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Month June 2009

US vs. Japan: Residential Internet Service Pricing

Chiehyu Li:

The following chart lists the price, download and upload speeds of residential Internet services in the U.S. and Japan.
NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone) is the major incumbent telephone operator in Japan. NTT has focused on fiber-optic business while Yahoo! BB (a subsidiary of SoftBank Telecom Corp.) has had first-mover advantage for DSL Internet. Due to unbundling requirements, Yahoo! BB and @nifty provide DSL service by renting NTT’s telephone lines at low prices.


Cable/DSL service
In the U.S., the price for cable or DSL (1Mbps-7 Mbps) ranges from roughly $20-45/month. Comcast has higher speed Internet, 15Mbps-50Mbps, and costs $43-$140 per month.
In Japan, the typical Internet speed is higher than the U.S. (8Mbps-50Mbps), and costs $30-60 per month. J:COM, a large cable Internet provider, has cable Internet up to 160Mbps, costs $63 ($0.4 per megabit).

Stunning pictures of the volcano that blew a hole in the sky as astronauts witness eruption from International Space Station



Eddie Wrenn:

Framed by a circle of clouds, this is a stunning illustration of Nature’s powerful force. A plume of smoke, ash and steam soars five miles into the sky from an erupting volcano. The extraordinary image was captured by the crew of the International Space Station 220 miles above a remote Russian island in the North Pacific.

Southwest Airlines Milwaukee Destinations Announced

Great news for Wisconsin flyers:

WN will enter MKE on 10/31/09.

MKE will have nonstop service to:

BWI: 3
MCI: 3
LAS: 2
MCO: 2
PHX: 1
TPA: 1

This will certainly affect the Madison airport’s traffic.

The City of Your Dreams

Tyler Brule:

“Could you live here?” and “would you live here?” are two of the most common questions colleagues ask each other at the end of a business trip. Responses rarely take the form of a shrugged “I don’t know” or a half-hearted “I guess so”. Rather, they typically come in vehement declarations suggesting that considerable thought has gone into the topic already. Here are a few I’ve heard over the years:


On the train to Chicago’s O’Hare: “No way. It’s neither one thing nor the other and just look at this sad excuse of a train to the airport.”



In a cab to Vancouver International Airport: “Definitely not for me – seems a bit sleepy and limp.”



In a big Mercedes en route to Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok: “I could do it for a short stint but it wouldn’t be for the quality of life.”



Hitching a ride with an associate to Geneva’s Cointrin: “If I could get a great flat close to the lake and move my five closest friends, then it would be amazing.”



Being taxied to Fukuoka airport: “If I wanted the best of Japan but also great connections to the rest of Asia then it would be my first choice.”



Assessing quality of life is a difficult business and, as a result, surveys on the subject throw up different results.



The Economist Intelligence Unit’s liveability ranking, released this past Monday, put Vancouver, Canada, in the top spot out of 140 world cities, followed by Vienna.



Canada, Australia and Switzerland dominated the rest of the top 10, with Melbourne in third place, Toronto in fourth, Calgary and Perth tied for fifth/sixth, Geneva in eighth and Zürich and Sydney tied for ninth/10th. Helsinki was seventh, while London was 51st, behind Manchester at 46th. Asia’s best city was Osaka, Japan, at 13th, while the top US spot was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at 29th.



Mercer’s quality of living survey, released in April and covering 215 cities, was led by Vienna, followed by Zürich, Geneva, Vancouver and Auckland. Singapore was the most liveable Asian locale in 26th place, Honolulu was best in the US at 29th and London was the highest UK scorer at 38th.



There are similarities between these lists and Monocle’s and the reason is simple. According to Jon Copestake, editor of the EIU report, cities that score best tend to be mid-sized, in developed countries, offering culture and recreation but without the crime or infrastructure problems seen in places with larger populations.



Most of us tend to play some version of the game every time we travel and, while some quickly conclude they wouldn’t trade their current set-up for anywhere else in the world, I’d argue there are considerably more who are tempted to give up their current address for a place that promises better housing, worklife, transport, schools, restaurants, weather, shopping and weekend pursuits.

The Author as Performer

James Harkin:

Late last year, for one night only, fans of the musical The Lion King were turned away from the Lyceum theatre in London’s West End. If they had been able to peer inside at the stage they would have witnessed not Simba, dancers in multicoloured costumes and “The Circle of Life” but a solitary, slender 45-year-old Canadian with bouffant hair standing behind a lectern. There were no props, apart from the video screen relaying his image around the huge auditorium, but this didn’t bother the youngish crowd who had bought 4,000 tickets at around £20 a piece to listen to one of two consecutive performances.


The speaker was the influential journalist, author and ideas entrepreneur Malcolm Gladwell, in town to promote his latest book, Outliers: The Story of Success. But this wasn’t a book reading or a Q&A session of the kind authors traditionally submit to. Neither was it a slide show, as you might expect to find at a lecture. Instead, the author recounted a single vignette from the book – the tale of why a plane ended up crashing, from the perspective of the pilots and those in the control tower – and burnished it into a narrative with all the chill and pace of a traditional ghost story. Even the lighting was kept deliberately low to create the right atmosphere. The performance lasted precisely an hour and five minutes, and no questions were invited after Gladwell had finished speaking. Rather than a talk about a book, it looked more like a carefully choreographed stage show.

Lunch with the FT: Sir Simon Rattle

Andrew Clark:

attle found the criticism painful. Popping another tomato in his mouth, he lets slip that the reason Lunch with the FT took so long to arrange – more than a year – was that he was stung by what I had written. “That’s why I avoided speaking to you.”


. . .



But last year his Berlin contract was extended to 2018 – an impressive vote of confidence from an orchestra that, unusually, is entirely self-governing while receiving most of its funds from the state. And a visit to the London Proms revealed a man who had matured and mellowed. He had finally begun to learn German. He still struggles to speak it (“anyone less linguistically gifted than me is hard to imagine”, he confesses), but by attempting to do so he had broken an important psychological barrier. His podium gestures were as jubilant as ever, but his Brahms had acquired unmistakable depth.


Sitting across the lunch table, I begin to understand why. Rattle is settling into comfortable middle age. The blue T-shirt may advertise a man still young at heart but the curls are white and thinning. Yesterday’s boy wonder is now older than most of his orchestra. He has begun to slow down, to be slightly less sensitive to criticism.



But there’s another factor at work. Rattle has made his home in Berlin, something not even Herbert von Karajan, his most illustrious predecessor, had done. He lives in one of the city’s leafy quarters and is often seen doing the family shopping in its open-air markets. It’s as if he has gone native. So what has he learned about the Germans?



“People are more subtle and complicated than they are made out to be,” he answers, pouring some of the red wine he has brought outside. Does this mean Germans are not the humourless caricature peddled by England’s tabloid newspapers? Rattle sighs. It wasn’t until his late twenties, he says, after discussing the horrors of the Nazi era with Viennese conductor Rudolf Schwarz, a Belsen survivor who resumed his career in Birmingham after the war, that he became aware of the complexities of national identity.

Who Switched the Playbooks

Jack Perkowski:

When I was starting up in China, many experts cautioned me on what I would encounter. “It’s not a free market and there’s no rule of law, they told me. “The government controls the courts, the companies and the banks. Central planners in Beijing, not the marketplace, decide what goods to produce and which companies should produce them.”

“Decisions are made for political, not economic reasons,” they went on to explain. “The heads of China’s state-owned enterprises serve at the pleasure of the Party, the banks are told what loans to make, and making a profit is secondary to ensuring employment. That’s the reason why China’s banks are a mess and full of non-performing loans.”

Occasionally, I would push back, noting the economic progress that China had made since Deng Xiaoping opened the economy in 1978. “You don’t believe the government’s numbers, do you?” they would ask incredulously. “Everyone knows they’re manufactured to convey whatever message the government wants. And, when it comes to financial statements, forget it. Chinese companies have at least three sets of books, and you can’t believe any of them.”

Peter Bernstein’s Lasting Lessons

Julia Kirby:

The news came to us at HBR just after our newest issue went to the printer; that issue contains, sadly, the last article he wrote for our pages. Because it is the July-August issue, and will arrive on newsstands two weeks hence, it will seem strange to many readers that the byline makes no note of his passing — and worse, that the editor’s letter is mute on the many accomplishments of his rich and long life. Such are the perils of print publishing, and for that we apologize.

But here let it be said that, when work began last January on envisioning the July-August issue — a special, double-sized issue devoted wholly to exploring how the business landscape would be transformed by the financial crisis and recession — Peter Bernstein’s voice was the first we sought to include. He was the master at explaining issues of financial risk, and there has scarcely been a time when the world needed his kind of clear analysis more.

In response to a vaguely worded invitation from us (deliberately so, in the interests of giving Peter full license to address what he felt needed to be addressed), he came back with a tightly crafted essay called “The Moral Hazard Economy.”

Thinking for the Driver: The New Mercedes E250CDI

Dan Neil:

If the car senses erratic steering and rapid corrections, the telltales of fatigue, the Attention Assist will advise you to get some rest as it displays a big coffee cup icon in the instrument panel (this is my favorite ISO 9000 icon, by the way). Attention Assist is just one of a dozen or more marquee safety systems Mercedes has piled onto the E-class for 2010, and it’s clear at the outset that Mercedes is returning to safety as a transcendent brand value after years of marketing itself as the spoils of well-paying bad behavior, the glittery metal floss under Britney Spears’ untrussed derriere.



Suddenly, the E-class is, again, the car for grown-ups.



I won’t parrot the company line about the E-class being the heart and soul of the brand, except that it is. The E-class is a “business saloon,” the standard-issue Mercedes — stout, reliable, comfortable and enduring. This is the stainless-steel Rolex of cars, steadily elegant and appropriate for any occasion, and you have to admire the alacrity with which the E-class can go from being a tan airport taxi drone in Berlin to being a valet-park star in Beverly Hills.



To save you the suspense, I’ll tell you now: The new E-class is a fantastic car but for one huge, agonizing, inexcusable error that baffles me like a Rubik’s Cube the size of the Seagrams Building. More on that in a moment. For now, consider a short list of some of the more fun safety systems available on the E-class as standard or options.