What to do in a Deep South Snowstorm

Today, Atlanta got hit with its first snowstorm of the 2017-18 winter weather season, and the area is surprisingly getting a fair bit of snow. However, after the 2014 “Snowpocalypse” turned Metro Atlanta into the laughingstock of the nation, I think today is a good time to review just what we ought to do if there is a snowstorm here in the South.

  1. Get all of your food and milk and such in advance. This will prevent you from having to go out into the mess of traffic and slush, and it will also ensure that you have provisions for if the power goes out or you get iced-in by the storm. The South is not-at-all well-equipped to deal with winter storms, so response times on things like power outages can be quite lengthy, days even. Be prepared to camp out at home if need be.
  2. Unless you have an emergency, stay of the roads in urban and suburban areas. Maybe in rural areas where people have more off-road driving experience and the roads are less traveled it’s okay, but at least from personal experience, I know that urban roads get turned into black ice nightmares. Also, no one knows how to drive on ice or snow. Just stay off the roads.
  3. If you do happen to find yourself on the roads, drive slowly. Here in Atlanta especially, drivers tend to drive stupidly fast. The snow seems to have some effect on speeds, but y’all really need to slow down or you’ll end up as another one of those idiots who slides into a ditch. Also, even if the snow is insane and traffic is just barely crawling, DO NOT ABANDON YOUR CAR ON THE INTERSTATE. You’d think this would be self-explanatory, but during the 2014 Snowpocalypse, a great number of cars ran out of gas in the middle of the highway and were just left there. If you’re running out of gas (speaking of which, fuel up your car if you know there is a storm coming), pull over to the shoulder so that you don’t impede the traffic flow on the entire highway.
  4. Invest in gloves. This may sound a bit odd to folks living in colder areas, but many Southerners don’t own winter gloves. When it snows (and this may also sound odd to Northerners), Southerners of all ages tend to get filled with unparalleled excitement and want to go play in the snow, only to discover that they don’t own gloves. Get some mitts!
  5. Enjoy yourself. Relative to the rest of the country where snow is a common occurrence, snow is extremely rare in the South. Get out there and play in it! Or just stay inside and sip hot chocolate while watching it fall. Either way, you may as well cherish the snow while it’s here; it may be awhile before you see it again.

Chess is a Game That Everyone Should Learn How to Play

Chess is one of those games that no one really plays all that much anymore, but many people know how to play. The game of chess is over a thousand years old, and it still has a very sizable player base. There are also professional chess competitions. The person widely regarded as the world’s best player is the 26-year old Norwegian grandmaster, Magnus Carlsen. His net worth is estimated at $8 million.

A strategy game through-and-through, chess pits players’ analytical skills against each other. It’s a great game to play at the park or just inside with a friend on a rainy day. There are also a number of good resources to learn chess and play against people online. I personally use Chess.com’s app, and it’s good because it has a variety of different modes to pit you against opponents of a similar skill level.

The best way to learn, however, is probably to watch videos online or watch someone in-person and have them teach the game to you. Chess.com also has resources to teach you all of the basics if you want to know how to make basic moves, set up the board, etc.

Chess is one of those games that can bring people together. It has a long, rich history. It helps your brain get some needed exercise in a fun way. Learn how to play, and go to the park and find yourself an opponent next time you’re bored. You’ll enjoy it.

The Great American Burger Debate: Which is Better, Five Guys or In-N-Out?

As a native to Georgia where we have no In-N-Outs nearby, Five Guys is everybody’s go-to burger place. They’re everywhere around here, and their burgers are near-universally accepted to be the best out of all the common fast food places. However, during my travels out west, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had In-N-Out a dozen or so times over the years. With the great debate raging on between Five Guys’ fans and In-N-Out loyalists, I feel qualified to throw my two cents out.

There are two main problems with the In-N-Out versus Five Guys debate: 1) most East Coasters have never had In-N-Out, so they just scoff at the idea that it could be better than Five Guys and 2) the two burgers are vastly different from each other.

An In-N-Out burger is characterized by the “spread” a condiment which is derived from thousand island dressing, giving the burgers a unique taste. In-N-Out also uses very fresh lettuce and tomatoes. A typical In-N-Out burger, the double double, can be seen here. Burgers and fries can also be ordered “animal style” which adds an extra portion of spread as well as grilled onions.

Five Guys is a bit different. Their burgers are a bit cruder than In-N-Out’s, but they taste pretty dang good. Like In-N-Out, Five Guys’ burgers have the traditional toppings of onions, tomato, and lettuce, but they lack the x-factor of a defining topping like “spread”. However, Five Guys does give customers (literally) an entire bag of fries when you order fries, and they serve peanuts in their restaurants if you eat in. Have you ever ordered fries and seen them just plop a fries container in the bottom of the bag then scoop fries all over? A greasy bag of Five Guys’ fries is a good time.

But which is better? Sorry to all my fellow southern folks, but I’m going to have to side with In-N-Out on this one. The spread is really what puts them over the edge for me. It gives their burgers an extremely unique flavor and blends well with the freshness of the burger patties. In-N-Out also seems to use fresher lettuce and tomatoes than Five Guys, and they don’t get as soggy and saturated with grease as Five Guys’ toppings.

So yes, In-N-Out is better. Five Guys isn’t bad by any metric, but it doesn’t have enough uniqueness to make it superior to its West Coast counterpart.

People Don’t Seem to Want to Read As Much in 2017 

Hey y’all, AtlantanKnight here.

I just want to take a minute to talk about a startling and disturbing trend I’ve been noticing: people my age (college age) don’t seem to want to read anymore. 

Maybe it’s the distractions? There’s so much to do everywhere now. Mankind has the world at its fingertips, and so many people seem to be shying away from the physical entertainment of literature in favor of Netflix. Why read A Song of Ice and Fire when you could just watch Game of Thrones instead? Most people probably don’t even know the name of the book series! Perhaps that’s not the best example I could have used since admittedly I’ve watched a few GoT episodes and never opened the books, but you see the point.

I’ve seen people ridiculed (myself included) by likewise intelligent individuals because of recreational reading. To me, that’s just abhorrent. Here we are, living in a world where it is apparently so unacceptable for people to want to read that, indeed, criticizing the more literate members of society has become accepted! 

The anti-intellectualist culture in America (and likely the world is growing). The signs are everywhere; this new wave of anti-reading culture amongst young adults is just one of many. We need to find solutions fast and create an intellectual counterculture before the entire country goes the way of perpetual 2016 elections and increasingly illiterate idiocracy. 

The World Needs Classical Music to Make a Resurgence 

Nowadays, what do you hear when you turn on the radio? Kesha? Paramore? The Chainsmokers? No offense to them (I like all three), but that’s not really the best music for us to be listening to. Not from the perspective of their usual song messages or the physical sounds that come with their music.

Now… have you ever heard Beethoven on the radio? Mozart? What about Dvořák? I’ve never heard classical music being played on any of my travels throughout the United States. I’m sure there are some radio stations out there that play it, and I am well aware that this nation still has many fine orchestras, but their fans are few and far between. The entire genre of classical music–at least in the United States, but presumably elsewhere as well–is in the shadows.

So why do we need classical music? Why now? Just take a look around. More people live in cities now than ever before, and it feels like we’re all just bustling about all of the time. More and more people seem to be feeling increasingly stressed. With wars looming abroad and the conclusion of a tumultuous election just-finished here at home, we could all use something to destress.

Classical music is certainly not a solution, but it could definitely help. Studies have shown that listening to classical music has a number of benefits, including:

  • enhanced learning capabilities
  • easing of sleep ailments
  • stress reduction

Listening to classical music offers benefits to physical health that are not present amongst other forms of music.

Another thing to consider is how classical music can bring people together through language. The world is a big place, and it has thousands of extant languages. Music from one culture may be lost in translation by another culture. However, since it has no words, classical music can beautifully share melodies from culture to culture without any language barriers. The language of music, pure classical music, is a language which we could all grow to love just like people did a hundred years ago.

Food Review: Faygo Vanilla Creme Soda

Another short little food review (I know, I know. The “Culture” category is basically just food. Whatever. We’ll keep calling it culture). 

Faygo’s Vanilla Creme soda was actually the first cream sofa I’ve had in recent memory, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I’ve got a taste for sodas in glass bottles, honestly. That’s the real reason I decided to buy it, besides the fact that I’d not tried it before.

There’s not really much I can say, but, well, it was very creamy. Actually it didn’t taste much like a soda to me it all; the Faygo was more like a very intensely vanilla-tasting syrup. Imagine the flavor intensity of fresh citrus fruits, yet with a vanilla taste rather than citrus. That’s what Faygo is like. It’s really quite pleasant, but while I would recommend it, I must admit that the sugar content is quite high. Treat yourself with the vanilla cream soda if you’d like; just don’t overindulge.

Rating: 7.0/10

Food Review: Häagen-Dazs’ Cookies ‘n’ Cream Milkshake

I know my first food review was also a milkshake, but, well… I just really love milkshakes. I also really love cookies ‘n’ cream, so this was a match made in heaven.

On my first trip to see the Atlanta Braves at their new home of SunTrust Park, I had a fair bit of free time before the gates opened. When I stumbled upon a Häagen-Dazs shop in the Battery (a small shopping district surrounding the ballpark), I just had to get something.

The Cookies ‘n’ Cream milkshake is just what it claims to be. I watched the employees scoop cookies ‘n’ cream milkshake straight out of the bucket and into the milkshake mixer-shaker thing. I was given an option to have whipped cream or not, and of course I opted for the whipped cream. A cookie crumb garnish was then placed to top it all off.

I loved it! The ice cream could have had more cookie chunks in it, probably, but overall it was a very enjoyable milkshake. Häagen-Dazs’ ice cream has a very rich taste, and the whipped cream actually offered a light, fluffy alternative to that taste. I think the whole milkshake had the proper blend of flavors, and its richness caused it to last surprisingly long. Go try one if you ever find yourself near a Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop!

Rating: 9/10

Food Review: Burger King’s Fruit Loops Milkshake

I haven’t posted in awhile, so I thought I’d post a quick food review (the first on this site) to break the ice.

A couple days ago, I decided to try Burger King’s new Fruit Loops milkshake. I admit that I had low expectations, and I only wanted to try the milkshake because it sounded unique (I once tried a chicken parm burrito in Savannah for the same reason, but that’s a different story entirely).

With the Fruit Loops milkshake, what you get is quite literally just a vanilla milkshake with crunched-up Fruit Loops mixed into it and some whipped cream on top. However, I enjoyed it. The Fruit Loops managed to add some good crunchy texture to the shake, and they also leant some fruity flavor to the otherwise base vanilla. Drinking a Fruit Loops milkshake is like eating the breakfast cereal as a dessert. It doesn’t taste like a normal milkshake, but it does taste good. Try it if you want something new for dessert sometime.

Rating: 7.5/10

Will Basketball Replace Football and Baseball as America’s Top Sport?

I haven’t posted for awhile, and honestly, I was just wanting to make any sort of basketball post. I’ve been playing a ton of basketball lately. It’s a fun game.

However, as the title says, I want to know if it can not just be a fun game, but the fun game. Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@ATLknight7) obviously knows how much I adore soccer and the local club, Atlanta United, and I really do think soccer’s time is coming… just not yet. But the tides are shifting in American sports culture. 

Millenials are the generation which will determine which sport is the most popular in a few years when they are the largest television demographic, and quite frankly, a lot of millenials find baseball boring. I agree with them to the point that there are more exciting sports, but I usually watch baseball to relax, not to “get hype”. Millenials don’t generally watch baseball to relax, or even tv at all; they watch Netflix.

The problem on the football side is a bit different. Concussion awareness is good for keeping people safe, but it’s ruining the future of the game. People may love to watch football, but parents don’t want their kids playing football anymore. The effect isn’t going to be immediate, but as more and more good atheletes turn down football in favor of basketball and soccer, the quality on the field will decline. Football will be a business with a poor product, and Americans won’t pay to watch a bad show.

Now, what about basketball? It’s 1) exciting and 2) safe. Yes, you can get injured terribly playing basketball, but it’s not as common as football injuries. Moreover, basketball players don’t suffer from repetitive head trauma like football players do since basketball is a sport which is generally played upright. Basketball also doesn’t have any problem exciting its fans; we see that every NBA seasons, and we especially see that with NCAA’s annual March Madness tournament. Basketball is electric. The fans love it.

So what is preventing basketball from overtaking football and baseball? In my mind, nothing but time. 

Is Mace Windu Really Supreme Leader Snoke?

The Star Wars community has long been speculating about the backstory behind Episode VII, and with Episode VIII coming this December, I may as well start theorizing for myself and reviewing existing theories. I’ve got nearly a year left, so let’s get started.

It’s come to my attention in this video that there is a popular theory asserting that Supreme Leader Snoke is actually Mace Windu. The main points in the video (which I highly recommend watching) are as follows:

  1. Mace Windu was alive when Darth Sidious ejected him out of the window in Episode III. Since Jedi have been known to survive immense falls, it is conceivable that Mace Windu may have survived.
  2. Supreme Leader Snoke appears to be extremely disfigured, much in the way Mace Windu would due to the effects of Darth Sidious’ force lightning.
  3. Mace Windu, as symbolized by his red+blue=purple lightsaber, is a balance between the Dark Side and Light Side of the force. Snoke’s seems driven to find a balance as well, choosing to make another member of the Skywalker bloodline his apprentice.
  4. Mace Windu wants to get revenge against Anakin Skywalker for betraying him by ending the Skywalker family entirely. In order to do so, Mace Windu became Snoke and uses the Dark Side of the force to enhance his powers.
  5. Kylo Ren is the only character in the franchise other than Mace Windu to use a certain backslash lightsaber move, indicating the passing down of knowledge from Master to Apprentice.
  6. Finn is a descendant (likely the grandson) of Mace Windu. A family bond between characters is a key theme in the Star Wars universe.

So I’ll start off by saying: I like this theory. It’s not perfect, and I don’t agree with all of it… but some of the evidence presented is really quite compelling.

For me, I think the part about Mace Windu surviving is perfectly fine. Darth Maul survived a massive fall at the end of Episode I (which is canon due to Maul’s appearance in the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels). Anakin jumped/dropped what appeared to be a great distance during the chase on Coruscant to begin Episode II. Luke dropped a long way in his duel with Darth Vader in Cloud City. It can be done. Also, Darth Sidious force lightning wouldn’t have killed Mace Windu, either, but it would possibly have disfigured him.

I also find the bit about Mace Windu wanting revenge against Anakin Skywalker to be decent. By taking on Kylo Ren as his apprentice, Snoke/Mace Windu would have one Skywalker readily at hand to dispatch as he pleased, and he could then use Kylo Ren to do his bidding in the meantime. Kylo Ren’s usage of Mace Windu’s backslash lightsaber attack also really only makes sense if Snoke is somehow Mace Windu.

However, I don’t think Finn is in any way related to Mace Windu. Finn doesn’t seem to remember any sort of childhood, only his First Order training. It seems plausible for a powerful force user to be able to erase large swaths of a person’s memory, but I don’t think there’s any canonical precedent for such an ability. It also seems highly unlikely that even a deranged, evil individual like Snoke would risk their descendant and possible force user by making them into a frontline Stormtrooper.

Star Wars has always been a story about continuity and family, so I think the real question on top of this post ought to be, “Does Mace Windu Being Snoke Really Fit into a Star Wars Storyline?” In my opinion, it could. I think there may be better theories around (I’ve not yet decided if I like the equally notorious *Darth Plagueis is Snoke* theory over this), but it’s I could see Mace Windu being Snoke. I highly doubt it, but I could see it. Neither of them has hair, after all.

I’ll give this theory a grade of B+ for entertainment, C- for plausibility.

(All photocredit to CJ Isherwood under the license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode )