Top 10 places in the U.S. where I would like to live

I have lived in quite a few places around the United States. I have visited tons more, and experienced immense friendliness, such warm welcome, and seen acceptance I had never seen anywhere else. These are my top 10 places in the U.S. I would like to live.

  1. Savannah, Georgia

Savannah to me is the epitome of southern living. This gorgeous city not too far from the ocean with its distinct architecture, charming people and relatively warm weather doesn’t almost have any downsides—apart from its proneness to natural disasters like hurricanes and the fact that job-wise there isn’t much to do, unless you’re self-sustainable. Hurricanes, of course, do make life more interesting.

Chippewa Square in Savannah, GA, where Forrest Gump was waiting for the bus.

Chippewa Square in Savannah, GA, where Forrest Gump was waiting for the bus.

  1. Lake Tahoe area, Nevada/California

One of the two places in California I would see myself living—although I would prefer living on the Nevada side when it comes to Tahoe. The bright blue lake, surrounded by snowy-topped mountains, entails more natural beauty than most people see in their lifetimes. And, if you get bored from winter sports and hikes around Lake Tahoe and other lakes in the area, you can always step into a casino in the village of Stateline, NV, right across the state line from South Lake Tahoe, CA. But, as it is with Savannah, there aren’t many jobs around Lake Tahoe, unless you’re specialized in the casino business.

A view of Lake Tahoe from Nevada.

A view of Lake Tahoe from Nevada.

  1. Miami, Florida

After having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, I am naturally wary of places that have such an abundance of sunshine—for the simple reason that after a while, you’re so sick of the never-changing weather you’re praying for a good thunderstorm. The upside of Miami is that there, indeed, thunderstorms, rain, hail, and hurricanes occur—which make life so much more interesting. But Miami is, of course, a lot more than these weather phenomena. Miami is like a little Cuba in the midst of civilization, with great Cuban food made of freely available ingredients (as opposed to Cuba); a miles-long, beautiful sandy beach; beautiful art deco architecture; and, of course, alligators not too far away from the city. And the drive down to the Keys makes a nice day trip.

Miami Beach and the Atlantic Ocean from a rooftop bar on Ocean Drive.

Miami Beach and the Atlantic Ocean from a rooftop bar on Ocean Drive.

  1. Boston, Massachusetts

Little New York, Boston is called, and rightly so. This cozy city by the ocean with its relative calmness and the academic scent of the nearby Harvard would make a great place to live and work. It’s a beautiful city, too, with its old colonial architecture, the bayside promenade and the sense of history that, like a silent spirit, lurks at every corner of the city, trying to awe you any way it can. And then there’s this warm feeling of joy when you’ve walked through Boston Common and arrived at the place where everybody knows your name.

Boston Harbor, where it all got started.

Boston Harbor, where it all got started.

  1. Los Angeles, California

The other one of the two places in California I would see myself living. I don’t know what it is about L.A., especially in comparison with San Francisco, but I quite dislike the latter and quite like the former. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s so marvelously big that you will never get bored there, even if the weather never changes. Or possibly the fact that the people in L.A. seem to be a lot more relaxed and friendly than they are in S.F.—and that in L.A. they can actually drive, unlike in S.F. Or maybe it’s the image of the city as a place where absolutely anything and everything is possible.

A view of Los Angeles from Griffith Observatory.

A view of Los Angeles from Griffith Observatory.

  1. Washington, D.C.

Which politics buff wouldn’t like to live in this cradle of democracy, the very center of the world politics? It’s a city where something happens every second of every minute of every hour. You will never get bored with this endless action surrounding your every-day life. And, of course, in addition to the action, you will never get bored of walking around and amid the old buildings, monuments and landmarks that you meet every step of the way.

The United States Capitol.

The United States Capitol.

  1. Anywhere, Alaska

Yes, it’s cold. Yes, there’s snow for a hundred of lifetimes. And yes, you can get eaten by a bear. But none of that matters. Because when it comes to natural beauty, the sight of untouched nature, only two other places in the entire world compare—New Zealand and the Scottish Highlands; and I am not putting these places in a particular order because each one of them has something of its own. You could never get bored in Alaska as there is always something to do, somewhere to hike, to climb, to fly, something to see. Alaska’s downside, of course, is that work-wise there isn’t much around, especially if you choose to live in the prettiest of places, like Talkeetna or Seward. But even if you live in Anchorage, most of the untouched nature is within a driving distance.

The one thing Alaska has plenty of is snow. This photo is taken on a glacier in Denali National Park.

The one thing Alaska has plenty of is snow. This photo is taken on a glacier in Denali National Park.

  1. New Orleans, Louisiana

There isn’t much to add here other than what I wrote in my ode to New Orleans a few days ago. Who wouldn’t want to live in one of the happiest places in the universe?

There is a house in New Orleans...

There is a house in New Orleans…

  1. New York, New York

The city that never sleeps is almost at the level with my number one choice. New York, indeed, is the greatest city on earth where everyone can find their place. Apart from enormous doses of culture and art, the greatest and most diverse food on the planet, and beautiful, massive architecture, New York offers unlimited business opportunities (albeit with unlimited competition, which can make things hard), crowds of friendly, helpful people, and a location from where you can travel to pretty much anywhere in the U.S. and the world. Of course, New York is ridiculously expensive, but people say it’s worth it. At this point in my life, I don’t see any other place I would rather live than New York.

The skyline of Manhattan.

The skyline of Manhattan.

  1. Chicago, Illinois

But New York aside, Chicago is my first love. Chicago is home. Chicago, the town that Billy Sunday couldn’t shut down, is my favorite city in the entire world. Nothing compares to Chitecture, the magnificent architecture of Chicago; the genuine Midwestern niceness that makes you want to hug everyone around you; the cool breeze that comes from Lake Michigan; the outrageously humid summer weather—and the mind-numbing cold in the winter that makes you cry. I always love going back to Chicago, and I always dread leaving it again. And one day, later in life, when I’m done with exploring the world, I would like to go back for good.

Chicago, Chicago that toddling town, Chicago, Chicago I will show you around...

Chicago, Chicago that toddling town, Chicago, Chicago I will show you around…

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The city where everyone smiles

There is a city in the southern United States that has this uncanny ability to make everyone in it happy. It’s the city where everyone smiles—and not in a retarded “I got hit by a brick and now I can’t wipe this silly grin off my face” way. It’s a genuine sense of overwhelming joy that this city brings out in people. This city is New Orleans.

Bourbon Street. Where it all happens.

Bourbon Street. Where it all happens.

I have now visited Nola four times, and I still haven’t gotten enough. Every time I go there, I can’t wait to arrive, despite the excruciating eight-hour drive. Every time I have to leave, I dread departing more than the long, exhausting drive back.

What is it about this city that has this ridiculous effect on people? Why does a pedicab driver, pedaling a 200-pound rickshaw with two 200-pound customers in it, smile at passersby? Why are the hordes of tourists, who have all woken up with massive hangovers, out at 10 o’clock in the morning, laughing and dancing on the streets without a worry in the world?

This house at the corner of Royal and St. Peter is the symbol of the French Quarter architecture.

This house at the corner of Royal and St. Peter is the symbol of the French Quarter architecture.

Is it the booze that is flowing uncontrollably and endlessly in every watering hole in the city that essentially is a huge watering hole? Could very well be. It’s a well-known fact that alcohol brings happiness—when you hit even the slightest feeling of sadness, trouble, or there’s just something bothering you, you can start drinking and all this negativity goes away as quickly as you drink. And when you start getting sober and these negative feelings start returning, you just start all over. It’s like a magic way of indefinitely postponing every unhappy thought or feeling, ensuring they never come back.

And this is the symbol of the drinking culture of Nola.

And this is the symbol of the drinking culture of Nola.

But here’s the thing. You know how bakers never eat bread or cake? It’s because we’re naturally programmed to get fed up with things, especially those that are around you all the time, 24/7. Everything can get old, may it take as long as it will. So it’s understandable that for tourists, Nola in small doses is this embodiment of happiness that occurs only once in a while. But let’s come back to the pedicab driver who can’t wipe the smile off his face. Or a streetcar driver who sings while operating this ancient means of transportation. Or the countless of local New Orleanians who can’t get enough of the Mardi Gras parades so that they voluntarily and happily do them many times a day for months in a row?

They know!

They know!

Let’s leave the booze and the party aside for a while and look at New Orleans as a home—as it is to almost four hundred thousand people.

First of all, it’s a beautiful city. The French Quarter is like a tiny piece of rural France that’s implanted into the United States. I think it’s a city with one of the most beautiful old architecture in the entire North America. And if you look beyond the French Quarter, you have the Garden District with magnificent Southern architecture that has its own feel in Nola—which is somewhat different from the rest of the South. And hey, if you miss the modern big-city feel, there’s the Financial District that has skyscrapers and the scent of money.

The streetcar is a regular means of public transport.

The streetcar is a regular means of public transport.

There aren’t many cities in the New World where you can take an old streetcar to work—in New Orleans, you can. Even though the streetcar seems to be used by mostly tourists who do it for the experience, it’s an actual means of public transport for the locals. Unlike in San Francisco where the famous cable car is almost exclusively for tourists these days.

Inside the Nola streetcar.

Inside the Nola streetcar.

Second of all, it’s a city with some of the best food man has ever invented. The Cajun and Creole cuisines that dominate the city and the region are to die for. Who wouldn’t want to start their day with a few beignets, have some delicious seafood etouffee for lunch, and finish off the day with spicy alligator jambalaya—while between those meals, and especially with dinner indulge in cocktails from Sazerac to Hurricane, flushing them down with great local craft beers? Yes, you will get fat quick in Nola, and yes, you will probably eventually die of alcohol poisoning, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves and deal with problems in the order they present themselves, shall we?

This alligator jambalaya is absolutely delicious.

This alligator jambalaya is absolutely delicious.

Third, it’s a city of culture—although this may appeal to the locals and tourists alike. Apart from the obvious appeal of the French Quarter—even if you don’t drink—the city offers the National WWII Museum, one of the largest and most fascinating World War II museums in the world. The numerous cemeteries of New Orleans, especially Saint Louis I and II are often compared to Pere Lachaise in Paris—even though maybe less famous people have been buried in Nola.

The National WWII Museum is a must when in Nola.

The National WWII Museum is a must when in Nola.

But one of the most important cultural aspects of Nola is the music. Nowhere in the world can you enjoy such amounts of completely diverse music. Just pick a bar—any bar—and absorb all the musical goodness. Whether you like heavy metal, rock’n’roll or jazz, there’s something for everybody. Go to the Musical Legends Park to enjoy soothing jazz, My Bar@635 to ask the band to play whatever rock’n’roll tune you can imagine, or any other establishment on Bourbon Street and around where you hear the music you like. And then just sit down, enjoy your cocktail or beer, and laissez les bon temps rouler.

One of the musical legends of New Orleans—Steamboat Willie.

One of the musical legends of New Orleans—Steamboat Willie.

Of course, lest we forget Mardi Gras—the endless parades in the two months preceding Ash Wednesday when all New Orleanians and visitors alike party like there’s no tomorrow. And should you be interested in wildlife, the alligator-infested swamps where knowledgeable tour guides take you around in a boat are only a short ride away.

Mardi Gras is a two-month period before Ash Wednesday filled with parades and parties.

Mardi Gras is a two-month period before Ash Wednesday filled with parades and parties.

The South in general is an extremely friendly place. That friendliness, however, takes another level in New Orleans. I don’t think I ever met a rude person in Crescent City. Even people who visit it from the ruder places in the country somehow mellow in Nola and become happy and friendly. Again, maybe it’s the booze, but from the perspective of the local New Orleanians, they’re nice and friendly all the time, everywhere, no matter what they do and who they are. It’s like southern Spain where people don’t have a mean bone in their body.

And here’s a weird aspect. New Orleans is geographically prone to outrageous natural disasters. Remember Katrina? Well, hurricanes and tornadoes happen there all the time, albeit on a smaller scale than Katrina. The city gets flooded, people lose their possessions and even homes, and endure all sorts of hardships due to the weather. But none of that breaks the spirit of the good people of New Orleans. They rebuild, they clean the city up again, and they move on with their lives.

Everyone in Nola are nice and friendly. Even the badass Louisiana State Troopers.

Everyone in Nola are nice and friendly. Even the badass Louisiana State Troopers.

Because they know their home is in one of the greatest cities on earth, and no storm can take that greatness away from them.

(And for those people who go to Vegas for every stag night, forget the casino city in the desert for once, and have your stag night in New Orleans. I promise you, it’s going to be the best stag night ever. Las Vegas is overrated; Nola never disappoints.)

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!חג הנוכה שמח

Wishing everyone a joyous and blessed Hanukkah!

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I asked Delta Airlines a simple question on Twitter. What ensued was tragicomical

I’ve been thinking about what to do on New Year’s eve and today I got the idea to check whether flights to Havana were reasonably priced. I have been to Cuba already, but now with the U.S.-Cuban thaw and direct flights being reinstated, I thought I’d give it a try and see what kind of prices we’re looking at.

Living in the metro Atlanta area, the most obvious choice would be Delta Airlines that, according to news reports, had opened a direct flight from ATL to Havana. And that task proved to be much more time consuming and idiotic than I had anticipated.

First, I tried to check the flights on the Fly Delta app on the phone. Nope. “SORRY… Something went wrong.” All right, maybe the servers were having a bad day.

Later in the night, I went to delta.com and tried to search flights on my desired dates. Unfortunately, though, the only flights that popped up were via Miami, with an eight to nine-hour layover.

So what does a modern consumer do when something doesn’t make sense? He goes on Twitter and asks the company what’s happening.

Like a modern company, Delta replied almost immediately.

Wait, what? I have to call somewhere? No, in the 21st century, that won’t do.

Again, a very quick reply followed.

No, I am not calling anywhere.

Seriously.

But then, they resorted to bullshitting tactics.

Say what? “Government regulations”? Jebus wept.

That one is still waiting for a reply.

Meanwhile, American Airlines tweeted this:

Let’s also bear in mind that American apparently doesn’t have the same “government regulations” Delta has, as they would gladly let me book a flight to Havana online. From Charlotte, NC, though, which is ways away, but hey, customer service, that’s the very image of a company.

Of course, I will not be flying to Havana for New Year’s. Because the return ticket costs about $1,000. Which is insane, even for the holiday season. I mean, Havana is a two-and-a-half-hour flight, and a thousand bucks? Dream on.

But at least I now know which airline to prefer in the future for flying anywhere.

(Also, notice the typos the Delta Twitter representative made throughout their tweets!)

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Review: Sling TV—the future of television, with some of its annoying bugs

Sling TV.

Sling TV.

On Black Friday, I finally got myself an Apple TV. I’ve got to admit, it was long one of my most-desired items and frankly the only Apple gadget we didn’t have in our household (well, I still don’t have Airpods, because Apple hasn’t yet made them available).

The Apple TV is a great gadget, though. Not only can you purchase movies and TV shows from iTunes and watch them on a big screen, but you can stream pretty much anything to the TV from your computer. You have access to tons of TV channels’ on-demand apps; there are even apps that allow you to copy content from your computer to the Apple TV box and store it there; and, of course, there are apps designed to watch live TV that is streamed via the internet. Truly, the future of television.

So, that meant I had to find the service that best covers my live TV needs. At the time I got the Apple TV, there were two—Sling TV (owned by Dish) and Playstation Vue (owned by Sony). A third one—DirecTV Now (owned by AT&T)—appeared a few days later. Each of them offer seven days free at the start, so it was free and easy to compare them all.

Each of those services offer different plans at different prices. The biggest downside to all of them is that one can’t still only pick the channels one wants, even though they sometimes appear to be advertising exactly that. So far, it doesn’t work like that.

Playstation Vue is the only streaming live TV provider that allows you to record shows, and the only one who has CBS. DirecTV Now has said recording will come some time next year, and I don’t know about Sling. But that was pretty much the only upside to Vue.

The main downside to it was that if I select a plan that has all the channels I want, in addition I get a load of useless channels I never watch and never will. Why have so many channels if you don’t need them in the first place? That’s where, again, comes to play the need for a service that lets you pick and choose exactly the channels you need and not have to go through the mess of a TV guide to finally find something I want to watch. Also, the TV guide on Playstation Vue was poorly designed and difficult to maneuver.

DirecTV Now had only just come out and I had to try it out, too. As a brand new service, you can expect it to be buggy—and buggy it was. Even though the service had the best price for the plan that had most of the channels I need, the level of its rawness was the most annoying thing. They should’ve tested it longer and come out with a product that was even remotely ready to presented to a wider audience.

So no, I can’t handle buggy software, and there was no telling of when they would actually fix all their issues, so—disregarded.

And so it happened that I became a paid subscriber of Sling TV. I returned my Xfinity box to Comcast, will save about a 60 dollars a month on my cable bill now, and have access to all the channels I need (apart from CBS, which I buy directly from it via their CBS All Access app), and I am relatively happy.

Why relatively? We’ll get to that.

Most of the time, Sling works like a charm. It, too, has some channels that I never watch, but creating a favorite channels’ list was easy and maneuvering through the TV guide is a pleasure. I get all the channels I need in 1080p resolution, even Sundance TV which, on Xfinity for example, comes in SD. I have HBO; I can add Showtime from its own Showtime Anytime app when Homeland and Ray Donovan start; I have news channels, sports channels, movie channels and regular network TV channels.

The stream is almost always flawless and I experience very few, very minor issues, that usually can be solved by just choosing the channel again from the guide, and everything goes back to normal. It also has TV channels’ on-demand included (but it doesn’t record, so if you miss a show, you depend on when the network decides to put it on on-demand. Also, it has a list of programs you’ve have watched recently and if you stopped watching midway, you can continue just by picking the show from your “most recently watched” list. Extremely convenient.

Danny Trejo is the official face of Sling TV.

Danny Trejo is the official face of Sling TV.

Now to the downsides.

Occasionally the sound and the picture are out of sync, i.e. the sound comes a second later than the person on the screen moved their lips. This is one of my pet peeves when watching something—I like everything to be in sync. Usually choosing the channel again from the guide helps, but sometimes the problem will reoccur after a while. The other day, I was watching USA Network and the issue kept on for the whole day. Really frustrating.

Also, the picture on some channels sometimes freeze and that makes it impossible to watch. It hasn’t occurred in a while now, maybe they’ve fixed the issue permanently. The good thing with Sling TV is that you can choose your own max bandwidth the stream is allowed to use, so if I set it to “High Quality – 3.2Mb/sec,” it seems to be working without freezing. And I still get 1080p picture, which is nice.

A major downside, however, is that I can’t pause live TV. This day and age, I find the lack of this option outrageous. People’s bladders aren’t programmed to the commercial breaks, unfortunately, and thus I do occasionally need to pause a live program I am watching. And asking for help from Sling TV’s support people in Twitter led me to believe they don’t even understand this is a major flaw in their service. On Xfinity or AT&T you can pause and rewind any live show you’re watching, how can Sling thing it’s normal that you can’t?

I’m not a moron, guys, I understand you can’t fast-forward live TV. But the tone in this tweet seriously implied that you don’t understand how modern TV should work.

Speaking of their support on Twitter, though, at first, I was positively surprised. I got replies to my questions within minutes and the help was great. But right after the seven-day trial ended and I started paying for the service, the quality of customer support went from 100 to 0 on turbo speed. Do they really think that now that they’ve hooked me on their service (let me remind you, I can cancel any time!), they no longer need to pay attention to me?

Or, if they bother to reply, they make snarky remarks that have no place in customer support or marketing. Like this one:

This is what can be called retarded marketing. In what world do you tell your customer who voices a genuine concern that other clients are happy and imply there must be something wrong with me?

Or course, the quality of help from Sling’s support on Twitter depends hugely on who is on duty. At least two of the support people have been tremendously helpful and nice. They should just get rid of the bad apples who know nothing about how client communication works.

So, to recap:

Upsides:

  • Works great most of the time
  • A really easily maneuverable menu and TV guide
  • I get all the channels I want, and can simply hide the ones I don’t watch
  • Cheaper than competitors or cable, depending on the plan you take
  • The ability to resume watching a show even if it’s not live any more

Downsides:

  • The occasional freezing and sound being out of sync
  • The lack of the ability to pause or rewind live TV
  • The lack of recording (but I knew that when I signed up, so that’s on me—hopefully it’ll come soon though)
  • Some customer support people on Twitter who need to find a new career immediately

All in all, for now I’m staying with Sling. But at one point I will check back to DirecTV Now to see if and how they’ve evolved and whether they’ve got rid of all their bugs. Playstation Vue doesn’t interest me anymore. But what does interest me, though, is the rumor that Hulu might be coming out with its own live TV service next year. I’ll be sure to check this out, too.

 

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Trump’s GOP has abandoned everything conservativism stands for—and thus us, conservatives

Imagine if you had to look at that smug face every time "the president" was speaking.

Imagine if you had to look at that smug face every time “the president” was speaking.

Now that the Donald Trump takeover of the Republican Party is complete and the businessman is the GOP’s official nominee for president in the November election, it is abundantly clear that the party that once was of Dwight Eisenhower’s, Ronald Reagan’s and even Abraham Lincoln’s is no more. Ronald Reagan once said that he switched from Democrats to Republicans not because he left the Democratic Party—he did it because the Democratic Party left him. Now, the Republican Party has left us, conservatives; now the Republican Party has left me.

I have always held dear the values of common-sense conservativism, compassionate conservativism, classical-liberal conservativism. I’ve always voted for candidates, wherever I’ve lived, that represent these values to me. I’ve always voted for political parties that represent these values.

The GOP has become a pro-regulation party

Now, after the horrendous travesty that was the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, OH, and the past year of presidential primary campaigns, it is clear, more than ever, that the Republican Party no longer stands for those values I and other conservatives hold dear. The Republican Party, abducted, kidnapped by Donald Trump and his mentality, as saddened as I am to say this, is no longer my Republican Party.

It’s not only the persona of Trump that represents this metamorphosis of the Grand Old Party. It’s also that the party now represents values that are not quintessentially American, not guided by common sense, and have nothing to do with what the party of the Gipper, Ike and Honest Abe should stand for.

The best representation of what today’s GOP stands for is its 2016 platform, a 60-page document that sets the standards of the party for this election cycle and the next four years of government—should it be awarded the presidency and a congressional majority. It’s a document full of statements and clauses that firmly belong in the trash can of history, not in a modern, 21-century political platform.

One of the clearest shifts away from the conservative, center-right ideology is the GOP’s call to revive the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act that draws a strict line between commercial banks and investment security firms. This is straight out of the left-wing playbook, something that Bernie Sanders would advocate (and, I think, in fact, does) for. The party that is supposed to stand against regulations that hurt businesses, free markets and the economy, actually calls for an outrageous regulation of the banking sector that would essentially end fee-free retail banking and put in place strict regulations what banks can and cannot do with their own money. This, for me, is incomprehensible.

The GOP has definitively abandoned “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”

Another example of moving to the other side of the moon from common-sense conservativism is support for Donald Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. The country that once proudly proclaimed, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” is now, indeed, saying, “No vacancies.” This is not what a traditional American conservative party—a party that should firmly uphold the thesis of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”—could in any serious measure even contemplate, let alone put it in its election platform. And yet, there it is…

And, of course, it’s not only Trump’s wall that is standing against this principle. It’s also the GOP’s call to apply “special scrutiny” to refugees and people from countries where Islamic terrorism has set its roots—essentially equating all the people from these countries, these regions with the small minority of those who wish harm upon the free world. Only in 2012, the Republican Party clearly said it affirmed “our country’s historic tradition of welcoming refugees from troubled lands.” Only four years have passed…

The aforementioned motto of “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”—something that are supposed to be the unalienable rights, given to all human beings, according to the very basis of the United States, the Declaration of Independence—has also seemingly been forgotten when the GOP adopted the clause calling for overturning the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize equal marriage. This country has come so far in equal rights and the SCOTUS’s decision to grant every consenting adult the right to marry was welcomed by millions of people who, indeed, are pursuing their happiness—and yet there’s a party that urges the reversal of this decision. Let’s remember the words of another conservative, the former prime minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron: “I don’t support gay marriage despite being a conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a conservative.” Isn’t it the time for the Republican Party to realize that “Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other,” to quote Cameron again.

The platform goes on and on with ideas and principles that the GOP wants to implement—ideas that should have no place in today’s world, and, moreover, principles that have nothing to do with the traditional, common-sense, compassionate conservativism for which the Grand Old Party has stood for decades.

An entitled asshole for the nominee

And then, of course, we have Donald J. Trump. A New York businessman with an orange complexion—something that is called “the worst spray-on tan in history”—who has bankrupted more businesses than most people start in a lifetime. A wannabe politician who describes himself and is described by his supporters as an outsider—maybe there’s a reason he’s an outsider and should remain so—who can’t hold a steady position on anything for more than a few seconds (maybe he has the memory of a goldfish?). A person who wants to hold the highest office not only in America, but the entire free world, and yet can’t go a day without offending—and I’m not talking about political bickering, I’m talking about outright insults—anyone.

The Republican Party’s nominee for president is a man who is admired by dictators and who himself admires them back. He’s a man who has more than questionable relations with the Russian regime—the very regime the previous GOP nominee for president, Mitt Romney, called the greatest geopolitical foe of the United States, and rightly so. He’s a man who doesn’t like anyone but himself—and even worse, he likes to hear himself, and only himself, talking.

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president in 2016—a man whose emotional intelligence is an absolute zero. He’s the perfect example of a person who thinks he owns the world and the people in it. He’s the perfect example of a person who thinks he’s too privileged to live by the norms humans usually live by. He’s the perfect example of an entitled asshole—someone who hasn’t worked a day in his life and seriously thinks everything should be given to him, even if it’s the presidency.

Even worse, Donald Trump, the man who could seriously end up running the world’s most powerful country, has more recently proven he doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the treaties and commitments of the United States. A man who actually says he wouldn’t uphold NATO’s Article 5—the collective defense clause—unconditionally. This is a man who should be feared by every single ally of the United States—and is loved by every single enemy. Vladimir Putin is already preparing a feast for January 21, 2017.

We’re talking about a person who’s outright dangerous to the interests and wellbeing of the United States itself. A Manchurian Candidate, as Anne Applebaum put it, who for some reason is not feared, but oddly celebrated in the very country he is preparing to destroy.

Have we seriously lost our fucking minds?

I’m a conservative

Taking all this and all that has happened in the past year into account, I can unfortunately no longer identify myself as a Republican. It’s not because I left the Republican Party; it’s because the Republican Party left me. I have not changed; my views have not changed. I still stand for and believe in the conservative values, the conservative ideas and causes and I still identify myself as conservative. But it’s impossible for me to say I’m a Republican when I don’t agree with the core principles of the party.

I have already declared my support for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for president. He’s not an ideal candidate, but neither is he “the lesser evil” many seem to seek this election cycle. I continue to support principled conservatives with whom I find common ground, wherever they might run, and whichever party they might represent.

I continue to wait for the day I could again identify myself with a political party I agree with on most—or even most important—issues. This would have to be a party that once again stands up for freedom, free economy and markets and less regulations instead of more, individualism and individual rights, human rights, strong defensive foreign policy, outreaching domestic policy, reason and common sense, and the traditional American values and rights. A party that makes America what it is—exceptional.

Because I love this country with all my heart. I only wish for this country to love us as much as we love it.

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The best burgers—ever

The towering goodness of a self-made hamburger.

The towering goodness of a self-made hamburger.

Here’s my recipe for the best burgers ever. This is the last burger recipe you’ll ever need.

The ingredients:

  • about 1.2 to 1.5 pounds of ground beef (lean, 93:7, for example)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 onion, plus then some for garnish
  • 5-10 cloves of garlic (depending on how much you love garlic)
  • 5 branches of thyme
  • a handful of fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup of finely grated cheese (use whatever you like, four-cheese, mozzarella, cheddar, whatever you like)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dried oregano and basil to taste
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • 1 beefsteak tomato
  • sliced cheese (again, use whichever cheese you like)
  • lettuce, iceberg or green
  • kosher dill pickles
  • ketchup, if you like it

How to make the burgers:

Finely chop the garlic and the onion. Pick the leaves off the thyme branches and only use the leaves. Finely chop the dill. Put them all into a bowl, and add the egg, salt, pepper, oregano, basil and the grated cheese. The latter is to make the patties spectacularly juicy.

Then add the ground beef and mix it all well together. The best is to use your hands, but if that makes you feel uncomfortable, try a spoon and then at the end, still use your hands.

Once the meat batter is ready, spread it into four equal portions, and form four nice, round, thick patties. If you prefer thinner or smaller patties, I guess you could make six, but this recipe is intended for four burgers.

Heat the barbeque to the max, and put the patties on. Grill them about five minutes each side; once you turn them over, gently press on them to make them a little thinner, but that’s not a must.

Also, put the buns on the grill, the cut side down, for about 30 seconds, definitely not more.

The patties and the buns getting ready.

The patties and the buns getting ready.

Once the patties and the buns are cooked, put the patties on the lower side of the bun, then add a slice of cheese (you can also add the cheese straight on the grill if you prefer it properly melted), some ketchup, a slice of tomato, a slice of onion, a slice of pickle, and a leaf of lettuce. Put the top bun onto the towering goodness in front of you and…

Enjoy!

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My endorsement for president 2016

The presidential campaign this election year is one of the weirdest I can remember. It’s one of the most divisive—albeit not as divisive as 2008—but also one of the most confusing, because, for the first time in my adult life, the (likely) candidates of the two biggest parties are both equally—even though differently—repulsive.

Being a Republican, I was one of the early supporters of Marco Rubio, the Florida senator whose young energy and desire to turn this country and the world around appealed to me a great deal. Unfortunately, he didn’t appeal to a larger Republican audience, and he had to drop out of the campaign. One by one, reasonable candidates—ones I could see myself supporting in case Marco dropped out, like Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, John Kasich—left the campaign field to make room for the obvious GOP frontrunner, the New York businessman, Donald J. Trump. By now, it’s all but certain Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president in November.

And when we look at the Democratic field, the picture is equally ugly. One one hand, we have a junior senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who publicly declares to be a socialist—something that doesn’t happen in the American politics too often, thankfully. Sanders has time and again proven he doesn’t know how the world works; he knows nothing about foreign policy, diplomatic affairs and why or what the U.S. should be representing in the world stage. Moreover, he doesn’t understand how the economy works, making outrageous promises that can only mean he truly believes money grows on trees. But, as the Democratic primaries have shown, even though he does have a considerable following of naïve and idealistic youngsters, the American general public, even the Democratic general public is reluctant to have a borderline communist as president.

How do you choose between a conniving cunt and a shitty, xenophobic businessman?*

The presumptive Democratic candidate, the former SecState and senator, Hillary Clinton, whose greatest accomplishment is being the former first lady, is another example of someone who should only see the White House on a guided tour. A blatant liar; a suspected criminal, under the investigation by the FBI; a person who, as Secretary of State, was responsible for numerous security lapses that endangered American lives in Benghazi and resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, as well as other Americans. And even worse, we’re dealing with a candidate who claims to be a champion of women, but who has been accused of silencing and threatening her husband’s alleged rape victims (and we all know about Bill Clinton’s indiscretions, so it’s not that hard to believe).

And then we come to Donald J. Trump. A person who wants to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and have Mexico pay for it. (You know, the only way this is ever going to happen is when Trump bankrupts America and makes an enemy out of every other nation, then Mexico is going to build the wall to keep out all the Americans who want to leave the United States of Trump.) A person who calls for a ban to keep members of a certain religious group from entering the U.S. A businessman who has bankrupted more businesses—among others a casino!—than most people start in their lifetime. A wannabe politician who changes his positions not only every day, but sometimes in the same sentence—a politician about whom we don’t really know where he stands on any of the issues (“It’s going to be yuge!”—“I know words!”—“I’ve said many things!”). A candidate who is admired by the dictators of the world, and, even worse, admires these dictators himself. A man who picks fights with everyone, including the media (real smart!), who on a regular basis offends women, veterans, Muslims, Mexicans, pretty much everyone who doesn’t agree with him, or whom he doesn’t particularly like at any given moment. A person whose emotional intelligence is a big round zero.

So, indeed. How do you make a choice between two different, but equally shitty candidates of whom neither should ever step in the Oval Office in any capacity?

Well, one option is, you don’t.

And that’s why…

I’m endorsing Gary Johnson for president

Gary Johnson for president

I don’t identify myself as a libertarian. I am a conservative when it comes to the economy, foreign policy and defense. I’m a liberal when it comes to social issues. I believe in the American exceptionalism, and I believe in interventionist diplomacy when it comes to guarding the free world and its values. I identify myself as a modern, common-sense Republican.

But this election, it has come to me breaking the party line and endorsing the presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party.

I think the former governor of New Mexico is a viable choice for president for everyone who can’t see themselves supporting either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, Republicans and Democrats alike. It might very well be he’s the only viable choice.

I agree with Gary Johnson on most issues.

  • Limited government and defending of personal, individual freedoms, including the freedom of marriage between consenting adults—check.
  • Balanced budgets and cutting down government spending—check.
  • Creating an economic environment for job growth without manipulating the market—check.
  • A simplified, but secure immigration and work visa system—check.
  • Deregulating the internet and communications market and stopping government interference of innovation—check.
  • Deregulating the energy market and stopping government interference of environmental issues—check.

In fact, the only main issue I don’t agree with Governor Johnson is foreign policy. As I said, I believe in interventionist diplomacy when it comes to defending the free world, and I think the best defender of the free world is the United States. The world’s history has shown it needs a global policeman, and who is better to take on this chore than the land of the free and the home of the brave? If the U.S. stopped acting as the world’s policeman, we would see the emergence of Russia or China as such and that would mean a definite end to the free world as we know it, and the liberties and values we hold dear.

Gary Johnson.

Gary Johnson.

But, this election I am willing to compromise on this issue, because in the current field, Gary Johnson is the best candidate for the highest office in the country, considering the other candidates’ profound shortcomings. I also believe that if the governor would take the office of president (which, I admit, is a long shot), he would soon be faced with the reality of today’s world and at least to a certain extent, change his non-interventionist stance.

I believe Gary Johnson is also the most sensible option this election. We know very clearly where he stands; his economic policies are reasonable and support the free market and his social policies stand by individual freedoms. And even though I don’t agree with his foreign policy, at least we all know where he stands, which can’t be said of the prospective GOP nominee.

We should all come together

The thing, of course, is, that Gary Johnson doesn’t stand much of a chance winning the election in November. The most recent three-way polling puts his support at 10%, while Hillary Clinton has 38% and Donald Trump 35%. Even if the remaining voters came to support Johnson, he’d only have 27% of support.

But there is plenty of time until the election. I believe that if all of us who are displeased with the main parties’ candidates would stand behind Governor Johnson, he would actually have a chance to win the White House. Believe it or not, among those 38% and 35% who would vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, respectively, are people who would only vote for them because they’re their party’s candidates, and would otherwise have picked a different person as their nominee. If those discontent people would look into Gary Johnson and what he represents, I believe they could be persuaded to support him in general election, too.

The summer of discontent 2016 could have a happier ending than having to say the words, “President Donald Trump” or “President Hillary Clinton.” We could end up saying, “President Gary Johnson,” and I’d be OK with that.

* I borrowed that phrase from a Canadian friend. Nobody else has described this race more accurately.

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Alaska, the great land—which it, indeed, is

Back in the 1990ies there was a TV-show on CBS, called “Northern Exposure.” Although filmed almost entirely in Washington state, in a small town called Roslyn (if you’ve seen the show, you might remember a mural saying, “Roslyn’s Café,” which in reality marks the location of the “Roslyn Café”—the mural itself is still there), the show takes place in a fictional Alaskan town called Cicely, located somewhere in the wilderness of Alaska, at least a two-hour flight from the state’s largest city, Anchorage.

Even though Cicely doesn’t really exist and the show’s producers never really explained their source of inspiration, according to some websites, it could be a mixture of many real Alaskan towns and cities. For example, Talkeetna, an old mining town 100 miles north of Anchorage, a real all-American small town with charming little houses, cafes and restaurants lined up on Main Street, and the place where many flightseeing tours to the Denali National Park and Preserve take off.

Or Seward, 127 miles south from Anchorage, that can be truly called “the Alaskan Riviera,” a characterization used for Cicely on the show’s pilot episode, located right next to the Kenai Fjords National Park and offering beautiful views to the nearby snow-topped mountains, itself having a charming old fishing village feel and look, especially in the historic downtown area.

Alaska is huge

Or it could be some other smaller or a bigger cities (let’s face it, Alaska doesn’t really have big cities; Anchorage has the population of 300,000 and the entire population of Alaska is about 738,000 with the density of 1.26 people per square mile), but that is really not that important. What’s important is, to experience the real Alaska, places like Talkeetna and Seward, and national parks like Denali and Kenai Fjords, are exactly the places you need to visit.

The thing with Alaska is, it looks quite reasonably small on the map, but if you’d hypothetically put the state onto the map of the lower 48, it would cover most of Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa and Kansas, and considerable parts of Nebraska and the Dakotas. The fact is, it’s huge. So don’t let the tiny population thrown you off—if you want to experience everything in the Great Land, you will need weeks and weeks of time.

Alaska compared to the lower 48.

Alaska compared to the lower 48.

That all is to say, the week we spent in the second-remotest state of the U.S. wasn’t clearly enough. And that’s why we did the most essential things we could—Anchorage, where you’d normally land; Talkeetna, where you take a flightseeing tour to Denali; the Denali National Park and Preserve itself; Seward in the south; and Homer on the other side of the Kenai Peninsula.

Alaska is expensive

Also, it’s important to note there are no freeways in Alaska. Most of the time you have two-lane roads (and by two-lane I mean one lane goes your way, and the other one the opposite way) and in places quite heavy traffic (I mean, there aren’t that many people in Alaska, where do they all come from?), and even though the distances between the cities aren’t that remarkable, the above-mentioned factors tend to make your drive times frustratingly long. Imagine, the 127-mile journey from Anchorage to Seward takes close to three hours; longer if you stop on the way. The Denali village is 240 miles from the state’s largest city—be prepared for a four to five-hour journey; more if you have traffic (fortunately, in the north the traffic is quite scarce). Homer, 221 miles south, is also four to five hours away from Anchorage. And if you’re crazy enough to drive from Denali to Seward in one go (365 miles), it’s going to take you the best part of the day.

Another noteworthy thing to mention about Alaska is, it’s relatively expensive. Be prepared to pay $150+ for a night of lodging (albeit, if you plan and book ahead, it may be cheaper), $15 for breakfast and $45 for steak dinner. Gas is cheaper in Anchorage (at the time we went, about $2.40 per gallon), but more expensive in the remote areas ($2.80 per gallon or so in Homer).

Alaska is totally worth it

But here’s the thing. If you want to experience exceptional beauty, great northern charm, friendly bearded people (I swear, all Alaskan males have beards!), cool weather (that, of course, is relative; in May, the temperatures in Anchorage ranged from 50…75°F; in Talkeetna and Denali they can get as low as 34°F in the morning, but as high as 75°F during the day), snowy mountains and reindeer burgers (or meat loaf, or pretty much any other meat dish), then you will go to Alaska and enjoy every bit of it.

Reindeer burger at Humpy's in Anchorage.

Reindeer burger at Humpy’s in Anchorage.

So what if you have to drive five hours to get somewhere. So what if you have to wear a warmer jacket in what most Alaskans would call “summer.” Because when you get there, you will enjoy gorgeous views over a beautiful lake with mountain reflections; or see the highest peak in North America from an airplane; see moose, bears and whales up close in the wilderness; enjoy good food and, quite surprisingly for me, really good beer (Alaskan white and blonde ales are really, really good, even APAs brewed there are real tasty and I am saying this as someone who has never liked ales!); and see the sun at 12 o’clock in the night (and the further north you go, the more chance you have to see the sun throughout the night—that is in the summer, of course).

Midnight sun near Talkeetna.

Midnight sun near Talkeetna.

Yes, Alaska is totally worth it.

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Flightseeing tour to Mount McKinley (Denali)

Last week during our trip to Alaska, my wife and I took a flightseeing tour to the Denali National Park and Preserve, to the vicinity of the highest peak in North America, Mt. McKinley (with a summit elevation of 20,310 feet). Here’s a short video.

At some 18,000 feet, the base-to-peak rise of Mt. McKinley is the largest of any mountain situated entirely above sea level, basically meaning that while it’s not the highest mountain in the world, it’s the tallest.

McKinley was named after William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States, albeit the mountain was named in 1896, when he was still a candidate. As the U.S. law dictates, landmarks can’t be named after living people; hence the U.S. government only recognized the name in 1917, 16 years after McKinley’s death.

In 2015, the Department of the Interior changed the mountain’s name to Denali, its old native name.

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