Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Big Sky Vacation

This year's summer vacation is in Yellowstone park. It is day 3 and we are having a great time. Except for today, every day we've been hiking in various parts of Yellowstone. As usual, Bhairavi has picked a beautiful house about 30 minutes outside the park. Here's the view outside the back. This pic does not do the view justice.

In addition to our hikes through the geysers and falls, I've been running every morning. Today, I did about 8 miles up and back. The second pic is the direction of the run (pic taken from our house).

The further I went, the more I added to the run. Houses are so far apart and its just interesting to see why one person picked one view over another. After about 4 miles up, I turned around. I was running low on water (the air is thin here) and every time I'd go up another hill, there would be more roads and houses. Also, I did not want the family to think I got lost.

The runs are picturesque. You can see so far into the distance - plateaus, farms, mountains, Yellowstone River. It is remarkably detailed and rich. People live so far apart from each other. I remember this kind of thing in Dunbarton, NH, but you don't see the kind of physical separation you see here.

I can see why T Boone Pickens considers this as part of the "Saudi Arabia of wind." The winds blew so hard that it knocked down the support pole at the house entrance. We had to shut our windows as they were bending on the hinges. Many times, I'd have to take my hat off while running.

We are 30 miles away from the nearest town in either direction. 60 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart - yes they are huge out here. Could you imagine driving 3 miles to get onto the main road, then at least another 30 to get somewhere? The summer season is essentially July and August. It's been over 70 degrees (F) every day and sunny, but we are getting to see the wonderful summertime experience. Out in Montana, they sometimes get snow all the way into June. I still wonder who plows all these gravel roads to houses deep in the mountains.

For us, this is a blast. We are in a beautiful home way up on a hill with incredible views out of every window. Everything is big - the bales of hay, the field, the trucks and the scenery. Just walking down to another house is about a quarter mile minimum. In a short walk to the end of our side road was half a mile. The kids love it. They have not even complained about shutting off the TV for the week. It's actually turned my oldest son into an entrepreneur - more on that later.

Tomorrow we are off to Grand Teton early in the morning....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

US Advertising, Marketing Spend to Reach $412.4B in ‘08

Outsell, a market research firm released the article below. From what I've seen the media spend number make sense. It shows that there is a continuing shift to online media:

Spending on total US advertising and marketing will grow 3.9% in 2008 to reach $412.4 billion, with the advertising portion reaching $249.1 billion, according to the third annual ad spending report by Outsell, Inc., which said growth has declined from 2007’s 5.8%.

The report covers five key media types: online, print, events, TV/radio and others. Outsell surveyed 1,088 US advertisers on their spending plans for the year.

Among the significant findings:

  • Companies are spending 61.8% of their online ad/marketing budgets - $65.1 billion - on their own sites, siphoning dollars away from other options. As a result, publishers are beginning to offer their own advertising/marketing services to recapture lost revenue.
  • The fastest-growing of all ad types is online, which is expected to grow 12.3% in 2008 to $105.3 billion (or $40.2 billion excluding advertisers’ spending on their own sites). As a result, online spending now exceeds TV/radio/movies for the first time ($98.5 billion).
  • Advertisers’ spending on traditional media remains significant - with print capturing 35.5% of spending ($147.0 billion) and events at 12.5% of the total ($51.7 billion). 54% of advertisers spread budgets across three or more media types.
  • Out of 26 methods measured for effectiveness, advertisers rate their websites as the best for lead generation (75% effective), followed by exhibitions (66%), custom print publications (65%), direct mail marketing (64%), and trade magazines (64%).
  • Asked what metrics they would track if they could track only three, advertisers point most frequently to cost per sale (46%), cost per lead (37%), and cost per click (32%).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Iran's Oil Push

With Iran dependent on oil to run massive subsidies to its economy, it should be pretty clear why they are rattling sabers at Israel and the US. It's all about oil. Analysts estimate that without the threat of war, oil would be priced at $80 per barrel. That's 40% lower than the current price. With 30% of world's oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz, a war with Iran could blast prices past $200/barrel, maybe even higher.

US and Iranian animosity goes back to the 1980. The desire to get back at Iran has always been there amongst US leaders following the hostage crisis. Iran funds Hezbollah and Hamas as their defense mechanism. Therefore, Iran and Israel are natural enemies. So this creates the never ending cycle. The US funds a massive military presence in the Middle East. Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia buy American weaponry. Oil prices rise enabling Middle East nations to make more and more while increasing costs and inflation for basics like food and fuel.

So why not keep up with the uranium enrichment game, missile tests, military exercises and massive military build-up? Poor countries lose and industrialized nations pay more & while oil economies create dependency between the populace and government subsidies. The same folks run government and bribe their citizens to keep quiet with artificial subsidies like 25 cent/gallon gas.

The US plays a partner to this by continually ratcheting up the pressure to defend its allies and interests. A small, relatively weak country like Iran takes on the dimensions of the old Evil Empire. The cycle continues circle in accelerating bands impacting greater and greater numbers. The world keeps paying more - food prices, iron ore, steel, basic chemicals - while a few countries feed instability in hopes that the fear is felt without having to follow through with their threats.

Why don anything for your people when you can keep growing your income from oil?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Guns in Atlanta Airport

Here's an interesting article from the fallout of the recent 5-4 Supreme Court gun decision. They said that a locality cannot deny the right to bear arms. Apparently, the language of the well-regulated militia did not count.

So in Atlanta, there's a challenge to the airport ban on carrying a concealed weapon. See the NY Times article.

In San Francisco, there's an NRA challenge to the ban on loaded weapons in public housing.

Of course, there's the overturning of the Washington DC law and the challenge in Chicago handgun rules. Notice that the big cities are trying to restrict gun - gee, I wonder why?

I'm sure there are some interesting arguments in the decision about how a handgun is an arm that everyone has the right to have, but a machine gun, howitzer and tank is not.

Well hell, if you can have a concealed weapon in an airport, why not in an airplane or college or a government office. Maybe Congressman should also have the right to have a handgun as should any visitor. As soon as you restrict it, you are restricting a right.

Maybe this is a good thing. If the NRA gets to push these silly argument, maybe there will be a new constitutional amendment that modifies the Second Amendment.

At minimum, everyone should be allowed to carry a handgun at Supreme Court hearings.

Meanwhile read this article on how Tasers are more effective than guns for self-defense.