Month: November 2015


Local Starbucks Fights the Ghetto Latte

Now that it’s getting cold outside hot coffee is starting to sound good to me again.  I usually only drink hot drinks in the winter while preferring cold any other time.  I’ve enjoyed iced coffee all summer since its easy to make using a concentrate I get at the local store.

meh_coffeeRemembering I had some money on my Starbucks account I stopped at the location near my office.  It’s been a while since I’ve been in here because the service is well below average.  They seem to dedicate all of their staff activity to the drive-thru and, even today, they were serving 3-4 people in the drive-thru to every one person in the store.

After I ordered my plain coffee & walked over to the condiment bar for a splash of half-and-half.  Wait a minute, the stainless steel thermos is missing!  The guy standing next to me saw what I was looking for and said “you have to ask them for it”.

So back to the pickup counter I go and I waited to get someone’s attention.  The employees were too busy tripping over each other to get the orders out the little window to notice me standing there.  After a few moments I got one of the worker bees attention.  “Cream?” I asked.  She was already reading my mind and grabbed a little paper cup and proceeded to pour out a couple of ounces of the heavy moo juice.   I asked, “do you have one you’d like me to put out on the station”, thinking I would be a nice guy and do them a favor.  “No” she said.  “We keep it back here now so it doesn’t run out as fast”.

Then it hit me.  The Ghetto Latte has gotten so bad they have to ration out the dairy to keep people from cheating the system.  I assure you this is a real thing.  I’ve seen it time and time again where people turn a couple of shots of espresso over ice into one (or in some cases when they ask for an extra cup) two Lattes saving themselves a few dollars in the process.

cheap_coffeeWay to stick it to the man cheap skate.  I’d be willing to bet that’s your idling car parked crooked in the handicapped spot too.  Bonus points if you’re talking on your speaker phone while oblivious to everyones personal space the entire time you’re in the store.

So once again, those who take advantage of things make it inconvenient for others who go with the flow.  Say what you want about Starbucks.  I know it’s over priced and there are better options out there.  In this case it was a choice between office coffee (usually empty), a small Keurig we have in our area (meh, I don’t get the pod thing), or something slightly better.

I’m curious if this practice of keeping the half-and-half behind the counter is a isolated thing at this particular Starbucks or if this is a common practice at other coffee shops too.  Anyone else witness a Ghetto Latte in the making?  I’d love to hear your stories!

What We’re Reading This Week (Nov. 22, 2015)

reading20It’s about an hour before kickoff of the Colts vs. Atlanta game and time for another installment of what we’re reading this week.

  • Yesterday TV Chef Mario Batali came to town for a book signing at the recently opened Market District in Carmel. Liz Biro at the Indy Star had the chance to speak with him and ask a series of great questions from her readers.
  • A NY Times journalist made the trip to Cuba to try and snag a box of hand-rolled smokes from the source and wrote an interesting piece on what it’s like to visit.  Cuba is on my bucket list & I want to make it there before it gets commercialized.
  • The anti-encryption debate heats up in the days after the Paris attacks.  It doesn’t help that ISIS claims to be using Apple’s iMessage for communication.  Wired has a piece on the state of Operational Security (OPSEC) and what the recently released guide being used by ISIS could mean for all of our privacy going forward.
  • And finally this week Medium has a Long Form article about a depressed photographer and his 40,000km trip around the world that took an amazing 4 years to complete…  On a bicycle!  Great images in this one.

That’s it for now.  Fingers crossed that Matt Hasselbeck can pull off a win this week!

The New (and Improved?) Apple TV

apple-tv-remoteApple has finally released the first new AppleTV model in several years.  What was once considered a “hobby” by Steve Jobs has finally matured into an impressive multimedia device!

The 4th version of the AppleTV has a familiar shape and footprint but it’s at least twice the height (and heavier too).  The remote has undergone a major upgraded to include a touch screen and Siri integration as well as an internal, rechargeable, battery that is reported to last up to three months of regular use (charged by the now Apple-standard lightning cable).

I ordered the 64GB unit for $199 on the first day it was available for pre-order (Apple also offers a 32GB device for $50 less).  Being impatient I opted for the next day shipping option in the hopes of receiving a new toy in time for the weekend.

Well it didn’t happen.  My package was stuck on a loading dock in Tennessee and didn’t leave until sometime on Sunday.  Apple refunded my overnight shipping cost which was appreciated (I had to call them to get this done though).  I love the ability to get detailed tracking of packages but this had the reverse impact as the shipment didn’t get updated for days.

While reviewing the Apple forums full of other people waiting for their shipments I learned about a carrier in Europe that not only tells you the status of your package but you can see the progression on a real-time map.  If that wasn’t cool enough you also know the name of the delivery driver along with a 30-minute delivery window (also updated in real time).  Talk about stalking the delivery Guy!

AppleTV 4 Ports
Being an early adopter can be fun but it has its frustrations as well.  Physical setup of the new Apple TV was relatively smooth once I figured out a work around for the missing “optical audio-out” (S/PDIF) I was using with the last model.  The App Store, which is one of the big selling factors of this new model, was not very exciting the first couple of days.  Not a lot of “must have” apps and nothing was categorized so finding apps to download and try out was not as easy as it should have been.

Now that things have been up and running for a few weeks the store is getting better and more useful apps are starting to become available.  The Siri remote is the real star here.  With it you can basically ask for a particular movie, actor, or genre and a list of options magically show up on the screen complete with a list of where you can view the content and pricing (if any).  Right now this search is limited to Netflix, Hulu and the Apple Store but it’s supposed to be opening up to other services soon.  This is a similar feature that Roku has had for a while but dictating with your voice is the new (and better) input method.

App StoreI’ve written two posts about my Cord Cutting project and how it’s been going.  The new AppleTV has made the transition from Cable to Over The Air (OTA) content and streaming media a lot easier and the App Store keeps getting better every day.  I think as this platform matures there could be some interesting capabilities surface that will make the 4th generation AppleTV an integral part of the entertainment stack.

It’s time to start thinking about the next electronic purchase and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a TV upgrade. My 38″ Plasma has served me well for many years but 55-60″ of UHD (or 4k) video sounds very appealing.  And the prices keep coming down to the sub-thousand level which makes it a more attractive buy.

I’m wanting to get a bigger screen and possibly install it over the fireplace.  I’ve heard good and bad things about this mounting location but after seeing an articulating wall mount that allows you to pull the TV down in front of the (unlit) fireplace for a better viewing angle I think that’s the way I’m going to go.

I’d love to hear from any of you who have feedback on the over-the-fireplace mounting option.  Is it that bad?  I’m going to be 15+ feet away from the screen so that makes the viewing angle relatively flat (that was the main complaint from people who chose the higher mounting position).

Thoughts?  Please leave them in the comments section below.

Cutting the Cord on Cable TV (Week 2)

 

Part 1 can be found here

So we’re ending week 2 of the Cord Cutting Experiment and I’ll have to say it’s been mostly OK so far.  I’m still missing the DVR a little because all my favorite shows were available in one place and ready to watch when I was.

Having said that by using a DVR I was not taking advantage of all the online programming that’s available out there.  You can still “Time Shift” but you have to find the content in various applications and services vs. it being grouped together.  You also have some limitations with shows only being available for a limited time (kind of like the storage space limitation on a DVR).

107-2313_BK_BI tried a few iOS apps that help track shows and remind you when the are on.  That’s nice to be able to do but you have to remember the shows are available the day after online in most cases.

I’ve also had some reception related issues with one of the local stations (ABC).  The signal bounces all over the place from 35-90%.  I repositioned the OTA Antenna this weekend and that made a big difference.

I’ve found some good online resources and talked to friends and co-workers about this experiment and have found a lot of people are cheating a little by using someone else’s (usually parents or relatives) cable tv account login to access online content.  This gets you over some of the content limitations of going strictly non-cable.  In fact, a lot of the AppleTV apps require a cable TV subscription login before they will even work!

I upgraded my Hulu Subscription the other night to the higher tier that all but eliminates commercials. I tried living with them for a week and it was driving me crazy.  It’s worth another $4 in my opinion.

So in the end I went from $120 a month to less than $20.  The $100 savings is worth it so far and I’m going to give this some more time before making a final decision on the overall experience.  So far it’s still very positive!

I’ve gotten some great feedback on this subject and I look forward to more!  Feel free to leave your questions and comments in the space below.

Cutting the Cord on Cable TV (Week 1)

I came home the other day and my DVR was acting odd.  Only a few shows remained & they were all marked for deletion.  A quick check of available space confirmed my suspicions…  The hard drive was dying and taking all of my saved content with it.

I work with a bunch of “Millennials” and none of them subscribe to cable TV.  The number one reason seems to be cost.  I’ve toyed around with the idea of becoming a “cord cutter” but hadn’t made the move yet.  This was a perfect time to give it a shot.  A quick call to the cable company saved me $120 a month in cable subscription fees and started me on this journey.

51bQI0nhcpL._SY450_I purchased the new Apple TV released last week (future review topic for sure), and a new Over The Air (OTA) antenna for local channels.  After some initial setup I was ready to roll.

The Apple TV allows me to access Netflix ($7.99 a month) and Hulu (also $7.99 a month) so for $16 I’m getting more content than I could ever consume.  My Internet cost is reimbursed by my employer so this is working out to be a good deal.

The $60 OTA antenna I purchased from Amazon works amazingly well and pulls in all the local channels along with a bunch of sub-channels that I’ll never turn on.  This setup will cover the major sporting events I want to watch as well as some Prime Time shows I watch on occasion.

The only thing I’m missing so far are the DVR capabilities and NFL RedZone.  I’m learning that most network shows are available for streaming on Hulu the day after they air so if I miss it live I can usually find it online.

I’m still in the first week but so far so good.  I’ll report back in a few weeks and let you know how it’s going and if I’m still happy with the decision to ditch Cable TV.

Have you cut the cord?  Are you thinking about?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Part 2 of this article can be found here.

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