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December 31st, 2009:

Your favorite posts from December

THANK YOU for making December the best month ever for Free Refills & Why I Love America. Here are the top posts for the last month:

The graph the New York Times doesn’t want you to see (3rd month on list!) “Safety experts” and paternalistic editorial pages around the country are pushing to ban cell phones in cars. But there is one question none of them can answer: if cell phones are so dangerous, why are the roads safer than ever?

Judging by the tremendous number of Google hits this post is getting, I think Americans are looking for similar answers.

Should we ban cell phones in cars? No. (2nd month on list!) A no nonsense post full of facts and graphs about the relationship between cell phones and car crashes.

#24. Breakfast Cereal Sugary breakfast cereal is God’s gift to America. It means that we don’t have to eat a horrible “continental breakfast” every morning. For that, we should be truly thankful.

#10. Super Big Gulp (4th month on the list!) There are some things that perfectly encapsulate the American spirit, and the Big Gulp is one of them. This post continues to get a constant stream of search-engine traffic.

#1. Ice There is something about the refreshing taste of an ice cold coke that you just can’t find in Europe… because they don’t serve ice. Who would have thought these little frozen cubes could make me love America so much.

Which fast food should I eat? [important questions] America has scores of Fast Food chains that blanket our great nation from coast to coast. They are all excellent, so sometimes it can be hard to figure out which one to go to. Fortunately, the folks over at Eating The Road developed this handy flow-chart to help.

Starbucks’ colonization of NYC [map] Speaking of chains, here is a handy map that shows the steady colonization of NYC by Starbucks over the last decade. I like to think of it as the taste of gentrification.

Making the world safe for free refills and decent coffee It’s not just New York that needs to be made safe for chain restaurants. We need to spread the gospel across the globe as well. Here is a handy map to see the progress we’re making.

General Mills is making cereal less yummy [tragedy] Just because something is a great American institution doesn’t mean it is safe from those who wish to attack the American way of life. Unfortunately news came this month that General Mills is going to deflavorize many of its cereals by lowering the sugar content drastically. This is a reminder that progress isn’t assured.

#2. Drive-Thrus This month lots of my earliest posts received a ton of traffic—this included the second post I wrote on the beauty that is the American Drive-Thru.

Check out last month’s list as well.

There is a reason we have building codes in America

The Naughties might have been the decade of the Great Rise of China. After all, they’ve built whole cities from scratch, flying trains and all kinds of crazy things. But perhaps the Teens will be the decade that New China comes crashing down due to shoddy workmanship and lax regulations—kind of like this apartment building in Shanghai did yesterday.

In the weekend’s bizarrest news, a nearly finished, newly constructed building in Shanghai toppled over, killing one worker. As can be seen in the photo below, the 13-story apartment building collapsed with just enough room to escape what would have been a far more destructive domino effect involving other structures in the 11-building complex.

A building at the Lotus Riverside complex in Shanghai’s Minhang district collapsed, nearly intact, on Saturday morning (Imaginechina via AP Images)

The development, known as “Lotus Riverside,” has a total of 629 units, 489 of which have already been sold. Now buyers are clamoring to get their money back, and authorities are making efforts to reassure them. The assets of the project’s developer, Shanghai Meidu Property Development Co., have been frozen and the city officials said the developer’s ability to repay homebuyers was secure, according to a statement on the municipal government’s Web site (in Chinese). A hotline has been set up for Lotus Riverside buyers, and by Sunday afternoon, more than half of them had met with a group of lawyers and officials organized to help them negotiate with the developer, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, the cause of the accident is under investigation and nine unidentified people from the developer, contractor and management company have been detained.

A representative of Shanghai Meidu could not be reached for comment.

The disaster could reveal some uncomfortable facts about lax construction practices in China, where buildings are put up in a hurry by largely unskilled migrant workers, and developers may be tempted to take shortcuts.

[The Wall Street Journal via Queens Crapper]

Maybe the tick to building a 13-story building is using foundation posts that are more substantial than those found on the typical American backyard deck–just a thought.

God Bless building codes and God Bless America!

Free Refills Roundup [The Land of the Free edition]

Only in America can a drink this big be considered a medium (30 ounces/900 milliliters)Free Refills are part of the American spirit and we tend to talk about them a lot–-particularly on Twitter. So once I week I post the best of the “Free Refills” chatter from the web. The third edition of the Free Refills Roundup features people longing to be back in the Land of Free Refills.

If u keep a McDonalds cup can u get free refills 4ever? @lenci812

My heart is a little broken because today is my last day to use my kum & go more free refills @bwtucker

Free wifi at mcdonalds… why did I pay $15 a day for this?! I love mcdonalds. Mmm coffee. Soda refills. @alliterating

recommends signing up for Starbucks Rewards if you got a gift card for Christmas.. you get free coffee refills & wifi. @kansasbob

Would you spend all day at a fast food restaurant to see how long it takes before you have to pay for your ‘free’ refills? @dmcromance

Free refills on coffee = happiness @eddysteddy

happy to be back in the land of the free … refills @charityk

The war on XMAS

Norman Rockwell knew the holiday was all about consumerism

President Obama has come under a lot of fire over the past week over the fact that he did not bother to go to Church on December 25. The typical loud-mouths on the right say this is yet more evidence that the President doesn’t buy into real American values and is probably some kind of Muslim sleeper agent.

I’m not sure about the Muslim-sleeper-agent part, but I do know that any criticism that the President was somehow undermining the holiday is hogwash. After all, when you put aside all of the parties and family obligations and travel nightmares and other distractions, the meaning of XMAS boils down to one thing: consumerism.

It is the time of year when we, as Americans, go out and buy each other gifts as a way of saying “I love you” to our family, friends and corporate America. It is a holiday that inspires amazing marketing creativity and clearance sales and an urgency to spend that helps business balance sheets creep into the black.  It is a wonderful, all-American tradition and the happiest time of the year for many families.

But unfortunately that tradition is under attack by organizations that want to hijack the holiday for their own interests. Powerful groups— like the Religious Right—say that we should eschew gift-giving and spend the XMAS season donating our money to charities and praying in churches.

For many years these groups have been successful at rebranding XMAS as “Christmas” and making us all feel a little guilty about our unbridled consumerism.

But this year the President took a stand. By not attending church on December 25th, he said that he wasn’t going to cave into pressure from religious groups and instead celebrated XMAS in the all-American fashion: by feasting and exchanging presents.

Thank you President Obama for putting the “X” back in “XMAS.”

Ads that sell products and restore faith [commercials]

With all of the bad economic news these days it’s easy to lose faith in the American economy and start questioning our system. I find myself doing it sometimes. But just when I’m about ready to give up and start waving a red flag, I invariably see some ad on TV that not only convinces me to buy the product it is touting but also renews my faith in American Capitalism itself. Such is the skill of Madison Ave.

Here are a few ads that always leave me feeling warm and fuzzy (and wanting a Coke). Enjoy!

(RSS subscribers may need to click though to see the videos).

NASDAQ Visionaries

Coca-Cola & WalMart

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