make Mom proud.

If you want the ability to diagnose your own poo, check out this handy field guide to poo, What's your poo telling you?

Or not.

Presented entirely without pictures.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Sea cucumber inspires new polymer

Nice trick to have skin that goes hard when danger threatens, and turns soft and flexible in safe conditions.

A sea cucumber can do it, and now scientists have borrowed the secret to make a polymer that is hard when dry and soft when wet.

The next hope is to do the same thing with electricity instead of water, for applications like a vest that goes bulletproof when needed. Or perhaps there might be some other applications, like replacing the blue pill.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Squid beaks are hard yet soft

It's quite a trick, an organ that's rock hard at the biting tip, yet soft at the base. It allows a soft-bodied animal to turn into a horror-film slasher.

The squid's beak has to attach to the soft tissue around it's mouth, and if it was too hard it would tear loose from the squid when it tried to bite. So the squid needs the beak to have a soft base. But in order to work, the beak needs to be rock-hard at it's biting tip, in order to penetrate and bite through its prey.

The squid conjures up this miraculous beak by using a materials gradient. The beak gradually transitions from soft to hard materials to achieve the change in texture. It's a trick that materials scientists would like to emulate.

And many a man has tried to be manly yet sensitive, a transition that's hard to master. Can we look to a squid for guidance? Apparently so, according to that most romantic of bloggers, PZ Myers.

Ocean survivor game, can you drive the tuna to safety?

No, sadly, the tuna always ends up as sushi, at least with my clumsy hands. But the Ocean Survivor game from Pew is fun anyway for a fish geek. Try to dodge the nets and hooks, and jump your tuna OVER a fishing boat(!) Now that part's fun.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Beetles gone wild: how climate change hurts salmon

They're small but they're bad...they're beetles gone wild. See "R" rated video above if you're over 18 and want a laugh.

This new threat to salmon is linked to climate change. It's scary but there are solutions.

Salmon need healthy rivers with complex habitat and year-round flows of cool water. Healthy forests make this possible, and a small beetle is harming salmon by killing pine trees in salmon country in the Pacific northwest.

The mountain pine beetle is today's villain. It's a native bug that burrows into pine trees and eats yummy sapwood. The problem comes when the beetles kill entire pine forests instead of just killing isolated trees. My colleague Roy Keene calls beetles "slow fire" since they can mimic the effects of forest fires.

There are many reasons for these beetles gone wild. Forest management that converts divers, multi-age and multi-species forests into simple groups of trees all the same species and same size gives beetles a chance to kill entire forests. And...climate change worsens the problem by allowing beetles to thrive in warmer forests that are weakened by more frequent droughts. Here's an interesting short video showing dead forests from a helicopter.

What to do? Better forest management that maintains diverse forests is a great first step. Better ocean health through forestry, who knew?

...another in the long list of threats to salmon caused by climate change...

Monday, March 24, 2008

The pipe dream of solving environmental problems

Try to imagine solving some of our serious environmental problems like CO2 emissions. Is it hard? Do the solutions seem impossible? Often it's a failure of imagination that limits us.

Do you believe me? Here's an example of an impractical pipe dream solution made real.

Suppose you're working on a serious human health crisis, caused by environmental contamination. And suppose further that a solution exists, but it requires creating a buried network of pipes that goes to everyone's home, and delivers an antidote to the disease. And the antidote has to be available 24/7, on demand. You propose this solution, and everyone laughs, and says move on to the next idea since your dream of pipes is just that, a pipe dream. Who could ever imagine getting all those pipes in place?

Well, you get the last laugh since the disease is diarrhea and dysentery and the pipe dream solution is our public water supply system, currently in place in much of the developed world. Impractical? Hardly.

So next time you're imagining a pipe dream solution to a big problem like, say, CO2 production and climate change, remember the dream of pipes that is now real in most of the developed world. If our forefathers can make that dream real, we can make our dreams real.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gut feelings can be subconscious "thinking"

I knew it. Intuition is more than just blind guesses. Gut feelings and intuition can be the result of fast thinking processes that happen on a subconscious level.

A new study shows the value of intuition or gut feelings. This type of feeling or thought can come from the brain drawing on past experiences and external cues to make a decision – but one that happens so fast the reaction is at a non-conscious level. All we’re aware of is a general feeling that something is right or wrong.

A fascinating example from the study:

a Formula One driver who braked sharply when nearing a hairpin bend without knowing why – and as a result avoided hitting a pile-up of cars on the track ahead, undoubtedly saving his life.

“The driver couldn’t explain why he felt he should stop, but the urge was much stronger than his desire to win the race,” explains Professor Hodgkinson. “The driver underwent forensic analysis by psychologists afterwards, where he was shown a video to mentally relive the event. In hindsight he realised that the crowd, which would have normally been cheering him on, wasn’t looking at him coming up to the bend but was looking the other way in a static, frozen way. That was the cue. He didn’t consciously process this, but he knew something was wrong and stopped in time.”

Malcolm Gladwell wrote about this phenomenon in his fascinating book "Blink," which I recommend to fans of intuition or gut feelings.

Now why did my gut feelings tell me that Georgetown would win the NCAA basketball tournament this year? There goes my bracket.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

World's biggest crab cake

Have to feed a lot of people? How about serving a monster crab cake? A Delaware seafood processor cooked up the world's record 235 pound crab cake because, well, it had never been done and it was National Seafood Week.

The record crab cake took 152 pounds of crab meat, plus breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, onions, and pasteurized eggs.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Battle for coral reefs

If you've ever wanted to get rowdy and simply slaughter the villains that harm coral reefs, here's your chance. There's a new game at that lets you slaughter anything that might harm a coral reef.

You pick your fish weapon character, hit "start," and shoot all the debris that you can, before the evil fish hit you with exploding weapons.

"Our scene begins three years following the great Arctic devastation. With 80% of the planet now underwater, humanity's only hope is to help heal what is remaining. Clear the ocean of waste, and bring back the amazing coral reefs."

Hat tip: Water Words That Work

Monday, March 17, 2008

Speedy ocean bacteria dart after food

Who knew ocean bacteria are faster than a cheetah? And even more amazing, who knew that this darting behavior is globally important, possibly impacting climate change? How fast are they exactly? See geeky numbers below.

What are ocean bacteria chasing, that they have to be speed demons? Micro patches of food that don't last very long, like the yummy goop that leaks out of popped algae or the food trail left behind by a sinking particle.

Scientists set up artificial food patches and filmed through a microscope to observe the streaking bacteria. Roman Stocker, one author of the paper, says "If you are a bacterium, the ocean looks like a desert to you, where food mostly comes in small patches that are rare and ephemeral. When you encounter one, you want to use it rapidly."

OK, so how fast are they really? The single rotating flagellum of P. haloplanktis propels it forward at the amazing speed of 500 body lengths per second, way faster than a cheetah's mere 30 body lengths per second. That's relatively blazing fast for the ocean bacteria. Of course, with a body length of 2 microns (0.000002 meters), this relative speed has the microscopic bacteria swimming at the amazing pace of about 10 feet per hour. Wow. That's just a bit faster than a slug, but slower than a snail.

And what's the climate change link? Scientists believe that the actions of bacteria may determine whether oceans produce or consume CO2 in the future. We gotta know.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Scary monsters make baby sand dollars split in two

Now here's an idea...if danger threatens, split in two and maybe one of you will survive. That's what baby sand dollars do.

When they are just 4-day-old cute tiny pluteus larvae (left), the baby sand dollars split in two when confronted with the smell of dover sole (a predatory fish).

Reminds me of the joke of two guys threatened by a bear, one bends over to lace up his running shoes and the other says "you can't outrun a bear." The first guy responds "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you."

Hat tip: Mike Hirshfield

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Person eaten by giant squid...

...almost...OK, person roughed up a bit by a giant squid...or maybe a pretty big squid that isn't quite a giant...well, how about person bothered by a big squid. Darn, now the headline has lost it's zing.

Here's how it went down, according to

Hemmed in on all sides by two metre-long, tentacled sea demons, Scott Cassell must have thought he’d breathed his last...

30 minutes later he emerged from what would have been his watery grave, just off the coast of Mexico, saved only by his armour-plated diving suit.

A veteran deep sea film maker, Cassell was on a mission to get an image on camera of the Mexican Rojo Diablo, the 'red demon' or Humboldt squid. At up to 50 kilograms, these vicious sea beasts can throw enough weight to do some serious damage to an unprotected diver. Cassell was anything but unscathed after his own terrifying encounter. “I later discovered bruises on me the size of oranges, as well as several scratches in my anti-squid armour suit,” he says.

From his studies, Cassell has hints of much larger creatures, perhaps a giant squid big enough to give rise to the legends of the "Kraken."

The giant squid is a creature that has fascinated people for centuries. Thankfully mysterious, we see just enough of the giant squid to keep our curiosity alive. And there are even rumors and slight bits of information about the even more rare, and bigger, colossal squid. Recently, Japanese scientists filmed the capture of a giant squid, as shown in this YouTube clip.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Salmon doom and gloom

If you live on the west coast, kiss your favorite salmon goodbye. You probably won't be eating it this year. And nobody knows what'll happen next year.

Salmon doom and gloom strikes California and Oregon, and threatens Washington. And don't get too giddy, Alaska, because you could be next. It's happened before in Alaska, and it can happen again.

For the first time, we're facing a total closure of salmon fishing off California and Oregon. Washington may escape the ax for now, but that doesn't mean everything is fine here.

Does this matter? Are salmon important? Yes, salmon are a symbol of what many of us like best about the northwest. They're a common cultural icon (see photo at left), and an economic power in the northwest. The health of slamon is also a good measure of the health of our natural ecosystems, since salmon need healthy rivers, creeks, watersheds, and oceans.

What comes next? Angst and pain, and maybe a renewed commitment to right the wrongs caused by a century of salmon abuse. One can always hope.

Nitrogen waste cleaned up by healthy streams

The best way to fight disease is robust good health, and that applies to rivers and bays as well as people. Healthy rivers can shrug off nitrogen pollution, and avoid the dread of eutrophication and resulting dead zones.

Nitrogen runoff kills rivers and bays, creating dead zones by over-fertilizing and using up oxygen. But now there's a new option on the table for solving the problem, healthy rivers. A big new study says healthy rivers can suck up nitrogen and use it as fertilizer for healthy growth of plants and animals, instead of the unhealthy overgrowth of eutrophication. Go healthy rivers!!

This isn't to say that healthy rivers can use up any amount of nitrogen we throw at them. There are limits to how much nitrogen can be consumed even by healthy rivers. But this new finding is important because the value of healthy rivers is largely ignored in efforts to control eutrophication and eliminate dead zones. Instead, the dominant emphasis is on controlling nitrogen runoff, which is important but so far hasn't solved the problem.

Nitrogen waste from fertilizers and sewage is a big problem. The famous Gulf of Mexico dead zone comes from excess fertilizer runoff in the farm belt. The nitrogen fertilizes algae blooms and the algae rot and use up oxygen, killing oysters, fish and most underwater animals.

A gigantic study of rivers and streams from around the US has brought clear consensus on an urgent message: We need healthy stream ecosystems to clean up nitrogen waste.

Healthy stream and river ecosystems consume nitrogen and convert some to animal bodies, while some goes into the atmosphere in bacterial magic called denitrification.

It would be interesting to do a cost/benefit analysis, and I assume that'll be a next step for these scientists. How much does it cost to stop nitrogen runoff at the source, compared to maintaining healthy rivers and consuming the nitrogen in streams and rivers?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Smooth walrus has got moves

Hat tip: Zooillogix, Oyster's Garter

Elephant nose fish finds food with electricity

That strange wand on the elephant nose fish (right) is an electric food detector. This bizarre fish finds food the way people with metal detectors find coins on a beach. Looks kind of similar too, check the photos.

The elephant nose fish generates an electric field and then waves a detector that "feels" for something that disturbs the field. Food for the fish, or gold doubloons for the people.

The so-called "nose" is really a modified chin, and since the elephant nose fish can also use it to avoid obstacles, it has the unusual distinction of being able to "see" with it's chin.

And, you can even have one in your aquarium, and watch it get active at night, feeling around for food with electricity.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Prozac kills endangered species by making people too happy?

With doom and gloom everywhere, more people are reaching for Prozac and other happy pills. Is this a quick fix that erases the motivation for great art and other higher callings like saving endangered species?

Eric Wilson says yes, and he worries that America's obsession with happiness threatens to purge sadness and undermine higher callings like great art. If this is true, will Prozac also kill nature conservation?

What motivates nature conservation? Is it sadness over a dire situation? If so, then will the Prozac epidemic drain from us the driving force that moves people to save endangered species?

I'm not so sure that doom and gloom is a useful motivator. Are we driven to save endangered species because science says they're in trouble? Will we stop climate change because of scientific doom and gloom about an apocalyptic future? Or does the motivation for nature conservation come from a different place?

I think doom and gloom hinders action on nature conservation because it paralyzes people. People are more strongly moved towards conservation when they feel empowered and capable, and engaged in building solutions. In contrast, a statement of impending doom, absent a productive solution, seems to drive people away from the cause of conserving nature. Who wants to go into futility?

It's probably a good idea to question Prozac and other options for changing and enhancing people. Are they useful? Are they ethical? How do they change individuals and human cultures?

There's some sense to the argument that it's right to be sad in the face of things bad. But I think doom and gloom can be taken too far. In fact, I think doom and gloom has been taken too far in conservation.It's a laughable stereotype that conservationists are nothing but doom and gloom. The Al Gore cartoon at left wouldn't be funny if there wasn't at least a grain of truth in it.

Eric Wilsom may be right that melancholia is an endangered emotion that needs protection. But conservation is a human arena that needs a little more happiness, not less.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Did you know you're drinking recycled water?

That's right, the water you drink has been used by someone else, and it's not all cleaned up.

So those hormones and blood pressure drugs and everything else that people take is coming atcha in your water. And if you're a man's man, it might just turn you into David Beckham. Except without the Spice Girl wife. And without the wicked kick.

What happens with the drugs we use to stay well, be happy, and avoid pregnancy? More and more, we're finding them in rivers and fish, and they create unique and unpleasant problems like "intersex" fish," with male AND female traits).

The latest news is that those drugs and hormones are in our drinking water, not just our rivers. It ain't just fish that gotta worry, it's us too.

Don't think that bottled water will save you, by now you should know that it's not necessarily any safer. It's often just tap water with an attitude.

All water is recycled, because we all live downstream from somebody. (Well, actually not me, but I did that on purpose.) That means you're drinking used water, and if you're really unlucky it's been used many times. Do you trust their sewage and septic systems?

Now there's a new concern in reusing water, our medicines, drugs, and yes, hormone pills.

The water cleanup we use is only designed to get rid of the major risks, and it works pretty well. Bugs that cause disease are mostly cleared from waste, and we mostly don't get sick. At least that's true in the wealthy world. But our cleanup doesn't get rid of everything.

So drink up! And drop me a comment if you're a manly man who's turning female, I might be able to tell you why.

Monday, March 10, 2008

You get what you pay for, even in placebos

A 10-cent pill doesn't kill pain as well as a $2.50 pill, even when they are identical placebos, according to a provocative study by Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University.

People expect to pay for worthwhile medicine. And...since it works in probably applies to conservation or any other problem-solving activity. OK, so everyone needs to send me money and then my work will seem more valuable?! Please email me and I'll let you know where to send cash, checks, and negotiable securities.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

You WANT this shrimp, now tell me why

Here's a seafood dinner that you can't resist:

a West African Black Tiger Prawn. I have never seen shrimp this big (these things are each the size of my forearm), and we’ve had a lot of fun selling them, putting them on the menu as "A Shrimp." They weigh about a pound apiece, and we’re serving them marinated in lemon, thyme and olive oil, grilled, over squid ink risotto.
That's from Barton Seaver of Hook. He continues:

this (shrimp) from Partenaire Co. is in our hands within 24 hours of its capture, and $.80 of every dollar that I spend goes to the West African village fishermen, thus directly to the communities which need it most.
By the way, this shrimp is sustainably caught, and by now YOU WANT IT, and you're ready to try it. But how did it go for you? Are you (1), (2), (3), or (4) below?

(1) Ready to try it before you heard sustainable?
(2) Wanted it, but since most shrimp are unsustainable you waited until you heard sustainable?
(3) Want it, but ready to fire off a comment asking "who says it's sustainable?"
(4) Other--maybe still don't want it?

I think this is the future of sustainable seafood, and so does Barton Seaver. It's shrimp or other products that come with a story. It's not just about sustainability standards, and 3rd party audits with paper trails. People will buy sustainability stories that include biological sustainability but go beyond avoiding overfishing and into social and economic issues. But most of all, people will buy stories.'s the most important point...people will buy sustainable seafood that tingles their desire. These kind of stories will live and die with the credibility of the person or business making the claim. If you trust Hook, you'll buy the story of the African shrimp.

Am I right? And if you don't mind, take a second and post a comment saying when the deal closed for you (or didn't close), 1, 2, 3, or 4. Thanks.

Finally, proof of global warming

Friday, March 07, 2008

Fish whisperer coaxes bluefin tuna to mate

Getting fish to breed in captivity is hard. When the fish are half-ton cruise missles, it's even harder.

But bluefin tuna are so valuable that it's worth trying. Now a self-proclaimed fish whisperer says he's done it.

"We get into their minds, we find the Y factor," said Hagen Stehr. It involves massive tanks, mood lighting that simulates moon and sun cycles, and the right temperature.

Is it worth all this effort? Probably, since bluefin tuna are endangered, and worth a fortune when they're ready to sell to Japanese fish markets, upwards of $50,000 each for the best fish.

"Some fish are easier than others to breed," he said. "The southern bluefin tuna is the holy grail, the cream of the cream, the ultimate."

And if you think fish sex isn't interesting, here's a marine biologist who says the sex lives of fish may unlock some of the mysteries of human sexuality. See, fish ARE sexy.

Mythical sea creature surfaces

"Have you seen the white whale?" Now you have, check out these pictures of Moby Orca, the white killer whale. Once the stuff of legends, now we know the white whale is real.

Answering the plea of Captain Ahab in Melville's Moby Dick, Scientists studying fish spotted the white orca off Alaska's Aleutian Islands.

There's much to this sighting, beyond positive ID and photos of a nearly-white Orcinus orca, or killer whale. Now, combing the ocean, scientists are putting the truth or lie to many myths and mysteries of the sea, for better or worse. Would we prefer the mysteries to remain? Or is it better to know?

The white whale is a large male, apparently healthy, and it's not an albino because it has small amounts of light yellow or light brown color in some patches.

A magnificent sight, a myth revealed, and the ocean is a tiny bit less mysterious today. But not to worry, I'm sure there are many, many more secrets still hiding. Goodbye for now, Moby orca, go back down to the earth's last uncharted realm.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ocean deserts expand

Do you like to eat, or would you rather starve? If you're a swordfish or bluefin tuna and you like to eat, you got some bad news today. Your chance of starving is going up; ocean areas where food is scarce are getting bigger.

Maybe we should start selling satellite-linked GPS units to fish so they can download daily food maps and make a living.

Now wait a minute, you're saying, this is hard to keep clear. Dead zones and deserts, excess nutrients and low nutrients, it's a mess and maybe it'll all just balance out.

This is different than dead zones, and yeah, it's confusing. So please pay attention even though there's a brief scary science blurb cmoing.

Some ocean areas have rich biological productivity, and some don't. The black areas above right are the "don't" areas where food is scarce. They're called gyres and you can tell when you're in one because the water is clear, really-really clear. Like 100 foot visibility or more. Oceanographers will tell you this all happens becaues of wind, currents, and "down-welling" which result in low levels of nutrients. These low productivity areas are getting bigger (red part of the maps below right).

The scary news is that the low productivity areas have expanded substantially in the last decade. If this is part of a long-term trend, we should probably be worried. The research says it's probably linked to climate change, uh-oh. But since this is new stuff, there are some who say links to climate change are unproven (see note at bottom of link).

Proof, harumph. We need it, but if we're smart we won't wait until we lock up all the details, cuz those little rascals are REALLY hard to pin down.

We do seem to be forcing ocean extremes to get more extreme. Some food-rich productive areas are tipping over into eutrophication and dead zones. Some low productivity food-scarce areas are growing. This could undermine the fish and other animals that we rely on for food. It's an ocean future that we didn't plan and we probably won't like, and we should get moving in protecting the things we like. It's simply prudent.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Your private tropical island getaway...

...needs fresh water. What are you going to do? Try a windmall that makes fresh water from salt water.

This is a low-tech solution that doesn't require expensive batteries and operates using a simple, commercially available windmill with minor modifications. It can produce enough water for a village of around 500 people.

Sounds like something the Professor from Gilligan's Island made with palm trees, coconut shells, wire and tape.

But in this case it's real, developed by the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in The Netherlands. It uses a high-pressure water pump to push water through a reverse osmosis membrane.

Building a better world, one fish at a time

Congratulations to the winners of this year's Seafood Champions Awards. These awards "annually recognize individuals and companies for outstanding leadership in promoting environmentally responsible seafood." The Seafood Choices Alliance presented these awards last week at the Boston Seafood Show.

I'm especially pleased that The Plitt Company is one of 2008's winners, thanks to their leadership in advancing sustainable seafood. According to the Seafood Choices Alliance:
Plitt was the first seafood wholesaler in Chicago to achieve Marine Stewardship Council Chain of Custody certification and is committed to helping make MSC products more widely available. Currently, the company is working with the Ocean Conservancy to encourage customer involvement in improving Gulf of Mexico red snapper conservation.

I first encountered Plitt when Plitt's Chairman and CEO Bob Sullivan contacted me and asked whether I could help him advance sustainability within his seafood business. We talked, I met Plitt's marketing director, the dynamic Mary Smith, others from Ocean Conservancy got involved, and now we have a very productive partnership advancing the shared goal of seafood sustainability.

Bob reached out at a very important time, and his company's ongoing involvement has demonstrated the value of this partnership approach. I'm extremely grateful that he reached "across the aisle" to align his seafood business with conservationists, a bold move.

Bob also proved the value of blogfish since he contacted me after reading blofish in the early days when the only other readers shared my last name or home address. If I ever have to justify putting energy into blogfish, I just mention Bob and Plitt.

Congratulations to The Plitt Company, and thanks to Bob, Mary and the entire Plitt team for advancing a new approach to sustainable seafood.

BTW, another of this year's winners, Barton Seaver of Hook restaurant in DC is also a friend of blogfish.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Natural debt, the cost of resource over-development

If you catch all of my fish, do you owe me anything? Um, yeah. And now the debt is real because an economist said so.

I'm pleased to see this erudite exposition on the damage done by resource use, and it's unequal distribution. The result: harm does trickle down the income ladder to those on the bottom. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that harm and damage are what trickles down most effectively.

The project is a valiant step forward, and it will help legitimize the desire for correction that many people feel when they learn about unequal distribution of costs and benefits resulting from trade in many valuable natural resources, like fish. Now that the costs are quantified, perhaps they can be "internalized" which means the costs get chewed up and digested by our economic institutions so that they matter when people are making decisions.

An interesting sidelight, one of the authors bears a famous name from the history of economics, although some true believers in capitalism may think the name is taken in vain in this paper. I prefer to believe that the great thinker would blanch if he heard what's said in his name these days.

In my layman's view, the modern Adam Smith's "Debt of Nations" is the logical follow-on to the original Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations," now that much capital has flowed since his seminal work. And fun to note that the modern Smith hails from UC Berkeley.

I think it's time for a new bumper sticker:

What debt-redistribution scheme would Adam Smith drive?

runner's high proven, as if runners need proof

Here's a validation going out to all of you endurance athletes...

Runner's high proven by science.

Natural opiates were identified in the brains of runners after a 2 hour run, using a PET scan (positron emission tomography). In other words, runners really do get high.

Jonesing for a run? It's because you're a junkie and you need your fix. Thank goodness nobody has yet figured out a way to make it illegal. The story is in:
"The Runner's High: Opioidergic Mechanisms in the Human Brain" are published in the journal 'Cerebral Cortex'.
I don't know about you, but I read Cerebral Cortex every day.

Of course, any endurance athlete doesn't need this science to know the truth, we've all been there. Like the time I ran 5 1/2 hours in the hills east of Pebble Beach, or the SF marathon when I first ran under 3 hours. I'm not fast, but I've been a runner for a long time, and I grew up watching this guy on the right. Now he was an ATHLETE. RIP Steve Prefontaine, although peace is not the word that comes quickly to mind when thinking about Pre.

Now please excuse me while I step outside for a couple of hours

Monday, March 03, 2008

Live fish shooters in red wine?

Care for some live fish shooters? It's a Flemish custom that's drawing ire from animal rights activists.

Take a close look at the photo, those are live grondeling in a saucer of red wine about to get slurped by the man at the left with the classic sideburns. And note the druid in the background, watching intently. This is not your father's fraternity party. It's actually an interesting pagan-derived, church-sponsored ritual with origins deep in the mists of the region's history, perhaps derived from ancient Celtic traditions.

There's been a serious fight over the drinking of live fish, including litigation and a temporary halt in 2001. And in Geraardsbergen, the tradition predates the foundation of Belgium, which was established only in the 19th century. "Belgium is a creation from 1830," a spokesperson said, "Geraardsbergen was founded in 1068, and people are a lot more interested in what their forefathers did than in Belgium."

The fish are important bystanders in the practice, which may be no more cruel to the little groundeling than what would happen if they were eaten by predatory fish.

Carnival of the blue 10

Now live at Kate Wing's blog. Stop by for the best in ocean blogging and Kate's inimitable way of having some fun with a tough job.

Where else can you figure out what the following three things have in common?

-Molten iron chicken kimchee in space
-albino rock crab
-the Pope
-Charles Darwin

OK, four things, but Darwin and the Pope are kind of similar.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

New dams in the western US? Really?

Yes we need water, but dams come with a cost. We've learned many painful lesssons from the great dam-building era in the American west. Nevertheless, Western states are now out in the hills looking for new dam sites.

Killing salmon is one of the major results of dams in the northwest. Dams block habitat, kill fish directly, and make rivers a poor home for salmon.

We've learned these lessons, and even begun to remove dams from rivers when salmon restoration costs more than the dams are worth.

With this knowledge, it's a harsh bit of news to read that new dams are being considered. But we're in a tough situation. Just like proposals to generate electricity from ocean wind, tides, and waves, it's probably not right to just say not in my backyard (NIMBY) to all proposals for construction in rivers and the ocean.

Can we do dams right, knowing what we know now? Certainly not if we rely on the kind of planning we had in the last round of dam-building. We need to choose carefully where we build new large natural resource projects, and some important places should be strictly off limits. We need to talk openly and clearly about the tradeoffs and what's lost when we build. And people who care need to have a voice.