Info ~ travel musings for the masses

Posts from the Current Events Category

I am probably not the customer Starbucks wants using their rewards program. When I am in a city where there are not a lot of local coffee options, Starbucks is my backup. The blonde roast is drinkable and if it is not being brewed they are happy to make a pour-over of it. All of this to say, a lot of my recent work travel has not been close to local coffee shops, but Starbucks were readily available.

The recently announced changes to Starbuck’s rewards program are not going over well.

Under the new plan, the “stars” that are stockpiled to earn free drinks and other rewards are awarded at a rate of two stars for every $1 spent. Currently, customers earn one star per visit. But it will take 300 stars to get to the company’s Gold status, up from 30 stars, and it will take 125 stars for a reward, instead of 12.

Stars will now be earned based on spend instead of number of transactions, meaning people who buy the expensive Frappuccinos will earn more stars than someone like me who orders a grande coffee. I am sure this is specifically targeted at a customer like me who earns 12 stars by ordering coffees and then redeems (or has someone else redeem) an expensive drink. Or worse, the person who orders a coffee and a pastry but in separate transactions to earn two stars and then redeems for something expensive.

Are the Starbucks changes aggressive? Yes, but just like in the airline mileage earning and redemption world you have to remember: Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered. Starbucks could have probably made some rules changes that simply limited the number of transactions per day to something reasonable (2 per day maybe?) but they decided to go fully revenue based. The revenue based rewards are quickly becoming commonplace across tons of different industries as a way to “reward” someone for their spend rather than their loyalty. The thing to remember is that spending more to earn a reward usually is not beneficial to you mathematically. Well, unless you’re buying the office coffee on a corporate card; Then you’re making out like a bandit.

In the end, this probably will not change my habits when it comes to Starbucks. If there is no local option when I travel, I will visit Starbucks. And that’s probably exactly what Starbucks wants. Spending habits stay the same but the number of rewards will decrease.

Alaska Airlines, arguably the hometown airline of Seattle, Portland, and Anchorage, unveiled a their new brand and livery at an event yesterday in Seattle.

In a blog post, they give details on why they are refreshing the brand and a few insights into why they went the direction they did.

“We’ve added 90 new markets in the past five years. As we continue to grow, we are updating the outward expression of our brand so it shows up bolder wherever we fly.”

Essentially, we now fly Boston to San Diego non-stop and want to make our logo simpler for that market. I get it, it is not like they were going to change the name of the airline or anything. The first thing that stands out to me though is how close the new tail livery looks to some of the low cost carriers and how the entire livery looks a little Southwest-ish. The second thing is what I pointed out to Seth yesterday, the multicolored cheat lines look like the engines are spewing out the Northern Lights.


Maybe that’s what Alaska was going for. The colors also match up pretty well to the Seattle Seahawks, the Mariners, and Sound Transit System. Coincidence?

I am no branding or livery expert but I just find the new look to be less Alaska and more Spirit/Southwest/Frontier. Maybe that is what they were going for. There is even a hint of Eurowings in there. There is a pretty great breakdown of the entire brand, livery, and other customer facing materials at Under Consideration. Their impression? Underwhelmed.

Overall, it’s not a highly inspiring redesign and rather than double-down on the quirkiness and ruggedness of the brand equity established they have moved away to safer territory.

Maybe Alaska should have gone to an all retro livery… (to be fair, some of the colors do match up)


— Updated at 12:30pm PST

I should add, if employees like the new look and it motivates them to better serve customers, then I am all for it. From the video of the unveiling of the new brand it does seem like the employees are excited about it and that’s a good thing.

Patrol Car Recording Released After Officer Shoots Dog

The 911 call features a woman who said she was driving past a home in the 2600 block of East Fifth Street and saw a man who appeared to be drunk and a woman trying to get away from him. The video shows Griffin arriving about 4:45 p.m., and he can be heard trying to verify which home was referenced. Not long after leaving his patrol car, Griffin is heard shouting, “Show me your hands” and then, “Get your dog!” That was followed by Cisco’s bark and a single gunshot.

I can understand why the officer had his gun drawn, he was told there was a disturbance and did not know what he was walking into. However, he was at the wrong address. If I was the Austin Police Department I would want to know why the address was not verified by the officer before he left his car. He can be heard asking which apartment unit the disturbance is at. Clearly there was a breakdown of communication.

As a dog owner, I am well aware that spooked dogs are scary. Though they may not bite, a scared dog looks intimidating. It makes me wonder though, had the officer clearly identified himself while walking up to the house whether or not Paxton would have returned the dog to the back yard. The officer says, “Show me your hands” and then immediately “Get your dog!”. If I have a gun pointed at me and am being told to show my hands, my brain is trying to figure out whether or not I should actually get the dog.

I look forward to hearing what the investigation from the Austin Police Department reveals. I know that restraint is not always an option, but I would think a little restraint in instances like this would not be too difficult. It just sounds like the officer was a little on edge walking into an unknown situation (again, at the wrong address) and that adrenaline lead to the shooting of the dog.

There is a Facebook page for Cisco, if you’re interested in that.

The cover takes a look at the airlines from a chemistry standpoint. Overall, the article is pretty good and gives a look at the merger from a perspective we as consumers aren’t necessarily used to seeing.

The cover still throws me off a bit, but the story behind how they design covers at BusinessWeek is very interesting.

When asked about being edgy, here is what the designers said –

It’s funny because I don’t think we are [edgy]. Everyone takes covers, interprets covers in a slightly different way. When you’re privy to the process, it demystifies it a bit. When you’re part of the process it loses the surprise value. So, I don’t see this one as particularly surprising. I think it’s fun. But, yah, it’s nice that everyone thinks that.

I think it’s an edgy cover and pretty much unnecessary.

Yes, I’m sure you’ve already had enough of the headlines. I just thought it was pertinent to post a few interesting tidbits that have come out of the news of bin Laden’s death.

  1. Pakistan was not informed of the raid or of bin Laden’s killing until after the raid.
  2. This speaks volumes to the amount of trust, or lack thereof, that we have of the Pakistani government. Sure, they were supplying us with phone taps and some other intelligence, but they were clearly unwilling to act upon any of it.

  3. There was intelligence in place as far back as 2007 that lead to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, most importantly, the real name of a courier that was making trips to the compound.
  4. It is not clear where all of this intelligence came from, but there are a number of places stating that it was gathered from prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay facility.

  5. Lastly, the President ordered a daring raid rather than a bombing mission against the compound
  6. My hat is off to President Obama. Rather than taking a risk of having bin Laden miraculously escape a bombing raid he made the tough decision to put American lives at risk by sending them deep into Pakistan. He certainly could have gone the Clinton route and ordered a cruise missile strike but instead made sure that the job was done right. Good job Mr. President. And good job President Bush.

In closing, I do not think that the death of Osama bin Laden will lead to less of a threat for Americans or westerners in general. The United States and other fighting forces had put the clamp on Obama’s ability to effectively wage war in Afghanistan and I think that’s why we have seen a lot of build-up in places such as Yemen. Bin Laden was a figurehead and while it is good that he is gone, we should not be eager to let our guard down.

Niall Ferguson, Professor of History at Harvard University and columnist for Newsweek, spoke his mind on the foreign policy decisions by the Obama administration and it seems, took the MSNBC hosts off guard. Professor Ferguson is by no means a conservative so my guess is that the MSNBC personalities were looking at the interview as being easy going. His description of the Obama administration’s attempt at foreign policy is spot on:

As far as I can see, President Obama’s strategic concept is “I’m not George W. Bush. Love me.”

If you can’t see the video, you can visit MSNBC and watch it here.

It should be noted that the one host seems a bit disgusted with the whole interview and you can hear her choke a little after Niall so bluntly states his case.

It is difficult to write about this day in history. So, I’ll let the President do the talking. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s speech to Congress, given on December 8, 1941. Let us remember those who fought and died at Pearl Harbor and those who, because of the attack, would go on to fight and die in World War II.

USS Arizona - Pearl Harbor Memorial

To the Congress of the United States:
Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.

Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.

A quick thought for Tuesday. A lot of the hubbub over education involves funding, or the lack thereof. The notion that education is underfunded is not supported by fact, instead, the facts point the other direction, that federal education spending has seen enormous growth since the 1960s.

Maybe we should be looking at how money is spent rather than how much money is doled out. Being in the education field I can guarantee that there is a lot to learn.