Salad Buffet Insanity

I blew seven bucks and my lunch hour today. But at least I got this rant out of it. I wanted to send it to the manager of the place, but it was telling that their website offered no feedback options. Not even an email address. So I posted it on Urban Spoon instead.

One definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I was looking for a healthy lunch today and saw Salad Express Clear Lake on Bay Area Blvd and said, “What the hell.” Insanity. I know better, but somehow I keep trying buffets in the hopes that I will like the results *at least once*.

Yeah, I know; Insanity.

Buffet meals are like a bet you make with the buffet owner. They bet you cannot eat more than your meal price worth of food from their buffet. You bet, by paying your price, that you can. Game on, buddy.

But Salad Express suckered me by making me pay for a lot of buffet options I didn’t want or couldn’t eat and by providing high volumes of filling unhealthy food without regard for quality. I was a mere rube in front of a three-card-monte table on payday.

Salad Express’ genius is that it enables people who don’t really *want* to diet the conceit of healthy eating by serving them starches covered in fats (baked potatoes, pasta, tacos) accompanied by goopy desserts (puddings, soft serve ice cream, gelled strawberries, fake whipped cream, and under-cooked sweet breads) in the mere *presence* of vegetables. Most of the place’s offerings were off limits to my diet, so I searched the menu for the ‘just salad’ or ‘just salad and soup’ price, but there was only one price for all. This price was calculated, no doubt, based on the assumption that I wanted to lay down a few chopped veggies on my tray and then top them with 1200 calories of guilt-free incremental suicide.

I should have backed away at that point. But I grabbed a plate anyway. Insanity.

Immediately I frowned at the improperly cut vegetables. Every veggie on the buffet looked as if it were hastily prepared on the same slicer without even changing the cutting attachment. C’mon, for $6.45 can a fella get a simple julienne? Nope. Whole, thick, silver-dollar-sized slices of carrots and radishes, whole slices of red bell peppers, all the monster slice veggies taunted me saying, “I’m going to drip dressing on your shirt when you try to eat me. Na, na, na, na.”

And what the hell am I going to do with a whole slice of Jicama? Listen If you can’t put a fork through it and eat it with a few other ingredients, including a piece of your greens and a bit of dressing, in one bite, take it off the bar and cut it smaller. Honor the laws of salad physics people!

At the end, the topping station was an like an escape hatch for those who somehow got to the end of the salad bar with a salad that was reasonably healthy. There were fried noodles, fried Durkee onions, fake bacon bits, croutons, goldfish, and, as God is my witness, animal crackers. Animal. Freaking. Crackers.

I was hoping for walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, rice crackers, etc. like that they offer on the salad bar at Jason’s Deli (just two blocks away, and for less money, I noted wistfully.) Alas.

So I’d have to try the soup. Aha! Vegetable Beef! At this point I didn’t even mind that the titular beef was *ground* beef. But I *did* mind the fact that the beef was not properly drained. One bite left my mouth with a greasy sheen. Okay, chicken noodle, try the chicken noodle. The egg noodles were bloated and mushy. Zombie noodles. The soup was swarming with them so much that I could not even manage to skim off a simple ladle of broth and a few healthy ingredients. Cream of mushroom soup was over thickened and had the same monster slice vegetable problem as the salad bar. Nix. The red beans and rice soup was the best, had a pretty good flavor, but had way, way too much rice, which was mushy. It was like a soupy rice casserole, but I was able to strain out a ladle of soup with less rice. The soup strategy must have been to pump up the volume of the soups with cheap starches to provide a full feeling at the least possible cost.

What’s wrong with broth, huh? I like a soup that’s, well, *soupy.*

In danger of leaving still hungry and down seven bucks, I filled up on cottage cheese and the only fruit option that didn’t come encased in sugary goop.

So I wasted my lunch hour, wasted seven bucks, and I ended up wasting about 80% of the food I tried today.

I am sure this waste factor is figured into my buffet price. How much more value could they have delivered for the price if they served fewer selections of higher quality that are thoughtfully prepared? If my beef soup hadn’t been sporting a grease slick I wouldn’t have wasted three bowls of soup trying to find something else that was acceptable. If I didn’t have to pick up my red bell pepper with my hands from the top of my salad because the slices were so freaking huge, I wouldn’t have wasted as much salad. Instead I ended up pushing my plate away with annoyance, looking for something else to try.

Insanity. Sometimes when you say “What the hell,” that’s exactly what you get. Lesson learned. I hope.

At least *you* can learn from me and avoid Salad Express. Go to Jason’s if you want a salad bar.

Math Practice for My Daydreaming Fourth Grader

So Aaron needs extra practice in math if he wants to pass the TAKS test and not repeat fourth grade. I figure Aaron’s problem is not so much comprehension as, well, caring the least bit about what he’s doing in math. So this is my attempt to give math practice an adventurous twist…

The movie starts at 5:00pm. You get out of school at 3:15 pm. How much time do you have to eat dinner at your favorite cheese stick cafe and get to the movie on time

You get to the cafe at 3:27pm and discover after eating your first cheese stick that your arch enemy has poisoned your food. The evil note says that the poison will kill you in 1 hour, 12 minutes and the antidote takes 23 minutes to work. When will you die if you don’t find the antidote in time? By what time on the clock do you need to find the antidote to live?

A full order of your favorite fried cheese sticks has eight pieces. Only two of the pieces were poisoned. What was the probability that the first stick you ate would poison you? So, are you lucky or unlucky?

Using your x-ray vision, you find the three small bottles at 3:57pm sitting on a small electronic device. You grab a bottle to drink it and the bottle says that the antidote will blind you until it works fully (23 minutes). When will you be able to see again if you take the antidote now?

If only one of the small bottles contains the antidote, what is the probability that the first bottle you drink has the antidote? How about the second bottle? How about the third?

Before drinking the antidote, you look down and notice that by lifting the bottle off the device, you unwittingly triggered the timer on a bomb that will explode at 4:35. It takes 12 minutes to defuse the bomb. Do you have time to take the antidote and then defuse the bomb after you regain your sight? Or do you need to defuse the bomb first and then take the antidote?

After you have defused the bomb and saved yourself with the antidote, how much of the movie will you miss if it takes 20 minutes to get to the theater?

Lucille Clifton: 1936-2010

“Poetry saves in the way that lives are saved — from the inside out.” — Lucille Clifton

The poet Lucille Clifton died last Saturday. (hat tip to metafilter) She was a good one. Parents, we need to be raising poets to replace these great ones who keep passing. You may not read poetry yourself, but believe me, you don’t want to live in a world without it.

homage to my hips

by Lucille Clifton

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Ash Wednesday — "Even Among These Rocks"

It may be a disservice to the great poet that I only read T.S. Eliot on this day, Ash Wednesday. And I pretty much only read this poem, Ash Wednesday. (And I pretty much loathe Cats, but we can’t totally blame Eliot for that one.)

Each year a different part of this great work speaks to me.

…Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Suffer me not to be separated…
And let my cry come unto Thee.

His poem is a cry for hope of salvation, “even among these rocks.” Asking God to teach us to sit still, “to care and not to care.” With faith that God can teach us these things. If we care to listen.

How do you top treadmills? Well…

This video by OK Go (the dancing treadmill guys) will make you smile. Pay close attention at the 50 sec mark when the video starts to get a little bizzarre.

The whole thing is goofy, catchy, and endearing. The thing is pretty amazing once you see that they choreographed the Notre Dame Marching Band plus dancing children with streamers, recording the music live in a field in one take using a cherry picker for aerial shots. The audio setup alone must have been pretty impressive.

And you apparently can downlod the song and video for free from the band’s website.

A Valentine's wish to all my married friends

The upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday does not do your kind of love due justice. To me, you are all badass ninjas of sacrificial love. You are heroes who deserve your own ticker-tape parades complete with helium balloons of cartoon characters and limos full of local radio personalities.

When I see you at your next anniversary, I want you to tell me that your wedding day was nowhere close to the happiest day of your life. I want to hear about that so-called bad day last week when the car broke down and you had to share a coupon meal at Denny’s because your spouse had to pick you up in the minivan instead of preparing the standard chicken dinner. I want to hear how even that day was profoundly more joyful than your wedding day because it was lit up by a billion decisions to love each other over your life together. And by the quiet assurance that a billion more will follow and the flame, though it flickers, will never go out.

Thank you for being brave enough to choose this life of love and light. I thank you in advance for choosing to stoke the embers every time it becomes hard to keep the darkness out. Couples like you are the lights I need to find my way. We all need you to shine. So I toast to the flame you lit on your wedding day and pray that it grows brighter each day.

Vivo! My Sole Rejoices!

Quite loving my Clark’s Vivos. Last year I got a pair of Dharmas from my wife and they were too tight when I tried them on the wide blocks God gave me in lieu of normal feet. Crushed, I set them aside to return them.

Lucklily for me (in this case) in our house we have a curious aversion to all things snail mail which makes things like rebate offers and mail order return policies a little dodgy for us. So they sat in the round-to-it pile for months. And then a few weeks ago, it occured to me that, “Hey, those are made from leather and other natural materials. They’re engineered to be flexible, by golly. I should put them on and force them to fit my blocky feet.”

And that’s what I did. And they did fit after a day or two. Like a glove. Except without the articulated toes that vex me about my beloved Vibram FiveFingers.

So now I can wear them to work and church. And now I don’t want to wear anything that is not a Vibram or a Vivo.

I am starting a Vivo replacement fund. Because they’re kind of expensive but I already know I’m going to march out (only, not march, but surf, not wave surf, but web surf) and buy a replacement pair.

And with how much I am wearing these joyfully-comfortable, foot-hugging, respectable-but-casual, people-don’t-stop-and-point-at-them shoes, it might not take me long to wear them out.