Friday, January 27, 2006
Columnist dives into
Several people commented on my arowana column last week, and I learned
that not all these fish cost a fortune.
"You can get small ones for about $100," my dinner party hostess told me
"They get more expensive as they get bigger."
I discovered color means a lot, too. The red ones seem to be the most
prized. One Asian store ranks their red ones as grade 1 and grade 2.
"Grade 2 is more cheaper but less beautiful," says the store's Internet
ad. Another online fish merchant offers arowana for $19.95 and up.
A reader e-mailed me that someone appears to be raising arowana in a
public pond on Oahu. The reader enjoys watching this beautiful and
graceful swimmer, but when the fish grows big, a curious thing happens:
It disappears. Whoever removes the large fish replaces it with a small
one, and the cycle begins again.
About my Jan. 6 column on how we perceive risks, I wrote that traveling
a mile by bicycle is 14 times as likely to be fatal than traveling a
mile by car. Ed, an Oklahoma instructor of the League of American
Bicyclists, wanted to know where I got those figures.
The numbers came from a British study, via an article in Popular Science
magazine about risk assessment. Here in the United States, according to
National Safety Council figures posted on a University of Pennsylvania
Web site, the risk of dying during a bike-mile versus a car-mile is
worse than in Britain: 15 to 1.
Ed wrote me that a study he read concluded that cycling is less risky
than riding in a car on a per-hour basis. Another reader, William, felt
that I should have used surfing as an example of risk-taking, since some
people have no other means of transportation than their bicycles.
"I think it was Harry Truman who said there are lies, damned lies, and
statistics," Ed e-mailed back. We agreed that risk is all in how you
look at it, my point in mentioning bike-riding at all in a column about
Another e-mail came from Victoria, a mystery writer. I'm guessing
Victoria is from the mainland because she wrote to ask if Hawaii hosts
any toxic fish. Victoria needs to poison a character in her story, set
around the year 1400.
I told her about pufferfish, which contain one of the most potent
poisons in nature, tetrodotoxin. Eight people in Hawaii have died from
Victoria didn't need the science on this subject to be too detailed, she
wrote. She just wanted enough accuracy so someone like myself would not
be pulled out of the story saying, "This could never happen!"
That reminds me of another e-mail that came out of the blue last week
my comments about the 2002 film "Whale Rider." The marine
biology in it was so wrong, I wrote, that I couldn't stay in the movie.
"To start worrying about what type of whale it is just misses the whole
point altogether," wrote Chris from New Zealand. "What you have taken
far too seriously is yourself."
Oh, well. Victoria knows what I meant.
Thanks, everyone, for writing.