The modern Great Wall

I’ve written before about how interesting it is to see where the page views for this blog are coming from. WordPress began breaking down page views by country of origin last February, and since that time, something that I created has found its way into 150 different nations around the world.

The majority of these page views have come from the United States, but most of  the other nations on earth have also shown me at least some love. And a page view counts as “love” in my mind.

The idea that someone in Greenland, Guam, or Ghana has ever come across anything from this site is very humbling. I’ll never travel to most of these places, but I’ve already been there on some metaphysical level, and that’s just fantastic to consider.

But there’s always been a gaping hole, when it comes to countries that have never seen the blue-tinged light. And it’s not Cuba, or Iran, or Ethiopia, but the largest nation, population-wise, on the entire planet. China consists of well over 1 billion people, or about 20% of all the people living on this planet of ours. And yet, until earlier this week, not a single one of them had ever accessed anything on this website. Amazing.

This speaks volumes about that nation’s access to the internet (or lack thereof). It either doesn’t exist (which I can’t believe is possible), or is so thoroughly restricted that the tiny nation of Nauru–which has fewer residents than my Chicago neighborhood–has discovered this blog more often than all of China has.

It’s difficult to imagine that such a sizable chunk of the world’s population lives in such conditions. Not that this insignificant little blog could do anything much for the people of China, but think of all the possibilities that access to the web in general opens up. The internet today is like electricity, in that you can probably get by without it, but you can’t fully realize everything that’s possible when you do have it.

Thanks to the brave soul who found a way of breaking through this modern-day Great Wall, and had himself or herself registered as my first (and so far, my only) Chinese visitor. I’m hoping to see much more traffic from China one day–even if my language is different from theirs–because the internet has too much potential to be lost on so many people.

Partially my place

For me, Starbucks is a company unlike any other. It’s the one company I think of when I’m out looking for a cup of coffee. In fact, the terms “Starbucks” and “coffee” are interchangeable in my mind. I might say to someone “I’m going out for a Starbucks. Do you want anything?” and they’ll know what I mean. I don’t make “Skippy and Smucker’s” sandwiches for my kids, and I wouldn’t think to order a “Pepperoni Domino’s” for dinner. But with Starbucks, it’s something else altogether.

I bought a small handful of Starbucks shares, back around 2006. It eventually went up to $40 a share for a few minutes, and then–like a caffeine buzz wearing off–it started to drop. The recession set in, and people who were worried about keeping their jobs didn’t want to spent $5 for a coffee anymore. I stopped watching its descent, but I also couldn’t bring myself to sell that tiny stake in the company. It would have felt like giving up on coffee itself, and that was more than I could bear to do.

The stock was down to around $7 a share in 2008, and then it started to come back. Howard Schultz returned as the CEO, and he brought the company back to where it was, and then some. Today the stock is at $50 a share, and Starbucks is pushing into new markets like China and India. And if these traditionally tea-drinking nations develop a taste for coffee instead, look out!

I like how it feels to own a tiny, tiny little piece of Starbucks. Perhaps other companies make more money than Starbucks does, but I’m certain that I couldn’t readily see (and partake of) what it is that they do. And that means something. I bought their stock with the goal of making money, yes, but I also like to think that, when I walk into a Starbucks, all of my interests in the company are somehow concentrated into that one location.

To give an example, there are fifteen letters lit up in the “STARBUCKS COFFEE” sign above. Perhaps I own ten of those letters. Or let’s say I’m out and I need to use the restroom somewhere. I can go into a Starbucks and not feel bad about it because, after all, I own the place. And even if it’s just the bathroom door and the toilet and the mirror on the wall in that one location, it’s still something, isn’t it?

Are there any companies that you feel this way about? Disney, perhaps, when you go to see one of their films in the theater, or visit Disney World in Florida? Or maybe it’s Nike, and it feels like all the athletes wearing the Swoosh stripe are working on your behalf? Or maybe it’s something else that I can’t think of here. Tell me about it in the space below, if you’re so inclined. And thanks for reading, as always.