For the past several months I haven’t posted because I have mostly been doing normal, boring shit: working as a tutor, taking classes, applying to grad school, studying for and taking the math subject GRE, getting into grad school, making new friends, etc. Nothing worth blogging about. I’ve come back because I am now doing something super weird, something the world deserves to hear about.
A few months ago some friends got a hold of the following blog posts:
How I Stopped Eating Food
What’s in Soylent
(TL;DR This guy Rob decided to replace food with raw nutrients and made a smoothie; now he’s immortal. Or something like that.)
After reading that first post, how could you not want to do it, too? Actually, lots of people were put off, but Neal, Tristan and I are brave souls. So we began gathering evidence and ingredients. Rob doesn’t give the exact recipe or suppliers he uses, but he gives enough information for smart people to duplicate his efforts. It took us several weeks to figure out plausible sources for all of the ingredients, as well as a good amount of time spent grinding, mixing, and solving systems of equations to make sure that we didn’t overdose on chlorine while trying to get enough potassium, for example.
Finally, however, we had a mixture that was, in theory, complete. We mixed it up in the blender and poured equal parts into three mugs. We clinked them together and took a sip. It was….horrible. Thick, creamy, buttery, and improbably warm. After Rob’s gushing report of his first taste, we were confused and disappointed. Tristan grabbed a bottle of grape flavored vitamin water, and we filled the rest of our glasses with it. The result was slightly more palatable. The boys began to nod that they could get used to drinking this. My response was no way - not three times a day.
We began looking into flavoring options. The discussion board was up by then (http://discourse.soylent.me/) and it seemed that Rob was using vanilla-flavored whey protein, which may explain the different taste of his mix. We didn’t want to use artificial flavorings or sweeteners, though. We looked into using fruit juice and found that, by buying frozen concentrate, we could flavor with about a cup of fruit juice, along with a lot more water than we originally used, without getting too expensive or messing up our nutrient/calorie counts. The result is not delicious, but it’s something even I can drink three times a day. Neal was the one who hit on the winning flavor combo, though, by using small amounts of cinnamon, vanilla extract, and brown sugar. That shit actually tastes wonderful. Apparently Tristan has also had success with a chai tea mix.
Today is my first day of drinking exclusively jank (Rob calls it Soylent; jank is our name).
Here are the ingredients (after combining the nutrients and, separately, the oils), from left to right; whey protein, oil mixture, maltodextrin (carbs), nutrient mix, and pineapple juice mixed from frozen concentrate. Except for the juice and protein, pictured here is a week’s worth of 3 jank meals a day.
I mixed three servings worth last night and ended up with a pleasantly yellow beverage that I began my day with this morning. It’s now 12:15, I’ve had just over a serving since waking up around 8, and so far, so good. The nice thing about jank is that you never feel particularly full or particularly hungry. You sip as much or as little as you want for a relatively constant intake of nutrients and calories. I made it through normally the hungriest part of my day (10-11am) with no desire for food whatsoever. We’ll see what happens as I continue with this experiment. I’ll post again after a few weeks with some preliminary results.
One final note: As with Rob, I am not trying to lose weight here. Jank has the full recommended amount of calories for someone of my height and weight. I want to save time and money, and I want to get a full complement of nutrients every day. I’m sure I will crave chocolate eventually, and will definitely still go out to eat or drink sometimes.
I haven’t posted recently because I’ve been thinking about myself and my own life more than anything, and my life at the moment is far less exciting than it was when I was traveling the world or interning at folk school or conserving the desert. I’m still getting settled into Bloomington, working, making friends, getting used to bike commuting, preparing for a return to school, and so on.
As mentioned in earlier posts, I work part-time as an online tutor. I get about 15 hours a week and make $12 an hour. No taxes withheld, since I’m an independent contractor, and since I didn’t work for the first six months of the year, I won’t make enough in 2012 to pay any taxes at all. If I did, that would be a big blow to my budget. My other part-time gig is an Americorps service position, which means that I get paid a stipend, not an actual wage. I’ve been doing about 20 hours a week so far, but I need to do more if I want to finish on time (August 2013), and at least 30 a week to have any time at all off in the summer. For this, I get exactly $337.72 deposited into my bank account every month.
This means just over $1000 a month in revenue. The current state of my bank accounts (combined) is about $3000, thanks to some bonds my dad bought that I cashed in on returning from my RTW trip. My trip and subsequent move to Bloomington wouldn’t have been possible without that money, as well as my parents letting me crash at their place for a couple months while looking for jobs and apartments, and, finally, their help moving.
My parents also pay for some essentials for me, which I am slowly taking over from them. My monthly costs include rent ($425), utilities (~$50), groceries (<$200), and health insurance ($104.17). Soon, I will also take over dental insurance ($40) and cell phone ($65) from my parents. This brings us to $884.17 a month in costs. I have also had transportation-related costs that come up monthly - I ride a bike on a daily basis, but occasionally take a bus around town or to travel for holidays and such. My discretionary spending (on bike accessories, Christmas presents, books, eating out, clothes, coffee, and so on) usually comes to about $200 a month as well, which uses up the rest of my income. Starting in 2013, I will also have a car (thanks again to my parents), but obviously I can’t afford anything related to it. My parents will be paying the insurance to start out, and I will just have to not drive until I get a better job to avoid gas and repair bills.
I am a college graduate with no debt and just about every advantage a person could possibly have in life (except that I’m not a man), and I can currently barely keep above water. I am not seriously in danger of becoming homeless or indebted because I know that my parents would help me out if need be, but I often wonder what would happen if I had a serious accident or illness and my parents were unable or unwilling to help. Even with insurance, I couldn’t afford any significant medical costs, especially if I was unable to work for a period of time. What if I lived somewhere (like Bloomington) where it was extremely difficult to find work and had no money to move elsewhere? I also work at a homeless shelter as part of my Americorps position, which contributes to these thoughts.
For now, in any case, I am budgeting effectively and generally saving a little bit of money per month. I have plans to marginally improve my circumstances, including taking private tutoring jobs starting this semester, looking for new jobs starting in the summer, and moving to a coop house with cheaper rent and shared groceries when my lease is up in August. In more long-term prospects, I’m considering grad school - Ph.D. programs pay more than I make right now.
Part 2 of Things I Love Immoderately. (See Part 1: Russian Trains)
I really can’t say enough about how awesome soup is. Like that first Thing I Love, soup for me is intimately (though not exclusively) connected with Russia. Russians make tons of soups and eat them every day: soup for them is the equivalent of the apple for us - you know, the one that keeps the doctor away. Their soups are usually based on a homemade meat stock, filled with tons of veggies, and served with a spoonful of sour cream and some fresh dill, a method I would recommend for almost any kind of broth soup. The second-most-prominent association I have with soup is that of making them on our propane stove while camped in the desert when I worked for the Student Conservation Association in California. We got a CSA box with fresh veggies weekly, often ones we had never tried before. This was my first experience with improvised cooking and how easy and delicious it can be. And the easiest and most delicious of all is soup! So before I get ahead of myself, here’s why soup is so incredible:
1. It is one of the few foods that gets better the longer it sits.
I can make a big batch of enchiladas or potato pancakes or stir fry, and they can be as delicious as you want, but by night 4 of reheating and eating, I am not nearly as excited as I was that first night. Soup, on the other hand, may be good the first day, but you can bet that it will be even better as the flavors meld, and every time you heat up a bowl, you are in for a slightly new medley of deliciousness.
2. Not only is soup really easy to make, it’s also really difficult to mess up.
Boil some broth and throw in some vegetables (and meat or other things, if desired). Add spices when the ingredients are nearly cooked, and that’s it. The order in which you add things doesn’t matter. Of course, there is probably an optimal progression if you want to be a gourmet chef, but really, they’re all just getting boiled to softness in the end. You can stir fry some of the veggies and meat first to change the flavor, but that’s just extra frills. If you chop and dump all the veggies at once, as I often do, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
3. NOT ONLY is the order in which you add the ingredients unimportant, but also WHICH ingredients you add.
Bzw. 4. Making soup is a great way to get rid of all the leftover extras in your fridge - even veggies that are beginning to wilt or go soft will taste great in a soup.
Today, I’m making a soup almost entirely of things left over from other meals, down to the broth. I had previously made pickles and used them in another soup, but I still had jars of brine in the fridge. I used two of these jars, diluted with water, to make the broth for my soup - this also takes away the need for spices, since the brine is already full of awesome flavors. Then I added whatever I found in my fridge - first, a cauliflower which I had bought specifically for the soup, then some mushrooms and pickled green peppers that were left from enchiladas, then some radishes and carrots leftover from a salad last week, and some green onions and spinach that my roommates had had leftover and offered me. Throw in the cauliflower and carrot greens! Throw it all in! This may sound like a strange combination, but that’s the beauty of soup - it doesn’t matter! Still tastes awesome.
Bzw. 5. Soup is incredibly versatile.
You can make it richer and heartier by using meat, cream, cheese, beans, grains, etc. It’s so versatile that I could eat it every day with no complaints.
6. Soup is healthy and makes you feel good!
…especially if you use fresh, natural ingredients. The liquid fills you up and warms you without being soporific, and have I mentioned that soup is delicious?
Yeah. It’s delicious.
When we talk about androgynous fashion, we usually mean female-presenting people in outfits that incorporate or echo menswear. One seldom sees male-presenting people doing the same with womenswear, at least in the mainstream.
I think some of that must be a side effect of the privileging of traits, roles, and characteristics associated with masculinity over those associated with femininity—a woman in masculine-associated roles or clothing is moving in the direction of higher status and increased social privilege, at least implicitly; a man in feminine-associated roles or clothing, lower. We associate women in menswear with freedom and assertion; men in womenswear with deviation, grotesquerie, and parody.
How fucked up is that?
(Source: boysofmontreal, via beardedmeninknittedthings)
Everything is finally coming together here in Bloomington in a pretty awesome way.
As some of you know, I got a job last month as a morning cleaner at Macy’s, which has its advantages and disadvantages. Pluses: off work by 10, only 4 hours a day, keeps me on my feet, easy, nice boss. Minuses: starts at 6 (soon to be earlier), usually no weekends off, has me working with chemical cleaners, low hourly pay. I wouldn’t have even minded getting up at 5 on weekdays and riding my bike in the early morning cold, but I do mind doing it on weekends (because I can’t stay up past 10!) and really would have minded having to come in even earlier (oh holiday retail season).
Luckily, that is now moot following two happy developments. First, I got a job at the School Tutoring Academy, where I am tutoring math, English, French, and SAT Prep for K-12 students online. After a long adventure getting the technology working on my computer, I am now finally starting to work with some students. That will be 20-25 hours a week, with slightly better pay than the cleaning job.
That alone is not quite enough to live on, but now I have a second part-time position! I will be working at the same family shelter I was at when I first moved here, but now as the organizer of health and nutrition programs for residents through Americorps Improving Health Throughout Indiana. This is really exciting because I’ll basically get to create my own program, make my own hours, and learn tons of exciting new things as I tend the garden, cook delicious food, teach classes for adults and children, and plan various fun and healthy family activities!
With these two jobs, I won’t be rolling in dough, but I will have enough to live on, and I get another half-Americorps award at the end of the year, so I can continue taking classes next year! Plus, the hours for both jobs tend towards afternoon and evening, so I will be able to schedule my classes next semester in the mornings - my favorite time to take classes. And the more math I re-learn for tutoring, the more excited I am about abstract algebra!
In other news, it’s fall. My favorite part of cleaning in the mornings is when I wipe down the glass doors and get to look at the trees. I still see deer all the time while biking; most notably, I saw three of them (two of which were lying down) in the front yard of an occupied mobile home on a residential street. The only downside to the tutoring job is that it prevents me from attending French and German tables. :( Luckily, though, I can still make it to Russian table and Russian conversation class. I made a rassolnik (soup with pickles) with my homemade pickles and pork stock yesterday, and it’s delicious. I’m getting a haircut tomorrow for the first time in over 2 years. It will be a busy two weeks tutoring, finishing up at Macy’s, and getting set up with Americorps, along with being out of town this weekend for a wedding. I visited the third and final location of Bloomingfoods, the local coop, a few days ago, and discovered that I had been missing out on its best location! That experience brought it up solidly to the second-best coop ever (Viroqua’s, of course, being the first, and that partially due to the social aspect of it), and made me determined to do much more of my shopping there in future.
Most people who know me will feel like they have heard me recite this post a million times. It’s true that I have covered much of this material in previous blog posts, as well as ad nauseum in conversation, but I think it’s time to lay my opinions out there once and for all in one fell swoop.
Russian trains are the best trains in the world. I have traveled by train in at least 20 countries, mostly in Europe, but also in the US, Japan, China, and of course, Russia. And sure, Japan’s are fast and fancy, Germany’s are convenient and efficient, blah blah blah. They’ve still got nothing on Russia, partly due to enormous price differences and partly due to their lack of the atmospheric homeyness that is the principal reason Russian trains are so damn endearing.
Advantage #1: Price
A 7-hour overnight trip from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod (~260 mi.) in platzkart (see below) currently costs 1179 rubles, or about $36. A 27-hour trip to Ukhta (~1000 mi.), where I used to live, runs for about $80. These tickets get you a bunk in an open train compartment with a mattress, sheets, a pillow, and a wool blanket. Most any trip you take in Russia will at least be overnight, and there’s no such thing as paying 85 Euros for an inconvenient, middle-of-the-night, 5-hour trip (~280 mi.) and having to sit in a goddam seat with the lights on all night to top it all off. No - your 2000 rubles in Russia buy you comfort and relaxation, in addition to saving you the cost of a hotel room. (Japan, by the way, is even worse: $160 for the 4-hour, 290-mile trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, and even more for the bullet trains.)
Advantage #2: Punctuality
Russian trains may not be able to move at 200 mph like some Japanese trains - according to the above figures, the average speed is more like 35 mph - but they are extremely reliable. These trains have probably been running the same routes at the same times since the railways were built, and they have the stops listed to the minute. If the schedule says you’ll be in Cherepanovo from 12:43 to 12:45, you had better believe it.
Advantage #3: Communality
I always ride in platzkart (open-compartment cars) when I take the train in Russia. Honestly, I’m not sure why anyone would ever prefer kupe (closed compartments) unless you and your companions can fill the whole thing. The closed compartments get really stuffy, hot, and smelly, they cost more, and you risk being stuck in a tiny room with unsavory (or just annoying) people. There is safety in numbers, openness and visibility! Anyway, in platzkart there are open compartments with 2 bunks along one wall of the train separated by a corridor from 4 bunks (2 on 2) perpendicular to the other wall of the train, with a small table in between.
Upon entering the train, you find your bunk, greet your compartment-mates, and stow your luggage. Here is another advantage of platzkart: more storage space. If you are on a bottom bunk, there is storage underneath the bed, and otherwise, there is a third “bunk” way up top for your bags. You stash your big bags, hang your coat on the wall hooks, and make sure the things you’ll need (food, toiletries,…) are easily accessible. Then you sit and wait for the train to leave, for the conductor to check your tickets and bring your sheets. You may or may not make small-talk with your companions at this time. Generally, people are really friendly, and it is culturally enlightening just to listen to the conversations people have in trains. If it’s a long enough ride, everyone’s stories come out eventually. After the sheets come, you politely defer to each other when deciding who will make their bed first. Everyone unrolls their mattress, carefully tucks in their sheets, and neatly folds their wool comforter. People begin to change into slippers and jogging suits or robes, if they aren’t wearing them already. And here is where the fun begins.
View of the side bunks in platzkart, with the lower bunk converted into a table and seats. We’ve already been in this train for a while, so the neatly-made beds have already become rumpled.
Advantage #4: Food and the Samovar
If you are lucky, there will be at least one middle-aged woman in your compartment. She will definitely have sausage, bread, tea, cookies, and candy. If it’s a longer trip, she may have a whole roasted chicken, fruit, juice, and cabbage- or potato-stuffed pastries. She will probably offer to share, especially if you are a young American woman. These are just some of the delicacies you can enjoy on Russian trains. In every car, there is a hot-water tank (samovar) at the front, available to passengers at all times. Bring a selection of teas, instant noodles, instant mashed potatoes, instant oatmeal, etc., and you can have a hot meal at any time. On long trips, the trains also make long stops at certain platforms, where old ladies sell hot dumplings, pastries, and more. If there is a man in your compartment, you can count on being offered wine, beer, or vodka (whether to accept is another matter).
Advantage #5: Scenery
Russia is huge, and full of birch trees and marsh land and rivers and tiny villages with their picturesque, colorful wooden houses. Watch it go by.
To remain fair and balanced (although I’m patently not on this issue), I must admit that Russian trains do have disadvantages as well - namely, the bathrooms and the drunken men. But these by no means outweigh the magic, and they are stories for another time.
I took the liberty to translate the text.
Please note that it’s not a word to word translation.
Sometimes men simply have to be role models.
Because his son likes to wear skirts Nils Pickert started with it as well. After all, the little one needs a role model. And he thinks long skirts with elastic bands suit him quite well anyways. A story about two misfits in the Province of southern Germany.
My fife year old son likes to wear dresses. In Berlin Kreuzberg that alone would be enough to get into conversation with other parents. Is it wise or ridiculous? „Neither one nor the other!“ I still want to shout back at them. But sadly they can’t hear me any more. Because by now I live in a small town in South Germany. Not even a hundred thousand inhabitants, very traditional, very religious. Plainly motherland. Here the partiality of my son are not only a subject for parents, they are a town wide issue. And I did my bit for that to happen.
Yes, I’m one of those dads, that try to raise their children equal. I’m not one of those academic daddies that ramble about gender equality during their studies and then, as soon as a child’s in the house, still relapse into those fluffy gender roles: He’s finding fulfilment in his carrier and she’s doing the rest.
Thus I am, I know that by now, part of the minority that makes a fool of themselves from time to time. Out of conviction.
In my case that’s because I didn’t want to talk my son into not wearing dresses and skirts. He didn’t make friends in doing that in Berlin already and after a lot of contemplation I had only one option left: To broaden my shoulders for my little buddy and dress in a skirt myself. After all you can’t expect a child at pre-school age to have the same ability to assert themselves as an adult. Completely without role model. And so I became that role model.
We already had skirt and dress days back then during mild Kreuzbergian weather. And I think long skirts with elastic bands suit me quite well anyways. Dresses are a bit more difficult. There was either no reaction of the people in Berlin or it was positive. In my small town in the south of Germany that’s a little bit different.
Being all stressed out, because of the moving I forgot to notify the nursery-school teachers to have an eye on my boy not being laughed at because of his fondness of dresses and skirts. Shortly after moving he didn’t dare to go to nursery-school wearing a skirt or a dress any more. And looking at me with big eyes he asked: “Daddy, when are you going to wear a skirt again?”
To this very day I’m thankful for that women, that stared at us on the street until she ran face first into a street light. My son was roaring with laugher. And the next day he fished out a dress from the depth of his wardrobe. At first only for the weekend. Later also for nursery-school.
And what’s the little guy doing by now? He’s painting his fingernails. He thinks it looks pretty on my nails, too. He’s simply smiling, when other boys ( and it’s nearly always boys) want to make fun of him and says: “You only don’t dare to wear skirts and dresses because your dads don’t dare to either.” That’s how broad his own shoulders have become by now. And all thanks to daddy in a skirt.
This dad is the best dad
It has not even been 2 months since I got back, but it feels like forever.