Tough Questions: What’s the Worst Thing You’ve Paid More than $50 For?


Every week we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

What’s the worst thing you’ve paid more than $50 for?

Rules are simple: What do you regret blowing half a c-note on? We all spend money on things we regret, but when did you really mess up? Did you get into an eBay war and lose sight of just how important collectable glassware is? Did you buy a plane ticket to somewhere you didn’t even want to go? Did you go to grad school, like, at all?

Alex Russell

Every year I go to Vegas with a few friends. We go in March, both because Chicago is miserable in March and because March Madness in Vegas is always full of degenerates, but mostly your happier, saner degenerates. A regret story about Vegas is nothing new, but it’s hard to pin down a “bad beat” any easier than this one. We were early for a dinner reservation, because your life in Vegas revolves around when you’re supposed to be where for what, and there was a roulette table right outside the restaurant. Vegas wants you to play, of course, but they want you to play impulsively. The $100 bet on black because I was hungry and frustrated was straight out of an anti-gambling PSA, and even though I know in my heart that Vegas is smarter than me… it’s rarely that damn obvious.

Alex Marino

Remember netbooks? It was that awkward time between laptops getting smaller and the iPad’s debut. People swore that netbooks were going to be the next big thing. I bought it because I wanted something for taking notes on in graduate school. I only installed what was absolutely essential for school stuff to keep it running fast. Well, it wasn’t fast. It sucked. And now I have a $200 dinosaur collecting dust in my closet.

Mike Hannemann

When you go to Epcot, sometimes you will want a drink. When you want a drink at Epcot, you’ll notice each country the park is divided into has a beer from that country. When you figure this out, you will want to go on a beer crawl of every country. When you do this, you will drink nine beers with high alcohol content. When you complete the beer crawl you will go to the Japan portion of the park and buy a $75 backpack that is a Goomba from Super Mario. When you do this, your parents will think you need to go back to therapy.

Andrew Findlay

I bought a pair of Mephisto shoes for 150 dollars. I was in Europe with a group for my friend’s wedding, and after they went off on their honeymoon we went to Paris. I had a pair of old, ratty tennis shoes, and I was ironically worried about them causing foot pain from the miles and miles I would walk there. My solution was to go to a shoe store and buy those damned Mephistos, which are like the Cadillac of supportive shoes. Seriously, podiatrist-recommended. They felt great for the first day and a half, and then I started experiencing sharp pains in the balls of both feet. One day in particular, waiting in line to go up the Eiffel Tower, the standing for more than an hour really did a number on me. Once we got up there, I immediately sprinted to the nearest bench and sat down without informing my friends of what I was doing. Because there are a shit-ton of people at the Eiffel Tower and because I’m an idiot, I did not see them again until we all made it back to where we were sleeping. I spent the rest of the vacation limping around, complaining about my feet, and being generally annoying to my companions. To this day, the balls of my feet still cause me pain, ranging from slight to significant depending on the day. I’ve bought a lot of crap I regret, but these motherfuckers ruined my vacation and gave me a lasting injury, and I paid out 150 dollars for the privilege. Clear winner.

Brent Hopkins

Fifty dollars was much harder for me to figure out than I would care to admit. I am a fan of saving money and spending it on big purchases, so I rarely have things that I am just disappointed in. There was something recent that didn’t sit well with me, and that was a motel I stayed at when my sister came to visit. Now, this motel was 38 dollars per night and we stayed two nights, so it amounted to over 50 in total, but I would have rather roamed like a vagabond than stay there. There was nothing aesthetically pleasing about this place and the bathroom looked like it had seen the Korean War in its prime. This was supposed to be a relaxing vacation but we were both awake by 7 a.m. and out the door to spend as little time as possible there. I was around there a few weeks ago again and just looking at the facade of the motel made me feel dirty. Never again will I go that far by my purse strings again.

Tough Questions: What’s the Best Drink You’ve Ever Made Yourself?


Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

What’s the Best Drink You’ve Ever Made Yourself?

Rules are simple: Everyone has a story about some damn mixologist putting egg whites and little bits of tractor tire together to form the absolute best thing you have to try, but can you do it yourself? When you’re left to your own devices at home, what can you do with just bottles and glassware? What does the mad scientist within come up with you let ’em out?

Alex Russell

The best drink is three fingers of bourbon, two ice cubes, and a light pour of water. That’s the best drink, but there are times when bourbon and water will not achieve your goals. There are times that call for something sweet. One wintry night in Illinois we had nothing except root beer and Southern Comfort. There are a lot of ways to use Southern Comfort, but root beer is not traditionally one of them. We made the best of what we had and someone said “hey, I can’t believe there’s SoCo in this.” That’s the origin story of…

I Can’t Believe It’s Not SoCo (But It Is)

  • 1 part Southern Comfort (100 proof or standard are both fine)
  • 2 parts root beer (any brand)
  • Scoop of vanilla ice cream
  • Shot of caramel syrup (optional)

Mix the liquids without ice. Add the ice cream and drizzle the syrup over everything. It’s sweet — definitely too sweet — so make sure that’s the goal for whatever weird night you’re having.

Brent Hopkins

The best drink I ever made happened about a year ago in a bar in Korea. One of my acquaintances was having a birthday party and in Korea, you tend to buy the cake while you’re out as opposed to getting it well in advance like most folks do in the States. This was pretty late in the evening and for some reason the bakery owner gave us some non-alcoholic sparkling wine/champagne to help along the celebration.

The drink we concocted felt like a terrible idea at the time but turned into probably the best mixed drink I have had that will never be on any menu. The simple recipe:

  • 2 shots of Agavero tequila liqueur
  • About half a glass of sweet alcoholic or non-alcoholic sparkling wine
  • A slice of lemon or lime
  • Ice

Agavero is the best liqueur I have ever had and it goes down smoother than Bailey’s. Rosé would be a great choice for the wine, though if you don’t like sweet a drier sparkling wine would curb the sweetness of the Agavero nicely. We used lemon because limes are hard to come by in Korea. One more thing: This is not a  shot. There is no reason to drink it warm, though you could as it is extremely easy on the palette.

That’s it and it was one of the only times people I know who HATE tequila were completely okay sitting and having a glass.

Jonathan May

It’s a well-established truth that Southerners enjoy their sweet tea, and I have not come before you today, blessed children, to dispel such a central tenet of the Southern way of life. So, here and now is the quintessential sweet iced tea recipe. First, put about half a gallon of water on the stove to boil. As the water heats, take a gallon pitcher and add two cups of sugar (white, brown [I use brown]), then four large iced tea bags. Drizzle about two tablespoons of sorghum molasses over the sugar. After the water reaches boiling, pour it in slowly over the tea bags and sugar and stir with a wooden spoon. Then just cover and let the whole thing sit for about 20-30 minutes. Afterward just remove the tea bags after squeezing them out with a spoon on the inside of the pitcher and stir in cold water from the tap to just below the gallon line. Now, don’t get me twisted–this is seriously sweet tea. Like pancake-syrup sweet. But if you want something to mix with a little whiskey on a hot summer night, there’s nothing better.

Andrew Findlay

I would call myself a mixologist if that weren’t just the ugliest word with the most ridiculous associations. Point is, I put different liquors together a lot. After making myself what has to be at least a few hundred Manhattans, Martinis, Old Fashioneds and Sidecars, I, like a chef that no longer follows recipes, struck out on my own bibulous odyssey. The key is simplicity: You have your base liquor, your modifying liquor, your pinch, and your garnish. You can do a little bit more, but too much will ruin the drink. Take the Manhattan (absolute king of mixed drinks; in bars, order this drink to find out how good the bar is). In a Manhattan, the base liquor is rye whiskey, the modifying liquor is sweet vermouth, the pinch is one or two dashes of bitters, and the garnish is a cherry. I’ve been playing with this general philosophy of simplicity, and it has yielded some interesting stuff (the Get Off My Plane: Green Hat Gin, lemon lavender syrup, habanero bitters, lemon peel) and some horrifying stuff (the St. Petersburg: white wine, vodka, St. Germain, and olives). The drink I’m proudest of is the New Fashioned.

The New Fashioned
  • 4 oz Jim Beam
  • 1 oz simple sugar (put equal parts by volume sugar and water in a glass, microwave it for a minute, stir it around)
  • All the juice from half a lemon
  • 4 dashes Fee Brothers Aromatic Bitters

Pour all of these ingredients over ice in a shaker, then use a long mixing spoon to mix them until all contents are cold. Finally, serve it in an Old Fashioned glass with the ice still in it or straight up in a martini glass, your choice. This recipe makes enough for two, so if you have someone to share it with, congratulations, and if not, at least you’re about to be drunk.

Sugar cuts the bite of the Beam, lemon is never bad with whiskey, and the cinnamon in the Fee Brothers bitters carries some transmutative properties, because its alchemy transforms Jim Beam into a fancy drink. I love this recipe so much because the base liquor costs under twenty dollars. The worst part of making cocktails for yourself is that after you make three or four, half your expensive bottle of booze is gone. This recipe keeps the assault on your wallet to a minimum.

Alex Marino

One year a shitty retail job kept me away from home for Thanksgiving. I spent it with some friends of friends and holy shit, did they like to drink. One of our meal courses was a tray of shots. When I first arrived at the dinner I was told I had to make myself a “creamsicle.”


  • Pinnacle Whipped Cream vodka
  • Orange soda

That’s it.  And it’s fucking delicious and tastes exactly like a creamsicle.  I didn’t come up with that myself because I retired from trying to invent drinks when I was 18 and decided to see what a “vodka gogurt” tasted like.

Tough Questions: What Do You Hate That Everyone Loves?


Every Monday we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week?

What Do You Hate That Everyone You Know Loves?

Rules are simple: what’s that one thing that you just can’t sign off on? What is the thing that you just cannot wrap your mind around? What does every damn person love that you just can’t even find it in your dark heart to like?

Austin Duck

Aside from people, there’s really not a whole lot that I hate. But, being a big metropolitan area, one thing everyone seems to love is fancy cocktails in fancy cocktail bars and it drives me up the fucking wall. Why would I pay, like, $8 extra for fancy bitters or elder flower liqueur when I can go to the shitty bar that I go to and get whiskeys for $3.50. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Food, I get. Drugs, ditto. But it’s not like the booze is any better when it’s mixed by mixologists; it’s exactly the same. I want something that I can drink a lot of on a meager salary. 

Mike Hannemann

This goes back and forth for me, but it all boils down to sports. Personally, I blame being the only member of a (somewhat) big family that wasn’t physically capable of any of this. To get more specific: basketball. I could probably name less than 10 players currently in the NBA, including general descriptions like “that one guy with weird hair who’s an asshole.” I know I’m wrong in not caring, but I just can’t access it. I went to a Chicago Bulls game a few years back and the only details I remember are that it was Benny the Bull’s birthday and the Bulls scored over 100 points (but I only remember this because it meant I got a free Big Mac if I brought the ticker to a McDonald’s).  I never even redeemed my Big Mac.

Alex Marino

I fucking hate Twitter. I also don’t like Facebook a whole lot but I hate Twitter more because it could be this awesome community and instead is a giant pile of word throw up. The wild popularity has forced it to become a place where people have to rush to make the first shitty joke about whatever show is on TV so they can get the most retweets. Last week was a bunch of dumb fucking Justin Bieber jokes and tonight it’s a bunch of garbage about the Grammys (which are also garbage). And then tomorrow there’s going to be a bunch of miserable Buzzfeed articles about “ZOMG 13 Awesomesauce Tweets About the Grammys.” There’s another polar vortex coming through this week. Are you as excited as I am to see Twitpics of everyone’s weather apps?! Twitter is a place that breeds lazy journalism where you can see entire news articles written about two tweets from someone famous. In politics it’s just another medium where the competition is to see which side is louder rather than right. Twitter was awesome when its users were authentic and engaging rather than brand-focused and politically correct. And there still are a lot of those users out there. There’s just way more shit you have to wade through to get to it.

Alex Russell

This has to be How I Met Your Mother. There is a commercial for this show where a character says “It’s going to be LEGEND. DAIRY.” with a deliberate pause between the two words. It may sound petty to be caught up in one silly commercial, but this is what I hear when I’m falling asleep. I think of how thousands and thousands of people don’t watch Parks and Recreation but do watch this show and I wake up. This is why I haven’t slept in five years. LEGEND. DAIRY. I’d pay ten American dollars for this show to never run again. It’s not the worst show on TV by a long shot, but it’s the worst one that smart people like.

Andrew Findlay

The Game of Thrones TV Show

This is not so much a matter of hatred – I just won’t watch the show. I watched the first episode and thought “this is boring, I know everything that happens already from the books.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not neglecting to watch it because of some “the book is just better” snob factor. It’s just that I read the first four in a single month, and then when I got to the end, there were no more, and it was painful. Then there was one more, I read it, and then there were no more, and it was painful. I fully support GRRM doing whatever he wants to with his time. Understandably, he got pissed off once when fans complained about his liking football and him spending precious writing time watching sports instead of finishing the books they loved, but for some reason I sort of irrationally see the show as a direct competitor to book completion. In addition, I’ve built up this world in my own mind, and don’t want all the actors’ stupid faces messing up how I see people. I’ll circle back and marathon it once the books are done or after enough people yell at me for this stupid decision.

Brent Hopkins

This is actually a really simple answer for me. I absolutely hate peanut butter and I have had to deal with that shame my entire life. Most people instantly ask “Are you allergic to nuts?” which is a valid question. When they find out that isn’t the case and that I just don’t like peanut butter it turns into an interrogation. “Do you like other nuts?” “Do you like peanuts?” “How about peanut butter cookies?” I actually like all nuts including peanuts but the smell and flavor of peanut butter has been off-putting to me since I was around five years old. I think I got it from my dad because he hates the flavor just as much as I do. Living in Korea has been interesting because they don’t really eat it here either but when talking about Western food it always comes up and they always assume I like it and act just as surprised when I explain how much I hate it.