Saturday, October 21, 2006

C'mon, ride the train

This weekend, I rode the Amtrak to Charlotte. Loved it! Why don't people take the train more often? Okay, it does take longer than flying if you're travelling long distances, but here's why the train rocks if you have the time to take it:
1. WAY cheaper than flying or renting a car. I paid $60 for a round-trip ticket, and it would have cost more than that just to rent a car, plus gas is expensive.
2. You get to see the scenery as a passive observer. North Carolina is gorgeous, and the trees are just starting to change. Today I saw a goat hanging out on someone's lawn (it was a farm, to be fair). Until now, I don't think I've ever seen a goat anywhere besides the zoo. I also saw cotton growing in a field. That was a first, as well.
3. Train seats are much more comfortable than plane seats, the gentle rumble and rock of the train is soothing, and you don't get that weird "I'm suspended in an air-tight vehicle coasting 30,000 feet in the air and defying the laws of gravity, and yet I can't tell I'm moving" feeling. It also feels much safer when there's no laminated card in the seat pocket telling you how to use your seat bottom as a floatation device.
4. Trains are just cool. They remind you of how quickly (and how slowly) the world is moving around you. Taking the El in Chicago always makes me tingle. The excitement of people coming and going, the rumble of the clacking trains on the tracks, the whoosh of the train passing you by. It's like the videos of city life happening in double-time.
5. Trains are more environmentally conscious than driving or flying. Yes, there is still the issue of the impact the train has on the surrounding rail corridor, not to mention that they use a huge amount of electricity (hmmm...masters project topic floating in my head...) Actually, I'm going to do some research on this, and I'll get back to you...

My SLC friend doesn't know it yet, but I'm now contemplating a cross-country train ride to visit him over spring break. The American West by train. Awesome. In the meantime, I'm going to continue advocating rail travel. Maybe it'll make a comeback.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Girl Power!

Yet another reason I love Joel Achenbach: his latest Washington Post blog post is about Arianna Huffington's latest book, On Becoming Fearless.

I read this post after reading a friend's blog post about his latest ego stroke from a new female friend. And now, all I can think about is the song Female of the Species by Space. But really, I think the key to being a truly powerful woman is to know how to get what you want without being intimidating or sickeningly sweet. Guys don't want to date a bitch, and they don't respect a sap. And it's no fun sitting at the top of the heap, looking at what you stepped on to get there. Even powerful women want to have friends.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Community-owned sports

Maybe I'm the last to know this, but hey, I don't keep up with sports that much. Anyway, I just learned last week that the Green Bay Packers are the only team in the NFL that is owned not by some guy with a big bank account but by community stockholders. The team was incorporated in 1923 as a private, non-profit, tax-exempt organization. According to the New Rules Project, "Article I of their bylaws states, "this association shall be a community project, intended to promote community welfare...its purposes shall be exclusively charitable." The team can move only through dissolution, in which case the shareholders get only the $25 a share they put in. A board of directors, elected by the stockholders, manages the team." No wonder cheeseheads are such crazy fans. What a cool idea. That's the way sports should be, really.

The Bears will still kick some Packer tail. I'm just sayin'...

By the way, I just came across the New Rules Project ("Designing rules as if community mattered") when I googled for information about the Packers. Encouraging community support is kind of a resurging movement, as outlined in a presentation by Michael Shuman at the Nasher Museum here in Durham last week. His latest book is The Small-Mart Revolution. (I know, the link is to, but only because they have the best synopsis, reader reviews, and links to other similar books. Please buy the book from your local bookstore). He mentioned the tidbit about the Packers, as well as a ton of other reasons why we should support our locally owned businesses and community groups when possible. Shopping at locally owned businesses saves money and energy on transportation and manufacturing costs, puts a higher percentage of money spent back into the local economy, and prevents big companies from pulling out and cutting jobs. There are myriad other reasons. Just read Shuman's book or check out more information online. People complain about rising energy costs, but it means that we'll all start to do more of our business closer to home, and that translates into a healthier and happier community.