Alessandro Prodan has created one of the most natural looking foliage renders I've yet seen, using Maya Paint Effects rendered in Mental Ray. http://marlas.cgsociety.org/gallery/
One can construct crosshatch shaders in Maya without needing any special plugins.
Creating a plasma ball can be difficult with standard tools, but is actually fairly easy using Maya Paint Effects.
In intriguing idea occured to me the other day relating to the groove markings one can see on Phobos. I decided to explore this idea using nParticles.
With the introduction of nParticles in Maya 2009 one now has a tool that can handle pouring liquids.
With Maya2009 now available I hope to post some new examples using nParticles soon.
One can animate the enable attribute on nCloth constraints to grab and release the cloth. When a constraint becomes enabled it rebuilds its links based on the relative positions at that frame.
It is relatively simple to implement a bubble style carpenter's level with nCloth.
I'm happy to report that the Maya Fluids team (Jos Stam, Julia Pakalns, Martin Werner and myself) will be presented technical achievement awards from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts.
One can create raindrop ripples on a fluid wake by randomly emitting density into fluid voxels with a simple expression.