Archive for March, 2009

Starbucks VIA™ Ready Brew

March 10th, 2009

Starbucks Via Ready BrewYes, I was skeptical, even mocking of the idea that anyone can produce a decent cup of instant coffee. Really, Folgers Crystals is a freakin punch line!  But I have to report, trying a free sample of Starbucks Via instant coffee, it’s pretty acceptable. Even a good substitute when the real deal is not available.  I know some folks that swear by Via as the *perfect* ingredient for their iced coffee – just get a cup with water & ice and add a packet of Via, shake and you have great iced coffee.  Who’da thunk?

Don’t get me wrong, I cannot imagine actually choosing Via over a quality brewed coffee. But for some circumstances, Via is a good fit. 

My Report on Local Economic Indicators

March 2nd, 2009

Following is another in a series of reports on the US economy. My Report on Local Economic Indicators (RLEI) is not scientific at all. Purely anecdotal, with really no fact at all to back it up. Culled from the personal powers of observation, deduction and reasoning of, well, me. This brand of shoddy reporting is a cornerstone of web blogging in 2009, isn’t it?  But I digress.

In our own way, my wife Kristin and I are trying to stimulate the local economy of suburban Chicago by pumping literally hundreds of dollars into local home improvement retailers such as Lowes, Home Depot, Menards, and a hardware store once known as Ace, now under the name of Bill’s. We are leveraging the current availability of short lines at the checkout, huge sales and discounting, and generally favorable market conditions to gut and remodel our kitchen.

We hired an under-employed neighbor who does excellent work (call me if you want a referral) for the heavy stuff of taking down two kitchen walls to half height, breaking up our tile floor, re-routing some plumbing and electric, drywall installation and shoring up the once load bearing walls that are now empty space. Kristin has done all of the skim coating, sanding, priming and painting with the exception of one ceiling which I bravely and confidently rolled out! Ok, before I am judged for the workload imbalance, consider I work full time and Kristin stays at home working full time as a mom but having more flexibility of schedule to do these kinds of things. Plus I am verrry deliberate in how I work so frankly her output is about twice my capacity anyway. Also, I get overwhelmed easily when it comes to “handy work”. Another digression.

Back to my Report on Local Economic Indicators (RLEI). The solid cherry-wood cabinets have been ordered (by Kristin, natch) so we went to Home Depot and Lowes over the weekend to zero in on counter tops. We are going with solid surface acrylic by LG called Hi-Macs.  Nice stuff.  What I observe though, is hundreds of thousands of square feet of no customers in either store. Seriously, at both Lowes and Home Depot, employees outnumbered shoppers!  To my mind, neither of these retailers are normally staffed very heavy; there always seems to be two or three lined up to question a clerk that may have been cornered by a in-need customer. Not this past weekend. It was kind of spooky to have the stores basically to ourselves at these large major retailers on a weekend. Not a good sign.

Yes, I saw the headline this morning that insurance behemoth AIG lost 61.7 billion last quarter.  I did the math – that is $685 MILLION per day for three months, an astonishing number, almost incomprehensible. But what I saw or in this case didn’t see at Home Depot and Lowes over the weekend is equally disturbing. C’mon people, spread some money around!  The government can’t spin this downward spiral around all by itself.