Month: October 2014

Five Instances of People Entirely Missing the Point

It seems like people often are unappreciative of human nature.  Typically, humanity has demonstrated a proclivity for being kind and sincere.  Of course, the opposite happens often as well, and those tend to be the instances that define humanity.  Coincidently, human kindness and sincerity often go unnoticed because they just aren’t that interesting anymore.  We expect each other to screw up, so when it happens we enjoy seeing just how bad.  Another great thing about humans is we are capable of committing a mistake, and then using the experience to learn and grow, maybe even avoiding future mistakes of the same nature all together.  Mistakes are part of life.  It’s an inevitability for most of us.  What makes a person wholly good is how they react and handle the backlash of a mistake.  There are five instances of people doing the opposite of that.

1.  Terrorist group beheads the wrong person, asks for “understanding and forgiveness”

In 2013, a Syrian militant group with al-Qaeda links, or as you know them, ISIS, was cutting off heads before it was considered “mainstream”.  The group, known for their brutal and grisly videos depicting beheadings and various form of torture and execution, made the mistake of beheading the wrong guy, even displaying the incorrect head in public.  Once the video leaked, someone recognized the man who was about to have his head extracted and said, “wait a minute, I know that guy.”  Turns out the victim was actually a member of another Islamic Militant group.  In fact, this other group in which the victim was a member even fought alongside ISIS on several occasions.  Yeah, whoops.  ISIS made a statement claiming they had mistakenly taken this man’s life, and then instantly victimized themselves by asking for “understanding and forgiveness.”  Apparently, Mohammad and Allah are bother super into forgiveness, so the group hasn’t (to my knowledge) retaliated in any way against ISIS.  Those terrorists and their wacky hijinks!

2.  Everyone who covered the Columbine tragedy seemed to forget the body count

In 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold orchestrated one of the most deadly and infamous school shootings in history.  Fifteen people (including Harris and Klebold) were killed in the attack at the suburban Colorado high school.  This tragedy went on to spark debate about gun control, bullying in schools, and violence in video games.  Michael Moore also directed a horribly flawed and poorly made documentary about the tragedy.  Every politician, news outlet, and parent had some opinion regarding the motive.  Everyone had an opinion about how these boys even got guns.  Some wondered if violent video games and music drove these boys to commit mass murder.  Seemingly lost in the whirlwind of debate was the fact that 13 innocent people were dead.  Columbine turned into a platform for reform debate, and the lives of those who perished went unnoticed before long.

3.  Rush Limbaugh doesn’t really know what net neutrality means

Rush Limbaugh is a talk show radio host, whose preference for conservative political commentary have made him quite the polarizing figure.  You are unlikely to find someone who describes their feelings about Limbaugh as “meh”.  In fact, Limbaugh has been called sexist, homophobic, racism, compared to Hitler (probably), and has possibly been mistaken for Karl Rove at least a hundred times.  For perspective, a list of ridiculous (and hilarious) Limbaugh quotes can be found right here.  So naturally when Limbaugh was asked about net neutrality, he had an opinion.  “Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine of the internet,” Limbaugh said.  He went on to claim net neutrality exists to limit your options when searching the web, which limits opinions and allows people (those darn liberals) to control what sort of content you have access too.  Allow me to define both the Fairness Doctrine and net neutrality for those who aren’t familiar.  The Fairness Doctrine was adopted by the FCC which basically existed to force radio programs to not be too one-sided in their coverage (if you watch MSNBC or FOX you might be wondering what happened to this.)  Net neutrality, on the other hand, has nothing to do with the restriction of content.  Net neutrality forces internet service providers to treat all data on the internet equally and forbids ISP’s and websites from charging extra for better content.  Basically, this means Netflix, for example, can’t have a tiered payment plan where some subscribers can stream in HD while others can’t. In fact, net neutrality exists to prevent exactly what Limbaugh accused it of.  So Limbaugh’s slippery understanding of the Fairness Doctrine, net neutrality, and words in general kind of made him look ridiculous.

4.  Stephen A. Smith says the dumbest thing possible

Stephan A. Smith, simply put, is the black, sports version of Rush Limbaugh.  He is loud, obnoxious, and he loves the New York  Knicks, although I have a feeling Rush Limbaugh is more of a NASCAR guy.  Smith and his counterpart/annual competitor for world’s most hated sports personality, Skip Bayless, for some reason I’ll never figure out, host a show on ESPN2 called “FirstTake”.  So as the co-host of ESPN2’s 6th most popular show, on a network that has a viewership equivalent to the population of the Pitcairn Islands, Smith makes a name for himself by delivering controversial, tip toeing the line commentary.  In August, Ray Rice was hit with a two game suspension for knocking his wife out cold with a right hook so devastating Joe Frazier’s hand shot out of the grave to seek a high-five.  In this understandable public relations nightmare for the NFL, Rice and his wife sat down with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to conduct the most uncomfortable press conference of all time.  Rice’s wife, Janay Palmer Rice, even claimed some responsibility for the events of that evening.  Here is where Smith heroically jumped in with his Pulitzer worthy journalistic opinions: “let’s not do anything to provoke the wrong actions…let’s make sure we can do our part in making sure these things don’t happen.”  Smith went on to say, “we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. Not that there’s real provocation, but the elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them, because we’ve got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way. And I don’t think that’s broached enough, is all I’m saying.”  Keep in mind these are not the lyrics to a Dr. Dre song, this is an actual, verbatim quote, uttered on live television, by one of the most recognizable sports personalities on tv.  Obviously, the “elements of provocation” is a word of warning to all the ladies out there.  Smith is implying Rice’s actions, and by actions I mean crushing his wife’s orbital bone with his fist, were somehow his wife’s fault.  Ray Rice is built like a bowling ball.  I feel bad when a 240 pound linebacker has to try to tackle him, let alone his tiny 120 pound wife.  Unless she had just shown him a Quicktime video of herself murdering Rice’s mom, there is literally nothing else she could’ve done worthy of provoking such violence.

Yup, definitely looks like her fault.  Smith was rightfully suspended by ESPN for his comments, and hopefully he learns a valuable lesson about maybe not talking so much.

5.  Todd Akin and the “legitimate rape” comments

In 2012, Todd Akin had a pretty sweet gig.  He was a US Representative, and was leading the polls in his bid for a seat in the Senate.  Until one fateful day, Akin delivered one of the most perplexing, and prevalent lapses of judgement in the history of humanity.  Here, in all it’s glory, is the infamous quote:

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Honestly, where do you even start with this one?  Akin was being asked about his opinion of abortion, which in hindsight probably could’ve been answered with “yeah, go for it” or “no, I prefer folks not partake in that.”  Akin took it upon himself to utter such an outrageous claim that OBGYN’s across the country all fainted at once.  Not only does Akin reveal an embarrassing and humiliating misunderstanding of the workings of the female body, but he also proves he was probably not the best guy to be representing an entire district of Missourians(?) for the past six years.  Let’s not forget he also suggests “some punishment” for RAPISTS.  He could not have condensed more stupidity and offensive nature into a single quote if he also cited a source from “Mein Kampf” while doing a Terri Schiavo impression.

Fortunately for everyone on this list, they totally learned their lessons, maybe.  I honestly don’t know.

Fall Fashion Suggestions

Since probably about my senior year of high school, I’ve taken an interest in fashion.  I love clothes, accessories, shoes, brands, designers, stores, etc.  Everything about men’s fashion is intriguing to me.  I once heard sort of a cheesy quote, and it’s stuck with me:  “A well-dressed man is to a woman what a scantily clad woman is to a man”  Men today are dressing better than they have in decades, and that’s part of this growing acceptance of men being comfortable in their own skin.  I refuse to use terms like “metrosexual” or claim a man is in touch with his “feminine side.”  I hate that.  Those terms imply that taking pride in your appearance is a womanly attribute, and that’s offensive to both genders, in my humble opinion.

My high school did not have a particularly well-dressed student body.  Everyone pretty much always either dressed in faded blue jeans and a t-shirt or gym shorts and a hoodie to school each day.  Sneakers went with everything, and I remember people actually wearing jeans to the Homecoming dance.  This isn’t to suggest those students weren’t fashionable people, because I knew some kids who could make gym shorts work.  I just think it’s part of a small town culture, where everyone is just comfortable with the basics.

When I started college, things changed.  Don’t get me wrong, by mid-freshman year half of the student population was wearing sweatpants to class every single day, but the students who tried to look their best always inspired me.  For the first time, I saw guys experimenting with tighter, slimmer jackets and jeans, colorful shirts with stripes and patterns, and they always had some sort of product in their hair.  It was inspiring to see these guys do their best to look their best.  Honestly, I lauded how bold these guys were.  At my high school, dressing like that would get you picked or called derogatory names.  And here I was, 20 miles away, watching the aura of confidence emanating from these dudes.

Once I moved to the city, I was exposed to even more fashionable men.  All over downtown Pittsburgh were these guys who had it figured out.  Men headed to work in perfectly tailored suits, with the perfect watch, perfect bag, and perfect hair.  Younger guys in college looking sharp as possible on a college student budget.  That’s what’s great about fashion:  The amount of money you spend is irrelevant.  Owning a look, regardless of price tag, can make you look like a million bucks.

IMG_2939

The handsome guy on the left is my brother, Jay.  The equally handsome guy to this right is Mike, who I’ve mentioned on here previously.  As you notice, they both look sharp.  Jay is going with a pair of medium wash jeans with light fading, as well as a light blue, cotton seersucker jacket on top of a solid white Oxford.  Completing his look, although not pictured, is a watch with a brown leather band.  Mike is going with a pair of dark blue khakis, the light tan belt to match his light tan wingtips (not pictured), and a crisp, light pink Oxford with the sleeves cuffed.  Their haircuts are impeccable, both guys using pomade to shine and style their hair, both of which went with a side part; a classic, timeless look.  They both look great in these clothes, owned these looks entirely, and I can tell you with confidence the most expensive item on their bodies are the pair of Ray-Bans each man is wearing.

The attire selected by Jay and Mike, coincidently, are great fall looks.  Jay’s cotton jacket can keep him warm on the more crisp fall days, but it’s light enough where he’s not uncomfortably warm by around 3 p.m.  Mike, on the other hand, went with a more dressed down, but classic fall look, that looks as good in an office setting as it does out at the bar.  Mike can easily layer on a nice, light jacket and be ready for the weather.

Here are some other items I consider essential for fall:

Desert boots by Clarks – These are the perfect fall accessory, and I can’t recommend them enough.  Not only are they 100% leather, so they get more comfortable over time as they mold to your feet, but they are as durable a shoe as you are likely to find for the price ($110 clarksusa.com)  Pair with jeans for a casual look, or team them up with khakis to dress them up a bit.

Fabric Strap Watches – Fall is a time for walks outside amongst the beautiful, aesthetic scenery.  Most fall looks hinge on the casual side to match this outdoorsy feel, so the simple white face goes perfectly with a nylon or fabric strap that isn’t too formal.  The best part?  This watch will only run you around $30 (timex.com).

Cotton Jackets – As much as I love the ever trusty and stylish wool pea coat, fall calls for a lighter variety of outerwear.  Cotton jackets are a simple way to give a bold, rugged edge to your fall look, while still staying stylish.  You can layer them up without worrying too much about the later day heat becoming an issue.  Tip:  check the clearance or sale section first.  Retailers are quick to sell last year’s styles, even though there is rarely any discernible difference.  The jacket above is from H&M, a very wallet-friendly store that doesn’t force you to compromise your style.  It goes for a cool $99 (H&M.com).

Jeans – It feels a little ridiculous to pitch a pair of blue jeans, seeing as they are the most common form of clothing in the world (except Russia, where track suits are on top for the 60th year running).  However, I see a lot of people doing jeans wrong.  What you want is slim-straight fit, a perfect balance between straight leg and skinny.  Slim-straight jeans and pants are flattering for all body types, and can actually make heavier men look trimmer.  If you own any relaxed or bootcut jeans and you aren’t either A) a farmer or B) a member of NWA, it’s time to move on to something better.  Another rule of thumb:  the darker the better.  I personally try to always go for a medium-dark wash, with minimal to light fading in the legs.  The 121 Heritage Slim (luckybrand.com) from Lucky Jeans are the perfect pair.  Made from supersoft denim, these jeans are like putting on a pair of fleece sweatpants, and they are built to last.  And a $99 price is reasonable for the longevity of this product.  Pro-tip:  Don’t wash jeans after every wear.  In fact, you can wear jeans for a while before they need a wash, maybe as long as a week or so.  Frequent washings break down the fibers of the denim and also fade the jeans.  Not good for a dark pair.  If you find them getting stinky in between washes, spritz lightly with water and white vinegar and hang to dry.  This will kill the odor.

General Tips:

  • try to always wear a watch.  It adds depth and maturity to your look.  It also allows you to not always need to dig out your phone when you need to check the time
  • Other accessories to consider include wool knit ties, slouch beanies, wayfarer or aviator sunglasses, wool socks, and Henley shirts
  • Cuff your jeans to add a subtle flair to your outfit and NEVER mismatch your belt and shoes.  A black belt with brown shoes should be considered an act of war under the Geneva Convention
  • Fall=rugged, so if you can rock some stubble on your face, do that.  If you can grow a full beard, go total mountain man with it and own the wilderness.  But no matter how rugged you appear, never be afraid to order pumpkin spice in your coffee.

Fashion is an entirely subjective area of interest, and that’s part of why I love it.  Some of you reading this probably think some of my thoughts regarding what looks nice are ridiculous and stupid, in which case you are, of course, 100% entitled to that opinion.  I just hope my taste is good enough to maybe influence some people to branch out in their own styles.  If you take nothing else from this article, I implore you to at least take my advice about sticking to darker jeans.  The days of this,

must come to a swift, and violent end.  Oh, the horror.

Ebola Virus Disease

Last week, while working, I overheard a co-worker claim “Ebola is proven to be 100% fatal”.  This infuriated me.  I wasn’t mad at him for saying it, and I wasn’t even mad at the gross misinterpretation and hyperbole falling out of his dumb face.  What bothered me most, is the fact that he is not the only one who believes this.

Ebola is a deadly, horrible disease.  Nothing I’m about to say is to soften the impact of the disease itself.  However, an untreated rattlesnake bite can also be a serious, deadly situation.

Before I get into the “meat” of what I hope to say, I’d like to just throw some numbers out there:

316.1 million – Number of people currently alive in the United States, right now, according to US Census.

17 – Confirmed cases of Ebola in the United States

0.0000000054% – Your chances of getting the Ebola Virus

4 – Number of deaths as a result of Ebola in the United States

600,000 – Number of deaths in the United States per year as a result of heart disease, a partially preventable disease

126,000 – Number of accidental deaths each year in the US, again, many of which could have been prevented

40,000 – Number of suicides in the US last year

What bothers me most about the Ebola “epidemic” is the news coverage.  I hold a Bachelor’s degree in journalism, and am seeking a Master’s as we speak, and nothing had disgusted me more than the recently news coverage centered around Ebola.  I’ve taken many courses in journalistic ethics, and while nothing is listed specifically about overblowing certain stories, I am appalled that some of these networks are more or less inciting panic with their coverage.  I’m also reasonably proficient in Media Law, so I don’t want to be libelous in discussing the networks in question, although I will say the one I am most displeased with rhythms with “Pee Ten Ten”.

Recently, I went back to my hometown to visit friends.  One of my best friends, Mike, who I’ve mentioned before on this blog, has a father who has been ever present in my life since I was young.  Al is also what you would consider “catastrophically Republican.”  I mentioned my hatred of CNN, which he enthusiastically approved of, but question why I had it on in the first place.  You see, Haley is attending school to become a physician’s assistant, so the prospect of a full-blown health-related chaotic event intrigues her (but this is the same chick who watches sports injuries on YouTube because she finds it interesting). Anyway, suffice to say CNN is on a lot when she has TV time at the apartment.  I hate it.

So I listed to Allen why I hated this stupid network so much, citing their current coverage of the Ebola “outbreak” and their laughable coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines plane a few months ago.  I accused them of misinforming viewers, inciting a panic, and a one-track, tunnel vision approach to news coverage, amongst other things.  Another great friend of mine, Nate (fantasy football Nate) was listening to this conversation unfold, after I mentioned Ebola doesn’t spread through the air, like the flu virus for example, he chimed in, “What?!  I’ve been freaked out all this time because I thought you could get Ebola through the air.”  Keep in mind, Nate has a college degree and is one of the more intelligent people I know.  He’s not easily fooled.  I could reasonably ascertain that Nate’s knowledge of Ebola is from network news.

The Center for Disease control has recently stepped in and claimed to have things under control, although this actually disturbs me a fair deal as I’ve not once seen a movie about zombies where the scientists initially claim “to have everything under control.”  I digress.  Anyway, the CDC has stepped in, providing facts and insights about Ebola to kind of quell this brief state of chaos this wonderful country currently finds itself in.  Thank God for them.  I can not fathom how “Pee Ten Ten” executives sleep at night knowing they are contributing to a panic rather than reporting the actual news.  Statistically, one person is murdered every day in Chicago.  Every day.  H.H. Holmes was one of the most horrific serial killers history, is rumored to have murdered 200 people.  If you don’t have a calculator handy, that 50 times as many people have been killed by Ebola.  Did you even know who this guy was until now?  Two years ago, Adam Lanza stormed into an elementary school and killed 26 people, 20 kids and 6 adults in 11 minutes.  Can anyone name a single victim of that attack by name?

Get your priorities straight, major news networks.  Don’t forget the journalistic responsibility and moral duty you have to society.

Enchiladas

Wednesdays are glorious days.  I don’t have school or work, I am typically free of obligations, and Haley usually has class all day.  I can sleep in, catch up on school work, run errands, clean the apartment, or continue my nearly constant monitoring of my Madden franchise.  Most Wednesdays, I prepare dinner.  Dinner is something of a delicacy in my life now, as school and work tend to prohibit any sort of sit down meals, so I look forward to taking time to prepare a good meal and then sitting down to enjoy it on Wednesdays.  I will now cut this needlessly long introduction short by getting right to the point:  I made some straight bomb enchiladas for dinner tonight, so I’m going to share the recipe, effectively turning this blog into Pinterest.

Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients

  • 1.5-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 10 or 12 soft-shell corn tortillas
  • 4 cups Monterey Jack/Cheddar cheese
  • 1 whole white onion
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 Habanero pepper
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika
  • 2 TAB canola or vegetable oil
  • 28 oz (usually one can) red Mexican or enchilada sauce
  • chicken broth

In a sauce pan, fill halfway with water and chicken broth, add chicken, season with salt, pepper, paprika, and then add chopped onion and peppers.  Cook on medium-low heat on stove top until chicken is tender and falls apart when agitated with a fork. (Usually will take 3-4 hours, so plan this step ahead)

After chicken is thoroughly cooked (chicken is cooked when internal temperature is 165 degrees F, but if it’s falling apart it’s probably done) break up chicken and season lightly with paprika.  Move to bowl to stew in broth.

In a medium sauce pan, bring 2 TAB oil and a little but of all-purpose flour (maybe about 1 TAB) to a simmer.  Add can of enchilada sauce, as well as 1.5 cups of chicken broth.  Season mixture with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer.

In another sauce pan, lightly fry each tortilla in oil.  Drain onto plate with paper towel.

Coat the bottom of a glass oven pan (I use a 13×9) with sauce mixture.  Add chicken and a sprinkle of cheese to each tortilla, wrap, and place seam side down in pan.  Add remainder of sauce mixture on top of tortilla and add a generous helping of cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Should serve 4 people, but a particularly hungry twosome could probably polish these off.  Recipe also works with beef.

I’m no Rachel Ray, but these actually aren’t bad.  I tend to not measure stuff when I cook, so when adding spices, just do so to taste.  No need to overpower.

Should look like this:

Presidential Elections

Well, here we are, just over two years away from the next Presidential Election.  This means very soon the airwaves will be polluted with campaign ads about why some candidates are great Americans and how others are on par ethically with Adolf Hitler.  President Obama’s time has seemingly flown by and 2016 will welcome a new face to the White House for the first time in eight years.

I love politics.  I minored in political science in college and I tend to actively follow major elections.  I am not, however, registered to vote, nor do I ever have any intention of voting at any level.  I don’t even vote for the MLB All-Star game or what flavor of Lay’s chips we should be forced to gag down every year.  This is partially because I typically don’t care who wins.

Some might find these admissions remarkably disturbing, and that’s understandable.  Technically, my decision to not partake in the election of my country’s leaders is exactly what democracy should not be.  As a white male, (which by the way, it the absolute worst way to start a sentence) my right to vote has not been compromised once in the 238 years that the United States of America has been a country.  And by CHOOSING to forgo the very democratic process the founding father’s fought for, I am spitting in the face of all those great patriots who established this great nation.

I just really like politics.  The empty promises, the erroneous falsehoods, and oh god, the attack ads?  There is nothing better than seeing two elderly gentlemen accuse each other of bribery and deceit via a mud-slinging television campaign.  So to be honest, these next two years are the best time to follow politics.  With President Obama leaving office in 2016, this means spots in both the Democratic and Republican parties will have openings for candidates.  So for the next 24 months, we will be subject to all the gory campaign ads, raucous debates, and parodies of the more ridiculous aspects of the candidates (if you have 30 seconds go ahead and watch this.

Anyway, I thought I would invoke some speculative thinking by presenting my nominees for each party.  Everyone listed has either officially announced they are running or have publicly expressed interest in doing so.

Democrats:

The Front-Runner – Hillary Clinton

Bio – Former Senator from New York, was a nominee in the 2008 Presidential election before ultimately losing out to Barack Obama, holds a Juris Doctorate from Yale, currently serves as Secretary of State under Obama.

Politics – National Journal, a publication which sought to gauge Clinton’s political thinking on a spectrum scale where 0=most liberal and 100=most conservative rated Clinton a 30.  Clinton tends to be more socially liberal than fiscally liberal, and holds a 90% Liberal Quotient from the Americans for Democratic Action interest group.

Why she will win – She’s done all this before.  In 2008 she spent a ton of money campaigning in small towns, seeking to influence the traditionally more conservative voters.  Running again in 2016 will mean she’s already experienced the rigorous nature of a campaign.

Notable achievements – Married to former President/Baller William Clinton.  So a win would make her not only the first woman to secure a presidential nomination, but she would also be the first former first lady to do so.

The Under-Dog – Joe Biden

Bio – Former Senator from Delaware, former Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Juris Doctorate from Syracuse University, current Vice President of the United States, two-time winner of the “least recognized figure in politics”

Facts – In 2011, Newsweek conducted a survey.  It was simple enough:  they allowed 1000 American citizens to take the citizenship test.  You know, that thing we make immigrants take to become official, shiny, new American citizens.  29% of ACTUAL AMERICAN CITIZENS did not know who Joe Biden was.  In their defense, the brief undoubtedly involved a recall form of questioning, but there is also no defense for not knowing the man that was a choking hazard away from becoming the President of the United States of America.

Why he will win – He’s also done this before.  Also in 2008.  Imagine that; the 2008 Democratic Party nomination came down to Obama, Clinton, and Biden, meaning they all would’ve debated and campaigned against one another, and now they all serve together in the White House.

The Dark Horse – Howard “That Guy” Dean

Bio – Former member of the Vermont House of Representative, former Governor of Vermont, served as the 50th chairman of the Democratic House Committee, YouTube celebrity

Explanation of what I just said – Here

Why he will win – He won’t.  Dude is insane.

Undoubtedly the most interesting candidate, who has absolutely already officially entered his name in the hat – Vermin Supreme

No, I am by no means kidding.

Bio – Activist.  If elected President will make it a Federal statute to make people brush their teeth.  Often seen wearing a boot (pictured) on his head and sporting a giant toothbrush.  In 2012, campaigned under the “Zombie Apocalypse Awareness” and “Time Travel Research” tickets.

Facts – Cannot stress enough, he’s already officially declared he will run for office.  Possibly not allowed within 500 yards of a school or Bed, Bath, and Beyond store (citation needed).

Republicans:

The Front-Runner – Marco Rubio

Bio – US Senator from Florida, served as the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Miami City commissioner, was considered a Vice-president candidate by Mitt Romney, earned his J.D. from the U, home to many, many felons.  His wife is also a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader.  She looks like this:

Politics – Holds strong, conservative views both socially and fiscally, opposing legislation such as Rowe v. Wade and supporting a flat-rate federal tax.  Holds a 100% rating from the American Conservative Union interest group, and is considered to be the “crown prince” of the tea party movement.

Why he will win – Rubio, as conservative a Republican as you can hope to find, believes what he believes, and stands firm in his political stance on any issue.  Draws large support from the NRA, Hispanic voters, and has been a supporter of some of President Obama’s actions in the middle east.  Also, his wife would instantly dethrone Jacqueline Kennedy as the hottest First Lady in our nation’s history.

The Underdog – Jeb Bush

Bio – Son of former President George Bush, which makes him the brother of George W. Bush, governor of Florida, 5-time winner of the Stephan King lookalike contest.

Facts – His wife was born in Mexico, sure to scare off some of those hard-nosed Texan voters.  Has a degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas (Hook em’), was considered as Paul Tagilabue’s successor after the former NFL commissioner stepped down.

Why he will win – Experience.  Being the President apparently runs in the family.  I would think Thanksgiving gets awfully uncomfortable while H.W. and Junior talk about their tenures as poor Jeb sits back and can only think of what could be.

The Dark Horse – Donald Trump

Bio – Business mogul, investor, television personality, Chairman of the Trump Organization, estimated net worth of $4 billion.

Facts – Is a self-proclaimed “self-made man”.  And to think, he only needed $6 million of his dad’s money to do it!

Why he will win – I’ve gotta think if you throw enough money at something, you can make it happen, so why should the US Presidency be any different?

Non-American candidate who might as well give it a shot – Rob Ford

Bio – Former Mayor of Toronto, lover of partying and good times

Facts – Was driven out of his mayoral duties because of transgressions involving substance abuse.  To put it bluntly, Rob stated that he “probably smoked crack a few times in one of my drunken stupors.”  That, my friends, is honestly.

Why he will win – Unfortunately, Ford is not eligible to run for president, as he is a Canadian citizen.  Bummer.

Like I said, it’s early.  Perhaps to early to speculate who will or won’t be running for president in 2016.  But it’s never too early to start guessing.  With any luck, no one I mentioned will be anywhere close to the White House

Fantasy Football

I am a huge fan of the NFL, my favorite team being the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Since I was younger, NFL football has always been the only professional sport I really care about as a whole.  I loved coming downstairs at my house, turning on the games, and going into my yard to play catch with my dad during halftime.  When the air started to get crisp and cold, my mind and body were prepared for days of curling up on the couch, drinking hot chocolate, and watching 300 pound men beat the religion out of each other.  To this day, the weird robot things FOX uses during their telecast and Joe Buck’s manly voice always remind me of the days when I used to love everything about the game.

This is Julio Jones.

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He is one of the most dynamic and talented wide receivers in the NFL.  Week after week, he makes jaw dropping catches and displays an unbelievable and unmatched combination of size, speed, quickness, awareness, and hands.  And last weekend, I hoped he got hit by a truck.

Let me explain.  This is gonna need some background.

I was in ninth grade when I started playing fantasy football.  One of my best friends, Nate, suggested 10 guys start a fantasy football league.  Being 14, and also being a huge fan of football, I enthusiastically agreed to participate.  It was perfect:  it was a brand new way to watch and follow my favorite sport.  I’ve been a stats junkie since I can remember, so following all the players and observing their stats and trends sounded awesome.  And besides, it was a great way to have a fun, spirited competition between myself and 9 of my buddies.  We had out first ever draft during lunch period.  I don’t even think any of us ate that day.  We didn’t know what we were doing and I’m pretty sure some guys were picking players just because they recognized them from Madden.  My first ever draft pick was Shaun Alexander, a former Seattle Seahawks running back who briefly owned the single season touchdown record, before it was broken a year later.  That season, Nate, acting as the commissioner, kept score of all the games manually. If you aren’t familiar with fantasy football, I don’t really have time to explain just how much work would go into scoring games manually.  Extremely time consuming work for a kid in ninth grade with school work and football practice to worry about.

As the years went by, our league ultimately grew from 10 to 12 people, and each year saw some new faces come, and some old faces go.  The league was really representative of life.  No matter how close you think you are to someone, they can sometimes just fall off the face of the earth.  At the time, I thought these were my closest friends in this league, and now I probably couldn’t name half of the members of the original ten.

Okay, that got depressing.  Where was I?  Right, expansion.

We went from drafting in the cafeteria over lunch break to holding the draft at our friend Mike’s house, another member who has been in this league since the beginning.  One year we even had the draft in Nate’s mom’s restaurant one Sunday while it was closed.  Each year, our knowledge increased, too.  In the beginning, we just picked which players we like.  One year our buddy Dave selected Jerricho Cotchery in the second round!  Seriously, Google him if you can’t appreciate how depressing that is! He picked him because he liked the Jets.  I think he lost every game that year, but at least he picked a guy he liked.  Year after year, the process changed.  It went from, “okay this guy is a 97 on Madden, and he’s on my favorite team, and oh look at this, this magazine says he’s the 8th best player available, I better draft him”, to “okay, this team has a new offensive coordinator and line coach who is integrating a zone-blocking scheme, and the running back they just signed in free agency ran for 2000 yards in college in a zone blocking scheme.”  The thinking just changed entirely.  It went from a game of picking who you liked to actually doing math and studying.  I’m currently in graduate school, and I honestly think I’ve put an equal amount of time into study and analysis of fantasy football as I have into my academic career.

So that bring us back to Julio Jones.  You see, Mr. Jones is a member of my current fantasy football team here in 2014.  I selected him in the second round (13th overall) because he’s in a pass heavy offense with a gunslinger quarterback and an anemic run game coupled with one of the worst defenses in NFL history.  I don’t have any particular care for Jones, and I couldn’t possibly care less how his team, the Atlanta Falcons, performs on a week to week basis.  In fact, most weeks I’m actively rooting against the Falcons in the hopes their game is either a blowout or shootout, forcing the team to throw, which in turn gets Jones points.

I’ll back up for a second in case by now you haven’t ascertained how fantasy football works:  A draft occurs, where each guy takes turns selecting 16 players for his team.  Most leagues involves a quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a flex (which could be either a running back, wide receiver, or tight end), a kicker, and a defensive unit.  These “teams” are then scored based on performance.  Touchdowns are worth 6 points, yards are awarded as points based on how many (100 yards=10 points, for example), and turnovers result in negative points.  After a week of football is played, the totals of these scores are compiled, and a winner is decided in a head to head matchup between each team in the league.  The fantasy “season” occurs during the first 13 weeks of the NFL season, as the fantasy teams play out to determine playoff seedings, and then playoffs happen, with a winner being crowned after a single elimination tournament occurs in weeks 14-17. Phew.

Annnnnyway.  Back to Jones.  Traditionally, Jones is as reliable as they come.  He’s a fantastic player in a great offense that is mutually beneficial for both parties.  His team also sucks, which means he’s usually playing from behind, giving the opportunity for the ever lovely “garbage time points.”  However, in this 2014 season, Jones has now gone three straight games without posting double digit fantasy numbers.  I’ve lost two games in a row.  You can see the correlation.  Now normally, I wouldn’t get upset, as off days are wont to happen.  In this situation, however, I found myself pretty upset with Jones, to the point I was internally wishing horrible things to happen to this 25 year old dude.  Since I’m a reasonable, level-headed adult and realize my fantasy football matchup does not make or break my life, I realized how ridiculous my momentary lapse of sanity was, and moved on to more positive thinking.

Now let me be clear:  I think fantasy football is an amazing and fun way to add another dimension of interest to football.  It makes every game interesting, regardless of whether or not you have any loyalty to a particular team.  I will say, though, that fantasy football is destroying the fabric of society as we know it.

That’s actually a little excessive and dramatic.  What I meant to say was I think a small percentage of morons are ruining the game for the rest of us.

To provide context, I will point to any form of social media on any Tuesday morning.  Hundreds of tweets, Facebook messages, whatever people do on instagram, are posted with seething hatred involving some of the National Football League’s most shining starts.  One week last year, I remember Jamal Charles got a death threat because he lost a fumble, which cost one dude two points, which means he lost his game.  For those who don’t remember or aren’t really fans, Jamal Charles is a multiple time Pro Bowler, and led the league in both all-purpose yards and touchdowns last season.  In fact, I won one of my fantasy leagues because he was on my team.  So how is it a guy as successful as this receives a death threat because of a fumble?  It’s because a small percentage of fantasy football playing males are sociopathic.

If you ask most NFL players, I would be willing to bet a majority aren’t exactly favorable of fantasy football.  And it’s mostly because of guys like idiot death threat guy.  It’s kind of a sad reality our heroes in the NFL would look at most of us with disdain if they knew we had them on our fantasy football teams.  My favorite player is Andrew Luck.  If I ever met him, I feel like at some point I would ask about fantasy football, and that would likely annoy him.

Fantasy football has become like guns in this country.  The majority of those who support them and use them are responsible, well-educated people who take all the necessary steps in ensuring their hobby doesn’t go too far to the point of insanity.  A small majority of crazy people, however, always seem to take advantage of something we love.  This leads to outsiders viewing the lovers of the hobby as “nuts or whack jobs”.  I don’t want to seem insensitive comparing a guy who told Jamal Charles to kill himself to a kid who killed 20 first graders, but in all honestly the ideas are the same.  It only takes a few people to ruin something for the rest of us.

So those of you who engage in fantasy football, remember it’s just a game.  If fantasy football becomes the end all, do or die attribute that defines who you are, then maybe it’s time to take a step back and appreciate the other things in life.

Even if that means having to actually watch the game.

Drowning

It’s funny how freedom tends to weigh you down sometimes.  Let me explain.

In May, I got married.  She is the most amazing person in the world, without a doubt.  She’s definitely the more mature of the two of us.  People can’t believe I’m actually married. I’m told my personality apparently dictates otherwise, whatever that means.  Must be that immaturity. I’m only 23, and I guess in today’s society that’s a little young to tie the knot, but I can honestly say it’s the best decision I’ve ever made, and I’m so happy.  Oh yeah, right, freedom.

You see, getting married meant a few things:  For starters, her and I both moved from the relative serenity of our small town home to the suburbs of Pittsburgh.  We are both in grad school, her for physician’s assistant, me for “mass communication and journalism”.  We are both fairly certain of our goals in life, her perhaps more than me, but obviously, plans and goals can change.  It’s just the two of us living in our suburban apartment, not counting our two cats, Ace and Pearl.  Each day, we commute to the city for school, and most days I drive up the road to Primanti Brother’s, the World-Famous Pittsburgh based sandwich mecca that’s made fries and coleslaw a staple of any Western Pennsylvania lunch item since 1933.  There’s a grocery store a little further up the road where we buy food and there’s a bunch of restaurants within a mile of our place.  Six months ago we had to drive 20 miles if we wanted to go to a nice restaurant, and even then our idea of “fine dining” was Applebee’s.

Moving away from our home has allotted a ton of new found freedom.  “Hey babe, I didn’t make dinner, you wanna get pizza?” is a very common question in our household.  But a lesson I’m quickly learning is this freedom comes at a price.  Six months ago, my only worries was if the wedding would be nice.  Six months before that my only worries were graduating college, and even then I was working as a sportswriter for a local newspaper, so school was kind of on the back burner for me. I’m realizing now those worries are trivial compared to what’s going on now.  Bills, money issues, payments, groceries, school work, making food, work/school balance, etc.  I’m now realizing what it’s like for every working adult in the country, and I’ve gotta be honest, it’s an adjustment.  Sometimes, it feels like I’m drowning.

When I was still engaged, I was constantly warned married life would change me as a person.  Sometimes this worried me.  I thought I (or she) would turn into a different person, and we would slowly begin to resent each other until we were in our late 30’s, with a mortgage and two kids, and by then we would just stick it out because it would be too hard to start dating again.  Thank god this cynicism never really sincerely inhabited my brain.  Yes, I worried money fights and stress of us both being busy with school or work or whatever would be enough to cause issues.  However, I’m seeing that being with her makes all that other stuff go away.  As cliche and cheesy it is to say, any sort of financial woes or anything like that will sort itself out.  It’s just all about staying positive and loving her no matter what.

Honestly, this analogy is applicable to anyone, just switch out the marriage part with whatever you love.  I’m obviously no expert on finances, and I won’t be for some time as these loads of student loans are going to bear down on me in a few years.  Freedom comes with a price, and for most, unfortunately it’s their sanity when it involves finances and other stresses of life.  I think the best advice for staying sane in a sea full of obligations and stress, is to latch on to the one thing that you love and use it as a lifeboat.

And don’t ever forget, there’s more important things in life than making money.