So, Michael, what’s the deal with bad chocolate? Are you some kind of superhero?

If you’ve ever bothered to look at the url on my blog, you’ll no doubt have noticed my bizarrely specific motto. Stop Bad Chocolate. I believe as strongly as a religious person believes in their imaginary friend that Bad Chocolate is a societal menace.

Everyone has a pet peeve, right? With my mother, it’s tattoos. For some reason, they drive her absolutely crazy. If you have a tattoo, no matter how tasteful, you’re suddenly off her good list. Permanently. For my grandmother, it’s shirts that don’t have buttons. You could pair up the nicest T shirt in the world with the most ghastly dress shirt from Marshall’s of all places, and she’d go for the buttons every time. She doesn’t seem to have any perspective on pattern, color, aesthetic, or any of the really important factors. She judges people on buttons and buttons alone.


Keeping all that in the back of your mind, you shouldn’t be totally surprised that I also have a concrete, black and white rule for judging people. I blame biology, but not in the sense that I actually feel bad about it. I’ve rarely been wrong with this. Chocolate is a gauge of a person’s character.


If someone eats bad chocolate, you can tell so many things about them. You know they don’t care about quality. You know they will sacrifice any of their principles for a bargain. You know they have no taste for intrigue, depth, or personality.


How am I jumping to all these conclusions, you may ask? It’s all rooted in concrete facts.


If someone buys and eats bad chocolate, they’re willfully supporting one of the most harmful industries in the world. They’re ignoring the fact that chocolate is a luxury product and it costs money to grow and produce. Supporting Good Chocolate is one of the biggest industries to drive social justice change voting with your dollar.


Bad Chocolate is also offensive because, frankly, it’s disgusting. It’s sickening sweet, so all you taste is sugar, not cacao. It’s loaded with artificial flavors that don’t even taste like vanilla, or hazelnut, or whatever else it’s supposed to have. When someone buys something like Lindt that says “artisan” but is full of artificial ingredients, you can be sure that they lack critical thinking skills


Bad Chocolate promotes blandness. Boring people and boring people alone buy Bad Chocolate. Nobody else is satisfied by the disgusting plainness of “milk” chocolate from Hershey’s or one of those other trashy brands.


Not only does it make bad people, Bad Chocolate ruins Good Chocolate. Good Chocolate should be amazing, with complex flavors, a balance of sweet and tangy bitterness, and with ingredients that exude truth and authenticity. It supports local, ethical economies in the countries where it’s produced. It’s something you can have a conversation over, not something you just stuff in a Christmas stocking because it was on sale.

Think of it like wine, it’s a popularized delicacy that’s been dumbed down for the masses. Would you buy the cheapest boxed wine you could find? I don’t think so. Would you consider Barefoot worthy of your time? Looking at you, college girls. No. Step away from the junky chocolate and run screaming from the pseudo-gourmet shelf.
This is totally how I judge people. And I feel justified. Join me. Stop Bad Chocolate!

My Canine Companions: why I adopted rescue pooches, and why I live and die by the best vacuum for pet hair

Hello, lovelies:


Today, I should like to talk to you briefly if I might, about the loves of my life, and no, I will not be dragging you through a list of my failed romantic endeavors. I have mainly given up on human companionship, but I have built my own little family of canine companions!

I’ve always, always been a dog person. Dogs… how shall I put it? Dogs are just simply better. Inarguably. Cats are great, sometimes. When they feel like it. But most of the time they’re ungrateful, aloof, and non-committal. I’ve had enough of that from people, frankly. Dogs are ALWAYS happy to see you, happy to go for a walk, ecstatic at every single mealtime.


One of my older friends once told me that when you’re feeling drifty and listless, you need logs in your river, to push you along when you’re not generating any of your own steam. Enter Charlie and Stella. Whether it’s nuzzling me out of bed in the morning, or literally pushing me back onto the couch so they can use me as a human cushion, they’re always keeping me going.


Both my barking friends came from the local shelter, about a few months apart. Charlie came first. He’s a big guy, an akita and golden retriever mix, but goofy as hell and utterly harmless. Trust me, he makes me grateful for my alarm system. He’d be poking around in robbers’ pockets looking for snacks. He settled in very nicely in the first month or so, and he’s gotten so much less skittish. I could see him pining for friends, though. That’s when I went back to the shelter and discovered Stella, a big-eyed hound who had just arrived. What opportune timing. She’s everything Charlie isn’t: bold, willful, and small. They get on so well together.


I’ve become a big believer in adoption, both with dogs and children, even though I have no intention of having kids myself. It seems so selfish for people to go out of their way to bring another child or dog into the world just because they think they want some sort of blank slate. It’s so much better to adopt a dog that needs your help, that needs a home, and has an actual personality you’ll fall in love with. Also, as glad and grateful as any puppy will be growing up with you, there’s nothing quite like the gratitude and affection you get from a pet you’ve rescued.


Stella and Charlie are good influences on me in any number of ways. I have to be far more patient, for one thing, which is something I’ve been trying to work on for years. My needs always come second, and that’s not such a bad thing at all. They’ve also instilled a zen like quality in me, where I look at the latest broken treasure like an inevitable and unemotional “event”, where I used to go into full tragedy mode. I had my first real test about 3 months in, when Charlie took an interest in  potted plant I’ve had for years on the windowsill. Crash. Pot and plant were toast in seconds. And, like every materialistic asshole, I whipped around in anguish, but was confronted by a grinning, thrilled dog who was excitedly telling me what fun he was having. How are you supposed to deal with that?


I mean, in fairness, I have stashed away a few things that I’d be devastated to lose. But as for the rest, I’ve learned to be less attached to small and breakable things.


They’ve also trained me (as it were) to be a regular cleaner, while I’ve always been sporadic at best. I absolutely have to clean once a week, at the very least. I’ve become ridiculously attached to my vacuum. The first weeks of having the two of them in the house together, I very nearly had a breakdown. I’d been making do with this tiny little stick vacuum for years, but it choked on all the fur within a couple cleans. I know practically nothing about vacuums but I knew I needed a massive upgrade, so after reading literally days on, I ended up going with a Miele, which they listed as the best canister vacuum for pet hair. It’s a little red beast, honestly one of the best purchases I ever made. It’s so, so powerful. Zip, zip, and all the hair gets bagged up. I’m never buying a non-German vacuum again. I wish they made everything I have to use in my life. Imagine a German laptop… ahh.

So, here I am in my family: one hound, one yellow menace, and one little red cleaning monster. I’ve named him Johann Sebastian… you get it, Vac. That’s a classical music and vacuum joke, yes it is.
I know I’ve been rambling, so let me just wrap up by saying that adopting dogs has been the best life decision I’ve made so far. And going German with my vacuum comes a close second.

My New Years’ Resolutions

This year, I’m making a different kind of resolution. Every other time I’ve done the New Years’ resolution, I’ve gone for something stupidly abstract, like “be more patient”. This year I’ve realized that the key is to go for concrete, tangible change that ends up coming with all the abstract improvements as well.

This year, I shall reclaim the Sabbath for my own. It will be a day of rest, recuperation, and restoring order to my increasingly messy life. Let me talk you through my fantasy…


You know when you start spot-cleaning as a sort of procrastination, like damage control, like “oh, just gotta get this part done for tomorrow night, then I’ll finish this weekend”… well, that’s been my entire cleaning, uh, operation? I can’t bring myself to use the word routine, because that’s just so sad.


Long story so, so short, I have been cleaning my apartment in patches for literally a month, and I feel slightly gross. Next year, I’m resolved to totally take the Sabbath, like Baby Jesus would have intended for his hip, flamboyant non-follower all these years later.


I have this amazing version of Sunday where I wake up, go for a run, eat breakfast over the paper, and then transform into the Master of All Things. I want to start with baking bread for the week (so prepared, am I right, or am i right?), then sweep effortlessly into cleaning the kitchen. After plunging into a full bathroom cleaning, I shall majestically sashay my way around the place a la pet vacuum and then finish with a nice mopping to make everything smell fresh.


Arriving at the noon hour with a headful of steam, I shall next start laundry, washing all my bedding and clothes like I imagine normal people do every week, and then use that time to answer all my correspondence that’s not work-related.


Drifting towards evening, I will make a nice big dinner so that there are leftovers to get me through Monday, then transition to a quiet evening of reading with tea. The ideal day, restful but productive, no work, no people, just me and my tidied life.

Sunday, Sunday-you shall be the day I take control of my life every week. I will say, for all that the early Christians and Jews got wrong, having one day to take for yourself is the best bit of wisdom I’ve heard in years.