Last May, I visited a bar recommended to me by a friend. He knew I was a huge fan of Speakeasy bars and told me of a brand new world-class bar owned and operated by a man named Olivier Jacobs that had just opened called Jigger’s – The Noble Drugstore. I spent an entire evening there for 6 hours enjoying delicious cocktails and talking to the nice staff and its patrons. During that evening, I also took a few photos and wrote this blog post.
Since I am heading to Europe in February, I decided to message Olivier to reserve another night of drinks and photography at his lounge. Upon visiting the website, I noticed all of the photos used were mine! No, they were not attributed to me but I’m so flattered, I don’t care. It’s really cool that they used my photos in such a pronounced way at a bar operated by the winner of Belgium’s best bartender 2 years in a row and who won many accolades representing Belgium at the world bartender competition that took place in Brazil last year.
Some photos of the site featuring my photos are below:
This was an unexpected treat to find these and I look forward to thanking Olivier and his team in person when I am in Gent next month. It is truly one of the best cocktail bars I’ve ever visited.
I haven’t ordered an espresso based drink at Starbucks in a long-time. I happen to be a fan of Clover Brewed Starbucks’ Reserve coffee. Actually, the $20,000 USD Clover machines and Reserve Coffees are two newish initiatives at Starbucks that have kept me as a customer. Without them, I would have ditched the mega-coffee chain a very long time ago.
In an effort the provide a consistent coffee creation to every customer, Starbucks has done what any corporate capitalist shareholder owned company would do. They streamlined and automated. They may value their employees (Partners) and offer great pay + healthcare even to part timers but they are still a money-making operation. Let’s review how Starbucks has automated their Barista:
- Clover: An Internet connected Vacuum Press machine that knows exactly the right temp, water levels and pressure for every Starbucks coffee bean. The barista turns a nob and presses a button. Presto! Coffee!
- Drip coffee at Starbucks with timers and temp controls. Baristas dump a pre-weighed bag of coffee into a machine and out comes coffee!
- Semi-Automated, push-button espresso machines. Load up 5 pounds of coffee beans in the top, press a button for espresso. Luckily, the frothing process is STILL done by hand.
- Frozen baked goods and breakfast sandwiches delivered in plastic and defrosted each morning
- Breakfast cooker toasters that flash toast sandwiches are also pre-programmed assumingly the same as Clover with an Ethernet cable connected to the machine to receive pre-sets for every sandwich that comes out.
- Timed blenders to make blended frozen drinks
- Finally, pre-made syrups, powders and flavorings direct from Starbucks corporate.
Drinks are “created” in-store but everything about those drinks is pre-packaged, pre-made and, for almost every thing, push-button. The only custom thing about Starbucks is the writing on your cup indicating what you ordered.
I was thinking the other day about the future of Starbucks. Why have baristas at all? Wouldn’t it be simpler to have million dollar automated installations where all of the same ingredients are behind a wall stocked by one person and you order what you want and out pops a cup? It really is the only thing separating Starbucks from coffee vending machines at hospitals. A person taking your order and writing your name on a cup is the only thing different from vending machines. Now, Starbucks is always creating new fun drinks ideas, the reserve series of beans is putting out coffees nearly comparable to those from smaller roasters and all stores have Pour-over and some have clover machines which are automated but provide a far superior cup of coffee than the drip systems Starbucks uses.
On one hand, Starbucks is delivering enough to keep people coming back. They are also making strides each year to make baristas useless. I found this blog post in 2007 worth a read:
Suddenly I felt so cheated. Now ANYBODY can be a barista. Just press one button and you get instant coffee. No more grinding or pressing. I can be a barista too, just give me 30 minutes training and I’ll be brewing perfect coffee for everyone.
How long before Starbucks is just a wall of LED panels and auto-coffee creations? They’re not too far from this.
The few hundred readers that have been stopping by this blog since the very beginning are well aware of some of my posts on MPG back in the day where I posted product reviews and technology opinion pieces from the local public library…not during business hours but around midnight sitting outside of the library so I could download music and write. I remember telling my parents I was going to parties with friends and instead going to the library to get on the Internet. I didn’t have Internet at home and, when I did, it was dial up. This changed in 2008 when I moved to San Francisco. Having high speed Internet was crazy at first it was very psychological because for years, I had queued up downloads, articles and photos to post when I went to the library and sat outside in the cold for hours to have internet. Having high speed always available was crazy because I felt there was a constant need to use it. I have all of this bandwidth. To not download something right now would be a waste.
Luckily, that faded and, since I came to New Hampshire 2 years ago, I got very lucky when 100 megabits per second speeds were available at my cabin. There was no cell service, no city water and you lived and died by the amount of pellets in the wood stove but I had insanely fast Internet. It was awesome.
Two weeks ago, I moved from Canaan NH to Lyme NH. No Comcast, no Fibre and my only two options were HughesNet satellite or a local telephone company offering DSL. My home connection maxes out at 3 megabits per second down.
I was underway on moving to the new house when this was discovered. Comcast even came to the new house to survey it. They spent 5 days looking at options to get this new house online and said it just wasn’t possible. I was SoL and stuck at 3 megabits per second with a DSL company who makes you sign 12 month contracts to get their service. Why they do this is unclear to me but Comcast assured me that they would be in this area in about a year.
What is it like losing 97% of your Internet speed within the span of a day?
It only took a few minutes to realize that the LTE connection on my iPad was 25% faster than my home DSL connection. Unfortunately, at $20 per gigabyte, running my home Internet on an LTE equipped iPad is not possible. Also, Comcast limits 250 gigabytes per month on home Internet while the new company limits me to 80 gigabytes per month. They also strictly forbid me reconfiguring their Westell modem to PPPoE so I can use my Airport Extreme as the router and thus control the Access list and choose my own DNS servers. They also informed me that if I have issues, they will only trouble shoot the Westel unit.
So, what is the day to day experience of a 3 megabit connection for an outrageous $40 a month (I was paying $50 for 100 megabit on Comcast)?
I can no longer rent movies on iTunes and watch them within the hour. If I want to watch a movie, it’s faster to hit the video store because streaming it from iTunes will take 5 hours to pre-buffer in 1080P. HBO Go on my Xbox and Hulu on my AppleTV are unusable. I can no longer stream HD content..I can’t even stream 640×480 (DVD-Quality content). All streaming must be 360 or 240 (Yes, the resolution of all of those iTunes Music Videos you downloaded in 2004)
Updating my iTunes podcasts, apps and syncing with iTunes Genius completely destroys my home Internet. What I mean? I couldn’t watch Entourage last night in terrible grainy quality on HBO Go because the blurry faces kept skipping and stopping. Elizabeth and I had our iPad and iPhones put away (which is now a rule..no iOS devices when streaming TV shows). I realized my iMac was downloading podcasts which happens once per day and this was causing our TV not to work.
Video conferencing with colleagues at home is no longer possible in HD. Updating Microsoft Office took 15 minutes versus 1 minute before and it is impossible to stream Pandora while surfing the web or uploading a photo to Flickr. I have to stop all streaming services, backup and download services if I want to upload photos to Flickr.
…the best part of this experience is that I purchased It’s Always sunny in Philadelphia and had to go to Starbucks to download it. Unfortunately, Starbucks Internet is better than my home Internet.
Ways to cope with this huge drop in home Internet speed?
Elizabeth and I got the high-end DirecTV Premiere package and we canceled Hulu and Netflix. We spent a day or so configuring the DVR for 40+ shows that we currently watch. Not all at once, mind you but throughout the year, there are 40 or so shows I like to watch on Hulu. We also once per week look at what movies are airing on HBO, Showtime or Cinemax and mark those to be recorded from the DirecTV website. So, semi-new movies we can still watch. Plus, the new DirecTV Genie system has a 1 terabyte hard drive so I simply set it to record a lot of shows / movies I may want to watch and can watch when I feel like it. I’m now recording shows like Dexter, Girls and Game of Thrones because HBO Go won’t give me HD content via streaming.
Despite now having LTE at home, I kept my home phone because I have long conference calls and used to use Skype voice calling for these but the Internet can’t sustain long conference calls and hangs up on them when I load a web page or download large mail attachments.
In short, a very beefy TV package and essentially going back on 5 years of “content via streaming” is essential. I kept all of my music on my iTunes and never relied only on iTunes Match so I still have local music, movies and TV shows at home. But downloading larger files is basically a thing of the past.
For now, Starbucks is the best Internet I have. I have great Internet at work but that’s work so it doesn’t count. Either way, if you’re a power-user online make sure you at least get 12 megabits down before moving some place new. 3 is total murder.
With the holidays and moving, I sort of forgot this day had already come and gone. Not that it’s all that important to anyone.
Time spent living in California
Time spent living in New Hampshire
I still find it odd that I’ve been in New Hampshire as long as I have. I’m happy here but SF was always my dream city. I’ve officially lived in NH just as long. Pretty odd to say that out loud.
I’ve linked to Paul Miller’s “Offline” project before. Paul is a writer at TheVerge and he’s taking a year away from the Internet and using sneaker net to send in his articles to colleagues. Occasionally, comments will be printed off for him to read. It’s an interesting thing and something I feel is fantastic.
I would probably take this on as another cleanse perhaps for a month to start maybe next year but a year it seems that my work life would suffer. A lot of what I do is online. I applaud him for this. The entire series is amazing so, if you have an hour or so and an empty Instapaper queue, check it out.
There are 29 updates so far since May of 2012. Each is well-written and will make all Internet-Citizens feel a yearning for a simpler life away from the net.