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A Communitarian Appreciation of McDonald's
So I differ from many other non-libertarian conservatives by appreciating many of America’s huge national and multinational chain institutions, such as Walmart and Waffle House.
I was glad to discover in the NYT a sophisticated writer who appreciated McDonald’s. It’s not because of the food, which is mostly pretty bad. Well, the fries and the fish sandwich are both exceptionally tasty and won’t kill you if you only eat them once in a while. And, let’s tell the truth, none of us should be so snotty as to forget that McDonald’s provides an opportunity for struggling working Americans to take the family out to dinner at a very low price. Recently I was touched by seeing two very old couples—probably on a fixed income and all that—double-dating by getting ice cream at McDonald’s. The ice cream isn’t really ice cream, but you don’t notice that if you cover it with hot fudge, which may or may not really be hot fudge.
The calorie per dollar ratio at McDonald’s couldn’t be better, if you remember that the point of eating is to ingest calories. There is something perverse—contrary to nature—about paying $30 for some salad that has fewer than 300 calories, when you can get 1200 calories at McDonald’s for two bucks. My full stomach won’t believe you when you tell it they’re nothing but empty calories.
But the concern of the NYT article isn’t the food, but community: “All of us, of whatever age, need to socialize in public places to feel connected and alive.” Satisfaction of that human need is often particularly tough for old Americans—those retired and over 65. They’re often quite detached from family. The fastest growing demographic category, I’m told, is men over 65 without a spouse or close relationships with children. And, of course, they’ve been disconnected from the structured community that’s most workplaces. Fewer and fewer of them have secure “church homes.” Freud tells us that love and work are what make human life worth living, and many of these old guys don’t have much going on on either front.
So it might be best, as our author contends, if there were lots of locally owned diners and bakeries around serving as “de facto social centers” for our marginalized elderly. But such places increasingly fall victim to the realities of the 21st century marketplace. They’re taken out by chains—such as McDonald’s and Waffle House and Panera Bread.
The chains aren’t so bad, though. Check out your local McDonald’s, and you’ll probably find old guys lounging and talking the morning away drinking coffee. McDonald’s can really afford to be indulgent of their marginal contribution to the restaurant’s productivity. The “dining room” of a McDonald’s is typically huge and rarely filled. Most of the business is drive-up or take-out. A big point might be that McDonald’s actually can afford to be more indulgent than a locally owned coffee shop or diner, both of which find it much more difficult to turn a profit.
Panera Bread, where I am right now, has even figured that its niche is creating the fake family atmosphere with the fire place and all that. So my Panera is typically features older Americans hanging out, and, for that matter, Americans of all ages hanging out. The fake family devised in St. Louis morphs in the direction of a real family here in Georgia. But Panera has its limits on this front. It can’t quite be totally indifferent to customer turnover, and those in charge don’t really want you here all day. They want room for those coming to the dining room to each lunch, when most of their profit is made. McDonald’s, to repeat, has less reason to care. Panera, I hasten to add, has a very soft spot for the genuinely homeless or profoundly marginalized, and profit can't explain THAT.
I’ve also noticed that smart and affluent old guys (who go to church and have loving families) in my Rome, GA sometimes develop a morning cycle of communal stops. They spend some time at Panera, go on to Steak and Shake, to a local restaurant called Troy’s to have a real breakfast, and then perhaps return to Panera to top the morning off. The cycle I can see with my own eyes doesn’t include McDonald’s, maybe because the McDonald’s guys are happy enough with their first stop.
Why haven’t I said anything about Starbucks? Well, our local Starbuck’s is a bit too claustrophobic, unless it’s warm enough to sit outside. More importantly, as I’ve said before: Starbucks coffee is terrible. McDonald’s is actually quite good, and it’s gentle enough to allow you to drink several cups without unpleasant effects.
It’s only because I’m out of time that I won’t go on to tell you about the breakfast—and especially about those who ingest the bountiful breakfast buffet—at the Dwarf House run by the highly profitable chain Chick-fil-A. The same with Dunkin’ Donuts, which has, everyone knows, coffee worthy of the name gourmet.
I will return to Waffle House (and Huddle House) on another occasion.
A man's skeleton, found facedown with his hands bound, was unearthed near an ancient ceremonial circle during a high speed rail excavation project.
- A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during an excavation outside of London.
- The discovery was made during a high speed rail project that has been a bonanza for archaeology, as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route.
- An ornate grave of a high status individual from the Roman period and an ancient ceremonial circle were also discovered during the excavations.
Foul play?<p>A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during a high speed rail excavation.</p><p>The positioning of the remains have led archaeologists to suspect that the man may have been a victim of an ancient murder or execution. Though any bindings have since decomposed, his hands were positioned together and pinned under his pelvis. There was also no sign of a grave or coffin. </p><p>"He seems to have had his hands tied, and he was face-down in the bottom of the ditch," <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">said archaeologist Rachel Wood</a>, who led the excavation. "There are not many ways that you end up that way."</p><p>Currently, archaeologists are examining the skeleton to uncover more information about the circumstances of the man's death. Fragments of pottery found in the ditch may offer some clues as to exactly when the man died. </p><p>"If he was struck across the head with a heavy object, you could find a mark of that on the back of the skull," Wood said to <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>. "If he was stabbed, you could find blade marks on the ribs. So we're hoping to find something like that, to tell us how he died."</p>
Other discoveries at Wellwick Farm<p>The grim discovery was made at Wellwick Farm near Wendover. That is about 15 miles north-west of the outskirts of London, where <a href="https://www.hs2.org.uk/building-hs2/hs2-green-corridor/" target="_blank">a tunnel</a> is going to be built as part of a HS2 high-speed rail project due to open between London and several northern cities sometime after 2028. The infrastructure project has been something of a bonanza for archaeology as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route that are now being excavated before construction begins. </p><p>The farm sits less than a mile away from the ancient highway <a href="http://web.stanford.edu/group/texttechnologies/cgi-bin/stanfordnottingham/places/?icknield" target="_blank">Icknield Way</a> that runs along the tops of the Chiltern Hills. The route (now mostly trails) has been used since prehistoric times. Evidence at Wellwick Farm indicates that from the Neolithic to the Medieval eras, humans have occupied the region for more than 4,000 years, making it a rich area for archaeological finds. </p><p>Wood and her colleagues found some evidence of an ancient village occupied from the late Bronze Age (more than 3,000 years ago) until the Roman Empire's invasion of southern England about 2,000 years ago. At the site were the remains of animal pens, pits for disposing food, and a roundhouse — a standard British dwelling during the Bronze Age constructed with a circular plan made of stone or wood topped with a conical thatched roof.</p>
Ceremonial burial site<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDgwNTIyMX0.I49n1-j8WVhKjIZS_wVWZissnk3W1583yYXB7qaGtN8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C82%2C0%2C83&height=700" id="44da7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="46cfc8ca1c64fc404b32014542221275" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="top down view of coffin" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A high status burial in a lead-lined coffin dating back to Roman times.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>While these ancient people moved away from Wellwick Farm before the Romans invaded, a large portion of the area was still used for ritual burials for high-status members of society, Wood told Live Science. The ceremonial burial site included a circular ditch (about 60 feet across) at the center, and was a bit of a distance away from the ditch where the (suspected) murder victim was uncovered. Additionally, archaeologists found an ornately detailed grave near the sacred burial site that dates back to the Roman period, hundreds of years later when the original Bronze Age burial site would have been overgrown.</p><p>The newer grave from the Roman period encapsulated an adult skeleton contained in a lead-lined coffin. It's likely that the outer coffin had been made of wood that rotted away. Since it was clearly an ornate burial, the occupant of the grave was probably a person of high status who could afford such a lavish burial. However, according to Wood, no treasures or tokens had been discovered. </p>
Sacred timber circle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDAwOTQ4Mn0.eVJAUcD0uBUkVMFuMOPSgH8EssGkfLf_MjwUv0zGCI8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C149%2C0%2C149&height=700" id="9de6a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee66520d470b26f5c055eaef0b95ec06" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An aerial view of the sacred circular monument." data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
An aerial view of the sacred circular monument.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>One of the most compelling archaeological discoveries at Wellwick Farm are the indications of a huge ceremonial circle once circumscribed by timber posts lying south of the Bronze Age burial site. Though the wooden posts have rotted away, signs of the post holes remain. It's thought to date from the Neolithic period to 5,000 years ago, according to Wood.</p><p>This circle would have had a diameter stretching 210 feet across and consisted of two rings of hundreds of posts. There would have been an entry gap to the south-west. Five posts in the very center of the circle aligned with that same gap, which, according to Wood, appeared to have been in the direction of the rising sun on the day of the midwinter solstice. </p><p>Similar Neolithic timber circles have been discovered around Great Britain, such as one near <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/stonehenge-sarsens" target="_blank">Stonehenge</a> that is considered to date back to around the same time. </p>
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.
- It's not always easy to tell the difference between objective truth and what we believe to be true. Separating facts from opinions, according to skeptic Michael Shermer, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, and others, requires research, self-reflection, and time.
- Recognizing your own biases and those of others, avoiding echo chambers, actively seeking out opposing voices, and asking smart, testable questions are a few of the ways that skepticism can be a useful tool for learning and growth.
- As Derren Brown points out, being "skeptical of skepticism" can also lead to interesting revelations and teach us new things about ourselves and our psychology.