We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.

Grab all of these as a Readlist.

On designing food

Susan Berfield investigates McDonald's efforts to get into the "fresh" game, led by companies like Chipotle and Subway, and the challenge of creating new menu items for such a massive chain.

Bloomberg Businessweek: Susan Berfield - Why the McWrap Is So Important to McDonald's

McDonald’s moves slowly because its failures have been expensive. In 1996 it spent $100 million to launch the Arch Deluxe, a hamburger with peppered bacon and a mustard-mayonnaise sauce. It was intended to appeal to more adult tastes, but adults didn’t like the calories, the price, or the ads. The Arch Deluxe—like the McPizza, McHotDog, and McSalad Shaker—was quietly removed from menus.

On mermaids

Virginia Sole-Smith visits Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida to go behind the scenes to meet the State Park's mermaids.

The New York Times Magzine: Virginia Sole-Smith - The Last Mermaid Show

When I reached the intersection of 50 and Route 19, a faded blue-and-white sign welcomed me to Weeki Wachee Springs, which is both a very small "city" (population: 4) and a 538-acre state park. It is also "the world’s only city of live mermaids." For an entrance fee of just $13, the "live mermaids" perform three or four daily shows in the Newton Perry Underwater Theater.

On 'Star Fox'

Damien McFerran tells the story of Argonaut, the British team behind the Super Nintendo classic 'Star Fox' and the Super FX chip.

Eurogamer.net: Damien McFerran - Born slippy: the making of Star Fox

If anyone wanted to produce a game without Nintendo's permission, they would be claiming to use the word 'Nintendo' without a licensed trademark, and therefore Nintendo would be in a position to sue them for trademark infringement. We figured out that with just a resistor and capacitor - around 1 cent's worth of components - we could find out how to beat the protection.

On dating

Tom Lamont writes about a dating hoax that spread across several dating sites and a period of four years.

The Guardian: Tom Lamont - The hoaxer who breaks women's hearts

Different names, different faces, unmistakably one person. They'd all got used to late-night drunken calls in which songs were sung down the phone, mostly football chants, though Rachel got hymns. Karen received roses; so did Susan. Ali was sent money to shop for clothes and booked into a hotel at Seb's expense.

On fires

Fernanda Santos and Jack Healy report on the tragic deaths of 19 of the Granite Mountain Hotshots during the Yarnell Hill fire.

The New York Times: Fernanda Santos and Jack Healy - A Painful Mix of Fire, Wind and Questions

Hotshots are wilderness firefighters, known for exhaustive training, punishing standards for physical fitness and ability to work under difficult conditions far from roads. As one of 110 such teams across the country, they were used to mountain hikes carrying 40 pounds of gear and 16-hour shifts in harsh conditions, chopping brush to cut fire lines on the hardened ground.

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Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.