See Any Resemblance?

This is me doing my best Dennis Quaid.


A Chihuahua On Main Street

I had once won a small spelling contest in a creative writing class with the word Chihuahua, but apart from that I can't say I have a great respect for the breed. They are small, yappy, extremely active, and often result in The Dog Whisperer slapping his head in frustration. But yet, the Chihuahua is still considered a dog, and as such it only seems right to help one when it is in need.

As Beth and I drove down Main Street of Visalia, we saw one such Chihuahua dive in and out of traffic repeatedly. We drove slowly by as it wandered aimlessly and frightened down the sidewalk. There was no apparent owner in sight.

Pictured Above: Artists Rendering

Here I was struck with the dilemma of either helping a dog, or aiding in the evolution of the rest of species by letting it get wiped out of existence. Unfortunately my conscience resolved that an annoying yappy dog alive was at least better than a silent ugly dog dead, and so I stopped the car on the side of the road and attempted a quick rescue.

What I soon learned is that Chihuahua's are incredibly sensitive, and although it was a safe half-block away, it would repeatedly stop in its tracks and stare vacantly in my direction until I made any sort of movement, at which point the runt would shoot off in a full sprint down the street. I attempted a variety of approaches; whistling, saying "here doggie!" in a high voice, and making ticking noises with my tongue, but all I managed to do was gather more confused onlookers.

A group of business men outside of a bank eventually asked me after my first cycle around the block if the dog was mine. At first I was a little shocked and briefly considered asking if I looked like the sort of guy who would own a mangy chihuahua.
In fear of the answer I just said no.

After I had followed the dog four times down the same street a strange idea began to form in my head. I asked myself, "Am I, a human, faster than a Chihuahua?" After all, I am a man. A hunter, even. I imagined that thousands of years ago I would be hunting Chihuahua's in the African plains, steadying my spear until I would suddenly pounce, wrestling said Chihuahua into the ground. I would possibly even eat it right there. Raw.

Suddenly disturbed by the mental image, I pushed it out of my mind and began running.

The Chihuahua, meanwhile, turned at this moment to see me barreling towards him. Terrified, he turned and ran.

The chase was on.

I of course realized at this moment that my previous jobs have been web design opportunities, and I actually hadn't ran in several months, if not a year. Suddenly I was confused as to how exactly it was done. My legs seemed to be moving just fine, but what about the arms? I began mechanically moving them up and down, not unlike I was repeatedly pulling levers.

"Would it be better if I ran like the T-1000 from Terminator 2?" I thought.

My wife gazed at me while I flailed my body at the highest speed it was capable of, which is, as it happens, less than one third the speed of a Chihuahua.

As I rounded the corner it was gone, leaving behind only a vagabond tumbleweed blowing aimlessly in the wind.

Beth and I hopped back in the car and returned home.

A few nights later I was driving to the grocery store when I saw him again, the same Chihuahua staring at me from a lonely street corner, illuminated only by one single fluorescent light. From behind the wheel of Beth's Toyota my eyes met his, and between us we shared the same bit of knowledge:

The chase isn't over.


The Social Network - Movie Review


The Social Network
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Maybe it was the overwhelming sense of pure ambition, but the film The Social Network might as well have been a modern retelling of The Fountainhead. True, with the architect in this case being Mark Zuckerberg, who built his skyscraper of Facebook on the digital foundation of the internet and has yet to see it fall. It's quite a wonder to see an invention go from an idea to a universally known verb, especially when it happens so quickly. This is however, a story of ambition, how ambition can be fiercely opposed by both enemies and friends, and how that ambition can tragically turn to isolation.

The story begins with a harsh break-up between Zuckerberg and his girlfriend Erica Albright. Mark's mind is simply focused on something else and that something else turns into the vengeful "Facemash," a hot-or-not photo comparison site that narrowed down the women of Harvard from most attractive to least. It was as successful as it was inappropriate, just like most terrible things on the internet. Although he very well could have gone on to create the next "two girls one cup," instead Zuckerberg was approached by a group of Harvard crew members to create a private online network for students of the university. Suddenly the idea for an online gated community outside the sketchy slums of MySpace became planted in Zuckerberg's mind, and he ran with it. And since he was doing all the hard work himself, he left the crew boys to fend for themselves.

So the story of the social network is structured around the various legal battles that ensued after Facebook.com rose to success (after it changed from TheFacebook.com). Had it only been a legal drama this film would have only been vaguely interesting, but the film packs an emotional punch with those who invested their friendship in the leader of Facebook. Namely Eduardo (played by Andrew Garfield), who stuck with Facebook from the beginning until the Napster elite Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) began chiming in and Eduardo's own legal battle entered the playing field.

The script is long (approximately 166 pages), but the actors are fast (cutting the runtime down to 121 minutes). Words are spit out faster than even Twitter could handle, but their impact is somehow never lost. That might just be a reflection upon how good these actors really are. There are plenty of memorable speeches here, but I couldn't help but think of the somewhat recent film August which featured Josh Hartnett in the role of an internet start-up millionaire whose bubble bursts just after he realizes that his internet company doesn't actually "do" anything at all. This movie is better, to be honest (although August does feature a pretty sweet cameo of David Bowie), but those looking for a film further down The Social Network alley might find it worth exploring.

As far as the "true story" behind Facebook is concerned, The Social Network may very well take its share of liberties. Considering that few people actually know what those liberties are, and I myself didn't really question any of the actions as completely fabricated, it's really beside the point. This is a story filled with characters, some social and some rather antisocial, and the hands they played in the construction of a network that surpassed all others.

See it.


Life In Visalia

Sometimes you have to sit back and ask yourself what exactly you're doing with your life. I found a perfect moment for this tonight as Beth combed the dandruff out of my hair in her backyard while I reclined in a chair and ate a chili hot dog. How did I get here?

We live in Visalia now, which, if you haven't heard of it before, it's the place that Kevin Costner spent a high school semester before going off to appear in such ground breaking roles as that guy who drank his own pee in Waterworld. Otherwise I think a controversial semi-pornographic indie movie was shot here once too. I don't recommend you watch it. But even without those first two landmarks, Visalia is still actually a pretty awesome place to be.

What I tend to love most is the food. The chili dog I ate whilst having my hair de-dandruffed was from a place called Taylors. I'm not really sure why these little wieners from a tiny stand on the side of main street are so mind blowing, but somehow when you mix barbecue chips into the equation they pretty much become a reason in and of themselves never to move away. Close-by there's also a Mexican place called Colima's that has bean and cheese burrito's that are just as mind blowing despite their simplicity. And let's not even get into the crazy awesome and mostly crazy Indian restaurant down the road where all sorts of goodies will be ordered on your behalf whether you asked for them or not.

Other than that though Visalia can be a rough town if you happen to be looking for a job that doesn't involve picking walnuts or preparing food (but never preparing walnuts for food which strikes me as slightly suspicious). As of lately I've been looking into tutoring jobs in the area since I've always wanted to show inner-city kids that's more to life than ghost riding the whip by dramatically whispering "carpe diem" into their ears and then being shot.

There's a lot I'm looking forward to. Especially the winter weather which I hear can get so intense that schools get canceled on behalf of "fog days." I'm hoping that a downturn in the dry climate might help out with the whole dandruff problem I have going on, which right now is like a blizzard in October. Part of me feels like I should say, who knows where we'll end up next? But a greater part of me is hoping that we can end up where we are. In the meantime, it's at least nice to know I'm happy wherever I am.


The History of Food: Drumstick Edition

As far as I can tell not nearly enough is written about the Drumstick, possibly the greatest dessert ever invented. So I foolishly thought late tonight I would delve into where this miraculous food came from.

The origin of the ice cream cone remains to be disputed, however some common threads lie beneath each story and from that we can deduce that the cone, with its sole purpose being to hold ice cream, originated in the early 1900's, at The World's Fair, was likely developed by a Syrian pastry maker, and was allegedly developed on the spot to aid in the sales of a nearby ice cream vendor who ran out of dishes and I imagine was desperately spooning the ice cream directly into his customers bare hands.

It is largely accepted that this man was Ernest A. Hamwi who developed the cone for his friend Arnold Fornachou. However this isn't a history lesson, this is about how that cone, coated in chocolate, filled with ice cream, and sprinkled with nuts, got in your hand.

The cone itself is comprised of wheat flour, tapioca flour, and sugar. The tapioca flour is derived from the root of the cassava plant. This plant is native to South America yet has since largely been exported from Africa, where as of 2002, 99.1 million tonnes of the resource was grown. This is likely because the plant does well with thriving upon poor soil and with little rainfall. So basically anyone can grow it as long as they don't live in a place worse than Africa. Which they don't. Because Africa is the worst place in the entire world.

No other country depends upon the growth of root crops, specifically the cassava root, as much as the continent of Africa. In fact, in the African language of Ewe, the word for the cassava plant "agbeli" literally translates into "there is life." Funny, since if the cassava root is eaten raw it will likely cause severe cyanide poisoning, especially if the root is grown in a drought. Keep in mind, a 40 mg dose of cassava cyanogenic glucoside is sufficient to kill a cow. So next time you bite into a cone, just imagine a cow abruptly tipping over.

Yet in the end it is so worth it.

This is all harvested by hand, by method of pulling the roots out of the ground and being severed from the plant itself. If processed incorrectly, the cassava root can cause major environmental damage. In Africa the traditional method is that the roots are peeled and fermented for three days (to promote nutrition), after which they are dried and cooked in palm oil for preservation. But the cassava root has to be processed quickly since it rapidly deteriorates, ironically since the root attempts to heal itself. The challenge with exporting is that this process occurs just 15 minutes after being harvested, so the root must either be coated in wax or frozen.

Then it is imported to the cone manufacturer in bags, as is the sugar. The wheat flour meanwhile is imported by the truckload and then is unloaded by means of air pressure into large storage silos. Before this however, wheat flour has to be milled, or "stone-ground" in which a revolving stone wheel rotates over another stationary wheel. The flour dust itself when suspended in air is explosive and can result in tragic accidents. This was the case in 1878 at the Washburn "A" Mill in Minneapolis MN where a single spark demolished the mill and instantly killed 14 workers, resulted in the deaths of 4 additional people, and destroyed five other mills.

If you feel bad right now then you are very much like me after watching several episodes of "How It's Made," or "Dirty Jobs," or any show of the sort on the Discovery channel. It's understandable. Already hundreds of people have died so that you can open your refrigerator, grab an ice cream cone, sit on your couch, and then watch something on the television you will forget about while you consume a treat you probably won't even remember the next day. Don't beat yourself up about it.

Just keep in mind that right now we have the dry ingredients for only the cone (not including baking soda which is processed through numerous vacuums and centrifuges), and not the ice cream, the chocolate coating, the caramel at the center, and those tasty nuts sprinkled on the top.

Since baking soda reacts to water it is added last after the water and shortening are combined with the coloring and flavoring. After this the ingredients are ready to be processed.

This is all well and good, but what we don't often think about is the fact that the chocolate shell to the Drumstick was a necessary invention for the ice cream cone to
enter the home. The coating is actually a mixture of chocolate, oil, and sugar, and it acts as an insulator for the ice cream cone to be stored in a grocers freezer. This process was developed by brothers I.C. and J.T. "Stubby" Parker of Fort Worth, Texas in 1928. I don't know how he got that nickname (perhaps one of his fingers found its way to being the caramel center of the cone?), the world may never know. What we do know, courtesy of the Nestle company who later bought the name, is that Parker's wife thought the finished product looked like a "Fried chicken leg," and hence the name "Drumstick" was born. Since an ice cream cone looks nothing like a chicken leg I take that to mean that Parker's wife was also blind and/or mentally retarded.

This seemingly simple invention was responsible for the ice cream cone to be stored and sold as a single item and I'm sure resulted in numerous ice cream cone scientists slapping their foreheads at once and cursing as to why they never thought of it.

Which is coincidentally what I am doing right now after realizing I could have graduated from college as an ice cream cone scientist.

Recently the Drumstick has evolved in Canada and Australia to have no waffle cone at all and instead just an extra solid chocolate shell. And if that isn't enough of a reason to move to Canada or Australia, I don't know what is.