As always, the XOLO people prove that they all, are wells of information, wisdom and, most importantly, inspiration.
One of Gabe’s inspirational quotes got me thinking and I thought that it would be worth sharing with a bigger audience:
As you are walking through life, with a big ice cream cone in your hand; tasty chocolate, juicy strawberry or delicious mango - whatever your flavor is - you suddenly happen to step in dog poop.
So now you got dog poop on your shoe and you have a decision to make: you can either concentrate on the dog poop on your shoe and then, at the same time, have that beautiful ice cream melt all over your hand and simply see it disappear.
Or, you decide to screw the dog poop on your shoes, and keep on walking and enjoy your nice, tasty, juicy and delicious ice cream cone.
The morale of the story, should be quite obvious: life, at every turn, always presents you with two choices: either dog poop or ice cream cone.
Pick the right one.
What do you do when you want to get back in shape but do feel like running in the local park, due to the boring scenery? Simple: you open up WalkJogRun and start planning your routes, then you convince your roomie to gear up and start doing so on a regular basis.
When I started jogging in Brooklyn, I managed to go for about a mile, before I was too exhausted to go on which is a true testament to the fact that I have not done any real exercise in a (too) long time.
WalkJogRun has been essential in making running / jogging a more fun experience, mostly because it tells you how far your route is, what kind of effect it will have on you and what’s more: the site makes it very easy to plan new route or alter existing once to better fit your profile if you want to increase the difficulty / length of a jog.
What do you do when you are pressed for time but still want to do a short workout every day? Simple: you start working out the Tabata way and utilize what little time you have in the best possible way. Tabata is a form of high intensity interval training that takes anywhere from four to sixteen (!) minutes for a full cycle.
The basic idea is that, when you give your body adequate time to recover (10 seconds each), you can do a number of evolutions (20 seconds each) at least eight times in a row (4 minutes in total) and depending on your stamina, continue the cycle for up to four times.
I have been doing Tabata for a couple of weeks now and I like the fact that you can basically do it whenever and wherever you are (at least in theory). I started out with ordinary push-ups, which takes its toll rather quickly but soon moved on to rope jumping to have at least some variety and finally added sit-ups to the package.
All in all, Tabata makes you feel great and helps you work out even when you are busy most of the time. It is also a very nice way to burn calories and get back in shape.
For those (like myself) that have trouble counting down the seconds while working out, here is an MP3 file that will take you through one evolution. Put it on your iPod, make a playlist with this track in there eight times and start your Tabata session!
taking the Scenic Route
What do you do on a Saturday evening when you do not feel like going out to get drunk or party all night long? Simple: you open up WalkJogRun and plan a route that (most certainly) less than 1% of all New Yorkers will ever walk, then you convince your other roomie to gear up and leave.
Three hours and eight minutes later, you finally arrive at your destination: a subway stop, 7 miles (11.3 km) from your starting point … and you are glad you finally get to sit down.
This is what Becca and me did yesterday, we started out in front of our apartment and walked the whole way from our place to the Williamsburg Bridge, then onto and across the Brooklyn Bridge. We started out at 11:30 pm on Saturday and reached our end point at 02:30 am on Sunday.
One thing I always enjoyed back when I still lived in Austria was the interaction I had with my mail carrier; usually a woman between the age of thirty-five and fifty, they always took the time for a small chat, maybe one, two minutes at most, but nonetheless: that time they invested always made me eager to go out and meet them out the street.
In the Netherlands, the mail carriers I have met so far are straightforward, so much so that they do not even take the time to say anything more than “here’s your mail”, which is a pity, so imagine my surprise when I met two very friendly and outgoing mail carriers here in Brooklyn.
The first one, yesterday, started singing while I went down the stairs and did not feel the need to stop when I was standing right next to him. For one reason or another, African Americans that sing always sound great and that guy truly had an awesome voice.
Today, I met another African American mail carrier and this lady really had a great sense of humor:
Kerim: Sweet, lots of mail for us.
Mail Carrier: Which one is you?
Kerim: Two dash one?
Mail Carrier: Oh son, you ain’t loved, look at that, only four letters today.
Kerim (laughing): Yeah, that’s about the same as yesterday
Mail Carrier: Son, you gotta get famous, ya know?
Kerim: Yeah, maybe…
Mail Carrier: Put your address on the web or sum, get that junkmail, ya know?
Kerim: Yeah, I’m not sure I would want that.
Mail Carrier: well, at least you’d get some more letters!
Kerim: True, true and I’d get to see you more often!
Mail Carrier: damn right, now sign here, cause this package is for you too!
Kerim: See, I’m getting plenty of love!
Mail Carrier: We’ll see, see you tomorrow!
Kerim: Have a good un’!
All in all, two random encounters that made my day just a bit better.
When I left Austria, a couple of years ago, I left behind a number of contacts and a few friends; I did not break down camp without saying anything at all, but the way I left was rather … abrupt.
Back then, I knew that those I wanted to stay in contact with, I would somehow manage to stay in contact, even if it would come down to me having to write (actual) letters. Luckily, at the time, Skype emerged, a great tool which made things so much easier.
A couple of days ago, one of the contacts from my past got back in touch with me: we had a little chat about how things were going in our respective lives, but soon stopped talking again, knowing full well that our sense of curiosity was satisfied and neither of us really intended this to be a Hollywood-style reunion.
Be that as it may, the incident got me thinking and piqued my interest as to what my former classmates and roommates (I attended a boarding school for a couple of years) were doing.
Turns out that just about everyone I had a good relationship with did (or: does) something interesting and worthwhile: one has become a(n) (in)famous painter, the other keeps winning competition after competition, yet another one has gone on to help people in Africa and then there is a girl who turned model.
Interestingly enough, everybody I did not have a good relationship with, ended up doing nothing “big” (note that I judge this by my own standards and the amount of information that is available on the ‘net) or worth mentioning: some went into retail and some went into the hospitality sector, but all in all they all seem to be leading a pretty uneventful life.
Please note that there is, of course, nothing wrong with that and I am in no way looking down on those people or judging them in a negative way, but I, myself, crave for a more interesting life.
One of my close friends mentioned that I seem to be very selective as far as my friends go; that I only choose to invest time and friendship into those (few) individuals where the relationship would be a mutual giving and taking, a system where both parties can contribute to the other person’s life.
Looking back, looking at the things that my “good” friends did and do, looking at my current friends, I think that it is safe to say that there is a certain truth to me being selective, yet, at the same time, I find that all my (past) relationships have been very rewarding, in one way or another and I would not want to miss any of them.
So, after waiting for more than a decade and finally amassing enough courage to actually consume the MRE, I thought that it would be good to share my thoughts on the current rations the US Military provides their soldiers with:
The chicken fajita is one of the two bigger items in the ration and can either be consumed cold or hot. Heating it up with the included Flameless Ration Header can take anywhere between ten and fifteen minutes to finish, depending on how hot you want it. I went for a full fifteen minutes, to be on the safe side and was pleasantly surprised:
When you tear open the bag, you are greeted with a spicy smell (although I still had the smell of the chemicals that are used for the FRH in my nose) that invites you to sit down. Chances are that, when you are deployed, that you will be eating the food from inside the bag, which is possible, thanks to the included spoon, but since I had plates available, I spread it out.
Now, on first sight, it does not look like much, in fact, it bears resemblance to dog food and it certainly is no five-star-chef-prepared fajita, but then again, for something that has been stored inside a small, airtight bag, for about a year, it looks acceptable (not that you could actually care how your food looks like when you are being shot at 24/7).
The verdict? The Chicken Fajita tastes great, the peppers really burn on your tongue, the meat tastes like meat and the sauce is not too bad either. Ignoring looks for a second, this came out way better than expected.
Yellow and Wild rice pilaf:
The rice, too, can be consumed hot or cold and again, I opted for the heated version. Judging from the taste of it, I think I either undercooked or overcooked it (hard to decide), and that took away from the taste.
The Verdict? Hard to say really, the pieces that were cooked correctly tasted good, but had a weird texture to it, similar to biting on a rubber band. It was still edible, but nothing like the fajita. The rice would not act as a morale booster in its current form.
Yellow and Wild rice pilaf - UPDATE:
The second time I prepared the rice, I, supposedly, did something the right way and the rice looked and tasted like it should. No lumps, no rubbery flavor, just tasty rice.
The MRE includes two tortillas, to be used with the fajita. There is not really all that much I can say about them, other than that they tasted like any normal (commercially) available tortillas I have had. They are thick enough not to fall apart when you put the chicken fajita and sauce into them and thin enough not to feel like pita bread.
The Verdict? Tastes like tortillas should taste, nothing more, nothing less.
Spiced Cider (Instant Apple Flavor Drink Mix):
One of two beverages and the only cold one in the pack, the Spiced Cider introduces itself with a faint smell of apples (no oranges though) and spices. Preparation is easy: tear open the bag, mix it with 177 ml of water, stir (preferably with the included spoon) for half a minute and consume.
The verdict? Great tasting beverage, really no difference with other “commercially” available stuff. It may have some added ingredients though, because after drinking it (one or two gulps will suffice), I actually felt like I just had consumed at least sixteen ounces of water. Nonetheless, the drink is not unpleasant at all. And it is worth 60 calories, not too shabby either.
Nut Raisin Mix:
One bag contains about 56 grams of peanuts, raisins, walnuts, almond and some other stuff as well as a little bag with an oxygen absorber. The whole bag is good for 310 calories and needs no preparation at all, so you can just eat them on the go.
In fact, I am eating the nuts right now and you can tell that they are meant as part of a healthy diet by the fact that they do not give of fat when put on paper (for comparison: put a walnut on paper and wait a few minutes, you will most probably see some kind of liquid on the paper).
The verdict? The nuts (and raisins) tasted great, they are easy to eat and did not smell funny at all. The mix also does not contain any added salt which gets a big thumbs-up from me.
French Vanilla Flavored Cappuccino:
After finishing a (good) meal, most people usually tend to grab a coffee or tea, to aid the stomach during digestion (or so I hear) and the MRE does not disappoint in this case. The ration includes a bag of vanilla flavored cappuccino that is good for a small cup of (preferably: steaming hot) coffee.
The verdict? Now this is what I call a morale booster. Nothing better than a hot drink when you are freezing and longing for some sweet lovin’. Easy to prepare, easy to consume, a definite thumbs up.
Just a quick note on this one: every MRE contains two chewing gums with a peculiar flavor I cannot readily place. It might be cinnamon, which makes sense considering the other selection of spices, but in any case: it tastes okay. The pieces are smaller compared to my usual brand of chewing gum and that might be the reason why you get two. No mention of the amount of calories in there.
The Verdict? The chewing gum tastes great during the first ten minutes or so, but then, as it starts to dissolve in your mouth, it releases a strong spicy flavor that quickly gets unbearable up to the point where you need to consume a bit of water to wash your mouth.
Flameless Ration Heater:
When man discovered fire, many things became possible. When your enemy discovers your (camp) fire, many things for them become possible, too. As to not give away a soldier’s position, the MRE contains a flameless ration heater, which operates on a basic principle: mix two substances (in this case: magnesium and water) and you will get an exothermic reaction, which results in your meal being heated in approximately ten to fifteen minutes.
The verdict? The heater is insanely easy to operate, but emits a certain smell that tends to hang around. I had the good fortune of being able to cook this in a room with many (open) windows, and I would expect the smell not to be an issue outside.
The overall verdict:
For $1 to $5 a meal, these packages contain a whole lot of great, healthy and most importantly: tasty food. They are fairly easy to prepare, easy to split up and easy to store, which is a definite win in high-stress situations, which is, obviously, what these meals were prepared for.
The common consensus of the civilian population is that military rations suck and taste shitty, but after eating two of these meals, I can tell you that they are well worth trying.