Addressing 2013’s Greatest Unanswered Question

Robin Thicke asked a very important — and yet-unanswered — question in his 2013 hit single, Blurred Lines: What rhymes with hug me? (Sandwiched by six ‘heys’.)

As I have been going through my mental review of 2013, I realized no one has satisfactorily answered that question. In an attempt to get the brain juices flowing, below I’ve listed several things that one could argue rhyme with “hug me,” paired with visual cues:

Bug me:


(source: http://therealrevo.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/not-touching-you.jpg)

Lug me:


(source: http://victorygirlsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/large.png)

Chug me:


(source: http://www.fireflygroupevents.com/images/pkg/beerTasting_02.jpg)
(source: http://genfringe.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/image30-300×194.jpg)

Jug me:


(source: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/04/05/article-2304388-1914F7A6000005DC-27_634x346.jpg)

Mug me:


(source: http://www.rentenna.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Person-Getting-Robbed-Safest-Neighborhood-in-NYC.jpg)

Pug me:


(source: http://0.media.collegehumor.cvcdn.com/79/29/74bcd11d3b0d6650e5d9478a613d5f85-the-photoshop-cycle-of-pug-shirt-man.jpg)

Tug me:


(source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4f/US_Navy_040527-N-0401G-026_A_Tug_boat_pushes_the_amphibious_assault_ship_USS_Belleau_Wood_(LHA_3)_away_from_the_pier.jpg)

Cast your vote to help solve Robin’s unfortunate uncertainty. Err’body get up!

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Affordable Care Act or A Clockwork Orange?

So, it’s been quite a few days since the Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of President Obama’s PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) and I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a while, but just haven’t gotten around to writing it.

Of course, I feel strongly about this whole healthcare reform movement, but that doesn’t mean that I actually have a clear (or even well-informed) opinion on it. Howeverrrr, that’s not going to stop me from weighing in.

Basically, I have very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I completely agree that our healthcare system desperately needs to be reformed. In many ways, though, I do not agree with how the Obama administration wants to do so.

Here’s my dilemma. The individual mandate portion of the ACA–probably the part that sticks most in people’s throats–make sense to me. It’s a very conservative value to believe in personal responsibility (which I STRONGLY advocate for). The concept of insurance — paying for coverage in case you get sick, BEFORE you get sick — is OK by me (sidenote: I’m becoming increasingly intrigued by the doctors/health systems that cater to people who purposely don’t have insurance and pay out of pocket, and adjust their pricing accordingly.. sometimes I think it’d be better to just go back to that. Have savings for “just in case” situations with the ability to pay out of pocket WITHOUT being exorbitantly overcharged for services.).

What I’m absolutely not OK with, however, is being FORCED, by the government, to purchase this insurance.

I’m gonna be all English-majory here (pardon the bad grammar and colloquial language — oops): this whole thing reminds me a lot of A Clockwork Orange.

For anyone who hasn’t read this book yet, go read it. It’s not super long, and although it can be pretty graphically violent (well, the movie especially), it’s thought-provoking and worth it.

For people who have read it, hopefully you can follow along. In ACO, the main character, Alex, ends up being “rehabilitated” (by the government) for his vicious criminal behavior. Without getting into details, that rehabilitation essentially conditions him to have intense physical reactions against any sort of violence or crime. However, it’s not him making a choice to not be violent — it’s more along the lines of inability to make or tolerate violent behavior because of the conditioning he’s endured.

Here’s the issue: even though Alex is no longer technically acting/being “bad,” it’s not his choice. The government-sanctioned conditioning stripped him of his free will to either be violent or not; he simply cannot be bad.

In theory, making sure criminals no longer carry out their criminal activities is a great idea. But that’s not free will–and that’s not human.

In theory, everyone having insurance which protects them against a future need for coverage is a great idea. It’s something people SHOULD do, just as people SHOULD be good/not participate in criminal activities.

But as humans, we should be allowed to make our own decisions. They may not be the best, or the brightest, but they’re our own.

So although I personally have insurance (and had it before the SCOTUS ruling), I support people’s rights to not buy insurance. It’s not the government’s place to make people make good decisions.

(Sidenote:) To preemptively answer what everyone brings up regarding car insurance: you CHOOSE to buy a car. You don’t choose to be born.

Anyway, there’s lots more contained in the ACA and lots more to be said.. but that’s all for now, folks.

C is for Country Livin’ (There’s No Place Like Home!)

I recently spent a wonderful long weekend in Lancaster County, where I grew up. As much as I LOVE Chicago and love city livin’ it’s always pretty great to go back to my roots, as it were, and do the country thang.

Upon writing that sentence, I feel like I’m implying  I grew up on a farm, or out in the middle of nowhere… that’s not quite true, but my house IS surrounded by cornfields, more or less, and I walk around barefoot a lot when I’m home. So there’s that.

The biggest perk of going home (besides the obvious of being reunited with my family) is having a swimming pool. I’d like to attribute that solely to the fact that I like swimming (I really do.. it’s the one medium where I actually feel graceful, ish, plus doing laps is a lot easier on the ol’ joints than running the streets of Chi-town), but the truth of the matter is, it’s a lot less awkward to sunbathe poolside at a private residence than in a tiny 20×40 patch of grass behind your apartment building. Just saying.

I got home (PA-home) on Thursday evening, after a ridiculously stressful airport experience. Let me paint a picture  of my journey home: 4 airports (Chicago-Midway; Detroit; Baltimore; Lancaster); 2 airlines; nearly 10 hours of travel from start to finish; 1 delayed flight for a 2 hour delay; leaving me with just 30 minutes to get off plane, retrieve baggage from baggage claim; re-check said baggage; re-go through security; board next flight; 0 remaining flights to Lancaster. It’s a long story, how I tell it (and believe me I have been telling it to anyone who would listen..) but really the only necessary information is that 1) I walked around BWI crying for a sustained period of time 2) my dad did the dad thing, called the airline I was transferring to, and told them in no uncertain terms that they WOULD, in fact, hold the flight for me and 3) I totes got escorted to the front of the line for security and had a whole bunch of people give me the stank eye. Whatevs, folks. Ce-le-bri-tay comin’ through!

What matters is, I got home, and got to spend some quality time with the bros–all of them. My older brother has finally gotten over the stigma of hanging out with his little sister (I’m beineg inaccurate.. he got over it as soon as I turned 21, for some strange reason.. ha) and I got to party in the 717 a couple nights. Observation: I do NOT get creeped on when I go out with my 6’2″ brother and his [also tall] friend.  

I also got to see my two remaining PA friends (woo!), go craaaazyyy on TWO occasions at the mall (hooray for no sales tax on clothing! I’m stocked up for the summer), make a Rita’s trip (tradition!), go to the Mojo (tradition!), and get a few more freckles (word).

Speaking of freckles… My dad and two brothers went with me to the airport on Monday, and thanks to thinking my flight was at 2:26 (it was actually at 2:56), I had some time to burn and they kindly stuck around. Brother #4 was standing next to me in front of a window and I looked at his face, close up, and saw a dusting of tiny little freckles across his nose and upper cheeks. (adorbs.) It really excited me, because up until now, I’m pretty much the only kid in my family with freckles, at least that I know of.

At any rate, the topic of freckles came up,… I’ve always thought that my freckles, along with my reddish hair, overall fair skin, and greenish eyes came from a small amount of Irish blood on my mom’s side of the family, even though I can’t think of anyone else on my mom’s side with freckles. As it turns out, my dad says that I have the same coloring as my great-grandmother on his side – who’s Sicilian! I guess she had fairer skin and freckles too, which I would never have guessed (and had never been able to tell) because I obviously didn’t know her until she was old I’ve only seen pictures of her in her old age.

I take after my mom a LOT, and people always say I look just like her. My mom’s a stunner, so that’s definitely a compliment, but I’ve always been a little sad that I didn’t have any exotic Sicilian traits.. well, my freckles may not be exotic, but apparently they are Sicilian! 😉

Moving on from frecks, I made it back into Chicago uneventfully and in MUCH less time, and as always… it’s good to be back. I love going “home” to PA, but for now, at least, C, in my book, is ultimately for Chicago.

P.S. Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare tomorrow! Exciting!

Governor Walker’s Victory Delivers a Swift Kick in the Butt to Public Sector Unions

I’ve been following the Wisconsin Situation ever since I went to Madison early last year for a job interview and, from my hotel window, could see hordes of people thronging around the state capitol loudly protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s Senate Bill 11.

People were upset, that’s for sure, and I started looking into the situation to see what horrible things Walker must have decreed upon his state’s public sector workers in order for them to get so riled up.

“Why Walker Hates the Working Class.” “Why Does Scott Walker Hate Teachers?” “Walker is Declaring War on the Middle Class” — these are all headlines and questions that popped up in the aftermath of SB11.

I ended up reading through the bill (and by “reading through the bill” I mean reading the first few pages of a 144 page document and then reading other sources explaining what exactly it meant) and what I eventually learned is that Gov. Walker very simply asked those in the public sector to, gasp, contribute to their own pension funds and health care insurance. Quelle horreur!

I’m not gonna lie. It literally outraged me that so many people were so outraged over this proposition.

I don’t work in the public sector, and I can’t say that I hold some community-enriching job where I’m protecting people (police officer), saving people (firefighter) or educating someone (teacher). But I think that’s besides the point. As a non-unionized, private-sector worker, a significant chunk of my salary goes toward my healthcare insurance, and I’m investing and saving money on my own for retirement.

I’m not bitter about it, either. It’s called being responsible. It’s called putting away my money for my future care. What I don’t get is why public sector workers (and keep in mind that Wisconsin’s public safety workers, like firefighters and police officers, are exempt from SB11) feel that they’re above paying for their own retirement and healthcare. And not even fully — they’re just asked to CONTRIBUTE.

Let’s be real. You SHOULD be doing that.

I’ve been paying federal income tax since literally 5 days after my 15th birthday, and I believe I’ll be able to work in my field (writing) in some capacity until I die. That means that I am (and will continue) paying into Medicare and Social Security — two government programs that I know, with near 100% certainty, I will never benefit from. I am paying for other people’s care, as well as my own. Why can’t unionized public sector workers contribute to their own funds, instead of expecting the rest of the state to pay for everything?

The “system” is broken, on so many levels. But in Wisconsin, a man with a plan—a fiscally conservative plan—set out to fix his state’s problems.

As Democrats and public sector unions moaned, groaned, screamed, protested, and picketed, Walker eliminated Wisconsin’s $3.6 billion deficit and brought the state to a $150 million surplus, without even having to raise taxes. In fact, property taxes went DOWN. Employees are no longer required to pay union dues, but maintain the ability to collectively bargain, and union dues are no longer automatically (aka forcibly) deducted from paychecks.

Once union dues became voluntary, union membership dropped by thousands. As a Forbes writer puts it:

“Best of all, the myth that union bosses represent their members’ interests has been exposed as a lie. Now that union dues are voluntary, tens of thousands of union members have stopped paying them.  Membership in the Wisconsin chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union (AFSCME) has dropped by half. Membership in the state’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is down by over a third. Given unions’ influential role in most elections, the national implications of this trend are staggering.”

Meanwhile, across the country, Democrats are calling for raised taxes, especially on the rich. While it may be necessary to raise taxes at some point, because let’s face it, our nation is in serious trouble, more states need to follow Wisconsin’s lead and eliminate government excess and poor policies. Multiple states are facing staggering pension problems, and they’ll keep getting worse unless more laws are passed requiring employees to contribute to their own damn pension.

Bottom line: Despite recall efforts reaching frenzied heights after collecting nearly 1 million signatures to trigger the election, Governor Walker is still standing. The people of [the traditionally blue state of] Wisconsin have spoken: Walker’s fiscally conservative policies are working, and the state (and its citizens) are better for it.

Walker, 1. Public Labor Unions, 0. Chalk that one up to common sense.

Chicago Cubs: Not This Year, After All

There’s always next year. Yep, looks like that tired refrain is going to apply to this year, too.

Let’s discuss.

For starters, I’m excited that I was able to witness the Cubs’ fourth win of the season in person last Saturday, during my third attendance of the year. (Sidenote: I am inordinately pleased that I’ve already been to three games, in April alone– I’m pretty sure that’s how many games I went to for all of last season. That’s what living in Wrigleyville does to ya!)

Behold, my various vantage points for Games 1, 2, & 3:

(Loss)

(Loss)

(WIN!)

Here’s the deal: I haven’t yet given up on Theo Epstein. This year will hopefully function as a rebuilding year, because so far, it’s not functioning as much else. I can’t help but have a little hope for a Moneyball-esque turnaround. In that situation, Beane took a bunch of nobodies (which essentially is how I consider this year’s Cubs team), got off to a terrible start, and then things finally clicked and they started winning.

This brings me to two tangents:

One: Who the heck are half of these guys? Actually, most of these guys! There’s Soriano and Byrd, who are kinda industry mainstays. Then you have Dempster, Marmol, and Soto, who are well-known to Cubs fans, but are definitely struggling this year. You have Starlin Castro, who is on track to win the opposite of a Golden Glove this year but remains my bright spot in the Cubs roster. Aside from those guys, and maybe Randy Wells, Garza, and Samardzija , who on earth are these people? Maholm, Mather, Ian Stewart, Volstad, LaHair… LaWho? I don’t even know. Ok, quick edit, looking through the 40-man roster I recognize a lot more players than I initially thought from last year, including DeWitt, Reed Johnson, James Russell, and Darwin Barney. But I still think this is kind of a random assortment of guys who don’t appear to have much chemistry on the field.

And to back that up, I present to you ERRORS. It’s pathetic the amount of errors the Cubs have made just 15-ish games into the season. I don’t actually know the stat, but I’d have to assume they’re among the worst in the league not just in record but in the amount of errors they have. In my opinion, it’s not just the number of on-the-book errors — I think their defense is just sub-par this year, and that paired with sucky closing pitching and inconsistent offense does not make for a good team. Watching Friday’s game vs. Cincinnati, the Reds just made plays so much better and efficiently and seemingly effortlessly, whereas I held my breath every time the ball went toward Starlin Castro and counted ourselves lucky when Soriano made a routine fly out catch.

Back to my original two tangents: So, in Moneyball, the A’s do eventually shape up and start winning. But, (is this a spoiler alert? Does anyone not know this already?) they didn’t end up winning the World Series. And so my question, along the lines of, ‘Better to have loved, and lost, than never to have loved at all,’ is: Is it better to get to the WS and lose, than to just not have a good season at all/have a decent season but not make the playoffs? This is probably terrible but I’d honestly rather not have my team make it to the WS if they’re not gonna win it all. It would be incredibly painful. Heck, I cry/tear up just from watching that stupid ‘Cubs Win’ MLB The Show commercial and it’s not even real. I couldn’t handle it.

Same goes for when they do win, however. I don’t even know how I will handle it, but shit, in the immortal words of Jay-Z and Kanye, WILL get cray. Guaranteed.

Things the Cubs Need:

  • Consistent offense
  • Less errors
  • Solid starting pitching (I feel like this is probably what they’re doing best, although that’s not saying too terribly much)
  • A closer (yes, I’m aware we technically have one. I just mean one that actually does his job)
  • Some wins
  • A lot of help…
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C is for the Creepiest Creeper Experience Ever

So, I talk a lot about creepers and getting creeped on. But most of the time, it’s in, shall we say,.. a controlled environment, such as a club. Yes, creeping is involved, but my personal safety has not been breached, if ya know what I mean.

I thought that moving to a nicer neighborhood in Chicago would cut down on how many mildly creepy experiences I would have, and for the most part, it has. However, a few weeks ago I had a truly terrifying experience that goes above and beyond creepy.

Here’s the set-up: A bunch of my girlfriends and I dressed up and did the barhopping thing until about 2 a.m. Any creeping that happened during barhopping is irrelevant as its level of creep no longer registers on my meter.

My friends were staying at one of the girl’s apartment, which is on the way to my apartment. So, suddenly the group decreased from four girls to one (that would be me). However, I live just a few streets away, and have made the lonely trek several times already, so I blithely continued on my way.

I was almost to my house, and had my keys in hand, when I looked up and saw a guy walking in my direction on the opposite side of the street, pretty much parallel to me. My brain registered that he was there, and that it was a bit odd to see a guy out by himself on my street (which is quiet and residential) at about 2 in the morning, but I wasn’t actually scared.

I proceeded the last couple steps to my apartment, up onto my front porch, fitted the key into the entry door, and stepped inside.

There are times when I just kind of bat the door shut behind me and don’t check to see if it’s actually closed all the way. But that night, something made me give the door an extra little push so that I could hear it click shut.

I then jangled through my key chain to find the key for the front door to my apartment, and as I was getting ready to unlock the deadbolt, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. There’s a big mirror in the entryway of the apartment building directly to the left of my front door, facing the entrance of the building. And in the reflection I saw the guy from outside, crouched down with his left hand trying to open the door, and with his right hand shielding the pane of glass next to the door so he could peer in at me.

Even though I knew the door was firmly closed & locked, this probably gave me the biggest jolt of my entire life. I was literally two feet away from some random guy who was trying to follow me into my house. I screamed something at him — go away, or leave me alone, can’t remember — and finally was able to unlock the door and run inside.

Well, that’s pretty much it. I was kind of a wreck for the next 20 minutes until I finally got up the courage to peek out my front window to see if he was still there (he wasn’t), and that was it. I just couldn’t stop thinking about how badly it could have turned out, if I had lingered just 20 seconds talking to my friends before heading to my apartment, or had stopped briefly to check my phone or text someone. It really was just a 20 second differential between me getting inside the apartment building and shutting the door behind me, and this rando literally trying to follow me in. Crazy.

After spending four years in Albany Park and routinely hearing of violence that occurred basically in my backyard, I don’t think I EVER expected my creepiest encounter to happen in my current neighborhood. But it definitely makes the case for ALWAYS being alert.. and maybe some pepper spray wouldn’t hurt, either.

C is for Craving Chocolate

Anyone who know me well knows that 1) I like to bake 2) I have a SERIOUS sweet tooth and 3) chocolate and I are buds. Best buds.

Here is a formula:

Enjoys baking + Has sweet tooth + Addicted to chocolate = BROWNIES.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but because I really do enjoy baking, I typically shun mixes. Everything is better from scratch, my friends. However, up until recently, I have not found this to be the case with brownies. I like rich, dense, fudgy, intensely chocolately brownies (i.e., not cakey) and I’ve generally found that box mixes are the best way to achieve this desired effect.

I’m pretty sure I’ve tested out 50+ brownie recipes in the search for the perfect gooey brownie, and behold: I have found it!

Thanks to Big Girls, Small Kitchen, brownie mecca has been achieved.

The recipe is as follows:

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup add-ins: chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, heath bar bites, or chopped toasted nuts.
Melt the chocolate and butter together, then mix into the sugars. Add the eggs, then the vanilla  (I’ve never tried adding espresso powder). Lastly, stir in the flour and salt, add any desired “add-ins” (I’ve tried regular and dark chocolate chips as well as semi-sweet chocolate chunks), pour into a greased 8×8 pan (I’ve been using a cake pan, actually.. my kitchen bakeware is currently somewhat limited) and bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.
The BGSK blog calls for immediately freezing the brownies when they come out of the oven, but I love love love warm brownies, so to date, I have not heeded this advice. These brownies are just.. gooey, veritably dripping with chocolate. Completely ridiculous, in the best way possible.
I’ve already made them three times.
And I haven’t shared with my roommate…. oops. (I don’t like sharing chocolate, is that so wrong?)