A better obituary of a great man

8 Nov

In J-school, you learn to write an obituary during the first week of class.  Obit writers are the low men on the totem pole and their job is to follow the formula in chapter 1 of journalism textbooks: name, when he died, who he left behind.

But when the man who was practically my father for the past seven years passed away, these data points of his life seemed insufficient.  Age 65.  Ex-SNET employee.  Survived by his daughter, brother and mom.

Stuffy pictures are boring. This is who Dennis really was, mugging for the camera and grilling on Father's Day.

Sure, Dennis was dedicated to his job and loved his family, but that wasn’t who he was.  I feel like I have to share with all of you what an amazing person he was.  Many of my friends never had the opportunity to meet this extraordinary man, so in a show of bad journalism, I am about to write a 600 word obituary to tell you a little bit about Dennis D’Agostino.

Dennis was a creature of habit, usually wearing the same FDNY baseball cap and Northeastern sweatshirt (partly to annoy me as a BU alum…).  He is the only person I know who had “dress jeans.”  After some wear and tear, the dress jeans became casual jeans, which eventually became cut off shorts that he wore riding our tractor mowing the lawn—one of his favorite past times.  The only things worth wearing on your feet were “sneaks,” though he did don a pair of sandals for my luau themed high school graduation party.  My mother even got him to wear a Hawaiian print shirt for that shindig.

He loved watching sports—Jets and Yankees.  And even more than watching, he loved criticizing the teams every move.  For instance, my deep rooted belief that a batter should always bunt to advance the runner if someone is on first comes from watching many summer afternoon baseball games with Dennis.

My mom and Dennis before a family friend's wedding.

He was Italian to the core, showing love through food—and lots of it.  From fresh pasta to stuffed mushrooms, Dennis never came into our home empty handed.  And in return, there was always an incredibly pulpy orange juice waiting in the fridge for him—while he spoiled my mother, she spoiled him right back.  He was a snob about New Haven pizza, toting uncut Tolli’s pies out to Old Saybrook every Friday night, which we would reconstitute in the oven while watching Two and a Half Men.

Dennis gave the most thoughtful presents—you could tell that he really put a lot of time and effort into picking out the perfect thing.  I still get compliments on the beautiful hoop earrings he got me for my 17th birthday.  And they came wrapped in Dennis’ signature paper—bright silver wine bags, tied up with ribbon.

One of my favorite memories of Dennis was last September during our drive out to Chicago.  He must have already been sick, though we didn’t know it at the time.  While my mother and I moved into my new apartment, Dennis just disappeared, as he was prone to do.  He enjoyed having his alone time and exploring.  When he returned, he had take-out menus from every restaurant within a mile of my apartment.  Dennis was big on take-out food and even if the restaurant didn’t do take out, they did for him.

Down in Baltimore for a baseball game.

But even all of these anecdotes and memories don’t convey the biggest thing about Dennis: he was the most selfless person I know.  He gave and gave to make the people he loved happy.  And we all loved him back.

I miss him so much.  Watching a baseball game without him will never be the same, and I’ll never be able to order a fresh tomato pie or grilled chicken sandwich without him crossing my mind.  But I think that as time passes, I will just be thankful to have known him.

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Happy Last Day of Grad School! (to me)

25 Aug

May not be a holiday, but it’s a big event in my life and the lives of all my fellow Medillians.  But before I say goodbye to homework and classrooms for good, I just want to say some words to the rest of my cohort.

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To the Medill MSJ Summer Class of 2011-

It’s been a long year, from J-Matt’s quizzes to late nights in the newsroom to finishing up our capstone projects.  We’ve finally made it through together and I just wanted to thank you.

Thank you for being my support system and second family.  Whether personal or professional, many of you have helped me deal with problems I thought I couldn’t solve.  From deadlines that seemed impossible to frustrations with professors to feeling overwhelmed about using a P2 camera for the first time, you, my fellow Medilldos, made it all seem possible.  After spending my first Thanksgiving away from my mom, I realized that you really can pick your family and I couldn’t have asked for a better group than you.

Thank you for being my drinking buddies.  Some of my fondest memories are with this cohort.  We’re all trying to get hired here, so I won’t go into details, but thank you for helping me blow off steam when I was drowning in media law cases.

Thank you for being my competition.  When they said we were the best and brightest, they weren’t kidding.  You guys have all pushed me to go as far as I can go with a story, to keep making my reporting better and better.  But thank you too for not being catty about it.  Our newsroom has been invaluable to me to offer suggestions and tips.

I’m a sappy person to begin with, but I honestly can’t believe I have only known all of you for less than a year.  I look forward to keeping in touch and seeing you at high-powered journalism positions in the future, doing what we all love.

Happy DC Beer Week!

17 Aug

I’ve taken a long hiatus as it’s been a very busy summer, but I’m back and I’m writing about two of my favorite things: science and beer.

This chicken enjoyed a beer last night with me and Gabbi Levy, who snapped this photo.

It’s Beer Week here in the District meaning lots of good deals on good beers across the city.  Yesterday, I attended a Victory Tap Takeover at Pizzeria Paradiso in Dupont and tried a couple of solid brews.

But where did they come from?  In fact, where does all beer come from?  A couple months ago, I was lucky enough to get a tour of the Goose Island Brewery in Chicago to learn the science of beer, step-by-step.  Now, in honor of DC beer week–during which a few solid Midwestern breweries will be featured–here is the science of beer.

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You may not have CO2 on the brain as you order the next round, but the brewing process is surprisingly scientific.

In fact, the process of yeast essentially eating the sugar in the brew to create CO2 and alcohol is just as constant as the not-so-scientific process of people drinking the beer to create slurred words and foggy memories.

According to Tom Korder, brewery operations manager at Goose Island Brewery in Chicago, Ill., it all begins with measuring the grain.  The dry grain is milled to break apart husks from starches, then mixed with hot water in the mash mixer.  The heat releases enzymes that break up starches into simple sugars that the yeast can consume, like glucose and maltose, and also break up proteins into simple amino acids instead of large chains.

These enzymes are as picky as you may be about your beer—they work best at a specific temperature, which affects the flavor and body of the beer.  In order to get the enzymes to stop working, the temperature is raised even higher.

At this point in the brewing process, the beer is primarily sugar and needs to be more bitter.  For the beer, this is done through the addition of hops while the beer is boiling, Korder said.  Adding the hops at high heat changes the alpha acids naturally found in the hops to isoalpha acids, which are much more bitter, essentially giving the brewers more bang for their buck.

The beer is then swirled around, like what the bar might be doing around you on a rough night, to allow solids left over from the hops to settle out.  Next filtered water, which plays a big role in the character of the beer, is added to the sugary liquid left behind.  A pilsner, for example, is from the Czech Republic, where the water is very soft.

One of the most important aspects of brewing, according to Korder, is to not allow any oxygen to get in the beer, which can make the beer taste like wet cardboard—not the ideal after work drink.  The only time oxygen is added to the beer in Goose Island’s brewing process is right before yeast is added, since it will consume the oxygen.

All the yeast is grown in a lab right at Goose Island, where colonies start out small and are cultured until there is enough to brew a whole batch.  The lab also measures color, bitterness, pH and cloudiness.  There are even microscopes so individual yeast cells in samples of beer can be counted.  When yeast is first added, there are around 10 million yeast cells per milliliter of liquid, but they grow exponentially.

Beer then ferments for eight days before it is filtered, bottled, packaged and put on pallets to be shipped to your favorite drinking establishment.  According to the government, the amount of beer actually in the bottle must be within 3 milliliters of what is advertised.  So if a bottle that says it has 355 milliliters actually has 351 mL, it gets trashed.  Just like you’d be if you drank it.

Happy National Vegetarian Chili Dog Day!

13 Jul

PETA celebrated on Capitol Hill today handing out free vegetarian chili dogs.  Check out my photoblog for more pictures

Happy 7/11 Slurpee Day!

11 Jul

On 7/11, go to 7/11 and get a free slurpee.  Just make sure you drink it and don’t throw it on people.

Happy International Kissing Day!

6 Jul

There are lots of different kinds of kisses and they are all great.

Hershey kisses-because everyone loves chocolate.

 

 

 

 

 

Kiss: Because everyone loves rock and roll.

 

 

 

 

 

And Kissing: because everybody loves somebody else!  xoxoxo

 

 

 

 

Happy Sunglasses Day!

27 Jun

Sunglasses make the world’s eyes happy.

I recently bought this kick-ass pair of sunglasses from Urban Outfitters.  They are bright pink and yellow and whenever I wear them, they make me happy.