Slick Willie

I don’t care which side you’re on – Democrat, Republican. This guy gets it.

Like all elections, this one will determine the course of our nation for the next four years. Unlike the other elections (the ones I’ve been alive for), our nation has never seemed this divided. Compromises and concessions must be made on each side, and a cooperative effort must be made in order to not just restore our country, but to make the USA better than it ever was before.

When we can finally put our differences aside and not see each other simply as democrats or republicans, right or left, conservative or liberal, we can work on forming a more perfect union and see each other for who we all truly are – Americans.

TCG vs. The 99% and OWS

Originally written 11/2011; still completely relevant.

On September 17, 2011, a movement began in Zuccotti Park that spread like a rampant virus across the US and abroad. The movement that would soon be known as Occupy Wall Street consisted of “the 99%” of the nation angered at the wealthiest 1% of Americans. To many, it seemed as if these 99% were fighting the good fight; after all, they’re just like you and me (unless you’ve got seven or eight figures in your bank account), and those mean rich people are against us. According to the OWS movement, they’re the sole reason no one can find work these days. And you should be on their side, because if you’re struggling financially, it’s probably someone else’s fault, right?

The 99% want you to believe in their cause, and they want you to identify with them. But I’m not like these people, nor should you be, and I’ll explain why.

The OWS movement really had no clear or defined goals, and yet it managed to pop up all over major cities throughout the US. Organized primarily through the internet and other social media, the 99% found areas of high visibility to occupy and protest their plight of being unemployed and broke in a crap economy. With signs and banners proclaiming “WE WANT JOBS!” and “WE ARE THE 99%” they stood united outside of corporate office buildings and protested, yet nothing really happened. Well, what did they expect? The notion that Mr. Fortune 500 CEO is going to walk out of his building and say, “You know what, you’re right. You people ALL GET JOBS!” is completely asinine. You don’t have to take an economics course to understand that; it’s just common sense. If businesses are laying off employees nationally, they definitely can’t afford to hire you.

The problem with many of these people is that they lack any real marketable skills. Many of them spent their time in a private art school or possess a four-year liberal arts degree. What many failed to realize, just as many college students do each year, is that a degree alone will not get you a job in today’s economy. What will are all the extra curricular activities, leadership positions, and internships/jobs you held while in college in addition to a degree. Just as I have discussed with my roommates, you can’t get an arts/humanities degree and expect every major employer to come beating down your door; it’s just not going to happen like that. Instead, focus on something practical that you can put to use while you’re in school, as well as after you’ve graduated.

As I mentioned, this movement wasn’t just limited to Wall Street. In my own city of Louisville, KY, they set up camp across from my girlfriend’s church, which she mistook for a homeless refuge project. And that’s really not much of a stretch given the attire of some of these protesters. If their goal was to go to the major corporate institutions in their cities and complain about how they’ve been deprived of a job, at least these 99% could dress like they deserve to be employed. Instead, they resolve to dressing like bums, which won’t get anyone anywhere in our society. The Occupy [city financial district] movement is analogous to a job interview gone horribly wrong. Let’s break it down:

  • The candidate (the 99%) shows up with no prior appointment, demanding to speak to whoever is in charge.
  • They’re not dressed professionally, but insist that they be seen and considered for a position.
  • When refused to be seen by the hiring manager, they begin throwing a tantrum that rivals a six-year old deprived of his XBOX.
  • They refuse to leave the office until forcibly removed by security.
  • They blame the manager and the institution for their lack of financial security, and refuse to take any stock in their situation.

And that last bullet point says it all. My biggest frustration with the 99% is that they have deemed themselves helpless to their current situation, and because there’s nothing to be done about it, they view that going out publicly and complaining is the best possible solution. This not only irritates me, but deeply offends me, because I’m in the same situation as many of these people. Yes, the economy sucks. That’s a fact, no matter how you look at it. This is the worst economic time since the Great Depression. But taking to the streets and complaining about it doesn’t change anything, which I hope these people realize since their dispersing in November. The situation of the 99% is only as bad as they collectively choose to make it, and while they continue to complain, I continue to look for a start on my career. Blaming someone else for your situation is not only immature, but it relinquishes control over your life. If you want something bad enough, you need to go out, exert the effort, and get what you want in life. But so many people don’t agree with this and think things should be easier.

Unfortunately, the way our generation has been raised, we’ve been conditioned this way. We all think we’re winners! If you’re an 80s kid like me, you know what I’m talking about. I listened to a Podcast by Adam Carolla recently, and he broke it down perfectly – the playing field was leveled for our generation so we could all feel like we’re special. In reality, we should feel special because of the hard work and determination put into reaching goals and achievements. This everyone’s-a-winner parenting style caused our generation to develop a gross sense of entitlement. I played soccer for three years when I was teen, and I was horrible – and I knew that. I never received a trophy that I truly deserved… but I got one for participation. Why should I have gotten a trophy for participating? That’s like saying, “Congrats. You showed up, had a pulse, and ran around for an hour. No, you didn’t really do anything, but at least you kind of tried.” This is the problem, and now that we’re all grown up, everyone wants something for nothing, expecting some kind of hand-out that’s never going to come. This sense of entitlement needs to end for my generation, and the emphasis needs to be placed back on hard work for personal achievement.

I agree that corporate greed and unchecked practices in Wall Street institutions have heavily contributed to the current “Great Recession” (see: Bernie Madoff). But at some point I, along with millions of other Americans draw the line on this movement, and say get over it. Complaining about your situation won’t change anything. It’s time for people to realize that change comes from within, and blaming others for your problems combined with an exaggerated sense of entitlement will only impede your growth as a contributing member of society.

Chili – The Ultimate Winter Food

Gentlemen, winter is here, and in many parts of the country, in full force. This means boots, vests, gloves, and chili. As men, we need food that’s going to fill us up, provide us with a solid amount of protein, and keep us warm in the winter temperatures. Chili is not only healthy, but an economical food, with one pot lasting up to a week if you ration it correctly. Here’s my recipe that I use to get me through the cold months.

  • 1-2 lbs of lean (I use 93/7) ground beef or turkey
  • 1-16 oz can of kidney beans
  • 1-16 oz can of spicy beans or chili beans
  • 1 package of French’s Chili-O mix
  • 2-8 oz cans of diced, chili ready tomatoes
  • 1-16 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 1 can/jar of jalapeños (optional)
  • Total cost: $10-12

Step 1: Brown your ground beef/turkey in a large skillet. If you bought over 1 lb, you may need to do this in stages. Add any desired seasonings to meat during this process. Estimated prep time: 10-15 minutes.

Step 2: Once meat has been browned, drain grease from the pan, being careful not to lose any meat in the process.

Step 3: Transfer cooked meat to a large pot. This is where you’ll be doing the rest of the cooking, so you can set aside your skillet at this point.

Step 4: Combine chili/spicy beans, drained kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, desired amount of jalapeños and Chili-O mix in a large pot. The bigger the better.

Step 5: While stirring, cook the chili for approximately 5-8 minutes on medium-high heat. Keep stirring to avoid burning anything that may settle at the bottom.

Step 6: Lower temperature to a simmer, and let your chili sit for about 2 hours. Be sure to check on it periodically to avoid burning down your house, especially if you have a gas stove.

Step 7: Eat it.

Not too complicated of a process, right?

5 Things I Wish I Had Learned in College

Despite over a month-long hiatus, The Contemporary Gentleman is up and running again. And with the infinite amount of free time I now have on my hands since graduation, there will be many more posts to come.

Along with 800+ other students, I just graduated the University of Louisville. As I continue what I’ve been doing for the past two months – sending out resumés and looking for jobs – I find it hard not to look back on what I learned in college. And while I did learn how to effectively manage my time, multi-task to unprecedented extremes, develop leadership skills, and somehow get a degree out of it, I still feel there’s a good amount that my curriculum didn’t include. But I know I’m not alone in this, which (coupled with an indefinitely screwed economy) is part of the reason why our generation is having such a tough time finding jobs.

1. Start planning for the future on Day 1. In August 2007, I snatched my room key from my Nazi of an RA and moved into my dorm. When I did, I failed to realize I had just started the countdown on a 4-year timer, and that I would need to prepare myself as much as possible for life outside after college. I was so caught up with meeting people and having fun, that only when junior year arrived did I begin to worry. At that point, it became more of a focus on actually graduating than trying to realize any goal with the time I had left.

At one point in my collegiate career, I held a position in which I taught a class to freshmen, which basically outlined how to succeed in school – go to class, talk to your professors, study for “x” amount of hours each week, etc. This is the bare minimum to succeed, and it was sad to see their faces drop as if they were thinking, “You mean I can’t just get blitzed and play COD all day?” No, you can’t. In addition to what students should be doing, they should also be networking and making contacts, beefing up their resumés, and building relationships with people that might help get them somewhere post graduation. Outlining a clear goal of where they would want to be in four years and working backwards from there would help more than any gen ed course.

2. Take risks and explore all opportunities. Because I was an Arts & Sciences major, I restricted myself only to A&S courses. I pursued nothing in business school, nor anything in education. By not pursuing different avenues, I limited my opportunities to find something that genuinely interested me. Don’t be afraid to explore the unknown – you may end up liking what you find. And if you don’t, at least you’ll know not to pursue it further.

3. Prioritize your activities and learn to say “no”. College – it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I met people and made many awesome friends, had plenty of great times with said friends, and grew and matured in ways I never imagined. However, it was the growing up that was the hard part, and part of that was learning to responsibly set priorities.

During my sophomore year I had more fun than the other three years combined… but that’s because the emphasis was on having fun, and not on taking care of business. Instead of saying “no” when invited to do something, I’d drop what I was doing and head out because, hey, you’re only in college once! This usually resulted in several all-nighters to make up for what I should have been doing and a great deal of stress. There will always be more parties, more tailgates, and more fun things to do. But business is business, and the important things need to be taken care of first.

4. You need a budget. I worked through college, but not just for spending money like some kids, but to pay rent, buy groceries, etc. At first, I hated it – I couldn’t go out because I was stuck at work and I was always busy – but then I realized working gave me a strong sense of independence. I didn’t have to rely on anyone to take care of me, because I could do that on my own. Unfortunately, I often spent through all that money instead of responsibly saving it. I’ve learned over the past two years that proper budgeting can alleviate so much stress, but not sticking to it can keep you awake at night. A great tool is Mint.com, and I highly recommend it to keep track of your personal finances.

5. College is not responsible for preparing you for the real world. I’ll be the first to admit that I was not prepared for college. I exerted the bare minimum in my high school AP classes, and still did better than a large majority of my peers. I assumed college would be roughly the same; I had no reason not to. Unfortunately, like so many other students I met in college, we all got collectively screwed by teachers catering their instruction to standardized testing, resulting in an overall inadequate secondary education.

Adjusting to college was the biggest learning curve I have ever faced, but I know that it pales in comparison to what’s next.  Colleges can definitely increase their efforts to prep students for entering the job market, but much of that responsibility falls back on the student. At the end of the day, a college is a business – you pay it money, and it hands you a diploma that tells the world you have the ability to learn. What you do with that, however is up to you because the truth is, there is no direction after college. There is no syllabus, no attendance policy, no lecture. You are in control of what happens now, just as you were on Day 1, so proactively preparing to enter a highly competitive job market is your responsibility.

Overall, I can’t say I regret anything about college; it was fun, I grew and developed as a person, and I somehow managed to learn a few things. But I know the learning doesn’t stop after graduation, because life is the ultimate continuing education, and class is always in session.

The Importance of Keeping a Journal

Why is keeping a journal important? For starters, it’s not always easy to remember what you thought about something in the past, and even harder to remember how you felt. By writing about it, you can review those moments in your life and see how a situation unfolded. You’ll realize past situations weren’t nearly as bad as they seemed, which helps to keep things in perspective. Keeping a journal is also an excellent tool for problem solving – it allows you to consult yourself on your past decisions and review the outcomes from those decisions. Above all else, the most important reason for documenting your experiences is to provide you with a record of how you have (hopefully) grown as a person.

The key is writing consistently. I’ve always been off and on with keeping up with a journal. I’d write in it when I felt it necessary, and before I had realized it, weeks had passed and I hadn’t so much as thought about the journal. Simply dedicate ten minutes before going to sleep to write an entry, and you’ll have a record for that day. I keep mine on my nightstand, along with a pen and a stack of post-it notes for quick ideas.

It’s important to actually write down your thoughts, not type them; your thoughts are conveyed more accurately when written. You can pick up a journal for around $5 at any book store.

Keeping a journal is one of those simple things that takes very little time and results in something invaluable. Forget the idea that this is a diary in which you’ll want to store all your most private information. View this, rather, as a way to chronicle the notable events of your life; when you look back on it in a few years, you’ll be thankful you did.

Seasonal Beer Primer – Fall

Fall is arguably the best season of the year. The leaves change colors and nature’s aesthetic improves drastically, the heat is gone allowing one to wear more than shorts and t-shirts, and holidays like Halloween (my personal favorite) and Thanksgiving are right around the corner. However, the true reason Fall is by far the best season of the year can be summed up in one word:  beer.

Fall means Oktoberfest, a German celebration ushering in the new season.  It’s also a two week long long period where almost all of Germany’s populous gets extremely drunk on amazing beer. Unfortunately, we’re not in Germany, so doing the same as the Germans isn’t entirely feasible (or legal). However, Oktoberfest does mean that some of our nation’s biggest breweries will be rolling out their seasonal beers, which typically fall into one of two different categories:  Oktoberfest or Pumpkin Ale.

From the end of September through mid-November, I make it a point to get my hands on as many different Fall beers before the season is over. Whether it’s an Oktoberfest or a Pumpkin Ale, I suggest you do yourself a favor and grab a six pack.  Listed below are the beers I’ve tried, and I encourage you to do the same before Winter gets here.

  1. Sam Adams Oktoberfest – I could go on about how great this is, but I think its commercial could do it more justice.
  2. Schlafly Pumpkin Ale – An absolutely delicious beer, it tastes like pumpkin pie in a bottle. Plenty of pumpkin, cinnamon, and spice flavors, but not overpowering. In my opinion, this is the best pumpkin ale out there this season.
  3. O’Fallon Pumpkin Ale – Following Schlafly, O’Fallon Pumpkin Ale is slightly less intense in flavor, but it’s a good substitute if your local store is out of Schlafly.
  4. Post Road Pumpkin Ale – Post Road’s Pumpkin Ale ranks as the least intense of the Pumpkin Ales, but it’s still a good alternative to the first two.
  5. Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat – This has been rolled out by Anheuser-Busch to replace the lackluster Jack’s Pumpkin Spice beer that rears its ugly head every Fall. It’s really not a bad non-craft beer, infinitely better than its predecessor, and has more flavor than anything you can pick up for the price.
  6. Blue Moon Harvest Moon – Similar to Shock Top, it’s a domestic Belgian White put out by a big name brewery (Molson-Coors). I wouldn’t recommend one over the other, it’s just a matter of personal preference.
  7. Southern Tier Imperial Pumking – From what I’ve read on it, it’s a very take it or leave it beer. I didn’t think it was anything too special.
This is by no means the definitive list of Fall beers. There are still quite a few beers out there that I haven’t been able to find. One that I will recommend without trying is Dogfish Head Punk’n Ale. This is the company that rolled out the 60-minute, 90-minute, and 120-minute IPAs, arguably some of the greatest beers of all time. If their seasonal is as good as their regular production, this could be an excellent fall brew. It only comes in four packs, but from what I’ve heard, it’s entirely worth it.
Keep in mind, these beers are meant to be enjoyed, not consumed at a rapid pace to reach intoxication. Buy a new six pack each week and enjoy one beer each day; you’ll appreciate it a lot more. Toward the end of the season, I recommend buying a six pack of each of your favorite beers and saving it for a few months. The flavor will mellow with time, giving you your same beer, but with an even better flavor.
Happy drinking.

The Importance of Physical Fitness

There was a point in time when America was revered as a physical and intellectual powerhouse. We were seen as the great liberators, purveyors of freedom – big brother, if you will – to other nations under oppression from a ruthless regime or an intolerant government. A short time after 9/11 and the start of the war on terror, this all began to change. These days, all you have to do is get on YouTube and read the comments under any video to realize the way other nations perceive us has changed drastically. You’ll see things posted from citizens of other nations along the lines of “ignorant American”, “go eat a McDonald’s cheeseburger, fat American”, and other colorful sayings that paint Americans in a less than stellar light.

What the rest of the world sees...

I work in the service industry, at one point in a very large, chain seafood restaurant. The majority of the food on the menu was deep-fried; the small amount that was grilled was drenched in unhealthy oils or butter. Each shift, I watched as my more-often-than-not disgustingly obese restaurant guests shoveled down handfuls of deep-fried, tasteless food. This was after they struggled up the thirty or so steps that it took to actually get inside the restaurant. It’s a frightening and very sad sight. Coupled with the fact that I live in one of the most unhealthy states in the union, it does cause for serious alarm. According to Reuters (2009), “26% of the population is now fully obese.” That was two years ago, and I doubt things have improved. Awesome.

I always stress the importance of continual mental and physical growth through my writings, as well as in my own life. When you chose healthy eating habits and engage in physical activity, you are not only doing yourself a favor by ensuring a long and healthy life, you’re doing your country a favor by helping to restore its image. I currently have a fraternity brother working abroad in Spain, and he is frequently asked if all Americans are fat, or with what frequency we consume McDonald’s cheeseburgers. Don’t help feed this stereotype. Instead, feed yourself healthy food, and put down the XBOX controller and get yourself into the gym.

The biggest excuse I hear from people for not exercising is that they don’t have enough time. That’s because they don’t make time for it. I do. And it only takes me six hours each week.

I am huge proponent of the StrongLifts program (you can find the entire pdf on the SL website for free – www.stronglifts.com), which puts me in the gym three times a week (typically, MWF). It focuses on high weight and low repetitions for a full body workout, which is great news for guys, as this yields the largest possible testosterone release. This essentially yields higher results in less time, but the goal is to find what works for you so you’ll stick with it. I also suggest finding an adequate cardio plan that you can stick with 2-3 times each week to keep your cardiovascular health in check. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America, and that’s largely due to the fact that the majority of Americans don’t live healthy lifestyles.

As far as healthy eating is concerned, there are a few key ideas to keep in mind. If you are engaged in a solid workout regimen, you should be consuming 1 to 1.5 grams of protein for each pound you weigh. This will encourage muscle recovery and growth. Protein also acts as a thermogenic for your body, which speeds up your metabolism, which in turn torches body fat. You should also be eating a decent amount of fruits and vegetables, while staying away from any overly processed foods. Some of the best things you can keep in your kitchen are chicken breasts, whole wheat bread, lean cuts of beef, whey protein, skim milk, oat meal, cottage cheese, and various fruits and vegetables. A tip on vegetables – buy them frozen. They’re not only cheaper and last longer, but they’re flash frozen as soon as they’re harvested, thus preventing excessive nutrient loss.

Additionally, focus on eating six small meals instead of three large ones, as well as consuming a gallon of water each day. Again, this will keep your metabolism peaked. If that seems like a lot of work, keep in mind it’s much easier to pick one day a week and cook for the remaning six days than it is to lose ten (or more) pounds.

I encourage you to live a healthy lifestyle if you aren’t already, as the benefits are endless. Yes, you’ll feel better, look better… but you’ll also live longer. And who doesn’t want that? Right now, our country is in a tough spot. Our economy is defunct, bipartisan leadership continuously prevents any progress from being made, and we’re constantly paranoid about another terrorist attack that we’ll probably never see. As individuals, there’s not much we can do to alleviate these issues. But we can work to put to rest this stereotype of our country being overweight and unhealthy. So get in shape. For America.