Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nearly pointless post, aka underdog animals that defy the food chain and beat up bigger, meaner animals.

Summer school courses provide me with a great opportunity to post, because most of the time professors are reading verbatim from power points or, as the case is tonight, spending an hour and a half instructing the class on how to search library databases. I am not making this up. This is a class I had nearly the first day of undergrad and a few dozen times since. So I decided to do a little research of my own.

Ask Tiffany-Ann: I've always been a huge geek when it comes to random scales people invent to describe various phenomena, i.e. the Scoville Scale. A cool looking bug I saw the other day outside the law school reminded me of another, more sinister scale: the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. This handy scale allows you to quantify the agony you'd feel if, say, you were stung by this little guy:

The Tarantula Hawk (Pepsis Wasp). Otherwise known as the bug I spotted not eighteen inches from my exposed foot. It has perhaps the most painful sting in the Western Hemisphere. One unlucky victim described the sting thusly:

"To me, the pain is like an electric wand that hits you, inducing an immediate, excruciating pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations."

The one I saw looked happy enough walking around the flowers, so no worries, but get this: It hunts tarantulas, paralyzing them with a powerful sting, and then drags the still living spider into a lair where it lays eggs on its body. You can imagine the rest. Another interesting note: pepsis wasps are "nectavorous" and they often will drink fermented fruits which make them...well, inebriated.

So the encounter made me think about all those cool animals that by all logical means should be food for someone else instead prey on things much bigger or deadlier than themselves, i.e. the awesome mongoose. Or the duck. Haven't ducks been known to take down bears or something? Anyway, if you think of any other examples let me know.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Inspired Ideas

While it may be true that many of the quality products we enjoy were invented by mistake -- Wheaties, Post-its, the Slinky, Silly Putty -- there are a great many innovations that were born from hours of calculated hard work and scientific inquiry. Recently my colleague Nick Durst and I have dabbled in inventioneering and have developed some really exciting new ideas. We've decided to share a few with the world. Here's the first. And remember, patents pending.

Behold. The Dinnershnitzel. Inefficient multi-course meals are a thing of the past.

Note that each segment represents a mouth-watering garden of culinary delight. I've included some delicious suggestions for each course, because this edible Dachshund (then again, what Dachshund isn't...)is fully customizable. You pick what you want and it is synthesized into an efficent food product that is stuffed neatly into a handy casing.

Of course, I know exactly what your'e thinking. Willy Wonka already thought of it. While I agree that it resembles his magical gum in spirit, the Dinnershnitzel is a vast improvement on the concept. First, you are free to choose what course you start with: the Dinnershnitzel is linear in appearance only. Feel free to get your freak on and eat dessert first! Also, can you do this with Wonka's gum?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Baja, Part II

Here's some more pics of our recent trip. Most of them are provided courtesy of Giselle Tongi, a Filipino cousin of Mark's wife Rowena who came down with us. She also happens to be a huge celebrity in the Phillipines. Here's a pic of the house, and one of Mark and Rowena.

One great thing about the trip is riding the Mini Baja. The raw muscle of this 5hp hog will melt your face right off, provided the starter cord doesn't snap as you're pulling it.

From our hike to the top of the nearest volcano.

One of Mark's neighbors is a local woman who makes awesome homemade tortillas. As we have no microwave, this is how we make dang quesadillas. They taste like welding.


We took a hike across the lava field to some natural tide-fed pools.

The last night we were there we drove back into town to do some crab-eatin' and dancin' at a local hole-in-the-wall. The rubber chicken on Mark's mirror served to measure the relative bumpiness of the ride. Here, it's shakin' and bakin', baby.

Ladies and gentlemen, the BOMB. And a sexy model to boot. I love Tiffany-Ann's expression. I totally know she's thinking of my studliness as we take this picture.

We were fortunate enough to snap a photo of the action mid-explosion.

Crossing the world's busiest border. At one point, we straddled the line and for a few glorious minutes, the backseat of the car was in Mexico and the front in the U.S. We took the opportunity to stage a cockfight in the back while it was still nice and legal.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Baja, Part I

We made it back from our Baja trip, albeit after a brief stint in a Tijuana jail. I guess it's frowned upon to smuggle several hundred kilos of churros across the border. Oh well.

But seriously, here's a brief rundown of the trip. After strapping our sea kayak on the roof the best we could, we left LA around 4 am Wednesday morning and arrived at our first stop, Ensenada, around 9 am -- just in time for breakfast of huevos rancheros and a quick stroll down the shopping district.

Here's some random lucha libre masks.

We did take the opportunity to browse a local fireworks stand:

Obviously, none of these beauties could be found at your typical Black Cat firework outlet. These are basically TNT sold in parcel form. The cherry bombs in the center were just too tasty to pass up, and we ended up buying a few of the smaller ones and a BIG one, for the finale. We placed them in a far corner of the trunk and were sure to drive very carefully....

We arrived in San Quintin in one piece, around lunchtime. San Quintin is a small farming/fishing town and, incidentally, has the best fish tacos on the planet.

Mark's house is about 20 miles from town, and 18 of those miles are over a graded dirt road. It's the last two miles that make the trip truly an adventure: a singletrack sand path that winds its way along the beach and over several extinct volcanoes. By the way, if you are in the market for a fine off road vehicle, may I suggest a Saturn sedan?

We only got stuck three times! And bottomed out 17 times! Here, a passing group of locals were kind enough to give us a push.

We arrived in time for a rousing round of folk-style Led Zeppelin covers. Or something like that. I am a genius on the washtub bass.

More to come...