Sunday, September 30, 2007

Meal Ready-to-Eat

Everyone is discussing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have been going on longer than most expected, and every news agency has reported on the many sacrifices our men and women in the field must make. A recent article I read (I believe it was Time Mangazine), claimed that one of the things soldiers miss most is good food. MREs (Meals Ready-to_Eat) can become a dreaded prospect during long missions. I wanted to know what our troops on the front line were eating.
This is the first in a series of food reviews were I'll prepare a hot battlefield-ready feast, straight out of a brown bag. Here I will pick one MRE, show you how to prepare and eat it, and
let you know what I think.
The MRE is a lightweight, individual food ration that is intended for use in combat or other conditions that make organized food preparation impossible. The criteria for the MRE are strict. They must be able to withstand parachute drops of 380m or non-parachute drops of 30m. The packaging is required to maintain a minimal shelf life of three and a half years in 80 degrees F, or nine months at 100 degrees. There are also requirements for shorter durations at more extreme temperatures. Each meal provides approximately 1,200 calories, high-starch crackers, a cheese, peanut butter, or jelly spread, a powdered beverage, a desert, one plastic spoon, accessory pack, hot beverage bag, and a flameless ration heater (FRH).
I chose MRE #3: the beef ravioli meal. Here is what it includes:

Specifically, mine had the ravioly pouch in a box, apple sauce pouch in a box, cheese spread and crackers, chocolate chip brownie, orange drink powder. The accessory pouch contained the following:
Taster's Choice instant coffee, artificial creamer, Domino sugar, matches, napkins, moist towelette, Chicklet-like gum, and a small bottle of McIlhenny's Tobasco Sauce.
Considering this was my first MRE, I had to read the instructions carefully. I decided to start with the main course. I removed the food pouch from the box, careful to preserve the box, as I was going to need it for the next step. The FRH is a long green plastic bag with dryer sheet-like pouches containing a substance that heats when exposed to water.

So, I put the food pouch side by side with the heating pouch, and held them halfway up on the inside of the bag. I poured water, careful not to let it rise above the lines on the bottom of the bag. Then I dropped the food and heater into the water, folded over the top of the bag, and turned the whole thing horizontal, with the heating chemicals on bottom. I held the bag this way until I could feel the heat, which became intense, quickly.

I then placed this in the box the meal came in, and let it rest at an angle for 10 to 15 minutes.

While the main course was cooking, I decided to make a drink. I took the orange drink packet, opened it, and poured the powder into a cup. The instructions said to add a half canteen cup of water to the powder. Well, I didn't have a whole canteen cup, certainly not half of one! I decided a canteen cup couldn't be any larger than my tobasco sauce coffee mugs. So I took a little more than half of the water that it would take to fill my coffee mug and added it to the orange drink. I was surprised at how quickly the powder dissolved. I didn't really have to stir it; although, I did.
It was good. Like Tang.

Since it can take up to 15 minutes to prepare the ravioli, I figured the cheese and crackers must be the hors d'oeuvres. I was looking forward to this. When I was a kid I loved those cheese and crackers that came in the plastic tray and had the red plastic bar to spread the cheese. My thoughts were that this cheese should be like that. The crackers impressed me. They were in a vacuum pouch and I was certain they would break when I broke the seal. They didn't. As a matter of fact these crackers were quite durable and tasty. The cheese, however, may have been durable, but palatability has nothing to do with longevity. The cheese oozed out of the packet, clumpy and oily. I used my spoon to spread it. I only wish I hadn't used my mouth to taste it.

I'd like to try those crackers with peanut butter next time.

When the meal was ready, I considered serving it on a plate and eating with a fork, but decided against it. MREs are meant to be eaten in the field, with only what is provided in the pouch. So, I opened the pouch and chowed down.

I must admit: I liked it. It reminded me of the canned ravioli I loved as a kid. Nostalgia with every bite. I ate the whole pouch.
The applesauce wasn't bad. It was... applesauce. I've never really had applesauce that tasted better or worse than any other applesauce. So, They got that right too.

The chocolate chip brownie was a big hit with my daughter and me. It was chewy and moist and chocolate chip-filled. I might have even made it tastier had I placed it in the FRH before opening it.
The coffee was a disaster. And this is the one part of this whole meal where experience comes in. You see, had I prepared an MRE before I would have figured out that you need mix the Taster's Choice in the beverage bag and place that in the FRH prior to eating the main course. This way the coffee will be hot when you are done with your meal. The instructions say the coffee takes about 6 minutes to heat. I botched this. I didn't think to make the coffee until after my meal was eaten. By this time the FHR was no longer hot. If I were in the field I would have had to down some lukewarm instant coffee.

It might do... in the field. But since I'm home, I decided on some Kona coffee.

All in all, I like the MRE. I'm determined now to try them all. I can even see myself taking MREs on short, overnight hiking trips, and leaving the camp stove and gas at home. The garbage is minimalized and compactable. I also like that the MRE is not designed for consumption in one sitting. You can eat most of the stuff while on the go. The MRE is a winner in my book, but I've only had one. For my next entry, I've chosen a meal that seems very likely to be a disaster: Jambalaya.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Last weekend my family and I loaded up the car and began a six hour drive to upstate New York. We ended up in a small town that lies along the Delaware River, directly across the bridge from Pennsylvania. While it was beautiful, we were not there for pleasure. There was a job to be done. You see, my mother-in-law lives in this small town. We were there to pick her up and bring her back to our home near Boston. The plan is that she was to stay with us for two weeks. Two long weeks.

It's been one week and two days now. I can hear some of you say, "nine days isn't so bad." Well, if you are saying that, I can determine something about you: YOU ARE NOT FUCKING MARRIED! You couldn't possibly be. If you were, you would feel my pain.

You see, my mother-in-law isn't half bad. She's is VERY generous. She is a loving person. She is WONDERFUL with my daughter, but I still have a hard time spending two weeks with her in my house.

I know we all wish we had someone around that is willing to help out. Sometime that doesn't work the way you want it to. She keeps doing my dishes. The problem is that she can't see well and is accustomed to using a dishwasher at home. So, she misses little stuff. The silverware might have a smudge on it, a plate may have a speck of food, and my coffee mugs all have brown rings on the bottoms. I've asked her not to do them anymore, but she does anyway. So, I end up re-doing dishes. The environmentalist in me hates wasted resources.

The other day, she said that my bathroom floor was "disgusting" and she swept and mopped it. This drives my wife mad. My wife wants her to stay out of our business completely, but she won't. We have a maid that we didn't ask for. She gets so frustrated that we don't want her help and she does things anyway, insistent that she is indeed helping, when in fact we have to do everything over again to insure that it is done right. It is as though we couldn't afford the maid from Mexico and had to settle on the affordable Eskimo. I just wish she would listen! She doesn't realize that paying full attention to our daughter is immeasurably helpful.

Here's the part that is driving me crazy. This is the part that is going to send me to hell. I can't stand to listen to her repeat another one of her stories. I'll die if I have to. It's not just the same stories that I've heard for the past ten years (which by the way, ARE interesting the first two times), it's her accounts from the day. She tells me the interesting parts of the day at least three times! I think that when she tells me something that happened earlier in the day, that she actually forgot that she told me this same thing twice, twenty minutes ago! How can even an old person do that?! I'm not going to kill her. I'm going to kill myself. I'm going to do it slowly, during one of her stories, just to make it interesting again.

Which brings me to social commentary. Are we doing old people a favor by caring for them? I don't think so. At least, not the annoying ones. Do you think they would like themselves if their young selves met their old selves? I doubt it. If I start to tell the same story everyday to the same people, regardless of how old I am, it means that my time has come. Kill me, if I don't have the sense to kill myself.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

01001011110001001 0010100111 "How To Make A Galileo Thermometer Martini"

I was inspired today. For the first time in months, I wanted to sit down and write an update to my blog. I get home, and to my surprise, I left the power cable to my laptop on my desk at work. So, in the interest of time (so I don't drain my laptop battery), I decided to write this update in binary code. Enjoy.

111100000101111110111001001010101101010101010011001010111001000000000 1010101010011001011011111011010010110010101010010101001111111111100000010 1101000000001111111011100000000111000000001101111111111111110000000101010 110101010010101010010110

010101000101010101001010101010101010101010101111100101010101101100111110 00111111010101010010111100101010101001010000001111101010101010010101010 1010101010111111.

1111100000111101010101010111100110101011111111111111111111000101001010101100 01100101011001010101010101011110001001010001111100110111010100101010100101

11101010011101100111011110111011001000001000100100000000010010100101010011 01010101010101010010101010101010101010101111101010000100100101110010010001 10100101010101010010101000001010010101010010101010101001010010.

1010101001010101111001010100010101010010101010101010101010010101 010101010101010101010010101011111000010001010101010010.
0101010101001111110100100101001001010101010101010100101010101110101 0101010101001010101010101010101001010101010111010101101010101001010 1010100101010100101001.

0101010111010100101010100101010101010010101000000010101010101001010101001 o101010100101010101010100111101001010101010100101001001001!


Monday, April 16, 2007

Looking For Lena Webb

It was morning.

Not too early. It was 8 am, which is about my normal time arriving in our little office. I tip-toed softly to the door, banana held at my ear, pointed at the ceiling, the way Magnum P.I. held his gun before sneaking up on bad guys. No. I wasn't Magnum. I was Jack Bauer. I took a deep breath. This was going to be a surprise.

I swung around, rushing into the room like a vice cop rushes into a warehouse filled with drug dealers. My banana was aimed at... no one.

I was alone in the room. This was unusual. Lena alway gets here first. This was her room. Her office sanctuary... and her prison.

Then it occurred to me. Lena was gone. She was in New York, for a conference. She'd be there all day. Kene and I would be Lenaless for a full work day. Or is it Lena-free? No. Lenaless. Lena-free makes it sound like a good thing.

I got sad. Really sad. What would I do for the hour before Kene arrived. Who would I talk to? Then it really hit me: Who would I instant message on G-chat?

I yelled, "NOOOOOOOO!" (It's ok. I was alone on the floor. It's a good thing electron microscopists are not morning people).

I wasn't looking forward to explaining this to Kene.

I sat down, checked my email, and started working on my outside paper. I got a lot of work done.

An hour went by and Kene walked in the door.

"Where's Lena? Bathroom?"

I couldn't take it. His words reminded me of her. I started balling.

Kene was puzzled, but he comforted me until I calmed down enough to talk.

"Jason, it's okay. Calm down," he said as he patted my back.

"No, Kene, you don't enderstand. Lena's gone! She'll be gone all day!"

Then it registered for him. His lip quivered. His chin wrinkled. He let out a gutteral uttering. Then he began sobbing uncontrollably. It was my turn to comfort Kene.

Eventually we were able to talk about our feelings and how we would get through the day without Lena. It wouldn't be easy, but we decided we would make it, knowing we'd see her tomorrow. Tomorrow would start anew, and we could pretend as if April 17th never happened.

Around lunchtime, we got sad again. We had an idea. We would find a pair of quirky glasses and a short brown wig. We'd take turns wearing them, pretending to be Lena. We'd use a PC, sit at the big desk, and swear out loud every thirty minutes. Then we'd talk about crushes we had on professors.

It turns out that the student bookstore doesn't sell glasses OR wigs. Walmart was too far away.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Advice For Men

This is not my most original update, but my stepdad sent me an email containing advice for men. I thought I'd pass it along.


1. It's important to have a woman who helps at home, who cooks from time
to time, cleans up and has a job.

2. It's important to have a woman who can make you laugh.

3. It's important to have a woman who you can trust and who doesn't lie
to you.

4. It's important to have a woman who is good in bed and who likes to be
with you.

5. It's very, very important that these four women don't get to know
each other.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

How To Make A Bowl Full Of Friends For Under $10

Ever think of starting a family, but aren't ready to commit? Well, I have the answer for you. But beware! Sea monkeys may not be the easy, relationship-free solution you were looking for. Did you know that sea monkey's can grow to almost half an inch in length and live for up to two years? Well, they do, and they can. This means that sea monkeys require constant attention and supervision. You might want to consider having that significant other around to share the responsibility. Are you going to be ready to shell out the cash when little Suzie Seamonkey says that she wants take ballet?

Now, multiply that by 30, because that's how many little critters you might have to feed once you open that packet and pour it in water.

If you feel you're ready to start your new family, the first thing you have to do is go out an buy yourself a Sea Monkey kit.

These come in many varieties, from a simple jelly jar to an all out Sea Monkey metropolis.

Unfortunately, Sea Monkeys are not as instant as advertised. After you fill your container with water, you have to add the water purification packet and wait for 24 hours. If you're like me, a day seems like an eternity when you have a packet full of friends that are busting to come out. Nonetheless, it is a necessary step. Sea Monkeys are big business. The fat cats of the Big Monkey industry have added an ingredient to the purification packet that is required for the freeze dried eggs to hatch. They won't hatch in regular water. The naive think that this ingredient is magic, but those of us going for our PhDs know that it's a conspiracy.

After your day of grueling anticipation is over, you can add packet #2. This is the packet that contains your new family. If you have good eye site, within a few minutes, you might even see little white dots the size of the period at the end of this sentence swimming around (if you have a magnifying glass). Within a couple of days your critters will be big enough to see with the unaided eye.

So, you've made your new buddies. Now you can just sit back and enjoy them. Right?

WRONG! Like I said, there are certain responsibilities that come with Sea Monkeys. You have to feed them every 2 days! I know this sounds like a lot, and at this point you're probably considering adopting a baby from China, but I assure you that it's not that bad. You can handle this. And when your little water monkeys look into your eyes and silently thank you for taking care of them, your heart will melt. It will all be worth it!

Once you've gotten to this point, you must adopt the perfect Sea Monkey watching stance.

You can do it alone...

Or with friends...

You can look at them with silly faces...

Or stoned...

You can even do it as a celebrity...
(she plays Claire on Lost. I think....Mmm. I might have just made that up.)

Sea Monkeys are also a great way to propose to the woman you love, if you're a loser...

Finally, Sea Monkeys are so intelligent that you can teach them to saddle up and ride goldfish...

If you have it in you to take on the challenge of being a proud Sea Monkey parent, then I urge you to do so. Just remember that once you do, you can no longer live a selfish life. On occasion you'll have to put their needs before your own. And if you decide to take the easy way out and adopt that Chinese baby, you won't know the joy that it is to raise a bowl full of friends.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Beer and Loving In Las Vegas

I had a fight with my beer today.

Like most men, I don't stick to just one beer, I like to play the beer field. I do have my cheap standard, Coors Light. While Coors Light is cheap and goes down easily, it's not always the most pleasant beer to have around. It's not the taste that bothers me, it's the attitude. Coors can be a real jerk!

I was out last night partying with friends. We had a great, wholesome time. We drank a lot. I drank mostly Sam Adams. When I came home, late at night, I reached into the refrigerator and pulled out a Coors Light. The second I popped the cap, it started giving me shit, and wouldn't shut up. You see, the Coors Light could smell the other beers on my breath.

"What were you doing? Why didn't you take me? You never take me ANYWHERE! Were you with Sam?"

I sat there and listened to this dull, low calorie beverage let into me for about a half hour. This happens a lot! It's not always because of another beer, but Coors is really bossy. For a light beer, Coors is overbearing. It wasn't always this way. We used to have a great time together, but if you give some light beers an inch, they'll take 10 miles. Not to mention that after a few beers, I sometimes forget the promises I make. I don't know if you know a lot about beer, but one universal truth is that a beer never forgets.

It seems that some time ago, I made a promise that I would be a one-beer man. I drunkenly made a pledge to drink only Coors Light. Well, I didn't really mean it, but my beer took that pledge very seriously. Some men can do it. Some men get all the satisfaction they need from one beer and never look at another. I could be one of those men, if my beer just gave nice head.

But Coors Light, with its attitude problem, requires more work than it's worth. We used to have a good time together, but I'm soured by it now. I want to experience a new beer, one that knows how to have a good time, and lets me be who I am.

So last night, I had all kinds of beers, but kept going back to Sam. Sam knows how to have a good time. It's refreshing. I don't feel the passion from Coors Light anymore. When I'm drinking Sam, I feel like I can be myself; my drunken self, of course.

Coors got angry about my time with Sam. I sat there and took it, until I couldn't take it anymore. I exploded.

I told my beer that if it quit being such a bully, I wouldn't be cavorting about, drinking other beers. I threatened to move on, maybe start drinking Sapporo, or even Guinness. Coors Light then turned into a real asshole, calling me a "two-timing, beer-slut drunk." It got ugly. It almost got physical. I'm glad it didn't. I hate having broken glass everywhere. I picked up Coors, kicking and screaming, and shoved it back into the refrigerator. I closed the door and relished the silence, but there was an empty place inside me. I felt bad for what just happened. I can still remember the good attributes that made me love Coors Light in the beginning, but I feel like I don't get to see them anymore. Despite what Coors Light thinks, I never had any intentions with Sam, or any other beer for that matter. I just like the way Sam tastes. If you've ever had a Sam Adams, you know that you have a close friend in that beer.

After thinking about it for awhile, I started to feel bad for slamming the refrigerator door like I had. I made my way back to the kitchen, and there was Coors, sitting quietly. I didn't expect it to look so sad. My eyes began to well up. I didn't expect that either. We embraced. We cried.

My feelings didn't change. I didn't stop being angry. I just found in me the ability to sense how Coors was feeling. I'm the kind of guy who's heart breaks when I see a beer in pain. Neither of us went to bed angry. We stayed up and watched a movie in my office.

I can't say that it's going to be "happily ever after" for Coors Light and me. I wont promise to stay away from all other beers. I will do what I can to keep the peace. One thing you have to realize when you choose a beer, is that beers can often be moody and unreasonable. Some beers will click with you from the start, others you have to get to know over time. But beer should always make you feel good.