Monday, September 22, 2008

Let it rest

Clearly it's been a while since I've posted. I'm going to let this blog rest for a while. Life is being lived and not making much time to jot and post. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Think outside the car

In typical Amtrak style, I’m writing this while aboard a train running late. Two hours and thirty minutes late—to be exact (correction: now two hours and forty five minutes late). If I expected them to be on time I’d be frustrated and would likely swear this to be my last time aboard an Amtrak train. But that’s not the case. I understand up front that Amtrak will almost absolutely be late. It comes with the territory and is the product of a flawed system. More on that later.

Why ride the train? Well, my place of employment is two hours (by car) from my place of residence. I could sit behind the wheel four hours weekly if I wanted to avoid the shortcomings of the train. Most people, actually, would prefer to strapping in behind the wheel and giving it a go on the highways. I prefer to use the time for myself and not spend the commute time stuck in a car. I can instead spend the (quoted) three hours on the train working, reading, sleeping, or any other such chore. It’s my time. I’ve taken it back and made it my own.

I’ve especially utilized Amtrak’s services now in the winter months. I’d prefer not to contend with the cold commute that is often slowed and hindered by Michigan’s winter snow and ice.

Many ask how much it costs for a roundtrip ticket. Almost as much of a tank of gas (and I suspect it will soon be cheaper considering the upward gas prices). Not bad at all! My gas consumption as a driver has dropped dramatically now that I’ve switched to regular train travel. My environmental footprint is being reduced each time I decide to purchase a ticket and board a vessel that’s already traveling my way. My train ticket represents one less car on the road.

Patronage of Amtrak also supports a service that (for some) is essential. Not everyone owns a vehicle or has access to one. Some people depend on this service to get home for the holidays, make a visit from school, or see family on the other side of the state.

Some may think train travel is a dying method, but that is not the case. On a recent Monday morning, 60 people boarded at one stop! On many occasions most seats are occupied.

I suspect that Amtrak isn’t bringing in loads of cash. The money brought in from fares likely doesn’t offset the costs associated with its operation and upkeep. It’s probably like other forms of local public transportation. Not a money maker but certainly necessary to its clientele.

Why is Amtrak almost always delayed? From what I gather, two major reasons are at play. First, some of the route is single track territory. That means that only one train (either freight or passenger) can pass at a time. On many a trip does the passenger train pull off in a holding area to let another train in the opposite direction pass. It’s a time consuming process. Second, much of the route is shared with freight traffic. It seems that freight traffic trumps passenger traffic. Amtrak seems to have little push in the fight with freight. Oh, and derailments occur occasionally. Be it a passenger or freight derailment, it really slows things up.

What does the future hold for Amtrak and passenger train travel in Michigan?

Positive scenarios for the future:
- What would happen if Michigan residents made rail travel a priority?
- What if there was a designated express rail for commuter traffic?
- What if you could travel from Detroit to Chicago in two hours time via rail?

Negative scenarios for the future:
- What if existing Amtrak service disappeared in Michigan?
- How would a loss or reduction of Amtrak services impact Michigan families already struggling?
- Could bus service handle the new demand from a loss of rail service? Wouldn’t the bus system collapse over the cost of fuel and the influx of new clients?

You’re right; Amtrak isn’t especially reliable because it’s always late. Know this up front and plan accordingly. Rail travel won’t be the best option for every need, but at least explore this option next time you’re planning a trip. Examine the potential benefits and weigh them against the expected costs. You might be surprised.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

An entirely new experience: Detroit’s Institute of Arts

Have you been to the new Detroit Institute of Arts? If you live in the Detroit area, you must have at least seen the catchy blue ads found along the highway, on your television, or online. “Let yourself go” is the slogan. The DIA went into hiding for a while, but it’s back in incredible new glory. Existing places have been reinvented and entirely new wings have been created. When we first stepped into this place and started wandering around, we felt as if we were in the middle of Boston’s Museum of Fine Art or Chicago’s Institute of Art. The DIA redefines the cultural landscape of Detroit.

The galleries are deliberately created to educate and welcome those without formal training in art. I certainly don’t hold an art degree so I appreciated having the art brought to a digestible level. What I would have once glanced at while walking past, I can now evaluate and interpret through the assistance of the resources provided. A massive framed piece was dissected by individual appearing in the painting. The story of the picture was taught to me. I now knew what the painter wanted to achieve and what he wanted me to see. This art now becomes life.

The DIA’s going to need your support. Lots of money put it back on the map, but you’re going to need to do your part to keep it alive. How?

If you live in Detroit…support this place by visiting. Visit often. If you can afford it, become a member. The benefits make it worthwhile for anyone who appreciates the arts and culture. If you have friends coming for a visit, put the DIA on your schedule for a visit.

If you’re coming to Detroit or anywhere close…visit this place. It’s a must. And then tell your friends.

If you’re never been to Detroit…plan a visit to the city so you can see this place. While you’re here there are lots of other gems that are worth your time.

Detroit’s recreating itself and coming back to life. Woodward now shines brighter with the DIA’s marble additions embracing those who approach. Let yourself go. Slip into the building that houses the art of the world. Expand your mind and take it all in.

Monday, December 31, 2007

GOOG 411 it!

You don't need a Gmail account or access to a computer to put Google's latest offering to use. It's GOOG 411, folks, and it's here to help. See the video below to learn more.

Kristin and I have used this service on several occasions. It's been accurate for the most part and is super easy to use. Interesting to see Google coming into a service realm where one doesn't need to be a computer user to benefit. Give it a try! Keep it in mind when you're on the go and need a number! See GOOGLE 411's site for full details.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Your pass for adventure

You go to Macy’s, right? Look at things, maybe spend some money. Would you like it if Macy’s spent money on you? Sounds good, huh? Well read on!

If you live in Southeast Michigan, Macy’s is giving your money back to you! If you don’t know it, you need to tune in and keep an eye out for the Museum Adventure Pass program. It’s a partnership program between Macy’s and libraries in Southeast Michigan. You may have seen it if you’ve visited a public library lately. How does it work? What’s in it for you?

In short, Macy’s is connecting you with many of the premium institutions of history and learning in the area. It works like this, you walk into your public library, look at the museum passes available, grab one that interests you, take it to the desk, and then you get a pass for 2 or 4 to visit. Simple like that!

I won’t list off all of the participating organizations but do check the site for a full listing.

This program is amazing because it’s getting people into high quality places that will expand their experiences. Not everyone can afford the admission price to the Motown Museum or the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. This program opens up access and brings down the barriers for admission that have typically existed. It’s applied the library mentality of access and information to all to a sector typically experienced with a cost for admission. This is just another case of libraries connecting one to resources that will further one’s knowledge.

Take advantage of this program if you want to save some cash or if you want to check out some place that has been out of your price range in the past. Take this opportunity to support and discover new places. You may find a new favorite in the area. It also works well to plan visits for folks out of town or friends in the area.

And I must say, it’s changed my outlook of Macy’s. I certainly didn’t consider them anything like the evil corporate empire (read: WalMart) but I didn’t go out of my way to shop there. Now I at least consider shopping there sort of as a way of saying thanks for their efforts. The program is set to expire in fall 2008. Hopefully this’ll just be the first year and it’ll be available for years to come.

Help make this program a success. Visit a library near you (click here for a list of participating libraries). Clear some time on your calendar and schedule a visit to one of the many sites available through the program. Experience Southeast Michigan’s finest!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Stay tuned

The holidays are approaching. Perhaps time will present itself to pull a post or two together. Until then, watch this video.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Contemplating "Cult of the Amateur"

Yikes, it's been about three weeks since I've posted any words to this here blog. Vacation. Work. Life. I've been reading The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture. It really has me thinking about a number of things. Ever declining readership for printed newspapers. The demise of Tower Records. The voice of authority in regard to information. The danger of amateur collaboration to create "information". An example in the book states if everyone agrees (or rather, no one disagrees) that 2 + 2 = 5, well that might start to sound like the truth. Excellent things to ponder. I'd recommend it for tech folks, information junkies, librarians, curious people, readers, and so on.

So I've been pondering how I'd like to put this piece of online real estate to use. Stay tuned.