Call Me English

A little corner of the world where I talk about what I want.

Speechless and heartbroken

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I really wish that my first post back after a rotten week at work that took my time away from writing and breathing and sanity did not have to touch on a tragedy as painful, destructive, and avoidable as the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, a terrorist attack that targeted the already marginalized, the already vulnerable, the already oppressed LGBT community.

More than 100 people were killed or wounded early this morning by a radicalized excuse for a man whose pathetically easy access to gas-powered rifles of mass destruction was the real root cause of this senseless public health emergency. Yes, it’s a fact that we don’t take mental health seriously; yes, it’s a fact that radicalized Islamic terrorism is a real threat facing the entire world; however, there is no argument that ease of access to guns is the real problem here.

I’ll ignore for a moment the despicable reactions across social media, news comment sections, and out of the mouths of our moron politicians and focus entirely on this country’s gun fascination… its gun obsession… its apparent desire to bring back some chauvinistic Wild West fantasy that never existed.

It is my belief that the Second Amendment should have been altered when it was first written to state that the right to keep and bear arms applies only to citizens actively serving in militias. Since it doesn’t say that, and since case law has seemed to state that people have a right to own guns for any reason, it is not feasible at this point to ban guns outright. There are just too many out there. As a result, the process of buying a gun should be as difficult as possible to stem the embarrassing numbers of firearm homicides, accidents, and suicides in this country, numbers that disgracefully dwarf most other industrialized nations. Thorough background checks, training, psychological testing, and the closing of loopholes are all minimums for the gun purchase requirements I believe should exist.

Why is life, especially for those who love to bloviate about its so-called sanctity, less important than the anachronistic Second Amendment? Why are there so many people in this country who believe that killing with a firearm is a right so sacrosanct, perhaps bestowed by God, that it has no room for limit, common sense, or change of any kind? I have asked anyone who is connected to me on social media and feels this way to just unfriend or block me and save us both the pain and trouble the next time dozens more innocent people are cut down for no reason.

Can you hear my frustration? Can you hear my anguish?

What in the world is wrong with us? Why does nothing ever change?

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Life in New York: Walking

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When you live in a city where you likely pay thousands upon thousands (or even millions upon millions) of dollars for the mere privilege of living in a tiny, dank apartment with a view of a brick wall, a gaggle of loud neighbors, and no washer or dryer, you have to find a way to spot deals when there is one out there to be spotted.

One of the last great deals left in New York is also one of the most convenient and most interesting forms of exercise you can engage in: walking! This is a walking city. It has always been a walking city. Even before the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which laid the egalitarian and perhaps rigid street grid plan onto most of Manhattan, New York was a city best enjoyed on foot.

It is not simply a process of elimination that makes the city so much fun to walk. It is not because driving in the city is an anxiety-fuelled nightmare. It is not because commuting by subway, bus, or taxi is some dystopian combination of crowded, slow, and smelly. What makes walking through New York rewarding and fun is the same thing that makes any city worth visiting or living in: its people and its neighborhoods.

There should be no surprise when I say that the people-watching here is without parallel, but when you combine it with the fact that neighborhoods change color and flavor every few blocks, you wind up with an entertaining and different walking experience every time you go out… and I can’t stress how important that is for me. If exercise feels like a repetitive chore, I won’t do it. I won’t want to get off my butt on the weekend, no matter how nice the weather may be outside, if what I get is the same every time.

We have really begun to get back into the swing of going on long walks to different parts of the city and think about planning the next walk before the one we’re on is even done. And this is not just on weekends, either. As with a lot of other things in life, results are what matter… and we’ve got them. In the month of May alone, we have walked more than 100 miles (160 km).

Not too bad!

Written by Dave

May 29, 2016 at 23:45

2016 Stanley Cup Final

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It’s no secret that I love hockey. It should also be known that I am a lifelong fan and, since 2009, a season ticket subscriber of the New York Rangers. Although this season was a disappointment and a huge step backward for the Rangers, that doesn’t mean that I’m just going to stop watching the rest of the playoffs, especially when I’m staring down MONTHS of nothing but baseball and soccer. Woof.

Whenever the Rangers are eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which for a team with indisputably the worst history of any Original Six franchise happens rather often, I always like to see teams that have never won before win it all. In a league that likes to tout its parity, why not spread the wealth around when it comes to the actual capturing of sports’ most recognizable trophy? That’s why I’ll be cheering for the dynamic, exciting San Jose Sharks to win the Stanley Cup this year.

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Let’s do this, Sharks.

When you combine the fact that the Sharks are playing fantastic, relentless hockey and feature likable players who have earned the legacy of champions (think Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau, and others) with the fact that they’re matched up against a team I despise and also the team that easily shit-canned the underachieving Rangers in the first round, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It’s strange; I love the city of Pittsburgh, but I can’t stand the Penguins or their entitled fans and whiny big name stars. This is a team that got everything it ever won by tanking, by being embarrassingly uncompetitive in a strategic fashion in order to draft a generational talent (or two). I just can’t respect a team that builds its talent base in that fashion.

I’m confident that the Sharks will impose their physical dominance on the Penguins, shut down their top offensive players, and make this a short Final… perhaps even skating the Stanley Cup around on Pittsburgh ice.

One can hope.

FLICS #4: Laundry Night Edition

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Here are five more brief topics that have been bouncing around in my head this week:

  • Why do some people have to be the very first people off of trains? They’ll grab or tackle anyone who gets in their way. Are these the same people at the airport who have tickets in Group 8 but are hovering around the gate when Group 1 is boarding? Sit down.
  • My goodness, the baseball season is much too long. With my dear, beloved hockey coming to a close and the mercury annoyingly sneaking into the eighties (thirties Celsius) even before Memorial Day, I have been trying to get myself in the mood for baseball by watching compilation and pump-up videos on YouTube, and I just can’t do it yet; it’s not the summer!
  • We as a society need to do something about the people who stand out on heavily used sidewalks and ask for a few minutes of your time for what is usually a very good cause. As much as I may believe in the message and in giving to charity in general, I do not respond well to this type of solicitation. I am less likely to give to any organization that uses charity muggers… because that’s what they are.  I just want to get to work or get home or get into the market. Leave me alone.
  • I’m still tickled by the fact that Girl Scout cookies come with wine pairings now. I thought this was a joke when I first heard about it, but it is very real. Does no one else see anything wrong with this hipster nonsense? These are cookies sold by minors for heaven’s sake. And who has wine with cookies? People who have to urgently question priorities.
  • Elevator etiquette seems to have gone out the window. Are elevator rides really long enough that people can’t get off the phone, can’t turn down the music, and can’t avoid breaking wind? Be a person… a non-disgusting person.

Written by Dave

May 24, 2016 at 23:50

I’m not your intended recipient

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I have seen a huge increase in the number of misdirected emails I have received. I know I have a common male first name, David, and not the rarest last name of a certain heritage, so some misdirected emails are inevitable for me. That comes with the privilege of ungooglability and being a relatively early adopter of Gmail, I suppose. My issue is that the majority of the misdirected emails I’m getting are clearly intended for the same older couple in Essex, Connecticut who don’t seem to know (or give half a crap) that the email address they’re giving to their family members, friends, place of worship, preferred women’s apparel shop, and even their boat dealer IS NOT THEIRS.

Every time I receive a wrong-number email, I always send a courtesy alert:

Hello, Mr./Ms. Innocent Goober.

I’m not the intended recipient of your email below. Please verify the email address of the person who was meant to get this message.

Kind regards,
David Notthepersonyoumeant
New York, NY

I always include New York, NY in there because that is normally the most glaring sign for people that they sent their message to the wrong party.

Sometimes I get a response; sometimes I don’t. I don’t really care if the sender responds to apologize or not. What I want him or her to do is to reach out to the goofballs who share my surname and give them a shake. Email address accuracy is important, and the technology has been around long enough that it is no longer acceptable to claim unfamiliarity with how it all works.

PS – If you’re going to send me an email that’s meant for someone else, don’t have the last name McAnally because I’m just going to make fun of you in my mind for the rest of the day…

Written by Dave

May 23, 2016 at 22:15

Posted in complaining

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Cooking with David 1: Gambas al Ajillo con Polenta

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This is the first in a series of posts about food and cooking, a huge passion of mine. I got into cooking when I first arrived at university at McGill and shared a residence apartment with a guy named Raphaël from the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of interior Québec. It blew my mind to find out that he was coming to school in Montreal to improve his English of all things while I was looking forward to developing my skills in French.

Raphaël was a very interesting guy. A wiry, quiet Jehovah’s Witness who mostly kept to himself. Fanatically clean and extremely private, I never really expected to learn much about him. He kept to himself, and I stayed out of his way. One night, I came back from a late French class downtown to find Raphaël slaving away in the little kitchen we shared over three bubbling pots and an open oven.

“I didn’t know you cooked,” I told him. “What are you making?”

“I don’t cook. This is going to be a rib roast with potatoes. You can have some if you want.”

“You don’t cook, but you’re making a standing roast like that?”

“I’ve watched my mom and dad. I’m sure I can figure it out. I just don’t want to eat any boxed or processed stuff and get unhealthy while I’m here.”

While I greatly respected the fact that a young guy didn’t want to subject his body to low-quality slop, I didn’t know at that time how Raphaël was able to just watch his parents and “figure out” how to cook amazing food like he did. As it turns out, his dad was a local butcher and his mom a pastry chef in Chicoutimi, Québec. I told my parents what kind of food he was making for the other American roommate and me, and they thought I was full of it. French pastries, expertly prepared meats, and traditional Québec dishes. Each treat was more delicious than the last… I knew I wanted to learn how to cook for real.

Fast forward eleven years to 2011, and you’ll get the story of the birth of this particular dish. I was enjoying an incredible meal with my partner Mike at Crook’s Corner Café and Bar in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was my first time ever having shrimp and grits, a staple of the American South, and I can remember saying out loud as I was enjoying the meal, “The way these shrimp taste reminds me so much of gambas al ajillo.”

Gambas al ajillo is one of the most popular tapas dishes and simply garlic shrimp with parsley and olive oil cooked and served sizzling in a clay dish called a cazuela de barro. Known for leaving behind a delicious garlicky sauce that diners then dip crusty bread into, gambas are quick to prepare, they require relatively few and easily accessible ingredients, and they are freaking delicious and very comforting.

I first tasted gambas al ajillo on a family vacation I was lucky enough to go on back in 1994 to Marbella in the Andalusia region of southern Spain. My parents had met and fallen in love there in the summer of 1977, and they wanted to show the place to their kids. We were out to dinner at a very charming restaurant called Marbella Patio. My mom happened to know the owner of the restaurant because (and my memory is a little foggy on this) he used to work at the hotel her family had stayed at in Marbella when they went there every summer. It turns out the guy was so overjoyed to see us that we got our whole dinner for free… and it was really something because every piece of food we put in our mouths was outstanding.

So both Mike and I had the taste for shrimp one night, and I had the idea to combine gambas al ajillo with shrimp and grits to create a more European take on a southern classic. (Or is that a southern take on a European classic?) We took quick cooking polenta, formed a bed of it in a bowl and piled on lots of succulent Spanish garlic shrimp. Cazuela de barro not needed!

I really hope you’ll give this recipe a try. It means a lot to me and my family, and it’s easy and delicious! Of course I wanted it to be the first dish I share with the blog.


Gambas al Ajillo con Polenta
Prep Time: 20 min | Cook Time: 5 min | Servings: 4 servings | Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients:
For the shrimp:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter (Don’t cook with salted butter!)
1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined (the smaller and sweeter, the better)
6-8 garlic cloves (more if you are a garlic lover)
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 teaspoon pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika – recommended brand is “Pimentón el Ángel”)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the polenta:
1 cup raw polenta (recommended brand is “De la Estancia”)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
3 cups chicken stock (or a bit more if you like your polenta creamier)

3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:
Mince the garlic as finely as you can, and place it in a small bowl.

Zest the lemon while it is still whole using a rasp or microplane, and place the zest in another small bowl.  Add the salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and pimentón to the lemon zest and stir lightly to combine.

Juice the lemon and put the juice aside.

Chop the parsley leaves and put aside.

Prepare the polenta according to the package directions but with the bumped up amount of cheese listed above. Set aside for a few minutes while the shrimp cook. You may reserve a small amount of additional chicken stock to loosen up the polenta prior to service if desired.

In a wide, shallow sauté pan over high heat, warm the olive oil and the butter.  As soon as the butter is completely melted and any foaming subsides, add the garlic and bay leaf and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the shrimp and spread out to a single layer in the pan.  Cook for 3 minutes, stirring a couple of times to ensure no raw areas remain.

After the time is up, turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and the zest/seasoning mixture.  Stir so that there are no shrimps that have a ton of the seasoning caked on them.  The stirring should lead to a uniform dark golden color for the sauce.

Add the chopped parsley, stir to combine completely, discard the bay leaf, and serve immediately over the polenta.

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CME Political Platform 1: Euthanasia

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This is the first in a series of posts that explains my political beliefs in greater detail, and I thought I’d start with a topic that can’t ever be called easy: assisted suicide.

I believe terminally ill patients (or anyone who so wishes) should be allowed to end their lives with dignity via assisted suicide, but only after a psychological examination to show they fully understand this choice. Banning euthanasia is a prohibition based on religion, which has no place in public policy of any kind.

You’ll notice a trend across the entire spectrum of my political beliefs, and it’s captured in the last sentence of the statement on euthanasia. Religion has no place in public policy of any kind. No faith or faith-driven values in a country where people share more than one religious background (including NO religious background) can be used to prohibit any behavior by law.

The permanent and pronounced separation of church and state is the most important political belief I hold.

Assisted suicide, which should really be called “death with dignity,” affords terminally ill patients (or others) the option to end their lives on their own terms. The reason I stipulate that a psychological examination should be required is because non-assisted suicide (also known as suicide) is the result of mental illness in some form. If a doctor determines that a person is compos mentis when deciding to end his or her life, why in the world should the government say otherwise?