Tagchoices

Free food and decision making

Steve Jobs wore a black turtle neck with jeans. Mark Zuckerberg wears a gray t-shirt everyday. Their reasons are the same. They don’t have to think about what to wear. They wake up and get dressed. No stressing about what to wear, what’s clean and what it matches. They get up, dress and get on with their day.

Alan Martin bought a 6-week pass to Olive Garden has the right idea when it comes to meals. Man eating nothing but Olive Garden speaks out: “I have not had one meal that was not just perfect”

I hate meal planning. I hate trying to decide on a menu the week before I eat it. Figuring out lunch is more taxing. If there are leftovers, I can take them. If we make a big batch of food during the weekend, there’s plenty for lunches. But most of the time, if we’ve eaten out or not made extra food, I have to decide what to take for lunch.

I’ll buy something either at the cafeteria at work or at a local restaurant but that gets expensive fast. If I think about it, I’ll make a sandwich the night before, or more rarely, the morning before I leave.

If I didn’t have to think about lunch or dinner, I would be in heaven. And while I love food, I can happily eat the same thing everyday. I’ve lived for weeks off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Having multiple jellies and jams helps, but I’m still a creature of habit when it comes to food. I’m too tired to think about what I want to eat. I just want something ready for me. If I had a job where lunch was provided, I would jump at the chance. If there was a platter of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches provided, that’d be perfect. I don’t need gourmet food. Just something to eat and get me through the day.


Alan Martin has taken advantage of this deal, which was only available to 1,000 people. He paid $100 for the card from Olive Garden.

It’s not about the food for him, it’s about the money.

I’m at about $1,600 in value and I’ve got four more days to try to get another couple hundred dollars out of the Olive Garden. Right now, I would really love to get to $1,800. If I could say I collected $1,800 in Olive Garden meals, that is big. I don’t know what city you’re in or anything, but in rural North Carolina, that’s a big deal.

That’s a big deal anywhere you are. And he’s not eaten every single meal he’s picked up.

Last week I was driving by and I stopped at a corner and a man was there, a homeless man with a sign and I said, “Come over here.” And he came over to the car and I opened the door—I’ve got a sliding glass door on my van—and I pushed the button to open the door and I said, “Get that Olive Garden bag. It’s got soup, spaghetti and meatballs, everything you need to have a great meal.” And he was so happy, and he took it and he went over and sat out in the woods and started eating that Olive Garden meal. I felt good about that, helping him.

In addition to handing some of them out, he’s been saving some for later. He’s able to pick up two meals on weekdays and three on the weekends.

I have been freezing some [meals]. I can’t eat ‘em all and they start stacking up in the refrigerator so I vacuum seal ‘em and I’ve got about thirty out there in the freezer that I will eventually eat.

That’s some major food storage and easy meals for later when they don’t feel like cooking or when money is tight.


Last year, during the government shutdown, I took part in Chick Fil-A’s First 100 event. Say what you will about their politics, I camped out at a store opening during October in Maryland. It poured rain on us for most of that time. The rules were we had to stay on the store’s premises but not inside the store (save bathroom use.)

So we huddled in tents and under umbrellas. What did I get out of it? I got three meals from the restaurant for the 24 hours I was camped out there.

But the main attraction was the “free meals for a year.” Which was 52 free meal coupons. This was good for a Chick Fil-A sandwich, waffle fries and a drink.

Then, for the next year my wife and I would walk in to the store, ask for “Two Number 1s” and hand over two coupons. I got a smile on my face watching the $12.xx reduce to nothing with the coupons.

My savings was only about $300. But for the weeks I was out of work, it gave us somewhere to go and get some free food. It was nice to get out of the house and have a meal out that we didn’t have to pay for.

They’re good for a year and we used our last two in September. This is my way of saying I absolutely understand where this guy is coming from and his desire to get as much out of this deal as possible.

I salute you Alan Martin. Collect your meals. Stash them away. Save yourself the money, time and decisions free food can offer.

Did your job exist 10 years ago?

When I was in high school, approaching graduation, there were only a few careers put before me. I had to choose what to study in college. I had to find something that would prepare me for the real world. And pay my bills.

I wanted to be a zookeeper when I was young. I loved the outdoors and animals. Then that morphed into working for National Geographic when my interests collided with my budding geekiness. I wanted to travel the world and document what I saw from the lens of a camera.

When I was in high school the Internet was going through a bubble and a bust. But even then, the jobs I knew existed were the age-old professions like doctor, lawyer, fireman, police officer, or military service. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Nor did I have any idea the world would change so much between then and when I entered the job market four years later.

But now, there are jobs that simply weren’t around a decade ago. There were no software developers or graphic designers. No mobile developers or systems administrators. Computers filled rooms or tables. They didn’t fit into your pocket. People who understood these systems were only found in labs or universities. They weren’t inside every company and government agency.

There are thousands of jobs today my guidance counselor wouldn’t have even dreamed about in the year 2000. I graduated high school and entered the college world 13 years ago. ((I feel old.)) I went to college for four years to learn that I didn’t want to work in Advertising. I hold a B.S. In Mass Communications. But after four years I didn’t know what to do with that. I had no real world skills. I couldn’t get a job with it.

So as I was floundering and desperately hunting for something to pay the bills that wasn’t McDonalds when I graduated, I stumbled across a want ad for people to set up new computers. This was a job I could do. I called the number on the page and spoke to the woman on the line. She gave me an office number and a time to be there. And I was.

I don’t remember if there was much of an interview process. I think it was, “Hey, you’re got two strong arms and can read English. You’re hired!” Maybe there was more to it. But I got that job. And that led me down a completely different career path than I thought I was preparing myself for.

Since then I’ve worked in technical support and taught myself what I needed to know. I’ve learned enough to fix problems and have fun doing it.

My college degree hasn’t ever opened doors for me. But it made sure those doors were not closed prematurely. And being in the right place at the right time launched my current career path. And that’s something I never could have predicted.

Turning the corner

I know my hard work has paid off. I went to the grocery store tonight. I went to pick up a few items for a couple different recipes my wife and I intended to make before the next pay check came in. For dinner, we decided to pick up something cheap and simple since we were tired and didn’t have the ingredients we needed for the meal we had planned last week.

I went to the frozen food section and relished the thought of some delicious meal I used to live on nearly exclusively. I wanted to visit my old friend Marie Calendar. We had so many good times in the past. I was curious what the Hungry Man was up to chilling in the freezer section. I was even curious what the good people of Stouffer’s might have cooked up for me. They all do such good work and I had enjoyed many of their meals in the past.

But when I got there, my old friends had changed. No longer did their meals look irresistible and delicious as they had. No longer was I salivating at the thought of opening that package, popping it into the microwave, waiting a few minutes and having a hot, cooked meal ready to eat. I thought my old friends had abandoned me now that I had come back to them, even if it was just for a one-night stand.

Then I realized, it was not they who had changed, but it was me. I had changed. I have changed. I am no longer a slave to the microwave and to the plastic-wrapped delicacies. I am a changed man. I looked upon those glossy covers not with anticipation but with disdain.

How did I once salivate over these pictures? How did these foods once seem to appealing to me? They looked processed and bland. They were dull. It took me forever to make a choice. I eventually decided on pasta of some sort. I don’t even remember what it was. It was ok. Nothing like the memories I had of such cuisine. It was a meal but there was no joy in it.

It was at that point I realized what a changed man I had become. I look forward to making dinner or at least helping out at night. I love the smell of fresh herbs and cooking with real ingredients. I like to know where my food comes from and what it looks like before it turns into dinner.

Last night, I made a Chicken Tamale Casserole with help from my wife, including her finding of the recipe which she stashed in an ever-growing Evernote notebook which is up to 242 recipes.

Often times when I am in the middle of a long road it is hard to see changes until they smack you in the face. Tonight was one of those times. I thought it would be easy to select something quick for dinner but it turned out to be much harder than I suspected.

Reminders

Back pain is a reminder. It is a reminder of all the poor decisions I made in my life.

I was thinking on the way home from the grocery store this week about the amount of money spent on medical bills. We gasp at the hundreds or thousands required to heal us.

It all makes sense when you consider we spend hundred or thousands of dollars on junk foods and poor lifestyles choices. These choices put us into the position to need medical care to repair the damaged we have done. 1

Makings good life choices means not having to pay for those choices later. Making poor choices in lifestyle and health means you’re going to have to pay for those choices sooner or later.

Back pain is a reminder of those choices.


  1. This does not apply to people injured by the negligence of others. 

Stop Romanticizing the Past

The past is filled with what seem to be my greatest achievements. The past is when I got the job. The past is when I wrote the brilliant poem. The past is when I first kissed the girl. The past holds all the selective memories edited down into a greatest hits collection. The past is only the best parts of myself and my choices I’ve chosen consciously or not to hold on to.

I do not remember the longest day at work before the last longest day at work. I do not recall the long hours sitting in classrooms, taking tests, reading books, getting teased. I do not remember the low points and the sleepless nights.

I do not remember the worst that came with the very best. ((Exception being the **very** worst of the worst.)) Overall, I look back and I think of all my accomplishments. I still sit and kick myself everyday for losing the backup of my old Xanga.com blog I started writing in 1997. In my head, it holds a lot of great things I wrote when I was a younger, more idealistic man.

I wish LiveJournal had any decent kind of search so I could go back into the many years of writing I still have sitting up there. In my head, there are, again, some brilliant things I wish I could go look back to, revise, repost or at least remember.

But I can’t. The Xanga writings were exported to a now-lost ZIP file and the site closed. LiveJournal is a unsearchable nightmare though the writings still exist… Somewhere.

But the past is not all of our best work. The months and years of history have turned the memories of those great writings into fairy tales. My writing as a 15-year-old poet is not the writing of the 30-year-old geek. I have grown and learned.

We all have.

The people who look back on their high school or college days as the highlight of their life make me a little sad. I can see the appeal of the relatively care-free days and the ignorance of youth. But there’s so much more to life after school.

There are so many more opportunities for greatness and to make cool things. Life does not end at 18 or 21 or 25 or even 30, 50 or 70. Life does not end until you gasp your last breath on this earth. ((What happen after that is up for debate.)) But as far as what you can make and share and produce, you have many years ahead of you.

*Stop romanticizing the past.* Sure, you may have had some successes, but they are nothing to what you are still going to achieve. My past victories are always falling to my current achievements. We all think you’ve hit a pinnacle when we’re in our teens. The first kiss. First drink. ((For some)) Smoking. Tattooing. Voting. The Lottery.

Sure, there’s not a lot of age-based milestones once you get past 21. There’s still car rental and car insurance drops at 25. We don’t need the world to tell us how to be great and when we must accomplish things.

When I was in college I was convinced I knew what I wanted to do. I chose a major and immediately changed it because it was not as I imagined it. I completed my degree and went off into the world with a Bachelor of Science in Communications. ((Yes, I have a BS in Communications.)) I worked extensively for the school’s publications. I was the Production Chief of [The Commonwealth Times](http://commonwealthtimes.org) for three years. I headed the Millennium literary magazine and even dabbled in assisting other publications.

I went to school to learn what I did not want to be when I grew up. The last day I used my degree was the day it arrived in the mail. It’s not even hanging anywhere.

I work as a Sr. Desktop Support Technician now. I support those reporters and writers and designers and photographers just as I worked with their younger peers in college. I am still active in the media world but in a very different way. I am a writer. Something I have always had an interest in but never thought I could do anything serious with. I now write monthly for a publication my father helps to run. From that, I was asked to submit an article for publication in a print magazine in Ireland.

Do I still look to the past? Yes, very much. The past is who we were and dictates where we will go. Each day is open to new achievement and success.

Do not live in the past. Embrace the present and look to the future. Your best work is still ahead of you. Never stop working and never stop learning.

You may be surprised with where the world can take you, I sure am.