Rapid Fire Reviews

“Because Snackable Content Sticks”

To stop living in a festering pool of guilt and internal tension, I’m going to reset the clock. Here are 18 rapid fire reviews.

Travel Edition Part 3: Amsterdam

Trains to Work – The only time the world can hit “snooze” on your perfectly timed morning is with a late train. Still, it beats driving.  – 3 out of 5 Stars

Zoos – Whenever I have a moment while traveling, I’ll visit a zoo in a weird place. Animal rights tabled for the moment, the zoo in Amsterdam is my favorite cuddly jail, it had wide awake animals all over the place. Talk about instant gratification! – 4 out of 5 Stars

Envy – A fancy restaurant Kate and I went to in Amsterdam. We sat at the Chef’s Table and had an 11-course meal, four of which were mostly foam based. Do I want to eat most food in foam form? No. Was it cool though? I dunno, is eating bubbles cool? Absolutely. – 4 out of 5 Stars

Misc

Our Current Political Climate – 0 out of 5 Stars

Jicama Sticks – They lack the crunch of carrots, and yet have the weird texture of watermelon. – 2 out of 5 Stars

Bohnanaza – A card game where you’re a bean farmer and have to trade with other farmers to reap the best bean harvests. You know it’s a good game when you’re standing up and shouting across the table “HOW MANY STINK BEANS DO YOU WANT FOR ONE CHILI BEAN GODDAMMIT” – 4 out of 5 stars

Twitter – I’ve gotten back into the word whirlwind that is Twitter. Avoid all Kanye tweets. – 2 out of 5 Stars

Chia Pods – We were mistakenly given a bagful of these in our last Instacart order. They’re like if you mixed bad pudding with the gelatin portion of pomegranate seeds. – 1 out of 5 Stars 

The Good Place – What a brilliant show, and what trust in the writing staff. – 4 out of 5 Stars

Cheers – Speaking of Ted Danson, this show is uncomfortably misogynist. However, that seems like a great bar to hang at. – 2 out of 5 Stars

A Career in the Postal Service – I’ve often dreamed about is being a mailman in a nice walkable neighborhood. You get to exercise every day, you could listen to podcasts at work (learn French!) and most of the time you’re delivering something important to people’s lives. – 3 out of 5 Stars

Jazz Flute – When Kate and I were in Spain, the only music we had at the house were a stack of CD’s her family had left. Most of them were classical, except one was an album that had crazy good jazz flute renditions of Brazillian music. An Absolute Banger. – 4 out of 5 Stars

Silent Discos on the Beach – If time permits, I try to run after work before the sun goes down on the beach. Recently I’ve been coming across a group of Burner types who all wear headphones and gyrate wildly in silence on the beach as the sun goes down. Whatever works I guess. – 3 out of 5 Stars

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes – A recipe taken from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings, put this in your weekly rotation now. It’s the deliciousness of mashed potatoes, sans the Irish guilt. – 5 out of 5 Stars 

Bad Blood – I just finished this book about Theranos, the Silicon Valley startup that tricked investors out of a billion dollars, and then immediately made Kate read it. I’m usually not one for nonfiction, but this is a fascinating and fast read. – 4 out of 5 Stars

Wearing My Suit to a Wedding – Got to finally break that bad boy out for a trip to DC a few weeks back. While people weren’t throwing money or their bras at me, I did feel like a million bucks (at a 40% discount, thanks Atta!) – 4 out of 5 Stars

Pumpkins for Decoration – It’s October again, which means I start stressing about my Halloween costume, and Kate goes overboard on decorating. Our house now contains a pumpkin that we will never eat. It will just slowly rot until I throw it in the garbage. – 1 out of 5 Stars

Crossing Things off a List – Every Monday morning I sit down and make a list of thing I need to get done for the week. Some of them are ongoing projects, but some of them are gimmes. I literally write “make a list” and then when I’m done, cross it off. I encourage endorphin manipulation at all opportunities. – 3 out of 5 Stars 

TSA PreCheck

This is the beginning of three-part series that documents the two-week journey that Kate and I are embarking on. We’re going to a beach town in Spain for a week, then heading to Amsterdam for work.

PART ONE: TRAVEL PREPAREDNESS

“Not Elite Enough In My Opinion”

The first time Kate and I flew together, I learned something about the woman who had stolen my heart.

She’s a flying elitist, and I am (was) not.

See, I think I’m an excellent traveler. I’ve crisscrossed South East Asia by myself. I’ve bribed custom agents to get through immigration quicker (okay one time, and I was told to), and I’ve taken 12-hour van rides through the windy backroads of Northern Thailand. I’m good at traveling.

But perhaps I’m not that good at flying well.

When Kate and I flew somewhere together for the first time, she learned that I didn’t have TSA PreCheck. She did. This transgression did not sit well with her.

In a past life, Kate spent a year and a half flying back and forth between New York and Cincinnati. This experience taught her the value of high-end flying and racking up points.

Before we started dating, I had never signed up for a membership rewards program or frequent flyer deal. The less data corporations had on me, the better I thought I was.

I’ve since realized that all the data on me is already vacuumed up and in a server somewhere, so might as well make it work for me.

So when Kate found out I didn’t share the same airport echelon aspirations as her, she remedied the situation. Her solution? While I was going through security with the other plebians, she was signing me up for global entry, from the very airport we’re sitting in now.

Now this plan was created in a moment of passion, and with passion comes a blindness to mistakes. Her biggest mistake? When I received my global entry ID card (I found it, by the way), which not only gave me TSA PreCheck, but fast entrance back into the country, my gender is listed as “F”.

My plan if ever quizzed about it? Fake ignorance and pretend like I never noticed.

Back to PreCheck though. It’s great, and it lets you breeze through security. However, the secret is out, and now more and more…people are using it.

So now we’re back to the crux of the problem, standing behind a person who A. Has not been listening to the speeches, reading the signs, and apparently has never had to function in modern society before. Suddenly shoes are flying everywhere, Blackberries are being left on waists, and it’s general mess. What, are you new?

Oh shit. Turns I’ve become the flying elitist.

Well, as long as the lines are short, might as enjoy the better things in life!

TSA PreCheck – 3 out of 5 Stars

Cereal

“Breakfast Crackers”

Millennials. We get a bad wrap. We’re the cause of…all of the world’s problems. We’re entitled, lazy, and are constantly destroying solid American pillars.

One of those institutions? Cereal. Depending on who you believe, we’re either too lazy to clean up after ourselves to eat cereal, or we’re focused on healthy breakfast options more than the previous generation – long story short, cereal sales are down.

To be fair, ever since I left the nest at the ripe old age of 18 (and then summarily returned at the age of 24, only to fly again at 25), I don’t buy cereal. Buying cereal means I have to buy milk, and I don’t drink enough milk to not have it go bad in my fridge. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing or smelling bad milk, but word on the street is that it’s an unpleasant experience.

Don’t get me wrong, cereal is absolutely delicious. Especially the kind we ate as children. Who wouldn’t want marshmallows for breakfast? Growing up I had three favorite types of cereal.

Honey Bunches of Oats – This combination of oat clusters and nuts always felt like it was the healthiest. No wrong could come to my body as long as I started the day with a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats.

Kix – Kid Tested, Mother Approved. A bowl of these plain colored orbs were a true treat. Especially when you threw them at friends.

Lucky Charms – Obviously Lucky Charms makes the cut. I considered putting Golden Grahams as my third option, but the magical mystery of clovers and rainbows were too enticing to pass up. Holy shit this was just a bowl full of sugar crack. I feel like Lucky Charms may have been the root cause of a lot of ADD diagnoses.

So we’re killing cereal, but like a magnificent forest, sometimes there needs to be destruction for greater growth to occur. Now that I’m in my 30’s, I’m all about fiber. And you know what is a great source of fiber?

Cereal, that’s what. So while I’ve traded in my horseshoes and tasty red balloons for brands that help me poop, it’s nice to feel like a Millennial that isn’t killing something.

Cereal – 3 out of 5 Stars

Tevas

“Like Sandals for Really Really Cool People”

It’s been very very hot in California this summer. In a gross way. In a way that our state has burst into flames all across the mountains and valleys.

Right now, the largest fire in state history is burning, it’s called the Mendocino Complex fire, and it’s the size of the entirety of Los Angeles.

Fire PSA over, I’m just trying to make a sympathetic point that it’s hot.

Now that I’ve got you freaked out by wildfires, and in an emotional state of support, let’s talk about Teva Sandals.

My first encounter with Tevas was when I was 13 years old, and with a group of Boy Scouts and parents (Thanks Dad!) I backpacked into the Grand Canyon and spent 4 days in a magical place called Havasupai.

This is not to be confused with Lake Havasu, the popular spring break destination. A grueling 10-mile hike is the only way to get to this secluded and beautiful destination. We wore hiking boots to get in there, but once there all of us enjoyed the heavy duty protection of Tevas, while still being able to swim in waterfalls and the lake without wearing wet socks.

After that moment, I thought Tevas were basically the Dippin Dots of shoes – the future. High school and college quickly proved me wrong. Since I didn’t go to UC Berkeley or live in Boulder, Tevas weren’t commonplace.

Senior year of college, I took an ill-fated canoe trip through the Everglades. I ended up being hospitalized for five days, but that was completely unrelated to my footwear choices. My roommate and I wore Tevas, and passed the time by getting in hotly contested debates with the trip leaders about the superior merits of Tevas over the other mainstay of what I like to call “Tactical Sandals,” Chacos.

I hung up my Tevas for almost half a decade after that, until I took the free trip to Israel known as Birthright. I traipsed all across the contested holy land in my Tevas, and while feeling no stronger ties to religion, I was struck with holy fever for my sandals.

All of these moments led up to yesterday when the local news told me yet again that it was going to be a scorcher in Los Angeles. I work in a fashion-forward office, so I decided to roll the dice and rock my trusty Tevas to my job.

Turns out Los Angeles wasn’t the only thing that got roasted yesterday. My fashion choice was met with a small section of support, but the overwhelming vibe was that I shouldn’t mix Tevas with Trabajo.

Tevas – 3 out of 5 Stars 

Buying New Jeans

“I should do this more often”

I’m a terrible clothes shopper. I exist in two realms of shopping:

1. I will simply buy the first thing I see, without trying it on, to accomplish my fashion goal as fast as possible

2. I will find something I love, balk at the price, leave the store, and 99% of the time revert to realm 1.

There are few things that I take the time to try out – but through trial and error, I’ve realized that purchasing a new pair of jeans is worth the dedicated effort.

For years, I was a Levi’s guy, and I still have a strong brand affinity with them. For half a decade I wore 511’s in grey and blue. Then through a series of gifts, I branched out in terms of my jean brands.

No matter the brand you prefer, getting a new pair of jeans is almost like getting a new family member. Realistically I have about four pairs of pants that I wear regularly. So if I break that out, I’ll be wearing each pair about 90 days out of the year, basically a pair of jeans per season.

I also wear jeans until they’re in tatters. Whenever I visited home from college, my mother would throw away my jeans that had more than two holes in them. No matter how many cries of “they’re perfectly broken in” I said, her response was always “they’re just broken”

What I’m getting at is, I added a new pair of jeans to my rotation, and I’m pleased with the results so far. The breaking in process has just begun, but there’s no worse feeling than spending your hard-earned wealth on jeans, only to discover a few days later that they aren’t the fit you were hoping for. And you know my policy on returning things. Luckily, these aren’t in that category

Next time you shop for a new pair of jeans, take your time. If you choose correctly, they will accompany you on adventures for at least two years. They’ll take you camping, through the rain, on dates, into new countries, and who knows where else. Just make sure they fit.

Buying New Jeans – 3 out of 5 Stars 

Soju

“Sneaky Fire Water”

The first time I had the Korean liquor soju, it was the day before my 23rd birthday.

I was living in Bangkok at the time, and in a random twist of fate, a very good friend from high school had popped back into my life. He had spent the last few months traveling and was cooling his jet-setting heels for a bit in the Thai City of Angels.

Our friendship reunited, he insisted on taking me out to dinner for a proper Korean meal as his birthday present. I was slowly starting to realize that the best gifts aren’t items, but life experiences, so I gladly accepted.

He found a delightful spot near my apartment, and we sat down to gorge ourselves on a scrumptious array of banchan (small side dishes) as the wait staff began to grill meat for us.

“Have you ever had soju?” he asked me.

“No, is it like sake?”

“Kind of, but better. It sneaks up on you”

A small green bottle of soju appeared at the table, and because I was older than him, he poured me a shot of perfectly clear and pleasant smelling liquid, then he poured himself one. We exchanged a loud “Geonbae!” and threw them back.

Sweet, smooth, and soothing, this soju stuff was great!

Part of Korean drinking culture (or at least that night it was) is to always keep the glasses full of others around the table. Pouring a drink for someone else is an act of respect, as well as drinking with one another. Over the course of a few hours, we polished off three bottles of soju together.

When complemented with smoking hot meat, this chilled and clear liquid seemed like the optimal counter-point to the charred and spicy flavors that were exploding in my mouth.

The meal done and our bellies full, we left the restaurant. Up until that moment, I had felt in full control of my senses. Standing outside, I turned to my friend.

“Oh man, I feel like I want to go get in a fight or something”

He laughed, “SojuJoey has arrived!”

Don’t worry, from that night until today, I’ve continued my pacifist streak of never getting into a fight. Like my streak of pacificism, my love affair with soju has continued as well. It’s been a staple in every Korean meal and Karaoke session since then.

Tonight I’ll be saying 여보세요 again to my old friend soju for a work event. I can’t wait to catch up with soju, hear the stories it has to tell and sing it’s praises with a loud “Geonbae!”

Soju – 3 out of 5 Stars

Triathlons

“Well, That was Hard”

As I’ve mentioned in past few weeks, I signed up for a triathlon, and this weekend I did it.

I’ll never be able to pinpoint exactly why I decided to pay money to swim a quarter mile in the ocean, bike 10 miles and then end it all with a 5k run.

Perhaps because I saw it as a good excuse to bond with new coworkers. Maybe I wanted to see if I could do it. Or it could be possible that it’s the continuation of the trend in my life where I do things that aren’t well thought out, purely with the idea that “this will be a good story to write about later.”

My motivations still a mystery, I’m here to tell you that I did it! I did all that stupid exercise in the correct order in one hour and twenty minutes. Here’s a breakdown of each.

The Swim:

Before you actually jump in the water, you stand in a loose clump with your gender, separated by age group. So at 7:06 AM last Sunday, myself and probably another 150 31 to 39-year-old men, in various states of aquatic gear (From Wetsuits to Speedos) found ourselves breathing heavily and staring at the Pacific Ocean.

A siren was rung, and we were off. I had been keeping up my open water practice, but I hadn’t factored in the 149 other people who I would be sharing the water with.

It was a 400-meter swim, straight out to a buoy, a 90-degree turn that put me parallel to the shore, and then another buoy that sent me back to the beach. I did okay, but halfway through I definitely wanted to quit. My arms screamed in confusion, and I worked hard to not gulp down seawater.

The only thing that kept me going was the dual thoughts of “you might die if you stop swimming” and “don’t be the guy the lifeguards have to rescue” – so I put my head down and continue to pump my shoulders, eventually making it back to shore.

The Bike: 

It was a three lap circuit, and it took me two circuits to even catch my breath from the swim. The best part about a triathlon is that every single participant has their age written in marker on their left calf. So as numerous “On your lefts” were shouted at me, I could feel the humble shame of watching a 63-year-old in a speedo zoom by. My favorite part was when a 14-year-old girl passed me, and then as she did she yelled “good job!”

Thank you little 14-year-old triathlete. I needed that good job.

The Run:

The run was the easiest part for me, except that two minutes I realized that I desperately had to pee. Wearing nothing but a spandex unitard, I had the serious question in my brain pop up – should I just pee myself?

Then I remembered it was a 5k, not a run for my life, so I luckily found a clean bathroom. Less liquid, I was able to complete the 5k in just about 30 minutes, a new PR.

Overall, I’ve never felt physically better after finishing the race. Looking back, the swim definitely was the part that took it out of me, but the rest was pretty manageable. It was a neat emotion realizing that I haven’t done something that physically strenuous… almost ever.

Even weirder is that I’m now in the “have done a triathlon” column. The weirdest thing though? I’ll probably do another one. Mostly just for the smug reply to “what did you do this weekend” though.

Triathlons – 3 out of 5 Stars