In The Hills On My Own

Reflections of a Twenty-Something Georgia Boy

Month: December, 2012

Andouille & Kale Soup

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I made one of my favorite meals last night, a soup with andouille sausage, kale, navy beans, and potatoes, and had a lot of requests for the recipe, so I thought I’d share it with you. It’s derived from this recipe. I’m usually reluctant to share recipes with people; it’s like when a magician tells you how he does his tricks (sorry, GOB, I mean ILLUSIONS). But what the hell, here we go:

INGREDIENTS:

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 package of andouille sausage (I usually use the Thomas brand Ragin’ Cajun from Kroger) , split along the length and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 onion, diced
3 small or 2 medium red-skinned potatoes, skin left on and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch (about 1 lb) kale, chopped into thin ribbons (This can be a little labor intensive. I usually cut the leafy part away from the spine and then bunch up the leaf and cut it into ribbons. They don’t have to be the same size.)
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
2 cans navy beans (for lower sodium, drain and rinse the beans before adding to the soup)
Salt and pepper to taste

Set a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot (make sure it doesn’t burn!), add the sausage and sauté until the sausage is fully cooked; firm to the touch and a dark red color. Remove the sausage and drain on a paper towel.

Reduce heat to medium and add the onion. Sauté until the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes) and then add the potatoes. Sauté until the edges of the potatoes are starting to turn transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add 1/4 cup of chicken broth and the kale to the pot. Stir to coat everything with chicken broth and then cover the pot with a lid. Stir the kale every three minutes until it is barely tender, adding more broth as needed if the pot becomes dry, about 12 minutes total.

Add the rest of the broth, thyme, oregano, and bay leaf. If the veggies aren’t quite covered, add extra broth or water. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium, add the sausage and white beans, and simmer until the kale is completely tender and the potatoes are cooked through (I give it at least 20 minutes).  Remove bay leaf. You probably won’t need to add any salt because of the sausage and the beans, but give it a taste for seasoning anyway.

I like to serve this with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top and a crusty slice of bread to sop up the broth at the bottom of the bowl. I’ve also served it with cornbread which works just as well. It’ll serve 4-6 people. Enjoy!

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Joe Recommends: Vol. 3

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It’s been a while since my last post, so I thought I’d ease back in with a shortened chapter of “Joe Recommends”. Hope everyone had a great Christmas, I certainly did.

Cognet Douk-Douk- I got this knife for Christmas, it’s a super simple pocketknife and I’m absolutely in love with it. It’s been made the same way for 83 years. You can find more info here and buy it here. If you’re in the market, check it out.

Winning Fantasy Football- In the words of Nuke LaLoosh, it’s like, better than losing.

Another Earth- Just watched this earlier today actually. A really fascinating mix of science fiction and drama, and outstanding acting by the leads. Here’s the trailer: 

Mount Moriah- My friends Sarah and Nick turned me on to this band. Nick works at Merge Records, who are releasing their next album in February, but I’ve been listening to and really enjoying their debut album from 2011. Give them a listen (and a look, too): 

ELEVATE by Tilt- French artist Tilt filmed his work on an American flag mural in downtown Atlanta, but to me it’s a beautiful portrait of the city as a whole. Also, anything with “A Change Is Gonna Come” in it is automatically awesome. Check it out: 

Ghirardelli Pumpkin Spice Chocolates- I’m not the worlds biggest chocolate fan, and I generally think the whole “It’s fall, let’s make everything pumpkin flavored” fad is overblown (especially pumpkin beer… seriously, that needs to stop). But these were in my stocking, and they were phenomenal. Well played, chocolatiers.

That’s all for now, I’ll get back into this soon!

This Much I Know Is True

I’ve been in a quiet place since Friday morning.

While I spent time with friends this past weekend and was my usual gregarious self at work yesterday, I found myself thinking harder and speaking less, more sensitive to the both tragic and uplifting stories of the past few days. I thought longer and harder about the things I was saying, and often times chose to remain silent, worried that the words I had were insufficient for the complexity of emotion I felt. Deep-seated and difficult issues found their way to the forefront of my mind, multifaceted and nebulous things like the causes of violence, the difficulties of parenting, the difficulties of calm objectivity in a time of crisis, and the proper response to a simple question like “Why?” or “How?”. And so, I have been quiet. If you, the reader, will indulge me, I’m going to use this space to lay out my thoughts from the last few days. In a sense, it will be an operation in catharsis. My hope is that from this writing, perhaps someone reading who has been struggling with similar emotions will find solace or hope, or simple peace of mind.

When I was in high school, I began questioning my faith. Indeed, it is possible that I never really believed, but rather went through the various rites and rituals of the Episcopal church because it made me feel like I was part of something important; adults seemed to take it seriously, so I played along. In 2003, I was elected a youth delegate to the annual council of the Diocese of Atlanta. The church in which I was raised was a wonderful community of openness and happiness. Services were cheerful and joyous professions of faith, with a diverse, intelligent, and kind group of parishioners who were active citizens within and without the church community. I was genuinely excited to go to church on Sundays, to be a part of a community that celebrated life and each other so beautifully. It was a natural place for me to be, and, at least I think, I thrived in this place. Clearly some people in the church recognized the connection I had made with the church, because I received this honor of attending Diocesan Council. In that same year, the Episcopalians of New Hampshire elected Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as their bishop. It was a monumental, groundbreaking decision, and one that ignited conversation in some parishes, celebration in others, and panic in still more. As a delegate to the council, I saw some of the most intelligent, rational theological conversation to which I had ever been exposed. And I was also witness to something I had no experience with in my church: hate. And so my idea of “church” and what I believed was the role of church began to crumble. This crumbling continued as a grew older, as I became more and more aware of the close-mindedness of so-called “people of faith”. My worldview now is based in a sort of moral agnosticism. I still find comfort and peace in the parts of church I valued when I was younger; community, love, gratitude, generosity, contemplation, meditation, and service, among a litany of others. The faith communities that support these principles are beautiful examples of the potential of human spirit and sacrifice. But far too often, I find myself thinking that the imperative nature of belief, that one must accept wholly unbelieveable things as true, is far beyond my capacities.

So when I look at the wake of tragedies like the one in Connecticut on Friday, and I hear people frame the conversation in terms of Christian faith, I find myself uncomfortable. Even if all of the victims were Christian, why should solace and comfort and hope be for people of faith exclusively? And then I think of the wonderful attributes of “my” church. The love and comfort and generosity I value so much in that church is something in which all people of all walks of life can celebrate and participate. When the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta Robert Wright spoke on CNN this afternoon, the anchor asked him about people who do not believe in Christian dogma, what role they can play in service to the victims of tragedy. My answer to that is the most beautiful and graceful parts of a church community are just that: community. And while some people of faith may use this as an opportunity to advance their hate-filled agendas, most people will use it as an opportunity for thought, meditation, love, and selflessness. These are doors to the church that are open for all people. As humans we are broken and imperfect creatures, capable of horrible selfishness and greed. But we are also capable of breathtaking generosity and love. That potential is not native to one faith tradition or another. When it comes to comforting others and spreading love, we can all be ministers. This much I know is true.

* Credit for the title goes to the author Wally Lamb, who wrote a novel by the same name.

21 Reasons the World Won’t End on the 21st

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Too many people focus on harbingers of doom. Here are some signs that everything is perfectly normal and no one should panic.

1. Neither major professional sports team based in north Florida has a winning record.

2. George Clooney is still unmarried.

3. Nobody has found Jimmy Hoffa yet.

4. I’m still sick of hearing people talk about Notre Dame football.

5. We’re facing impending financial doom.

6. Grover Norquist is still saying absurd things.

7. Nathan Deal thinks we need more highways.

8. The Rolling Stones are still putting out albums.

9. I still don’t have a bachelor’s degree.

10. The Georgia Bulldogs are playing in the Capital One Bowl.

11. Bleacher Report is still using stupid slideshows for all their stories.

12. There’s an ongoing corruption investigation at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

13. There’s a new bar opening in Athens.

14. There still isn’t going to be a Ghostbusters III (probably).

15. “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” Nope.

16. Tim Tebow is still on an NFL roster, thus the hand of God has been stayed, but it’s the Jets, which proves that God has a wicked sense of humor.

17. Very few zombies.

18. It’s mid-December and I can wear shorts outside, just like always.

19. Suburban Atlanta’s residents still don’t want public transit.

20. I’ve got something on the 22nd at eleven, and I’ve already moved it twice.

21. Neil deGrasse Tyson says the world isn’t going to end.

Joe Recommends Week II

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I want to thank everyone who has stopped by over the past week. If you haven’t yet, check out my post from the other day about interning. For today, another edition of… Joe Recommends!

Wholesome Wave– Wholesome Wave is a great organization that tries to bridge the gap between local farmers and nearby low-income communities. One major thing they do is use their funds to boost the value of coupons and SNAP funding at local farmers markets, so that people who rely on those means to provide for their families can have access to good, local, fresh produce. This kind of work is something I’m very interested in, in case you missed it check out my post on my upcoming effort to take the SNAP Challenge. If you want to read more about Wholesome Wave, visit their website.

Jarvis Jones– Manti Te’o was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He won six other major college football awards, the most of any player ever. He wasn’t even the best linebacker in the country. In 12 games, Te’o had 5.5 tackles for loss, no forced fumbles, 1.5 sacks, and 103 total tackles. In 11 games, Jarvis Jones had 22.5 tackles for loss, 7 forced fumbles, 12.5 sacks, and 77 total tackles. It’s not even close. On top of that, Jones suffers from spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column. The doctors at USC refused to clear him to play, so he transferred to Georgia. If Te’o deserved to be on the Heisman stage, then so did Jones.

Why Me? Gluten Free– I don’t “get” gluten free. I don’t really know what gluten is, or what it does. I know that a lot of the stuff I like has gluten in it, so I haven’t quit eating it. I do know that a lot of people are trying to be gluten free, and if you are one of those people, you need to check out my friend Katy’s blog. She has a lot of insight into the gluten-free lifestyle, some cool recipes, and does a lot of fun things around Atlanta. She get’s the Joe Recommend’s Fetch Award of the Week.

Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes– What a badass.

Holding your child’s hand and teaching them to cross at a crosswalk– Nothing makes me more furious than watching a parent drag their child across a busy street in the middle of the street. If you want to take your life into your own hands, do it on your time. If you have a kid with you, walk the extra fifty feet to the street corner and wait for the light to change. It’s not going to kill you.

Sam Doores and the TumbleweedsLast week I wrote about Andrew Combs and his show at the Earl. The show was awesome, and I was lucky enough to see Sam Doores and the Tumbleweeds open up. These guys are outstanding songwriters and musicians, and really nice as well. Their sound reminds me of Packway Handle Band, but more to the country side than the bluegrass side. Here’s a great song of theirs.

Annapolis Blue by Olympic– Beano shared the story of the beautification of her and David’s dining room recently at Love Ya, Bean it, and spotlighted the paint color they used, Annapolis Blue. It’s awesome. Check out the pictures and the store here!

That’s all for this week. Keep an eye out over the next few days for more posts leading up to the SNAP Challenge, and a few other treats as well!

Oh SNAP!

Food Justice

After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to undertake what has come to be known as the SNAP Challenge. The SNAP Challenge has recently seen an increase in publicity due to the efforts of Newark, N.J. mayor Cory Booker, as well as other celebrities trying to raise awareness of food justice and nutrition issues in the United States. In it, participants voluntarily restrict themselves to the weekly budget determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. In simpler terms, you simulate living off food stamps for a week.

There are a few reasons I want to do this. From time to time I find myself losing perspective on the issues facing some of the people who live near me, folks for whom an extra few dollars really does make the difference between eating that day or not. Obviously, a week of eating for about four dollars a day wont accurately portray the long term mental and physical effects of a lack of adequate nutrition, but I hope it will help me understand to some extent what people go through. I’ve also been thinking a lot about how hard it is to eat healthily when you have little to no money for food. There are some organizations that are trying to change this, like Wholesome Wave’s efforts to double food stamp values at farmer’s markets. One reason I stopped being a vegetarian several years ago (in addition to the fact that I really, really like meat) was that it was very difficult on a strict budget. Finally, I think an important part of the Thanksgiving/Christmas/Holiday season is being thankful for the good things in life, and remembering those who struggle to make ends meet.

So here’s my plan:

For the next week I’m going to do a lot of reading. I’m going to do some background research on the history of the food stamp program, various efforts to provide healthy options for those receiving SNAP funding, and budgeting my week. I’ll be writing about some of this reading over the next few days. I’ll start the challenge on Monday, December 17th, and finish on Christmas Eve. Throughout that week, I’ll write about my experiences, post my meals for the day, and answer any questions folks might have. If you or anyone you know has already done this, I’d love to hear about that experience, and if you’re inclined, feel free to join me in this effort. Hopefully this Christmas, while I’m enjoying my family’s annual massive brunch, I’ll be doing it with a more open mind and thankful heart.

As The World Interns

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There are two Starbucks within a three block radius of my office. There are four within a mile. I know this because I looked at Google Maps.

The overwhelming impression most people have of interning is that of the haggard-looking twenty-something, balancing seven cups of coffee trying to cross a busy street, to get back to the office to spend six more hours in the copy room. Most interns could probably tell you where every coffee shop in a mile radius of their office is from memory, knowledge acquired during entire summers spent without doing anything resembling skilled labor, just so that they can put the company’s name on their résumé. Perhaps they get in with a big firm in New York or D.C., places where a intern’s stipend barely pays a month’s rent. Obviously every situation is different, and an internship can be a valuable real-world experience in college. But this stereotypical idea of interning does exist, and there is some question about how valuable that experience really is.

When I moved back to Atlanta from Athens in August of 2011, I didn’t have much in the way of plans. I knew that I was going to start classes at Southern Polytechnic State University, but little else. During my first semester at SPSU, two important things happened; I had an English composition class that reminded how much I loved to write, and I met someone who was a grant writer, a career I had never given much thought, but all of a sudden seemed like a perfect fit. These things stayed in the back of my mind through that first semester, while I quickly also realized that I hated my Construction Management classes, which was my major at the time. It’s interesting to think about the paths we take through our lives, how the seemingly insignificant or unrelated decisions have major future ramifications. If I hadn’t wanted to be a Construction Management major, I never would have gone to SPSU, and would not have had a class with a professor who encouraged my writing as much as Ms. Strauss, my comp professor. If I hadn’t moved to Athens, I never would have met Allison, and never would have met her co-worker, a charter school grant writer. And if I hadn’t gone to Camp Mikell, I never would have ended up at the Georgia Conservancy.

It is, by all accounts, fairly rare to get career-specific experience, at a job you care about, with people you like, all during college. My experience at the Georgia Conservancy has been representative of what an internship should be: good, relevant, real work that benefits the company or organization and provides practical experience in the intern’s desired field. In late 2011, I was introduced to the Conservancy by my friend Bryan, who I had met several years previously through various Camp Mikell parties. Over the course of a poker game at his house, I asked about the possibility of interning there, an idea that he supported. After a brief interview, I started in January of 2012. Over the last eleven months or so, I’ve gotten an incredible amount of experience in grant writing, member outreach, board relations, and non-profit development in general. This rare experience will be invaluable after I graduate, and it’s thanks to the progressive outlook on internships at the Georgia Conservancy. Almost the entire time I have been at the Conservancy, I’ve been an unpaid intern, but the experience I have will pay for itself in the future.

If you’re reading this and considering an internship, or work at an organization or company that provides internships, I hope this provides a little insight. For those seeking internships: don’t just take whatever is available. Ask questions at the interview. Find somewhere where you’ll be doing real work in the field in which you want to have a career. Don’t settle for a place that will just look good on a résumé. Look for an office with a good community, somewhere where you’ll be respected and the people get along. For those who may be providing internships: please, please, PLEASE give your interns real work. You’re doing them a disservice if you don’t, but you’re also wasting your own time. Internships should be valuable for the intern AND the employer. If you aren’t going to give them real work, don’t even have interns.

I had to use Google Maps to find the Starbucks. Every intern should have to do the same.

End-note: Thanks to Chris for the idea for this post! And congrats to her on her new job, you’re gonna rock!!!

Whoa…

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I did not expect that. Thank you to everyone who read my last post and for all the positive feedback. Y’all are fantastic. Special thanks to those of you who commented or re-posted, feedback and criticism are important parts of improvement. I’m still trying to get a hang of all this, so if I slip up and commit some blogger faux pas by not “following” or “tagging” you, please know it is unintentional and remind me. I’m going to try to do this on a regular basis from now on, hopefully I’ll keep posting things people want to read.

One of my favorite websites is McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a great collection of writing and humor that can occupy you for hours if you’re not careful. One great thing they do is a semi-regular feature called McSweeney’s Recommends. It’s just a list of things the editors really like, from music and movies to food and activities. I’m going to try to do something similar once a week, so here goes:

JOE RECOMMENDS

Andrew Combs- I caught this guy at the Earl a couple months ago when he was opening for Matt Hudgins and His Shit-Hot Country Band and Shovels and Rope. There were only a few people in the room and I felt bad for him, so I tried to pay attention. I was absolutely blown away. He somehow manages to capture a soulfulness and world-weary perspective way, way beyond his years. He’s just put out his first album, and it’s absolutely brilliant. If you get a chance, check out Andrew Combs at the Earl this Friday. Here’s a sample.

Georgia Organics’ Planting Guide- My mom has a garden in our backyard in which I’ve been doing a lot of work since I moved back home. We’ve been fairly successful (especially okra, field peas, cucumber, and bell pepper), but knowing the right time to plant can be tricky. Fortunately, Georgia Organics has a handy planting calendar that I’ve found invaluable. I printed it out and put it up on the wall and it keeps me super organized. If you’ve got the itch to garden check it out, and also the rest of the great work Georgia Organics does.

Etsy- I know, I know. “Joe! That’s where my significant-other-however-I-choose-to-define-them buys all these arts and farts and crafts things. It’s like Pinterest, but more expensive!” Well, yes. But it’s also where I got this, this, and these. So there.

Nuçi’s Space- Nuçi Phillips was an Athens, GA musician and UGA student who battled depression until he took his own life in 1996 at the age of 22. His mother created Nuçi’s Space in the hopes that other musicians would not suffer the way her son did. It is one of my favorite causes, one that hits close to home as a member of a family that has struggled with mental illness and lack of health insurance. The Wikipedia article for Nuçi’s Space sums up the mission well:

“Since opening its doors in 2000, Nuçi’s Space has become a popular practice space for many of the 450 Athens bands, hosting benefit concerts, music workshops and a variety of other artistic endeavors. Since the mission of Nuçi’s Space is to assist in the emotional, physical and professional well-being of musicians, services such as a volunteer physician twice a month to see walk-in uninsured musicians, low-cost eye exams and glassses and low-cost professional ear plugs are provided, in addition to low-cost professional counseling. Nuçi’s Space has been instrumental in helping local bands obtain free legal advice for contract issues, copyright law and publishing rights. A “survivors of suicide” support group meets monthly, drawing people from surrounding counties. A summer day camp gives kids the chance to develop their musical skills.”

Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity When I worked at UGA, one of the things I did to keep my brain from rotting while sitting in a parking deck booth is read as many books as I could get my hands on. I was introduced to the writing of David Foster Wallace and he rapidly became my favorite author (still true). While known mainly for his fiction and creative non-fiction, many people don’t know that in college he majored in mathematics, specifically modal logic. One of Wallace’s lesser known books is Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity, a book in which he writes about calculus and the nature of infinity, and does so with the unique and engaging writing style for which he was known. It is an absolutely wonderful book.

Rolling Rock- This beer is wildly underrated. Not heavy, and different from your standard American beer. Also there’s the mysterious number 33 on the bottle.

Love Ya, Bean It- Read this blog. Bean writes about her life and life in general with style and grace. She gets it, y’all. Very fetch.

Timberland Field Boots- These are the best damn shoes I’ve ever owned. I’ve had them for several years and they’re great for working, hiking, bar-hopping, and puddle-jumping. Make the investment, it’s worthwhile.

Nate Silver- Nate Silver is widely known now as the New York Times brilliant political statistician and forecaster who told the world what was going to happen this past November in, like, March. I was first introduced to him, however, when I learned about PECOTA, a baseball player performance forecasting tool that he developed in the early 2000’s. He is also behind ESPN.com’s Soccer Power Index rankings, a far more useful tool for comparing international soccer teams than FIFA’s very political World Rankings.

Confident compassion- I’ve been thinking lately about the amount of courage it takes to care about something or someone. Having compassion necessarily opens one up to pain, and doing so on a regular basis takes serious guts. When I see people have the confidence to give selflessly without fear of what may happen, my own spirit is lifted and my will is emboldened. Believe in yourself, so that you may believe in others.

Georgia Conservancy- Shameless plug warning. In January, thanks to my friend Bryan, I started interning at the Georgia Conservancy, a statewide environmental non-profit. Since that time, I have been fortunate enough to find what I feel is my career calling. The work the Conservancy does is crucial and the people with whom I work are fun, passionate, intelligent advocates for our state’s natural resources. I am truly fortunate to be able to work for such a wonderful organization. Check out the work were are doing here.

That’s all for now, hope you found something new to enjoy.

I’m a 20-something GUY and this is my life.

So a friend of mine has been writing (quite well) over at her blog about all sorts of interesting things, and it’s inspired me to spend some time here after a nine month hiatus. One thing Beano has done at Love Ya, Bean It is feature a couple of our good friend’s stories of their lives in their mid-twenties. These are some cool folks, and their pieces led me to think about my life after high school and the (roundabout) journey I have taken to where I am now; a twenty-six year old college sophomore living out some goals and trying to reach the rest.

Since I’ve turned twenty-one, when I became a “twenty-something”, I’ve learned some things that I, at least at this point, think are true. These are they:

1) You learn some things about life really quickly when you’re not in school and you make minimum wage. Some of these things are funny, like how creamed corn and ramen noodle casserole tastes (spoiler alert: it’s awful), and some of these things are not, like how quickly your wages can get garnished when a landlord takes you to court. It sucks at the time, but it opens your eyes to both the things you prioritize and the struggles of people who don’t have family and friends who will give you a hand.

2) My parents are my best friends. I never had as bad a relationship with my folks as some of my friends did when I was younger, but I was very wrapped up in myself and ignored some important things, like family. What I have come to realize (especially since I moved back in with them last August) is that I have at least two people in my life who more than anything else want me to be happy and do well. Its a simple thing, but sometimes you need to be reminded of simple things.

3) Getting paid and spending all your money in bars in one weekend is super fun. What isn’t fun is walking to work for two weeks because you can’t put any gas in your car. If you plan on seeing the girl in the bar you’ve been buying drinks for again, you’re going to want to be able to fill up your tank.

4) School is important. When I left Berry College after one semester in 2004, I thought I would be fine. For a while I was, but it really took moving to Athens and working in the UGA parking deck to make me realize that the way I imagined my life would be in ten, twenty, fifty years wasn’t possible working there forever. Something I have struggled with is trying to skip from step one to step sixty four without the middle parts. Sometimes they seem stupid, but the process is important.

Writing this has been very cathartic. Self-examination is hard, and doing so when you’re in a time of transition like I am can be even harder. I  hope this sheds some light on how the twenty-something Y-chromosome-rs live.

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