Monday, November 30, 2009
Stealth Starbucks Not Sign that Americans are Sick of Corporate Chains – Just Another International Corporate Chain Expanding Its Market Share
I occasionally go to Starbucks but I don’t love it or hate it (I actually don’t even drink coffee). I think that Starbucks is too widespread but the attraction of their brand is still huge among millions of people in most locations and it draws huge number of people into their stores. This seems especially true in spots where there are not Starbucks on every corner, smaller cities and suburbs. The one Starbucks in the town square of the Broward County, FL suburb where I go on vacations sometimes has had lines out the door for years and the drive thru in Madison on University Ave. is always busy despite competition very close by.
I agree with Simon that there are many people (lots of them in Madison) who like to support local businesses and don’t like corporate chains but I think Starbucks is smart and I’d bet this strategy is about gaining more of the total market share. The article suggest that this stealth store strategy is not working: “Apparently the experiment isn’t working. A former Starbucks insider said that Seattle’s 15th Ave. Coffee and Tea – the first of the new not Starbucks stores is doing only a third of the business of the regular green-logoed Starbucks store that used be at that site.” In order to evaluate whether or not it is working you’d need to look at the change in sales at the nearby Starbucks. I’d bet that many of the Starbucks regulars who are not buying their coffee at 15th Ave, are going to the Starbucks down the block or the one on their drive into work and I’d bet that some of the people hitting up the new shop were folks who did not go to Starbucks much in the past. Also, perhaps Starbucks wanted to close one of the shops in that part of town and figured it would be better to compete with themsevles than another chain who could move in if they left. The true test of this strategy is whether they expand it and whether these stealth stores stay open.
I wish that the appeal of the chains was not so strong and that more folks would support local businesses but I really think it is more difficult than ever for a small independent retail business in any industry to compete against the Amazons, Olive Gardens, and Starbucks of the world.
Come to think of it, I'd rather hang out at 15th Ave Coffee than Starbucks given the choice if I don't have to say Grande when I order my drink.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
NY Times - The Kid Whisperer
Time - Bringing Down the Heicopter Parents
Both bring up good issues but I am still thinking about what I want to say about them....in the meanwhile, read and discuss......
Monday, November 23, 2009
I have been thinking about this post I wrote about Penelope Trunk and her recent twitter post regarding her miscarriage. I re-read what I wrote the other day and I feel bad and a bit embarrassed about it.
My blog gets very little traffic, I want folks to read it but few do. I do not expect anything I put here to get more than 10 readers if I am lucky and sometimes I don’t put much care or thought into my posts. As things worked out, many many people read that post because Penelope found it and linked folks to it. I feel especially bad because I told a friend who never read my blog about this exchange and she read my post and I fear that she thinks I am a sexist idiot. I hope my family did not lose a friend because of this. Out of context, my post reads very sexist and stupid.
It was not nice to judge Penelope as I did. I don’t live in her shoes or any woman’s shoes. Penelope is a very interesting person who lives a part of her life online; it is part of who she is. She shares personal things on line that most people would never share. Many of her readers wonder why she shares what she shares and others applaud her for it. Part of my note was my amateur psychoanalysis of Penelope based on her online reality show life that I have been reading along with many others. This is a tempting habit that many of us do about folks in the public eye but who are we to judge.
I am sorry about some of what I said, part is sexist, some is stupid and some is mean. Some of my comments were made in the context of a woman who writes about how to attract investors to your start up company and how to make a personal brand but her blog is more than a business.
I realize now that some of my comments are idiotic because a miscarriage can take a long time to go through; as many readers of this story have said they also had to live life through the weeks of their miscarriage and it is a difficult time; many appreciated Trunk for talking openly about a real issue many have faced. It is not reality to think that women could rest on the couch for 3 weeks while they recover from the miscarriage.
The other dumb thing I wrote was to suggest that she get her tubes tied. Of course no birth control is not always effective, while she maybe could have done something different, she is one of millions of American women who have had an unwanted pregnancy, not an unusual problem and tubal ligation is a big deal and serious surgery and not an flippant action to take. How many men in powerful positions end up getting women pregnant, does that affect their careers at all?
In reflection, I also think what I wrote is sexist because I am assuming that a women who wrote about these personal things is having some emotional problems, I probably would not have had that attitude if a similar post was written by a man, maybe she is more stable than me who is too chicken to share any real person stuff online.
Whether this was her initial plan or not, I think she used the miscarriage tweet to make some very good points about women in the workplace, women’s health, abortion laws, and more. Keep in mind that my post was written after she only tweeted about the experience and before she wrote anything more about it. Had she written a 10-paragraph essay about her miscarriage, I don’t think this would have gotten her on CNN.
I hope that any friends or strangers who read my comments on this topic do not think I am a total idiot and can forgive me despite my errors in judgment. I learned a few things through this and I think so did many other people. I hope overall the positive results of this whole episode for Penelope outweigh the nasty comments she has had to read; folks who unfollowed her and any other negative fallout.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I am generally pleased to see Barrett in the race for Wisconsin's Governor. I think the initial attacks against him will loose steam (he was dragged into the race). His resume is great and I don’t think there are any big scandals he is associated with. His heart is in the right place.
I was initially concerned about a Walker Barrett race because for some reason there are many in Milwaukee County who actually like Walker and some of those folks in the past gov races would have helped support a democrat but this time some folks in Greenfield, West Allis, etc. may go with Walker. Now I am rethinking things, I hope that it is not a Neumann Barrett race because all the folks outside of Milwaukee who view Milwaukee as a drain on the state resources that they don’t care about would like to support someone who is not from Milwaukee. Neumann is not to far right and could attract many moderate independent folks from Rhinelander, Eau Claire, etc. who don’t want a Milwaukee Mayor as their Governor. This is not going to be an easy race but if this calculus is at all accurate, democrats should hope for Walker to get the GOP nomination. How can we help that cause, maybe Democrats should hold their attacks against Walker until after he gets the nomination. Don’t bring him down too soon? Any thoughts? Any I off here?
Monday, November 16, 2009
The larger problem of course is that there are too many accidents. More than 40,000 people are killed each year in the US from car/ truck accidents. Selling the services as something that could help you be safer on the roads is irresponsible in that it really provides a false sense of security.
If anything, the OnStar ads are good reminders that every time you get in the car it is a Russian Roulette rolling death machine. Especially the ones there they play the actual audio from someone calling in from an accident. The only thing those ads really do is suggest that the OnStar person will help the victim panic a bit less. You know what the most scary thing is, what about the calls when there is a really sever accident and someone is dying or in terrible pain. They don't put those on the radio. What a job that would be to get those calls. Someone could do some very dark humor fake OnStar accident ads.
There is so much more we should and could do to prevent many of these accidents.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
The funny thing is that this is a high school and they are considering using a "religious practice test" instead of the traditional matriarchal test. I think I would have failed this test when I was going in to high school.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
"Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (and Making Great Neighborhoods)
In the last 15 years, more than 76,000 Americans have been killed while crossing or walking along a street in their community. More than 43,000 Americans – including 3,906 children under 16 – have been killed this decade alone. This is the equivalent of a jumbo jet going down roughly every month, yet it receives nothing like the kind of attention that would surely follow such a disaster.
Children, the elderly, and ethnic minorities are disproportionately represented in this figure, but people of all ages and all walks of life have been struck down in the simple act of walking. These deaths typically are labeled “accidents,” and attributed to error on the part of motorist or pedestrian. In fact, however, an overwhelming proportion share a similar factor: They occurred along roadways that were dangerous by design, streets that were engineered for speeding cars and made little or no provision for people on foot, in wheelchairs or on a bicycle."
The only think I would add is that in addition to pedestrians there are over 40,000 people killed each year in car accidents and while the causes are many and we need a comprehensive approach to this epidemic, the designs of our streets and neighborhoods also is partly to blame for many of these deaths of people in the cars.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
When I first heard about this I thought that these were real regular people telling stories of things that happened in their lives. After I heard a few however I realized that almost all the ones they put on the podcast are from famous interesting hip people, writers and actors mostly. This has turned me off somewhat to the whole thing because part of why these folks are doing this is because they are really just promoting themselves, their books, their websites, their TV shows. They are almost like professional comedians which is not bad but it not my bubbee up there telling the story of when she traveled to San Francisco to meet my grandfather after he spent 2 years in the South Pacific during WWII in the Navy. Also, I am noticing a trend in the stories after listening to a few in the last week including Jonathan Ames and the Moth founder, George Dawes Green. They like stories by hip smart successful people about times that were very rough real and dirty outside of the mainstream. They don't want to hear about some wealthy kids experience smoking pot at Brown or the time you got lost in Macy's at the mall when you were 7. They like stories about crack cocaine, transsexuals, pit bulls, shrimp boats and shotguns. They also like people that really know how to tell a story and work the crowd, people who have experience. This critisim is similar to what I have said about This American Life's trend towards using hip writer contributers insted of doing stories where they talk to real people about intersting things that happened.
Like I said, I do enjoy the stories and will keep listening but I feel that the whole thing is not what I tought it was. Maybe if I want real people telling stories I should look a bit closer to home.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
"While Palin didn't use the phrase "death panels," she implied that rationed care would lead to elderly or disabled people being denied care to save money. "What may they feel about an elderly person who doesn't have a whole lot of productive years left," Palin asked the audience of about 5,000. (Tickets were $30 each.) "In order to save government money, government health care has to be rationed... [so] then this elderly person that perhaps could be seen as costing taxpayers to pay for a non-productive life? Do you think our elderly will be first in line for limited health care?" Palin made the "death panel" charge explicitly in a Facebook post the following day. "We had been told there were no "death panels" in the bill either," she wrote. "But look closely at the provision mandating bureaucratic panels that will be calling the shots regarding who will receive government health care.""
As I have said before, the whole concept of death panels is not just a lie and a misunderstanding of a provision in an ealier version of the democrats health care reform plan. Any government insurance program or private insurance plan should ration health care services. Part of why Medicare and Medicade costs are skyrocketing out of control is because they don't ration enough. I don't understand enough about Medicare but I would hope that they would not pay for a $500,000 bypass surgery for my 89 year old grandmother if there was little chance of success and her life expectancy given her existing health conditions was very short.
What all Americans should be wondering is: What type of rationing do government medical insurance programs do now? Who decides what to cover and what not to cover? Is it fair? Is it enough? And the same questions should be asked of private insurance programs.
The headline on Palin's speech focused not on this but on her theory that anti religion people in the government moved the words "In God We Trust" to the back of the new dollar coin! This is a bit more wacko and makes of better news than her questions and misunderstandings on heath insurance reform.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The women points out that many new moms don't want to have sex because they feel taken for granted by their husbands and they end up doing far more than half of the child care and housework. Dan reminds women that men can not read their minds and that new moms should speak up and be more clear and demanding. They said it much better than I just did, listen (it is only around a 5 minute part) and let me know what you think.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The question is: will "the farmer" make Penelope and her kids shovel manure?
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
I had a silly thought that I could actually do a quick back of the envelop study that would demonstrate some of the benefits but instead I suggest a study one could do to show the benefits. I can't really comment on the economic side of the program and I agree that some of the big cash for clunkers boost in sales came from postponed sales that would have occurred before the program began.
On the environmental side, I think it is important to point out that the environmental impacts from this program are not global or national, they can be quite local and significant in part because where cars are used is different from where they are manufactured. Almost every major city in the US has significant air pollution problems, smog, particulate matter and more. Approximately 40-50% of that pollution is from mobile sources including primarily cars and trucks. Of the pollution from cars, the vast majority comes from older gas guzzling clunkers or super polluters. New cars that get good millage and are well maintained have very little pollution compared to the 1980 Olds Cutlass you see cruising down the street.
As a result of Cash for Clunkers, many super polluter clunkers are now off the roads of New York, Chicago, and Atlanta. If you assume that only 20% of the 700,000 clunkers that were scrapped were "super polluters" you still are taking 140,000 really polluting cars off the roads, most in urban areas. Yes some many have been scrapped soon anyway but many would still have been driving for years spewing out tons of pollution. Not only do these super polluters contribute a large share of the pollution in a metropolitian area like Atlanta, but studies have show that there are significant health effects to the people who live very close to busy highways. Those people will have less pollution in their back yards because a big chunk of these super polluters are not driving down the highway behind their homes anymore. Air quality modelers could study this more precisely by looking at the total fleet in a city and how it changed due to cash for clunkers and see how that will impact the air pollution. Before you say the program was not a good investment, you should think about the poor kid with asthma who's backyard is next to the Kennedy expressway.
I have mixed feelings about these CaringBridge/ social networking tools and how they are used when our status is not all laughs and giggles. For the most part, I would say that on Facebook and Twitter, 99% of status updates and posts and links are positive. But of course life is not always so positive and bad things happen and the Internet has the potential to allow for friends, family and strangers to help and be supportive when someone is struggling through something. This part of why such a post is so jarring for me because I read silly happy status updates and then boom you are reminded of the what a blessing it is to be healthy and happy and how it could turn on a dime.
Some of my emotions include:
- I wish I can do more for these friends who are suffering but between work, taking care of my 3 little monsters and my sore back (it went out again a few days ago) I can barley keep my own shit together.
- I don't know what to say both in person or on-line for these friends. If I don't sign the guest book do they think I don't care? I don't want to stop the friends in the hall and say how is your son doing because they probably don't have time for a 20 min. conversation but if I just say hi, that seems to suggest I don't remember or care about their situation.
- These tools allow for people to find out about people suffering who they barley know or don't know at all. Would I want notes from strangers on my page if I had such a problem?
- If such a thing happened to my family, would we get an outpouring of help and support? Many neighbors and friends did help when I had my back surgery and when we had our babies but we don't know as many people and have as many good friends as others. It doesn't matter how many FB friends you have; when things get tough who will really be there for you to help out?
- What about all the bad things that happen that you would not put on FB or create a CareBridge site for? When you have marriage problems, lose your job, etc. can you use these tools to help get support and assistance?
Overall I think the internet can help share information, coordinate assistance and make it easier to help someone in need and it can sometimes help remind us all to be thankful for the blessings we have.