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April 2, 2013

14 Fast Food Products I Wish I Could Get At A Real Restaurant

If you read my content with any sort of regularity, you’re aware that I’m an unabashed lover of fast food. I get mad at other people for getting mad at me for eating it. I take pictures of most of my meals so that others may see. I make sure to eat at McDonald’s when I travel overseas. I try every new item that comes out at Taco Bell, and then I get sad and wistful when they go away.

While I enjoy eating fast food immensely, I’m aware that it’s not exactly the most healthy habit. Choose a health metric — calories, sodium, saturated fat — and it’s terrible for both your figure and your inner organs. On top of this, the quality of the individual ingredients is not as high as it would be at nicer restaurants. I don’t mean this as a complaint, but it is objectively true–you can’t expect to pay $1 for a double cheeseburger or $10 for a large pizza with no tradeoff.

While I have no proof, I believe that when all nutrition label numbers are equal, food made from lower quality ingredients is cumulatively worse for our bodies. This may be completely misguided, but I’m almost certain that it’s the case, and have shifted my greasy food consumption habits accordingly in recent years.

Unfortunately, “real” restaurants aren’t always as creative as fast food establishments. Some are, and they should be applauded, but I’ve never seen anything like Pizza Hut’s ‘crazy cheesy crust’ pizza anywhere else and I’ve never found a Mexican restaurant that has something like Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme. The culinary culture can do more, and we need to demand it of them.

Here are 14 fast food items — some of which have been discontinued — that I wish I could order at real restaurants. If there’s anything you feel like I overlooked, please link to it in the comments.

1. Pizza Hut’s Crazy Cheesy Crust Pizza – the crust is stuffed with a combination of asiago, romano, fontina, provolone, and mozzarella cheese. Why is the pizza shaped like a crown? Because it’s fit for a king.

2. Jack in the Box’s Bacon Milkshake – People are putting bacon on and in everything nowadays. We are in a brave new world. It feels pretty nice to live in such an advanced society. As my friend Craig always says, everything that tastes good tastes good together.

Continue reading 14 Fast Food Products I Wish…


March 29, 2013

So Jell-O S’More Pudding Exists Now…

I was at the grocery store yesterday and stopped short when I saw Jell-O S’more pudding.

It called out to me like a siren. There were so many possibilities. S’more pop tarts revolutionized the processed breakfast pastry game forever. Nothing before or after has even come close. (Pre-emptive strike: take your brown sugar cinnamon pop tart argument somewhere else–they’re great, but they’re a distant second.)

Could Jell-O S’more pudding also have a game-changing effect?

Unfortunately, the groundbreaking potential was not realized. It was difficult to stir inside the small cup, turning my desire for even texture/flavor distribution into a frustrating endeavor. The marshmallow section was thick and gooey, almost entirely overpowering the chocolate pudding section.

Allegedly, there is graham cracker flavoring embedded in the marshmallows, but I didn’t taste it. To make sure I wasn’t missing it the first time, I ate a second container and had the same experience. Graham crackers are a crucial element of the s’more, the base that holds everything together. They deserve to be better-represented.

This made me a sad panda.

If I were in charge of the universe, the marshmallow layer would have the same consistency as the chocolate pudding on the bottom and there would be a generous layer of graham cracker crumbs in the middle.


March 27, 2013

World Wide Wednesday

Deep Routes

For GQ, Iraq veteran Matt Ufford recalls his role in the initial invasion:

War going to plan, though, suggests that there’s some neatness and order to tearing a landscape apart and leaving a trail of death and MRE garbage in your wake. I may not have been deployed for 12 months, but I was in combat long enough to kill innocent civilians; in my case, “long enough” was two days. I slept 10 hours over the course of a week. I gestured apologetically to a farmer as my tank’s treads destroyed his spring planting. My friend, a fellow platoon commander, lost one of his tanks during a nonstop road march; we made jokes comparing it to The Beast, a largely forgotten 1988 film in which a Russian T-55 tank crew gets separated from its company—until we learned that the M1A1 drove off a bridge over the Euphrates in the middle of the night, killing all four crewmen. I cursed the boredom while dreading the action. I pointed my pistol at a cab driver who had the temerity to gesture angrily at my tank for obstructing the road to Basra. One of my best friends got shot in the head. I saw bodies strewn in the streets, and my brain processed them as props of war instead of newly dead people with hobbies and passions and newly devastated loved ones. The oil fires turned spring skies gray. I crossed a partially blown-up bridge that the engineers couldn’t promise would hold a 68-ton tank, and when it did, I ended up in a minefield shooting at T-72 tanks, and calling off artillery that was so close I could feel the concussive heat on my face. I prepared to lose Marines to snipers in a prolonged siege of Baghdad. I went a month without showering. I accepted my own death. I saw beautiful women in the Christian neighborhoods of the capital. I smoked tar-laden Iraqi cigarettes that made me long for nicotine manufactured in America. I parked at the magnificent blue Martyrs Monument at sunset, and smoked a cigarette while the fading light turned the pavement an ethereal roseate hue, awash in joy at the cheers that had met our arrival in Baghdad—at the amazing and profound lack of death that greeted us. That beauty is mine forever, even if it’s gone.

In The New Republic, Judith Shulevitz enters the stay-at-home mom discussion:

When [Betty] Friedan was writing The Feminine Mystique, the 40-hour-a-week office job was still a norm, even for executives—a norm well on its way to changing, but a norm nonetheless. Today, whether you’re male or female, if you’re taking home an upper-middle-class salary you’re expected to work an average of 50 hours, and probably more, a lot of it after you’ve gone home. As of 1997, the average workweek for a man with graduate education was 50 hours, and for a women 47—that three-hour difference can be accounted for, of course, by all the women who went on mommy tracks. Among American dual-career couples, in the 1990s, 15.2 percent of those with at least college degrees worked a joint 100 hours a week or more, whereas only 9.6 of couples without diplomas did that. Try to imagine what that 100-hour workweek looked like to a child: that’s five 10-hour days, plus commutes, for both parents. And those are just averages—for people at the top of their fields, the numbers were a great deal bigger.

Continue reading World Wide Wednesday


March 22, 2013

These AT&T Commercials With The Dumb Kids Grind My Gears

March Madness is happening right now, and that’s almost entirely a good thing. Basketball’s on all day. It’s still cold in Chicago, but the sun is shining, birds are chirping, and there are signs that the weather will improve in the coming days. It’s the end of that six-week stretch between the Super Bowl and now, the most miserable time of the year.

There are really only two bad elements of March Madness:

1) If you put any legitimate thought and analysis into filling out your bracket, it’s a fact of science that it will be busted by Sunday. Whatever. It happens.

2) Certain commercials will rub you the wrong way. You will see them 742 times over the course of four days. They will consume your entire existence.

For me, this year’s title belongs to the “It’s Not Complicated” AT&T commercials. This series has been going on for a couple months and I hated it right away. I’m honestly not even sure if this is the one they’re showing on repeat during the tournament. But if it’s not, it doesn’t really matter because they’re essentially all the same:

What really bothers me is the idea that we should be on AT&T because these stupid kids say so confidently. Have you ever spent time around kids? They’re self-assured and WRONG all the time. Immediately, the little girl starts talking about the importance of being fast to avoid being bitten by a werewolf. Such faulty logic. Everybody knows speed won’t save you in a werewolf revolution. You’re not getting out of there just by outrunning everyone. There’s physicality involved. Who do you think is more likely to survive a werewolf takeover, Usain Bolt or The Rock? Definitely The Rock. Now, The Rock’s not exactly slow, but he’s not one of the fastest people in the world either. Somewhere in this rant, a metaphor for cell phone plan exists.

What do a bunch of dumb kids know about picking the best mobile service plan? Have they scouted other companies’ rates? Will their insatiable desire to stream Max and Ruby MURDER their parents in data overage charges? What about a family sharing plan? Does AT&T really have the best service in their locale? If so, none of them are growing up anywhere that I’ve ever lived.

We all know that children are stupid. That’s why they have parents that micromanage every second of their lives. If not, they’d kill themselves and/or each other. If permitted, they’d eat candy and ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. They’d never go to school and they’d spend every waking second playing video games. They’d never shower or change their clothes and would end up with rashes from head to toe.

Forgive me if I don’t trust a bunch of dumb kids to properly pick the right cell phone plan.


March 1, 2013

Here’s the Best Food I Ate in Israel

Jerusalem

Beef schwarma at Moshiko (this is the very end of what was a MASSIVE — 1.5x bigger than a Chipotle burrito — pita)

Tiberias

While the rest of the trip split off between two tourist traps, a group of four of us ventured to a Lebanese restaurant. Google leads me to believe it’s called Ktsy Hanahal, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it. We got the meat sampler platter. The pies in the corners are beef and lamb while the empanadas (they told us what they were called in Lebanon, but I forget) and Kubbeh (the stuff that looks like corn dogs on the outside) were both stuffed with beef.

Tel Aviv

Eggs Benedict w/ ham and bacon at Benedict

Continue reading Here’s the Best Food I Ate…


February 26, 2013

Thoughts and Pictures from an Incredible Israel Taglit Birthright Trip

12 days before she was scheduled to leave on Birthright, my cousin Adrianne posted on Facebook that, at the last minute, there was an open spot on her trip. “Well, it’s cold and miserable here in Chicago and the weather in Israel is much nicer,” I thought. “I should do this.”

In retrospect, I wish that I had more legitimate motivation to go on the trip — the education, the spiritual fulfillment, the dozens of close friendships that I expect to last the rest of my life — but I would be lying if I claimed that were the case.

I emailed the necessary people and filled out all the paperwork. Five days later, I had confirmation for what would end up being one of the most wonderful trips of my life.

***

To quickly summarize: Birthright is a free trip to Israel for Americans of Jewish descent. It’s sponsored by the State of Israel and contributions (both direct and indirect) from American donors. This one was paid for in part by the Jewish Federation of Washington DC. Practicing the religion is not necessary to qualify for the trip. From what I observed, the underlying purposes for the program are as follows (perhaps but not necessarily in order):

1) Create Jewish couples

2) Cultivate American support for the Israeli military (much more on this later)

3) Educate participants on the history of Israeli land, politics, and military conflict (the three are inextricably intertwined)

4) Engender a deliberate sense of Jewish community

Our trip consisted of 38 Americans aged 22-27 (almost all of whom are from the Washington DC area), seven current or recent Israeli soldiers, three trip leaders (two DC Jewish community leaders and one Israeli guide), and a medic/security guard/guitar savant with long flowing hair and a dry sense of humor. We toured around Israel in a charter bus for 11 days, seeing an unfathomable amount of terrain and historical monuments. We got very little sleep.

The group dynamic was astoundingly positive. I don’t really think I can adequately describe our chemistry without a) being personally invasive, and b) boring everybody that isn’t one of us, but I would compare the trip to being at sleepaway camp for two weeks with all your best friends. With drinking. There are countless inside jokes that will make us laugh for years during large reunions and smaller meet-ups.

Of course smaller cliques would form with that many people, but these were not factions–there weren’t any haters.

In a more universal sense, here’s what stood out to me the most–if I missed something particularly important, please write it up in the comments.

The Western Wall

Like much of what we saw in Israel, words and pictures cannot do Western Wall justice. But I’ll try.

I’m pretty emphatically unreligious. Going to temple is one of my least favorite things to do. I sit there and squirm, count the ceiling tiles (there are 216 wood panels in the sanctuary I grew up attending), and wish I were anywhere else. But when I approached the Western Wall, I felt this incredible surge of power — like G-d must feel, when He goes there to pray. When you stand at the wall and look up, there’s no top–it appears to go on for perpetuity, as if you could scale it all the way to heaven. It’s majestic.

In real life, the place that I feel most spiritual is Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. Each time I make the pilgrimage and walk up through the gates and into the stadium, I feel a full-body rush when I look up and see the glowing field surrounded by a sea of green and gold in the stands. There is so much history. Vince Lombardi coached there. You’re aware. Commemorations of his NFL titles are conspicuous and many of his players adorn the ring of honor.

Lambeau Field is 55 years old. The Western Wall was built over 2,000 years ago.

Continue reading Thoughts and Pictures from an Incredible…


February 6, 2013

World Wide Wednesday

On Grantland, Chuck Klosterman profiles Royce White, the Houston Rockets rookie who has had a very public battle with mental illness this season:

Part of what makes White so baffling (and, to his detractors, so infuriating) is the degree to which he seems totally normal. He concedes this is part of the problem, perception-wise; he says he’s thought about his condition so much that he can now control it, most of the time. But that control makes it difficult for him to illustrate how he’s different from any normal person who tends to get more nervous than necessary. For instance, it’s not that White cannot bear to step on an airplane; he’s taken dozens and dozens of flights throughout his short career, including one to Italy to play an exhibition for Iowa State. He just deeply hates the experience of flying (and says that he’s racked with anxiety for several hours before takeoff, which is worse than the flight itself). White also hates driving and constantly scans the road for “threats,” but that doesn’t mean he can’t drive (in the Real Sports segment, we see him calmly operating a vehicle with only one hand on the wheel). When I speak with him at the Cheesecake Factory, he seems more composed than many other celebrities and athletes I’ve interviewed in the past. But this, he insists, proves nothing except the complexity of his dilemma. “Everything is tied to my mental illness,” he tells me. “It’s like when you have arthritis: Even when you’re not hurting, you’re worried about when you will hurt next. It’s always related.”

In The New Republic, Judith Shulevitz talks about how older parenthood will upend society:

We have been conditioned to think of reproductive age as a female-only concern, but it isn’t. For decades, neonatologists have known about birth defects linked to older fathers: dwarfism, Apert syndrome (a bone disorder that may result in an elongated head), Marfan syndrome (a disorder of the connective tissue that results in weirdly tall, skinny bodies), and cleft palates. But the associations between parental age and birth defects were largely speculative until this year, when researchers in Iceland, using radically more powerful ways of looking at genomes, established that men pass on more de novo—that is, non-inherited and spontaneously occurring—genetic mutations to their children as they get older. In the scientists’ study, published inNature, they concluded that the number of genetic mutations that can be acquired from a father increases by two every year of his life, and doubles every 16, so that a 36-year-old man is twice as likely as a 20-year-old to bequeath de novo mutations to his children.

The Nature study ended by saying that the greater number of older dads could help to explain the 78 percent rise in autism cases over the past decade. Researchers have suspected links between autism and parental age for years. One much-cited study from 2006 argued that the risk of bearing an autistic child jumps from six in 10,000 before a man reaches 30 to 32 in 10,000 when he’s 40—a more than fivefold increase. When he reaches 50, it goes up to 52 in 10,000. It should be noted that there are many skeptics when it comes to explaining the increase of autism; one school of thought holds that it’s the result of more doctors making diagnoses, better equipment and information for the doctors to make them with, and a vocal parent lobby that encourages them. But it increasingly looks as if autism cases have risen more than overdiagnosis can account for and that parental age, particularly paternal age, has something to do with that fact.

Continue reading World Wide Wednesday


January 30, 2013

World Wide Wednesday

Deep Routes

At Adweek, Charlie Warzel conducts an oral history on Deadspin:

Excerpt from Leitch’s original pitch to Denton: “The Internet and sports are made for each other. But what has really been missing has been a strong, askew voice from outside the circle jerk of buffet-addled sportswriters interviewing naked athletes. Independent sports blogs are everywhere, but they don’t have any passion. They’re mostly just stat nerds. Sports needs a Wonkette, essentially.”

Leitch: Lock was sold enough that they thought they should do a sports site, but they didn’t want me—they wanted a name. I know a friend of mine was asked and turned it down because he thought ESPN was a safer bet and better money. Lockhart sent me an email that said, “Bad news. Nobody wants to do this. But the good news is, it’s your site now.” I was told I’d have six months to try and make it work, and I thought, that’s fine. I had been answering phones at a doctor’s office only a year and a half before.

Nick Denton, founder and publisher, Gawker Media: I don’t remember ever wanting Will to do another kind of site, but I think I had some hesitation over the breadth of coverage required. I wasn’t really clear that there were sports fans per se—rather, that there were fans of particular sports and particular teams. So I wasn’t sure it was a homogenous enough topic to support a broad site.

In Huffington Post, Ryan Grim and Ryan J. Reilly put together an extremely comprehensive piece on the Obama Administration’s hostile treatment of the medical marijuana industry:

The Justice Department may respond to the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado in several ways. One option would be to go after low-level marijuana users as scapegoats and seek a court ruling that would declare federal law trumps state law. One of the more extreme options, which officials acknowledge is currently being weighed by the department’s Civil Division, would be to preempt the laws by suing the states in the same way the feds sued Arizona over its harsh immigration law. Federal authorities could sue Washington and Colorado on the basis that any effort to regulate marijuana would violate the federal Controlled Substances Act.

“The question is whether you want to pick that fight,” a former Justice official said.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson met with Holder on Tuesday, but the U.S. attorney general declined to say whether the Justice Department would fight Washington’s new marijuana law. Inslee said the state will move forward implementing the law.

Continue reading World Wide Wednesday


January 23, 2013

World Wide Wednesday

Deep Routes

In Esquire, Tom Junod writes on the excruciating nature of NFL injuries:

“Fans basically know nothing,” Ryan Clark says when asked to talk about his experience of injury. “They know what they see on the field and that’s about it. They don’t know the work, the rehab, the getting out of bed on Monday morning. A lot of injuries are the ones that don’t get reported, the ones that don’t take you off the field. People always ask me, ‘Are you feeling good?’ No. You never feel good. Once the season starts, you never feel good. But it becomes your way of life. It becomes the norm. It’s different from a guy going to work at a bank. If he felt like I did, he wouldn’t get out of bed. He’d call in.”

“Our perspective is our own pain,” says the veteran who keeps the pain journal, who we’ll call PJ from now on. “What other perspective do we have? We’ve been beaten down since we were kids that you’re never too injured to play. And so when normal people — people who are not associated with football — ask ‘How do you feel?’ for many years it was hard for me to answer that question. It was hard for me to say exactly how I feel, because it would show a sign of weakness or softness. And at the professional level, you better not say how you feel, or the next man will get your job.”

On SB Nation, Kings fan Tom Ziller pens an open letter to the Maloofs:

Dear Joe, Gavin and George Maloof,

How do you sleep at night?

I know the stock retort from the rich and heartless is “on a big pile of money,” but HAHAHAHAHAHA c’mon guys, let’s try to be serious for a minute. You don’t have any money. You’re broke, and pillows made of dimes and nickels just aren’t comfortable. That’s why it’s come down to this: you can’t afford to keep the Sacramento Kings. You’ve run through all the other sources of liquid wealth, and now it’s time to flip the NBA team you said you’d never sell so that y’all can pay for yourvarioushabits. You’re terrible at making and keeping money. You make Antoine Walker look like Warren Buffett.

Y’all have always said that you’d never sell the Kings. Yet here we are. Y’all have continuously rejected claims that you’ve gone broke. Yet here we are. Y’all screamed down anyone who dare express consternation that relocation is your plans. Yet here we are. In a few months, if all goes according to your nefarious plans, you’ll have sold the Kings, and they’ll have been relocated to Seattle. And you’ll still be broke, because you are who you are. Your wealth management skills don’t exactly inspire confidence, y’know?

Continue reading World Wide Wednesday


January 16, 2013

World Wide Wednesday

Deep Route

For those of you not from the northeast, Mike and the Mad Dog influenced the current landscape of sports talk radio and debate television more than anybody else. For SB Nation, which has recently begun publishing great longform, Joe DePaolo profiles Mike Francesa:

For 15 minutes Francesa fields queries while making an alarmingly small amount of eye contact – that is to say, almost none. His eyes are fixed on CNBC. The Dow is down at this point, although a mild afternoon rally will allow it to close up slightly for the day. Though this information might be highly pertinent as it relates to Francesa’s portfolio, it is not the reason he is focused so intently on the television at this moment. Francesa is sizing up his inquisitor. It’s his feeling out process. This man does not suffer fools. You must prove yourself worthy of his time and attention, hardly a simple task.

Mike Francesa is a difficult man to satisfy. Though he’s a product of the Vietnam era (he was never drafted but chronic knee problems likely would have excused him from service), he conducts himself like one who came of age during World War II. Behind a tough exterior he holds many of the Greatest Generation’s core values dear. Smiles are few and far between.

Until you prove yourself, you get long, meandering answers. The man often repeats himself – a habit, one would assume, attributable to the fact that he must fill five-and-a-half hours of airtime daily. He doesn’t trust you to talk. Why should he? You simply aren’t as good at it as he is. So he’ll do it himself, thank you.

“I don’t lack confidence. I admit that. I know I’m good at this. If I don’t think I’m good at this, why would anyone else think I’m good at it?”

I got published on Outkick The Coverage, writing about attending a wedding during a Packers playoff game:

While the groom twice told me that he’d understand if I skipped his wedding, this was never really an option. Even I know that you can’t miss your close friends’ weddings. There are few things more scarce and sacred than Packers playoff games, but some (though perhaps not all) weddings qualify. This particular one was between two of my best friends from college. They have been together for over seven years and are unconditionally devoted to each other’s unconditional happiness. Their relationship is one of those rare ones where each individual’s close friends and family feel equally connected to the spouse. They have a bond for which we should all aspire.

[...]

Now, perhaps the game would have turned out differently if only I were able to focus on it. I’m sure this sounds really stupid to anyone who doesn’t feel the same way about their teams. But, those of us who do have already made an utterly irrational leap of faith. Why on Earth should we care if a group of players who we don’t know and will likely only meet for brief 30-second pockets when we line up to buy their autographs rises and falls in a specific set of laundry? Once we’ve come to terms with this madness and continue to go at it recklessly, the idea that our actions impact the games is not so farfetched.

[...]

I have a lucky outfit that I only break out for big games. It involves a cheesehead hat and a sewn Clay Matthews jersey and I swear to Aaron Rodgers that it’s undefeated. (I retired the cheesehead after the 2011 Super Bowl run but brought it back for select games this season after the pain and anguish of last year’s Giants loss.) I know that this IS crazy, but once again it’s really not that much crazier than being a crazed sports fan in the first place.

Let’s assume for a second that my lack of focus and proper outfit did adversely affect the outcome of the game. (I know, I know, but we’ve been over this already.) Even if that were the case, I’d do it again. No regrets. This wedding was more spiritually fulfilling for me than even a Packers playoff victory would have been. Consequently, I am struggling to think of a scenario where I would have been more comfortable with a Packers playoff loss.

Quick Reads

- Gorilla sales skyrocket after latest gorilla attack [The Onion]

-  ”A gun kept in the home was 43 times more likely to be involved in the death of a member of the household than to be used in self-defense” [NPR]

- Is this the most insane NRA ad ever? [Vanity Fair]

- 25 drunkest cities in America [Daily Beast]

Continue reading World Wide Wednesday


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