Coming to terms with being human.


This is Just to Say

Sometimes you have to post just to post.

I am currently obsessed with URU, the latest Myst incarnation. This has distracted me from the blog. I have found, though, a fun little link that is currently making blogosphere headlines.

My wife loves IKEA. For those of you who don't know the massive blue Borg ship that is IKEA, I will explain. It is a home furnishing empire. By empire I mean a Death Star filled with bookshelves and end tables. The fun little link compares IKEA to a video game. Read, laugh, or get annoyed that I'm sneaking out of an authentic post.


In addition to the Ikea attack, I give you Mc Donalds.


The Culture of the Siren

Today I sat in a local café that did not have a Starbucks across from it. I prefer local coffeehouses to chains. Chainhouses never seem to develop the same amount of character that individual cafés take to themselves. Though I lean towards the locals I am not a purist.
A good friend of mine most definitely is a purist. He will not enter a Starbucks, not even to sit with friends, much less to purchase anything. I am aware of a great many people of the café purist persuasion. Google “Starbucks AND hate OR sucks” and you will receive some 123,000 hits.
What is it about the Siren that breeds contempt? One could site the economic abuse of bean harvesting workers but Starbucks isn’t alone in exploiting the common man. Others may point out Starbucks’ sick need to run out the competition by placing stores adjacent to local cafes. Out of the two options, I believe, the latter points towards the truth.

Cafés are breeding grounds for culture. Culture as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary is “the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought”. I do not agree with this definition in totality but it will work for now. Cafés are never just businesses. By providing a space to linger in, cafés create ideonodes (discussed in my 9.11.2003 post). CoffeeHOUSES are often just that, surrogate homes, especially for the regulars.
In some ways cafés are more important to society than real homes. Cafés are a meeting place of unrelated individuals. Each patron has her own social circle, unrelated to those around her. If an interesting idea passes around the room, it is bound to leave the tight group of friends it originated in and enter a new social circle. Trends, information, and the like spread through societies in this manner.
Culture includes the medium through which one accepts information. Religious people trust information more when gained through their places of worship. They also become emotionally attached to the particulars around them, forming traditions. Café enthusiasts often gain pleasure from being part of “coffee culture”. This coffee culture is often equated with the values of a supposed counterculture. When a place fuses with one's values it becomes worthy of protection.

By openly attacking local coffeehouses, Starbucks is confronting a culture. Originally, Starbucks was part of this culture. It was accepted as a Seattle coffeehouse that made good. There is an internal conflict within coffee culture however. A traditional counterculture value is a general mistrust of big business although cafes are in themselves buisnesses. As Starbucks continued to succeed, the fact of its’ business nature outranked its’ coffeehouse status. Then the cross-corner Starbucks began to emerge. This blatant assault on local cafés pushed many people into purist status. Starbucks was ejected from coffee culture proper and is now its’ own culture: a culture that, in the numbers war, is winning.

So why write this? Well, definitely not because I think things will change. I am just fascinated by the idea of culture. How do group values form and how much provocation will cause a person to defend the group? If any reader would like to put his two cents in, email me using the feedback link. I might even post your stuff.


The Wheels on the Bus Go...

Transportation is one of the big issues of this century. The constant presence of traffic jams attests to a poorly developed road system. Parking issues often make the headlines in newspapers (at least in the Currents section). Of course, the biggest issue of all is the impact of our transportation decisions on the environment.
Whether it's hybrid cars or Segway scooters, there are plenty of environmentally conscious choices on the new market. Granted, they are all out of the average person's price range, but hey, they exist. Even city buses get in on the action. You've seen those Powered by Natural Gas labeled ones, right?
I'm all for natural gas burning buses. They only release water into our air which is far better than carbon monoxide, oil particulates, and whatever else I see floating over Los Angeles every time I go there. Natural gas isn't perfect though. It still requires off-shore drilling and the potential destruction of Flipper's home. This is why I like the Whisperer.

Thank God for the Dutch. You remember the Dutch don't you? They brought us great artists, philosophers, and those special Amsterdam coffee houses. Not to mention pancakes, Santa Claus, and windmills. Now they bring us the reinvention of the wheel.
A Dutch inventor has turned wheels into generators. Utilizing existing technology, his wheels promise no less than 50% greater efficiency out of the existing engine. Coupled with better engines like the hybrid or natural gas lot, the Whisperer system could bring even greater relief to our lungs.

Then again, you could ditch the car for a bicycle you lazy American.


Back: If anyone is there to notice

I had planned to abandon this blog and create a new one. Then, when googling myself to find an article I wrote, I noticed that other people have been reading and posting about this site. Not many of you, but I was humbled none the less.

I thank everybody who gave credit to this blog. Links make the memes go round.

Speaking of links, I just finished reading LINKED, a fascinating book on network theory. It helped clarify issues I had been thinking of and created a whole new line of questions.

I am now using broadband. The continued aggravation of dial-up was a huge factor in my not posting, so now I have no excuse. I am still planning on creating the second blog, but SelfUnfocused is here to stay (in blogosphere life span at least).