synonyms for starbucks


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Letter Box: What to Bring

Dear Synonyms for Starbucks,

When you go to a coffee shop to write, what items do you bring with you, and why? Are there variations depending on where you go?
Signed, Wondering in Washington

Dear WiW,
My purse is always way too heavy and you don’t really need to know about the bottles of sanitizer and reams of receipts floating around the bottom of it, so I’ll stick with things that actually pertain to writing in coffee shops. Aren’t you glad?

  1. Earphones. This is the single most important item. I like having people near me when I write, but I usually won’t write a word if I can hear them. I’m awful at filtering out sounds. Also, there are certain types of music that make me (maybe literally) insane.
  2. My iPod Touch. To plug the earphones into. If I’m going light I can also plug them into my iPad, of course, or in an emergency my phone–but I only have two albums loaded on that (Never Mind the Bollocks, Sex Pistols; Anything, Damned) so it gets old. I have a tiny iPod shuffle for when I’m working out but I don’t usually use it for writing–it doesn’t has my workout playlist, not my writing playist.
  3. Something to write with: either my AlphaSmart, iPad and keyboard combo, my laptop (if I have a writing buddy to watch it while I pee), or in an absolute pinch my iPod touch or my phone. If I’m freewriting, it’s just a notebook and pen, and if I’m editing something, the printed-out manuscript and a pen with colored ink.
  4. My phone, partly so I can check email and FB without quitting out of my writing software, partly so I can keep running commentaries of what’s going on at the Starbucks (either for this blog or to send as an email to my bff Alicia–she swears she enjoys reading them). But mostly to use as a timer; if I’m having trouble settling in to write, turning on a timer app and setting it for 30 minutes works incredibly well. Having the timer running and not writing makes me feel much more guilty than regular not-writing.
  5. A re-usable coffee cup. I only remember to bring it about half the time, and boy am I pleased with myself when I do. Actually, lately, it’s more like three-quarters of the time. Huzzah!
  6. Sugar-free Cough Drops. I am pretty much never without a cough drop in my mouth. It’s just who I am.
  7. A jacket, even if it’s warm, so I can drape it over the back of my chair when I get up for a refill or to visit the ladies’.
  8. A spiral notebook, even if I’m planning on typing. Partly because if I’m stuck I find that writing with a pen and paper usually unsticks me, partly because I like to make quick notes to myself when I’m writing, and partly because it’s the best thing to leave on your table if you’re worried about getting your stuff stolen.
  9. Money or a Starbucks card, for the purchasing of the coffee. Really, I’m surprised I have to mention that.
  10. A bag big enough to carry it all in. I don’t like having a purse and a separate bag for my iPad/computer/what-have-you, because who wants to carry two things? Especially if you’re going to be packing it all up every time you go to the bathroom. Since I often walk to Starbucks, it’s usually a backpack–I have a great one that converts to a messenger bag, and another one that is sort of ugly but I got it for eight dollars at Target and it is black “leather” so I feel like it is less super-casual. I also have a simply enormous black purse I got at Ross years ago, and then went and had the straps replaced so I could carry heavy things in it without them breaking. I always keep a cute little black purse in the trunk of my car, so if I’m going to dinner or something after writing I can put my phone and wallet into that and leave the big bag in my trunk.
  11. A clean handkerchief. Because I never go anywhere without a clean handkerchief, and don’t understand why anyone would.

Of course there’s all sorts of other things one might carry, like chapstick and nail clippers, but that sort of goes in the ‘things at the bottom of one’s purse’ category.


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Tools for Writing in Public: the iPad and Wireless Keyboard

ipad and keyboard3Most often when I write in coffee shops, I use my iPad and a wireless keyboard. I know a lot of people who get special cases for this, that make the iPad look a lot like a laptop. I don’t, because for me the absolute best possible way to type is with the screen on a table and the keyboard in my lap. Most tables are a little bit too high for me, and my shoulders start to ache after a while if I try to reach up to one to type. Of course I still use my laptop often, with it on a table, but usually that’s when I’m editing and there’s as much reading and highlighting as there is typing. If I’m going to sit and type 5000 words straight, I’m much, MUCH happier with my keyboard in my lap. Also, I tend to change the angle of the keyboard depending on the lighting conditions where I’m sitting. My case lets me set it so sometimes it’s almost flat, sometimes it’s standing on its side, and sometimes it’s standing on its end. The combo cases are a lot more restrictive.


  1. Keyboard runs on double-A batteries; I always carry a spare set in my keyboard case and never have to worry about running out of power. In my experience, at least, iPads take forever to run out if all you’re doing is typing. I have more than once spent nine hours typing nonstop and still been at 30% power.
  2. Super light. The keyboard weighs nothing and the iPad weighs next to nothing (as long as you don’t get a super-heavy case for it. Why? Why would anyone do this?).
  3. If you’re somewhere where you don’t feel like hauling out the keyboard, you can leave it in your bag and write on your iPad with your thumbs.
  4. Easy to throw into your bag when you get up to use the bathroom. Unlike the laptop, which is a whole thing.
  5. When you hook up your keyboard via bluetooth, you get to see the names of the bluetooth-enabled devices around you, and they’re often adorable.


  1. If you forget to disconnect the bluetooth before packing everything up, you’ll knock your keyboard in such a way that iPad’s volume will be turned all the way up, and then you’ll knock it again and music will start playing. Or an audiobook, which is somehow even more disconcerting. The best is when this happens but you’re listening to your ipod with headphones and have no idea why people are looking at you funny.
  2. The fact that it’s segmented means it’s very difficult, maybe even impossible depending on the size of your lap, to use without a table. So if the only chairs at Starbucks are the big comfy easy chairs, you’re kind of out of luck.
  3. Turning on the bluetooth takes a minute. It’s not a huge thing, but it can be annoying. It’s incredibly annoying for me, because somehow I banged the keyboard and the power button got stuck. At first it wouldn’t turn on but I fixed that by following instructions online and, with an exacto knife, shaving away some of the metal holding the button down (only cut myself a few times!). Now it won’t turn off, and while it’s usable, the batteries drain fast. So, I turn it off by taking out the batteries and turn it on by putting them back in, and I have to kind of time it with the setting up bluetooth. Because it is still usable, I feel like buying a new keyboard would be an entirely unforgivable expense. I’m pretty sure I’m right about that. But it’s kind annoying.

Four Splashes of Soy Milk (out of five splashes)

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The deal with the word count

Okay, you know how sometimes you’ll write something on one piece of software, like on your iPad or whatever, and it will say you have 3100 words and you are incredibly pleased and happy with yourself and you stop writing because your goal for the day was only 3000? And then you get home and upload it and open it in Word and discover that oh no, you only wrote 2800 words? And then you have to stay up and write another 200 and it sucks? (I mean, for people who make word-count-for-the-day goals it sucks. I know people who would rather die, but it’s the only way I can make it to the end of big projects). Or you were hired to write something that is 2000 words, and it’s only until you paste it into Word that you find out it’s only 1940 words, and the temptation is to go through and put “really, really” in front of every adjective). One solution is to only write in Word in the first place, but I use a much cheaper app on my ipad, and I like using Scrivener to organize projects, and whatever, Word is not the boss of me.
So, I figured out (a couple of, anyway) the reasons that different softwares don’t get the same results when they count words: Some of them count hyphenated words as two words. And some of them count anything after an APOSTROPHE as a new word. Like, “Can’t” is two words. Or “They’re” or “aunt’s.” Which is insane and evil because why would anyone want that?
Obviously you can’t try to just not type with contractions because then your writing will be dreadful. A better way is just to know ahead of time how your software counts. Type a sentence with an apostrophe: “my best friend’s wedding” and see if it counts as that as four or five words. Then see if tried-and-true is one word or three. Once you know, you can factor that in. Counts apostrophes? Multiply your word count by .97 and you’ll be closer. Counts hyphens? Multiply by .99.
A similar problem: When you’re writing screenplays, you generally count by pages rather than words. I discovered that the software I was using to write on my iPad was saying I had way more pages than I had. It took me quite a while to realize that because there’s no zoom feature and my eyes are old, I’d changed the font to be sixteen point rather than the standard twelve point. I can’t really blame the software for that one, I know.

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Letter Box: Leaving Stuff on Tables

Dear Synonyms for Starbucks,
When you get up from your hard-won and coveted seat in a Starbucks, what do you leave on your table to save it? Is it safe to just leave your laptop or purse or whatever, if you’re just getting a refill or going to the rest room?
Perplexed in Portland

Dear PiP,
Yeah I have no idea. I mean, I see people walk away from their laptops sitting open on their tables, or leaving purses with $100 bills sticking out of them, and I admire those people, but that is just not me at all. I feel like an idiot packing everything up–and if everything includes a big laptop it’s incredibly annoying–but I’m also scared to leave anything I don’t want to lose. Even though it’s possible to get a lock for the laptop (which is attached to a long cable you wrap around the table leg, so it can’t be grabbed), I always worry someone will spill something on it or something.
So, mostly, I only bring a laptop to Starbucks if I have a writing buddy (on of the many reasons a writing buddy is a nice thing to have). Otherwise, I write on my AlphaSmart or Ipad, both of which are easy to stick in my purse. To save the table, I usually leave a spiral notebook (cause who would want to take that?) and a sweater or hoodie on the chair. Probably no one is going to risk getting caught stealing for a ragged old hoodie (and honestly, if they need it that bad…). The one valuable thing I sometimes leave on the table is the wireless keyboard I use with my iPad. That’s because if I stick it in my purse I either have to turn off the blue tooth or know that my purse is going to hit both the “play music” key and the “full volume” key just as I’m entering the ladies’ room. So I leave it on the table and put my notebook over it. I figure if someone is actually moving things around looking for the stuff worth stealing, someone else will probably say something.
A thing I HATE to do (but do now and then anyway) is ask a nearby stranger to watch my stuff. One, I don’t know them maybe THEY’RE THE THIEF, and two, what if something happens and I’m gone for a long time and they have to stick around make sure I’m not robbed and they miss their kid being born.
On another note, if you agree to watch someone’s stuff you cannot leave for any reason until they either 1. get back or 2. are gone more than forty minutes, at which point it’s okay to alert the staff.
PS Oh, and never leave just your drink to save your table. Someone WILL throw it out and claim they thought you’d left.
PPS Of course you already know that it’s only okay to save your table for a few minutes while you get a refill, go to the rest room, or mmmmaybe take a quick call outside.