Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Military-Cultural-Industrial Complex Redeploys Its Palette

I went into Target on Saturday to stock up on gum. I bought five 8-packs of Trident bubble gum. The cashier looked at me and said, "You must chew a lot of gum."

I gave her my best blank stare in return.

In addition to gum and Altoids (I also bought a 2-pack of mini-Altoids, since I needed a new tin to replace one that had fallen through a hole in my back pocket), I picked up a pair of Mossimo cargo pants in pre-faded poseur camouflage for ten bucks. They were a 32 waist, but they're supposed to be baggy and I figured I could boil them down a bit. If all else failed, I could cut them down into cargo shorts.

I wore them to work this morning. Since a 32-inch inseam enables me to clean the floors as I walk, I decided to cut them down to size. I didn't need a fancy hem, or even a clean cut, so I started with scissors and then ripped around for an authentic ragged edge.

Except on the second leg, the rip started to go up the leg, instead of around. I stopped as soon as I realized this, but I still spent the next 10 minutes stitching up the damage by hand:


As I was working the needle, I thought about camouflage, and how it's changed since I was a kid.

Growing up in the latter days of the Cold War, the military was green and black. Soldiers wore green camouflage for the fields and forests of Europe and the jungles of Asia and Latin America, and that's how they appeared on the news and in the culture.

Even fashion designers, when they appropriated military imagery (as they do from time to time), used the classic jungle camo color schemes.

Of course, that all started to change with the Persian Gulf War. Desert camo came into the collective consciousness, and stayed that way into Somalia, then Afghanistan and Iraq II.

Nowadays, when people think of soldiers, they think of shades of tan, brown and sand. Maybe one of those all-purpose digital camouflage jobs, colored for the desert.

Only paintball players wear green camo. Soldiers wear tan.

It makes me miss the days when we only had to worry about global thermonuclear annihilation (mutually assured or not). It seemed much simpler.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Warning: Do Not Eat an Entire Tin of Eclipse Mints

This is an entry about mints and mint tins that takes a decidely unminty turn.

I was in Target yesterday, and in addition to some sundries, I grabbed a two-pack of Wrigley's Eclipse Mints (Winterfrost flavor).

As I've mentioned before, I like gum and tins that could be used to hold things (including gum). So I was primarily interested in the tin:

Eclipse Mint Tin

The Eclipse mints tin is about the same depth and height as the Jones Soda Company candy tin (and has a similar lid), but it's wider, which means it can fit a stick of Trident.

Anyway, since I just wanted the tin, I powered through most of the mints over the afternoon (the "smooth mouth experience and distinctly cool flavor sensation" is addicting), then went to Mexican restaurant Teocalli Tamale in Herndon for lunch.

Later on, when I was at home, I suffered some major intestinal distress. Fairly or not, I blamed the restaurant and thought I had picked up some mild, run-of-the-mill food poisoning, or maybe just had a tough time with beans and hot sauce.

It was not particularly fun.

Today, I finished off the other tin (remember, it was a 2-pack). This was followed by another period of fun.

Since I am not a complete idiot, I figured out that it was probably the mints.

I took a look at the ingredients, and the first listed ingredient is the sweetener Sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol that the body doesn't absorb well.

(Incidentally, "sugar alcohol" sounds like it should be a lot more fun than it actually is.)

Hrm, a substitute ingredient that's used precisely because the body doesn't absorb it well. That sounds kind of familiar. Kind of like... Olestra.

Here's what the Center for Science in the Public Interest (you usually hear them rousing rabble about junk food) has to say about Sorbitol. It's in an unappealingly-titled item, "Consumer Group Petitions FDA to Require "Diarrhea" Notice on Foods that Contain Sorbitol":
"Studies over the past fifteen years have proven that sorbitol can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, ranging from mild discomfort to severe diarrhea, when adults consume between 10 and 50 grams of the additive."
According to the Wrigley product information page (which is hard to link because of the Javascript), a serving of 3 mints has 2 grams of sugar alcohol.

So a 50-mint tin has about 34 grams of Sorbitol. Which is apparently enough to ruin a good portion of your afternoon.

While the Eclipse mint tin is pretty nice, I think it would be even nicer if it had a warning that says "May cause intenstinal distress. Do not eat more than 10 per day."

I do note that the Altoids sugar-free Smalls mints also contain Sorbitol, though I don't remember if they gave me trouble, too.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An Obsessive Look at My Chewing Gum Methodology

I chew a lot of gum.

Not only does it help me concentrate, but it also helps prevent my lower incisors and canines from growing up into my brain, which would be fatal.

Also, it makes me look exceptionally attractive in photos where my mouth is partially open and you can see it betwixt cheek and gum.

Chewing a lot of gum means carrying a lot of gum. I found out quickly that just slipping packs of gum in my pockets wasn't a good idea. Unless you like lint gum.

For a long while, I used Starbucks After-Coffee Gum; I would buy a pack, rip through the gum in an afternoon and save the tins, which were pretty cool; I don't have any more of the ones with the translucent plastic band near the top (the plastic, alas, was a failure point), but I do have some of the all-metal ones:


The tins would fit a standard 5-pack of stick gum (I'm partial to bubble gum, Extra usually).

Why not just use the original gum? *rattle* *rattle* *rattle*

Now, chewing full pieces of gum gives me a headache after a while, so I ended up tearing the pieces in half. Eventually, I just cut all the pieces in half ahead of time.

I'd keep the container in my back pocket; it wasn't the most ergonomic thing, which explains why most of my jeans now have holes worn out in the back pockets.

I went looking for some different containers:


Starbucks After-Coffee Gum, Altoids Smalls Mints, Jones Soda Candy

The Jones Soda Carbonated Candy container is really neat -- The lid fits inside the tin, not over the end:


Unfortunately, it's roughly the same shape as the Starbucks container, with the same attendant problems.

Also, both the Green Apple and Fufu Berry flavors taste like ass.

The Altoids Smalls container is the perfect size, though it doesn't work with stick gum. (Cutting the pieces in half wouldn't give the right size, and custom cutting each piece would be silly and not worth the effort. Not that I would know because I tried it for a while or anything.)

However, 8 pieces of Trident gum will fit into the tin perfectly:

IMG_3581 IMG_3583

This seems to be the ideal configuration for me; the only possible problem might be if I were, say, lying awkwardly on my right side, trying to get a low-angle shot of some flags flying at half-staff because of a president's death, and I bent the case out of shape so it wouldn't open without a screwdriver.

And really, how often does that happen?

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