Soylent, day 1 & 2

My one-month supply (four weeks) of Soylent arrived on Friday, May 2, and it’s not people. Soylent is powdered food. And it’s likely cheaper and healthier than what you currently eat.

Day 1

Soylent Servings: 1
Breakfast: Morningstar Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit
Lunch: Soylent
Dinner: Grilled cheese and fries

soylent-shipmentSoylent arrived partway through the day, and I went home for lunch to get started right away. The full month’s supply came as a single, rather large package. Cutting the straps holding it together revealed that the package was really just four boxes, each with a week’s worth of Soylent, wrapped with a piece of cardboard that holds them together as a single unit.

Within each box is a note from the CEO, Rob Rhinehart:

soylent-noteDear Customer,

The powder you now behold is more than meets the eye. This mix of mass, energy, and information is the staple food of the future. Refined, robust, and efficient, Soylent is food that works. And it would not be here if not for you.

You are a vital member of the network that transformed Soylent from information to matter, from idea to flesh. Your contribution and support make you an integral part of Soylent, the structures of which are soon to become an integral part of you.

Remember every sip of Soylent is a tiny gratuity toward producing food ephemerally, toward reducing health disparity, toward answering questions about our food and ourselves that have gone unanswered for too long.

If you are what you eat, you may now consider yourself healthy and practical.

Thank you for ordering, and do stay in touch.

Robert Rhinehart | CEO of Soylent |

Under the letter I found seven individual bags of Soylent, along with an extra piece of cardboard that I’m guessing is where the oil blend would be, had I not opted for the vegan version, which is the exact same thing, minus the oil blend (which contains fish oil).

soylent-frontEach bag of Soylent contains one day’s worth, or 3 servings/meals. The front of the bag contains the Soylent logo, as well as the beginning of the nutrition facts. The nutrition facts continue on to the back of the package, and almost all the way to the bottom. Under the nutrition facts are the three steps to mix soylent:

  1. Fill 2 liter pitcher with contents of pouch, filtered water, oil blend and ice. To avoid clumping, include oil blend only after water has been poured into pitcher. (Ice is optional but essential if Soylent is to be consumed immediately.)
  2. Seal the pitcher and shake for 60 seconds. Once mixed, water can be added for a thinner consistency, if desired.
  3. Store in fridge and consume within 2 days. Immediately dispose of any Soylent that you suspect to be rancid.

soylent-mixedThe Soylent powder looks very similar to pancake mix, and the smell reminds me a bit of NESQUIK powdered chocolate milk mixed with a vanilla milkshake. I poured one pouch into the pitcher provided in the starter kit and added water and ice. The water didn’t immediately mix with the Soylent, but instead just stayed on top of it. But sixty seconds of shaking later, I had my first batch of Soylent ready for consumption. It was the consistency of a thin smoothie (think Bolthouse Farms smoothies), with tiny pockets of powder that looked more like bubbles that wouldn’t burst.

I filled up my one-liter Nalgene two thirds of the way (one serving, 148 grams), opened my second bag of Soylent and added a serving and water to the pitcher (in case coworkers drank more than expected), and headed back to work with Nalgene and pitcher in hand.

My first batch of Soylent was a bit chalky and stuck to my teeth a little, but I think that may have been (mostly) my fault. First, I didn’t fill the pitcher to the top with water (as I should have). This was partially because the water doesn’t mix with the Soylent on contact, so there’s still some trapped air in the powder that takes up space. Second, the pitcher is too tall to fit completely vertically under my kitchen sink’s faucet, so it was literally impossible to fill it up right out of the tap. I could have just used the provided scoop to get the water to the top, but I didn’t. … Now I know to make sure to do that next time. I also used cold water and ice, which may have dissolved/absorbed less Soylent than warm or hot water would have done (I have a batch in the fridge mixed with hot water, so should have an update on this later).

Other than being a bit chalky, the taste wasn’t bad. It wasn’t amazing by any means, but it tastes good enough to want to drink more.

I brought the pitcher with the remaining two servings to work and offered it to my coworkers. The offer itself was met with intrigue, confusion, and/or a bit of disgust. Only about half of my coworkers would actually try it, but those that did didn’t hate it. One actually went back for seconds (didn’t have a full serving; they had already eaten lunch) and said it tasted “pretty good”. They also quipped later that they felt rather satisfied (hunger-wise).

At the end of the day, I could feel the Soylent inside of me. Not in an Alien sort of way, but it felt different. Maybe it was my previously terrible diet screaming in anguish as Soylent kicked its ass? Or maybe I’m just crazy.

Day 2

Soylent Servings: 2
Breakfast: Soylent
Lunch: Soylent
Dinner: Pizza, pizza, and more pizza

I woke up feeling refreshed. This sounds cliché, but I normally wake up as a zombie with a hangover. But today I felt awake. No headache. No crying pleas to go back to sleep. My body just wanted to be awake. Now, this could have just been due to the fact that I finally got a decent amount of sleep, or maybe that spring is finally here and the sun was up, but maybe, just maybe, Soylent is improving my sleep.

soylent-settledI normally don’t eat breakfast (I’m terrible, I know), but Soylent was calling my name (not for real, it’s not sentient). The first thing I noticed was that the mixture had settled a bit, into two layers: the bottom layer that looked like Soylent, and the top layer that looked a little like oil (but there was no oil blend added). There’s a chance this settling was due to adding too much water, but I’m not sure. I filled a glass with the powdered food from the future and drank away. Slowly. Because Soylent, at least my first batch, is not something that can be easily consumed quickly. I’m not sure if it’s the taste, the chalkiness, or the absurd amount of nutrition it packs into each gulp, but it isn’t a pleasant feeling to chug it.

This serving didn’t seem to be as chalky as the previous, but it still was a little bit.

I tried rinsing out the glass, and it turned out to be a little tricky. For the most part, fresh Soylent in a glass will rinse out, but some of the powder (again, this might just be due to me not mixing it properly the first time) likes to stick to the sides/corners. But a quick brush with your hand, a brush, or a cloth will clean it in a jiffy.

I got ready for the day, ran some errands, and headed back home. It was time for lunch. I filled my Nalgene with a serving of Soylent and went on with my day, drinking it a little bit at a time. I wasn’t disappointed.

I had some friends over that night and ordered pizza. But I wasn’t really hungry. That didn’t stop me from eating the greasy deliciousness, but I thought it was worth a mention. Soylent is filling. It’s filling enough so you’re not hungry, but not so filling that you regret eating so much. It probably also helps that Soylent has easy-to-measure servings. One serving is two scoops of Soylent and two scoops of water. Or, if you’re lazy like me, one serving is 2/3rds of a one-liter bottle, or ~666ml (must be evil food). That’s ~22.5 ounces for those poor people that don’t use the metric system or don’t own a Nalgene.

I ranted about Soylent to my friends on a couple different occasions that night, and encouraged them to try it. Again, only about half of them were willing to try it, but those that tried it also didn’t think it was terrible. All of them, however, noted the chalkiness. But I’ll stop mentioning that until my next batch, in case it was my fault.

So, all-in-all, I’m not disappointed by Soylent. It could be better, but it could have been a whole hell of a lot worse. I still have a little over 26 days of Soylent left, and I haven’t even begun to experiment with what I can mix in it. I’m pretty excited to see what concoctions I can come up with.

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An update on my hiatus

With 2013 more than halfway over, I figured it’s about time I get back into blogging again. As with most things in life, I can’t be sure if I will actually follow through with this and continue writing on here, but I like to think I will.

With that said, I guess it’s time to explain what in the hell I’ve been doing these past three years.

My hiatus started when I got a job as a web developer at ForeWord Reviews in January 2010. ForeWord Reviews is a lovely, little magazine based in Traverse City, Michigan, that focuses on reviewing books that are published independently and by small presses. At the time, their (our) web presence consisted of three different websites, all built on different platforms, each extremely outdated, and no revision control in sight—changes were made directly on the server. On top of that, data “moved” from one website to the next, but it was all done manually. Ugh.

But, things are different now. All of the data has been merged into a single database, all of the code into a single website. (All of the database structure and code is also tracked in Git now.) And almost all of our staff’s day-to-day work is done via our online dashboard. Oh, and did I mention we now have one-step deployments, which also takes care of database changes? All thanks to me. And I couldn’t thank me enough.

It’s been a busy three years, but all of the hard work paid off and work weeks are finally calming down to a consistent 40-50 hours a week, with fewer and fewer midnight emergencies. Life is good. And now I have a bit more free time to work on other things I love: blogging and contributing to open source projects (and even publishing a few of my own). So here’s to the future!

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CSS3 – Still Missing Functionality… on Purpose!

Last night I was working with Consummo to build a client’s website and I ran into a stumbling block. CSS3 does not allow for colors to be declared alongside images (except as the last value). What does this mean? A website can have several background images, each with or without transparency, and a background color behind all of it. Personally, I assumed (you know what they say about assume) background colors could be defined on top of background images (in the same element), but I was wrong. In the CSS3 Candidate Recommendation, the background shorthand property can have a value as follows: [ <bg-layer> , ]* <final-bg-layer> where color can only be defined in the place of <final-bg-layer>.

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Issue with HTML5, CSS3, and site navigation.

A while back, it was suggested that limiting links to anchor tags (a) should be avoided in HTML5. It was declined due to backward compatibility issues and also because it would be difficult to implement. Not only that, but no one could bring forward a test case where using a different tag as a link was necessary. Well, I believe I have found one, and I am curious as to whether anyone has a solution.

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Review of Ubuntu 9.10

Ubuntu LogoIt’s been nearly two weeks since the release of Ubuntu 9.10, and I am proud to announce that I have performed a fresh install of Ubuntu 9.10. I haven’t used Windows in months, due to lack of designing in Photoshop and the abundance of programming I’ve been doing recently, so I thought it was time to get rid of it entirely. Now that I have, I must say I couldn’t be happier. With 20 GB dedicated to the main install and nearly 40 GB for my home directory, I doubt I will ever run out of room. Of course, if I do, I always have a 120 GB external drive waiting to be filled up.

With my bragging out of the way, it’s time to give my review of Ubuntu 9.10. Firstly, I would like to thank the Ubuntu team for delivering amazing results for this release. Everything runs faster and smoother than ever before, even before my fresh install.

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Ubuntu 9.10 Released!

Ubuntu Logo

Today is the day. No, not the 20th anniversary of the birth of Elizabeth Kampwerth. Well, yes, but that’s not what this article is about. Today is the release of Ubuntu 9.10, Karmic Koala. For those of you that have not had the pleasure of having personal relations with Ubuntu, I apologize and encourage you to abandon Windows on the curb. Or at least send Windows to the other room while you gaze upon Ubuntu in all of its glory.

If you haven’t used any of the nightly builds (aka you’ve been using Ubuntu 9.04 until today), you’re bound to notice some major changes. The first change you’ll notice is the faster boot time, thanks to Upstart. Then, of course, the upgrade to the new GNOME release (which uses Empathy instead of Pidgin by default). On top of that, Ubuntu also ships with a new Linux kernel. With the expected changes out of the way, I’ll introduce a few things that you may not have been expecting.

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Unobtrusive Advertising

Have you ever visited a website with the intent of reading an article, only to see a full page ad? After clicking ‘continue’, or waiting fifteen to thirty seconds, you finally reach the page of the article. But wait, what’s this? A banner ad, a skyscraper ad, and a huge square advertisement smack-dab in the middle of the article itself. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you notice a new window has opened under your current window with an ad in it. After closing that, another window pops up with another ad. If you hadn’t closed the article already, you probably will now. This example may seem extreme, but it really has happened. Luckily, it is not nearly as common as it used to be.

I mentioned unobtrusive advertising last year when I was ranting about copyright complaints by blog owners, but I believe a bit more of an explanation (and rant) is needed. Let the world know how you feel about advertising by leaving a comment or three below :) Maybe we can get the word out about unobtrusive advertising (or at least get into a debate with someone who has no class whatsoever).

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HTML, BBCode, or Plain Text?

Most every web developer has asked himself (or herself) this question at least once. While some applications only need one method of parsing, many should support at least two. There is rarely a need to include support for more than two methods on any single part of an application though.

In this article, several parsing techniques will be covered, including Textile, BBCode, and HTML. WYSIWYG editors will also be discussed. Pros and Cons of each technique will be examined to provide you with facts and my own opinion.

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Avatar System

Have you ever noticed how you have to upload a new display picture for every forum and blog you create an account at? Well, there has been a system in place for a while now to make this no longer a problem. It is called Gravatar (Globally Recognized Avatars). Gravatar allows you to upload a display picture on their site (up to 512×512). This Gravatar is then used on any site that uses the gravatar system (all you have to do is use the same email!). There will also be an option to change the default Gravatar icon to that of Identicons, MonsterIDs, Wavatars, or your own custom image! The Gravatar system also allows each theme to use a different size of display picture without ruining the look of the entire site.

Other Benefits

The use of Gravatars also make the application more secure as there is no need to upload a display picture. All uploads are done on the Gravatar website. There is also less server space taken up as well as less server load (all images hosted, resized, and served up by Gravatar).

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Google Chrome – A new kind of browser

A day late, but that gave me the chance to test out Google Chrome for myself. At first glance, it doesn’t look like much, but Google has always had a way of doing that. To start off with, the entire interface is different from any other browser. It doesn’t even have the normal title bar. They basically (literally actually) started from scratch when they created this application. Google definitely just made the browser wars more interesting.

Going against their normal routine, they made Chrome open source. I’m not complaining at all, but it surprised the hell out of me. If that’s not enough, they’re encouraging others (Mozilla for example) to use Chrome’s code to make their browser better. So even if you’re not going to use Chrome, you will still benefit from it’s release.

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