Wednesday, December 18, 2013

MRE Review: Menu 18, Chicken with Noodles

Bread and the military go way back, but it hasn't always been a happy relationship.

Hard breads have gone by a few different names through the ages. The Egyptians made theirs out of millet and called it dhourra. The Romans called theirs buccellum. British sailors called the stuff “hard tack,” a name that spread to America and is still used today.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mistakes to Avoid When You're a Superhero's Girlfriend


Maybe you first met him in high school. Or maybe it was on his first day of work. Or maybe it was that time you were kidnapped by a masked madman and tied up over a vat of acid. Maybe you hardly knew he existed until circumstances threw you together and he finally had a chance to prove his worth, at which point you learned that he’d been obsessed with you for years.

Creepily obsessed with you.

For years.

Yeeeeeah, so you probably should have shut that down right there. But something in the back of your brain (possibly a minor embolism from the acid fumes) told you to go ahead and date him, and now you're a superhero’s girlfriend.

Your relationship sure had a rocky start, but it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out. Right?

Well, it could be, if you avoid these common mistakes...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Digestive System, Part 9: The Colon

Path of poop through the colon.
Adapted from an image CC CC Olek Remesz.

The last time we looked at the digestive system, feces was piling up in the cecum. So where’s it going from there?

We’ve already gone over contractions in the colon that serve primarily to mix, but the real movers and shakers in the colonic mobility world are Giant Migrating Contractions. GMCs are real truth in advertising: contractions that cause giant migrations (of poop.) They occur in the small intestines too, to move chyme into the cecum, but in the colon they’re notable for occurring only three times per day, and moving feces a full third of the way through the colon at one go.1 You’ve probably noticed these from time to time, as a sensation of sudden movement inside your belly. The next time you notice one, make sure to tell the person next to you that your colonic feces has just undergone a Giant Migrating Contraction. If they don’t edge away from you, it’s love.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

MRE Review: Menu 13, Tortellini Vegetarian

Corn: The Food of the Nation
You’ll recall that we've been exploring the problem of under-consumption in early MRE’s. According to a scientific report, the top three reasons for troops not cleaning their plates were:
  1. The food was shit
  2. Field conditions are not conducive to eating
  3. People are fucking stupid
We've already tackled the first two, so let’s finish this sucker off, Thanksgiving style, with an essay I like to call…

Dude? People Are Fucking Stupid

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Digestive System, Part 8: Liver and Cecum


Okay, so by now you've absorbed all those tasty amino acids, sugars, fats, vitamins, and minerals. They've passed through the enterocytes and into the bloodstream (with the exception of some fats and fat-soluble vitamins, which at this point are still wandering around lost in the lymphatic system.) But, now that the bulk of nutrients are in the bloodstream, they must be rushing to the four corners of the body, to be shared equally by your cells and tissues, right?

You’re so ignorant, you disgust me.

Of course they aren't! You can't just give them free rein to wander around wherever they please! There could be terrorists in those nutrients. And what do we do to keep out terrorists? We give them a security screening.

So please remove all shoes and jackets, and place all metal and electronic devices in the tray, because you're in line for the hepatic portal system.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

MRE Review: Menu 19, Beef Roast

In the last couple reviews, we’ve been exploring the problem of MRE under-consumption. According to research commissioned during and after the first Gulf War, the primary problems were:
  1. The food is shit
  2. Field conditions are not conducive to eating
  3. People are fucking stupid
Today, we’ll look at the second item on the list, in an essay that I like to call…

It Ain’t Easy to Eat Dinner When You’re Posted Downwind of a Latrine

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Letter Writing Has Not Gone Out of Style

Hey, have you guys ever read The Lazlo Letters?

As far as zany performance art goes, it's second to none. And, well... let's just say that it's been a bad influence on me. Here's an actual letter that I recently sent to Nathan's Hot Dogs:

Letter to Nathan's Famous Hotdogs: Obscene shape

After I sent that letter off, I sat down and thought, "Okay, I've had my fun. Now, how can my letters help improve the world?" The answer presented itself immediately:

Letter: Beau Bridges

And then, I'm ashamed to say, I reverted to form:

Letter to Queen of England: Bohemian Rhapsody

Plain text transcripts after the break...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Digestive System, Part 7: The Ileum

Small Intestines: Jejunum and Ileum

The border between the jejunum and the ileum is… not a border. Unlike the organs we've been looking at so far, there is no clear demarcation line between jejunum and ileum. They transition smoothly into each other as we travel down the small intestine, becoming progressively less jejunumy and more ileumy as they go. With no anatomical guidepost to demarcate them, the jejunum is arbitrarily designated as the first 2/5ths of the small intestine (not including the duodenum,) and the ileum is said to make up the last 3/5ths.

The two are not very different. You can have your entire jejunum removed, in fact, with little effect on your health. I mean, I wouldn't recommend super-sizing your meals if you don't have a jejunum, but you can live a basically normal life. Over time, the ileum will even adapt itself, becoming more jejunumy in order to take up the slack.1

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

MRE Review: Menu 20, Spaghetti with Beef and Sauce

Navy chow is the best

Last time, we told the story of how the Pentagon took a hard look at their field rations and identified, in a scientific report, three critical flaws that were leading to underconsumption:
  1. The food is shit
  2. Field conditions are not conducive to eating
  3. People are fucking stupid
Today, we’ll look at the first item on the list, in an essay that I like to call…

Your Food is Shit, G-Man

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hardtack Review: 3 months old

Remember when I reviewed freshly made hardtack, and promised a follow-up review when it was appropriately aged? Well, it's been three months, so I owe you a review.

Which you will not be getting.

Because I value my life.

When I went to retrieve my hard tack from the dark hiding place where I kept it secret and not-so-as-it-turns-out-safe, I couldn't even see the original biscuit through the multiple, overlapping layers of mold. Yeah, there was mold growing on other mold. Because apparently, even the mold got sick of eating hardtack, and turned cannibal just to broaden its menu.

I sealed it all up and escorted it out of the apartment, under heavy guard, to its new home in the dumpster. I didn't even try to salvage the tupperware, nor think to take a picture (that probably would have gotten into National Geographic.) I just wanted it out of my living space before it could drive me into anaphylactic shock as, I am now convinced, was its plan from the start.

In hindsight, it may have been an error for me, someone with a severe mold allergy, to commit to reviewing a 3-month-old bread product that depends upon the skill of the cook for its shelf stability. But the danger never once crossed my mind—a testament to my unwavering commitment to you, gentle reader.


While you're here, why not check out my other ration reviews?

Fresh Hardtack
Menu 16, Pork Rib
Menu 22, Sloppy Joe
Menu 23, Pasta in Pesto
Menu 14, Ratatouille (Vegetarian)
Menu 15, Southwest Beef and Beans
Menu 8, Marinara Sauce with Meatballs
Menu 20, Spaghetti with Beef and Sauce 
Menu 19, Beef Roast
Menu 13, Tortellini Vegetarian 
Menu 18, Chicken with Noodles
First Strike Ration Menu 2 (Part 1)
First Strike Ration Menu 2 (Part 2)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Review: The Rockman Chronicles: Trials of Galactar

John Rockman and the Trials of Galactar
Rockman’s eyes opened slowly. The virtual room he saw was rectangular, and yes, it was a room. Luckily it wasn’t the air-flight scenario. Rockman was even more lucky it wasn’t the Easter Egg-Hunt Challenge, which could take light-months to complete, the END SCENARIO button only making itself visible after all the colored eggs were discovered and placed into a small basket.

-John Rockman and the Trials of Galactar
Ron Jockman: author, polymath, visionary. Future generations will look back upon the day that Ron Jockman first began to write fiction, and they will say to each other, in hushed tones, “That was when history began.” How privileged are we, to be alive at a time when he still writes (because, in the present, as opposed to the future, when future generations will live, he isn't dead yet?)

He is a genius of the written word. His every clicky little typewriter typing sound seems to cry to the mountains, “Brilliant!” And he’s a really fast typist, too, so all those “brilliants” merge into a glorious cacophony of splendor, echoing through the halls of his pages.
“Haven’t they ever seen a dweeby-eyed, naked, hairy pig-bodied floating bloated whore-gnome before?” Palthron spat.

Or, possibly, he’s just another inept nitwit with delusions of adequacy.

The Rockman Chronicles: John Rockman and the Trials of Galactar by the Prince of Galactar, by Ron Jockman, is not a book by Ron Jockman. It isn’t a book by the Prince of Galactar, either, because I’m pretty sure he’s fictional. Like Ron Jockman is.

She recoiled again, like a hobo being peed upon.
With me so far?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Digestive System: Part 6, The Jejunum

The jejunum is where nutrient uptake really gets going. Up to now, the digestive tract has been obsessed with mashing food up, breaking it down, and purifying it of pathogens, in order to maintain the purity of essence of our precious natural fluids. In the jejunum, digestive juices do continue to work, and there’s some last minute molecular-level destruction happening on the intestinal lining, but the primary focus has shifted from breaking nutrients down to absorbing them safely.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Mind power, Swede. Mind power!

If you read Robyn Straley's blog (and if not, why not?) you know that I recently tied for second/first place in her very first reader contest. If you were wondering what I won, then wonder no longer!

Handful of Salt
Handful of Salt magazine (which Robyn writes for!,) pistachios, foil stars ("as a 'grown up' you have to give them to yourself," says Robyn) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which I have not read, and looks awesome,) The Space Swimmers (which I have not read, and looks awesomely horrible,) Bon Apppetit magazine, Hibiscus Tea, Salt from the Meadow, and a test tube o' salt from Robyn's wedding favors.

And, for some reason, my foodsaver and coffee maker are crashing the picture. I call that vanity.

Big thanks to Robyn Straley for these prizes!

Which I will now review.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MRE Review: Menu 8, Marinara Sauce with Meatballs

Uncle Sam Says Garden
Getting soldiers, sailors, and marines to eat their rations is not as easy as you might think. Well, for soldiers and marines, anyway. Getting sailors to eat is as easy as serving food that actually tastes good. Crazy concept, but it works.

For the rest, under-consumption was a major problem in the first decade after MRE introduction, but a problem that went unnoticed by the top brass. Then, in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, hundreds of thousands of American troops were flown off to remote stations guarding the Saudi-Kuwaiti border, and the ration issue came to a head. Stuck in these desert outposts, without regular resupply, troops had to subsist on nothing but MREs for months at a time.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Digestive System, Part 5: The Duodenum

Image CC Olek Remesz
Nutrient digestion kicks into high gear when we reach one of the most lyrically named organs in the human body: the duodenum. Have a listen to the accepted pronunciations, from Wiktionary:

Aren't those lovely? I especially like the second one. Why the duodenum doesn’t appear at least once in every song ever written, I can’t understand. That's going to be a rule when I conquer the world.

Enough of that talk, though. You'll know more than you ever wanted to soon, soon.

When we left off last time, chyme (another of those wonderfully lyrical words, referring to the soupy mixture of chewed food churned up by the stomach) was squirting into the duodenum through the pyloric sphincter. When there's little or no chyme in the stomach, the pyloric sphincter has a semi-relaxed posture—chill but not too chill—which allows stomach contents to drain slowly into the duodenum.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Yeast Bread Falling: Robyn Straley Edition



You mean Robyn Straley ("Other-Robyn", around these parts) made me the subject of this month's Yeast Bread Rising version of the Proust Questionnaire? Where can I find this historic interview, you ask? Well, right here, of course. (And if you're curious about what the Yeast Bread Rising Questionnaire is, all shall be revealed in this informative article.) So follow that link right over there. When you get back, we'll talk further.

Doot doot dah dah doot doot dah.

Back? Okay.

By now you can see that there's only one appropriate retaliation for this kind of thing: I need a questionnaire of my own. One that combines my obsession with MRE's and low-class food with my patented brand of whimsical evil. And guess who was blackmailed graciously agreed to be my first subject?

If you guessed anyone apart from Other-Robyn, then you're pretty bad at guessing games, aren't you?

So, without further ado, I present my questions, and Other-Robyn's answers to...

The Yeast Bread Falling Questionnaire
Being the Darkside Version of the Yeast Bread Rising Questionnaire
Inaugural Edition
With Guest Robyn Straley
A Robyn Bennis Joint
Executive Producer: Marcel Proust
If you haven't laughed at this gag by now, you ain't gonna.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

MRE Review: Menu 15, Southwest Beef and Beans

Kitchen Waste Pig Food

In a previous review, we sat down and had an awkward talk about where MRE's come from. (Remember, kids: the only surefire way to avoid buying a civilian MRE is to wait until you're married to someone who works in the packaging plant.) Now let's dive into the contentious issue of whether an MRE's nutritional value begins at conception.

Combat Feeding Initiative Dept of DefenseMeal Ready to Eat (MRE) R&D takes place at the Department of Defense (DoD) Combat Feeding Directorate (CFD) at the Army Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) in Natick, MA.

In other news, Pentagon bureaucrats now being paid by the acronym.

Candidate menu items are developed by food science chefs and designed to meet nutritional guidelines provided by the Surgeon General. Whatever dishes the chefs come up are first evaluated in the food lab by “sensory panelists" who, I'd like to think, are moderated by Dana Carvey playing John McLaughlin. Anything that makes it past the panelists is then submitted to a full field test and sampled by actual soldiers, sailors, and marines.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Magnets not Healing You Enough? Try Adding Jesus.

This is a real advertisement that actually happened:

End Your Pain Jesus Bracelet Magnets

Penetrating Power of Magnets!
Soothing Power of Copper!
Healing Power of Jesus!
Quacksalving Power of Bullshit!

Yes, for only $9.97, Dream Products Catalog, Inc. will send you a copper bracelet with magnets and Jesus in it. And if you can find a better Jesus inside a better magnet inside a better bracelet? You buy it.

Because, really, why make some people think you're gullible, when you can make everyone think you're gullible? Whether your friends are Christians, Atheists, or new age crystal humpers, there's something in this product they can belittle you over.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Motivational Cookies

My employers recently had an Employee Appreciation Day. (In other news, Employee Appreciation Day is apparently a thing. In other other news, Employee Appreciation Day is in March, not July, but my employers refuse to submit to the tyranny of the calendar.)


They approached me and said, "Hey Robyn, you're creative. Why don't you bake some cookies for the break room, and put motivational messages on them?" Because I guess being creative also means that you bake? Whatever. I agreed to their proposal with an enthusiasm that should have tipped them off.

Here's what I delivered:

Motivational Cookies 1

Motivational Cookies 2

File this one under "The People I Work With Are Poor Judges of Character."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Job Interview

I am not good at job interviews.

I used to be even worse, but I've recently found a way to significantly reduce my anxiety levels. I call it “purging myself of all hope.” Before I discovered this surprisingly useful trick, I was a total train wreck.

Even now, I have some pretty bad interview habits, the worst of which is thinking too much. (Indeed, this may be the central problem of my life.) On an interview, I tend to filter every word I speak and every answer I give through every piece of interview advice I've ever received.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse, Part II

Last month's guide to surviving a zombie apocalypse was so easy to write popular that I felt I must expand upon it. Please enjoy these bonus tips for use during an uprising of the undead:

Choosing a Melee Weapon

Team fortress Engineer

You may have seen crowbars recommended in that other zombie survival guide. Well, I guess that’s the kind of cut-rate advice you expect from an author who never had to fight their way through a mall full of ghouls on the way to looting a Spencer’s Gifts.

The problem with a crowbar is that, while a strike with the hook end is powerful, it’s also liable to get stuck in the zombie. A crowbar also lacks a proper grip, and will certainly slip out of your hands if you’re sweating. (And you will be sweating, because the mall lost air conditioning when the power went out.) Either way, your weapon’s gone and now the zombies are swarming you. Within seconds, you're being eaten alive and some gristled old survivalist has taken the last “Who Needs Big Tits with an Ass Like Mine?” t-shirt.

It's a disaster.

Monday, July 8, 2013


Why so much toilet paper?

This is the stall in the ladies room where I work.

The janitors keep putting fresh rolls on the dispensers, long before the last roll is finished. But, in an admirable-but-misguided attempt to reduce waste, they move the half-used rolls to ever more distant corners of the stall, further and further away from the one place where they might actually get used.

I don't know why they do this. They're like... squirrels or something, scurrying around the stall with rolls of toilet paper stuffed into their cheeks, looking for somewhere to bury them.

By next week, I expect to see toilet paper rolls in the sink and, shortly afterwards, propped outside the bathroom door. My long-term projections indicate that, within three years, our janitors will be quietly placing half-used toilet paper rolls in your living room.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Suspicious Activity on Your Credit Card: Reading

You ever have one of those days, when even your own financial software is dogpiling on you?

Unusual spending on books.

"Unusual Spending on Books," huh? I especially love the bit in the middle: "Might want to look into that." You can almost see looking suspiciously over a pair of wire-rimmed glasses and saying, "Someone's been using Robyn's credit card to buy books. She's never bought books before. And look at this. Her spending on vintage pornography has dropped nearly to zero. Someone's obviously stolen her credit card."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Digestive System, Part 4: B-12 as Temptress

Medicine Man Sean Connery
Have you ever lost anything, Homo sapien? Your purse? Your car keys?

Well, it’s rather like that. Now you have it, now you don't.

We lost a vitamin that’s critical to our survival. And good luck trying to find it now. The last time anyone can remember having it was at least 2 billion years ago. Yes, that's "billion" with a ba-ba-billion.

It's vitamin B-12. We need it to live, but we can't make it ourselves.In fact, the only naturally occurring creatures that can make vitamin B-12 are bacteria and archaea, the simplest organisms on Earth.1

So how the hell do animals survive? I mean, I don't usually browse the archaea aisle at my local supermarket, so where does my B-12 come from? Well, if you eat enough veggies, you can get your B-12 from the soil bacteria clinging to them. Some herbivores can even supply their own B-12 needs, with bacteria living in their stomachs.

But what if you're a carnivore?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Remember that Time... Pt. 2

Remember that time Mahatma Ghandi decided that the only way to achieve Indian independence was to kill Superman?

Ultra Humanite Ghandi plots to destroy Superman

Yeah, that was weird.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lana After Dark

Lana the Box Turtle Late Night Web surfing

It's me, Lana. Lana the Box Turtle. Robyn finally fell asleep in front of a big bowl of chili that she took to bed, so I snuck onto her Blogger account. I don't have my own Blogger account, because I'm a fucking turtle.

I just want you all to know, I'm very happy about the recent Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. In fact, I feel privileged to be alive at a time when I can bear witness to tolerance and equality winning out over hatred and bigotry. Robyn keeps saying that we have to get married now, but I've read all the news reports (I consider myself a very political turtle) and I don't see anything in there about mandatory gay marriages between humans and box turtles. I'm pretty sure she's making that part up.

Now that I think about it, she's been saying stuff like that for years. Like, she's always talking about how "the sicko liberals aren't going to stop until they force humans and box turtles, like the two of us, to have kinky weird sex every night," and then she shakes her head and says it's disgusting, but I swear she looks kind of turned on.

It makes me uncomfortable.

Anyway, just wanted you to know my thoughts on the matter. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a head of lettuce in the fridge with my name on it, and some countertops that I need to shit salmonella onto.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thanks a lot, Supreme Court

Box turtle gay marriage
This is Lana, the female box turtle that I'm now legally obligated to marry, since the Supreme Court destroyed the sanctity of marriage yesterday.

Well, you better come and arrest me, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, because I'm taking a stand for traditional marriage by absolutely refusing to marry this box turtle. The government can take my life, my liberty, and even my XBox, but it cannot force me to marry a cold-blooded reptile.

We're going to date, and maybe fool around a little, but that's it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

MRE Review: Menu 14, Ratatouille (Vegetarian)

Originally, there were no vegetarian MRE options. Because who gives a crap if people who are different than me starve to death in the field, amiright? The U.S. Military: Okay but Not Great at Keeping Our Troops Alive, Since 1775.

Finally, in 1996, the Pentagon expanded the selection with not one but two vegetarian menus: Cheese Tortellini and Pasta with Vegetables. Half-starved vegetarians rejoiced, but they were in for a nasty surprise: when they went into the field, the veggie MREs were already gone.

Where did they go?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ration Mini-Review: Fresh Hardtack

Homemade Hardtack

A proper MRE review is coming on Wednesday but, in the meantime, let me give you a taste of the original meal ready to eat: hardtack.

Historically, most hardtack has been made with exactly two ingredients, flour and water. You'll see recipes with salt, baking powder, and even oil, but the soldiers and sailors of yore ate hardtack that was unadulterated by those luxury ingredients. Aiming to approximate their experience, I made the hardtack above by mixing a dough of whole grain flour and water, cutting it into roughly 3"x3"x1/2" squares, poking holes, and baking for 30 minutes per side at 350F. I then allowed the hardtack to cool and baked it 225F for another 30 minutes, to get the last of the moisture out. Some "ship's biscuit" hardtacks were baked a third or even a fourth time, to better survive months at sea, but let's not go overboard here (maritime pun!).

Monday, June 17, 2013

More Digital Cosplay

Chibi Ninja
Emily Cammisa has done another amazing portrait for the header. And to answer your next question: no, I didn't pose for this drawing. If I had posed for it, you wouldn't be able to see me.

That's a little joke we ninjas make. But seriously, you would never see me. Except maybe for a couple seconds while your head was rolling away.

If you want a self-portrait that will strike terror into the hearts of your friends and enemies alike, suitable for framing or just printing on a coffee mug, why don't you head over to Emily's website and get a commission done?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

White Zombie

As you know, I've survived a number of zombie outbreaks, some of which were not even caused by my own unholy attempts to play God. So naturally, people ask, "Robyn? How have you managed to live through so many zombie apocalii?"

To which I answer, "It's actually 'zombie apocalypses'. You're thinking of the irregular plural for second declension Latin nouns ending in -us, whereas apocalypse, from the Latin apocalypsis, is actually an undeclined regular plural with a standard -s suffix."

It may sound like nitpicking, but proper grammar doesn't go out the window just because the world is ending. We need to have standards, or we're no better than the zombies. That's lesson one.

Here are some more handy tips, which you can use to survive your next brush with zombies:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Digestive System, Part 3: Down the Tubes

Last time, we talked about swallowing. Now that the masticated, saliva-soaked food bolus has navigated between the Charybdis of the larynx and the Scylla of the nasal opening, it passes through its very first sphincter and enters the esophagus.

The upper esophageal sphincter closes behind the food bolus, sealing its doom. There isn’t a whole lot to the esophagus. It’s just a slimy, muscular tube for moving matter from the pharynx down to the stomach (and, when occasion merits, back up again.) Liquids slide through by gravity, but a solid food bolus has to be massaged down the length of the esophagus by peristaltic waves. You can visualize peristaltic motion by imagining the way an Earthworm moves, squeezing its body segments in a smooth wave that runs from front to back. Or you can just look at the animated gif in this Wikipedia article, if you like to visualize the lazy way (i.e. by looking at stuff.)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Remember That Time...

Remember that time Superman got drunk and accused Marilyn Monroe of being Oswald's second gunman?

Superman Jack Kennedy Accusation

Yeah, that was weird.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

MRE Review: Menu 23, Pasta in Pesto

Use Leftovers

But seriously Robyn, I hear you asking, why the hell are you writing comical-in-quotation-marks reviews of MREs?

I’ll tell you why. I write them because, as a child, it was my dream to become the funniest person ever to review video games.

That dream was shattered when Gael Greene's hilarious review of GTA: Vice City set the bar impossibly high. But I'm plucky in defeat, and consoled myself by resolving to become the funniest person to ever review combat rations. It has the same number of syllables, but it's a much less competitive category. I have a chance to pull it off, assuming I can keep The Spoony Experiment's Noah Antwiler off my turf.

Spoony Crown
This man is too dangerous.
He cannot be allowed to learn of MREs.
And now to address the second most common question I receive (by exactly a 1 to 2 ratio): How did I manage to get my hands on these combat rations?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Past Due Reviews: Hyperdrive

Hyperdrive Title

Hyperdrive is no Red Dwarf. Let’s get that out of the way first thing. It was billed as a kind of spiritual heir to Red Dwarf, but it just doesn’t measure up to that lofty standard. Seriously, though, what the hell does? If Mark Twain collaborated with Jane Austen and God to write a sci-fi comedy show, it wouldn't be half as awesome as the first six seasons of Red Dwarf. It might, of course, rival seasons 7 and 8, and let's not speak of the movie. Or the extra season after that.

What the fuck Red Dwarf? Learn to end gracefully.

Anyway, we were talking about Hyperdrive.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Digestive System, Part 2: Swallowing

Crossing the External Threshold: Swallowing

Pharynx, Nose, Mouth, Throat cross section
You probably think swallowing is easy, don’t you?

You ignorant son-slash-daughter of a bitch.

Swallowing in humans is a nuanced and complex affair, requiring the coordinated execution of voluntary and involuntary motions, precisely timed to send food down your greedy gullet.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Don't do it!

My spies have informed me that Toby Harrison, longtime (relatively speaking) friend of the blog, is recklessly encouraging kids to travel through time.

I just want you all to know, so if you find yourself erased from existence, you'll know who to blame.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Plugging a Good Cause and a Good Book

It's Microfinance Time.
As the owner of a blog with a weekly readership in the high single digits, I have a special obligation to endorse only the finest goods and services.

And it is without hesitation that I ask, nay, order you to buy Bob Harris's new book, The International Bank of Bob. So stop whatever you're doing. Turn off that web browser, put down that baby, shut down that air traffic control station, toss that beryllium dome back onto its sub-critical mass of plutonium, and go buy this book.

International Bank of Bob
Bob Harris was working as a travel correspondent in Abu Dhabi, reviewing $75 cups of coffee,staying in

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

MRE Review: Menu 22, Sloppy Joe

After last month's MRE review, some of you wrote in to ask why a science/nerd blog is reviewing military rations. Allow me to answer your question with a question of my own: Why do you hate our troops so much?


The modern combat ration would not be possible without an unassuming little technological marvel called a

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Let's Not: Time Travel

Let's Not: 
Some Common Mistakes to Avoid
When Traveling Through Time
Back to the Future Marty Guitar

Maybe the idea came to you in a vision.

Maybe it came when you were reading a physics journal.

Or when you fell off the toilet.

Turning it into reality took decades. While your scientific peers were winning awards, discovering particles, curing diseases... you spent long nights alone in a workshop, in a monomaniacal fugue, focused upon this singular, hopeless dream. They called you a fool. They called you mad. They called you wrong, and that hurt most of all.

They said it was a boondoggle, but now you've proved them wrong. It's finished. It is... a time machine. There it stands, gleaming in the light of a workbench lamp. You itch to step inside and turn it on, to traverse the eons and witness all the wonders of the future and the past.

But wait!

Before you go gallivanting around the Roman Forum in 29BC or visit the Chinese moon base in 2014, let’s spend some time (of which you now have plenty) considering a few common mistakes that people in your situation
often make. Remember, those who do not learn from the future are doomed to repeat it.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Digestive System, Part 1: Teeth and Spit

If you’re like most people, everything you know about your own digestive system can be summed up by the following diagram, which I drew on my phone:
Human digestive system: Mouth, butt, tubes and shit
But is that all there is to the digestive system? Is the journey from food to poop really just a bland, 3-step trip through a poorly sketched flipper baby?

Actually, no!

As a matter of fact, it’s pretty fucking awesome. You see, our digestive systems have evolved with us over millions of years, shaping us into the efficient, fatass omnivores we are today. So come with me—won’t you?—on a magical journey through your own innards. It’s a journey through acid and bile, into the depths of a world that's shrouded in mystery, yet closer than your own ass. It's a world where an alchemical brew of ions and enzymes can transmute the basest foods into fuel for your body. It's a world where there are a thousand times more bacteria than you have brain cells.

We'll enter this world the same way most everything does: through the mouth.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Digital Cosplay

Chibi Dale Arden
Check it out!

Emily Cammisa made this fantastic drawing of yours truly. Please go to her website and buy things!

And try to guess who I'm dressed as. I'll write a haiku for the winner, on the subject of your choice.

Friday, April 5, 2013

MRE Review: Menu 16, Pork Rib

Conserve Food, Watch Your Waste Line
I was never in the military.

I tried to enlist, but the doctors at MEPS said my feet were too flat, my vision was too blurry, and that I was, quote, “too ugly for the Marines.” So they slapped a baloney sandwich into my hand, tossed me out, and left me to hitch a ride home any way I could.

You think I’m lying about the sandwich, but it’s true. I'd missed lunch, because it takes longer to fail a MEPS physical than to pass it. Those doctors search long and hard for any excuse to let you through. When they finally gave up on me, late in the afternoon, the last lady to leave the cafeteria took pity and made me a sandwich, just as the other staff were shoving my ass out the door.

Still reeling from the shock, my face a mask of pathetic rejection, I walked listlessly through the streets of Tampa, clutching a baloney sandwich to my chest. It was not a pretty sight.

But don’t weep for me. I bounced back from that disappointment and managed to pay for college without the military's help. And, just recently, I ordered a case of MREs, for reasons that have no connection whatsoever to any of the events I’ve just described. (At this point, you may be asking, “Then why the hell did you write all that shit about MEPS and paying for college?” Allow me to address your question with a question of my own: “Why the hell did you read it?”)

MREs are Meals Ready-to-Eat, the military’s solution for feeding hungry soldiers deployed