RSS

Tag Archives: coffee

Post Brand Positioning Seminar

I attended a great Brand Positioning seminar today held at the Enterprise Center of Johnson County. Today’s speaker was Grant Gooding of Proof Positioning. Let’s drop a cliche here: It was an engaging and informative talk delivered by an excellent speaker.

I knew I was out of my neck of the woods when I overheard a discussion behind me where one person lamented, “It’s not that the money is going away … I guess it’s just converting into equity.”

Most people I know don’t talk that way. Or perhaps I just spend my money on the wrong things.

Probably the most interesting point made was distinguishing between business decisions and brand decisions. Much of the rest of the talk was distilled here into the idea that we make a lot of decisions every day about our companies. Some of these are clearly Business Decisions – those intended to maximize margins in the short term. Some are clearly Brand Decisions – those that are intended to build the brand regardless of short term margins. (note: I’m paraphrasing these definitions here. I don’t want to give short shrift to Grant.)

95797955-1-207x300As examples, he focused on two companies: Starbucks and Tylenol.

With respect to Tylenol, the cyanide poisonings of 1982. I remember this well. These poisonings came about a month before Halloween and pretty much put an end to the holiday that year. By the way, guess how many people have even been poisoned by Halloween Candy?

Why bring up Tylenol’s troubled past? Because of the way that, then Johnson and Johnson CEO, James Burke, handled the crisis. From Time Magazine‘s article on the occasion of his death, “Under Burke’s leadership, the company spent $100 million to recall 31 million bottles of Tylenol and re-launched the product two months later in tamper-proof packaging.” Burke’s actions, which looked to be devastating to the company at the time, won him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.

How about that? A brand decision so good that President Clinton awards you the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Slam dunk.

A second example, which is totally appropriate to bring up now, because I’m sitting in one, is Starbucks. To paraphrase again, What did the decision to put a drive thru on a Starbucks have on their brand? What defines the Starbucks brand? The coffee – or the experience? Perhaps putting Starbucks cups in the hands of half the population is great for advertising, but what does it do to the experience?

It doesn’t look like there is much room for the ‘Starbucks Experience’ in this building:

2014_03_2014_0324_starbucks

Would you like an authentic coffeehouse experience with that, sir?

 
5 Comments

Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , ,

A damn fine cup of coffee

I was looking through my next lecture for Microbiology (which I realize I still need to post online) and was reminded of an older post that I made pointing to a virtual lab on streak plating of bacteria.

I recommend my students check that out if they have not plated bacterial cultures in the past. You can find that post here.

Also, as always this time of year, I like to reflect on some of the great pleasures of life. And, because these things often become conversations in my classes, I’d like to share a short video that couples two of my favorite things: Coffee and Twin Peaks

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

No, There’s probably little chance that you can make cookies as good as these

ImageThe best way you can actually get your hands on these is to take my General Biology, Microbiology or Ecology class. Much like a magician’s slight of hand, baking exceptionally delicious cookies is just not something that can be done without a long apprenticeship, years of dedication and highly selective ingredient choice.

Given all that, I feel no fear that sharing my recipe will reduce the relative supremacy of my own cookies. And since I’m home today with a sick boy, it’s just the right timing to make up a scrumptious batch.

The Recipe (Altered subtly, but importantly from the original Nestle TollHouse instructions)

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons home-made vanilla-in-vodka extract

2 large farm-fresh eggs from the

2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Nestle Chocolate Chunks

1 cup chopped nuts

Directions

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chunks and nuts. Drop by massive flops onto  parchment paper atop insulated baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove immediately to wire racks to cool with a high quality spatula such as Williams-Sonoma’s Fish Spatula

FAQ

-Really? ‘Massive flops’? Don’t you worry about making your cookies too big?

Don’t be a sissy. These are real cookies. If you want that little crap, pick up a bag of Chips-Ahoy.

-But Don’t they run into each other when they cook?

What did I say about being a sissy. Next question.

-Why Baking Soda AND Baking Powder?

Because sometimes you need to do it right. I would love to cite Cook’s Illustrated here, but their article / video on this topic is behind the paywall. Suffice to say it’s just better that way. Also see here.

-Is it necessary to use the parchment paper? Nestle just says to grease the cookie sheet.

That’s totally what you should do. Grease the sheet. Then scrape off the cookies when they get stuck, burn the batch you just forgot in the oven while dealing with the burnt bits on this sheet and then have more to wash up when you finish. Or, you could use parchment paper.

-Is there some music that goes best with cooking cookies?

Yes. You should listen to Rush, Journey and Marillion – but be careful with Rush, because they try to sneak in a bunch of crap songs when you’re not paying attention.  – And you bake cookies.

– What about high-end gourmet chips?

Funny. They all come out worse than the Nestle ones. Stick to what works.

-Do you eat the dough, while you’re cooking – I mean baking?

Yes, of course I do.

-Do I need to get my own backyard chickens for farm-fresh eggs?

Yes.

-What’s this about vodka-vanilla extract?

There’s a right way and a wrong way. You go on using imitation vanilla, I’ll use my own extract in vodka. We’ll see whose cookies are better.

-Is it true that chocolate chip cookies are best with milk?

Only if you’re out of espresso.

https://youtube.googleapis.com/v/wNYpAJCfTTg

 
1 Comment

Posted by on November 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s not just the caffeine (a video post)

Coffee is good, but espresso is better. Here’s why:

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , ,

All in a kerfuffle

I’m all bent out of sorts since I decided to write about the green coffee extract paper popularized by Dr. Oz. 

Here’s the problem: in my last post I attempted to unpack the data presented in the article describing a weight loss trial using this supplement. Yet, the closer I examined the data, the more clear it was to me that the data presented in that paper does not support any conclusions.

This does not mean that the supplement is effective or not. It doesn’t even mean that the group is lacking in data that would answer the question. It merely means that the numbers they present and the descriptions of their methods do not allow one to scrutinize the data in a way that supports or refutes their claims.

ImageFor anyone interested in a fun discussion of statistics and what they mean, I strongly recommend the classic text, How to Lie with Statistics, by Darrell Huff.It’s a bit out of date, but still a lot of fun to read and educational for those who have not spent much time analyzing figures.

One thing the Mr. Huff’s book does well is brings the reader into the discussion of data and how to present it. A lot of his focus is on how advertisers manipulate their graphs and language in order to obfuscate the truth.

I don’t think this coffee extract paper is intentionally obfuscating the truth, rather, I think the confusion comes from an inability of the authors to present their data clearly (even to themselves perhaps). I’ve worked in a number of labs with a number of scientists in my life and I can say with conviction that not all scientists ability to analyze their data is the equal. In fact, I have seen a number of presentations where the presenter clearly did not understand the results of their own experiments. I can say that sometimes I have not understood my own data until presenting it before others allowed us to analyze it together (i.e. I am not exempt from this error).

I would love to have the opportunity to examine the raw data from these experiments to determine if they really do address the question – and whether, once addressed, the question is answered. I’m going to appeal to both the journal and the authors for more clarification on this and will report my findings here. 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A damn fine cup of coffee

My favorite show in 1990-1.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Semester’s End

Screen Shot 2012-12-11 at 3.24.50 PM

Our Jeopardy-themed final exam review

It’s the last week of the Fall 2012 Semester and I’ve been spending a lot of time working on getting the final exam written and edited, making sure all my students’ papers are graded and accounted for and putting together a good review session complete with a double batch of chocolate chip cookies and a pot of coffee.

Attendance was really down today because a lot of my students are sick (actually I am pretty ill as well) and our review day is actually not an official school day anyway, so I couldn’t even guilt students into attending. Nevertheless, I thought the cookies were good, the coffee was hot and our review session Jeopardy went very well.

There were only a few times today that I felt driven to drink as we went through a semester’s worth of material and tried to untangle any remaining confused lines of reasoning and replace them with what I hope are clear principles. This is the time of year that I think, “All I want is for them to understand a few key ideas,” but the reality is that key ideas are hard to examine – tests have to cover the details of some specific condition, and I just hope they exemplify the important points.

Mostly, what I want to say to any of my students who might read this, is ‘Thanks for taking my class. I hope you learned something this semester that makes you look at the world a little differently. I look forward to seeing some familiar faces in Microbiology next semester, but if I don’t have you in class again, I wish you all the best.’

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,