Friday Five – Fast Food Failures


With the United States (and on a larger scale, the world) becoming a faster moving entity, the fast food industry has seen an exponential growth. This explosion has come both in terms of the total number of food locations that are open, as well as in the variety of locations open. While there are quality fast food places in existence, what most people more commonly associate with fast food is an eating experience that is subpar at best (if not awful).

For this week’s Friday Five, we’ll take a look at the five worst fast food places you can find in the USA. As a note, I’ve only listed places I’ve personally eaten at in either this list or the honorable mention at the bottom. White Castle’s reputation precedes itself to the point where I’ll never willingly eat there. Think of it as a lifetime achievement award.

5. Quiznos (Global, though mostly US and Canada)

Image credit wikimedia.org

Quizno’s biggest competitor may be Subway, however no one could actually confuse the two in terms of taste and presentation. While Subway actually has some semblance of healthy items on its menu, most Quizno’s items have more grease rolling off of them than a large pepperoni pizza. The only thing that keeps Quizno’s from being higher on this list is the presence of their hot pepper bar at most locations, which is one of the nicer touches at any fast food location.

4. Del Taco (Western U.S., as well as Detroit)

Image credit foodbeast.com

If you think Taco Bell has the market cornered on below-average Mexican food with better marketing than taste, you’ve obviously never been to a Del Taco. The chain is huge in the desert southwest, most noticeably for running its frequent $.29 taco special. Needless to say, you get what you pay for.

3. Whataburger (southern U.S., primarily Texas)

Image credit commercialappeal.com

I’ll give Whataburger credit, running their breakfast menu from 11pm-11am is a phenomenal business model. The trouble is, none of their food is good enough to serve for any amount of time. While their burgers are giant, they’re typically tasteless and dry.

2. Dunkin Donuts (Global)

Image credit grubgrade.com

What do you get when you combine bad coffee with overpriced donuts, tons of hype, and poor customer service? Your average Dunkin’ Donuts. The diaspora of people from the Northeastern US allows Dunkin’ to flourish outside of its traditional home, however if you want better coffee, I’d recommend Tim Hortons (or Starbucks…or Caribou…or your local gas station…or most work coffee pots).

1. Hardees (Global and Eastern US) /Carl’s Jr. (Global and Western US)

Image credit elmenus.com

So for those unaware, Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. is basically Arby’s, only instead of your food actually tasting good before your get explosive diarrhea, it tastes like you’re eating a yoga mat. The worst part is that even their marketing department can’t find a way to make the food look appetizing. I spent twenty minutes on this page trying to find a picture that made Hardee’s food look good. If that’s not a sign of low-quality fast food, I don’t know what is.

Honorable Mention: In-N-Out Burger, Denny’s (which isn’t fast food persay, but it sure is awful), Jimmy John’s, El Pollo Loco, Sbarro.

300


Blah, blah, blah, madness, Sparta, dining in hell.

Now that all of the obvious jokes are out-of-the-way (with the possible exception of confusing Gerard Butler and Jean Girard), today’s post marks the 300th post I’ve written for this site. As I’ve mentioned before, the post count includes items I ported over from the old blog, however a large majority of the posts on this blog are new content that I specifically wrote for this site. It’s at milestone posts like these that I feel somewhat self-congratulatory.

That’s right, Gerard Butler! Show these people how I celebrate! Image credit sportsprovocateur.wordpress.com

I got to thinking about what it means to have blogging longevity. First and foremost, it means that you’ve typed a lot of words. This may mean you have a lot on your mind, or it may mean that you’re merely saying the same thing over and over again with your sentences in a different order. Either way, it’s a lot of words. More realistically though, once you’re to 300 posts written, you’ve started to build a brand as a blogger. People begin to expect a certain type of content from you in terms of your style, your frequency of posting, your opinions, even your responsiveness to comments.

If you want a good example of blogging brand, take a look at Break the Sky. While the content changes post to post, you know the quality of post you expect to receive when you go to read there. Yes, some posts are vlogs rather than true blog posts, however the same effort goes into those posts as well. Additionally, the site’s look and feel is consistent and easy to navigate — an important task when it comes to blogging — all while using advertising without being in your face about it.

Of course the second result on a GIS for In Your Face Ads is Ron Burgundy. Why wouldn’t it be? Image credit: adweek.com

Blog look and feel consistency has been my biggest struggle since I started blogging (on this blog or otherwise). For example, since this blog’s inception in September of 2012, it has had seven different themes, including the new one that went up recently in anticipation of this post.

Why so many? Frankly, before now I haven’t really had any desire to have direction as to my blog’s brand. That changed though when I managed to win ad space as part of my run to the semifinals of 20SB’s Bootleg Awards. I had to make an ad. What did I want the image of my blog to be? What is my brand? What is my identity?

Existential crises aside, I put some pretty lengthy thought into deciding what I want my blog — and by extension, my writing brand — to look like. I’ve already been formulating my content and developing the brand that way for some time now. I like to think of my writing as both personable and intelligent, witty yet provocative. While I might not succeed in that writing goal with every single post, I feel as though more often than not I do alright for myself.

What I wanted for my blog is a theme that’s clean and modern looking, with a very strong focus on the content I write daily. I also would have a preference for the theme to be dark, however it’s not a requirement. At this point in life, I’m not in a position to be paying for a custom blog theme, so that was out of the question. I’m still looking for a theme that’s to my liking, and I’ll be trying out a few over the next couple of weeks to see what I end up liking.

Additionally, I’ve joined WordPress’ Blogging 201: Branding, Traffic, and Growth challenge for the month of April. The challenge actually started yesterday, though I’ll be starting up my contributions toward the project on Friday. This will likely mean you’ll be seeing a few posts that are a bit different from my normal posts, however hopefully it’ll help in my quest to brand my blog better.

Likewise, I realize many of you have followed by blog updates on my personal Twitter account up to this point. As much as I feel like that was a good decision at one point in time, if I really want my blog to take off and reach my 30 for 30 goal of 100,000 visitors before I turn 30, I figured I’d be best to have a dedicated Twitter account for the blog. You can now follow this site on Twitter @SSandSBlog.

Finally, I turn this post over to you, the reader. How do you market your blog? Does your blog have a brand? Sound off in the comments.

33 Word Love Story #5


The inspiration for the following story came from this post. (Private blog, though one of the best blogs I’ve ever read…linking to the post in case the author decides to go public one day in the future)

Why do writers, artists, musicians, and nobles the world over
Still attempt to put the grace and beauty of love into words
When the actions of humanity are all the words it needs?

Plating Means Nothing: Chicken And Dumplings


This post is part of the Plating Means Nothing series, where I share recipes that are delicious, independent of what they look like on your plate. If you realize that real meals don’t look like what they show on Food Network, you’ve found a wonderful place.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve talked about the fact that there were three really common meals I had growing up courtesy of my dad. All of them became somewhat of a comfort food as I grew older, though as I teen, I semi-sarcastically referred to them as the Land, Sea, and Air trio.

Land – Beef and Noodles
Air – Chicken and Dumplings
Sea – Biscuits with Tuna Gravy

That leaves this post with covering the chicken and dumplings recipe. Doing so means two things. First and foremost, we have the return of Satan’s canisters in a recipe.

They’re baaaaaaaaaaacccckkkk. Image courtesy littlebirdiesecrets.blogspot.com

Secondly, and probably more importantly for purposes of this post, I chose to make my chicken and dumplings slow cooker recipe for a potluck at work. While this was a wonderful idea in theory, it made for two changes to the recipe itself. First, I precooked the chicken prior to placing it into the slow cooker. I’ve kept this part in the instructions below, if for no other reason than the chicken was amazing even before it went into the slow cooker. The other fact that came out of this process was the fact that I got no pictures. Being too busy at work prevented me from spending much more than a couple of seconds here and there with the crockpot.

Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients

1.5-2.5 lbs boneless chicken breast meat
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon savory
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup
1 (1 oz) package powdered chicken gravy
5.5 cups water (separated into 2 cups and 3.5 cups)
1 (5 piece) can of biscuits

Preparation

1. Bring 2 cups of water, garlic salt, savory, black pepper, and dill weed to a slow boil in a saucepan. Once the water reaches boiling, add chicken breast meat. Reduce heat and cover. Let boil for 20-30 minutes, marking certain that the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Remove chicken from heat and drain. Cut chicken into small pieces (approximately 1/2 inch cubes).

3. Set slow cooker to High setting. Add butter and chicken chunks to crockpot. Let cook for 15-20 minutes, or until chicken starts to brown slightly.

4. Add remaining water, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, and gravy mix to slow cooker. Mix well. Cover and let cook for 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

5. Open biscuit dough and cut biscuits in half, creating 10 half-sized biscuits. Place biscuit dough on top of soup mixture. Recover crockpot and cook for 30-45 minutes. Serve hot.

Dish Thoughts

One of the advantages and disadvantages to cooking at work is that there are times when you can’t get a good picture of your finished product. While often this is because you don’t have the time to devote to careful cooking watch like you would at home, I also learned that this can be because people are quick. I sat my chicken and dumplings out and walked downstairs to get bowls/spoons for the potluck, only to come back up and see three people already had some on their plates. On the bright side, at least that means it was good.

Item #15 – White Noise


If you had asked me six months ago to make a list of the five most annoying television shows you could put on TV for me to watch, it would have been Arrested Development, Parenthood, Seinfeld, The Office, and Say Yes To The Dress in some order. Each show had its own reason as to why it annoyed the hell out of me, and four of the five shows still do. That said, in an admission that I’m sure will be much to the delight of both the fiancee as well as The Guitarfather, one of those shows has come off of the list.

While it’s not my favorite show, I’ve come to learn to tolerate The Office. Unlike the other shows on the list in the first paragraph, The Office was the only one I even chuckled at before recently, so perhaps it was the most likely to end up in this place all along. That said, part of why I didn’t enjoy it before was due to the combination of my intense hatred for how annoying Mindy Kaling’s character is, and my disappointment that the show was the least funny thing Steve Carrell has been involved in.

What ended up selling me on it was two things. First and foremost, Creed is of great amusement to me. While he’s a very minor character in the show itself, his interactions with most people are completely ridiculous in an office setting. That said, everyone has someone (or multiple someones) in their family like Creed. He’s relatable and amusing, which I greatly appreciated. Second was the eternal war between Jim and Dwight. Their shenanigans had provided me the few chuckles I had before, however this scene is what sold it for me. Apologies for the horrid video quality, however this was the only video on YouTube of the part I wanted.

Yes, Mindy Kaling’s character is still insufferable. And yes, Steve Carrell was still better on The Daily Show. That said, I can now watch The Office without wanting to impale myself. And that means there’s one more item off of my 30 for 30 list.

It’s Alright To Bleed


I’m a realist, not an optimist. It’s because of this that I’m going to try to be an inspirational blogger for just one post.

Kind of like this, only with words. Image credit markjuleen.com

When I was a kid, my parents were both very hesitant of the thought of me playing sports. For my mom, her thought process was that if I played any sport that had the threat of contact, there was a 50% chance I’d die during a game. In my dad’s mind, he was okay with me playing sports, however he realized that sports meant there was a fairly good chance I was going to get hurt at some point during the year.

Since I lived with my dad, I got the opportunity to play sports.  And of course, since I got the opportunity to play sports, I got hurt. I’ve broken bones, torn ligaments, sprained joints, as well as other injuries I’m sure I’m forgetting. I’ve busted myself open and bled more times in my life than I can count, both on the sports field and off. Pain is rarely a pleasant experience, however it’s fact of life.

Despite the fact that I knew there was a possibility that I might get injured (and considering how brittle I was at times), I had no fear of playing sports. I loved the excitement of competition and wasn’t about to let the thought that I might bring physical harm to myself get in the way of doing something that I enjoy. If anything, I knew that there was a really good chance that I was going to get hurt at some point during the sports season.

Pick a part of the knee. I’ve likely hurt it. Image credit: theknee.com

I’m not the only person to bleed. If you’re reading these words, you’ve bled too. While that may be a pretty obvious statement in a literal sense, if you think about it in a metaphorical sense, it’s just as clear. Would you stay out of the game just because there’s a chance you’ll get hurt? I wouldn’t. If you’re of the same mindset, why would you avoid an opportunity in life just because the situation could open an emotional wound and make you bleed?

You’re going to get hurt in life. If someone tries to tell you otherwise, that person is cancerous to your humanity and is actually hurting you by trying to fool you into thinking nothing will go wrong. Not everything works out for the best. Sorry. You know what, though? It’s okay.

It’s okay to be sad.

It’s okay to hurt.

It’s okay to not feel like everything is alright.

It’s okay to feel nothing at all.

It’s okay to be who you are…to be in pain…to be afraid…to be remorseful…to hurt like you’ve never hurt before. It’s okay to be all of those things. It’s okay to be human.

Image credit: tumblr.com

If your hurt makes you feel like you need help, seek that help out. My point here is not to discourage anyone from finding the help that they need when they need it. That said, I will reiterate again that no matter what the overly optimistic in the world say, it’s not a realistic expectation to assume that all will be well. For that matter, if it weren’t for the pain in the world, what would make happiness as wonderful as it is?

Take solace in the fact that you’re not the only one that hurts. No matter what level of pain you’re going through, there’s someone in the world who has gone through a very similar situation to what you have. In the end, we’re all going to die. While it’s not happy, it’s the truth. The least we can do is help each other out in helping one another cope with our pain — to heal the bloody wounds in our emotions — while we do our best to survive along the way.

Wrestlemania 30 Predictions


Wrestlemania 30 is live on Sunday night at 7pm Eastern (6pm for the preshow). Just as I did last year, I’ll be taking a post to analyze each of the announced matches, discussing a best and worst case scenario for each match, my prediction for the result, as well as what would make each match steal the show.

Champions heading into the match denoted with a (c).

The Usos (c) vs. The Real Americans vs. Ryback and Curtis Axel vs. Los Matadores for the WWE Tag Team Championship

Image credit: wrestlersbioa.weebly.com

Best Case Scenario – The WWE drops its convoluted way of handling four-way tag team matches where only two teams can be in the ring at the time. This turns into an actual fatal four-way style match. An alternate best case scenario would be Ryback/Axel being replaced by 3MB.

Wost Case Scenario – Ryback is allowed to speak before the match.

How It Could Steal The Show – Cesaro giant swings El Torito so fast that he builds up enough speed to throw him into the crowd.

Prediction – Los Matadores are a comedy tag team, and Ryback/Axel are only slightly more popular than herpes. The Real Americans are the only real challengers to The Usos here, however I don’t see a belt change coming until early summer. The Usos retain via pinfall (Jey Uso pins Ryback [Superkick]).

Kane and the New Age Outlaws vs. The Shield

Image credit: rantsports.com

Best Case Scenario – Road Dogg and Kane can still put together a serviceable match in the ring, plus anything the Shield touches is at minimum at 3-star match. There’s very few ways I could see this match being anything but good.

Wost Case Scenario – Billy Gunn squashes Ambrose/Rollins in less than 30 seconds.

How It Could Steal The Show – Honestly, these guys won’t have to try too hard to make this a sneaky good match. Rollins and Ambrose will make it look like Kane is still the toughest monster in existence, while Reigns will Hulk up to save his beaten down comrades. Simple formula here.

Prediction - A lot of people are calling for the Shield to breakup during this match, but I don’t see it quite yet. They definitely won’t be a team by Summerslam, however tonight will be their night to shine. The Shield wins via pinfall (Reigns pins Gunn [Spear]).

Divas Championship Invitational (AJ Lee current champion)

Image credit: onlineworldofwrestling.com

Best Case Scenario – Everyone not named AJ Lee and Natalya is eliminated less than five minutes in. Alternatively, Paige debuting as the 15th entrant of the match and winning would also work.

Wost Case Scenario – Anything that involves more screen time for Eva Marie, Aksana, Layla, Cameron, or Naomi

How It Could Steal The Show – Beyond a horrific injury to one of the performers or a nip slip? Odds of this match being the best of the night are infinitesimally small.

Prediction – AJ Lee has held the Divas Championship for almost a year now. If she’s going to lose the belt before that year mark (June), it’s at Wrestlemania. Her former bodyguard, Tamina Snuka, taking the belt makes sense, however considering Snuka’s father’s real-life trouble, and the WWE’s propensity to make women’s wrestling a joke, we get a ridiculous result. Alicia Fox wins via pinfall and becomes the new Divas Champion (Snuka takes out AJ Lee [clothesline] after AJ pins her).

Andre the Giant Memorial 30-Man Battle Royal

Image credit: rebloggy.com

Best Case Scenario – Even though this isn’t the Rumble, this match gets treated like a Royal Rumble match, only with 30-45 seconds between entrants. 30 men in the ring to start out makes for a boring match until things are cleared out.

Wost Case Scenario – Hulk Hogan enters himself into the match and wins.

How It Could Steal The Show – Beyond a return from a big name that people actually like (Chris Jericho? CM Punk? John Morrison?), I’d think that the only way this steals the show is Dolph Ziggler wins and immediately starts throwing beads into the crowd.

Prediction – For whatever asinine reason, this match will likely be given very little time. Yet, it’ll serve its purpose: to get a crowd reaction and give a mini-push to a good guy. Sheamus wins via over the top rope elimination (last eliminating Titus O’Neil).

John Cena vs. Bray Wyatt

Image credit: foodista.com

Best Case Scenario – This match furthers character development in both Cena and Wyatt. For the first time in as long as I can remember, someone other than Rock/HHH/Orton/Punk looks like they can beat Cena. That counts Daniel Bryan last year. Wyatt has been booked very well heading into this match, and could still come out looking like a monster even in defeat.

Wost Case Scenario – Shoulder blocks! Shoulder blocks everywhere!

How It Could Steal The Show – This match will either be the best/second best match on the card or will be one of the worst. There is no in between. For both Wyatt and Cena, if they have chemistry with someone, they can tell a damn good story in the ring. If the chemistry is lacking, it gets ugly fast.

Prediction – There’s no way Cena loses this match. He’s not turning after it either. That said, I do see this match being the start of a final run for Cena before he takes some time off. Cena wins via pinfall [punch from chain-covered fist].

The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar

Image credit: bleacherreport.com

Best Case Scenario – Paul Heyman continues to pronounce Lesnar’s first name as Baaaa-raaaack, managing to get the President to come out and stand in Lesnar’s corner.

Wost Case Scenario – Lesnar wins. Or speaks. Or both. Or worse — Taker wrestles like he looks, which is to say very old.

How It Could Steal The Show – For the love of God, Taker put on a 4.5 star match with Triple H. You doubt him now?

Prediction – Since this isn’t a double retirement match with Kane, I get the feeling Taker and the WWE are going to try to stretch the streak to 25-0. Yet, if you’re going to do that, why have Taker wrestle Lesnar? He’s one of the least safe wrestlers in the business. This match still makes no sense to me. Undertaker wins via submission [Hell's Gate].

Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan

Image credit: onlineworldofwrestling.com

Best Case Scenario – Bryan goes over Triple B+ cleanly in a hard-fought match.

Wost Case Scenario – Triple B+ wins.

How It Could Steal The Show – As good as this match could be, it’s impossible for it to be the most electric match of the night. If Triple B+ wins, the crowd might riot. If Bryan wins, they’ll be even louder for the WWE Title match.

Prediction – This match will have the dumbest finish of the night. Period. Vince Russo could book better.  No contest, as both Bryan and Triple H are counted out. Leading to…

Randy Orton (c) vs. Batista vs. Triple H vs. Daniel Bryan for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship

Image credit: wwe.com

Best Case Scenario – A nine-month long angle where Daniel Bryan has chased the WWE Title (and later the WWE World Heavyweight Title) finally pays off with Bryan getting his Wrestlemania moment.

Wost Case Scenario – Batista or Triple B+ wins. Orton retaining can at least be justified, even if I don’t like it.

How It Could Steal The Show – After Bryan wins the match, he celebrates in the ring with his fiancee, and newly crowned Divas Champion Brie Bella, a la Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth.

Prediction – I want to say the booking of this match will lead to a pay off of a nine month long angle. I know better though. I know that money moves championships, and I also know that Batista has a movie coming out. The writing’s on the wall here. Batista wins via pinfall [Batista Bomb on Bryan].