The Cynics Workshop

Where I can try to influence the world, one word at a time.

Month: May, 2012

A Tribute to Marina Keegan – The Opposite of Loneliness

I came across this story while I was on ABC News’ website today.

A 22 year old girl named Marina Keegan had recently written an essay entitled “The Opposite of Loneliness” which she wrote for a special graduation edition of the Yale Daily News.  Just days after she penned this beautiful tribute to life, hers was drastically cut short.  She was with her boyfriend heading up to Cape Cod when he lost control of the car, hit a guardrail, spun across the road to hit the other guardrail, then rolling twice before coming to a rest.  While her boyfriend was uninjured, Marina Keegan died at the scene.  In addition to being a full time student, Marina also blogged for the NY Times and was set to begin working there full time after graduation.  It’s always sad to lose a fellow blogger, but I think you will agree after reading her essay below, that Marina was more than just a blogger.  She was clearly a bright young lady that was taken way too soon.  To me, she represents exactly what we need in this Country.  As a tribute to her, and hopefully as inspiration to many others, here is the essay she wrote:

KEEGAN: The Opposite of Loneliness

The piece below was written by Marina Keegan ’12 for a special edition of the News distributed at the class of 2012’s commencement exercises last week. Keegan died in a car accident on Saturday. She was 22.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life. What I’m grateful and thankful to have found at Yale, and what I’m scared of losing when we wake up tomorrow and leave this place.

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together. Who are on your team. When the check is paid and you stay at the table. When it’s four a.m. and no one goes to bed. That night with the guitar. That night we can’t remember. That time we did, we went, we saw, we laughed, we felt. The hats.

Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers — partner-less, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group-texts.

This scares me. More than finding the right job or city or spouse – I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness. This feeling I feel right now.

But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us. They’re part of us and they are set for repetition as we grow up and move to New York and away from New York and wish we did or didn’t live in New York. I plan on having parties when I’m 30. I plan on having fun when I’m old. Any notion of THE BEST years comes from clichéd “should haves…” “if I’d…” “wish I’d…”

Of course, there are things we wished we did: our readings, that boy across the hall. We’re our own hardest critics and it’s easy to let ourselves down. Sleeping too late. Procrastinating. Cutting corners. More than once I’ve looked back on my High School self and thought: how did I do that? How did I work so hard? Our private insecurities follow us and will always follow us.

But the thing is, we’re all like that. Nobody wakes up when they want to. Nobody did all of their reading (except maybe the crazy people who win the prizes…) We have these impossibly high standards and we’ll probably never live up to our perfect fantasies of our future selves. But I feel like that’s okay.

We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lay alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.

When we came to Yale, there was this sense of possibility. This immense and indefinable potential energy – and it’s easy to feel like that’s slipped away. We never had to choose and suddenly we’ve had to. Some of us have focused ourselves. Some of us know exactly what we want and are on the path to get it; already going to med school, working at the perfect NGO, doing research. To you I say both congratulations and you suck.

For most of us, however, we’re somewhat lost in this sea of liberal arts. Not quite sure what road we’re on and whether we should have taken it. If only I had majored in biology…if only I’d gotten involved in journalism as a freshman…if only I’d thought to apply for this or for that…

What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over. Get a post-bac or try writing for the first time. The notion that it’s too late to do anything is comical. It’s hilarious. We’re graduating college. We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.

In the heart of a winter Friday night my freshman year, I was dazed and confused when I got a call from my friends to meet them at EST EST EST. Dazedly and confusedly, I began trudging to SSS, probably the point on campus farthest away. Remarkably, it wasn’t until I arrived at the door that I questioned how and why exactly my friends were partying in Yale’s administrative building. Of course, they weren’t. But it was cold and my ID somehow worked so I went inside SSS to pull out my phone. It was quiet, the old wood creaking and the snow barely visible outside the stained glass. And I sat down. And I looked up. At this giant room I was in. At this place where thousands of people had sat before me. And alone, at night, in the middle of a New Haven storm, I felt so remarkably, unbelievably safe.

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I’d say that’s how I feel at Yale. How I feel right now. Here. With all of you. In love, impressed, humbled, scared. And we don’t have to lose that.

We’re in this together, 2012. Let’s make something happen to this world.

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Little Etan Patz

33 years ago today, Etan Patz was able to convince his Mom to let him walk to the bus stop alone for the first time from their SoHo home. This would be the last time she would see her son alive. It wasn’t until later that day when he didn’t return home that Julie Patz called the school, to which she found out that Etan never even made it in that day.

Similar situations had more than likely happened before, but this case was special. After he was reported missing, something unique happened, they decided to put Etan’s picture on a milk carton. He would be the first of thousands of missing children’s pictures to appear on a milk carton.

Fast forward to 25.May.2012, exactly 33 years to the day that Etan disappeared, and it looks as though the police finally have a suspect in custody. A man who worked at a bodega just down the street confessed to luring Etan in with the promise of soda, and then killing him.

33 years have gone by. 33 years of not knowing for sure what happened. 33 years.

33 years is a lifetime, think of what you can accomplish, or what you have accomplished over that time frame, or in real time, since 1979. His parents refused to move, they have even kept the same phone number. See, Etan was 6 years old when he vanished so he knew where they lived and he knew his phone number, so his parents kept that information static with the hopes that he would one day show up.

I cannot even imagine what his parents have gone through over the last 33 years. All the hope, all the false leads, all the birthdays and holidays that passed, all the while never knowing with certainty what happened to their son. Imagine if his Mom had not let him walk alone, just for one more day…there is a chance her son would be here today. Knowing that would literally drive me insane, it would simply be more than I would be able to cope with. They are amazing people, the ability to go on amid this tragedy, the strength they have is something I will never know.

What has to go through a person’s mind to do something like this to a child? You have a person who is so innocent, so trusting, so oblivious to any outside danger…and then you have an adult who is looking to pray on that, and to take advantage of that. It sickens me. I think of what I would do to someone if they did that to my kid, and it would not be pretty. Part of me envisions myself as being that guy who would jump over the barriers in a court room so I could launch an assault on the suspect to make him regret he was ever born. On the other hand, there is a part of me that would have to ask the question that if someone is so disturbed that they could do something like that to a child, is there something seriously wrong with them? I mean are there wires that just aren’t connected somewhere in their head? If there is some psychological problem with them, is it fair for me to judge them? If a case exists where they cannot control their own behavior, I wouldn’t know how to handle that. I guess it’s just hard for me to imagine that the kind of person who would do something like this to a child really exists. It’s hard for me to imagine that people are really that sick. And then to go on with your life for 33 years as if nothing ever happened, how do you sleep at night? If the person they have in custody really did do this to Etan, I have a feeling justice will catch up with him shortly after he is incarcerated.

I hope the suspect they have in custody cooperates, I hope that we are finally able to put this case to rest. I hope that in some way, Stan & Julie Patz may finally be able to move on with their lives without the constant thought that their little blonde haired boy might someday walk through their front door. I hope they will be able to walk down the street and not turn to look at everyone who has blonde hair and think, could that be Etan? I hope the media finally stops seeking them out for interviews; I hope they finally get the closure they have most certainly craved.

But most importantly, I hope this means that little Etan Patz may finally get to rest in peace. I hope that wherever he is, he is frozen in time as a fun loving 6 year old boy. I hope that he has all the toys and ice cream he can handle, I hope that he is surrounded by family and people that love him. That’s what he deserves. The unfortunate thing is that there always has to be an Etan. There always has to be someone who experiences something bad in order for good to come from it. I hope his parents can take some good from this, knowing that his picture on a milk carton has helped to ease the grief of so many other families. I don’t know if it will happen…but I hope. Rest in peace now little Etan Patz.

**February 14, 2017 – a jury has convicted Pedro Hernandez for the murder of Etan.  Pedro reportedly lured Etan into the basement of the corner bodega he was working in with the promise of some soda, once in the basement he strangled Etan and then put his body in a bag and disposed of it with the trash a few blocks away.  My heart goes out to Stan and Julie, may they finally get that good night’s rest they’ve so long been searching for…and while they are getting that rest, let us hope that Etan can now finally rest in peace.

Thought Provoking Question of the Day

If you could find out when you would die, down to the exact day, hour, and minute…would you want to know?

Man vs. Beast

Man has had a long history of going up against animals, some due to necessity, some due to sport, and some due to stupidity.

In the early days, we had to go up against the beasts lest we would not eat. I would like to think that the battles were fair, and that the end was humane for the animal. I am inclined to think that things were not only more fair, but far more humane than they are now. I am a loyal carnivore, so for the purposes of sustenance, I have no problem with an animal being sacrificed so I can have a larger waistline, my only hope is that the beast is put out of his misery without suffering.

I am a bit confused by those that say killing an animal is a sport. I played sports growing up, and I really don’t see any similarities between what I did, and killing an animal. I thought the definition of a sport was that 2 relatively equal matched opponents would square off, playing (or fighting) until one emerged victorious. I really don’t see how hiding in a bush and taking out an animal that is enjoying its lunch from 1000 yards away with an assault rifle qualifies as a sport. I see it as more an act of cowardice. I’ve had people tell me that only “real men” hunt, they were actually the ones that told me that NASCAR was a sport too, but if you were a real man, you would ditch the firearm, pick up a stick, and stand face to face with the beast ready for a challenge. If at that point, the animal walks away, or if you are actually able to conquer the animal, a-la Anthony Hopkins in The Edge, then you can consider yourself victorious, or in the latter example, a real man. Adding insult to injury are those who pose with their trophy. We’ve all seen these idiots right…kneeling next to the fallen beast, holding up their heads by their horns, and sporting an I-just-showed-you-whose-boss look. Nothing makes me wish more that the animal would suddenly awake for one last minute like the villains seem to do in cheesy horror movies to sink their teeth into the idiots’ thighs! Next time you find yourself holding an assault rifle while hiding in deep cover, I hope you are a sniper in Afghanistan, not some idiot on safari in Africa.

Lastly, let’s touch on those who by shear stupidly, find themselves in a duel with a superior skilled beast. I am of course referring to those who stick their arms through the fence at the zoo, or those who voluntarily wrestle alligators, or those who work for the circus. The most recent example of this came out just a few days ago. Apparently there was a scientist (who looked like he was in his seventies) who was looking to corral a gator in hopes of studying it for scientific gain. He gently walked up behind the beast, weakly threw a towel over the gators eyes, which didn’t really even land on its mark, and then attempted to mount the gator. Much to my, and many others, amusement, as soon as it felt something on its back, the gator quickly turned its head and sank its teeth into the arm of the poor, defenseless man. Fortunately for this dimwitted survivor, the gator released its grip and oldie was able to scamper away.

I have only been to the circus once, and I can tell you that I root for the animals. If you are going to remove animals from their natural habitat, teach them to do stupid tricks, and then have the nerve to charge people to watch them, then you need to be removed (forcibly if need be) from society. What is even more amazing than seeing an animal revolt and turn on their trainers, is the reaction from people who are hearing about the incident. It is always “oh that poor trainer”, or “that animal is dangerous, we need to put it down.” Let me clear something up for you, of course the animal is dangerous…that’s why it is a wild animal…and why it should be kept in the wild! It shouldn’t be shuttled around on a train from gig to gig, and it shouldn’t be paraded around in a cage with a trainer 15 feet away slapping its hind quarters with a whip, it should be roaming the countryside looking for its next meal. Watch the show “When Animals Attack” and you will see what I mean. In every one of those examples, you’ll see an animal that has been removed from its natural habitat, and you’ll see a human that is doing something stupid…it’s a patented formula.

We shouldn’t be putting these animals down; you can’t punish an animal for doing what it’s supposed to, for following its instincts. We shouldn’t cage these beasts up to begin with. If anything, the trainers need to be put down. If you are going to jump in the pool with a killer whale and then ask the sweet gentle whale to push you around by the feet with its nose, don’t be surprised when all of a sudden that animal mistakes you for a seal, and starts to toss you around like a rag doll. These people are precisely what Charles Darwin was talking about, they have yet to fully evolve, and so they will eventually be left behind. My only hope is that these winners are taken out before they have a chance to procreate.

Slow Cooker Jambalaya

I am slowly learning that buying a slow cooker could quite possibly be the greatest purchase of my life.  I am such a fan of throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and leaving it.  I realize this could be classified as more of a winter, comfort food dish, but the option of sitting out on your deck or balcony on a nice summer evening with a plate of jambalaya and a glass of sangria does sound tempting.  Since this is very similar to paella, feel free to serve with a side of Spanish rice.

Prep Time – 20 minutes
Cook Time – 8 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 pound frozen cooked shrimp without tails

Directions:

  1. In a slow cooker, mix the chicken, sausage, tomatoes with juice, onion, green bell pepper, celery, and broth. Season with oregano, parsley, Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, and thyme.
  2. Cover, and cook 7 to 8 hours on Low, or 3 to 4 hours on High. Stir in the shrimp during the last 30 minutes of cook time.

 

Top Baby Names

So the list that soon-to-be parents anxiously await is finally out (I heard that some even camped out on the sidewalk in anticipation), the top baby names of 2011 was just released. Soon-to-be getting no sleepers frantically comb through the list to see where their chosen baby name will fall, will it be number 1, number 2, oh no…not number 11. I don’t want my kid to be born on the outside looking in….ahhhh!! Parents want to give their kid every advantage in life, so we might as well start with their name. In case you don’t spend 20 hours a day combing the internet, here is the list:

BOYS

1. Jacob 2. Mason 3. William 4. Jayden 5. Noah 6. Michael 7. Ethan 8. Alexander 9. Aiden 10. Daniel

GIRLS

1. Sophia 2. Isabella 3. Emma 4. Olivia 5. Ava 6. Emily 7. Abigail 8. Madison 9. Mia 10. Chloe

Apparently the only real news worthy item here is the rapid rise of Mason. It has risen all the way up to number 2 and bumped perennially top ten Anthony off the list. All you Italians better get procreating fast. The only real comment I have here is number 10 for the girls. Who in their right mind would ever want to name their kid Chloe? My apologies to everyone reading this who is actually named Chloe…but it is ok to not like your name. I have only met one Chloe in my life, and it was the beagle of a girl I used to date…and I thought that was a perfect fit. Not to mention the fact that one of the Kardashian sisters, the one that slightly resembles a wookie, is named that. I can’t think of any more motivation than that not to use that name for anyone with less than four legs.

The real exciting thing is the release of the list of trending names; these are the ones that are moving fast up the popular list. Here is that list:

BOYS

1. Brantley 2. Iker 3. Maximiliano 4. Zaiden 5. Kamden 6. Barrett 7. Archer 8. Declan 9. Atticus 10. Nico

GIRLS

1. Briella 2. Angelique 3. Aria 4. Mila 5. Elsie 6. Nylah 7. Raelynn 8. Brynlee 9. Olive 10. June

I will take some time to comment on these.

Brantley – I can’t help but think of a piece of wood. I’m imaging a boy chopping wood in Tennessee.
Iker – Is he an absentee hiker, or perhaps a piker of some sort?
Maximiliano – It’s ok to name your kid Max, just Max. You don’t need to make him appear to be more gallant, alcohol in his 20’s will do that for him.
Zaiden – It’s like a clever new take on Aiden, with a sort of Zorro twist. He would be the super hero version of Aiden!
Kamden – Is he named after a very violent town in New Jersey?
Barrett – No one outside of Connecticut should have this name, and if you live in Connecticut, at least one of your parents must work for a hedge fund.
Archer – Career path chosen. It’s sort of like naming your kid Jeeves…you’ve pretty much mapped out their future for them.
Declan – Can’t stand the clan, we need all the declanning we can get.
Atticus – Somewhere Harper Lee is smiling.
Nico – I’m thinking future bouncer outside Webster Hall.

Briella – Ok, the Italians can stop procreating now.
Angelique – Not happening…she’s not going to marry Brad.
Aria – Is she an Italian love song?
Mila – I suppose this is better than naming her Kunis.
Elsie – Is your child a 60 year old British woman?
Nylah – It’s like they couldn’t pick between 2 names, so they just mashed them together into one.
Raelynn – The usual custom is a first name, then a middle…not one all together.
Brynlee – What does this even mean?
Olive – Hi Olive, my name is Cucumber, it’s nice to meet you.
June – The ultimate in un-originality. Why not just name her Summer?

So what’s the lesson here? Life is hard enough without having to spend most of it jammed inside a locker, so don’t name your kid after an inanimate object! Don’t name your kid Blue Ivy! Don’t name your kid after a piece of fruit! Are you catching on yet?? The problem here is that parents think that by giving their child a unique name, that will equate to them being this free spirit, this incredibly unique person who will be unlike anyone else…when in reality all that occurs is they end up hating their parents because they have a really stupid name.

 

5 Songs That Make Me Stop What I’m Doing

Music is amazing for so many reasons; it can make us smile when we are sad, it can help us communicate when we don’t know what we want to say, it can even transport us back in time.  I listen to music whenever I can, I even used to listen to it when I would study or write papers in college.  I could not possibly narrow down all the songs I like into just one favorite, but I was able to narrow it down to 5 songs that make me stop almost whatever I am doing at that time to listen to them…in no particular order:

1: Bob Seger – Turn the Page (Live Version)
This was probably the first song that really ‘spoke’ to me.  As long as I can remember, I have had a love affair with this tune, I can even remember back to a time when I would actually shush people (even girlfriends) when we would be in the car and this song would come on.  The first car I ever bought was a 1996 Pontiac Grand AM GT with tinted windows; I put a pair of 10″ JL Audio subwoofers in the trunk that took the appreciation for this song to a whole new level.  The beauty of this tune is that there’s not one particular thing about it that that attracted me to it.  It opens with that classic winding saxophone and from there it’s not music, but the words that keep me going.
The song is about a musician and his time on the road and when I hear the lyrics, it can’t help but conjure up an image of a lonely man riding from gig to gig in his tour bus, stopping occasionally and interacting with the locals.  Listening to it, you get the sense of someone who has been away for far too long.  He sings of his time on stage, as he pours his heart out to the crowd, only to get back on the bus to do it in another city the following night.  It’s a slightly less glamorous side to rock ‘n roll that most of us forget about.  This song is over 40 years old but it is essentially timeless, it could have very easily been written last year.

You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_N0yuMuB98

2: Carl Orff – O Fortuna (Carmina Burana)
I first heard this song about fifteen years ago, and it was a techno version that was aired on an alternative radio station.  When I stumbled on the classical, more traditional version, I was hooked.  Originally, this was a poem that was put to music in the mid-thirties by German composer Carl Orff.  This is sung entirely in Latin, so part of the allure for me is that I can’t understand what is being said.  When sung by a choir, it has a very bold beginning that quickly turns into a whisper.  The crescendo slowly builds to an eruption, after which we hear a giant drum followed by a powerful ending that consists of drums, horns, and voices.  In my opinion, it is the most powerful ending that exists to any song.  The only drawback for me is that the entire song is only just over 2 minutes long.

You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNWpZ-Y_KvU

3: Pink Floyd – The Great Gig in the Sky
This could be quite possibly the most beautiful piece of music that exists in the world today.  I say that with the caveat that I am a huge Pink Floyd fan, believing that most of what they put out was pure musical genius…but this is on an entirely different level.  The back story is that most of the album (Dark Side of the Moon) was already in place, but the band wanted a little more music and so keyboardist Richard Wright laid down the first couple of lines of what would become this song and the guys were sold.  They were pretty confident they wanted an instrumental but one of the producers suggested bringing in a vocalist to lay down some vocals.  They invited in a fairly well known singer at the time, Clare Torry, and while they knew what they wanted, they simply instructed her to think of death and horror…and to just go in and sing.  She completed the task relatively quickly and as she was coming out, she actually began to apologize and say that she was embarrassed at what she had just sung.  The band looked at her in disbelief because they knew that what they had just heard was absolutely incredible.
I have heard many different live recordings of this song as it has been sung at many Pink Floyd concerts over the years, and with one exception (and even that was a distant second), not one of the female vocalists could come close to replicating what Clare did that day in the studio.  The song actually opens up with dialogue that was recorded in an English pub, the dialogue says:

I am not frightened of dying
Any time will do, I don’t mind
Why should I be frightened of dying
There’s no reason for it
You gotta go sometime

What follows is 3 and 1/2 minutes of what reminds me both of someone who could be experiencing extreme pleasure, or extreme pain.  It is the mystery of it that lets the listener take the song where they would like to go with it.  This song is more than able to stand up on its own, but when you place it in the middle of Dark Side of the Moon, what you get is almost beyond words.

You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqCEPytSFqU&feature=fvst

4: Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke – Sacrifice
I only recently discovered this song, thanks mainly to the fact that it has recently appeared in a few movies.  I was drawn to it while watching the movie, but it was after I watched the video, and also after I listened to it on its own that the power and beauty really became clear to me.  The allure is again in the fact that I don’t understand that language, I find myself getting lost in the simplicity of a solitary woman and how she is able to take me somewhere simply with the power of her voice.  The song does not have many highs or lows, and the somberness of the music is present throughout.  It is definitely more on the sad/reflective side…but we need that every now and then.  The title really prepares you for what you will hear.  It puts you in a certain frame of mind, and it made me think not only of family that is no longer here, but where they might be.

You tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6DZsEQ82lE&feature=related

5: Derek and the Dominos – Layla
I was hooked on this song from the moment you hear the opening guitar riff…I would expect nothing less since it is played by one of the greatest guitarists of our generation.  This is another example of a song that draws me because of the music, and not the words.  It’s not that the lyrics are bad; it’s just that the music is so good.  For me, the best part actually is in the latter half of the song.  If you’ve ever watched the move Goodfellas, you might recognize the theme song is this song.  It is when the song shifts gears into that instrumental part that I really start to get in to it.  If I am working and this song comes on, I can usually keep working through the first part, but once that piano comes on…forget about it.  Inevitably I find myself tapping on the table and bopping my head while getting lost in the creative genius that I hear.

You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw01019P19g&feature=related

I hope you’re able to take a few moments to listen (if you aren’t already familiar with these songs)…but more importantly, I hope there’s music out there that speaks to you and has the same impact that these songs have on me.

Italian Chicken Sausage Risotto

I have been watching Hells Kitchen for the past few years, and one of the many dishes that they seem to feature on their menu (which I have not been able to see a full copy of…but would love to!) has been a risotto dish.  Having never tried risotto before, I hit the web in search of a quick, easy, and tasty sounding dish…what I ended up with was the below recipe for Italian Chicken Sausage Risotto (courtesy of allrecipes.com).  It was very easy to make, and most of all…it tastes great!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (16 ounce) package Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage (or any flavor you like)
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup Chardonnay or other dry white wine
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth, low-sodium
  • 1 cup frozen petite sweet peas

Directions

In a heavy, large Dutch oven or saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté sausage and onion until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add rice and wine; stir 1-2 minutes or until wine is absorbed. Stir in 3 cups broth. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until broth is absorbed, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Continue adding stock, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring until liquid is adsorbed and rice is tender and creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in peas and 1/4 cup Parmesan; cook 1 minute or until heated throughout. Season with 1/4 tsp black pepper. Garnish with parsley and remaining cheese. Serve immediately.

An Open Letter to the Smoker

Dear Smoker-

You are a special person.  Regardless of what anyone ever tells you, please know that you are a special person.  I mean really, it takes a very special individual to not only knowingly try to kill themselves, but to spend large amounts of money trying to do it.  You don’t sit in your garage with the car running and the windows down, you don’t throw yourself in front of a train (all the morning commuters here in the tri-state area thank you for that one), you don’t even swallow a bullet.  No, you’ve selected a much more interesting way of ending your life, you smoke cigarettes.

I get that there was a time when smoking used to be cool (I know Mad Men is desperately trying to bring those days back).  Movie stars used to smoke on screen, athletes used to smoke, all the hot girls in bars were lighting up, you were constantly bombarded by the Marlboro man…and let’s be honest, that guy was really cool.  But guess what, those days are over.  The Marlboro man is dead, very few movie stars smoke on screen, and the really hot girls are drinking a Skinny Girl Margarita, not puffing on a Virginia Slim.  Is there anything cool left about smoking…no.  Even James Garner and Clint Eastwood quit, and those guys might have been the only 2 guys in the world who were cooler than the Marlboro Man.  The only difference is that they didn’t wait for the cigarettes to kill them.

I don’t know if you know this about yourself either, but you smell.  I’m not talking about working up a good sweat after hitting the treadmill for 45 minutes, I mean you really smell.  It’s not quite as bad as the homeless guy hitting me up for spare change as I switch from the 1 to the 7-train, but it’s enough to make me turn my head and mumble a bunch of stuff under my breath.  It could have been at least an hour since your last cigarette, but it doesn’t matter.  That smell is ingrained in your clothes; it has worked its way into your bark-o-lounger, and it doesn’t matter if you shampoo, rinse, and repeat, your hair reeks.

But remember, you’re cool.  You know those people you see huddled under those heat lamps outside of the clubs in the winter, those are cool people.  Have you ever wondered why they are outside and not sitting at the bar, or why they’re not out on the dance floor?  It’s because cool people don’t sit at the bar, and because cool people don’t dance…they smoke.

Enough about the bad.  Thanks to you and your yellow stained teeth cohorts, you are pumping millions of dollars into our struggling economy.  Also thanks you and your will-probably-die-ten-years-before-my-time friends, my life insurance rates are slightly cheaper.  If you’re lucky, you’ll be fortunate enough to get one of those cool voice boxes, your grandson would love that!  I also know that there are a lot of people in the heartland of North Carolina that would be out of work if it weren’t for you.  You’re also saving everyone else money, if you were to quit, everyone else would have to spend much more of their disposable income on dinners and milk shakes to replace the thousands of dollars you pump into the economy because of your addiction.  Another benefit is that you might get to retire earlier than most, of course that’s probably because you will develop emphysema and be unable to get up from your chair without experiencing shortness of breath…but I’m sure you’re willing to take the good with the bad.

So in closing, remember how special you are.  There are so few people that are willing to pay a complete stranger vast amounts of money for the opportunity to slowly kill themselves over many many years.  It takes a special person to do that…you are unique, you are special, you’re one of a kind…keep up the good work.

Legalize it

Raise your hand if you’ve smoked Marijuana.  Okay so you’re probably in a room by yourself so you can’t see that pretty much everyone else’s hand is raised too.  It seems only in America could you have a product that is easy to get, and that virtually everyone has used, be illegal.

It seems that the only reason it is illegal is due to the conservatism of our Country.  It’s not hard to infer that not only am I not a conservative person (politically speaking), but that I am also hugely in favor of legalizing this drug.  I really don’t see the harm that would come of it.  I can hear the critics now though, “you can’t legalize Marijuana; it’s a drug, it’s dangerous.”  Why are there such negative connotations around the word ‘drug’?  Is it because they are an addictive substance?  Is it because famous people (and not famous people) have died as a result of using them?  If that’s the case, looks like it’s time to take coffee off our shelves.  And say bye to your car, you won’t be able to use that anymore either.

Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol, and that has been legal for some time.  Why can’t we approach Marijuana the same way we approach alcohol?  Make it legal, set up special shops where you can purchase it (I am not suggesting Marijuana will be located in aisle 7 next to the Heineken), and tax it.  It is so simple.  We are a Country that is stalled economically, always looking for revenue sources, and new revenue sources at that, and this is a product that will give you a consistent stream of sustainable revenue.  I am fine with putting some restraints on it, i.e. you must be 21 to purchase it, while also limiting the quantities that can be purchased at one time, but we have to make sure Government doesn’t go crazy with the rules.  For those of you who worry about people buying it and then trying to sell it on their own, how many people do you see walking down the street trying to sell you a 6-pack of Budweiser?  Sure it will happen on occasion, just as there are people who buy alcohol for minors, but when you think of the revenue our Country will be able to collect from this, you have to take the good with the bad.

There is also documented research that there is a medical benefit from using it, granted it may only benefit people with vision issues…but who knows, maybe there are other undocumented medical benefits for those of us who have 20/15 vision.  Thanks to this, we have slowly begun to take steps in the right direction by setting up medical dispensaries (in certain states) where people who need it medically can get it.  Each and every one of us knows though that there are crooked doctors out there who are writing prescriptions for people who do not need it medically.  There doesn’t have to be all this sneaking around, just wake up and legalize it!

We are wasting hundreds of millions of dollars every year trying to police the drug trade when what we should really be doing is trying to set up a way where we can profit from it.  As usual, we are focused on the wrong things.  We are The United States of Screwed up Priorities. We live in a Country where a person vying for the Presidency has admitted using this product, and I guarantee he wasn’t the only candidate who has used it.  Granted Bill said he didn’t inhale, but come on, we’ve seen Bill, you know he was sitting back in an Arkansas farm house getting high as a kite talking about what it would be like to play the saxophone on a late night television show…mission accomplished!

I’m no drug expert by any stretch, but in my limited experience with this product, using it doesn’t turn you into a raging psychopath who looks to go out on murderous rampages.  For the most part, the result is a very chill environment where people sit around and talk about solving the world’s problems…wow, sounds rough, we should outlaw that.  Just for the record, no I am not using it now.

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