Dear Starbucks: please change your oatmeal

Well, not the oatmeal itself, which is not too bad. But please change the cups you serve it in so that they actually fit and stack atop your coffee cup lids.

It’s very difficult to carry a “cuppa and oatmeal”, since the bottom of the oatmeal cup is exactly not-the-right-size to fit over your coffee lid. It sits right on the top: not quite small enough (like the bottom of a coffee cup is) to fit inside the plastic lid; not quite large enough to comfortably wrap around the outside of the plastic lid.

Now I know you spent thousands of dollars carefully engineering your current oatmeal cups to have the perfect colors, cool touch to the hands, exactly-spaced steam vents on the top, and so on, but it’s been two years (as evidenced by the copyright date on the lids), so maybe it’s time for a practical change. Pretty is great, but practical and fitting in with your beverage sizes is even better.

I’d vote for the over-the-lid size, just slightly larger: this serves all customers, since you could securely stick an oatmeal cup atop a cup of coffee and walk out of the store carrying both in one hand. I know some people might suggest the just slightly smaller, so the bottom of the oatmeal is the same as the bottom of a coffee cup, but that doesn’t seem to be as pleasing a proportion for eating out of, even if it would fit into a pressboard 4-cup holder.

Heck, if you tried just a tiny bit of engineering, I’m sure you could put a little lip on a 4-cup holder so that the larger oatmeal cups would also fit in, just slightly higher than cups do.

Yes, Dear Starbucks, I will submit this as an idea for you to steal. Just be sure to keep your wifi throughput up for all of us regulars now that you’ve let the masses in to use it at all your stores.

Urgent question!

In The Blues Brothers, isn’t the sound the rocket launcher that Carrie Fisher fires when they go back to Elwood’s apartment taken from Battlestar Galactica? The firing and explosion sound seem just like the blasters from the ships.

It would make sense – it’s the right kind of feel, and it’s just the right time, too.

Oh, and I must say – I’m very disappointed in you internet. Besides the fact that you don’t have the immediate answer to my question [1], I’m asounded – astonished! – amazed, in fact that no one retweeted my tip on the newest taste sensation out there, Inhalable Coffee.

I mean, come on – how many jokes are there about geeks and caffeine, and now someone has commercially available (mail order even) coffee you can breathe, and no-one cares? I realize it’s not in an IV or patch form, but still – this is such a breakthrough in caffeine delivery – and reportedly tasty too – and no-one else retweeted it or is even talking about it? Has caffeine gone out of style when I wasn’t watching or something? Or is it true, that since I’ve been blogging so infrequently that no-one is reading anymore?

Ah well. We’ll see if anyone reads my review of the freshest new coffee product out there next week.

[1] Isn’t it interesting how the internet has the answers to almost all your questions, but… no useful information about some of your questions. I think my brain only bothers to ask the questions that I think the internet will answer, and I just dismiss other questions. I know, I know: what I really need is a librarian instead of just the internet.

[2] P.S. I have no affiliation with – nor have I actually tried – Le Whif yet. But I will soon, especially since it’s available locally.

Year in Review

First off, apologies to various people I haven’t gotten back to recently, in particular M.G., M.M., and various ASF folks. I actually took vacation around the holidays, and spent several days not reading email at all (gasp!). First time in a long time, and then of course coming back to work is always hectic. Um, and of course setting up that that 360 with MW2 after the holiday hasn’t helped my free time any either. I hope to be more present this week.

  • Check out the new Community Development project at Apache – great stuff, and don’t worry, the Mentoring Programme will accept Americans as well as English speakers.
  • A shout out to the staff at Peet’s in Lexington, my favorite coffee shop.
  • A shout out to the cashier and bagger at Whole Foods in Medford, who were wicked nice last Friday afternoon.
  • Question: did I really miss anything important on Twitter over the past 3 weeks?
  • What am I forgetting to put into my Monoprice order? I’m stocking up on cheap HDMI cables and wall ports for when we upgrade to a wall-mounted medium size flatscreen tv.
  • Interesting read of a website: Letters of Note (via Writing Or Typing) Copies of just plain interesting letters from a variety of historical situations.
  • Big thank-you to D.R. and others for getting Facebook to sponsor Apache!
  • What Facebook-reading app do you use? I have just enough friends inside Facebook that I want to follow the witty conversations, but I’m really tired of the website. There must be better clients to watch the stream of interestingness go by.

What? You thought this was a year in review for last year? Sorry – just a cheap way to get all the little bits stuck in my head of this year so far cleared out so I can start the new year fresh.

Awesome new business idea

I have an awesome new business idea. I came up with it while drinking DD with friends after eating Korean food at H Mart, so it must be good. But I have no worldly idea of how to actually find the right people to see if it would fly. Sigh.

Seriously – it’s amazing. OK, we were sitting around for a while and yakking it up, and maybe I’m a little out there, but I think it actually has potential for a new niche market someplace. Involves licensing management (in areas that understand licenses but aren’t usually managed like this), and usefully targeted advertising (yuck, I know, but hey, the “useful” applies to consumers and advertisers alike). Requires web presence much like dozens of other sites use, but fits a niche that’s simultaneously narrow and yet broad (depending on how you look at it).

The idea has nothing to do with what I do for a living or volunteering at the ASF. The question is, do I actually know anyone I trust who could evaluate it and might know the right place to sell it?

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  • Wanted: MBP power brick/cable (with magnetic connector). With a new room upstairs, we need a power plug on each floor.
  • BAM! A few days ago we went straight from awful “leave the AC on” summer right into amazingly beautiful fall weather. The change always surprises me, even if it does happen every year.
  • I also forget how pleasant – or amusing, depending on the circumstance – it is watching all the new college kids and their parents tour around Boston and Cambridge each year. Important Safety Tip: do not drive your U-Haul on Storrow or Memorial Drives, no matter how much quicker it seems to be.
  • Au Bon Pain coffee cup report: Cambridgeside Galleria, one large iced coffee, fairly full. 5 minute walk. No spills. Coffee: weak. Light cream: not very good.
  • Fall plan: streaming Netflix et al on mid-sized screen. Specific suggestions for setting up low-key home theater? Should have convenience features and “just work”, but allow for occasional geeky upgrades. HDTV monitor should be small and low power. Have NAS and networking already. Is it worth springing a little extra for a PS3/360 to get games too, or just go for a newer BluRay with streamy stuff?
  • Dear Amazon: yes, I was browsing HTDVs briefly. Please refrain from sending me DAILY emails about them now.
  • Many thanks to the ASF infrastructure team for late nights and detective work on the recent hack attempt. Read more with official Apache blogs.
  • Wish I had more hacking time – the visualizations of MBTA trips are cool. Kudos to the Mass EOT and MBTA for working on better feeds.
  • R.I.P. Teddy, the Commonwealth misses you.
  • Condolences to an ASF member who lost someone recently.

2 reasons I don’t like Au Bon Pain coffee

I skipped my coffee maker this morning since I came into work early, and decided to stop at the Kendall Au Bon Pain this morning for coffee. I remembered a couple of reasons I hadn’t been drinking their coffee for a while.

It’s not that the coffee’s bad: it’s certainly no paragon of coffee perfection, but it’s a fine chain bakery brew and I do sometimes like their Hazelnut mixed with the French Roast. No, it’s two issues about their materials:

  • Light cream. They serve light cream instead of half and half. While I like my coffee with a moderate amount of half-and-half, I inevitably get the amount of light cream to add instead wrong. 90% of the time I think I’ve got it, and it turns out to be far too white and creamy. Today, I was sure I did it right: a tiny splash of light cream and enough 2% milk to make up for it: nope, now it’s not quite rich enough. Sigh.
  • Cups. ABP cups have a far higher failure rate than other local shops – more often than not while driving or walking to work, I get a steady stream of drips down the seam side of the cup, from right under the edge of the lid. Either the seams are too uneven, or the plastic lids are too inflexible. It’s disappointing, and today I forgot to wrap a napkin around the edge of the cup, and so got dripped today.

What ever happened to the old, old Au Bon Pain, back when the baguettes were really flavorful, and the croissants were rich and buttery? Were they actually better back then, or did it just feel like that because they were one of the first chains to do those foodstuffs justice locally so long ago?

(Drat! I didn’t mention the “p” word, but even though it wasn’t on my mind I talked about croissants anyway, which I suppose counts. Another statistic plus for BHD!)

Haiku Wednesday

/ Blogging in haiku. /
/ Japanese doggerel, yes. /
/ But fits in a tweet. /

/ Breakfast sandwich fail. /
/ Tasty, delicious: not found. /
/ Caffeine kick in now?/

/ Am I late today? /
/ Terribly sorry doctor! Hey: /
/ Do you have a cure? /

/ Dumbledore is dead. /
/ Fun teen love angst; black flyers. /
/ Why the cornfield scene? /

/ Email, commit logs, /
/ (How do you follow the threads?) /
/ blog, tweet, chat, AIM: feeds. /

Is anyone else worried about Starbucks?

They seem to be in trouble, and I’m not sure what to do. Poor Starbuck!

On one hand, they are closing stores left and right – and even though MA was to be spared, they later announced we are not, losing 7 or more stores locally. On the other hand, I see even more “Help Wanted” signs in their front doors that ever before. Plus they’re pushing more and more benefits to cardholders: free refills, free shots, other giveaways that you never would have seen before.

They come up with a huge marketing thing for their new drink, hoping it can revivify their business. What is this vivivying magic they’ve come up with? A banana smoothie. Not what I expect from such an experienced vendor. You think a smoothie’s going to turn your business around? Think again.

Their desperation is showing in many other ways: when using my card to get my free in-store drip coffee refills, I got not one but three receipts, even though I never normally take them. One for the first cuppa, of course; then two for the refill. Not only did the staff patiently explain about their $2 for any cold grande after 2pm offer, but they also eagerly pressed their customer survey – CustomerVoice! – into my hand. This is about the third time I’ve gotten a survey in the past month, and it’s not like I’m in there daily to account for their sudden interest in my opinion.

Plus, they’re canceling their muffin contract, and ditching their breakfast sandwiches. I know there are a lot of mixed opinions about them – myself included: have you ever gotten a breakfast sandwich at the old ‘Buck that was actually assembled straight? I haven’t. But I still like them, and they’re actually reasonably priced for the ingredients, considering their corporate price levels. That’ll be a sad goodbye to the toasties in the morning some days.

What can we do to help them out? Poor little Starbuck, she’s tough but vulnerable these days.

Hmmm.

Oh, wait.

They are an evil corporate giant. Never mind. Let loose the dogs of capitalism, and if you enjoy it, update your schedule to use your card to take your break there: free wifi, free syrup, and the free refills mean it’s a great way to spend an hour in the morning, for those of you who like the coffee there. I mean, it’s good, although Starbucks is not as good as Peet’s.