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Link Roundup

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.

Link Roundup [Meat eater edition]

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Photo: Eating The Road

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: New York City may be famous for its extensive regulations and labyrinthine licensing processes covering just about every aspect of business. But that doesn’t mean New York lets a little bureaucracy get in the way of Christmas. According to the Times, in the 19th century the city passed a special provision that allows for anyone to sell Christmas trees on any public sidewalk in the city—no permits or licenses required!

VEGITARIAN MECCA STARTS SERVING MEAT: Red Bamboo has long been a popular restaurant with New York’s vegetarian and vegan crowd. It was particularly known for its imitation meat dishes—like soy fried chicken—which it charged steakhouse prices for. But it turns out that people who forsake the most delicious parts of human culinary expression don’t actually make the best restaurant customers. So Red Bamboo is going to rebrand itself—and start serving meat.

SPEAKING OF MEAT: The folks over at Eating The Road have the latest installment of their “Will They Build It?” series up. In it, they convince some poor McDonald’s clerk to custom-build them a “Big-McSausage-egg-surf-turf-Mac.” It’s got beef, pork, egg, chicken and fish, all under one bun for a mere $7.71. God Bless America!

Link Round-up: [You know it’s bad when you’re worse than Italy edition]

Naples is beautiful this time of year

Naples is beautiful this time of year

WHO NEEDS COPHENHAGEN; BIG BUSINESS WILL SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT: Though it’s fashionable for the granola types to disparage Big Business, real Americans understand that faceless multi-national companies are one of the things that make America Great. How else would we spread the institutions of free refills and to-go coffee around the globe without the help of Starbucks and McDonald’s?

Now it turns out that Big Business might just be the key to saving the environment as well. At least that is according to an Op-Ed in the Sunday New York Times from renowned archeologist Jarred Diamond which argues that great American companies like Walmart and Coca-Cola are doing wonders to fight climate change and promote sustainability.

Thanks Big Business!

IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, PROFIT FROM THEM: There is nothing the health crowd hates more than delicious soda (pop, where I’m from). They want to ban it from schools and even tax it. But Coca-Cola, the great American company that brought us Santa Claus, isn’t giving up without a fight. It plans to try and lure back calorie conscious consumers with new, lower calorie cans of Coca-Cola classic. The new lower calorie cans, which are debuting in New York City next week, have the same ingredients as the good stuff; there is just less of it. Hopefully they charge the same price for them as the normal cans.

FALLING BEHIND A HEAP OF RUINS: For Americans, the United Kingdom is kind of like a crazy old relative. We admire their past accomplishments, but their perpetual decline is a little hard to watch. This week came word that the sun has finally set on good old Britannia. The United Kingdom, which back in the day was a real bad-ass and controlled about 1/3 of the world, now has a smaller economy than Italy. As you’ll recall, Italy is the so-called “Developed Western Nation” that can’t even manage to pick up the garbage in one of its major cities.

Sad, just sad.

Your favorite posts from November

This month saw a surge in search-engine traffic. If you’re a new reader, welcome. I hope you enjoy the site! And if you’ve been reading for a while, THANK YOU and please consider commenting. I love comments—even the combative ones.

That being said, here were your most-read posts from November:

The graph the New York Times doesn’t want you to see (2nd 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.

#10. Super Big Gulp (3rd 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.

MINUTEMEN UPDATE: Senate considering Coke tax (3rd month on the list!) People are concerned about taxing soda. After all, who wants to pay 32 cents more for a Big Gulp?

McDonald’s in America [progress] (2nd month on list!) A map of just how ubiquitous McDonald’s has become. Isn’t it beautiful?

Should we ban cell phones in cars? No. A no nonsense post full of facts and graphs about the relationship between cell phones and car crashes.

#20. Camel Crush Cigarettes [American innovation] (2nd month on list!) I’m not a smoker and I support smoking bans because they keep my dry-cleaning bill down. But that being said, Camel Crush Cigarettes are amazing and proof that American innovation is alive and well.

Thanksgiving is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. Here is how to beat it. In honor of America’s Greatest Holiday, here is a post about an excellent strategy guide devoted to navigating life’s all-you-can-eat buffet situations.

Is it time to ban carpooling? You know what is more dangerous than talking on the cell phone while driving? Being in a car full of screaming children. Perhaps it’s time we look at banning carpooling.

There is something dirty about Toronto [besides the Canadians who live there] I’ll admit, I’ve never lied Toronto. It is cold, desolate and totally lacking any charm whatsoever. Also, its mass transit system sucks. That being said, I was only too happy to repost alarming reports about Toronto’s tainted water system.

#19. KFC’s “Double Down Sandwich” There is only one thing to say after learning of a bacon, cheddar sandwich that uses two pieces of fried chicken as the bun: God Bless America!

Check out last month’s list as well.

British OK with Government surveillance drones, not Google Street View

PredatorThis probably should have been posted under the “Smug superiority link-roundup” I posed a few hours back, but I just saw it now so it gets its own post.

BIG BROTHER TAKES TO THE AIR: The British are already the most watched people in the world, but it seems that CCTV cams in every doorway, subway and intersection are not enough to keep the UK safe. New plans released by the government call for a fleet of predator-style drones that will conduct surveillance from the air. Big Brother’s new air force is all fine and dandy by the British, just as long as that damn Google Street View car doesn’t come down the street.

Link Round-up: [Smug superiority edition]

Switzerland: Say Yes!NO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR YOU: We tend to think of the Swiss as rich, progressive, chocolate-eating pacifists. But it turns out that all is not warm and fuzzy in the land of secret bank accounts. Last week, the Swiss passed a constitutional amendment banning the construction of Minarets. An analysis of election results over at FiveThirtyEight found that the ban wasn’t born out of equal opportunity distaste for new religious structures, but from an old fashioned prejudice against Muslims.

BRITISH CIVILITY STOPS AT THE SUBWAY DOOR: We already knew that the London Underground is a hot, un-air-conditioned hell-hole. But a new study out suggests that the World’s oldest subway system is so uncomfortable that it’s turning the normally civil British into brutish animals. Pregnant women looking for seats are out of luck.

GROPING TRAINS: New York tabloids might think the 600 cases of sexual harassment in the subway last year is some kind of epidemic (The NYC subway has some 5.8 million riders per-day). But at least the MTA is trying to head off the problem through public awareness campaigns. In Tokyo, authorities have been forced to essentially admit defeat in the face of a groping epidemic and install women-only subway cars.

Your favorite posts from October

This post is a little late this month because the first few days of November were quite hectic. I spent most of my time trying to get Mayor Michael Bloomberg—the guy who put credit-card machines in cabs and banned smoking in restaurants—re-elected.

But I’m back. And here are the top ten most-read posts of October:

The graph the New York Times doesn’t want you to see “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.

Forget the soda tax, it’s time for a salad tax! The food police want to tax your Big Gulp and take away your Double Down sandwich. But it turns out salads might be a bigger health risk. Why not tax them?

Is texting while driving dangerous? This piece looks at the numbers to see if texting-while-driving has led to a spike in car crashes. The answer is no, but look at my nifty graph.

#10. Super Big Gulp (2nd 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.

#20. Camel Crush Cigarettes [American innovation] I’m not a smoker and I support smoking bans because they keep my dry-cleaning bill down. But that being said, Camel Crush Cigarettes are amazing and proof that American innovation is alive and well.

MINUTEMEN UPDATE: Senate considering Coke tax (2nd month on the list!) People are concerned about taxing soda. After all, who wants to pay 32 cents more for a Big Gulp?

McDonald’s in America [progress] A map of just how ubiquitous McDonald’s has become. Isn’t it beautiful?

Is a “Coke Tax” a threat to Free Refills? (2nd month on the list!) A 1 cent per-ounce tax on soda would drastically change the economics of free refills. Might it spell the end of the most American of institutions?

What makes Europe Stink €2. Nescafé Instant Coffee (2nd month on the list!) Europeans are the biggest food snobs in the world. But they have a dirty little secret, they LOVE instant coffee. That’s why Starbucks developed VIA.

Making the world safe for free refills and decent coffee If you thought the map of McDonald’s in America was impressive, check out this one of Starbucks and McDonald’s locations across the globe. Looks like it is safe to go anywhere, save for most of Africa—and Iceland.

Check out last month’s list as well.

Your favorite posts from September

September was a big month for Free Refills & Why I Love America.  I switched hosting, redesigned the site and more people visited and commented than ever before.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you continue to visit.

With that, here are the ten most popular posts from September:

Is it time to ban carpooling? At the beginning of the month the campaign against cell phone-wielding drivers was just heating up. But it turns out that driving with passengers is just as dangerous.

MINUTEMEN UPDATE: Senate considering Coke tax I wrote this post several months ago, but it got a lot of hits this month after the New York Times wrote a story on the efforts to tax soda and coke.

Fighting back against credit card minimums A guide on what to do when a shop keeper tries to break the rules and charge you a minimum purchase amount to use a credit card.

Is a “Coke Tax” a threat to Free Refills? Some of the soda tax proposals floating around would levy taxes on fountain drinks as well as cans and bottles. Would this mean the end of Free Refills?

About There were a lot of new visitors this month and apparently they enjoyed clicking on the about page. This inspired me to re-write it to explain the true story behind Free Refills & Why I Love America.

Deep-fried butter. That is all This is fairly self-explanatory.

What makes Europe Stink €2. Nescafé Instant Coffee The real reason Starbucks developed a new instant coffee is to boost its sales in Europe.

#10. Super Big Gulp Few things are as uniquely America as the Super Big Gulp

Why Europe Sucks €3. Cheek kissing It’s not cultural. Old European men are just pervs.

#17. Five-dollar large pizzas What better evidence that Capitalism works than the $5 large pizza?

Link roundup—“Free Refills at Starbucks*” edition

Starbucks Prepaid CardLast week New York Governor Paterson signed a bill banning texting while driving. If a cop catches you typing out a message on your keypad or doing other “dangerous” activities like using an iPod, it will cost you $150. I guess we can call this victory for the latest round of New York Times fear-mongering. —(via Gothamist)

Just when you thought culinary achievement had reached its zenith when KFC rolled out the Double Down Sandwich, the American food scientists have developed a new mind-blowing product: caffeinated beef jerky. Perky Jerky, as it is called, will pack an impressive 150 milligrams of caffeine into every 2 oz bag. Why sip your espresso when you can chew on jerky? –(via Consumerist)

It is not quite as consumer friendly as a free refills policy should be, but the folks at Starbucks have finally entered the civilized world of the bottomless coffee cup. They are now offering free refills on brewed or iced coffee along with two free hours of internet access. The catch is that you need to pay for your coffee with a registered Starbucks card to qualify. At least it’s a start!

Link Roundup—“That’s 1228 calories of delicious” edition

kfc-doubledown8The food industry blog Foodservice-Friends.com takes a close look at the cost of providing free refills in a restaurant. The article has a lot of industry-speak, but the long and short of it is that offering free refills adds about 12 cents to the cost of serving a 20oz soft drink, bringing the total cost to about 32 cents. That means Mc Donald’s is clearing at least 68 cents on each medium coke sold. I’ll take the supersized one, please.

Bryan Caplan at the blog EconLog gives his take on why Americans tend to overrate Europe after traveling there (and why Europeans underrate America). It boils down to the suburbs where most people live. Americans never see European suburbs, which are godforsaken hell holes, and Europeans never see American suburbs, with their ample parking, big cars and Costco outlets.

News of KFC’s new Double Down Sandwich is moving fast—at least faster than you will be moving after you eat the bacon and cheddar sandwich with two deep-fried chicken breasts as the bun. The Vancouver Sun did an analysis and found that the Double Down Sandwich packs a hefty 1228 calorie punch. “[that] compares closely to the fat, salt and calorie totals of three McDonalds Big Macs put together.” Unfortunately you can only get it in Nebraska and Rhode Island as of now.

Previous topics mentioned in this post:

#13. Costco

#16. Cheap gas

#19. KFC’s Double Down Sandwich


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