Category Archives: animals

Sapporo is Good Eating


My wife and I recently made a short trip to Japan with another couple.  We went to Sapporo in the northern island of Hokkaido and to Toyama and Kanazawa on the main island of Honshu.  As the other couple are ardent foodies, this was primarily an eating holiday with food markets, street food and restaurants being the order of the day.  A couple of hiking trips, some shopping and sightseeing was done during the times we had to allow the food to digest.

On arrival in Sapporo, our first order of business was to seek out the seafood market (there are two, Nijo and Chuo-ku markets and we went to both).  Our mission, apart from gawking at the variety of fish and marine creatures on sale, was to seek out and devour a heaping big serving of Taraba King Crab.  These guys are monstrously, nightmarishly large but also delicious.

Another highlight was the Ganso Ramen Yokocho or Ramen Street.  In the midst of the flashy neon lights of the modern, vibrant Susukino district, there is a small narrow lane between buildings which house a series of small stalls which seem to be a relic from another time and which serve some of the best ramen on the planet.  These hole in the walls are small.  The smallest could only accommodate about 6 diners while the largest could probably sit about 16 diners.  We visited this street for dinner and supper a number of times.  Once we went around the witching hour on a wet rainy night to find queues of men in business suits waiting patiently in the rain for their turn to sit in the few seats available.  Our favorites included a delicious clam ramen served with basil oil and the Hokkaido local speciality of sweetcorn and butter ramen.

It may seem strange but we also tried out a French and an Italian restaurant and the Italian place, Picchu, was really memorable for using local Japanese ingredients in a creative interpretation of Italian cooking; a Taraba Crab meat sausage is an example.

Hokkaido is also famous for its milk and ice cream so a few helpings of that was also sampled especially the green tea ice cream.

Anyway, here are some photos to whet your appetite.

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Striptease


Hi everyone!  I celebrated my birthday last week and I left clues in one of my posts to let you guys know where in the world I was.  Well, I waited and waited but none of you showed up to my birthday party.

What’s wrong?  Couldn’t solve the clues? Got lost? Got mugged in Tokyo and loss your memory?  Got stomped on by Godzilla?

Well anyway, you didn’t show up and it was your loss cause I chose to celebrate my birthday in my birthday suit!  Yes…..au naturel.  Bet you are kicking yourself for not getting on that early flight to Japan.

After decades of thinking about it, I finally got a chance to go to a ryokan and go into an outdoor onsen.  And I took the plunge!  I embraced the whole experience which involves letting it all hang out in a public bath.

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I Mean, …Ten Thousand Monkeys Can’t be Wrong

For the uninitiated, let me walk you through the process.

Step 1: Get Naked. – all you take with you is a tiny towel that is barely big enough to cover your privates.  Now it seems that the native Japanese tend to strut around with the tiny towel folded neatly on top of their heads.  Those less accustomed to public nudity may rather uncomfortably use it to shield the nether regions from prying eyes but it really doesn’t help much.  I tend to subscribe to the strategy of using the towel to cover the face so that no one knows who you are.

Step 2: Soap and wash. – There are washing stations lined up along the side of a wall where you are expected to sit on tiny stools and wash  and clean yourself thoroughly. NOTE:- You Have to be CLEAN before entering the hot spring pool.  Soaping yourself in the hot pool is a major faux pas; nay – a major diplomatic incident; nay reason for going to war.

Step 3:  Enter the hot spring fed pool and soak while enjoying the cold outdoors.  The waters heal all kinds of physical and mental ailments and tiredness.

So here we go …….

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Dressed for the Occasion in a Yukata (which apparently should not be confused with Yakuza)
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To prove your worthiness to enter the waters of the onsen, some torture may have to be endured
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Isn’t this just magical?

Well, that’s pretty much the end of this post.  If you were expecting some nudity, shame on you!   Please remember this is a family oriented blog.

Now, do you really want to see the squirrel disrobed?  I mean, do you really?  Are you sure?  Your final warning.  It’s not too late to turn back.  Last chance to save your eyes.

If you really want to see then follow this link…… I WANT TO SEE!

P.S. when asked about wearing his birthday suit for the occasion, LGS merely told the paparazzi that “it needed ironing”.

Embarrassing Moments in Science


Regular readers will know that the Realm of the Lone Grey Squirrel loves to celebrate excellence……….excellence in failure, that is!  Yes, there is something about epic fails that fills the heart with soul healing mirth and with admiration for the gumption of those who dared to try and fall flat on their faces.  That is why, the IgNobel Awards are frequently feted here.

But recently, the Squirrel had been alerted to a new source of inspiration.  Fieldwork Fails is a book that has a collection of stories of scientists hard at work in the field collecting data and making a fool of themselves in the process.  Kind of a tribute to those who push the boundaries of science and find that the sometimes the boundaries push back.

Here is a couple of examples from Fieldwork Fails which is compiled and illustrated by Jim Jourdane.

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Now I have a few personal examples that I could add to the compilation on account that I am a scientist, have done fieldwork and have experienced epic fails.  But the following is one of my favorite, true, “cross my heart and hope to die” yarns.

This was early in my career as a conservationist and I joined a scientific expedition to a part of the Malaysian jungle that had been relatively poorly investigated by science.  I was really inexperienced at that time but had the wonderful privilege of being in the company of some very respected biologists and botanists and learning from them.  In return, all these eminent scientists asked of me was to carry all their heavy gear through the hot, steamy jungle.

We operated out of a base camp that was almost totally constructed of jungle material.  We slept on stretcher like cots made out of wooden poles and canvas under a shelter that was constructed from various palm leaves laid over a wooden frame.

On one occasion, I had a chance to follow a group of three entomologists who were leaders in their field.  (Entomologist = someone crazy about insects).  After a long day out in the field collecting insect specimens from various traps, we returned to camp and plopped our tired bodies down on to adjacent cots.

It was there, while we lay in the fading light, nursing our sore muscles, that one of the guys spotted an extremely large stick insect up in the rafters of our crude shelter. Now, Malaysia is famous for its many species of stick insects – some of which are very large.

Cameron Highlands - Stick Insect

Anyway, all four of us continued to lie on our cots exhausted, observing the creature from afar and there then ensured an academic debate as to the identity of the curious visitor in our rafters.  One was sure that it was a rare species.  Another disagreed, citing the proportion of the body to the head did not fit the species characteristics.  The third insisted it was yet another species based on the structure and positioning of the legs.  For once, I was wise enough to keep silent and let the experts argue it out.

After, about 15 minutes of heated discussion, one of the experts declared, “There’s only one way to settle this!”.  With that, he got up, reached for his butterfly net and scooped the insect from the rafters for closer examination.  With the prize in hand, all three gathered round to make the final identification.

That’s when they realised that it wasn’t a stick insect at all, it was a …..stick.

Surfing Outback


This week LGS is stepping in the ol’ time machine (otherwise known as my dusty photo album) to go back some 15 years.  It was not the best of times for me.  I was very  stressed, terribly unhealthy and quite unwell.  During this dip in my life, I took a trip to Australia to visit relatives.  I was so worn out that I slept most of the time there.  But I did go on a road trip with them towards the interior of Oz.

Our journey started from Perth and we made our way south for hundreds of kilometers to Albany before we struck out to the north and inland towards the heart of the continent.

 

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As it was spring, the journey started lush and green and colourful (Stirling Range National Park)
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Canola fields
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After the Stirling Range, we endured seemingly endless boring kilometers of flat, dry , dusty featureless landscape (the wild flowers were pretty though)
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Any distraction from the long drive was welcome.  Even a dog cemetery.
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But there were beautiful things to see if you took your time to look
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And there were local inhabitants to meet
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Finally, we made it to our destination of Hyden.  This is where we spent the night.
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Near by is the Hippo’s Yawn Cave.  Caves nearby have aboriginal hand paintings.
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And finally, this was what we traveled all those long dusty kilometers to do!  To go surfing! (Wave Rock, Hyden)

No chance of drowning or shark attack here!

 

Year of the Monkey


So according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, this is  the Year of the Monkey.  The Lone Grey Squirrel  traditionally has a new year message for his readers and here it is ………

ARE YOU INSANE?!!?!?!  WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU PUT THOSE GUYS IN CHARGE FOR A WHOLE YEAR!!!!!

Oh boy……now we’re in deep dodo.  Really?  Putting the monkeys in charge?

In the interest of fairness, the Lone Grey Squirrel polled the monkeys for their thoughts about running the year.

In this first interview, the subject, a young orangutan, was asked for his reaction to having a year for him and his kin to manage.  This was his response ……..

 

When asked whether they have any experience running the world for a whole year, the respondents were very indignant and pointed out that they have already been very influential in the fields of ………….

MOVIES

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MUSIC

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and POLITICS

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But the older and wiser primates have a more down to earth response to the Year with the monkeys in charge ………..

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So my advice to all of us is to hunker down for this new year, expect the unexpected, prepare for the worse and watch out for all those @%#*!$&! banana peels all over the place.

A Queer Duck


I know I seem to be mixing my metaphorical species but this squirrel is, as the English used to say, a “queer duck“.

Inspired by some of the sharing in the comments from the last post, (thanks everyone for sharing but especially eccentric were the habits of ksbeth and Mago), I decided to share with you one of my greatest eccentricities.

This queer duck of squirrel doesn’t eat anything  that has feathers.  I don’t eat chicken, duck, turkey or the Frankensteinish “Turducken“.

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The creepy and monster-ish Turducken (a boneless chicken stuffed into a boneless duck stuffed into a boneless turkey).

I also don’t eat pigeon, dove, quail, pheasant, etc.  Are you getting the picture?

How long have I had this peculiarity? Since I was about 5 years old.

Why don’t I eat my feathered friends?  Here’s where I have to lie down on the couch and tell you about my early childhood.  Here is  the sad story…………

One day, when I was about 5 years old, I happened upon an old woman who was slaughtering a chicken.  She had just used a knife to cut the chicken’s throat.  Then she squatted down, bent the neck of the chicken backwards and holding it above a bowl, let the blood drained out.  I watched stunned as the blood drain out, dripping and splattering into the bowl.

I asked the old woman why she was collecting the blood.  She turned her wrinkled face towards me and gave a toothless grin (at that age, she sure looked like a wicked witch to me!) and said in a creepy voice, “Why, I’m going to make it into a jelly for you to eat!”

I ran away screaming from the blood eating vampire witch!

After that, I refused to eat anything feathered.  This became a point of contention and contest of will between my mother and me.  As I grew older, she kept trying to get me to eat chicken.

There was a time when she would mince the chicken and mix it with mince pork to make one of my favorite dishes.  I would eat the dish and I could not consciously taste the chicken and yet I would still sense it unconsciously and throw up every time.  She eventually gave up.  The power of the mind truly is surprising.

And so this went on until my twenties when work and studies put me in situations where there was often nothing other than chicken to eat.  With the memory of the blood eating vampire witch beginning to fade, I finally was able to eat some chicken out of sheer necessity.

Since then I have eaten chicken and turkey to be polite on social occasions but still generally avoid them if I have a choice.  My friends now know to have a non-poultry option when they have me over for a meal.

The final twist in this craziness is that all through this time, there was one chicken dish that I have always eaten…….chicken satay.  Somehow, my mind decided that satay is too delicious to be chicken!

Satay is "NOT" chicken.
Satay is “NOT” chicken.

 

I guess if you have gotten to the end of this post, you may have come to the conclusion that LGS is  NUTS.  But I hope we can still be friends and if you do invite me over for dinner, remember, no birds but lots of nuts please.