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Happy Birthday Free Refills & Why I Love America!

Birthday Cake CupcakeFree Refills & Why I Love America turned one year old today! The first post, besides the welcome message, was about the wonders of ice.

Over the last year there have been 256 posts–a paltry 10 percent of which are part of the “What Makes America Great” or “What Makes Europe Stink” lists. I’ll work more on those lists this year.

In the meantime, I’d like to say THANK YOU to everyone who regularly reads the site, sends in suggestions, shares articles on facebook / twitter or posts comments. I really appreciate your interest, feedback and comments (unless they are exceedingly angry comments, in which case I just delete them).

I would also like to say THANK YOU to the handful of people who donated to the site. You are my favorite readers!

I should probably also thank New York Times reporter Matt Richtel. After all, my posts responding to his ongoing (and increasingly bizarre) crusade against distracted driving are responsible for about 30 percent of this site’s total traffic.

After a year, if you’re wondering about the story behind this blog, check out the expanded “About” section.

And if you have a hankering to give the blog a birthday present, then share your favorite post on facebook /twitter or, if you’re feeling particularly generous, hit up the “Buy me a beer” icon in the right sidebar.

Thanks again!

Welcome Wyoming!

FE Warren Airforce Base

Earlier this month I lamented the fact that no one from Wyoming had ever Free Refills & Why I Love America. I must admit I was a little hurt by this, particularly considering this blog has had visitors from pretty much everywhere else in the world. In response to this slight, I decided to proclaimed Wyoming my least-favorite state.

Someone must have heard my complaints, as earlier this week this blog got its first visitor from The Equality State.

Google tells me the solitary visitor came from an IP address at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base is SE Wyoming.

A little searching on Wikipedia reveals that this particular base is home to the 90th Missile Wing. I suppose I am happy that whomever visited the site didn’t stay very long as they likely had more important things to pay attention to, like the numerous Minutemen ICBMs under their control.

My least-favorite state

Over the last 6 months (since I installed Google Analytics), Free Refills & Why I Love America has had thousands of visitors from nearly every corner of the globe. Hits came from 6 continents, 75 countries and 49 states. Virtually every nation and state that is home to a McDonald’s sent visitors to this blog, save one: Wyoming.

I know Wyoming is the smallest state and all, but still I have to admit I am a little offended. Sure I was always a little suspicious of The Equality State. After all, it is full of people who don’t seem to mind calling Dick Cheney their neighbor.  But really, there is no one in Wyoming sitting around googling “cell phone bans” or “Big-Gulp sizes” or any of the other key words that frequently bring visitors to this site?

Since Wyoming apparently has no love for this blog or the things that make America Great, I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to have anything positive to say about Wyoming (not that I ever have in the first place, but…). From now on it will be my least-favorite state.

A Free Refills & Why I Love America theme song?

I’ve never heard of a blog that had a theme song, but I suppose that is not a good reason to not have one.

Anyway, this landed in my inbox nearly a year ago but somehow slipped my mind until now. If there was ever a song that summed up the important differences between the US and Europe, this is it (hint: it has to do with Twinkies and irregular showering).

Here are the lyrics to “Over There” by Jonathan Coulton. If you like the song, you can find it on his Smoking Monkey album. And if anyone has a clue as to what he is talking about in the fifth verse, please share in the comments!

Take a boat, take a plane
Go to London, go to Spain
Take a train from Amsterdam to Monaco
Take a loved one if you think
They enjoy things that stink
Cause everything is different over there

When you’re in Belgium you can eat
A lot of mayonnaise with your frites
And no one will say hey that’s too much mayonnaise
Enjoy a German sausage hall
Eat an Italian meatball
But I hope you don’t want a Twinkie
Because they don’t have Hostess Twinkies over there

Over there you’ll never feel at ease
Cause there’s not much soap and there’s too much cheese
And everyone wears clogs and rides on trains
Over there they’ll make you regret that you ever
Saved their asses in World War II
Don’t make me go over there

Cause I enjoy my freedom here
And I enjoy light-colored beer
I like to take showers
And I like to brush my teeth every day
Twice a day

They say that there’s a place in France
Where the naked ladies dance
You can find it if you ask around
And there’s a hole there in the wall
Where the men can see it all
The men don’t care
Because they chew their underwear
And the underwear they chew costs a dollar ninety-two
Men go around with their ding dongs hanging down

Over there you’ll never feel at ease
Cause there’s not much soap and there’s too much cheese
And everyone wears clogs and rides on trains
Over there they’ll make you regret that you ever
Saved their asses in World War II
Don’t make me go over there
No don’t make me go over there
Don’t make me go over there

What do you think, should it be the official Free Refills & Why I Love America theme song?

(Hat tip: Dan H)

These two maps look shockingly similar

Reader-mapI was looking over my blog readership stats on my Google Analytics account earlier today when I noticed that the global distribution of hits to my website over last quarter looked shockingly familiar. It took me a moment to realize why the map looked so familiar.

Then it came to me: the heavy concentration of readers in the United States, followed by Western Europe and the generally even sprinkling of readers across the rest of the globe (save for most of Africa, Central Asia, Burma and the crappy parts of Latin America) bears a striking resemblance to the map of global McDonald’s locations.

McDonalds-map-small

The only glaring difference is that the McDonald’s map shows the fast food giant as having outlets in Iceland. But McDonald’s is closing its three Icelandic outlets, so I don’t feel too bad about the lack of interest in this blog from what was once one of the world’s most prosperous countries.

I like to think that the close correlation between the two maps means that visitors are coming to this blog from places where the seed of Americanism—in the form of a McDonald’s restaurant—has taken root. But more likely than not it just has to do with rudimentary levels of development and internet access.

Housekeeping

Free Refills & Why I Love America has broken free of the shackles of WordPress.com and moved to its own hosting.

The new hosting will allow a better blog, complete with a redesign (in progress) and more interactive features.

Hopefully everything will be up and running in the next few days. In the mean time, please forgive any site outages or hiccups.

Thanks!

Free Refills is moving to the Big Apple

U-Haul w/ Arizona plateThe Midwest is where America can be found at its finest.

The cars and trucks are big, the houses bigger. Every township and country road is lined with drive-thrus and big-box stores. It gets just hot enough to require the liberal use of air conditioning every summer. All-you-can-eat buffets are only slightly less ubiquitous than free refills and never-ending cups of coffee. And no one would waste the energy to walk somewhere when they could just as easily drive.

In short, the Midwest has it all–except for jobs. But that is another story.

After having lived in Michigan my whole life, I’ve decided to see what some other parts our great country have to offer. So next week I will be mothballing my car and moving to Manhattan.

Posting will continue to be light for a week or so, but will pick up dramatically after the move is complete.

Free Refills is also in the process of a redesign.

Check back next week for more.

Posting Updates

This weekend I will be traveling to NYC so posting could be slighly irregular.

I will, however, use the occasion to expand this site a bit. I want to include a bit more location-specific travel commentary. Expect things along the lines of last week’s post on Travel Tips for Europe, only a little more specific.

New layout

I spent some time today changing around the layout of the site. The changes are:

  • Switched to a 3-column layout
  • Created a new header that incorporates the site name into the image
  • Added an ongoing list of the things that make America great, Europe suck, ect. so you don’t have to click on the pages at the top.

If you have any thoughts on the new layout, I would love to hear them.

Thanks to all our regular readers out there.

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