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Quick Thoughts…Terminator and CD Inventor

A couple of quick thoughts about this weekend, in addition to wishing everyone a Happy Easter…

1.  According to The Terminator – Skynet became self-aware on April 19th, 2011.  How time flies, but interesting that the Playstation Network and Amazon’s cloud computing services went offline around this date.

 

 

 

2.  Norio Ogha – The man who worked at Sony and invented the CD has died.  Just think about how this man changed society – from how we listen to music to how we store data (remember the 3.5″ diskettes could only hold about 1.4MB).  It’s sad when people don’t appreciate genius, but instead appreciate the genius of people like Khloe Kardashian! 

iPhone, iPad, iPod…iGreenhouseGasses?

Apple Products = Environmentally Unfriendly?

Most people love to use Apple products, whether it be for the simplicity of use, or the elegance of design.  However, what many may not know, is that Apple also ranked last in Greenpeace’s list of environmentally conscious tech companies.

“Apple has come bottom of the most comprehensive green league table of technology companies because of its heavy reliance on “dirty data” centres.   The list, which is compiled by Greenpeace and released in San Francisco on Thursday, shows that the company relies heavily on highly polluting coal power at the sites that house its banks of servers.”

The Greenpeace report is certainly terrible news (view the Greenpeace Dirty Data Report), and like most big corporations, they follow the wants of their shareholders before the needs of the enviornment.  But what does this all really mean?

Will it mean that people stop buying the iPhone?  Does it mean that if I show up at environmental meeting, the activists will not use Apple products?  There in lies the challenge and hypocrisy.  People may throw up their arms and shout murder, but at the end of the day, for a company that basically created the smartphone, tablet, and portable music craze, there will be no reprucussions.  I am sure they will issue a statement explaining their point of view, and how Greenpeace made miscalculations, etc. But in order to have a true impact, people would need to express their frustration by spending their money elsewhere, and from my observations, people are excited to recommend changes, but will never change themselves.

So, “boo” for Apple for not being environmentally conscious, but nothing is going change until it hits their bottom line.

PS:  The man who invented the internet, Al Gore, sits on the Board of Directors fo Apple (yes, the man in the movie the Inconvenient Truth).

The Airport – A Microcosm of Life

Well I’m at SFO now and it reminds me of what I like about the airport, in fact it reminded me of the only thing I like about the airport.

At the airport you see every emotion possible. I mean you see happiness when people arrive and families are reunited, you see sadness when people leave, and grumpy businessmen traveling to Cincinnati.

If you really think about it, it’s impossible to come to the airport and NOT feel any emotion, even if it’s just anxiousness or excitement about a final destination.

And isn’t that what life is about – emotion. Aside from the frustration I feel about going through security, and long cross continental flights, generally I did the airport vibe. Plus you meet interesting people at the bar, if you are so inclined to start up a conversation or entertain one.

Now lets pray I dont get a middle seat!!

Coffee Competition: The Roastery

The next contestant is The Roastery on New Montgomery.  I’ve been here before, and generally like the place.  It’s down the street the from the Starbucks I previously reviewed, but it’s not a mega-chain, and they serve Cafe Trieste coffee.  Generally, I like my coffee shops to have a little more character, and be a little less “sanitized” by a big corporation.

I ordered my coffee at around 11am today, as usual a large black coffee, but ordered a chocolate croissant as well.  The barista didn’t ask if I wanted to leave room for milk, which would have been nice, but whatever I still received my coffee.

I took a seat by the window, in a comfortable chair, but accompanied by a rickety table.  It’s such a pain to have an open coffee, a laptop, and a rickety table!  Needless to say, I discovered the rickety-ness aspect the hard way, as I leaned over to type on my laptop.  POOF!  the coffee, filled to the brim, managed a bit of acrobatics and listed  to the side like a boat, and spilled some precious coffee on the table – centimeters away from my laptop.  Unlike the government’s response to the BP spill in the Gulf, I quickly managed to contain the spill, and saved the day.  For the rest of my time at The Roastery, I perched my foot on the leg of the table to prevent other accidents.  Onto the coffee…

I found the coffee to be quite good.  It had the right temperature, the right flavor, and the right aftertaste.  All in all a good cup of joe.  You won’t be disappointed in the coffee if you come to The Roastery.

You won’t be disappointed with the vibe either, if you make the trek there for a cup of coffee.  The shop is located directly in front of the Academy of Arts, meaning you get a lot of artistic types.  Even the people who work there, seem to work at the academy. 

What you will be disappointed in is the fact that the staff does not do a good job cleaning tables after people leave, or cleaning the fixin’s station, which are a mess.  You really have to be a scout for a good table, and even then bring some extra napkins to make the table somewhat clean. 

You will also be disappointed in the WiFi access, which is a HUGE miss.  I love me some WiFi, and when I can’t get it, especially at a coffee shop, it’s a disappointment.  I mean, a coffee shop should get several things right – coffee, music, atmosphere, and WiFi.  A miss on either of those four items, and you are not doing the basics right. 

On a scale of 1-10 of nerdiness (as it relates to computers), I give myself a 9, and I kept getting kicked off the network, even with the right password, and even after doing a whole host of advanced manuevers and configurations to stay on.  It’s totally annoying to have access for 3-4 minutes, only to lose access.  Try sending a coherent email or surf the web in 3-4 minute spurts – a total pain in the butt. 

For that, I can recommend the coffee (and the pastries), but cannot recommending spending any amount of time at The Roastery.  I would love to support them over Starbucks, but given Starbucks, fast reliable WiFi access, I cannot see why you would want to spend time in the shop.

Grades:

Coffee: B+ [Generally satisfying, better than Starbucks.]

Service: C [Service at the counter was great, but when you get to your table, want to put sugar in your coffee, or use the WiFi, you will see the service fall flat].

Atmosphere: B [I like the atmosphere of this location.  They have a communal piano and guitar for crying out loud, and the people who both frequent this location and who work there, seem to define their own style.  However, I give a demerit for the intermittent internet access in this category as well.]

Price: $4.95 (with awesome chocolate croissant)

Coffee Competition: Starbucks

The first contestant is Starbucks (corner of New Montgomery and Jessie). I’ve been here before, and generally like this place. There is always music, a good crowd, and usually easy to find seating.

Today, I came in at around noon, which probably wasn’t the best time, since all of the students at the Academy of Arts are out for lunch or waiting for the bus, but nonetheless I’m here. There was about 2 people in line ahead of me, and the people sitting down seem to be in a good mood, either working on their laptops, talking, reading, doing schoolwork, or on their phone.

I ordered my drink, a large coffee. The barista didn’t ask i I wanted room for milk as other places have done in the past, which I think is a nice touch. In any case, I received my coffee.

With Chuck Berry overhead, I made my move over to the fixin’s station for some sugar. There are 2 stations, all stocked up with everything I need, and despite the minimal space to operate, I prepared my coffee.

Seating at this time was tough to come by, so I had to wait 3-4 minutes for a table outside. I didn’t mind about sitting outside, since I guess I am used to the cooler SF temps, and I still have internet access. Besides there is great people watching in this part of town. Side note: I was once having coffee hear, and saw a homeless man with a pirate hat sifting through the garbage can out front. He was making a mess, but it was still entertaining.

The coffee was consistenly Starbucks. It was a bit bitter, and also tasted a little greasy (I’m not sure how else to describe the finish), and left a burnt aftertaste.

Grades:

Coffee: B [Generally good, but the burnt aftertaste had me reaching for a mint.]

Service: B [More a function of the crowded register area, poor layout of the store, and the fact that I wasn't asked if I needed room for milk].

Atmosphere: B+ [I like the vibe of this location. Maybe its the artistic nature of the students or the fact that this demographic are more genuine and less "posh". People are smiling, and not reading the WSJ or Financial Times]

Price: $2.15

Coffee Competition: SOMA San Francisco

I love coffee. It’s something about that warm beverage first thing in the morning (or after dinner for that matter), that really puts a smile on my face.

I’m not talking about the fancy stuff either like a Decaf Soy Latte or “half-skim, half half & half, half decaf mochachinolattechai with just a dusting of nutmeg and cane sugar”. I’m talking about good old plain coffee, the stuff that Juan Valdez would be proud of. I take mine black, though about 15% of the time I’ll add some milk.

I wasn’t always a fan of coffee. My earliest memory of the dark goodness was when I was in middle school, when my dad, on rare occassion, would make a concotion of egg, sugar, and coffee. I loved that stuff, but at some point it stopped, and I never had that urge to grab a coffee in the morning – chocolate milk or OJ was always my preferred choice. Anyway, once I “grew up”, and started working in the real world, I would need to burn some time, while Windows would boot up (about 5 minutes), so would go to grab a coffee. By the time I was done making my coffee, my computer would be ready for my password. And so the tradition began. Now, I try to get one in the morning, and a coffee at around 2pm. So I am on two cups a day (large cups, but cups nonetheless).

Which brings me to where I am today – recently unemployed, with a computer, and some time. That combined with my overly critical nature, and the recommendation of a friend who said I should grade each of the local coffee shops, leads me to write this series of posts.

What I will do is have a cup of coffee in each of the local coffee shops and give grades to (a) coffee, (b) service, and (c) atmosphere.

The contestants include:

1. Starbucks at the corner of Jessie and New Montgomery.
2. The Roastery close to the intersection of New Montgomery and Howard
3. Philz Coffee by 4th and King
4. Panera by 4th and King
5. Blue Bottle in Mint Plaza
6. Chatz coffee on 2nd
7. Peets by Market and 4th
8. Four Barrell on Valencia (though out of SOMA, this is supposedly the best).

So there are eight. I think eight is enough for a good sample, though if I run across anymore, I may decided to add them in. Also, there seems to be a Starbucks on ever corner, so decided to choose the one across from the Academy of Art, because its open at more convenient times than the one closer to my apartment. There is also a Blue Bottle in the Ferry Building, but I question the genuineness of that Blue Bottle, since its in such a touristy location.

The rules are simple, I will get a large plain coffee, and will drink it black with sugar. I will sit at each location and post about the coffee (at the time I’m drinking, if possible). Let the games begin…