Archive for October, 2009

Let’s say that you own a little shop that is surrounded by a few homes.  Your shop sells just about everything your neighbors might need.  Your shop also has a few goodies – things that some people really want.  Some folks near your shop might save up for years to buy these goodies and a few have the means to pop in on a regular basis and splurge a little.

Let’s say too, that a few months ago the entire neighborhood decided to pitch in to make sure your little shop had enough money to stay in business.  Enough to fix the leaky roof, tuck point the exterior and pay for the heat and electricity.  Those are some really nice neighbors!

Several months later, one of your neighbors comes in to your shop and asks to buy some soap.   And as the shop keeper, you say, “We don’t have any soap.  I know you chipped in some money so that I could keep my little shop open, but I don’t carry soap any longer.  If you want soap, you should go somewhere else to buy it”.

A few days later, another neighbor comes into your shop and wants to buy a hammer and some nails.  In the past your little shop has always carried these items, but you’ve decided to stop selling them.
“This little shop – to which you’ve offered money so that I can remain in business, no longer sells hammers or nails.  If you’d like these items, you should go to another shop and buy them,” you tell your customer.

Sounds a little bit odd, doesn’t it?  What kind of shop owner would expect to stay in business under these circumstances?  First, the neighbors all chipped in to help out this shop owner, and then the shop owner decides to stop selling the very items that the neighbors need and want.  Worst of all – especially for the financial well being of this little shop, the owner suggests that the customers start buying what they want somewhere else.  It just doesn’t sound like a very solid business model.


Well, it seems that the Columbus police are doing the same thing.  Rather than responding to the needs of their neighbors, the very neighbors that decided to chip in and pay to keep their business up and running, the Columbus police have begun suggesting that their neighbors live somewhere else.  This, according to a recent article in the Columbus Dispatch, is taking place in various Columbus neighborhoods.

These suggestions are not a very wise business model.  After all, if the neighbors take this advice, there will be even less money available for the Columbus police department.

A better business model would be to make the neighborhoods safe and attractive so that other people would be willing to move in and increase the amount of money that the police department could earn through tax generation.

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When it was decided that I needed to get to and from Chicago with short notice and within a very specific time frame, my first thought was Amtrak.  And this is because I know the schedule in and out of Cleveland. Just in case, however, I checked the airlines.

Delta’s last minute prices were $606 round trip.  Had I gone with a less than ideal airline schedule I could have found something in the $300 range.  I determined that the $359 round-trip on Amtrak suited my needs perfectly.

Had I purchased a coach seat alone it would have cost $98 round trip, but I’ve always wanted a room on a train.  And with a meeting to attend at 07:30 Wednesday morning, I’d prefer to arrive feeling fresh and rested, so….why not get a room and rest properly.

As I boarded the train in Cleveland Sunday night I was greeted at the track and introduced to my steward.  “Ben will be taking care of you this evening”.  Ben welcomed me on board, escorted me upstairs and showed me to my room.
“Would you like your bed made up this evening sir?”  I told him that I’d hoped to sleep most of the way.  Within minutes things were ready.
“Shall I wake you for breakfast?”.  I thought an 07:45 breakfast seating would be in order.  Ben said he’d wake me at 07:30.

I slept through until the train stopped in Toledo.  The sharp curve of the tracks as they arc into the station have awakened me in the past, as they did early Monday morning.  Ben slipped the newspaper under my door while we were there.  I fell back to sleep for another hour once we left Toledo.

At 07:00 I decided to get dressed and I asked Ben if he could show me how to convert my room back into seats.  “I’ll take care of that for you sir.”  While he made up my room I poured a cup of coffee – a fresh pot had just been made and sat on a small credenza adjacent to the stairs.

I made my way to the dining car a bit before 07:30 and was sat with a couple from London – they were here traveling across the country over a span of  twenty-two days.  We exchanged travel stories and enjoyed breakfast together – I had french toast with bacon.  They had oatmeal and fresh grapefruit.  Fresh coffee and juice.

By 08:00 (07:00 central) the sky was brightening and the Indiana country side was illuminated with the autumn colors.   Here’s a video I took from the window somewhere between South Bend and Gary. (It’s nothing spectacular to watch, but I will say that I was intrigued with the number of nice houses we passed).

We arrived at Union Station twenty-minutes ahead of schedule.  Chicago’s a.m. rush hour was in full swing.
Check back later this week for a review of my ride back to Cleveland.  I’ve been made aware of something rather unique happening at Union Station on Tuesday night – so I’ll check it out and report back.  Stay tuned!

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Last year I took my first Amtrak trip.  A year later, I’m embarking upon my third.  Essentially it was curiosity that took me for my first trip.  Having used Germany’s ICE trains from Frankfurt to Berlin, Finland’s Bendalino and England’s commuter trains to and from Brighton, I wanted to see how Amtrak compared.

Despite the slower speed, 80 mph versus 155 mph of the ICE trains, the creature comforts are equal to if not nicer than the European counterparts.  The seating is spacious and the Amtrak staff far more pleasant than that of their European colleagues.  In fact, I’d have to say that a coach-class seat on Amtrak is a nice as Delta Air Lines Business Class to Europe!

Following my first Amtrak trip I decided to join the Amtrak Guest Rewards program which allows me to earn points towards future travel.  I tend to be very attuned to these types of programs – my past two trips to Europe were accomplished using points from my Sky Miles account.  I don’t necessarily go out of my way to earn points, but I’ve learned how to leverage my existing habits in order to do so.

One of the reasons I initially joined even though I hadn’t expected to be a regular Amtrak passenger, was to send a message to Amtrak that someone [else?] in Columbus is ready to embark upon enjoying reliable rail service – even if it means having to catch a train in Cincinnati or Cleveland.

There is a high probability that Amtrak will be serving Columbus very soon.  ODOT and Amtrak studies demonstrate the the 3C corridor will serve hundreds of thousands of passengers annually, most of whom will be Ohioans.   In preparation for the return of Amtrak service to Columbus why not sign up now and begin earning points towards your future travel.   By doing so, you too can send a message to Amtrak that more and more people in Columbus are ready to travel by train.

There are numerous ways to earn points prior to stepping foot onto a train.  Via the Amtrak Guest Rewards site, one can earn points by simply shopping for the things that one normally uses – a click-through service from the AGR site takes one to the merchants’ sites and there are over 150 every-day merchants to choose from.

Acela passengers (on North-East routes) receive extra points.  I’m also pleased to know that passengers flying on Continental can earn Amtrak points and with Cleveland as a Continental hub, this will be yet another attractive tie-in for Columbus residents.  I have to wonder why airlines in the North-East are still trying to compete with rail, when they could partner with Amtrak instead.

This coming weekend I return to Amtrak and this time I’ve booked accommodations to and from Chicago.  It was considerably more expensive than simply booking a coach seat though cheaper than flying at such late notice. I’ll admit though, that I’m looking forward to being fully horizontal during my night rides – as well as being able to arrive back in Cleveland fully rested so as to drive into work following my arrival.  I’ll be earning double points while I sleep!

I’ll rejoin you with an update following this trip and tell you more about the accommodations aboard Amtrak. In the mean time, have a look at Amtrak’s Capitol Limited photo pool on Flickr.

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Not What I (W)expected

It was only a matter of time until I viewed the Luc Tuymans exhibit at the Wexner, though I didn’t expect it to be today.

Thanks to Twitter (@wexarts) I caught a tweet this morning about a short film showing at The Box entitled Killed.  Having never heard about the Farm Security Administration, I did some reading and thought I’d venture up to the Wexner to have a look.

I didn’t realize that the film was only a two-minute loop so I stayed and watched it over and over.  Perhaps the most interesting facet of the film was the placement of the punched hole in the now developed photographs.  The absence of an image became the focal point.  Might it be an editorial about editing?

Because I was already there I entered the Luc Tuymans exhibit.  I’d not heard of Tuymans but according to the review on the Wexner Center’s site, he is considered one of the most significant painters of his generation.  Having read that I determined that this is an exhibit I should see.

Prior to entering a space that contained the next portion of the exhibit, I expected to have a wide variety of images to ponder.  Frankly I expected more.  It was as if each gallery was an appetizer but I was never treated to the rest of the meal.

I recognized the northern European style in some of his works and I found his use of color and composition reasonable as well as pleasing.  However, I felt that there wasn’t enough work on display to capture my attention.

After having been described as a ‘rock star’ of an artist in Europe, I simply expected more.

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