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MRE: Meals, Really Exciting! Survival-Food Showdown

Mike Eiler
We Like Shooting (excerpt)

The day is coming, soon or maybe not so soon, when catastrophe or apocalypse of some kind or another will visit and force us to feed ourselves somehow. No more TGIFriday’s or Starbucks or fancy bistros. No more Taco Bells. Or maybe we will just be camping and need an easy-to-prepare meal.

I don’t want to live in a world without Taco Bell, so if tornadoes or flooding or zombies destroy the planet, I plan on just calling it a day. But if you just need some food for an overnight fishing trip, consider the MRE.

Being an Army Brat, you get used to acronyms and the strange syntax of military life: You shop at the PX. Your winter coat is a Coat, Man’s Winter. You don’t take tests, you engage in a skills battery. After boot camp, you need an MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty (known in real life as a “job”).

So it’s no surprise that when it comes to feeding our troops, the military offers up its signature style in the MRE, or Meal, Ready-to-Eat. Despite living on military bases most of my childhood, I never had an MRE – mostly because we were fortunate to have actual food.

The MRE gets a bad rap. If they’re something you have to eat because you’re an actual soldier in war, I can see how they might get a little tedious. But if you’re just some civilian doofus camping with your kids or an office drone looking for a conversation-starter lunch to bring, I’d urge you to give the MRE a chance.

Compared with the many other “survival foods” available, the MRE, in my opinion, wins because of its completeness: Main course, dessert, cocoa or cappuccino, snack, chewing gum. Its name doesn’t lie. This is a meal.

  • Preparation: The MRE needs just a little water, and it comes with its own heating supply. The flameless ration heater is a miracle of science. All in all, easy and fast.
  • Variety: The MRE has 24 menu options, including brisket, lasagna, ratatouille, maple sausage, and lemon pepper tuna. I especially enjoyed the Asian Beef Strips.
  • Flavor: I’m not fussy. I’ll eat just about anything, and of the very many things I’ve managed to consume, the MRE is honestly, fairly tasty. No lie, I was impressed by its quality. Some of it was a little dry, but you know what? If you’re eating an MRE and your worst complaint is that the brownie is a little dry, then things are going OK for you.
  • Manliness of Packaging: The MRE is the clear winner here. You don’t get any more masculine than olive drab.
  • Final Grade: A. The MRE was in B-plus/A-minus territory, but one of my packages had moist towelettes, Chiclets gum, and Twizzlers dessert. This is high-quality, name-brand fare here, people, and the moist towelette sealed the deal. Solid A performance. Go, USA!

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Company recalls all food products in Springs area


The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced on Wednesday an expanded recall of Parkers Farm products sold at Whole Foods, Target, Sam’s Club, Costco, Wal-Mart and Safeway stores. See a complete list of recalled products.

The recall, originally announced Jan. 8, now includes all products and sell-by dates because of possible Listeria contamination.

Listeriosis is caused by parasitic bacteria and affects primarily pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems.

Symptoms include fever, diarrhea, nausea, headaches and abdominal pain. Listeriosis can cause miscarriages and stillbirth.

Parkers Farm, based in Coon Rapids, Minn., makes a variety of cheeses, peanut butter, dips, spreads and salsas.

Recalled products can be returned to the store for a full refund. Call the company for more information at 800-869-6685.


Fight over Springs woman’s head puts cryonics in the spotlight


Amid court battles and ethical questions, many people have warmed up to the idea of cryopreservation.

“If and when I die, of all the choices, only cryonics has even the slightest chance of preserving the body well enough so that new technologies in the future can bring me back to life,” said Richard Leis in the East Valley Tribune of Mesa, Ariz. Leis, of Arizona, will have his body stored at Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale.

In 2006, Colorado Springs’ Mary Robbins gave Alcor the right to preserve her head. She also agreed to give the nonprofit a $50,000 annuity to cover the costs. See the story here.

Robbins died Feb. 9, and her family says she had changed her mind about the preservation — and the annuity.

Her daughter, Darlene Robbins, said her mother signed new paperwork rescinding the 2006 agreement. Alcor’s lawyer disputes that.

Meanwhile, Mary Robbins’ body is stored on dry ice at a Springs mortuary.

El Paso County Magistrate Barbara L. Hughes ruled Monday that Robbins’ last will and testament directs that her body be turned over to Alcor. The company and family have settled, and Alcor will keep Robbins’ head and cremate the remains.

Alcor attracted national attention in 2002 when baseball legend Ted Williams’ head was preserved there— and again in 2009 for allegations that his head was mistreated.

Today, the bodies or heads of more than 80 people are stored at Alcor, and more than 850 people have signed up to be cryogenically frozen when they die.

Alcor is one of two U.S. cryogenics facilities. Using nitrogen gas, liquid nitrogen and solutions that prevent cell damage, cryonics preserves bodies indefinitely.

According to an Arizona Republic article, proponents say cryonics is the one chance people have to live again, but Arthur Caplan, a bioethics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said those considering it should think about what it would be like to come back.

For example, a person revived in the future wouldn’t have any relationships or ties to that time.

“Who we are isn’t just defined by what’s in our heads; it’s also by our relationships,” Caplan told the Tribune.

Another question, he said, is whether a person would maintain memories and personality.

A Virginia physician and scientist who spoke to the Tribune only on condition that his last name not be used is undeterred.

“I believe cryonics is something that could work, and if it does work, then it would save me from dying,” Rafal said.


Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie officially breaking up


Fellas, trim the nose hair and tuck those shirts in: Angelina Jolie is single again.

And, ladies, that means Brad Pitt is available, too.

Of course there’s the matter of the children. According to news reports, including the Sunday Times of London, the World’s Most Beautiful Couple have signed paperwork to officially separate and share custody of their six children.

Pitt and Jolie are not married, and they will keep the money they each separately earned, which Forbes magazine estimates at more than $100 million each.

Pitt will have full access to their three biological children, Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne, and their three adopted children, Maddox, Zahara and Pax.

“It seemed clear they want the world to know they’ll both play a part in the upbringing of the children,” a source told London’s News of the World. “But Angelina will actually be the one who lives with them full-time.”

The pair met and began a relationship during filming of the 2005 comedy-romance “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”

Rumors are swirling that Pitt and former wife Jennifer Aniston might be reconciling. During a telethon for Haiti on Friday night, the two were seen together backstage.


9/11 “kamikaze” pilot has Air Force Academy link – her dad


Fascinating story in the Washington Post this week about an F-16 fighter pilot who was scrambled on 9/11 without any live ammunition or missiles.

Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney was going to bring down Flight 93 by ramming it.

Late in the morning of the Tuesday that changed everything, Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney was on a runway at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., and ready to fly. She had her hand on the throttle of an F-16, and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93. The day’s fourth hijacked airliner seemed to be hurtling toward Washington. Penney, one of the first two combat pilots in the air that morning, was told to stop it.

The one thing she didn’t have as she roared into the crystalline sky was live ammunition. Or missiles. Or anything at all to throw at a hostile aircraft.

Except her own plane. So that was the plan. …

Penney, now a major, was a rookie in September 2001, the first female F-16 pilot they’d ever had at the 121st Fighter Squadron of the D.C. Air National Guard. She had grown up smelling jet fuel. Her father flew jets in Vietnam and still races them. Penney got her pilot’s license when she was a literature major at Purdue. She planned to be a teacher. But during a graduate program in American studies, Congress opened up combat aviation to women, and Penney was nearly first in line.

“I signed up immediately,” she says. “I wanted to be a fighter pilot like my dad.”

Like her dad.

Looks like that would be Capt. John Penney, of Evergreen, who was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant from the Air Force Academy in 1970.

John Penney retired as a United Airlines Boeing 747 pilot in 2007 and remains active in aviation as part of the “Rare Bear” Air Racing Team.


Downtown Colorado Springs: Myths and facts

By Mike Eiler,

Seems to be a lot of misconceptions about downtown Colorado Springs lately. Take a look at the comments with this Gazette story. It’s OK to be partial to one part of town over another or to dislike certain areas, but there ought to be honest reasons behind it. So here’s a look at some of the complaints about downtown and some answers to those complaints.

MYTH: There are too many homeless people downtown harassing shoppers, etc.

FACT: Yes, there are some homeless people downtown. A while back, we wanted the homeless and their tent cities away from Fountain Creek. Mission accomplished. Of course they didn’t just vanish. They had to go somewhere, and downtown is a reasonable spot. Periodically, we’ll be approached by someone who politely asks us for change. Never once have we been “harassed” or bothered. Homelessness is a problem in just about every city, and I would say, comparatively, that Colorado Springs has it pretty good.

MYTH: There’s no parking; the meters are too short; it’s too expensive; I don’t have coins!

FACT: The city has three parking garages (Bijou/Cascade; city administration garage; Kiowa)  with a total of more than 2,500 spaces. There are 2,400 metered parking spaces and several surface lots. There is parking. As for the cost, it’s 75 cents an hour at the garages and a dollar an hour on the street. If this cost is a hardship, you have more problems than just downtown parking. Sometimes, you don’t get to park right in front of where you’re going and you have to walk maybe a block or two. But here’s the thing: The actual distance is no farther than where you park at a big-box retailer. But instead of walking through a sea of cars, you get to walk on a nice, shaded downtown street with other pedestrians past shops and services. It’s pleasant. As for not having any coins, I hear you. Nothing chaps my rear like businesses and entities that make it hard for me to spend money. You want me to pay for parking, make it as easy as possible. So I was happy when I discovered the Easy Park card. It’s accepted at all the meters and it is refillable.

MYTH: Downtown is a hotbed of crime.

FACT: According to the city’s latest annual statistical report, Colorado Springs crime is fairly spread out, and downtown has significantly less crime than other areas. Consider homicides: Just two of the city’s 20 killings happened downtown. The greatest concentrations were in Area 1 (northeast of downtown bordered by Circle Drive, Austin Bluffs and Academy Boulevard) and Area 67  (southeast of downtown bordered by Platte Avenue, Academy Boulevard, Powers Boulevard, and Airport Road) with three homicides each. The area with the highest overall crime concentration, according to the police map, is Area 64 with 2,736 reports. Area 64 is far north, past Woodmen Road and east of Interstate 25. Overall, there were 15 areas in the Springs with more than a thousand crimes each. Meanwhile, downtown (Areas 16, 17 and 18 on the map) managed to get only 461, 297, and 236, respectively, with comparatively low numbers of your quality-of-life crimes like theft and vandalism. Hardly a hotbed.

MYTH: There’s nothing but bars downtown.

FACT: A stretch of Tejon between Pikes Peak and Kiowa does have what seems like a heavy concentration of bars. True. And there are other bars sprinkled throughout the rest. But to say that there’s nothing but bars is a little disingenuous. Fact is, downtown has all kinds of businesses and services: Clothing, books, restaurants, lawyers, dentists, a movie theater, coffeeshops. It’s a case of selective vision when people complain about the bars. Sure there are some bars. I guess I’m just not seeing the problem with that.

MYTH: There are no family-friendly places downtown.

FACT: This one is puzzling, and I often wonder what people mean by “family friendly.” I assume it means a place to take children or a place where children are welcomed? I don’t know. I get that you probably aren’t going to take your toddlers to Tony’s, but there’s a toy store across the street. A toy store. That’s about as kid-friendly as it gets, isn’t it? Just off the top of my head, I can think of several places for “families” downtown: Poor Richard’s toy store; Compleat Gaming; Gold Hill Java (for desserts); Zeezo’s; Uncle Wilber fountain; Paris Crepe; Josh & John’s ice cream; a comic book store; OPB&J; library (for, you know, reading); concerts in the park; farmers markets; Pioneers Museum; Fine Arts Center; a rock-climbing place. I’m sure there’s more.

MYTH: Downtown isn’t pedestrian-friendly.

FACT: Wide sidewalks, beautiful buildings, interesting and varied shops and restaurants. Downtown’s a great place for pedestrians.

So anyway, we’re a little biased, of course, but downtown Colorado Springs has a lot going for it. Can it be improved? Sure. I’d like to see a grocery store down there. Maybe a national retailer or two would be nice. I suspect that some people just really prefer the strip malls and people farms out in the north and east of town, which is fine. After having lived in Phoenix, I’ll take a lush and vibrant downtown any day.