I am not now, nor have I ever been a Starbucks loyalist. That being said, I consume (on average) one Venti coffee purchased at a Starbucks each day. Not so much because their coffee is good, which it usually is, but because it’s consistent.
From day to day I am Mr. Routine. For years I used to go to Tim’s coffee shop each morning and drink a pot of coffee over a few hours of reading before going to work. This changed to Charlie’s when Tim’s closed and over the years this changed to grabbing a cup of coffee at the Stop and Go on the drive into work and more recently it has graduated to stopping at the local Starbucks on the way into the office.
For the most part I walk in, pay my $2.11, get my coffee, go to the counter and doctor it up the way I like it (1 Splenda, a dash of half and half and a sprinkle of cinnamon) and move on.
Here lately Starbucks has changed their brewing policy so that they they never serve coffee that has sat out more than 30 minutes after being brewed. This has lead to a few occasions where I am informed by the “Barista” that I’ll have to wait a few minutes for my coffee while they brew a fresh pot.
This bugs me because Mr. Routine doesn’t like to idle waiting to satisfy the coffee component of his daily grind. But I’ve been letting is slide. Mostly because my regular Starbucks near my house will usually comp my coffee for having to wait or offer me an Americano as a substitute. They are always polite and apologetic and the coffee is always “almost ready.”
Yea, I was all about changing from Mr. Routine to Mr. Flexible. Goin’ with the flow and taking it as it comes in the name of fresher than fresh java…until last night.
The one slight variation in my coffee routine is on Wednesday nights when I stop at the Starbucks on the corner of Montrose and Hawthorn before heading over to the radio station to get ready for Technology Bytes.
I gotta say, this is not the shining star of the Starbucks fleet. The store itself is shabby and rather unclean. There’s a slight odor when you walk in and the area where the cream and sugar is kept is usually in disarray with a garbage can filled to overflowing. On top of that they’re usually out of cinnamon and you have to dig into the grimy back of the little doohickies that hold the sugar, Sweet n Low and Splenda to extract a wrinkled and possibly (often) water stained packet of sweetener.
But I put up with it because it because it’s hard to screw up a cup of coffee and I like having a full cup to drink at the station while I prepare for the show.
Last night I walked in and was happy to see there was no line and I ordered my coffee. I was told it would be a few minutes while they brewed a fresh pot.
I took the opportunity to use the men’s room figuring that would kill part of the wait time. On a side note, the bathroom was surprisingly clean and that put me in better spirits about the wait.
Upon exiting the men’s room I do what I always do when I am waiting for the coffee to brew, I look at the timer to see how much time is left.
This time when I do I am somewhat startled to realize there is no coffee brewing. They are just now filling the filter to start a pot so they’re not only far from done, they’re rather far from starting as well.
For crying out loud, when the name of your company is predicated on the product you sell you darn well better be able to sell it when a customer orders it.
It’s a coffee shop. Is it unreasonable to expect the employees of said coffee shop who’s job it is to make coffee to be sold have coffee ready for sale to those ready to purchase coffee? You would’t think so.
It’s not like going into Bob’s Zebra and Giraffe Emporium and discovering they’re fresh out of Zebras. If that’s the case just give me your best estimate as to when the Zebra delivery man will be coming by and I will come back for my Zebra when the stock is replenished and oh, give me a giraffee to take home for the lil lady would ya? Thanks very much and have a lovely day.
It’s coffee. Hot water, coffee beans and a pot. It’s what you do and you should be REALLY good at it by now.
Here’s hoping the Dietrich’s down the road stays open for the foreseeable future because I am done with that particular Starbucks location.
In a recent blog post, Michael Garfield – the yadda yadda Texan asks “And what’s wrong with Clear Channel?”
Youtube immediately went from a small but interesting community for its original content, to basically being just like Clear Channel, responsible for programming its different “formats” with the “best” possible content that creates the greatest number of eyeballs and maximizes advertising revenue. It’s big business, just like Clear Channel
You can read Mark’s post for yourself.
While I am sure Mr. Garfield’s question was rhetorical, I can’t help but respond, being a public radio guy and all. Just doing a simple Google search on the term “What’s wrong with Clear Channel” reveals some very tasty tidbits.
Let’s look what people are saying of Clear Channel, the world’s largest radio station operator.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH RADIO?
With corporate ownership and a new form of payola strangling play-lists, listeners are tuning out.
By Greg Kot, Rolling Stone Magazine
At a time when a handful of radio corporations are making more money than ever, dissatisfaction with the quality of music programming has reached a breaking point. People are listening to radio less, and the reason is simple: The days of local radio breaking new records, taking chances on unknown acts and responding to it’s audience’s interests have all but disappeared.
San Francisco – The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has announced it will revoke an illegitimate patent held by Clear Channel Communications after a campaign by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
The patent — owned by Instant Live, a company formerly owned by Clear Channel, and now owned by Live Nation — covered a system and method of creating digital recordings of live performances. Clear Channel claimed the bogus patent created a monopoly on all-in-one technologies that produce post-concert digital recordings and threatened to sue those who made such recordings. This locked musical acts into using Clear Channel technology and blocked innovations by others.
Salon.com – Radio’s Big Bully
Looking for classy radio programming? Don’t look here. The company is known for allowing animals to be killed live on the air, severing long-standing ties with community and charity events, laying off thousands of workers, homogenizing playlists and a corporate culture in which dirty tricks are a way of life.
Check the results of the search yourself. There’s more. And I didn’t even touch on the nasty ways that Clear Channel attempts to squelch our first amendment right to free speech. Google search the term Clear Channel free speech, there’s a good read for you.
I’ll just leave you with the words of Lowry Mays, CEO of Clear Channel Communications as quoted at Freepress.net:
“If anyone said we were in the radio business, it wouldn’t be someone from our company. We’re not in the business of providing news and information. We’re not in the business of providing well-researched music. We’re simply in the business of selling our customers products.”
You just might need to ask yourself how far and to what expense they are willing to go to achieve that end.
It started, innocently enough, with a lawn ornament in front of our neighbor’s house.
We have named it the “Farting Bear” for obvious reasons.
This bear has fueled an ongoing discussion between Cynthia and myself about the nature of Xmas decorations in the south. We both agree that, while this is a winter holiday, it’s not so much of a winter wonderland here in the south. Take today for example. The temps are right at 80 degrees for our high and no cold weather in the forecast for at least a few more days and even that probably won’t stick around.
The idea of trying to decorate in a winter theme down here in Texas just seems ludicrous. If anything, we should be developing our own southern style of decorating that incorporates things more suited to our climate. Maybe a surfboarding fat man who rides gnarly waves and delivers presents to all the good boys and girls. He could leave them under the jalapeno tree or mesquite tree something.
The “Farting Bear” is a prime example of what we find lacking in climate appropriate decorations here in the south. Look at him, for crying out loud. He’s wearing a sweater! I took that picture in my short sleeves and retreated back to my living room where I have the AC on and cooling the house.
But let’s put that aside for now. Obviously the winter theme is not going anywhere anytime soon.
The “Farting Bear” is not just preposterous for it’s winter theme, oh no, it’s a part of a bigger problem that has been in evidence this season. The problem of the inflatable lawn ornament.
I knew they were popular this year. They seem to be all over the place. It was when we saw the inflatable nativity scene that we knew that the problem was bigger than we could imagine
Cynthia and I decided to drive around the neighborhood and see how many we could find within a few miles of the house. All in all we found 32 unique inflatable lawn ornaments.
That’s not counting the dozen or so that were not inflated and lay lifeless on the lawn. Apparently they can be turned off and when they are turned off they deflate.
What we saw ranged from snowmen
to snow globes
You can see all we found in the Inflatable Lawn Ornament Gallery.
If you have any pictures of inflatable lawn ornaments please send them to me for inclusion in this gallery.
I really don’t want to be one of those old guys who goes on and on about how things were done when I was young. Yea, I wax nostalgic about things like the first digital watches or my old Tandy TRS-80 I had back in 1978. But that doesn’t prevent me from revelling in a dual core Apple laptop and buying a new cell phone every few years.
Heck, I have even rid myself of all but my most collectible vinyl and happily load my iPod with music way younger than I am.
But there are some things that you just shouldn’t mess with (besides Texas). Especially in the name of product marketing.
It appears that Parker Brothers has decided to “update” the game of Monopoly. Not only that, but they are teaming up with Visa to do it.
No more paper money! Oh no, now you get a mock Visa card and a little machine that allows you to transfer money to and from the bank.
Chris Weatherhead, brand manager at Parker games, which makes Monopoly, said: “We wanted to design a more relevant version of Monopoly to reflect modern society.”
That sounds like a load of hooey if you ask me (pardon the old man-speak). If anything, it’s just one more way to put advertising in front of consumers.
According to the news article you will still be able to buy the “antiquated” cash version.
I haven’t been this bothered about a board game since Electronic Battleship.
You should not need batteries to play the classic board games. It just ain’t right!
Via Engadget: Monoploly ditches cash, goes plastic
It sets off a nerve every time I hear someone rant about the loss of personal liberties when it comes to something like a law requiring drivers to wear safety belts. There is a long running debate in this country as to whether driving is a right or a privilege. Arguments for either side are both passionate and compelling.
Regardless of which camp you fall into, to say that the government has no right to tell you to wear a seat belt is short sighted and naive as is the belief that not wearing your seat belt harms no one but the person who chooses not to buckle up.
From the Arizona DPS:
The cost of unbuckled drivers and passengers goes beyond those killed and the loss to their families. We all pay for those who don’t buckle up ““ in higher taxes, higher health care and higher insurance costs.
On average, inpatient hospital care costs for an unbelted crash victim are 50 percent higher than those for a belted crash victim. Society bears 85 percent of those costs, not the individuals involved. Every American pays about $580 a year toward the cost of crashes. If everyone buckled up, this figure would drop significantly.
By reaching the goal of 90 percent seat belt use, and 25 percent reduction in child fatalities could save $8.8 billion annually.
Those are some pretty amazing numbers.
While it may be a valid concern that government is whittling away at our personal liberties, I think that fighting over whether or not you should wear seat belts is a wasted effort. There are certainly bigger fish to fry and since seat belts save lives and have the potential to save us some money I feel the law is justified.
Besides, I know from personal experience that you simply cannot count on your fellow driver to “do the right thing”, not when death is on the line.
Case in point:
It’s circa 1987 and a younger, more naive Jay Lee is driving his brand new Honda CRX to Temple, TX to visit family for the holidays.
At this stage of my life I’m young, I’m stupid (more so than now, I believe) and rather cocky in that young, invincible, live forever woo-hoo kinda way. Still, I don’t like getting hassled by the man and I know full well that the Texas Highway Patrol is out in force on the holiday weekend looking for speeders, drunk drivers and GASP!, those who may be driving sans seat belt so I buckle up. Not because I believe in the safety it provides, not because I give a tinkers damn about health costs or insurance rates. I buckle up because I don’t want to get a ticket.
The Honda CRX is sporty two-seater and I am enjoying the drive as I wind my way north and west away from Houston. I’m not speeding or, if I am, it’s a few miles over the limit but nothing extreme. I have a healthy fear/respect of law enforcement and don’t really want to be pulled over in a small Texas town.
At that time I was dating a woman named Shari and she was riding in the passenger seat with me for holiday family visit. I recall at some point she didn’t have her seat belt on. Maybe we had pulled out of a gas station and she forgot or she had to get something from the behind the seat I don’t remember exactly. I do remember reminding her to buckle up, which she did.
Shortly afterward, I drove into a curve and there was some road work. I noticed the loose gravel sign and thought to decelerate when it became very obvious that we had already driven into the loose gravel. I could feel the rear end fish-tailing and I struggled to control the car, but to no avail. The car went into a spin and proceeded to go backward across the highway and off the road and flipped onto it’s roof.
I remember us both hanging there, upside down, firmly strapped in place and looking at each other as we marvelled at our predicament and realized we were both unhurt. Something I am sure would not be true had we not been wearing seat belts.
So I owe my current well being not to my ability to make a choice to protect myself from physical harm, but rather to my desire to obey the law and not pay a fine. And am I ever grateful for that law? You bet your sweet bippy I am!
On top of that we had no health insurance. Had we been injured the tax payers of this great nation would have footed the bill for our medical treatment.
So yea, it’s personal for me. Buckle up!
There’s a lot of focus these days on customer service. And while it’s true that the service professional is responsible for his role in any customer service interaction, there are things that the customer can do to help facilitate a positive experience.
With that in mind, I offer these tips for dealing with your IT dept.
1. REBOOT YOUR COMPUTER
If you have not rebooted your PC to see if it clears up the problem you have done nothing. Many problems can be cleared up with a simple restart of your computer. If it’s locked up, force it to turn off by pulling the power if necessary.
When you call the helpdesk one of the first questions you are likely to be asked is “Did you reboot?” If you answer yes then you move on to phase 2 of the troubleshooting process. If you answer “No” you may be sent away to do so and have to get back into the queue for support.
Also keep in mind that just because you don’t see how a reboot could solve the problem does not mean it’s not a good thing to try. When it comes to asking for help with your computer, your understanding of the troubleshooting process is not essential to getting your problem resolved. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true. When you call the helpdesk and you indicate you have already tried rebooting your computer the technician is likely to respond favorably to you and the rest of the troubleshooting process is likely to be way more pleasant.
It’s also quite likely that the reboot will make the call the to the helpdesk completely unnecessary and then EVERYBODY wins.
2. DON’T LIE
Your IT professional may ask you questions in the diagnosis process.
For example, the IT person may ask “Did you change anything?” to which most people reply “No, I didn’t change anything.”
Installing software programs counts as change.
Installing a security patch counts as change.
Adding or removing hardware components counts as change.
For the more painfully literal IT people the fact that you observed your computer running counts as change if you apply the Schrödinger’s Cat mental exercise. I pity you if you are cursed with such a technician.
Another common user lie is “I tried everything.” Obviously you DIDN’T try everything, or you wouldn’t be seeking help and you would have solved the problem yourself.
Speaking of trying things, if you are able to remember what you tried this can help the technician figure out how much worse you have made the original problem and guide them through the process undoing the additional damage caused by attempting to fix the problem yourself.
3. ASK GOOD QUESTIONS
Let’s say you arrive at work, turn on your computer and are unable to get to e-mail, you’re stock reports (which you shouldn’t be doing on company time, tsk tsk!) or communicate with your friends via AIM, Yahoo or whatever (again, TSK TSK!)
This first instinct of most users is to contact the helpdesk and ask “Is the Internet down?” to which the technician will usually respond to by saying “No.” This is because the Internet is not likely going to be completely down but since you asked, they answered. A good technician knows what you are really asking but is often so painfully literal that they will answer the question asked rather than try to determine what you really need.
A better way to approach this problem would be to say something along the lines of “I can’t seem to connect to the Internet, is there a network problem?” to which the answer may still be “No” but this will facilitate the process of determining why YOU cannot connect to the Internet.
4. DON’T OFFER USELESS INFORMATION
A common comment technicians hear is the phrase “It worked yesterday” or “It was working fine up until I got back from lunch.”
Well, duh. That’s what we in the business call BROKEN. The fact that something functioned before is not a guarantee it will work in the future. We know it worked fine before, that’s why we have not heard from you until now.
Just state the problem concisely. “My computer will not start” or “I’m being bombarded by porn pop-ups.”
We know your computer started yesterday and that you were pop-up free up until you cruised that non-work related web site during your lunch hour.
It’s not important and will not get your problem solved any faster.
You should also try to minimize guessing what you think the problem might be once the diagnosis has begun. Let the technician do his work.
Also, while technicians appreciate users being contrite and self effacing, you could exacerbate your problem if you subject your technician to the phrase “I’m computer illiterate” or “I know just enough to be dangerous.” It’s like those morons in the Renaissance Festival parade who go by saying “Smile and wave” not realizing that the poor patron standing there is going to have to hear that bit of cleverness from the next 50 parade participants marching by.
Say something meaningful like “I appreciate you taking the time to help me” and “Thanks.”
5. RESPECT YOU TECH’S PERSONAL TIME
In the course of the day you might see one of your IT people walking about. They are usually not just wandering aimlessly looking for someone to ask them a question. Chances are they are on their way to work on another problem or they are on a break. They might even be done for the day.
When you see one of your IT people walking by and you stop them and say “Quick question” you need to know that all questions are quick.
“What is the airspeed of an unladen swallow?” is a quick question. What takes time is determining whether you mean an African Swallow or a European Swallow and details such as wind speed, air pressure, elevation and so forth. There simply is not enough time to answer your question before the elevator doors open or before it’s time to flush and wash up.
You should also keep in mind that if you flag down an IT person on the floor and ask them for something that can’t be done immediately they are going to forget in the time it takes them to make their way back to their desk. This is because they are probably going to be stopped a dozen more times and asked a “quick question” before they make it. If you need something from IT follow the procedure and submit a ticket or send an e-mail.
Besides, the problem you are having almost certainly existed before you saw the tech walk by and the fact that you have not contacted the helpdesk already would tend to indicate that the matter is not urgent.
These simple suggestions can go a long way toward endearing yourself to your IT department and can mean the difference between good tech support and excellent tech support.
You know that program for Windows called Weatherbug? That little application you install on your PC to give you weather updates live to your desktop? That program that chirps at you when a line of thunderstorms is barreling down on your location? Of course you do. You might even use it yourself.
I hate that program.
And this is not an idle hate, born of ignorance and perpetuated by misunderstandings. This is a hate born of experience and nurtured by facts.
As many people know, I am a huge anti-spyware activist. I write about it alot in my columns, I rant about it on my radio show and fight it each and every day at my job. I have even gone so far as to document my own remedy, affectionately known as the Jay Lee Patented Spyware Removal System that outlines some free programs and useful steps to help rid one’s computer of this scourge of technology.
Many years ago (back in the day as the kids say) when the Intraweb was just getting started ingenious web designers discovered that they could imbed HTML code in a web site that would cause a window to spontaneously erupt on your computer screen. And it wasn’t long before someone figured out that this window could hold an advertisement and the dreaded pop-up was born.
Web sites around the world utilized the pop-up as a way of pushing content to their web browsing visitors. These same sites recognized the earning potential of the pop-up when the realized they could sell this space to various advertisers like so many virtual billboards and pop-ups soon rivaled or even replaced the more common banner click-through ad that one would see on any given web page.
This, of course, gave birth to a burgeoning cottage industry. Pop-up blockers; useful little utilities that you could run on your computer that would close a pop-up window with a satisfying “pop” sound effect.
As pop-up blockers grew in popularity I can recall discussions on the ethics of using them. Otherwise sane people in the Internet industry would say “You must not run pop-up blockers! Those web site depend on the revenue of the advertisers! How will the web remain free?”
They argued that pop-ups were a necessary evil and that pop-up blockers were more harmful than helpful.
Nobody listened. Maybe they should have. Regardless, pop-up blockers became common place and pop-up ads were steadily being squashed. Web surfers were putting the mouse pedal to the metal and blazing along at speeds of 33.6 and some of the more fortunate propelled themselves forward at a staggering 56k.
Many web sites gave up as the potential revenue from pop-up ads declined. Why advertise in pop-up form if your potential audience never even saw the ad? Most advertisers went back to the old fashioned pay per hit method of the click-through banner ad and all seemed right with the world.
I don’t know what year it was. It had to be about five years ago. I was happily cruising along, surfing the net and for some reason I was compelled to look at the logs of my pop-up blocker (Adsgone as I recall) and I noticed that an awful lot of ads had been blocked in the short time I was surfing the web. For some now forgotten reason I decided to shut down the pop-up blocker and see what would happen.
Much to my dismay, my screen began to fill with pop-up advertisements! Not just the one or two you would expect from normal web browsing of the time, but dozens of them. As I dug around and explored and Google-searched the matter I came to a gruesome discovery. I had programs running on my computer that were generating pop-up ads! These were not the pop-ups I was familiar with, pop-ups generated by HTML code in a web site. These were coming from a stand alone program installed on my PC! Not only that but I noticed additional search bars in my web browser. Add-ons that were redirecting my web traffic to who knows where.
This is my first revelation and experience in dealing with what is commonly referred to today as spyware and adware.
Before I go on I should mention here that the term spyware is pretty loosely used these days. Many programs that are called spyware are not, in fact, spying on you. More often it is adware, software designed to steer you toward advertising. Another term for spyware and adware is malware (malicious software). No matter what you call it, it usually on your PC and you want it gone.
The primary culprit in my situation was a program called Weatherbug. Like so many people I just didn’t know that this little “free” utility came bundled with some other programs, programs that caused my computer to spew pop-up ads and installed browser helpers designed to redirect my web surfing to advertisers sites.
Weatherbug is a company and like any company they have one primary goal and that is to generate revenue.
Part of their revenue stream is derived from the add-ons to their software that generate the pop-ups and hijack your web browser. If you purchase their program you can get rid of the ads but if you want to use the “free” version you have to live with the pop-ups and other nastiness.
The uninstall goes ok. Not great, but ok. I have to struggle a bit with it and go in and manually delete some things and it’s gone. I immediately notice an improvement in performance of my PC and I even get rid of my ad blocking software as the ads are minimal and I gain even more system resources.
Hallelujah! I’m free!
At this point I probably would not have given two darns or a heck about Weatherbug. In my mind it was a victory to discover that the program was a source of problems and simply ridding myself of it was all I needed to re-vitalize my Internet optimism. Little did I know what was coming.
In my day to day I do a lot of computer advising. My day job, my ra-didio show and my weekly column and almost daily Helpline blog not to mention the family members, friends and friends of friends who call, e-mail or shout their computer questions at me on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a chosen path and one I embrace.
In the course of solving my own problems I use this experience, strength and hope to assist others and it wasn’t long before a question about Weatherbug came along. I used it in my column for the Houston Chronicle and I outlined the pitfalls of this application and cautioned my readers against installing or using this program.
After a few e-mail exchanges I gave up. Was this the end of my ongoing saga with Weatherbug? Nope!
As my crusade against spyware/adware/malware continued I found myself fielding question after question about this problem. I worked it into the column as often as I could. The radio show began to sound like the Spyware Show for crying out loud. This was/is a problem of epic proportions.
As I wrote my column I would end up mentioning Weatherbug on occasion. I was always careful not to call the program adware or spyware or even Malware. I just pointed out that if you have it installed on your computer you might find your life to be way more pleasant and worth living if you were to remove it.
And guess what? Each and every time I would mention it I would get contacted by Weatherbug challenging what I had to say.
I appreciate that they want to evangelize their product and protect it’s reputation. I even respect that. Sadly, one fact remains. When you install the free version you get a pile of software crap on your PC you would be better off without. I won’t hesitate to tell you that and I likely won’t be changing my position on this anytime soon.
I only casually mentioned Weatherbug in today’s HelpLine Blog which you can read here. I was comparing it to another malware offender known as Smiley Central which also installs garbage on your computer. The article had not been online more than one hour when I received a comment from the CTO of Weatherbug, Benjamin Beroukhim. He wanted to direct me to his editorial reply at networkworld.com where he was responding to NetBuzz columnist Paul McNamara and his recent observations regarding Weatherbug’s efforts to bolster their corporate image at the 2005 Interop conference in Las Vegas.
In his response to Mcnamara and Networkworld Beroukhim (The CTO of Weatherbug) went so far as to post this missive on the Weatherbug corporate blog in which he called into question Paul McNamara and Network World’s regard for human life. Good lord!
On of McNamara’s readers did respond by saying that “It looks like WeatherBug only cares about the lives of Windows-using employees since there is no version for Mac or Unix/Linux,” “Maybe it’s part of a bigger Microsoft plot to eliminate users of competing operating systems?”
So I guess this blog entry is my response to Beroukhim. With the proper tags in this blog entry and all the right keywords like “spyware” and “weatherbug” in the same story I fully expect a response from him or one of the other Weatherbug faitful within the hour. Maybe I should have him on the show?
Nahhhh…it would end up being an infomercial for malware and what kind of anti-spyware crusader would I be if I were to allow that to happen?
I would like to go out on a positive note and I will do that by promoting Konfabulator (now called Yahoo Widget Engine), a nifty desktop utility for Windows that will magically provide current weather conditions to your desktop for free and without one single pop-up. Will wonders never cease.