Starbucks

It’s been all over the news (at least the news I’ve been reading) this week how Starbucks closed everywhere for “anti-bias training”. This was prompted by an incident where two guests at a Philadelphia Starbucks were arrested for, apparently, loitering. It happened that those two gentlemen were African-American, so it quickly became yet another instance of being arrested simply for the color of one’s skin.

There’s been much commentary about how these sorts of training things are really ineffective. True, perhaps, but you have to give Starbucks credit for at least making the effort without prompting – unlike some other businesses one could mention.

And really, it wasn’t the corporation’s fault. *One* barista called the police. Starbucks could have just told them that their services were no longer needed, and they should seek employment elsewhere. And what about the two police officers? It should have been obvious that there was no reason to arrest anyone. Is the Philadelphia PD going to have more mandatory training on “How to Handle Situations Where an Arrest Is Not Clearly Warranted”?

Personally, I suspect some of people’s griping about Starbucks is residual – and irrational – hatred of the corporation itself. Starbucks was the first real coffee shop chain to go national (as far as I can recall), and all the hipsters and coffee snobs from the Pacific Northwest were jealous. They griped about how Starbucks was selling overpriced coffee and driving local coffee shops out of business. Funny how there didn’t seem to be any coffee shops of the Starbucks variety in the first place. Sure, you had luncheonettes and Dunkin Donuts. But they weren’t places where you could nurse a latte for an hour while working on your latest novel. And now, there actually are more independent coffee shops around.

Another common gripe (since that first one isn’t very relevant anymore) is that Starbucks over-roasts (i.e. “burns”) its coffee. I have two things to note about this. First, take a look at Starbucks’ menu. It’s all “lattes” and “cappuccinos” and “Americanos”. A latte is espresso and milk. An Americano is espresso and hot water. The vast majority of their menu is espresso-based drinks. And guess what? Espresso is the darkest, most roasted of coffee forms. It’s naturally going to taste “over-roasted”. Secondly, how many people order a “plain coffee” at Starbucks? They’ll always add in milk (of one sort or another) and flavorings. You need a strong, dark roast to cut through all that and give you some sense of coffee flavor.

Me? Yes, I’m a Starbucks regular. There’s one a half mile away from where I live. Across the street from that Starbucks there’s an independent coffee shop. There’s another one around the corner from that Starbucks. But they are both closed by 6 pm. The Starbucks is open to 9 pm. If I want an after dinner “dessert” coffee on a weekend, where else am I going to go?

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This Year’s Cold

Well, it’s not so much as a “cold” as the world’s most evil cough.

No headache, no fever, no chills, no congestion, no general achiness. But every couple of hours, the body decides it’s time to turn the lungs inside out.

When I wake up, I feel fine. “Okay, no problems today, I must have beaten it during the night!” So it’s off to work….only to be hiding in the rest room three hours later coughing into the sink wondering just how much slime can be in my lungs without my noticing it. And holding my stomach in, because I don’t want to cough so hard I pull something or give myself a hernia (which actually did happen to me some years ago).

I suppose I could be mainlining cough drops, but that doesn’t help much when I’m in bed trying to sleep. At the drug store, I’m confronted with the Paradox of Choice. Which over-the-counter medicine is most appropriate? Extra-strength? Nighttime relief? The one loaded with ingredients to deal with symptoms I don’t have? Name brand or store brand? Should I care about the flavor? AARRGGHH!!

The worst part is that because there are no other symptoms, I’m never going to be truly certain that it’s gone…..

Dear Senator Gillibrand

Congratulations!

You have successfully rid the Senate of that notorious serial groper and sexual deviant Al Franken!

No longer will the women (and men too, presumably) of those august halls live in abject fear of running into someone who stood accused of being a little too “hands on” during photo ops over seven years ago! Even though his current staff and former co-workers have no ill to speak of him, being a former “dirty old man” makes one obviously unsuitable for even the smallest role in the Federal Government!

You can take pride in knowing that you have done your country a great service. Even though Mr. Franken was one of the sharpest interrogators in Senate hearings and a bastion of feminist and Democratic principles, one has to draw a line!

While you may be tempted to consider this a job well done and look forward to a relaxing holiday season, I urge that you do not put your weapons away just yet.

Infamous (accused, to be fair) child molester and general creep Roy Moore just might be sent by the people of Alabama to represent them in the same Senate that you have just finished purging. Be ready to lead the charge against him should it prove necessary!

And then, keep your Sword of Righteousness at hand! Consider these bouts as training for the biggest target: the self-confessed “Pussygrabber-in-Chief” Donald Trump. Surely, if Franken had to go, Trump should be shown the door, too?

Yours,

A Constituent

p.s. I hope you’ll remember to help with the campaign next year. A safe Senate seat for Democrats through 2020 is now up for grabs next year!

SNOWFLAKES HAVE SIX SIDES

So we put up the office Christmas decorations this week, and there were a couple that really got me peeved.

I suppose they were intended to represent snowflakes, but they were like no snowflake that ever existed on this planet. Instead of the natural hexagonal symmetry (six sides), they had octagonal symmetry (eight sides) – eight branches coming off the center in a squarish pattern.

Here’s a photo of an honest to goodness real snowflake:

A real snowflake! The way nature intends them to be!

See that? SIX SIDES! Here are more photos of the types of actual snowflakes, in all their amazing variety:

http://www.thoughtco.com/snowflake-crystal-shapes-609172

The one thing they have in common? SIX SIDES.

Here’s a photo of the sort of thing that got put up around the office:

NOT SNOWFLAKES

I suppose the reason these abominations exist is because people are too lazy to bother learning the trick to making the necessary hexagonal fold.

But come on, it’s not that hard. And there are plenty of “How To” websites, like this one:

http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-6-Pointed-Paper-Snowflakes/

If you prefer watching a video:

I actually use that method for the hexagonal fold, but I’ve never ironed them. Instead, I pause when I’ve made that dart shape and before I begin cutting. I unfold the paper, smooth out all the creases, and then fold it back up.

Pro Tips: The thinner the paper, the easier it is to fold and cut. Use sharp scissors! Also, always make straight line cuts. No curves! Real snowflakes do NOT have curves!

If you make a mistake cutting them, or they don’t look good, don’t worry. It’s just paper! Toss the defective ones in the Recycling Bin (White Paper Only), and make another.

So do it right and make your own individual unique snowflakes, OK?

On Movie Remakes

I’ve started seeing ads for the upcoming movie Ghostbusters. Anyone who’s been paying attention will know that there’s been quite a stir over it, with complaints ranging from the unnecessary remaking of a “classic” to the deliberate choice by the moviemakers to have the cast be all female this time around. I’m not going to wade into that debate, other than to note that some of the humor in the original is dated, a good number of the people complaining weren’t alive when the original came out, and that I think they might have been better served if instead of an outright remake, they did a sort of “spinoff” and had the movie be about a “branch office”/franchise of the Ghostbusters ™ working in another old city (Philadelphia or Boston, perhaps).

Hollywood remakes movies all the time. It seems that with every announcement of a remake, certain film buffs/purists get all up in arms over the lack of originality or the “desecration of a classic”. Except when it comes to a “reboot” of a superhero movie, of course. The fanboys never complain about those… But there are valid reasons to remake a movie.

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Respecting Baseball

So there’s been a lot of talk during Spring Training this year about “showing respect for the game” – whatever that means. Usually, it’s the Old School Traditionalists decrying the number of bat flips and fist pumps, insisting that showing a little emotion during a game is an offense to the other team, the fans, and everyone who ever had anything whatsoever to do with professional baseball. Naturally, a lot of younger players disagree, saying that they should be allowed to have fun on the job. Baseball is too stuffy and old-fashioned to attract many new fans….

Now I don’t like the showboating that’s far too common in football and basketball, but there’s no reason that baseball players have to be soulless robots.

Just keep in mind a few rules when celebrating….

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The Trouble with Google Maps

I’m pretty good at reading maps. I’ve never needed a GPS (well, except for that one time I took a rental car to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and even then I missed a turn and got lost). These days, when I’m traveling, I like to go online and print out a map of my route and the local area where I will be.

But often it’s not easy to do. It’s not that the online maps use color shadings that are worse than useless on a printout. It’s a matter of orientation and scale.
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The Name of the Movie is “STAR WARS”

Another May 4th has come and gone, and geeks everywhere display their true geekdom by referring to it as “Star Wars Day”. Seems that “May the fourth” is a lisping version of part of the famous (and overused to the point of tedium) quotation, “May the Force be with you.” The attempted joke was funny once… for a few seconds… but by now it’s just annoying. It’s as funny as the phrase “chicken butt”. Let it die in peace already.

Of course, Star Wars fans are all atwitter about the next movie in the series, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, set to come out this December. With the previous movie (Revenge of the Sith) some ten years old, a lot of young new fans want to catch up on the series by watching all the previous movies.

I’m seeing a lot of stuff online about the correct order to watch them in. I strongly recommend watching them in the order in which they were made and released – Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith.

Actually, you can probably ignore the three “prequels”. They have offensive characterizations, overuse of green screens and computer graphics, tedious scenes filled with talking, the reduction of The Force into some sort of scientific gobbledeygook…

Worse, you already know how the story is going to end. You know Anankin will join the Dark Side and become Darth Vader. You know which characters must survive. There’s no real tension in any of them.

And it could have been so much better….

By the way…. The name of the movie is Star Wars. Not “Star Wars: A New Hope”, Not “Star Wars: Episode IV”, just Star Wars. Thanks to the Internet, you can go back to 1977 and see the opening crawl from the movie’s original theatrical release:

Notice anything missing? That’s right! There’s no “Episode IV: A New Hope” nonsense! Nowhere in the movie, in any of the reviews, or in any of the advertising and promotional materials was it mentioned that this was going to be part of a series, and therefore needed a number / subtitle. It wasn’t until Lucas was working on The Empire Strikes Back that he thought of making the movies a series. The “Episode IV: A New Hope” bit first appeared in the opening crawl of the movie in its 1981 theatrical re-release. Which, actually, was a year AFTER “Empire” came out.

So there.

You Are Being Watched

A few weeks ago, I discovered that my RF Modulator had given up the ghost. That’s the little box that connects both a DVD player and the antenna to a TV. Seems that the little power indicator LED doesn’t come on anymore. That should give you some idea of how little TV I watch that I have no clue how long it’s been out. At work the next day, I went online to get some prices on a replacement.

Even though that was just a few minutes of searching, and it was several weeks ago, I am still seeing banner ads offering me deals on RF Modulators.
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The NRA vs. The CDC

While strolling through the local library on my lunch break today, I couldn’t help but see the cover story on the New York Daily News. “Killed by the NRA”, it screamed. In their typical sensational tabloid fashion, this referred to the fact that while the Centers for Disease Control spend millions of dollars annually studying how to reduce deaths from things like Lyme disease (22,000 deaths in 2012, CDC budget for prevention programs: $10.6M), they are forbidden by law to spend any significant amount of money studying anything that could even remotely be connected to “gun control”.

Back in 1993, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study led by Arthur Kellerman and funded by the CDC that found a strong link between having a gun in the home and an increased risk of homicide. The NRA, through its lobbyists, screamed bloody murder. They wanted to completely wipe out the division of the CDC that funded the study, but instead wound up having an amendment inserted into a 1997 budget package which stated that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” While it didn’t specifically ban research on gun control, the intent was made very clear when that same budget took the exact amount that the CDC spent on firearm safety research the previous year and earmarked it specifically for brain trauma research.

With the writing on the wall, the CDC has not funded any real gun safety research since then.

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