Category Archives: Coffee

This test says I’m a racist — but a moderate one, let me add!


Y’all know I’m a sucker for a written test, even if, as I take it, I can hear the voice of Admiral Ackbar crying, “It’s a trap!”

Which was sort of the case with this one as it proceeded. Even as I thought I could see the trap taking shape and closing on me, hubris kept me going, hoping I’d ace it anyway.

I didn’t.

I was attracted to the test by this item on the radio this morning. It was a story about all the Starbucks stores that are closed for racial-sensitivity training as I type this. Then came the hook:

How to evaluate your own bias:

The Takeaway invites you to participate in an assessment of your own implicit biases. Click here to access Harvard University’s “Project Implicit.” If this is the first time you’re attempting the test, you’ll have to continue as a guest. Select your country and language, then press “GO!” At the bottom of the next page, click “I wish to proceed.” Then select “Race IAT” — or other implicit association test of your choice — from the following page, and continue to follow the prompts from there to take the test. It should last about 10 minutes.

I went for it, of course. The result? It said “Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for European Americans over African Americans.

Which kinda ticked me off, even though I saw it coming. What caused this conclusion of my racism?

I’ll tell you, but I ask you to go take the test before reading my explanation. No, really, I mean it now! Go take it before you read past this…


The test starts off by lulling you. It asks you questions you’d have to be a major, racist jerk — and a particularly dumb one at that — to answer “wrongly.” Questions like whether you prefer white people to black people, and to what degree.

Then there’s another batch of obvious-pitfall questions, about whether you think poor people are that way because they’re lazy and shiftless.

Then comes the trick part. From the beginning, I’m screwed because you’re supposed to respond as quickly as you can. That always messes me up. I like being rushed even less than other people do; in fact it’s a major personal peeve. My hand/eye coordination is about as quick as that of the average giant sloth, and I know it, and I get rattled.

But I can, eventually, sorta kinda get into the rhythm of the thing.

Anyway, in this part of the test, you’re supposed to, as quickly as possible, either hit the e key with your left hand or the i key with your right.

And here’s where it gets REALLY tricky: You’re not supposed to respond according to what you think, but according to how you have been told in advance to respond. And the way you have been told to respond is in a completed irrational, arbitrary manner.

In this portion of the test, the e and the i correspond to “good” and “bad” (or was it the other way around?). Onto your screen will flash two kinds of input — one of a set of photos of faces, and the other and set of words that are obviously expressing either positive associations (such as “happy”) or negative ones (such as “dirty”).

In the first half of this portion, you are instructed to click one of the letters for both black faces and positive words, and the other letter for white faces and negative words. This was kind of silly and irrational, and I hit the wrong key a couple of times, but I muddled through, and thought I was getting a little faster toward the end.

Then, once you’re warmed up, it reverses on you. You are instructed to hit one key for both black faces and negative words, and the other for white faces and positive words. This was both stupid and offensive, but I followed the instructions, and started doing it a bit faster as I went.

And as I did so, I suspected I was getting myself in trouble by getting better at following the instructions.

Sure enough, I was labeled moderately racist for getting a little faster in that last part — because, in the assumptions of the test creators, supposedly it was easier for my brain to associate the positive words with white faces, and negative ones with black ones. And that, they say, is why I did it more quickly.

Obviously, I believe that if it had been the other way around, with white folks associated with good words first, and bad words second, I would still have been faster on the last part. And then I would have been seen as having a moderate preference for black people, which I think would also have been kind of a bogus result.

But I don’t know that. And I kind of doubt that it would be valid to take it again. So I’ll just share with you what it said about me. The result is what it is…

This made me smile today: Pumpkin-Spice Dostoevsky

I loved this tweet from Tim Ervolina:

Truth be told, if you follow the link, the joke becomes extremely silly to the point of being unfunny almost right away. I mean, it’s not a deep joke to start with. That, after all, is the point — something as profound as Dostoevsky being paired with something as superficial as…

Well, never mind. I just enjoyed the tweet…

Who spends $100 at Starbucks?

starbucks tote

Starbucks keeps making me these offers that cause me to wonder.

Yesterday, I got an email offering me a “free” tote bag.

That is, it was “free” if I spent $75 or more at the Starbucks online store.

A few days back, I got another sweet offer of 20 percent off! To get that, all I had to do is spend $100 or more at the same online store. This was an “exclusive” for a limited time only. It was so exclusive that it had a special code word. Since the offer has expired, I’m going to go ahead and violate security and tell you the code word: “QUENCH.” Print that out, memorize it and then burn it.

The thing I wonder is this: Who spends $100 at a time at Starbucks? Who needs or wants that much Starbucks stuff at any given moment? How many people got excited and took them up on these deals?

By the way, I can get a perfectly adequate “tote bag” (you know, one of those reusable shopping bags) from any local supermarket for about a buck. So…

Oh, and Starbucks: If you want to promote yourself, I’ve told you before how to do it. Advertise on this blog. I’m starting to lose patience with you on this point…



… but lay off my Starbucks, George!

In his latest column, George Will makes similar points to ones I made in my last post, about our national orgy of conspicuous consumption. (And thank you, Thorstein Veblen! I’ve always thought that was a great term — and not just because of the alliteration.)

He concludes it thusly:

In any American city large enough to sustain a social ecosystem of snobbery, there is a magazine to guide fastidious consumers to “the five best craft breweries” or “the five best artisanal cheese shops.” Heaven forfend that anyone should have to settle for the sixth-best. For discerning tipplers, there are artisanal ice cubes. In San Francisco, The Mill, a cafe and bakery, offers artisanal toast for $4 a slice. It is to die for, say the cognoscenti.

Where will the positional economy end? It won’t. Stanford University professor Francis Fukuyama notes that it is a peculiarity of human beings that they desire some things “not for themselves but because they are desired by other human beings.” Hamsters have more sense. This characteristic of our species — the quest for recognition by distinguishing oneself from others — provides limitless marketing possibilities because for many wealthy people, “the chief enjoyment of riches consists in the parade of riches.” So wrote Adam Smith in “The Wealth of Nations,” published in the resonant year of 1776.

And I’m down with all that. My one beef is that the thing that got him mounted on what Bryan would term his high horse was… my beloved Starbucks.

He was indignant that Starbucks is going to have these special, exclusive places called “roasteries” to attract the true poseurs among caffeineheads.starbucks_corporation_logo_2011-svg

Yeah, OK, those places do sound a bit pretentious. But a lot of people think regular ol’ Starbucks is pretentious and conspicuous, in the Veblen sense. And you know what? It isn’t. It’s just great coffee, and it’s consistent — I know that if I walk into a Starbucks in Columbia or Charleston or Memphis or New York or even London or Bangkok, I will get the same great cup of coffee.

Also — the really snooty people claim allegiance to their local, nonchain coffeehouses, and I suppose they’re all right in their way. But the service is better at Starbucks, and so is the coffee, IMHO. And I know I’ll get that same experience wherever I go.

As for the cost, people go on about $6 cups of coffee. Yeah, I suppose some of those slow, indecisive people I sometimes get behind in line are paying that and more for their over-elaborate soda-fountain drinks. But a cup of coffee — which is what I buy there, just black coffee — costs about 2 bucks. Which is about the same I pay for a large cup at Lizard’s Thicket. And a refill’s only about 50 cents.

So there…

How can we have a ‘War on Christmas’ when it’s not even Advent for three more weeks?

Central Park detail

Detail from a family picture taken on Black Friday 2007 in a frigid Central Park.

When I met Howard Duvall at Starbucks the other day, I was delighted to see that they’d started using the red holiday cups. I have a lot of pleasant associations with that annual sign of the season, such as the time three of my kids and I stayed warm with such cups on a Black Friday visit to a bitterly cold New York (see above).

Some people, however, see the cups’ arrival as an opportunity to increase the amount of division in the world:

Starbucks has come under fire from some Christians who say the company isn’t repping hard enough for Jesus on its recent understated holiday cups. The problem? Political correctness, according to one evangelical.

“I think in the age of political correctness we become so open-minded our brains have literally fallen out of our head,” Joshua Feuerstein said in a widely viewed anti-Starbucks rant on Facebook titled “Starbucks REMOVED CHRISTMAS from their cups because they hate Jesus.” “Do you realize that Starbucks wanted to take Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups? That’s why they’re just plain red.”…

Everyone has his or her peeves. Here’s one of mine…

Why on Earth would I expect to see “Christmas” on a coffee cup on Guy Fawkes Day? That’s more than three weeks before Advent even starts, much less Christmas. You want to complain about Christmas being underplayed, get back to me sometime between Dec. 25 and the Feast of the Epiphany.ATT_b1_Bradwarthen_233x233_011515_d2

When I get a red cup on Nov. 5, it really is a holiday cup, since it will span the period that includes our first experiences of cold weather, Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas. It’s about celebrating a season — you know, the holiday season, and yeah, that includes Hanukkah. Maybe New Year’s, too (I’m not clear on when they stop using the cups).

If your excuse for protesting is that you are a Christian, how about checking out a liturgical calendar sometime? Yeah, I know, not every Christian is in a liturgical church, but come on — just how early do you want the Merry Christmases to start?

Yo, Starbucks on Gervais! I’d love to run your Twitter account for you

Y’all know of my unrequited love for Starbucks. “Unrequited” because in order for it to be requited, Starbucks would need to advertise here on my blog. I can hardly think of a better fit, given all the free product placement I’ve already provided over the years.

But now I have a different proposition: Please, Starbucks, let me run your local Twitter feed.

I’m referring here in particular to the Starbucks in the Vista, at Gervais and Lincoln. I follow the store on Twitter, and it has not posted a thing since 2012. Sept. 4, 2012, to be precise. And that one was merely a reTweet.xw38lV2J

I realized this because I went to the Twitter feed to find out whether the store was open today — which, ya know, would have been a really handy bit of info to post on Twitter.

Fortunately, the phone number was included on the feed, so I called them, the way people did in the 20th century, and found out that no, they are not open, on account of the water problem.

I have a proposition: Let me take over your Twitter feed, and I will post at LEAST daily, on the average, in return for the following considerations:

  • An ad on my blog, at the discount rate.
  • Two free cups of coffee a day for the duration of the arrangement.
  • One pound of coffee beans a week.

That’s it. I think you’ll find that this would be far more cost-effective for you than using a significant portion of an FTE to get this job done. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a barista who would be as good at Twitter as I am. I am, after all, one of the Twitterati. I mean, I teach people how to Tweet and everything.

Think about it, @SbuxGervais. This is a sweet deal I’m offering here.

Driving while stoned is a worse idea than ever


Bart, in response to Bud recently saying that “Pot is no more dangerous than coffee,” shares this:

TUESDAY, Feb. 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The legalization of marijuana is an idea that is gaining momentum in the United States, but there may be a dark side to pot becoming more commonplace, a new study suggests.

Fatal crashes involving marijuana use tripled during the previous decade, fueling some of the overall increase in drugged-driving traffic deaths, researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health report.

“Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana,” said co-author Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia. “If this trend continues, in five or six years non-alcohol drugs will overtake alcohol to become the most common substance involved in deaths related to impaired driving.”…


Do some people really not feel the cold?

First the news: I stopped in at the Vista Starbucks this morning and did not buy any coffee.

I just wanted to see if they had any pound bags of Christmas blend beans left, which they did not.

Anyway, as I was turning into Lincoln from Gervais, I had to wait for a pedestrian couple to cross Lincoln in front of me, and I found myself staring at the man, who was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. This wasn’t some stupid kid showing off how the elements didn’t bother him; it was a middle-aged guy. Yes, he was well over six feet tall and probably weighed around 300 lbs., but still — even at that size, doesn’t a body give off too much heat to walk around thus unprotected when it’s 42 degrees out?

Then inside, waiting in the queue to ask about the Christmas blend, a skinny young guy in front of me ordered iced coffee.

I’m telling myself that the man is one of those guys who inexplicably always wears shorts and T-shirts (and what’s that about — this fashion of grown men dressing like little boys?), and has nothing else in his closet, which serves him well much of the year in SC. And the kid, being an American, always drinks iced drinks, and it never occurs to him to order anything else.

Because the idea that these were conscious decisions is just too absurd…

Saying goodbye to my very favorite store, Barnes & Noble on Harbison

The purists who didn't like the floor space that Toys & Games took over in recent years may be gratified to see that area as one of the first cleared out.

The purists who didn’t like the floor space that Toys & Games took over in recent years may be gratified to see that area as one of the first cleared out.

Here we are in the very last days of my very favorite store on Earth, the Barnes & Noble on Harbison.

Its last day of operation is Tuesday… Dec. 31.

The Harbison B&N is more than a store to me. Or perhaps I should say, something other than a store. I certainly made far more purchases at other stores over the years — Food Lion, Publix, Walmart and the like.

But for me, this store was the ultimate “third place.” That’s a term I knew nothing about until recently, when I was getting ready to help conduct a brand workshop for an ADCO client, and I happened to read up on the branding strategy of Starbucks, which has from the start striven to be a “place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home.”

I enjoy both of those places, but between the two, I prefer B&N. There’s only so much you can do in a Starbucks. Noise is often a factor in the coffee shops, while B&N had a more library-like feel to it, except right around the cafe portion, where the sound of the grinder could be intrusive. And then there are all the books to browse through, which to me has always been a sort of foretaste of heaven.

I loved browsing in B&N even before I started drinking coffee in 2004. (Long story behind that. From the time I turned 30 until my 50th year, caffeine drove me nuts. Then, when I was at the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004, I started drinking coffee to deal with the 20-hour days — there was, after all, a Starbucks on every corner. And I found that it didn’t bother me anymore. In fact, it did what it was supposed to do, keeping me from dozing off and creating a nice, creative buzz.)

But to browse through those books for a couple of hours on a Saturday, enjoying my first (and second) coffees of the day — that was awesome. And if I took along my laptop and did a little blogging while I was there, well, all the better.

And yes, I did occasionally buy something. In fact, I buy most gifts there. I find it easier to imagine what sort of book someone will like than any other sort of gift, and I make a point of buying them at the actual store to show my appreciation for all the good times it affords me. Buying the gift also makes me feel less of a self-indulgent sensualist as I browse.

Anyway, I was there a couple of times over the last week or so before Christmas. The first time, I bought a book for my Dad — a biography of Omar Bradley. When I got to the counter to pay for it, the clerk asked whether I was a member. I said yes, and offered my card. It had expired (yeah, I think it was around the holidays when I renewed last year). She asked whether I wanted to renew. No, I said sadly, thinking, What would be the point?

The second time, on Christmas Eve, I found myself in Harbison with a little time on my hands, and just went in to browse once more. For nostalgia’s sake, I even put sugar in my coffee, even though I’ve been drinking it black for years. I used to use a lot of sugar back in the day, such as when I wrote this.

I was wandering through the DVD section, seeing if there were any last-minute gifts that would strike me, when one of the booksellers asked whether I needed help. I said no, but as he turned away, I asked him to wait.

I asked when the store would close. He told me — New Year’s Eve.

I asked why it was closing. He said because B&N couldn’t afford the lease, and the new tenant, Nordstrom, could.

Apologizing for intruding, I asked what he, who had worked at B&N quite a few years, was going to do. He said he might be working at the store at Richland Fashion Mall, and he urged me to come there. I said yeah, that store was OK, but it had no audio/video section. He noted pragmatically that that was the first part of the store he would expect to close, since everyone downloads music now and streams movies online.

But, feeling like an advocate trying to save a client’s life in a hopeless trial, I argued that Netflix didn’t have the high-quality, hard-to-find movies that you could buy at B&N, such as the Criterion collection of fine films. He pointed out there were other places you could get those, although no local, bricks-and-mortar location had as large a Criterion selection as B&N did.


I got a B&N gift card for Christmas, so I’ll probably be in there one more time before it closes for good. Maybe I’ll see you there. Maybe we can have a coffee together, with several sugars to counteract the bitterness…

Starbucks almost deserted in the middle of the day? Can the Zombie Apocalypse be far behind?


Had a strange experience a little while ago.

The photographs above and below were taken at 12:57 p.m. today inside the Gervais Street Starbucks. And no, they weren’t closed for renovations. In fact, there were a few customers in there — I just shot the empty parts.

But… there are never empty parts in that Starbucks. Or at least, I don’t remember it happening to this extent before. Normally, if you meet someone there for a business meeting, it’s hard to find two or three seats together. I mentioned the eerie emptiness to my barista, and she said others had commented on it. She quickly noted that they had been quite busy earlier in the day, which I fully believed, but still — this empty, at lunchtime?

What gives? Didn’t everybody get a Starbucks gift card for Father’s Day (I certainly did)?

I remarked on the phenomenon to a young woman who was one of my few fellow patrons, and she had a one-word explanation: “Summer.” (When you’re young, female and attractive, it’s best to keep your answers short when old guys you don’t know start chatting you up.)

Perhaps so. One of the first things I noticed about Columbia when I moved back here in 1987 was that once the Legislature goes home, the town seems to be deserted. That applies to Mondays and Fridays during the session as well as the off-season.

Add that to USC being out, and things just really slow down. They’ve slowed down the last few days here on the blog. The comments, anyway. I haven’t noticed much dropoff in pageviews.

It’s like our activity just drops a few notches when the lawmakers go home — even when what we do has little to do with them, directly.

That’s one theory, anyway. I admit that it’s not entirely satisfactory. But you tell me — why was I almost alone in Starbucks today?


Obama debate performance: Just ONE cup of coffee too much

Again today, The Onion captures the essence:

Obama Takes Out Romney With Mid-Debate Drone Attack

BOCA RATON, FL—Saying that the high-value target represented a major threat to their most vital objectives, Obama administration officials confirmed tonight that former governor Mitt Romney was killed by a predator drone while attending a presidential debate at Lynn University.

Sources said the drone attack, which occurred at approximately 10:10 p.m. Monday night, obliterated Romney in the middle of a statement on Chinese-purchased U.S. securities, sending his dismembered limbs and internal organs into the audience and leaving a smoking pile of charred flesh and bone in his seat.

“The information we have received from military personnel in the field indicate that tonight’s drone strike took out Mitt Romney, a former businessman the Obama administration has long considered a serious danger, especially in past few weeks,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney, describing the operation as “an unmitigated success.” “The president personally authorized the strike earlier this evening, and as soon as we had visual confirmation that the target in the drone’s sights was, in fact, Mitt Romney, we eliminated him.”…

So maybe President Obama didn’t quite go that far last night, but he was certainly on the attack to a degree that often seemed, to me, unseemly.

By the way, I tried to post this last night, but ran into technical problems — I had left my laptop’s mouse at the office, and my wife’s desktop internet connection was running so slow I figured I’d never get to bed. So here’s what I wanted to share, which was my Twitter feed from the debate. These started at 9:21 p.m. As usual, all Tweets are by me except where another screen name is indicated:

  • Obama needs to chill. Looks desperate. Nobody wants an Interrupter in Chief…
  • The Fix ‏@TheFix Worth noting: Obama has attacked Romney on every question thus far. #lynndebate
  • Peter Beinart ‏@PeterBeinart The egyptian govt needs binders of women to fully develop
  • Romney is coming across as calmer, which, when we’re talking national security, can sometimes count more than the words being said.
  • Yeah, Madeleine Albright redux! “@politico: Obama: “America remains the one, indispensable nation.” #debates
  • @howardweaver@BradWarthen that one redux’es WAY farther back than Albright.
  • Yeah, but I liked her cover version…
  • In Godfather terms, Romney is playing the Man of Reason tonight. Obama at times seems to be shooting for Crazy Joey Gallo
  • OK, I’ve heard the president say he “ended the war in Iraq” too many times. He didn’t do that; the Surge did.
  • The thing is, I generally approve of the job Obama’s done in the world. But he’s not selling it very well tonight…
  • If Obama loses this election, and does so because of this debate, I wonder, will it be because he just had ONE CUP OF COFFEE TOO MUCH TODAY?
  • That’s what I wanna hear! RESOLVE! “@DepressedDarth: I will build 5 new Star Destroyers if I’m elected president. #finaldebate
  • grannykate ‏@katespalmer @BradWarthen Surge changed tide. POTUS brought troops home
  • So would McCain have. Even Bush was on track to do that…
  • Almost an hour into this, and neither Obama nor Romney has indicated what he would do about Quemoy and Matsu. This is unacceptable.
  • Slate ‏@Slate RT @fmanjoo: Here’s the place for Obama to say, “Ask Osama Bin Laden if I apologized. Oh, that’s right, you can’t. Because he’s dead.”
  • Yeah, kinda what I thought… “@washingtonpost: FACT CHECK: Obama did not go on “apology tour” #debate
  • In what alternative universe did this “apology tour” take place? I totally missed it. Yet so many GOP tweeters assert it as article of faith
  • The president’s calmed down some. Hasn’t jumped anxiously down Gov. Romney’s throat in awhile.
  • No, Mr. President, we were no longer “bogged down” in Iraq when you took office. Not after the Surge. Stick to the good things you HAVE done
  • SunnyPhilips ‏@SunnyPhilips Sad many Americans would rather watch HoneyBooBoo or other trash TV than debates impacting their country’s leadership.#theirvotecountstoo
  • OK, I give up: What’s a Honey Boo-Boo?
  • SunnyPhilips ‏@SunnyPhilips Ha. You’ve made my day.
  • Romney’s strategy tonight has been not to commit major errors tonight. No big strategy proposals, just no screwing up. Generally working…
  • Nicholas Kristof ‏@NickKristof Candidates take a break from bashing each other to jointly bash China. 太过分了!
  • If Obama would blame China for Gamecocks’ two losses in a row, he could win South Carolina.
  • Ramez Naam ‏@ramez China holds only about 8.2% of US federal debt. Most is held by Americans.
  • Really? I’m not seeing that… “@ebertchicago: Obama looks cool. Romney looks sweaty. Will post-mortems agree? #debate
  • Scott Huffmon ‏@WinthropPoll Foreign Policy debate: Good thing there are no issues with South America or most of Africa or Europe to be dealt with !
  • Obama mentions Pacific strategy. About time we got into mega strategy. Still no mention of Quemoy and Matsu…
  • My Navy Brat nervous system is still twitching indignantly over the horses and bayonets thing…
  • Nicholas Kristof ‏@NickKristof Foreign policy debate spent more time on Israel than on Europe, India and Africa combined. That’s not our world.
  • Aaron Gould Sheinin ‏@asheinin Serious tweet: Seeing lots of Republicans calling the debate a draw.
  • That’s because they wanted their guy to be as combative as Obama was — which frankly was NOT a good thing…
  • I liked that they shook hands civilly and smiled at each other at the end. How pitiful is it that I’m clinging to something that small?
  • Dan Gillmor ‏@dangillmor If Romney can persuade the public that he’s the peace candidate — there isn’t one — then the American people are truly out to lunch.
  • But he might with some, purely on demeanor.
  • Anyone else think Romney was going particularly after women tonight, rocking back and not being Mr. Aggressive?
  • David GregoryVerified ‏@davidgregory The President is determined to pick a fight tonight; Romney determined to avoid it. What does that say about where each camp sees the race?
  • A lot.

That last one posted at 10:50 p.m.

So… what did y’all think — both during, and upon reflection? I haven’t had much time for reflection, so I leave you for now with the stream-of-consciousness.

Cold turkey times three

If at any time this week I seem a bit out of it, it’s because I’m in withdrawal.

I woke up Monday morning with a feeling like my right ear was full of water. But it wasn’t. I felt pressure, and sound was distorted — loud and distorted. Through it all was a loud ringing/rushing sound. I had trouble making out what people were saying to me.

So Tuesday, I managed to get in to see an ear, nose and throat doc when he had a cancellation. I figured he’d put a tube in my ear, and that would relieve the pressure. I figured it was an infection. But my ear drum looked normal.

After a hearing test, it turns out I’ve lost some ability to detect high pitches in one ear, and low pitches in the other. The doctor ordered some tests to figure out why I would have such asymmetrical hearing loss, along with the other symptoms. This is what I may have.

I haven’t arranged for the tests yet. I need to get on that. But I’m having some trouble getting it together the last couple of days, because I’m following the doctor’s orders:

  1. No salt.
  2. No alcohol.
  3. No caffeine.

It has something to do with all of those things causing fluid retention. There may actually be a problem with fluid, but deep in the inner ear, where a tube would do nothing to drain it.

The first two, I can do standing on my head. The last one is tough. Really tough. One day, the usual three or four BIG cups. The next day, nothing. Makes a guy feel pretty weird. Although today has been a little easier than yesterday.

But I’m very spacey. The symptoms are not going away. In fact, when I slipped up and finished a bag of chips I’d left open on my desk from earlier in the week, the ringing got louder. So maybe there’s something to the salt connection, although perhaps it was just the chewing action.

I talked to someone this morning who also recently gave up caffeine. As confused as I was, I forgot to ask the burning question: How long does it take before you feel normal again?

THIS is required reading? Seriously?

Having been required to leave the house because there’s a bridal shower going on there for a family friend, I came by Barnes & Noble and got some coffee, since I hadn’t made any at breakfast.

OK, technically, I got the coffee at the Starbucks about 50 yards away (yes, I’ve become that sort of coffee snob), and came in here to browse books while I drink it. I’m looking for ideas for Father’s Day — both for my Dad, and to see what there is in paperback that I might want to ask for. I’ve found one of each…

Anyway, I passed by the “Required School Reading” table, and of course it was filled with excellent, worthwhile books, many of which were required when I was in school, plus a few more recent classics. I like browsing the school reading table. It feels so substantial and worthwhile, as well as evoking pleasurable memories, because some of these came to be favorites of mine.

Note that you can see Flowers for Algernon, which I mentioned just yesterday in a comment. There were Catch-22, and Utopia, and Emma, and  A Tale of Two Cities, and other usual suspects. Then there were more recent entries, such as Freakonomics and the book that the film “The Social Network” was based on. All things that help kids think, and appreciate language, and understand their world a little better.

Then, I noticed that there were two more “Required School Reading” tables. There I found very different fare. It was all commercial, recent, crank-’em-out-on-an-assembly line “young adult” offerings. You can see them in the picture at the top of this post.

At least a plurality of them were about vampires. Teenage vampires, of course. Filled with all of the usual teenage angst, such as worrying about one’s place in society, finding true love, and of course bloodlust.

I really, really hope this was a case of the wrong sign being placed on a table. I thought of asking one of the employees, “Are these really required reading in school? If so, which school?”

But I was afraid of the answer I might get.

Et tu, Coffee Party?

Following on my previous post, I’ve realized for some time that the Coffee Party wasn’t going be the kind of sensible Third Way alternative, a la the UnParty, that I’ve been looking for all these years.

I was momentarily beguiled by the word “coffee,” but I eventually woke up and smelled it.

Basically, for some time, it has seemed to be more of a leftie alternative to the Tea sorts.

And now, like Phil Noble’s SC New Democrats, the Coffee Party is totally in the bag for Occupy Wall Street. They seem starstruck or something, like this is what they’ve been waiting for all their lives. You can see this, over and over, in recent Tweets, such as this one:

Coffee Party

@coffeepartyusaCoffee Party

Iconic Photo of #OccupyDC — meet the photographer Craig Hudson #Oct29 #CoffeeParty

Talk about your fanboy sensibilities.

This prompted me to reply, I’m disappointed that the Coffee Party seems so entranced by Occupy Wall Street…

To which I received this answer:

Coffee Party

@coffeepartyusaCoffee Party

Hey @bradwarthen …we just encourage a #CitizensIntervention that allows dialogue between citizens and their leaders…coming #Oct29?

No, I’m not. I won’t be in town. But thanks. I mean, I believe y’all are sincere in your effort to include me.

If only y’all would snap out of it, and become a real alternative for those of us who are sick of people marching and countermarching in the streets, and hollering pointlessly at each other in the halls of Congress. Those of us longing for some common, grown-up sense.

My prescription: Listen to the song below. (The Coffee Party fooled me once. I won’t get fooled again.) And have yourself a nice cup of coffee while you listen. Preferably some of that wonderful, corporate Starbucks coffee. See how good it is…

And then vote UnParty.

New drivethru at Florence Starbucks

OK, not really, and in fact, at least one person appears to have been injured. So it’s no joke. But the truth was, that headline was, I must admit, my first thought when I beheld the scene. Or rather, my second. My first was, “Someone was even more anxious for a cup of coffee than I was.”

This morning, I was heading back to Columbia from Florence (after participating in a symposium at Francis Marion University last night), and debating whether I should stop for a Starbucks on my way out of town. Why the debate? Well, I’d just had two-and-a-half cups of coffee at breakfast.

Of course, I decided in favor of all that is right and good. But as I turned in, I saw that all was not as it should be. There was a firetruck blocking my view of the shop, and all the baristas were standing around outside. Which was not good, because if they’re standing around outside, how are they going to serve me coffee?

I parked, got out and approached, and saw the above. The third- or fourth-hand story I got from one of the baristas was that a woman was trying to park and her brakes failed. Or she hit the wrong pedal. Or something. I looked at the curb she would have had to jump, and decided it was probably “or something.” (It turns out the driver was complaining of chest pains.)

I didn’t bother any of the police officers standing in a clump at the other end of the firetruck, because they were busy standing there staring, talking in murmurs, and waiting for something. Besides, I had to get on the road. Which I did, after Tweeting out the above picture.

I stopped again shortly thereafter, and saw that the FloMo had this report:

FLORENCE, S.C. –A Nissan Altima crashed into the drive-thru Starbucks at Five Points in Florence.

According to emergency responders, the undentified female driver was complaining of chest pains before and after the accident. Although she showed no signs of cardiac problems, she self-administered nitroglycerin medication as a precaution.

The driver was then taken to the hospital to assess her injuries.

An unidentified female customer also sustained minor injuries when she was struck by both the car and debris from the accident. She was able to transport herself to the hospital.

The Starbucks is closed until further notice.

So no joke, and I hope everyone will be OK. And that there will be coffee next time I go there.

Going short at Starbucks (it can be a GOOD thing)

Did you ever wonder why the smallest size advertised at Starbucks is a “Tall?” So did I, but I never wondered enough to ask. I sort of assumed that once there had been smaller sizes, but they had become extinct as America became more gluttonous.

I was right. I think. Because it turns out Starbucks also serves a “Short.” Really. It’s 8 ounces, as opposed to the 12 oz. tall. I’ve taken to ordering them lately, if I’m picking up a coffee in the afternoon. It’s a great way to go when you need something, but it’s just a bit late for that much caffeine.

They’re really not a part of the Starbucks routine. In fact, they don’t have sleeves for them. Instead, you get a double cup when you order one.

You have to know to ask for it.

So there’s another reason I order them, aside from being “sensible.” They make me feel cool, like one of the Starbucks cognoscenti.

As you know, I love Starbucks (a fact I appear to have at least alluded to here 54 times). It’s not just the coffee, which is the best. It’s the smell. It’s the music. It’s the sound of beans being freshly ground. It’s the fact that the women there are more beautiful than anywhere else. OK, maybe that’s the caffeine talking. But then, maybe there’s something about Starbucks that attracts beauty. If I could get a grant, I’d do a study.

So it’s just extra great to casually order something (“a Short Pike”) that none of the unwashed around me — not even the beautiful unwashed women — know about. It adds something to the already pleasant experience of being there. I walk out with a swagger, my confidence in my own hipness fully reinforced.

Can  you believe Starbucks doesn’t advertise on this blog? Maybe it’s because I have no clue whom to approach with my pitch. I’m not even getting anything for product placement. Aside from the satisfaction of knowing I’m doing good in this world…

No Starbucks for you! (Or at least, no Starbucks money)

A screen grab from an official Starbucks video...

Perhaps that headline was a bit too alarmist. Because that would be TOO cruel — cutting anyone off from the black nectar. But to politicians, if not to normal people, being cut off from the cash flow would be as bad as losing the coffee itself. Because, you know, their priorities are seriously out of whack.

Thanks to Steven for reminding me of this item I meant to post a day or two ago (it was first brought to my attention by ADCO’s Lanier Jones:

Starbucks CEO to DC: You’ve been cut off

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is fed up with Washington.

And he is doing something about it.

Spurred by what he describes as a failure of leadership on the part of lawmakers, Schultz is mounting a one-man bull rush against apolitical culture that has “chosen to put partisan and ideological purity over the well being of the people.”

What does that mean? No more political donations — not for anybody.

And he’s recruiting other CEOs to join him…

If only Starbucks could run Washington. It would, at the very least, smell much nicer. And imagine if we could address the nation’s problems in the efficient, pragmatic way in which baristas fill orders. I’d want to hang out in Washington all the time. And then, and then… we could open more Starbucks governments in the state capitals! And so forth…

Why hasn’t the Coffee Party been pursuing this idea? Must the UnParty do everything?

Starbucks? That’s where I need to be…

Mary Pat Baldauf just Tweeted this:

You could literally hang meat in @Starbucks in the Vista! Freezing!

Well, the over-effectiveness of the A/C is neither here nor there, far as I’m concerned. I just want to be at Starbucks! Now!

Rather, I NEED to be at Starbucks.

Just a moment ago, I found something on my desk. An off-white, plastic, roughly cylindrical object, standing on its end, slightly smaller at the top end than the bottom. About the right size to fit easily into the cardboard tube in the middle of a roll of toilet paper.

No idea what it was, or how it got there. Did someone leave this thing here thinking it belonged to me. The color was right for a Mac accessory. They’ve been trying to get me to use the Apple laptop I was issued. Is this something that goes with that?

I was as bewildered as those apes contemplating the Monolith at the start of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

But instead of heaving a thighbone at it, I reached out, with a certain trepidation, and picked it up to see if there was some sort of label or clue on the bottom…

… and salt poured copiously out of the top of it.

Yes. It was the shaker I had nicked from the ADCO kitchen for the late lunch I ate at my desk Friday.

I really think I am going to make a rare mid-morning visit to Starbucks, and I don’t care how cold it is. Perhaps I can kill something with a thighbone and use it for warmth…

But really, what DO you say?

Trav Robertson, as we saw him during the 2010 campaign.

Still sort of reeling from this discombobulation called Daylight Savings, and having had three glasses of sweet tea with my lunch at Seawell’s — to no noticeably helpful effect — I decided to do a wide swing through Five Points to get some REAL caffeine at Starbucks on my way back to the office.

So I got my tall Pike, and once again impressed the baristas with my fancy gift card from across the sea (thanks, Mr. Darcy!), and on my way out ran into Trav Robertson, whom I hadn’t seen since the election. Trav, if you’ll recall, managed Vincent Sheheen’s almost, but not quite, campaign for governor last year.

We chatted for a moment, mainly about the state of news media today and how it relates to politics (he said one of the toughest things he found to adjust to in the campaign was this newfangled notion that the story changes at least four times in the course of what we once so quaintly called a “news cycle”), and we parted, and as I walked back toward my truck, who was coming up the steps from Saluda but Larry Marchant. He smiled and we shook hands, and turning back to see Trav standing at the coffee shop door, I said, “Well, here’s you, and here’s Trav Robertson — we’ve just got everybody here, Democrats and Republicans…” as I moved on toward my vehicle.

Which is a pretty stupid and meaningless thing to say, but what DOES one say in such a social situation? I mean, I’m not gonna say, “Well, lookee here, we’ve got Trav, whose candidate lost a close election to a woman you claimed to the world to have slept with, and I last saw you being made fun of by Jon Stewart….”

No, I don’t think so.

And really, I suppose it’s not all that cool to say it here on the blog, either, but… it seems to me there’s a social commentary in here somewhere, having to do with Moynihan’s concept of Defining Deviance Down or whatever. And when I say “deviance,” I’m not picking on Larry or anybody else, but talking about us, the people who are the consumers of such “news.”

I mean, how does one conduct himself in polite society — or any society — in which such things are discussed, disclosed, dissected and displayed publicly? Actually, “publicly” isn’t quite the word, is it? Doesn’t quite state the case. Way more intense than that.

If you’re Jon Stewart, life is simple. You make a tasteless joke or two, get your audience to laugh, and move on to the next gag. But what do you say if you’re just a regular person out here in the real world, and you run into the real people about whom these jokes are made?

Whatever the right thing is, I haven’t figured it out, so today I just fell back on the time-honored stratagem of ignoring any weirdness inherent in the situation, and saying something insipid. Which, in this polite state of ours, still works.

As for Trav and Larry — did they speak after I left? Do they even know each other? If they spoke, what did they speak about? I have no idea. I retreated to the office with my coffee.

Larry Marchant, as we saw him during the 2010 campaign.

I leave the country for a few days, and look what happens

This morning, when I went for a Grande Verona at the 5 Points Starbucks, I had the pleasure of flashing one of my favorite souvenirs from our trip to England: My official London Starbucks card. (Yes, it’s touristy, but I don’t care. I tend to like almost anything with a Union Jack on it.)

The effect was everything I could have hoped for. The barista was impressed, noting that he’d never before seen one like it. I basked in my elevated status… a Thorstein Veblen moment!

I bought it at a Starbucks in The City, one of two or three of the chain’s stores to which I gave my custom in London. The visits were generally satisfactory, which I took time to communicate to Mr. Darcy — that is to say, Darcy Willson-Rymer, the managing director of Starbucks in the UK and Ireland. He’s one of my followers on Twitter, you know — a fact which I could have mentioned to the baristas in England if I’d wanted to impress them, but one doesn’t want to top it the nob too much. Besides, it was unnecessary; the service was generally up to the usual high Starbucks standard. (Darcy was kind enough to write back to me, saying “Welcome to the UK. I hope we look after you. let me know how you get on.” I got on fine, as it happened.)

There were differences — for instance, they always ask you whether you want to drink your coffee on-premises or take away, which took me aback at first. (Or was that at the Caffe Nero shops I went to when Starbucks wasn’t handy? No, I think it was at both.) Also, some of the stores were huge, with far more seating capacity than I’m used to. Which was nice.

But now that I return home, I find all is not well in Starbucks land.

They’re changing the logo. I didn’t like the sound of that when I first saw the headline of the release a colleague had shared. Now that I’ve seen the new logo, I like it less.

How does it strike you? I think it looks naked. The poor siren is suspended in space, unanchored. She looks insecure. And now that it’s monochromatic, now that the “siren” is green and there’s no black to offset it, the whole lacks contrast, definition and character. Also, removing the words suggests a surrender to a post-literate world — and while I may have this wrong, I would have said that Starbucks’ constituency would tend to be more literate than the general population.

Moreover, it’s an unnecessary break with tradition, which on principle I abhor. (I’m not much on show tunes, but to the extent that I have a favorite, it’s “Tradition” from “Fiddler on the Roof.” The rest of the play, in which Tevye is forced to accept successively more jarring breaks with tradition, I like less.) It’s insupportable, as the original Darcy would have said. And then, when I read the reasoning — that it’s intended “to move the Seattle, Washington-based company beyond coffee” — I was nothing short of appalled. Beyond coffee? That’s like the church moving “beyond God” (which you might say some churches have done, but let’s not get off on a theological digression).

You ask me, I say if you must change, go back to the original brown logo (except that it had “and Tea,” which also distracted from the point). But, well, they didn’t ask me…