Category Archives: Awesomeness

Delivery by rocket could change the game for UPS and FedEx

The Loadstar

Morgan Stanley believes SpaceX could change the game for United Parcel Services and FedEx.

Elon Musk says his company’s BFR vehicle could be a reusable mode of Earth transportation, for up to 150 tons of cargo.

The parcel service “industry could see a fundamental reset with the introduction of rockets as a transportation modality,” Morgan Stanley says.

The rationale for this hypothesis from Morgan Stanley analysts is the plan by Elon Musk’s SpaceX to operate Big Falcon Rockets, being designed to transport people from Earth to Mars, but also around Earth – New York to Shanghai in half an hour. And with a payload of 150 tonnes, it could revolutionise the express business. It would certainly make it a lot quicker…

Airplanes and Panamax cargo ships redefined the parcel service in the 20th century, but those days may be fading quickly.

Morgan Stanley believes the SpaceX plan for the Big Falcon Rocket as a reusable mode of Earth transportation could change the game for United Parcel Services and FedEx.

“The freight transportation business — especially parcel delivery — is on the cusp of transformation from multiple new transportation modalities,” a team of Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a note Thursday. “Elon Musk recently announced a new option that could potentially have the biggest impact of all — rockets.”

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Wal-Mart Stores: Fighting Back

SeekingAlpha.com

Summary

In a world spiraling towards e-commerce which is dominated by Amazon, Wal-Mart is fighting back by reinventing itself as a technology company with physical stores.

Wal-Mart’s secret weapon is its Data Café: a state of the art, analytics hub which is the world’s largest private cloud.

Wal-Mart will enjoy PE expansion if it succeeds at this transformation.
Leverage 55 years of Experience and Assets

Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) is the world’s largest retailer with $485 billion revenue in its fiscal year 2017, $14 billion profit after tax, and an operating cash flow of $31 billion. It has over 11, 600 stores in 28 countries. In U.S. alone, it has 4,700 stores which is located within a ten-mile vicinity of 90% of the U.S. population. Effectively, this is a very powerful and cost-effective delivery network as it expands its e-commerce platform.

For the past 55 years, when Sam Walton first founded this discount store in 1962 and disrupted the entire retail industry then, it has grown in financial strength by disciplined growth, capital allocation and delivering an EDLP (Every Day Low Pricing) policy for its customers. Over the past decade, as buying habits are dramatically remolded by online e-commerce, Wal-Mart has lost market share and its revenue growth declined. But it is not dead. On the contrary, it has quietly been amassing assets to fight this inevitable battle for customers’ dollars.
Goal: Transform into a technology company

Big Data and Data Café is at the heart of this transformation. Wal-Mart now can chew and spit 40 petabytes of data, and to give its management and associates “real time” solutions to complex business problems, which in the past, would have taken weeks to compile, compute and analyze. This ability has far reaching benefits: from increased sales, more efficient inventory control, supply chain management, merchandising, efficient delivery options, and climate control and the switching of lights in the stores.

Wal-Mart is using technology both online and offline to maximize the seamless experience for its customers. For example, customers can elect to pick up their online orders at a Wal-Mart location. Instead of having to go inside the store, customers can pick up their order at an automated pickup tower which looms 16 feet tall and holds 300 small to mid-size packages. As the customer walks towards the tower, its doors would automatically open. A screen scans the mobile receipt and the bar code, and disburses the packages. Viola!

The demonetisation of housing

SmartPropertyInvestment.com By Kyron Gosse

It seems kind of counter-intuitive as a property investor to be sitting here talking about how housing might one day be free, particularly when so much of the current conversation around housing consists of unaffordability, intense capital growth and generations condemned to rent, writes Kyron Gosse.

Yet the signals are there for those who know where to look. There is an impending sea change just around the corner that may result in housing becoming demonetised to the point where we can no longer charge our tenants.

Now before you start scoffing and calling me a communist – I am not saying this is going to happen anytime soon, nor am I saying that it is going to happen everywhere. All I am saying is there are some signs pointing towards a decreasing cost in living which might one day influence rents and house prices.

When we look at the biggest costs of housing, there are four things that contribute to the bill: land costs, construction costs, council bureaucracy and living costs.

Yet with the advent of hyperloop and flying cars, we will be redefining what a city means. These technologies will open up large amounts of land to be a commutable distance from cities.

In fact, if we look at Sydney, considering the possibility of hyperloop in the near future, everything from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast would be considered a commutable distance from the CBD.

What’s more, in the years to come we might see a decline in our reliance on traditional farming. Between vertical farms in urban zones and plant-based meat there will be very few farms left. This will result in thousands of hectares of farmland now accessible from major cities becoming almost insignificant of value.

On the construction side of things, we have found ourselves as spectators in the race for a commercially viable house 3D printer. China and Russia are neck and neck in this race, with each party having proved they can print houses for as little as $10,000. Given these are simply the first prototypes, costs are sure to come down in the future.

Energy costs are shrinking thanks to solar. Solar is now the cheapest form of energy available, and with Tesla’s Powerwall we are able to store that energy better than ever before.

Also thanks to water collection and reverse osmosis technology, as well as breakthroughs in sanitation, it is becoming possible for nearly anyone to move off-grid. Or better yet, to sell excess energy back to the grid thereby offsetting their mortgage payments.

So, imagine being able to pick up a section that is a 30-minute commute to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra or Brisbane CBD’s for next to nothing. Spend $10,000 3D printing your home, utilising technology to be entirely self-sufficient and sell any excess to cover your mortgage.

However this plays out and how strategies might change, I will always remember something taught to me by my mentor Steve McKnight – “as long as people live in houses, there will be an opportunity to make money”.

Gripes About My Week plus a Great Sears Story

It has been a tough week in the land of blogs and website posts. Did not meet my objectives this week.

First of all I think I should not try and work with the TV on in same room.

Golf, especially FedEx ads, tick me off. I see their ads and it looks like Tour de France. Golfers must now throw their fists and kick their legs in the air. Used to be they take hat off and shake hands.

Change to News channel and get what looks like unpaid ads for Amazon and Apple. Cannot understand love for the IPHONE. Go out other day and first two people I pass are talking on IPHONE with cracked glass on the thing.

Change pace and check my email. OUTLOOK (formerly HotMail) gets slower and slower each year. YAHOO MAIL was just as bad. Glimmer of hope few weeks ago when VERIZON bought them. Actually gave me ENGLISH when I log on. But now back to normal shitty service. What do you expect from Verizon….it is just bad old New York Telephone Company still!!! Thanks to GMAIL.

Then must change links in many WebSites because many links no longer work! I live outside US so must be a “bad guy”. Hits me when I link to “Bridgeport” or “Utica”. Thank God for the WIKI.

OH! “Home Delivery”. So important to TV commentators. I do not want it. Even with cell phone, a big PAIN IN THE ASS. Live in little house behind big appartment buildings. Must go to street and guide person through entrance. Rather buy local.

Finally, hate when people refer to me as an EXPAT

TGIF

Now for a cute little story:

Wild-Eyed Sears CEO Convinced These The Flannel Pajama Pants That Will Turn Everything Around

From The Onion

CHICAGO—Rambling to no one in particular as he paced back and forth across his office, wild-eyed Sears CEO Eddie Lampert was reportedly convinced Thursday that he had found the flannel pajama pants that will turn everything around. “Finally! I’ve done it! These woven pajama pants are gonna put Sears Holdings Corporation back on top!” said Lampert, adding that newest line of sleepwear would fly off shelves so fast that “Bezos is gonna shit his pants.” “It’s for men, women, and children! And we’ll offer one with hearts on it! A red-and-green checkered one, too, just in time for the goddamn holidays! Ha-ha-ha! It’s game over, assholes, because soon I’ll have shipped out 10 million of the comfiest goddamn PJs in the entire fucking retail universe! Yes! Yes, yes, yes!” At press time, Lampert had filed for bankruptcy after converting the company’s entire inventory to pajama pants.

The New York City transit projects that never were

From pneumatic trains to a floating airport

Featured image: Norman Bel Geddes’s Rotary Airport design.

From NY Curbed

As commuters grow ever more impatient with an overcrowded and underfunded MTA, languish in summer traffic, and navigate the city’s far-flung, congested airports, it’s worth remembering: It didn’t have to be this way.

The trains, planes, and highways that shuttle New Yorkers from place to place are the systems we ended up with, but had things gone a little differently, we could be looking at a very different city. One where pneumatic trains send riders across the city on elevated tracks, Manhattan’s grid is crisscrossed by diagonal streets, or an airport floats in the harbor just off the Battery.

All of these are real projects that were planned for the city at one time or another in history, though none of them came to be—though they’re now brought to life in “Never Built New York,” a new exhibit at the Queens Museum. Running through February 18, the show includes original drawings and models, as well as installations and animations, that depict alternate New Yorkscapes.

Curators Sam Lubell and Greg Goldin, who also wrote a book of the same name, took us on a whistle-stop tour through some of their favorite unbuilt transit projects featured in the exhibit.
1870: Beach Pneumatic Transit

More than 30 years before the New York City subway debuted in 1904, inventor Alfred Ely Beach was hard at work on a very different plan for subterranean travel in the city: a pneumatic, tube-shaped train propelled by air from enormous fans. Though the New York State Legislature approved the plan, the local Tammany Hall government put the kibosh on the scheme.

But that didn’t stop Beach from building a working section of system, about a quarter-mile of it which he constructed illegally right across from City Hall at the corner of Broadway and Warren Street. Though it only had one station and one car, it was open to the public and ran for three years before being shut down.

1872: Rufus Henry Gilbert’s elevated railway

Elon Musk’s concept for the Hyperloop might sound futuristic, but it’s actually pretty retro. He was beat to the punch a century and a half before by another polymath, Dr. Rufus Henry Gilbert. Famed as a Civil War surgeon who performed amputations under fire, Gilbert later turned his attention to public transit. He put forth an idea for an elevated pneumatic train that would travel above the Manhattan streets through twin tubes supported by elaborately designed steel arches.

His steampunkish plan also included air-powered elevators to bring commuters up to the tracks and a telegraph system to send arrival information along the line—an innovation that even the modern MTA has yet to perfect. Though Gilbert got the go-ahead to build his system, the financial panic of 1873 stopped the project in its tracks.


A sketch of Rufus Henry Gilbert’s elevated railway. Courtesy Library of Congress

1908: Charles R. Lamb’s diagonal streets

As urban congestion began to skyrocket in the early 20th century, architect Charles R. Lamb conceived a design for Manhattan streets that would have radically altered the grid we know today. Drawing inspiration from European cities like Paris, he conceptualized a street plan that would have cut through Manhattan’s right angles with wide boulevards. “It was not only to improve movement through the city, but also to try to change the way in which the grid had made New York so powerfully a mercantile place,” Goldin explains. “So you would have these sort of serendipitous moments that become parks or places for monuments.”

1919: Daniel L. Turner’s expanded subway

To anyone who regularly rides the MTA, it’s painfully obvious what’s missing from the map: more crosstown trains in Manhattan, and more lines connecting the outer boroughs. A prescient 1919 plan by the Transit Construction Commission’s chief engineer, Daniel Turner, smartly addressed both issues. His design would have quadrupled the amount of crosstown lines and added trains that traveled directly between Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, anticipating the congestion and overcrowding that would come to plague public transit in the city.

“He wanted to get ahead of the development rather than trying to respond to the development,” says Lubell. Alas, the plans were put on hold due to bureaucratic and financial constraints. But Turner’s legacy lives in on, to some degree, in the long-awaited Second Avenue Subway, a beefed-up version of which was also included in his scheme.

1932: Norman Bel Geddes’s Rotary Airport

Designer and visionary Norman Bel Geddes had plenty of futuristic dreams for New York City over the years. Among them was a proposal for an airport floating in New York Harbor less than a quarter mile from the Battery.

Resembling a massive aircraft carrier, the airport would rotate on massive ship’s propellers to allow the airstrips to align themselves with the prevailing winds, allowing for optimal takeoff and landing conditions. After they landed, passengers could quickly arrive in Manhattan via a moving sidewalk in an underwater shaft, arriving at the foot of Broadway. Not a bad commute. Though Bel Geddes took out a patent for his ambitious project, it never made it past the concept stages.
1945: William Zeckendorf’s Dream Airport

Few developers were better at getting press attention for their projects than William Zeckendorf, who employed architects like I.M. Pei and Le Corbusier and left an indelible stamp on the city. His wildest proposal was for an airport in the Hudson River built on a titanic, 200-foot-high platform stretching from 24th to 71st Streets. “It looks like the largest sheet of plywood you ever saw in your life,” says Goldin. The airport would have gobbled up much of the West Side, though it allowed for boats to land in piers underneath. After Zeckendorf got his scheme featured in a 1946 issue of Life, his publicity grab made a powerful enemy: all-powerful city planner Robert Moses, who shot down Zeckendorf’s plan with little fanfare.

Vintage private railcars are mustered at Albany-Rensselaer Train Station

Rensselaer

Dome cars, lounges, observation and sleeper cars, many painted in the livery of their former railroads, gathered at the Rensselaer rail station Wednesday, preparing for a multi-day journey that will wind through the Adirondacks, the Southern Tier, the Berkshires and Green Mountains.

They’ll end up in Burlington, Vt., for the 40th annual convention of the American Association of Private Rail Car Owners.

Before then, the owners of these cars, the oldest of which dates from 1911, will see a considerable amount of the Northeast. Hauled by two Amtrak locomotives, they’ll travel to Utica and then to Thendara, back to Utica and onto Geneva, then head east to Springfield, Mass., and Rutland before arriving at Burlington.

The owners, rail enthusiasts all, can talk about the history of their individual cars. They’ve often spent years restoring them. Former association executive director Borden Black has just acquired a car from Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, which has ceased operation.

Dick Johnston of Phoenix travels in a dome car built in 1955 by The Budd Company, once a major U.S. railcar manufacturer, and used on the Empire Builder, which runs between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest.

Amtrak took over the route, and the equipment, in May 1971, and used it until it was replaced by newly manufactured bilevel Superliners in the late 1970s.

Coordinating a trip like this can be a challenge. Taylor Johnson, the association’s vice president of transportation, had planned a stop in Saratoga Springs and a trip via Whitehall to Rutland. But when the Canadian Pacific balked at hosting the train, Vermont rail officials and the Finger Lakes Railway stepped up with an alternate routing.

The private rail car owners support the continued operation of Amtrak, and Johnson said their train “is a reflection of American history.” The owners often make their cars available to passengers looking for a unique travel experience.

Some of the cars have private bedrooms, dining rooms and kitchens, as well as showers and flat-screen TVs.

The organization hopes to draw attention to plans by New York state to remove the tracks from Thendara north to Lake Placid, a move it opposes.

Robert Donnelly, the association president, said the private rail cars often are owned by groups of shareholders.

Among the cars participating in this year’s convention is the Georgia 300, a platform observation car that once operated on the Crescent Limited between New York and New Orleans.

The car has been used by Jimmy Carter, George H.W. and George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and by Kerry/Edwards campaign, said another association member, LeAnne Feagin. The Obamas boarded it in Philadelphia, picking up Joe Biden and his wife in Delaware, to travel to the 2009 inauguration.

Albany Times Union

The NY Central Putnam Division Freight House At Lake Mahopac

Thank you to New York Central fan John Ruth for a great bit of Putnam Division history.

The Lake Mahopac Freight House, which was served by the Putnam Division and the Lake Mahopac Branch, has been repurposed as a Café. They’ve named it “The Freight House Café

The building has been relocated about 100 feet and possibly rotated. A kitchen structure was added to one side. The original roll-aside door is still in place between the main floor and the kitchen addition. (Modelers could enjoy studying this door and its hardware, which resembles barn door hardware.)

The interior is more-or-less intact. There are a few RR-related décor items and, very appropriately, an ice saw hanging on the wall. This commemorates that there was once a nearby RR-served Ice House to store and distribute the ice harvested on Lake Mahopac. (Knickerbocker Ice, IIRC.)

NYCRR fans should stop in for a look-see and a coffee. The proprietor recognizes the NYCS history of the building.

Old Station from Google

On the same trip, I observed that the Baldwin Place Freight House is still extant. These two structures appear to have been built from the same plan.

When was L.C.L. freight discontinued on the Putnam Division? That would have marked the last RR use of these freight houses, no?

May 29, 1958 – Last passenger service on the Putnam Division.

September 17, 1962 – Last freight run to Yorktown Heights.

1963 – Twenty-three miles of track between Eastview and Lake Mahopac is abandoned and removed.

1969 – Three miles of track between Lake Mahopac and Carmel is abandoned and removed.

March 14, 1970 – Last freight run to Carmel.

From “Putnam Division of the New York Central

and “Putnam Division Abandonments

Question of the day:

Who lived near the end of the long-gone Mahopac Falls Branch for many years.

Mark Tomlonson’s New York Central Dates In History

September 16, 1956 The New York Central replaces the male secretaries on the “20th Century Limited” with “Girls of the Century” – stewardesses patterned after those on airliners.

Girl Of The Century
The Century Girl, or, if you prefer…The Girl of the CenturyJoan Jennings Scalfani

Getting ready to reprise her role as a “Century Girl” for the 20th Century Limited express passenger train brought back these memories and more for Joan Jennings Scalfani.

“It was a fabulous job because I love to talk and I love to listen,” said Scalfani, 80, recalling her days in the early 1960s as a hostess aboard the historic line. “Those were happy days.”

One Century Girl was assigned to each trip.

See a YouTube presentation featuring Joan Jennings Scalfani in Grand Central Terminal

“The train was beautiful,” she said. “In the center lounge car there were love seats. … It was a very classy-looking interior. It wasn’t trainlike; it was like a living room,” Scalfani said.

It was the sort of car where Harry and Bess Truman might have stayed when she asked them during their breakfast whether they had rested well.

“The president said, ‘Won’t you join us?’ And I certainly couldn’t say no,” she said. “They were very pleasant and very down-to-earth.”

A Few Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Richest Dude In The Car Business (TSLA)

Elon Musk is now the 39th wealthiest person in the world with a total net worth of $21.2 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index.

Although his annual salary is currently less than $46K a year, Musk was one of the top 5 highest paid executives in 2016.

What’s most fascinating about the guy who runs both Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and SpaceX is that he is a Thrillionaire! If your are wondering about the term’s meaning-this is how The New York Times has dubbed the new breed of high-tech entrepreneurs who are investing their new-found riches to help turn once considered futuristic impossibilities into reality.

And there’s absolutely no question that Musk belongs to this category.

He has already achieved so much with Tesla, which, with its EV disruptiveness has greatly influenced the automotive industry. The company has in fact been referred to as the Apple of the automotive world. Tesla’s new solar roof tiles and Powerwall storage systems are also a big deal as they encourage mass adoption of new and sustainable energies which could help save our planet and improve the quality of our lives.

His other company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), based in Hawthorne, California has been making history as well. Just this March, SpaceX was the first company to ever prove the feasibility of a rapid and complete rocket usability through a first reflight of an orbital class rocket.

Musk even has his eyes set on Mars, with a plan to construct a rocket that’s the size of a 40-storey building. He talked about this dream on TED explaining that the “thrust level for this configuration is about four times the thrust of a Saturn V moon rocket, the biggest rocket humanity has ever created. The rocket is so massive that it could take a fully-loaded 747 as cargo.”

Musk is also involved with his Hyperloop project, which is now handled by his other company called The Boring Company. The plan is to build a low-pressure tube above-ground where passengers can travel on pods at speeds of up to 700 mph. The futuristic transport system would run on solar power, although construction cost could still reach as high as $7.5 billion.

Currently, Musk’s Boring Company is digging tunnels for an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. In addition to this, he is considering digging tunnels underneath Los Angeles’ Interstate 105 which could transport cars on electric skates or as a support for a high-speed rail. Musk may also opt to use the tunnel for a high-speed rail connection between Chicago and O’Hare International Airport, a matter under discussion with Chicago authorities.

As you can see, this thrillionaire is definitely not running out of ideas for building a better and more exciting future for the mankind.

Where do these ideas and extraordinary passion come from?

Musk has admitted that he had experienced bullying during his South African childhood days.

He found comfort and great inspiration from books.

“The heroes of the books I read, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and the ‘Foundation’ series, always felt a duty to save the world,” Musk told Tad Friend in an interview for The New Yorker.

He also said that he has been deeply influenced by Benjamin Franklin’s: An American Life” and Einstein‘s : His Life and Universe.

Musk is even proud to say that Franklin is one of his heroes. “I would say, certainly, he’s one of the people I most admire,” he told Kevin Rose of Foundation in an interview. “Franklin was pretty awesome.”

There are other books obviously which have empowered Musk with knowledge and faith in realizing his dreams, even if at first these were only science-fiction fantasies. After all, their realization is actually for the betterment of humanity. He’s not attempting to be “anyone’s savior,” as he puts it, but he just wants a brighter, happier future for humanity.

Among the best lessons Musk has learned in life is the value of seizing the moment or opportunity.

Wall Street Pit

Florida Keys have history of destructive, deadly hurricanes. Irma could rival them.

The Florida Keys are no stranger to hurricanes, or to the death and destruction that have followed their worst storms. But Hurricane Irma, set to surge through the island chain overnight — potentially as a fierce Category 4 or 5 storm — may rival them yet.

Irma, which saw its sustained winds weaken to 125 mph winds after skirting Cuba on Saturday, was expected to restrengthen and lash the Keys early Sunday morning. It easily shapes up to be the most damaging hurricane to hit the Keys since Georges in 1998. And if it comes in at a projected 140 mph somewhere near Key West, it could prove much worse — driving the Atlantic Ocean across sections of the island chain.

It was storm surge that was the big killer in the Keys’ worst catastrophe more than 80 years ago. The most intense hurricane to strike the United States, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, tore first through Craig Key with estimated winds that exceeded 200 miles an hour. One estimate put the toll at 485 dead, including about 250 veterans who were caught in work camps building new highway bridges when the storm struck.

That storm was also the death knell for the Keys extension of the Florida East Coast Railway, which had been battered by hurricanes since it began operating in 1912. The railroad, which was then the only line of ground transportation to Key West, had weathered the 1926 Great Miami hurricane that killed 200 on the mainland as well as the storm in 1919 named for the Florida Keys that sank ships off the coast and killed more than 800. But the 1935 hurricane, with a surge that tore up tracks and overturned a train filled with evacuees, doomed the project financially.

A monument in Islamorada memorializes the victims of that hurricane. And author Les Standiford, director of the creative writing program at Florida International University, wrote a history of the tragedy in the 2003 book, “Last Train to Paradise.”

Hurricane-force winds have battered the islands nearly every decade since. A 1945 hurricane made landfall on Key Largo, damaged hundreds of homes and killed four people across the state. Hurricanes Easy in 1950 — the first year hurricanes started to be named — passed west of the Dry Tortugas in the Lower Keys before making landfall farther north with winds at 105 miles per hour.

Hurricane Donna in 1960, however, tore through the Keys with a distinctive fury, carving out a wide path of flooding and destruction, including several subdivisions in Marathon slammed near the eye’s path. Hurricane Betsy just five years later caused massive flooding throughout the Keys and left a jungle of debris that choked off the U.S. 1 route back to the mainland. Some areas were drowned in several feet of water, and five died across the state.

A handful of hurricanes swept past the Keys in the 1970s and 1980s, and Hurricane Andrew in 1992 also did some damage, hammering North Key Largo and knocking out power lines to the islands.

Hurricane Georges in 1998 tore through Cudjoe Key with a 10- to 12-foot storm surge that cut off water and electricity to the islands again, in some places for weeks, and flooded several hundred homes. During the unprecedented 2005 hurricane season, Hurricane Wilma prompted the most recent mandatory evacuation of the Keys before the storm swamped homes and businesses along the island chain.

But since Andrew, the Keys have not seen a storm with the kind of strength that Irma could unleash on the low-lying islands. The National Weather Service’s Key West station minced no words in one of its final warnings to get out: “Nowhere in the Florida Keys will be safe.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weather/hurricane/article172270047.html#storylink=cpy