Saturday, April 24, 2004


Yesterday, I attended an Australian Rules football game at the former Olympic Stadium in Sydney. The game was enjoyable, although my team were a bit soft towards the end and lost, and the game was a little lacking in atmosphere. (Even in its reduced post-olympic form, the stadium seats 80000, and there were only 33000 at the game). After the game, I went into a bar outside the ground. Before getting in, a bouncer wanted to look inside my bag, presumably to check I was not carrying any other alcoholic drinks (or something).

"Can I check your bag".
(Assenting grunt). (Bouncer looks inside bag).
"Is that a Walkman"?
"No, it's a DVD-ROM drive".
"Okay, that's fine".

The DVD-ROM drive was bought for only A$25. (£10) in one of those little computer shops run by Chinese people that Sydney has in abundance. My Mum's computer does not have a DVD-ROM drive as it is a year or two old, and that is so cheap that I felt pretty much compelled to buy one to add to it.

Update: The DVD-ROM drive came from a well known company (Creative, who also are well known for their Soundblaster sound cards and who are also a distant number 2 in the MP3 player business behind Apple), but it was an old model. This had two disadvantages: the first is that the drive is 12x speed rather than the seeming current standard of 16x; the second is that the software it came with was for Windows 2000 rather than Windows XP. This explains the low price to some extent, as I had to find some appropriate XP compatible software before it would play DVDs. Now that I have done so and installed the software, however, the drive works just fine. Definitely a bargain.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Good news

My laptop has apparently been fixed and returned by Dell. Of course, it is in London and I am in Sydney. Given that I will have only occasional access to other computers for the next few days, it would be nice to have it with me. (Also, given that the whole point of getting a laptop is to have your computer with you when you go on trips like this one, it would be good to have it from that perspective, too).
Does this company get a lot of Terminator jokes?



Thursday, April 22, 2004


When Starbucks entered the Australian market in 2000, they charged a rather excessive 60c Australian for an extra shot of espresso. A tall latte cost $3.45, which meant that a double tall latte cost $4.05. In the competitive Australian cafe business, this seemed a bit excessive, and it wasn't too surprising that a few months later they cut the cost of a second shot to 25c, so that a double tall latte cost $3.70. Presumably Starbucks thought that they could thus sell more double shot coffees than before and make it up in the volume. (This strategy has been tried elsewhere. In the UK the price of a second shot was recently cut from 40p to 15p).

However, going into an Australian Starbucks yesterday, I discovered that the cost of an extra shot has been cut further. To zero. So a double tall latte now costs $3.45, the same as an ordinary tall latte. So Starbucks cannot now make it up in the volume. Ot at least they can't if all it does is cause people who would have ordered a single shot latte to now buy a double shot latte. Clearly to make it up in the volume they have to sell more cups of coffee in total. Which means that they presumably have to win business off their competition.

And competition appears intense. Australia traditionally had a more traditional southern European (actually Italian) coffee culture. Regular readers will know that I have thought that although Starbucks are successful in Australia, this traditional coffee culture might make it hard for chains of Starbucks clones to come into being the way that they have in other countries without traditional cafe cultures. However, I think I may have been wrong. Starbucks clones now are strongly in evidence in Australia, and the cafe culture is becoming Starbucksified. It may be the competition from such clones that has caused Starbucks to lower some of their prices.

But more on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Ooh. I am so impressed. And I also would have used question marks and not exclamation marks at the end of the first line.

Obviously, in my tours of the great beer making countries of the world, never in my life have I seen such abundance.


Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Quick thoughts so I will have blogged something today

I finally managed a day yesterday in which I was not loading and unloading stuff from trailers, and instead managed to go to Sydney. The thing that I am really struck by is the extent to which Sydney is really a Pacific Rim city these days. In 50 years people are going to look back and wonder that Sydney was once not a Chinese city, as on current trends by then it will be at least as Chinese as is Singapore. Sydney would be dull and sleepy without this Chinese influx, and it does make the city much more exciting. And much more prosperous.

On the other hand, I think it is surprising that there are so few Indians in Sydney (and Australia generally). There are far more than there were even five years ago, although they are still almost absent compared to, say, London or even Singapore. (That said, I was having a couple of drinks with a friend of mine in a bar in a fairly posh Sydney hotel yesterday, and I kept glancing at the stunningly beautiful Indian woman at the next table). With the rise of India in the world, this must change surely, but the Indians have certainly given the Chinese a big head start.

Monday, April 19, 2004


Glenn Reynolds has already linked to it, but this essay giving a history of American drug prohibition is well worth a read. (In fact it is really good). The section about how cannabis came to be made illegal and got to be legally regarded as amongst the worst of drugs is particularly illuminating and simultaneously utterly hilarious.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

The trouble with hacked together technology

I have been sending SMS messages from my mobile, using a local (Vodafone) SIM here in Australia, to a friend who is registered with the O2 network in the UK but who has been holidaying in Spain and whose phone is thus roaming. Some of them have been arriving instantly, and some have been taking as much as several days. I have also been sending messages to a few people in the UK. Some are getting through, but I am unsure about others. It could be that there is some latency there, but it could also just be that my friends are slack in replying.

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