Thursday, July 31, 2008

Business: Perspective on Exxon Mobile Profits

CNN.com top story at 6:54AM PDT was "Exxon Mobile made nearly $1500 per second."

Read the whole thing and the breathless story headline seems less dramatic.

Speaking of perspective, let's do the numbers ...

Exxon posted $11.68 billion net income on total revenue of $138 billion.

11.68 divided by 138 multiplied by 100 equals 8.5% net income on total revenue.

The oil business is an expensive business: they got to find it and drill for it or buy it from someone, pump and ship it, refine it and then sell it. And indeed, "faceless evil profit mongering corporation" has employees who do all that.

And guess what?

Those employees have to put food on the table, pay the mortgage or rent, save for college and pay medical bills just like everyone else.

How about some perspective on how profitable this business is?

I'm typing this blog post on an Apple computer.

Their numbers:
Total Revenue $7.5 billion
Net Income $1.1 billion
Thus, 14.7% net income on total revenue.

Blogger belongs to Google.

Their numbers:
Total Revenue $5.2 billion
Net Income $1.3 billion
Thus, a whopping 25% net income on total revenue!

How about the place I go buy food, Ralphs?

The parent company is Kroger.
Total Revenue $23.1 billion
Net Income $386 million
Thus, a paltry 1.7% net income on total revenue. The grocer business is a tough business!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Science: Things you do NOT have to worry about

My friend K, posted this item over at Facebook.

The list:
1. Killer hot dogs.
2. Your car’s planet-destroying A/C.
3. Forbidden fruits from afar.
4. Carcinogenic cellphones.
5. Evil plastic bags.
6. Toxic plastic bottles.
7. Deadly sharks.
8. The Arctic’s missing ice.
9. The universe’s missing mass.
10. Unmarked wormholes.

Check out the explanations for each in the article!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Travel: Midsummer Holiday

Got on an airplane recently ...



A passport was required ...



Name that city?

Click here for this city's tourism web page.



If you check out tourism web pages and travel books, you'll find many good reasons for visiting Stockholm. But for me, the best reason was to enjoy the company of my very special friend Jeanette.



We got on the Arlanda airport to downtown express train and walked into the old town, Gamla Stan. We explored the Storkyrkan which is the city's cathedral dating back to the 13th century. The image above is from the pulpit. The phrase at the top is "Gloria in excelsis Deo" (Latin for "Glory to God in the highest") and in the middle is the Tetragrammaton, the name of the God of Israel in Hebrew.



Like most European cities, statues abound.



This is the smallest official statue of Stockholm located in the quiet courtyard of the Finska Kyrkan (Finnish Church).



Our next stop was Kungliga Slottet (Royal Palace). We got there in time to see the daily changing of the guard ceremony. To read more about the Swedish Royal Family, go here.



Midsummer's eve is a big festival among the Swedish people. There is dancing around the maypole and the singing of Sma Grodorna, the little frog's song. And, of course, there is special food. Since I had been in the airplane about 14 hours, we passed on the maypole dancing and the little frogs song. But, we had many of the elements of the traditional meal as you see in the plate of food along with new potatoes with dill! Sorry, no pictures of the herring. 8-)



Probably one of the most visited museums in Stockholm is the Vasamuseet. The Vasa is the largest and best preserved warship of its era. In 1628, on its maiden voyage, the top heavy boat was tipped by gusting wind such that water rushed into its gun ports near the waterline which caused the ship to sink a mere 20 minutes from the dock.



Because of the relatively low salinity of the Baltic Sea the wood of the ship was not destroyed by shipworms which inhabit most other bodies of salt water. Below is a scale model of what they think the ship looked like when it set sail.



The ship was commissioned by the King of Sweden to help in the war against Poland. It was painted with many colors and adorned with numerous sculptured figures to show the greatness of his kingship and of the warrior spirit of the Swedes. Its ignominious fate vividly illustrated the proverb, "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."

The other popular museum of Stockholm is Skansen which recreates various parts of Swedish cultural history in a park setting.



This parade shows some of the regional costumes frequently worn for Midsummer celebrations.

One of the neat places was a recreation of a 19th Century Ironmonger's House (hardware store) where Jeanette and the storekeeper regaled me with a recitation of numerous Swedish inventions. The Swedes are a resourceful and practical people!



Aside from the various period piece recreations, Skansen has beautiful gardens.





Here is a hare. See here for what is the difference between a hare and a rabbit.



The Seglora Church was built in the 18th Century and resided in the Vastergotland province. Eventually, it lay unused as a new church was built and eventually was moved to Skansen. We participated in the 6pm service where prayers, Bible readings and hymns were sung in Swedish. The presider noted the presence of English speakers and offered one of the prayers in English.



Skansen also has a zoo of the animals found in Sweden. Below is one of their newborn moose!



Weather changes throughout the day in Stockholm. There were moments of sunshine followed by light rain followed by partially cloudy. For a brief moment, a beautiful rainbow broke out.



When in Stockholm, be sure to spend some time in Skansen!



Perhaps the most famous building in Stockholm is Stadshuset, the City Hall.



Here is the "Blue" Hall. The architect originally planned to paint the walls blue but the brick colors grew on him so he decided not to paint it but the room held onto the name. The Nobel Prize Banquet is held in this hall.



How old do you think the Stockholm City Hall is?

Check here for the surprising answer.



The photo above is of the ceiling of the city council chambers. It resembles a Viking ship recalling the history of the Swedish people.



Here is one of the beautiful long hallways.



A view of the Gamla Stan from an open window in the City Hall.



In the Golden Hall, the walls are comprised of mosaics with over 18 million pieces. One section honors America.



Here is a photo of a display of the dinnerware used in the famed Nobel Prize Banquet.

The only way to see the interior of the City Hall is to take a guided tour. From June to August tours are more numerous and offered in many languages.

If you have the energy, check out the view from the City Hall Tower. The elevator takes you about half way and you take the stairs the rest of the way.



While the Nobel Prize Banquet is held at the City Hall, the ceremony where the recipients receive their awards is held at the Konserthuset, the concert hall.



My last full day began with a trip south to the town of Nykoping where 14th century Swedish kings used to reside before Stockholm became the political center of the nation. After the approximately one hour train ride, we walked through the town to the castle to meet up with Jeanette's parents for lunch. After lunch, we all explored the Nykopingshus where there are two floors with displays about the history of the castle. Below is a model of what the full castle complex might have looked like.



After touring the castle, we walked along the riverfront and checked out a couple of the galleries before having an afternoon fika at Jeanette's parent's home. Thank you for a delightful afternoon in small town Sweden!



Below are some last looks around Stockholm.









I enjoy travel.

Seeing new places and meeting different people is a delight. Each trip is memorable and meaningful for different reasons. Nonetheless, this trip was different than other trips I've taken. There was increased interest from friends when I told them where I was going and who I would see. Upon my return, those who knew why I chose this destination were just a bit more eager than usual to hear about it. And so indeed, this trip was special because of Jeanette. Thank you for a wonderful midsummer holiday!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

News: Colombian Military Rescues Hostages

Amazing!!!

Daring rescue by the Colombian military using deception!

Excerpt:
BOGOTA, Colombia (CNN) -- Government agents posing as rebels tricked a gang of armed desperados into handing over 15 hostages during a rendezvous deep in Colombia's unforgiving jungle.

The Colombian government's bloodless rescue of the hostages Wednesday was the product of a perfectly executed ruse that depended on old-school spy games rather than high-tech gadgetry.
.........
All 15 hostages were handcuffed and placed aboard the helicopter, along with two of their guards, leaving the rest of the FARC detachment on the ground.

Once the chopper was up and safely away from the landing zone, the fake rebels persuaded the real ones aboard to hand them their weapons. Moments later, both rebels were on the floor of the aircraft, cuffed and blindfolded by their erstwhile comrades, Betancourt said.

A crew member turned and spoke to the hostages.

"We are the national military," he said, Betancourt recalled. "You are free."
Amazing!!!

Bravo to the team that pulled off this hostage rescue operation!

Non-profit of the month: June, 2008 - UCLA School of Nursing

How many of you have ever been hospitalized? Or know of a loved one who was?

In 2004 and 2005, I had this experience.

I'm happy to report that everything turned out okay and I walked out the hospital fine.

The experience showed me the amazing role nurses have in medical care.

Its a tough job with odd hours, emotional situations and potential life and death.

Since I went to UCLA as an undergraduate, I've selected UCLA's School of Nursing.

Please consider supporting one of the local colleges in your area who train nurses.

Non-profit of the month: July, 2008 - Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund

I occasionally catch the Ric Edelman Radio Show.

On one of their broadcasts, Rey Roy who works at Edelman financial shared about his cross-country bike ride to help raise money for charity.

One of the charities, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, supports veterans and their families.

Here are some of the things they have done.

Excerpt:
Begun in 2000 under the auspices of the Intrepid Museum Foundation, and established as an independent not-for-profit organization in 2003, the Fund has provided close to $60 million in support for the families of military personnel lost in service to our nation, and for severely wounded military personnel and veterans.
.......
In January 2007, the Fund completed construction of a $40 million world-class state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation center at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
......
Although sufficient funding has been received for the Center’s construction costs, the Fund is accepting donations to provide additional services for our wounded military and veteran heroes and their families. The Fund’s Board of Trustees is currently determining, in consultation with the Armed Forces and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the next area of need for our wounded military personnel and veterans that the Fund will address. All contributions received will be directed to support this new project.
As we near July 4 and Independence Day celebrations, I would like to encourage you to consider supporting some kind of veterans groups as part of honoring those who helped make our independence possible.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Travel: Where in the world was the Rambler?

Got on an airplane recently ...



A passport was required ...



Name that city?

Standby ... more photos and travelogue to come!