Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Starbucks closes three quarters of it's Aussie outlets.

I spent a little while in the US (Los Angeles) in the '80's, and one memory I have is that you couldn't get a decent cappuccino for love nor money (or lamb/mutton, or tea or decent beer for that matter). Something(s) I missed.

Well Starbucks has announced it is closing 3/4 of their outlets here. Leaving shops in only Melbourne Sydney and Brisbane.
"...Starbucks had failed to understand the Australian market. "Starbucks' original success had a lot to do with the fact that it introduced European coffee culture to a market that didn't have this tradition. Australia has a fantastic and rich coffee culture and companies like Starbucks really struggle to compete with that."
The president of Starbucks Asia Pacific, John Culver, admitted: "I think what we've seen is that Australia has a very sophisticated coffee culture."...". (SMH 30July08)

"...Starbucks was snubbed by many Australians, who have grown up on a diet of quality European-style coffee introduced in the last century to Australia by immigrants, especially from Italy..." (Financial Time, UK 30July08)
Actually, I have to say I didn't mind Starbucks though. A nice big mug of filtered coffee outside while you watched the world go by wasn't a bad way to have a break. (While the wife was shopping perhaps). The sad thing is the (mostly young) friendly staff who'll lose their jobs. Nothing good about this, and I wish them all collectively the best.

More coverage here.

[Update 9Aug08]: It was only after Cam quoted this piece I realised it was a little ambiguous. I visit(ed) Starbucks here in Oz - I'm not sure they even existed in LA in the '80s (I don't recall seeing them anyway).
On another note; we visited Macarthur Sq today, and the Starbucks there has indeed been one of the stores closed. Sad.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Global Warming (now AKA 'Climate change').

I've been watching the issue of Global Warming with interest, and I've tried to keep an open mind. (Why is it now called 'Climate Change instead?).

The first thing that worried me was the lack of easily accessible basic data. It wasn't referenced in most of the sites I found, and I feel that it should be. If the Al Gores, Nicholas Sterns, and Tim Flannerys of the debate (who are NOT Climatologists), have seen data which convinces them, surely then that same data should be available to, should convince an objective viewer. Instead, we are often told that "the science is settled", accept that and act from there.

Well, after some research, I found the base data, the basic measurements that the debate centers on. The 4 main meeasurement nodes being; The Hadley Center for Climate Prediction (UK Met Office), data here; NASA's GISS (Goddard Institute), data here; UAH (University of Alabama in Huntsville), (data) and RSS (Remote Sensing Systems), (data).

When I look at that base data, graphed (a picture is worth a thousand words), I find things like this;
(Sourced from
and this;
(Sourced from

Now if you wade through the pinnacle of GW reports, the UN IPCC this 'Summary for policymakers' available here shows this graph (as close to a summary graphic as I could find);
(Sourced from and reproduced for the purposes of reporting, research, study and review under Copyright protection exception provisions)

Which shows a steep and continuing rise in global temperatures. The noticeable difference is that the real world (per the measured data in the first 2 graphs), and the IPCC modelling haven't agreed with each other since about 2001 at least. That started me thinking, and looking.

When I searched, I found some excellent articles, like this one;
"I DEVOTED six years to carbon accounting..., ...When I started that job in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty good: CO2 is a greenhouse gas, the old ice core data, no other suspects...".
"...But since 1999 new evidence has seriously weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming, and by 2007 the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming. As Lord Keynes famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"...".

"The greenhouse signature is missing. We have been looking and measuring for years, and cannot find it.
Each possible cause of global warming has a different pattern of where in the planet the warming occurs first and the most. The signature of an increased greenhouse effect is a hot spot about 10km up in the atmosphere over the tropics. We have been measuring the atmosphere for decades using radiosondes: weather balloons with thermometers that radio back the temperature as the balloon ascends through the atmosphere. They show no hot spot. Whatsoever...."
The Australian, David Evans, 18 July 2008
And when you keep looking, you find sites like this one, (a computer programmer and 'Green' who makes a point of just presenting the data), and this one which provides "A Critical Examination of Climate Change". It also provides numerous links of interest.

You note the IPCC report says things like;
"...Observed decreases in snow and ice extent are also consistent with warming (Figure SPM.1). Satellite data since 1978 show that annual average Arctic sea ice extent has shrunk by 2.7 [2.1 to 3.3]% per decade..."
And yet you can go to sites like this (University of Illonois Cryosphere webpage) and compare satellite photos of Arctic ice extent which tells a different story - at least since 2007 when things chilled substantially (and you can plug in your own dates as verification). Also, Antarctic - Southern Hemisphere ice is increasing!

(This site has been tracking all the things they say are caused by Climate change - quite a list - who would have thunk?).

This article asks "if their case is so good, why try so fervently to extinguish other points of view?". Good question. (I'll add to this in coming days). Suffice it to say, the more I read, the more tending towards the sceptical I am becoming.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Vale Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch, who has inspired millions with his courage and dignity, died yesterday (July 25th) of complications from pancreatic cancer.

Randy is known throughout the world for his 'Last Lecture' which has been downloaded on YouTube over 3 million times.

My heartfelt condolences to Randy's wife Jai and young family.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Fat Jet, courtesy Alex.

This Friday's Fat Jet. As always, courtesy of Alex's artful photoworks.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this is worth a hundred pictures

Found a truly great site for those interested in the human condition (health, income, comparisons with other societies, and how it changes over time).

It's called Gapminder, and the true (genius is probably not too strong a word here) strength of the org/site/programs is that it takes arcane data sets and presents them in a way that is very digestable.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, this is worth a hundred pictures.

If nothing else a great resource (maybe even a 'secret weapon') for students.

(Found via ClubTroppo).

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

What kills on our roads? Speed, bad roads, what?

This did the e-mail rounds with the label 'Justice'.
Why was it labelled so? It helps to look at the state of Victoria's road policing policies. Victoria probably has the best roads in Australia, the lowest speed limits, and the heaviest police (and speed camera) presence.

In Montana, USA, they had a period where no speed limits were in force, according to the Victorian road safety mantra, that should have led to bedlam. It didn't.

In most of (western) Europe, Autobahns have long been used as fast vehicular roads, with speed limits in the 130Km'h class (or none at all on Germany's autobahns). yet they can make the statement that "...Autobahn-like roads have a superior safety record, regardless of speed limit...".

Something doesn't gell here. The Victorian 'authorities' position is that speed kills, and they seek to slow traffic down as much as possible. Yet the European experience is that high vehicle speeds and safety are quite achievable given good road design.

Better roads cost state governments money, speeding fines make them money. No wonder that many Australian motorists have the cynical view that speed limit monitoring (eg speed cameras) and policing is as much, or more about the revenue it raises than it is about safety.

Great Wikipedia article on motorway safety.
Montana no limits/greater safety paradox.
NRMA (NSW) article on speed limits.
Great forum on Autobahns and Motorways.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Birthday, 'Uncle Sam'.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776...

....We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...

Those have to be some of the most beautiful words in the English language... or any other for that matter.

Happy Bithday!

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