half a century of the photocopier

[ swiss miss ] A big part of learning how to work with a Greek New Testament is talking about scribal errors that are made when taking one document, and painstakingly making a duplicate copy of it. In the early days, it would be manually copying one document at a time, and later (it seems), someone would sit in a room reading the document aloud while a group of people each made a copy!

Copying technology dates back millenia, but did you realise just how old the technology behind the laser printer is? The office copier turns 50. (Note: a laser printer is just a smarter version of a photocopier – learning this was one of the first assignments I had at uni).

Book: A New Kind of Christian

Book: A New Kind of Christian

In response to the recent article and blog posts about author Brian McLaren, a friend of mine who I respect (but often disagree with) recommended that I read one of McLaren’s earlier, but highly influential works: A New Kind of Christian.

The book is a highly readable story about the conversations had between two friends over a period of a few months. One, disillusioned with the state of Christianity meets the other “Neo”, a man with a range of new ideas about what it might mean to be a Christian.

This book is worth reading, if only to understand the early days of McLaren’s thinking – some elements have been embraced by evangelicals in understanding how Christianity is relevant to modern culture. Other ideas – visible in their early form in this book – have been completely rejected as heresy.

I’ve also borrowed the follow-up book of McLaren’s from the college library, and I’m going to try and read it next.

KinoKuniya Australia – a story of poor customer service (and how they fixed it)

A friend of mine – karen – is one of the most book-oriented people I know. She has a massive book collection, is thoroughly well-read, and is also a big advocate of comic books and graphic novels. As such, she has long been going to KinoKuniya and advocating that others do the same.

It’s her passion for the store that was largely responsible for my signing up for one of their loyalty cards: you pay $15 for the year, and get 10% off purchases. It’s not hard to do the maths – this means that it’s people who are looking to spend over $150 in a calendar year with the store. As such, you would think that it would be in the store’s best interest to keep these customers happy.

I was surprised, then, to read a few tweets from her that said she’d had a problem with them. It seems that she had gone to the store, made a purchase, and then showed her card a little late in the payment process. As a result, she was told that she would have to pay full price.

Understandably annoyed about this, she turned to twitter.

# Dear @KinokuniyaAust, even tho I spent c$70 in yr store 2day, yr cashier refused to let me use my loyalty card because I showed it late.

# Then I asked if she would reverse the transaction. She refused & said it was against @KinokuniyaAust store policy.

# Which begs the qu, if it’s @KinokuniyaAust store policy, why did she not ask for my loyalty card at the beginning of the transaction?

# My @KinokuniyaAust 10% off loyalty card costs about $15/year, which means I must spend c$150/year (before discount) to make it worthwhile.

# Now, @KinokuniyaAust I love yr store. It’s my fav bkstore in the whole of Syd. I went to you to by 4xPhonogram Vol 2 because I love yr store

# I could have gone to Book Depository who would have charged me $14.86×4=$59.44 incl shipping, which is $13 cheaper than @KinokuniyaAust.

# Book Depository is also $5.80 cheaper than the @KinokuniyaAust loyalty discount & they would have saved me a 1hr trip into the city.

# So I ask you @KinokuniyaAust, where is the love for your customers? I show you loyalty & what do you give me? Why should I shop w you again?

To their credit, they responded relatively quickly, but crucially, they sought to explain why their policy was correct, not try and solve the problem.

# @kbeilz we can’t reverse transactions on our registers because the bank server crashes each time meaning we can’t sell anything for 10 mins

# @kbeilz terms and conditions r printed on the card – sorry if we couldn’t be of more assistance this time

# @kbeilz we could ask every customer if they have a Kinokuniya card at the begining but people have complained that we are like macdonalds

Surely this whole problem could go away if there was an offer of store credit, even for the original, missed discount? After all, we’re only talking about $7! Instead, they’ve made the decision to explain why they were right.

The responses go on, arguing the policy, and even making what would seem to be vaild customer service suggestions. Is it really worth defending a bank that won’t allow transactions to be reversed? Are there other ways to remind the loyalty card customers that they need to present your card? Is it worth keeping your loyalty program quiet for the sake of unverifiable customer complaints being made?

# My @KinokuniyaAust card says “Card must be shown”. Well, my card was SHOWN.

# In addition, my @KinokuniyaAust card does NOT say that if the card is not shown BEFORE the end of transaction, it can’t be reversed.

# If yr bank is impeding the quality of yr customer service, it’s clearly time to change, @KinokuniyaAust.

# And if you don’t ask if ppl have a @KinokuniyaAust loyalty card, how are you going to build a loyal customer base?!

# As it is, @KinokuniyaAust, your responses have been far from satisfactory. I’m sorry but you’ve lost my loyalty. I won’t buy from you again.

By adhering to their existing policies, instead of taking care of a customer who has already spent their own money on a loyalty program, they lose a customer, and have the entire exchange in public.

I think this situation could still be remedied: if the store reaches out using these channels, this could be turned around into a positive story. From what I’ve seen so far, this seems unlikely.

A store that prefers to publicly defend its anti-customer policies instead of seek to use social media tools to create positive experiences for customers is wasting its time having a twitter presence, in my opinion.

Update: 30-Mar-2010
There may yet be a happy ending to the story.

# Just received a lovely personal apology via Facebok from the Managing Director of @KinokuniyaAust re what happened http://bit.ly/ap0Rt6!

# Apology included acknowledgement of poor customer service + goodwill offer of @KinokuniyaAust gift vouchers & refund of loyalty discount.

Looks like they’ve taken some positive steps toward repairing the relationship. The next step, of course, would be to make the apology as public as the initial response, but time will tell how they proceed.

Earlwood Luncheonette, Earlwood

Earlwood Luncheonette, Earlwood

Stazione espresso coffee. 2/1 Clarke St, Earlwood. Not a suburb I know well, but a quick scout around reveals this place selling a brand I’m unfamiliar with, and that clinches it for me.

Undistracte by the man filling an ashtray while reading his paper, and the group of middle-aged ladies enjoying their breakfast, I head inside and sit down in the corner, where I can watch this place in action. It’s a Saturday morning, and parents are bringing their little children in for a pre-dance-class breakfast.

For food options there’s a comprehensive sandwich bar, and a range of hamburger and steak sandwiches, plus a daily special: all affordably priced. Cakes and pastries are on display in a separate window.

The place is child-friendly, though there are no high chairs for very small children. It appears to be a popular community meeting spot.

They appear to take their coffee very seriously: there are sacks on the wall, under the air conditioner (as a wall decoration), and bags of beans prominently on display. They even have two grinders, though not one for decaf, which is scooped – preground – from a foil bag.

Despite this, the coffee is made promptly and has a solid, earthy flavour and admirable milk texture: a good effort.

If you’re in the neighborhood, this would be a good place to pause.

Caffetini, Ultimo

Caffetini, ultimo

Grinders Giancarlo coffee. 73-75 MacArthur St, Ultimo.

Searching for cafes near the Powerhouse museum, I’ve noticed this place a number of times – its most striking aesthetic point, visible even from the street, is its gold feature wall. It gives what is otherwise a normal fit-out a sense of occasion and style. Between the indoor and outdoor seating, there’s space for about 30 people, and there are a couple of IKEA high-chairs in case you bring a small child with you.

There’s a big, printed menu up on the wall behind the sandwich bar, and because it’s early in the day, there’s a big, freshly made fruit salad but no lunchtime salads are ready. There’s EFTPOS for those who are looking to settle their bills without cash, and – though the coffees take a little while to be made, at least they’re happy to take money from either side of the counter.

Sadly there’s no decaf grinder, but when the coffees come out – any takeaway coffees – they’re topped with a small home-made biscotti. A homey touch. On a quiet Friday they have a barista and four other staff working, which makes for a smooth food service. Milk is made with care. Coffee is quite hot, sweet enough, but with some kind of metallic aftertaste, unfortunately.

I think it’s worth a revisit to try the food: does anyone else have thoughts on this place?

duckfest 2010 in review

Last night, as an early birthday present, I went along to Duckfest 2010 at MUMU Grill where head chef / owner Craig Macindoe was cooking duck (provided by urbanfoodmarket) in a variety of ways for a large crowd of people. If his staff were fatigued after a long day, it was hard to tell. Despite anticipating a really busy night, Craig was happy to chat – great to meet him!

Chef Craig

The original menu looked like this:

Duck liver pate on arrival en Cruet
Duck Consume
Wine-Polin and Polin Vedehlo 2007 or Lowe “preservative free” Merlot 2009

“Peking Duck Pancake”
Lowe “preservative free” Merlot 2009

Duck breast with deconstructed XO
Yarra Yerring Pinot Noir 2008

Duck sang choi Bow-Flash fried Duck leg with kim chi and oyster in lettuce leaf
Bass Strait Pinot Noir 2008

“Turducken”- Turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a guinea fowl
Wine- Ada River 2003 Cab Sav

Various roast ducks . Meredith’s, Pekin, Muscovy with Pear and duck fat potatoes
Wine- Parker Estate 2003 Cab Sav

Duck Egg Caramel
Wine-Innocent Bystander Pink Muscato

Fresh fruit, Pineapple, Papaya

Obviously there were a few last-minute tweaks to the menu, as there was no Peking duck to be had, but we ended up with six courses of duck (one with the duck cooked two different ways), and then a dessert of Duck Egg Caramel. The surprise for me was how many people were there – 160 people had booked tickets for the meal (and, through various social circles, I knew probably 10 of them).

When I arrived a little after 7pm the place was already crowded. I said a quick hello to kristy and her husband and their friend, and then went in search of the duck (and to find out where my seat had been allocated. I had foolishly assumed that it would be a case of arriving and choosing your own seat, but in fact the seats were all pre-arranged. This meant, though, that I had the opportunity to spend the meal chatting about food with Miss Dissent and her husband, which was fantastic: they were both enthusiastically talking through what was happening with each course, and helped me to understand what was going on a lot better than I would have with on my own.

I think I’ll wait for the other food bloggers to provide more detailed coverage of the food: I just wanted to put the rough details up quickly for anyone who is interested. Though some complained about the sizes of the glasses of matching wine, I found that I reached the end of the meal with my wits still happily about me, which was – I thought – a good thing.

The first course was Duck liver pate on arrival en Cruet, which came with a “Polin and Polin Verdehlo 2007”.
Duck liver pate on arrival en Cruet

The second course – served in espresso cups – was Duck Consommé, matched with a “Little Yerring Pinot Noir 2008”. With such a strong flavour, it was better than even the best Chinese soup that I’d had.
Duck Consommé

Next up (course three) was Duck Breast with deconstructed XO. This was cooked two different ways – a crispy skinned duck with a strong sense of star anise about it, and a simple, unbattered offering. Hidden from view in this photo was a beautifully cooked scallop, and the sauce, though chilli-hot at first, had no lingering fire.
Duck breast with deconstructed XO

After enough of a gap at this point to rest our palettes, the fourth course arrived. Duck Sang Choi Bow (with Bass Strait Pinot Noir 2008). This was finely sliced, flash fried duck leg, with kim chi (a rather unusual, and perhaps too liquid take on kim chi) and oysters, to be assembled on lettuce. Though tasty, and fascinating to see how the oyster interacted with the other flavours, this was probably the weakest of the dishes.
Duck sang choi Bow - Flash fried Duck leg with kim chi and oyster in lettuce leaf

Fifth was Twice cooked duck with bok choy and poached pear (with Parker Estatee 2003 Cab Sav: the wines were certainly getting heavier as the meal progressed). This was the closest to duck as I’m used to eating it, and then some: the duck fat had really melted together and the skin was crispy. It was then a matter of mixing those flavours with a still-crisp bok choy and the subtle sweetness of the pear.
Twice cooked duck, with bok choy and poached pear

The last of the mains was probably the most eagerly anticipated in the restaurant. I saw it more as a curiosity than something essential – “Turducken”- Turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a guinea fowl. Due to the large number of people involved, the meats were deboned, and then rolled together, rather than the “traditional” way of putting the animals inside each other before the cooking process. As a result, some people on my table didn’t taste all the different meats together in their serve.

“Turducken”- Turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a guinea fowl

Amazingly, despite how busy everyone was, the staff brought out another two slices of turducken, this time with all the different meats clearly present. A fantastic handling of a complaint, and providing a great sense of how good the service is at mumu. Here’s a cross-section:

more detail on the turducken

The flavours of the various birds mixed together: nothing was dried out from the cooking process, and it was an intriguing mix of turkey, duck and guinea fowl (more gamey, as I understand it) with a hint of chicken.

Last of all was the dessert. To me, this seemed a bit of a stretch from the duck theme
– an iron chef would have had to somehow use duck meat, even in the dessert – but it’s unusual to see duck eggs used in cooking (at least in my own experience), and so I was interested to see what would happen.

Duck Egg Caramel with pineapple and papaya

The caramel dominated the flavours, and the fruit (out of season) was mostly there to cleanse the palette in between mouthfuls. I thought it worked, and it was good to have some sweetness on the palette by the end. After all this Kel (who didn’t feel like enough of a duck fan to try the meal) came and gave me a lift home, where I had the lingering flavour of duck on my palette for the whole trip.

A great night of enjoying duck cooked in a variety of ways – thanks to the extra slice of turducken, I didn’t feel the need to stop on the way home and grab some more duck, and indeed, I might be able to take a break from duck for a little while. Not too long!

Update: other reviews are coming in: