Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

February 2005

GeneralMonday, February 28th, 2005, (3:33 pm)

I can’t say I am a really big candy bar person, but from time to time I do like to chomp on something. I don’t know if they have Yorkie bars in America, probably not as most American candy is rubbish from the pitiful selections I’ve seen. However even if it were, I doubt it would get away with the cheeky ‘not for girls’ campaign.

Truth of the matter is if a dog is mans best friend, then choclate is womans best friend. My favorite has to be a Cadbury’s creme egg though. They are just yummy. I don’t even want to think how bad they must be for you.

Everyone loves the choclate!
British candy for sale online
The science of choclate
Choclate myths
Choclate as addictive as heroin (but won’t make you as thin as a heroin addict)

GeneralSunday, February 27th, 2005, (5:02 pm)

This isn’t going to be a long post, but I just want to say, for the record, that I really do love my life!

One of my friends went into his office today to finish some stuff up ahead of the new week ahead. I was astounded that he would do such a thing on such a beautiful day here in England. The sun was shining and the air felt like springtime. As I read his message I sat back in my chair (about to try and complete a design project that itself needs to be done by Monday) and thought to myself how foolish it was to waste such a day, especially that it is Sunday! So I wrote the little post below, and then headed out. I put the roof down on the MG and set of to the beach (5 miles from my house).

After taking a little wander along the beach, I got back in the car and headed out for a little drive around some of the nearby villages. The afternoon felt very English, and as I drove along I just thought to myself how happy I am, haw happy I have been for as long as I can remember, and how lucky I am to feel this way. Life is great and I’m loving every single moment!

A little movie I made watching the sunset once
My MG (car)

GeneralThursday, February 24th, 2005, (6:20 pm)

I make no secret of the fact that I don’t much like Starbucks. The reason isn’t because of it poor record on fair trade (which I believe it has somewhat ‘fixed’ now), or even its not-the-best coffee. The reason why I have grown to hate Starbucks is because of their aggressive global expansion and McDonalisation of the ‘coffee culture.’

The truth is I don’t much like any of the big brand shops. McDonalds, Burger King etc. However the flip side is that they drive suppliers price down and, in the case of supermarkets, are able to attract consumers because they are simply cheaper than small independent store. Then of course there is the value of ‘brand recognition.’ Step into any McDonalds or Starbucks and if you’ve been to one, you’ll be familiar with what’s on offer at another, that kind of familiarity is good for repeat customers who aren’t looking so much for the ‘experience’ as much as they are looking for a burger or coffee.

Of course Starbucks has a responsibility to its shareholders to be successful. Their strategy is unashamedly to continue an aggressive program of rapid expansion, growing by more than four stores and 200 employees every day. But as the company sells itself on he ‘experience’ of Starbucks, I find myself turned off by it’s feeling of mass production and by the fact that a Starbucks could appear at the end of my street almost overnight, and just like a MacDonalds its success would be almost guaranteed.

My fear, of course, is that Starbucks will simply drive my favorite independent coffee houses out of business. The likes of Portland Coffee House in Portland, The Revue in Fresno California, Uptown Espresso in Seattle, and my favorite, The Atomic cafe in Beverly, Massachusetts. Unsurprisingly, despite the disappearance of many independents, Starbucks themselves feel that their expansion doesn’t have a negative effect on the independents but rather “invigorates the marketplace”, which is megacorp speak for “such-is-life.”

As much as I want to hate Starbucks for being a big-nasty-megacorp, I couldn’t help but soften up a little when I learned of one daily routine carried out by Starbucks CEO-designate Jim Donald. Apparently, according to a recent magazine article I read, Donald calls five of the 550 Starbucks district managers in North America, each of whom oversees 10 stores, to check in for a minute or two. He then dials three Starbucks stores at random to say thank you to employees and ask for feedback. Indeed looking after its staff, or ‘partners’ as they like to refer to them as, is one of the cornerstones of the companies strategy. In fact, chairman and chief global strategist Howard Schultz told BusinessWeek Online in October that in the next two years, Starbucks will spend more on employee health care costs than it does on coffee!

Another objection I have to Starbucks is the price. Here in the UK my local Borders book store (yes I know, another big retail corp) used to have it’s own little coffee shop. However Borders did a deal with Starbucks and replaced all of their in-house coffee outlets with Starbucks. My usual drink of choice, an almond steamer, leapt in price from just 70 pence to nearly three pounds (about five bucks)! It’s steamed milk with a couple of shots of syrup for goodness sake!

Jon Markman of MSN Money recently broke down the cost of his regular Starbucks beverage, a double-tall, extra-hot latte with a single pump of sugar-free vanilla costing $3.22. He concluded that the main ingredient was a double shot of espresso, costing $1.85. The Starbucks he visits don’t charge him for the shot of vanilla, and at the sugar-and-napkins counter he could pour as much milk into his cup as he likes, so that’s free, too. Therefore the $1.37 premium was simply for the labor of steaming the milk, which takes about 20 seconds. Markman writes “If a barista can do three steamed milks in a minute and keep up that pace all day, then she’s earning Starbucks around $246 an hour just by steaming milk.”

Perhaps I’m just old fashioned an overly romantic about the business of doing business. It’s getting harder and harder to support the little guy these days because they’re getting fewer in numbers. Pushed into obscurity by the mass produced machines of the big-brands. For me the ‘experience’ of shopping has eroded to a mere function. We travel like drones to the mall, to walk through the very same selection of shops that we would find in any mall, anywhere. It would seem that Individualism is something of a lost cause, and maybe it’s just me, but I think we’re poorer for it.

Starbucks workforce article (Free registration required)
Jon Markman on Starbucks
PoshCoffee – Maybe one day I’ll do this
Portland Coffee House – Oregon : Review
Revue Cafe – Fresno, Cal
Uptown Espresso – Seattle
Atomic Cafe – Beverly, Mass
Starbucks Frappuccino = three cheeseburgers worth of calories

General and PoliticalThursday, February 24th, 2005, (12:30 pm)

President George ‘dubya’ Bush is has been touring Europe to try and rebuild the broken bonds of friendship and trust between Europe and America. He’s got a less than welcome reception by the people wherever he’s gone, but then again he probably wasn’t expecting anything else.

In a way it’s nice to see the boy Bush over here trying to repair the damage he caused. But on the other hand his reasons for coming are more to do with the declining value of the dollar and trade deficits than anything else, but politics is politics so we can’t hold that against him.

Today though the gun slinging President started waving his pistol around again, dispelling claims that America was about to bomb the hell out of Iran and North Korea, but warning them that “all options are still on the table.”

Now, in the face of growing opposition back home to his ‘action’ in Iraq (remember it hasn’t been a ‘war’ for a long time according to Bush), you might think that the boy Bush wouldn’t be so ready to start dropping bombs on anyone else, or come to that even threatening to do so. But it would seem that he’s willing to ‘take out’ North Korea’s nuclear program and the same in Iran. But with his military already stretched to capacity would it really be a clever move to start a war with North Korea and Iran? Especially considering the fact that back in 1994 the Pentagon projected casualty numbers of over a million on each side if America was to go to war with North Korea.

So, given the fact that I know a few of Americans read this little blog of mine, I am interested in what your opinions are on the whole American military action situation is.

Would America be right and wise to start what it calls ‘preemptive strikes’ on North Korea and Iran?

Also, why is it that America can have a nuclear arsenal, but Iran and North Korea can’t?

And, why isn’t America concerned about India and Pakistan’s nuclear strategies?

Finally, one last question. It would seem that the watching world are not feeling very good about ‘the land of the free’ these days which to my mind is a great pity as America is a great place and most Americans I have met are great people, but what is the world to think about the freedom and democracy American politics always harp on about when we see continuing pictures of men being held without charge in Guantanamo Bay. And of the few who have been released back to their own countries (the UK included) they have all been released without charge.

I’m just interested to hear what actual Americans think of the situation, rather than what the Bush Administration tells us.

GeneralTuesday, February 22nd, 2005, (8:50 pm)

At the gym tonight while having a quick shower by the pool after using the sauna, I spied a rather dumb warning sign in the shower bay. It read ‘Please take caution when using this facility as the floor may be wet’. – Well Dah!

GeneralMonday, February 21st, 2005, (10:47 am)

I spotted this sign over the weekend at a place not far from where I live that is fenced off from walkers. The sign on the left says “Wildfowl Reserve : Established and maintained within the fenced area since 1964 by the Dee Wildfowlers and Wetlands Management Club.” While the sign clearly states this is a Military firing range!

We really know how to look after our wildfowl here. We give them there own bit of land, fence it off, then let the army bomb the hell out of them!

The Dee Wetlands management club

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