Originally created 03/17/04

Odds and Ends



BOSTON -- A company says its freezing technique allows some lobsters to come back to life when thawed - just in time to become dinner.

Trufresh LLC, of Suffield, Conn., discovered that the method it has used for years on salmon also revived some lobsters after their subzero sojourns, potentially resulting in fresher-than-frozen crustaceans.

The company is looking for partners to begin selling the lobsters commercially.

Company chairman Barnet L. Liberman acknowledged only about 12 of roughly 200 healthy lobsters survived the freezing, which involves immersing the lobster in a brine 40 below zero. In addition, the company hasn't researched how long a frozen lobster can survive - overnight is the longest period so far.

Liberman emphasized the company's goal isn't to provide customers with lobsters that always come back to life. He just wants to supply tasty lobsters.

Still, Trufresh hasn't hesitated to tout the lobsters' restorative qualities, saying it plans to ship the lobsters with rubber bands on the claws, as a consumer protection measure.

"I wouldn't remove the rubber bands," Liberman said. "It's not worth the risk."

Robert Bayer of the University of Maine's Lobster Institute said he was intrigued about the Trufresh process, but dubious. "I'm guess I am skeptical about a lobster being brought back to life," Bayer said.

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GUILFORD, Vt. -- Just up the hill from the Gaines family's dairy farm stands a small building housing a different sort of enterprise, one that the operators hope will provide personalized service - for the recently deceased.

Jim and Ellen Curley say their new venture, a human crematory, is a small family business that will provide options to the community and will help the Gaines' seventh-generation dairy farm survive.

"I view it as a service to my generation and the older generation," said Jim Curley, 54. "We're a low-volume small scale operation with a beautiful setting."

About 40 percent of Vermonters choose cremation, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a national trade group based in South Burlington. Nationally, the figure is 25 percent.

The Curleys got permission from their neighbors, the Gaines, to use a wooded spot of land for their crematory. With milk prices hitting a 25-year low last year, the Gaines saw Vermont Blessings as a way to try to stay afloat.

"Having a lot of animals, we do come in contact with death," said Jackie Gaines, who lives on the farm and runs a dog boarding business there.

Vermont Blessings has done one cremation so far. The company plans to woo customers with promises of scenery, privacy and personal service.

"Our small-scale unhurried approach offers the most personalized and reverent cremation available," says the company's ad in the local newspaper.

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. -- At a local Wendy's restaurant, customers can request a Frank Sinatra tune to go with their burgers and fries.

"My motto is if I know it, I will play it," said Joe Cervenka, a pianist who plays during lunch every weekday at a Wendy's in Grand Island.

Cervenka, 52, plays songs by Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and other artists on his portable piano.

"It's supposed to be portable," said Cervenka, who suffers from cerebral palsy and walks with crutches. "For me, it's not."

Before his current gig, Cervenka worked for various human services organizations, but the disease eventually forced him out of that work. But the disease has not kept his fingers from tickling the ivories.

He said that's good news because his musical ability is primarily in his hands.

"I'm no singer," he said.

Cervenka said he likes the hours because they allow him to spend evenings with his wife and three children. He also said he feels like he accomplishes more in his two hours at Wendy's than he did in eight hours of work in other places.

"This music thing is just a lot more enjoyable," he said.

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BEIJING -- Chinese veterinarians have begun showing American-born panda Hua Mei sex-education videos featuring pandas mating to prepare her for "blind dates" with Chinese suitors, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday.

The 4-year-old animal, whose name means "China-America," arrived in China from San Diego in February. After her month of quarantine is complete, officials are hoping she will quickly mate with a panda at her new home, the Wolong Giant Panda Protection Research Center in southwestern China.

"We hope she can get pregnant by the end of March," said Wei Rongping, assistant director of the research center. "But first of all, she should have some sexual education."

Because Hua Mei has been in captivity since she was born, she has little knowledge of sex, so officials have shown her videos of mating pandas and brought her to see other pandas mating.

Similar sex education courses given to other pandas in the center had resulted in natural matings.

Hua Mei has been assigned four prospective mates.

"I do not know which of them will be lucky enough to mate our princess," Wei said. "It's all up to Hua Mei to find her own 'Mr. Right."'