The tall and and short of it

Life is an escape. Everyone is trying to escape or hide from something. I am trying to hide from labels. The specific label I seek to be furthest from is 'Starbucks latte-drinking liberal'. The first thing I ever bought in the United States was a coffee from Starbucks. After seeing that on city street corners Starbucks joints sprout like weeds after the rain, I have been avoiding them ever since. I have embraced everything local (Yes! I am that guy now). I have other more legitimate reasons to avoid Starbucks. My problem with Starbucks is their pretentious fancy sizes - tall, venti, grande. Can you trust such a place to give you a honest cup of coffee when they can't their sizes right? The other is that the coffee is way too expensive. I also learnt that if you drink their grande Java Chip Cookie Coffee don't bother eating the rest of the day.

It is well-known that all size and flavors of coffee that you order regardless of the price advertised are within a few cents of each other. The different prices are to fleece the price-blind, but not lose the price conscious customer. What economists call 'price discrimination'. One would think that price range between the cheapest and the costliest of about $7 dollars would keep most coffee shops happy and in business. But, not Starbucks. They have one more trick up their sleeve in this sneaky price discrimination business. Their smallest size is never advertised. You can order it at ANY Starbucks, but you will fail to see any mention of it on the chalk board or menu. Why? Tim Hartford has discussed this at length almost two years ago, yet the word hasn't got out.

I have tried the Starbucks short twice already and I been served without the barista batting an eyelid. The second time I was offered a second shot or espresso - 'free'. For my Starbucks savvy, I presume. Besides, saving valuable cash in this oil-strapped world, it tastes better for the reasons the article explains. Trust the Americans (Texans in particular) to ruin everything by emphasizing size over substance.

*In some fairness to Starbucks: Most of the money made goes into the pockets of the owners of the real estate. Corner shops don't come cheap.

O Pato

The great Brazilian guitarist Joao Gilberto and singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso singing 'O Pato'. Yeah! the song is in Portuguese and I when I first heard it I couldn't understand a word. But, the phrasing was so exquisite and the duet so lovely that it didn't matter. I like the look on Veloso's face at the end of the song showing his great admiration and respect for Gilberto. It's beautiful.

It's actually quite a fun bossa-nova song about a duck who goes samba dancing with another duck, a goose and a swan (Translation and lyrics).

Why the iPhone is like a razor

Yeah, the inevitable has happened - Apple has dropped the price of the iPhone by a whopping $200, or caused AT & T to step in with a subsidy. I felt a malicious glee in imagining the faces of all the suckers who bought the iPhone last year. The shiny new 3G iPhone was now within the reach of even this mostly starving, Ramen-eating grad student.

Shaving this morning (I occasionally make time for this activity) I realised, as P.T. Barnum once said, I was almost about to be the sucker of the minute. It's the razor blades thing all over again. The price of the razor is subsidized by the blades. Even the printer-makers like HP and gang figured this out long time ago. No wonder that printer is ridiculously cheap at $60. It's the paper and ink that's gonna get yer wallet.

So, AT & T are selling their razor blades at $69.99. Without taxes and surcharges that is $840. Add another $200 for the hardware (trust Apple to make it obsolete in a year's time). So you are paying about $1040 for the year, or about $2.85 per day. If you factor in taxes, etc. it is about $3 a day. Which is about the price of a small cup of coffee, or 5 packets of Ramen. So, if I give up eating and drinking, I can afford it. I may be hungry and naked but at least I won't get lost with the GPS and I can always check my email, ANYWHERE!

Take your pick!