octubre 08, 2004

Novel blogging

Director Mitch is writing a novel.

It'd be hard to do, but it'd be a great marketing ploy to write the novel each day as a blog post. Considering how hot blogs are in the media right now, that's a surefire way to get attention.

octubre 07, 2004


Katharine Stone writes about Dairy Queen's attempt to rebrand itself as DQ -- a slightly more upscale brand that is known for food, not just blizzards.

Stone writes:
We probably pile into the car once a month for strawberry shakes (for my son and husband, who insist they're better than you can get anywhere else) and a double Snickers Blizzard for me. But you couldn't get me to buy food in that place on a bet. I have no interest in whatever food DQ has to offer unless that food is made from cream and sugar and is -16 degrees C (the typical serving temperature of ice cream, in case you were wondering -- and yes, I had to look that up).
She then goes on to ask:
If you were going to reposition Dairy Queen, or DQ as I understand they now prefer to call it, what would you do?
A friend of mine's father retired a few years ago, and took his lump sum pension to open up a DQ.

He opened the store in a growing fringe of suburb where there weren't any established fast food chains in the immediate vicinity. The store was new and always bright and clean. In other words, not your typical DQ. Typical Dairy Queens in my experience tend to be old, kinda dark and dirty -- especially the bathrooms.

Customers felt comfortable buying food there. I tried the food a few times, and it was actually quite good. Some of it was better than McDonalds.

I think that's one of the answers to rebranding: work with your franchisees to change the feel of your stores. A bright, clean store will make customers more comfortable buying food, and happier to eat the food in-store.

Sidenote 1: DQ is a very common occurrence in small town Texas. I'm not sure why, but it seems like every small town has one. Probably it has -- or used to have -- low franchising fees. Either that or Texans just like ice cream.

Sidenote 2: I'll also note that Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway owns Dairy Queen. You'd have a great track record if you always invested in the same business Buffett does.

octubre 06, 2004

AP article on poker gifts

The AP thinks that poker stuff is the hot Christmas item this year:
With poker's popularity growing because of televised tournaments, retailers are betting that playing cards and chips will be among the must-have items during the holiday shopping season.

Stores are showcasing displays of casino-quality chips and gaming tables with holders for drinks and betting chips.

"I'm not a big poker player, but I know a lot about it because it's such a hot item," Kmart spokeswoman Caryn Klebba said. "It seems like the teenagers are in love with it."

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Karen Burk said the renewed interest in poker may make a deck of cards the top stocking stuffer of the holidays this year.

Howard Stern won't be dealing with the FCC soon

Howard Stern and Sirius radio today announced an $100 million a year deal where Stern will leave the public airwaves. The $100m a year covers Stern's base competition, studio costs, staff, etc.

I saw a Sirius representative discuss this with Neil Cavuto today. Sirius believes that they will only need about 1 million new subscribers to break even. They estimate that there are about 11 million Stern fans right now. Sirius believes these fans are very loyal to Stern, as evidenced by his movie, two bestselling books, etc.

Stern's base compensation will be in the tens of millions, but he'll also have incentives and bonus compensation.

An interesting deal. Sirius charges each subscriber $12.95 per month. Stern won't have to worry about the FCC anymore; he can be as lascivious, crude, and tawdry as he wishes.

Satellite radio has had displays and PR booths at every festival/event I've been to recently. But until now I'd always considered it to be today's equivalent of the .com boom. That is, an idea unlikely to ever make money.

Now I'm not so sure. I have some friends who have gotten satellite radio and love it. They say they would never go back to regular radio. Stern may be on to something big.

octubre 05, 2004

Pictures of Will

Folks over at Slithery D were discussing what Will Baude looks like. Will then revealed a picture of himself that obscures his face.

A cursory Google search turns up a picture (scroll towards bottom) that actually shows his face.

Quiz bowl-ers

As a former quiz bowl person, I was amused to see this article from the Washington Post:

Back in college, Robert Hentzel and his teammates competed at the championship level, but victory always came without fanfare. Or fans, for that matter. As spectator sport, academic quiz bowl was a bit like watching a perpetual IQ test being given out loud, with small teams of students vying to see who could answer the most questions the quickest.

Quiz bowlers didn't merely accumulate knowledge; they stockpiled it. Fact upon fact upon small, obscure fact. Worthless information, outsiders would scoff. But the quiz bowlers' passion ran deep. And their pursuit turned out to be not so trivial.

Over the past five years alone, more than 40 former quiz bowlers have quietly infiltrated the ranks of television game-show contestants, raking in nearly $7 million, primarily from "Jeopardy!" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

Call it the ultimate revenge of the nerds.

"There's definitely a subculture there," acknowledged Michael Davies, executive producer of "Millionaire" and himself a reject from the academic challenge team at the University of Edinburgh. ("I was just useless in classics and the sciences.")

Certainly the most visible member of the underground intelligentsia these days is "Jeopardy!" phenom Ken Jennings, a 30-year-old software engineer from Salt Lake City whose pretaped winning streak is the longest and richest in that show's history, and is rumored to be more than half over. And while "Jeopardy!" questions are less complicated than quiz bowl's elaborate clues, Jennings said he figures that roughly 40 percent of his correct answers on "Jeopardy!" came from knowledge he amassed over the years via quiz bowl.
Excellent article. Read the whole thing.

The people I knew at Quiz Bowl were very into quiz bowl, and I'd always wondered why these people didn't go tear through Jeopardy, because they clearly had the knowledge.

By my own estimation, I'd been very successful at quiz bowl in high school, and I knew from their record that my university's Quiz Bowl team wasn't that good.

I was blown away. These people just went out and memorized trivia for the sake of memorizing trivia. [Aside: there are Scrabble afficianados who memorize every possible 2 or 3 letter word, plus stems and many other obscure words] They could tell you the order of opponents in the original Nintendo version of Mike Tyson's Punchout! They could tell you who was on the cover of Newsweek in the 2nd week of November 1989!

Easy trivia questions like "Who was the only President and Supreme Court Justice?" (Taft -- who supposedly much preferred being Chief Justice) is akin to being asked their multiplication tables.

There were areas in which I could compete -- often based sheerly on speed, or because I could better guess where the question was headed -- but I quickly realized I wasn't going to be a star.

Unless you've witnessed this yourself, it's hard to fathom.

Supreme Court rules for AmEx

The Supreme Court has affirmed lower court decisions that resulted in antitrust judgments against Visa and MasterCard. The decision clears the way for banks that issue Visa or MasterCard to also issue Discover and/or American Express.

Also, interesting facts from the article:
Visa has 323 million accounts, MasterCard has 264 million, Discover has 50 million, and American Express has 37.5 million, according to the companies.
Visa cards are 10 more times likely than AmEx. Huh.

octubre 03, 2004

Go Astros!

The 'stros now lead the NL wild card race. They've won 6 games in a row and 17 games in a row at home.

Since the Astros lead, if they lose tomorrow to close the regular season and the Giants win, then they will play a one game playoff in San Fran.

Roger Clemens pitches tomorrow for the Astros on only 3 days rest. Manager Phil Garner decided he wanted to give it his best shot, so he's putting Clemens on the mound.

Personally I'd rather give Clemens the day off and save him for a possible onegame playoff.