Lunch at Caffe Macchiato

September 1, 2014
spaghetti con polpette

spaghetti con polpette

cappuccino

cappuccino

Aldershot is infamous for its disgusting junk food outlets, which dominate the town.

Therefore to find somewhere decent to eat in Aldershot, could almost be classed as a miracle.

Caffe Macchiato is one such place.

A lovely little restaurant, seating outside, inside, art on the walls.

Everything is freshly prepared, from fresh, wherever possible locally sourced ingredients, fresh, not dried herbs.

Spaghetti con polpette, spaghetti with meatballs, onion and tomato sauce, was delicious. Nicely presented. Generous portion size, indeed over generous. Fresh ground pepper was added, as was Parmesan cheese.

I returned later and had a cappuccino sttting outside.

Caffe Macchiato used to be excellent for coffee, and I often drop by for a coffee, but something is going wrong with their coffee. What I do not know. I suspect the beans, though it could also be the machine.

Sitting outside is very pleasant, or would be, were it not for the crass stupidity of the local council allowing late afternoon traffic through a pedestrianised street. And it could get worse if plans by the council to pour £4.5 million down the drain, for which there has been no consultation, digging up and repaving the street, are not stopped.

Caffe Macchiato used to stay open until 7pm, but now closes at 6pm.

Occasional live music in the evening.

Free wifi.

Trickle down does not work

September 1, 2014
Greed is the religion of the billionaire  class

Greed is the religion of the billionaire class

No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country. — Franklin D Roosevelt (1933, Statement on National Industrial Recovery Act)

The first TED talk by venture capitalist and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer was banned by TED. It was claimed to be mediocre. Could it be because he told the truth? It also raises a big question mark against TED.

Forbes published a garbage piece, which I will not even lower myself to address, in which it was claimed, not mediocre, but a display of ignorance.

A couple of weeks ago, the French Economics Minister told the truth on failed French economics policy, austerity, tax breaks for the rich, cuts for the poor. The reaction of the unpopular French President (20% approval rating) was to fire the entire government. Should it not be the President who resigned?

Across southern Europe, austerity is not working.

Pay the rich more and they work harder. Pay the poor less and they work harder. Strange that.

We have seen wages flat line for nearly a decade, ever since the economic crisis hit, wages were not much better before. If we take account of inflation, then wages have gone down.

When productivity goes up, we either need fewer people or we need to consume more.

If we increase productivity year on year, such that after ten years, productivity had doubled, we are either producing twice as much stuff with the same number of people or half the number of people are required to produce the same amount of stuff.

Stuff in general we do not want or need, stuff that has environmental costs of extraction, manufacture, shipping and distribution, stuff that we possess for six months, stuff that then has to be disposed of, incurring yet further environmental costs. These externalised costs, which are not reflected in purchase price, we all pay for.

The rich do not create jobs for the simple reason there is a limit to the amount of money they can spend, how many yachts, mansions, luxury cars.

Quantitative easing has been a massive failure, for the simple reason it has gone to the bankers and the rich.

We need wealth redistribution, but the reason why we do not have wealth redistribution, is because we would be redistributing the wealth of the rich, and they being rich and powerful own the politicians.

Had money been given to the poor, they would have, if only because they are living on the breadline, spent that money in the economy.

We need higher minimum wage, better welfare payments, free health care, free higher education. All of which benefit everyone, but disproportionately benefit the poor.

We also need progressive taxation where the rich pay a higher rate of tax, not as we have at present a regressive taxation system, where the rich pay less tax than the poor, where a banker in the City of London pays less tax than the cleaner who cleans his office.

We need to hit hard, the tax-dodgers.

We need to move away from a tax on personal income, to a tax on corporations, a tax on resource depletion, a tax on waste generation, a tax on pollution.

Too many are currently getting a free ride. When the rich dodge tax, they are getting a free ride. When corporations externalise their costs, pollute our air water, destroy our natural resources, exploit the poor, they are getting a free ride

At a recent meeting at Davos, Bill Gates, one of the richest men on the planet, argued vociferously for not increasing minimum wage.

The prevailing theory is trickle down. The poor sit below the rich man’s table, and if they are lucky, a few crumbs fall off the table.

At times of growth, everyone sees an increase, the rich a lot, the poor a little, but that little, is enough to keep the poor oppressed.

When there is zero growth the rich still get fatter, leaving less of the pie for the rest of us.

During the recession, there has not been the mass layoffs we have seen in the past. That is because productivity has gone down, there is a lowering of demand, the workers still employed are put on short shifts, reduced hours, paid less. One reason why wages are shrinking.

There has been a increase in jobs, but these have been McJobs, mind-numbing de-skilled, low-wages, part time, temporary, zero hours jobs.

The wealth creators, the job creators, are the small companies, the ones who do not have the political clout.

The big companies destroy jobs. Each time they destroy jobs, their share price rises, more for me, less for you.

Wages at Walmart, McDonald’s are so low, they have to be subsidised by the state. Yet another mechanism to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich. Companies that argue they cannot remain in businesses without paying low wages, do not deserve to remain in businesses.

There is though a flaw in the argument put forward by Nick Hanauer, that of continued growth.

The society Nick Hanauer describes has been true for some time, certainly the post war period when we saw real growth, car manufactures for example, would pride themselves that they paid their workers a decent wage, such that they could afford the cars they made. This is no longer true.

The reason it is no longer true, is that we have hit the limits of growth. Banks have been criticised for not lending to businesses, but when banks are looking for a return of 10% or more, they are not going to lend when the economy is not growing.

We have exhausted what we can loot from the commons then sell back.

Nick Hanauer hints but no more, at the gift economy. He dismisses the rationale actor, out to maximise self interest, more for me is less for you, and says we are irrational, emotional, that we reciprocate.

An economy where we reciprocate is the gift economy, the sharing economy, where we all contribute to the commons, more for me becomes more for you.

He is also compares the economy with an ecosystem, where we have closed loops, feedback. On a finite planet, an economic system, has to be embedded within the planetary ecosystem, a part of Gaia, not apart from Gaia.

We cannot have unlimited growth, unlimited growth is where a cell becomes cancerous.

We are moving increasingly towards a Police State, in a crude attempt to maintain inequality.

Why has the Mayor of London decided he needs water cannon on the streets of London? You do not need water cannon for happy people?

Nick Hanauer was one of the first private investors in Amazon, he co-founded a company which was sold to MicroSoft for $6.4 billions, he together with his friends owns a bank. He has his own yacht, a private plane. He was co-author of The Gardens of Democracy. He was also instrumental in pushing for an increase in the minimum wage in Seattle.

Adultery No2 in New York Times best-seller list

August 31, 2014
Adultery No2 New York Times

Adultery No2 New York Times

OMG! Tomorrow in the NY Times list – #2 in Hardcover and Paperback !!! — Paulo Coelho

An amazing achievement by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, two books simultaneously at No2 in the New York Times best-seller lists.

US is biggest English speaking market and Paulo Coelho has two books at Number Two.

Adultery was published in the English language, 14 August 2014 in UK and 19 August 2014 in US.

Adultery is today Number Two in the New York Times best seller list for hardbacks.

Adulterio en español el número uno.

The Alchemist was was first published in 1986. Twenty six years later, it is today Number Two in the New York Times best seller list for paperbacks. It has now recorded three-hundred and eighteen continuous weeks in the New York Times best seller list.

According to deputy manager of WHSmith Guildford, it is opinion Adultery a best seller.

According to deputy manager of WHSmith Guildford, it is opinion Paulo Coelho best selling author.

Afternoon in Farnham

August 30, 2014

Usually it is quiet in the churchyard of the Parish Church.

Sadly not today. Horrendous discordant cacophony of sound from the church bells.

Result, a blinding headache.

Lunch at Thai restaurant

August 29, 2014
crispy spring rolls

crispy spring rolls

lunch at Thai restaurant

main course

Lunch at Thai restaurant in Jeffries Passage.

Usually I only have the main course, but today I was hungry, and added crispy pancake rolls as a starter.

Did I want a desert? No, I would have afternoon tea or coffee later with a cake or a cookie.

I remind them of farmers market on Tuesday.

A girl with half a dozen kids. I ask are they able to use chopsticks? They say yes. I am quite impressed when they ask for chopsticks, and yes, they are able to use.

I act as Pied Piper, take them to the Castle Grounds and show them Alice Through the Looking Glass. How I do not lose any of them on the way, I do not know, but they seem streetwise.

Waterstone’s Guildford: Paulo Coelho’s latest book

August 29, 2014
Adultery I feel as if I were entering a  tunnel I've never travelled before, one that leads from cynicism to passion,  from irony to surrender.

Adultery I feel as if I were entering a tunnel I’ve never travelled before, one that leads from cynicism to passion, from irony to surrender.

After my appalling experience in WHSmith Guildford, I look in Waterstone’s Guildford, do they have Paulo Coelho’s latest book?

Waterstone’s much better.

I cannot see with new releases. I ask a very helpful young lady with flowers in her hair.

She says yes, they have, and takes me to a display table, where I had not thought to look.

None there. A colleague tells her all sold, more have come in. She tells me it is selling well, four sold that week, and seven more have just been delivered. She also tells me she had started reading Adultery and it was very good. She offers to go and unpack a copy for me, it will only take a few minutes, if I do not mind waiting. I say no, I am literally starving, and must go off and get some lunch.

I tell her of my appalling experience in WHSmith Guildford and thank her for being so helpful.

I had looked in Waterstone’s Guildford prior to publication of Adultery, and told a member of staff I knew that it was an international best-seller. Heed must have been taken, as she said she would pass it on.

Contrast with WHSmith, an international best-seller, on special offer, and yet they do not bother to stock, if they do not on prominent display, and if they sell their only copies, they do not restock.

WHSmith Guildford: Paulo Coelho’s latest book

August 29, 2014
Adultery Will I survive? Of course I will I've survived storms before.

Adultery Will I survive? Of course I will I’ve survived storms before.

Each time I think, it cannot get any worse at WHSmith, they prove me wrong.

WHSmith Guildford, would they have Paulo Coelho’s latest book?

I negotiate all the obstacles and obstructions between the entrance and the escalator, and go up to the first floor.

I look in all the obvious places, latest releases, special offers. I draw a blank. Nada.

I seek help from a member of staff. She actually knows what I am after, or another member of staff does, I am taken to where it is seemingly randomly filed. All of one copy.

She pulls it out and hands it to me. Noticing the absence of a half price sticker, I ask is it still on special offer? I am told no, the offer has ended.

Thinking this cannot be, it only was published a couple of weeks ago, I take the book to another member of staff. He scans the book and confirms what I have been told.

A single copy of Adultery, and no longer on special offer.

This beggars belief, a best-seller on special offer, nowhere has it in stock, then when I find a store that has a copy, a single copy it no longer is on offer.

I ask for the manager. Floor manager? No, store manager.

No manager to be found, I settle for deputy manager.

A bizarre conversation then ensues. I am told I should have come to this store not other stores where they did not have a copy. I am then told it does not sell, and it is my opinion that it is a best-seller!

Jamie’s Comfort Food, latest cookbook from Jamie Oliver. Displayed in the window, on special offer at price half price, on display in-store. At half price, better off walking across the road to Waterstone’s, where at least they know about books. Or if you want it less than half price, walk up the High Street to Sainsbury’s, where it is £12-99 (same price as Amazon).

I walk out of the store in disgust.

Fact: International best-seller.

Fact: Second print run in US in less than a week.

Fact: In Sunday Times best-seller list.

It is unbelievable anyone can conduct business in this slapdash manner and still remain in business. WHSmith has become a laughing stock. But I doubt they even care.

Adultery, published earlier this month, an international best-seller from an international best selling author, WHSmith has it on special offer at half price, or it was, but either not in stock, or where they have sold, have not bothered to restock, then when found, no longer on special offer!

If you have an international best-seller on special offer, do you not have it on prominent display?

It is little wonder WHSmith a failing High Street chain, permanent fire sales. The only surprise is that they remain in business.

Afternoon in Guildford

August 29, 2014

Did WHSmith have Paulo Coelho’s latest book? Yes, one copy, and no longer on special offer at half price.

Waterstone’s much better, a very helpful young lady with flowers in her hair, told me they had several copies, it had been on display on a table, all sold and seven more copies delivered which she was about to put out. She also told me she had started reading Adultery and it was very good.

A quick trip along the market.

I looked in the Guildford Institute. Building work hopefully finished soon, and lunches back in two weeks time. And yes, interested in booking Jewelia, which is excellent news.

lunch at Thai restaurant

lunch at Thai restaurant

Lunch at Thai restaurant in Jeffries Passage.

A girl with half a dozen kids. I ask are they able to use chopsticks? They say yes. I am quite impressed when they ask for chopsticks, and yes, they are able to use.

I act as Pied Piper, take them to the Castle Grounds and show them Alice Through the Looking Glass. How I do not lose any of them on the way, I do not know, but they seem streetwise.

I say goodbye, they go off to catch a bus home, I go to Harris + Hoole for a cappuccino and coffee.

Of late, the coffee I have had has not been very good. Was it me, or the coffee? The coffee in Harris + Hoole confirms it was the coffee. Beans, machine, barista, I do not know.

WHSmith Farnborough: Paulo Coelho’s latest book

August 29, 2014
Adultery Will I survive? Of course I will I've survived storms before.

Adultery Will I survive? Of course I will I’ve survived storms before.

Just when I think WHSmith can not get any worse (WHSmith Lincoln, WHSmith Camberley, WHSmith Farnham), WHSmith Farnborough once again proves me wrong.

Did they have Paulo Coelho’s latest book?

I look in all the obvious places, latest releases, special offers, even where it had been randomly filed over a week ago. I draw a blank. Nada.

A member of staff sees me looking lost, and offers to help.

Now there is a rarity, a helpful member of staff.

I say what I am looking for, he does not know, and goes off to ask another member of staff.

He returns with the answer, we had two copies, we sold them.

Now I think it fair to say, Adultery, Paulo Coelho’s latest book is not a rare limited edition. It is an international best-seller, last week in the Sunday Times best-seller list, WHSmith Farnborough sells their only two copies, but fails to re-order. A best-seller they have on special offer, only they do not bother to stock!

It is unbelievable anyone can conduct business in this slapdash manner and still remain in business. WHSmith has become a laughing stock. But I doubt they even care.

Adultery, published earlier this month, an international best-seller from an international best selling author, WHSmith has it on special offer at half price, they have failed to restock the copies sold, let alone on prominent display!

If you have an international best-seller on special offer, do you not have it on prominent display?

It is little wonder WHSmith a failing High Street chain, permanent fire sales. The only surprise is that they remain in business.

Amazon v Hachette-publishers-readers-writers

August 28, 2014
Amazon

Amazon

Amazon is locked into a bitter dispute with French publisher Hachette, but this is not the first dispute, previously it was with Macmillan.

What Amazon is trying to do is drive down the price it pays, it demands ever larger discounts, whilst pretending it is acting for readers.

The techniques Amazon adopts are those of medieval siege warfare.

With MacMillan, the buy button for any of their titles no longer worked.

With Hachette, long delays on a book, advance orders not possible.

The Penguin Random House merger, was an attempt to produce an even bigger conglomerate to challenge Amazon, or at least put up a fight.

Amazon has now not only upset publishers, it has upset writers whose books are not available, it has upset readers who are seeing much loved indie bookshops close.

The current issue is the price of e-books. Amazon wants to set the price at $9.99, Hachette wants $14-99.

Both are wrong, there are zero marginal costs associated with e-books, the price for an e-book should be less than a dollar.

The figure of $9-99 came from if a song is a 99 cents, then let us make a book $9-99. It is also a holy grail $9-99.

There are other players in the market, though they are small fry.

Publish a book and apart from well known best-selling authors, you take a risk. The majority of books go from published to remainder, or published to recycled.

Crowd sourcing removes the risk, you do not publish until you have a guaranteed number of buyers. That is the route Unbound have followed, though their books are expensive, and they have published very few books.

Writers can cut out the middle men, publish a book direct on Amazon, they retain 70%, much better than traditional publisher, but not as good as leanpub.

Disadvantage of Amazon, it is a proprietary format for a Kindle.

Kindle is an inferior e-book reader to a Kobo Touch, and the Kobo Touch uses epub, an open source format.

Leanpub, download in various formats, and with a minimum price, the reader can set what they wish to pay, and they see what goes to the publisher, what goes to the writer. The writer retains the rights.

For an audio book, there is bandcamp. Leanpub is very much offering for the written word what bandcamp offers for music and the spoken word. As with leanpub, the author retains the rights.

Publishers and the book chains have very much themselves to blame for the dire straits everyone now finds themselves in.

Adultery is an international best-seller from an international best selling author. Now if you are in the business of selling books, do you not, if you have an international best seller on your hands, pile it up and sell it fast? Not if you are Waterstone’s or WHSmith.

With Waterstone’s, you may find it on display with new releases, you may find someone who knows what your are asking for.

With WHSmith, it is far far worse. You will not find a member of staff who knows what you are asking for, you will search high and low in the store and not find it, you will probably find it not even in stock. And yet, WHSmith has Adultery on special offer at half price, and a further 20% off with a 20% off voucher. This is less than buying from Amazon. I repeat, cheaper than buying from Amazon.

Publishers are to blame. They offer the chains who cannot deliver, deep discounts, leaving indie bookshops to go bust. Offer the same discounts to indie bookshops, where they know about books, and you will sell more books.

An analogy would be indie coffee shops. An indie coffee shop, serving quality coffee, is more than able to see off the big chains with their disgusting coffee.

Amazon started with books. Books are cheap, easy to ship, fairly indestructible.

Amazon may have overstepped the mark. They are seen as a bully. They have poor working conditions, they dodge tax. They are now abusing their near monopoly position and stranglehold on the book market. Writers who are not published by Hachette may not be seeing their books blacklisted, for now. Their turn will come when the Amazon siege engines pitch up outside their publishers. And if this is what happens to the giant publishing conglomerates, what of the little publishers, where they care about books, where books have not been reduced to commodities, pile em high, sell em cheap?

Books are important, like music and art, they are part of our culture.


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