Thursday, April 28, 2005

Amtrak's Acela Express graveyard?

I took this pic today taking the train to Philly.

I take the Amtrak regional and Acela trains almost daily from Manhattan to Philadelphia. I also travel up and down the Eastern Corridor on Amtrak, which goes from Boston to D.C. When all of the Acela Express trains' breaks were found to have cracks in them, a lot of the passenger traffic spilled onto the regional trains. These Acela trains were supposed to be 21st Century passenger travel. During construction, Amtrak also discovered that the coaches were four inches too wide to use their full tilting mechanisms, which allowed the trains to speed around curves. As a result, trip times were slower. Other problems I've seen recently were the doors not work or frozen shut, bathroom doors don't close properly, and terrible sound from the PA system. Things don't seem to work properly.

I wish that trains would run like the Japanese rail system. Of course no train is perfect. Last week, there was a rare major train accident in Japan. But, having been on many trains in Japan, their system is close to perfect. The train schedule is posted and is on time to the second. They're spotless, like this one I was on last month:

There was a NY Times article about iPod theft and crime increasing in NY Subways. There was a good point about how the trains are shabby looking, which contributed to increasing theft on the trains:

"When you have subway cars that are filthy - and the ones I was riding in were a mess - and it looks like there's no one in charge, the temptation to commit crime is more significant,"
Unfortunately, the US culture does not support trains, but with increasing energy costs, environmental impact of cars, and urbanization, I'd love to see a better US public transportation system in the future.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Future of New Media

This post by Janice Fraser reminds me of my past experiences during the dot com era. There was a flood of capital into the Internet world that prompted a mass migration towards website design, web apps, and business based on the web. Ideas and concepts moved so quickly that business plans were constantly changed (remember the shift from b2c to b2b back to b2c to p2p?)

Janice says:

We had such big thoughts back then. We were excited, idealistic, and naive. It was a time when the Internet richly rewarded smart, passionate people. Anyone was free to create wildly improbable, but very cool, things.

Of course, that changed. With real money came real responsibility, and explosive growth prompted implosive failure. By fall of 2000 — just five years after the launch — the innovators were tired and the “innovations” failed to impress.

After the dot com 'new economy' faded, the focus changed to making the current business more efficient. But the landscape for new media is shifting. All the talk about technology "convergence" in the late 90's was too early for consumers to accept. A lot of people talked about using cell phones to pay for merchandise at retail stores, listening to mp3s on their PDAs or cell phones, but it never happened. It's not that far fetched now to think about watching videos, purchasing music or playing online games on a phone now. Yahoo is getting into TV, google is moving towards interactive advertising, and Apple is synonymous with HiDef DVD authoring.

Things are about to change in a big way. The convergence of interactive media, video, games, and music is coming. TV networks, video game companies, phone companies, cable companies are all overlapping eachother to capture this idea of cross-pollination of media. Look for huge changes in media (and our idea of media as it is today) to happen in the next year to three years. By then, the dot com crash will be 6-9 years old, which is just in time for the 8-12 year olds to shift the idea of media in a huge way.
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Friday, April 22, 2005

Real Estate projections

I've been thinking a lot about real estate in the past few years. There have been so much press about how there's a real estate boom and whether or not it will burst. Whether or not there may be a bubble burst, or how much interest rates will rise, or how affordable it is, I still think there is an allure about it. I find that process of searching, renovating, and selling would be satisfying, albeit a time consuming process. I've looked at a lot of data, and although interesting, when I see lectures, talk with investors, businesses, friends, family, there's nothing more real than having the need to find good housing. Affordable and NYC real estate are rarely in the same sentence. I have seen them, but I haven't had the time to pursue it.

In any case, there have been some interesting real estate tools on the web that are popping up. This one uses google maps to locate Manhattan listings, which is similar to the one I wrote about previously, which combines google maps and Craigslist.

I saw an interesting statistic from the U.S. Census Bureau that says that the State of NY is 50 out of 51 in terms of Percent of Occupied Housing Units That are Owner-occupied.

On a grander scale, look at the world population reached:

  • 1 billion in 1804,
  • 2 billion in 1927 (123 years later)
  • 3 billion in 1960 (33 years)
  • 4 billion in 1974 (13 years)
  • 5 billion in 1987 (12 years)
  • 6 billion in 1999 (12 years)
  • 7 billion in 2013 (14 years - projected)
  • 8 billion in 2028 (15 years - projected)
  • 10.7 (high) or 8.9 (middle) or 7.3 (low) billion projected for 2050
Aren't these opportunity enough to get into real estate? Just looking at the future...
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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Solar panels for the home

Saw this post on Akihabara News a few days ago. When I was in Japan a few weeks ago, I noticed a lot more homes with solar panels as part of their roofs. If you go to Japan, taking the Narita Express train from the airport to the city, you'll see a lot of these solar panels on the roofs. These new generation panels look more like the roof tiles, and aren't ugly like the older panels. I'm all for it to be less dependent on foreign oil, save the environment, and lower our bills. If I had a home, I'd pay a bit more to do my part. Frankly, the Japanese seem to be more environmentally conscious when it comes to the use of less oil and energy, so adoption is much quicker. Maybe when oil gets to the $60-80 per barrel range will the American consumer consider this and move towards the right direction. The market seems to have finally accepted hybrid cars; let's hope the same comes true in our homes.

Update: Wired has an article in their May 05 issue about people in the US putting in solar panels. This is great, I'm going to put in solar panels in my future house!
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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

3 things for business acumen

Sometimes people forget what business is set out to do:
The older I get the more I realize that business is about three very basic things:
  1. Hustle
  2. Passion
  3. Resiliency
You have those things it really doesn’t matter what the idea is… you can change your ideas all day long, in fact evolving is what you’re supposed to do in business. However, you can’t substitute hustle, passion, or resiliency. You can certainly learn, and defiantly enhance, those three core attributes. I know I’ve tried to do that over the years.
This reminds me of IT folks (sometimes myself included) who speak in technical terms no one understands or cares about. How often do we hear terms such as defensible, revenue model, business model, sustainability, intelletual property, etc. These are important, but don't forget that the future of your business is depends on those three basics above.
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Craigslist x google maps

A great application using APIs from Craigslist and Google Maps. Companies like Amazon, Google, ebay, are taking advantage of their user base to open up their apps for Web Services. Sony needs to do the same with their PSP if they want a developer community to spread the word. I still think Sony should provide software developers direct access to their technology platform and product data. Apple and its iTunes would stand to gain from doing the same.
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back from Tokyo

I'm back from Tokyo. Still jetlagged; had a great trip. Saw some old traditions, modern life, and lots of food!

old traditions: hanami (cherry blossom viewing)

modern life: a google ad in the train


more thoughs and photos to come once I recover.

update: I've added some pics on my flickr site.
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