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Military Life

Greasy Chicken Wings

A few days ago I had to go to the Veteran’s Administration hospital in the Bronx for my annual physical. I was quite a few months late going this year. Last Semester was just too overwhelming for me to find time to get anything done. I still have lots of errands I need to take care of that I should have done during those four months as well as other things I want to get done before Spring starts.

I somehow don’t think I’m going to get through all of the reading I’d like to do before the semester starts, but I am enjoying having a lot more quality time with my wife. We’re catching up on a lot of television shows together. We sort of stopped loving Breaking Bad because it was dragging too much with the car wash nonsense and Skylar being so annoying (not to mention Walt was turning into sort of a wuss) and now we’re getting hooked on Fringe. Thanks Netflix! House of Cards was good too. I guess we’ll get back to Breaking Bad eventually.

I’m also trying to get my fitness level back up. I’m taking it slow though. I spent four months basically doing nothing physically strenuous. I have a Fitbit Force to help me stay motivated. It’s amazing how hard it is to cheat yourself when you can see the numbers in front of you plain as day, in terms of calories consumed versus calories burned.

Fried Wings, Potato Wedges and a Biscuit at the Bronx VA Hospital
Fried Wings, Potato Wedges and a Biscuit at the Bronx VA Hospital

So, coming back around to what I meant to write about in this post, which has to do with calories, I was surprised by just how disgustingly greasy the fried chicken at the VA hospital cafeteria was. When I went for my physical the doctor surprised me by telling me I should have blood work done. He surprised me more by having the nurse draw what seemed like almost a pint out of my arm. I didn’t have breakfast, so I went straight to the cafeteria afterwards to eat a decent meal to make sure I didn’t collapse on the way home.

There were plenty of choices but somehow the need to go a little overboard to replace all the blood I lost led me to the fried chicken buffet. It was a bad move. I put three fried wings on my plate but I could only stomach one before my stomach started to turn. At first I thought it was the change in diet I’d made away from greasy foods to more steamed and boiled dishes, but I’ve had fried chicken from other places, like Popeye’s, that didn’t leave such a bad taste in my mouth. We ate a plate of amazing soy garlic wings at Boka Bon Chon yesterday and it was fine, but hours after I left the hospital I could still taste heavy oil in my mouth. It must just be the way that chicken was prepared.

Thinking about it, I wonder if the same preparation method was used at the cafeterias I ate at when I was on active duty in the Army. Procedures are pretty standard in the military or military related facilities and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a field manual or technical manual related to the frying of chicken and operation of deep fryers. I used to really enjoy that chicken. Now I can’t stand it.

How much did the Army really teach me about physical fitness? I’m beginning to feel like I didn’t learn anything other than how to follow a physical exercise routine in the morning. I wasn’t taught how to evaluate food choices or supplement choices and I wasn’t given any understanding of how sleep, diet, and overall physical activity would affect my health. Perhaps I should have taken the initiative and looked that up myself, but as a young soldier who was trained to just listen and do as instructed, it never occurred to me to think that far outside the box, especially when sleep deprivation and ordering pizza are such big parts of military culture. So, I would exercise in the morning, eat fried chicken for lunch, maybe pizza for dinner, and then I would wonder why I never really saw any physical improvement.

If I recall correctly, the units I was in had people who were trained to be masters of physical fitness. They went to some sort of course to learn about physical fitness. What was the point of that? Were they not trained properly? Did the command structure ignore their recommendations? Or was it just a mark on a check-list to satisfy civilian committees who evaluated the military’s commitment to the health and well-being of service members that was never seriously implemented?

I learned a lot from my time in the military, but the more I learn outside of the military, the more I realize I was left in the dark in areas that were key to being a successful soldier. But, I suppose one can’t expect the military structure, composed mostly of high school graduates, to impart the understanding that comes with a college education and life experience to new recruits. Officers could do something about that, being college graduates, but there aren’t enough officers and that isn’t really their job.

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Updates

One Week Into The Semester And…

I’m actually looking forward to going to class tomorrow.  When I was in high school I couldn’t wait to get done and get out.  Now, the fact that I’m spending my time learning about new and interesting stuff, and more or less getting paid to do it, is completely awesome.

The Campus

The CCNY campus is a lot better equipped and well maintained than I expected from a public school.  If you’re not familiar with it, City College of New York is part of the City University of New York system, but it’s all a public school, unlike NYU or Columbia.  It’s not perfect, of course.  One glaring example is the fact that the escalators don’t work between the 1st and 5th floors, but I suppose I could use the exercise.  It does have a really nice library, lots of computers for student use (not that I really need them since I bring my laptop) and wifi throughout the whole school (or at least in every building I’ve been in).  There’s even a gym and shower facility in Wingate Hall that has aerobic and weight machines and an indoor track.  That opens for use tomorrow, so I’m debating whether or not I should bring a workout outfit.

My Classes

My ‘History of the Visual Arts of the World’ is basically an Art History course, and it’s looking like it’s going to be far more interesting than what I’d thought.  I took the class because it’s a requirement, assuming I’d be studying particular artists, brush strokes and other boring crap like that, but it’s more like learning history through pictures, or sculptures as the case may be.  It also helps that the professor is interesting.  He has a weird, dry sense of humor that I can appreciate, and, oddly enough, he’s an Iraqi, which makes him even more interesting to me, since I served in Iraq on a combat deployment.

My Art History class ties in oddly well with my Anthropology class, since both are starting with things that happened in the past and moving forward into the present.  I keep noticing that we’re discussing one thing in Art History and then touching on the same subjects in Anthropology.  It’s a bit confusing, because I can’t remember which class some bit of information came from sometimes, especially since I take those two classes back-to-back on the same day.  Both professors encourage discussion and don’t jump down your throat if you give an incorrect or incomplete answer.  They guide you to the right answer and then move the discussion along.  That active engagement in the class helps the time to go by faster, and it also helps with retaining the information that was discussed in class.

I only have World Humanities 1 once a week, so I only have one class to judge the course by, but the professor seems like a really cool dude.  I was actually supposed to have gone twice by now, but I missed the first day because I hadn’t registered for the class yet.  I wasn’t alone though.  I’d say a good 40% of the class wasn’t there on the first day, by a show of hands, when the professor passed out copies of the syllabus.  We’re starting off with The Odyssey, by Homer, and so far in class we’ve talked about castration, eating children, baby gods popping out of heads, murder, war, and the differences between gods during those days and the gods that are commonly accepted today.  One girl in the class had a particularly hard time understanding the fact that Greek gods weren’t omniscient and omnipotent and kept asking questions, like she either has a hard time learning or wants to make sure she stands out.  The professor really seems to know the subject matter and how to make it interesting.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy this course.

My American Politics and Government class seems like the dud of the semester.  I can’t really be sure, since I’ve only sat through two lectures, and the first discussion group isn’t until Tuesday, but I wasn’t very impressed with how the material was covered during our second lecture.  The first lecture was just a discussion of the syllabus.  We were told to read four source documents and when I went into the lecture I was expecting to be amazed and given a new way to look at the material that would give me a better understanding of what it meant, and what the people that wrote it were thinking at the time.  I suppose my Art History and Anthropology professors set a high standard, and my experience in the PSC just didn’t measure up.  Instead of broadening my understanding of the material, the professor just restated what was already in the document, which I already knew, since I read the document before going to the class.  Oh well, they can’t all be winners, and there’s still time for this class to turn around.

Course Work Load

Again, kind of early to tell, but based on the first week, I think I’m going to have plenty to occupy my time.  There is a LOT of reading involved.  I’m having to set aside time to sit in the library and just study and read the textbooks and other documents where it’s quiet and I can concentrate.  I’m also a week behind on the Odyssey, since I wasn’t in class the first day and didn’t know what book we were covering first.  It doesn’t help that the professor wants us to use a particular version that was sold out in the campus bookstore, not available in the campus library, not available in the New York public library, and sold out at most Barnes & Noble locations.  I finally found a B&N in Greenwich Village that has just one copy left, so I put it on hold and I’ll pick it up tomorrow.  I’ll have to knock out 8 chapters of the book by Friday.  I think I can handle that.  I like to read anyway, and The Odyssey is an interesting story.

I’m hoping to find time in the week to still go out and exercise, either on the street or in the school’s gym, and still maintain my other hobbies like surfing the web and blogging.  This week was so packed that I hardly found time to post a blog entry.  Regardless, I’m going to make sure I study first and play later.

The Verdict

Overall, this is turning out to be a really positive experience.  I’m meeting new people, learning a lot of new things, and I’ll finally finish my bachelors and then move straight into a master’s degree.  Good times.