Passenger rail in the Northeast Corridor

Here’s something for all you train junkies to ponder over for a few hours: A map of all the available commuter rail service from Boston to Washington, D.C., and not just Amtrak. (Click to enlarge, because this is one huge poster)

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People use the rails far less in the U.S. than Europe, which is too bad, because when you factor in all the time it takes you to get from, let’s say, Midtown Manhattan to downtown D.C., a train will more often get you there faster than a plane will, because you have to add extra hours getting to and from airports.

But even with that, trains in Europe are faster.

Compare two cities: Brussels to Paris and New York to Baltimore. Both roughly the same distance from each other, about 185 miles.

It takes the Thalys in Europe an hour and 20 minute to get from one gare (station) to the other. But on Amtrak, it takes 2 hours and 20 minutes to cover a similar distance. I think we should do better.

Return to D.C.

Travel from New York to Washington D.C. is a pain to figure out. Flying is too expensive and not very efficient because it puts you miles away from Midtown. The bus is cheap, and plants you in Midtown, but it offers cramped seats and the constant possibility that you’re trapped for hours in gridlock on the New Jersey Turnpike.

That leaves the train, which is like paying to fly, but the accumulated time it takes to get from the middle of D.C. to Midtown Manhattan is slightly less.

So I’m blogging from the train. On the Acela Express, which is faster than the regular train, but still takes 2.5 hours.

I kill time by turning on my mobile device, opening Google Maps in a satellite view or Google Earth and watching a representation of myself flying overhead along the tracks looking down.

This Acela Express, by the way is really flying. But I also like hovering over the train station when we stop to pickup and let off passengers. A virtual representation of being Superman.

(But my X-ray vision doesn’t work when we go underground in New York, Philadelphia or Baltimore. Gotta work on that.)

Time Machine: The Wright brothers (1908)

Looking back in time, I’m just astounded how fast we got from this:

To this:

Really, this is just 106 years. I think I’m more confounded by the fact that we didn’t have flying machines a hundred years earlier.

By the way, the Wright brothers footage says 1903 on the frame, but it’s from 1908. If you paid attention in history class, you know the first flight was solo and went about the length of a football field. This is a two-man flight and it traveled a great deal farther.

Welcome To Doha Timelapse

It’s best to view this fill screen. (From Vimeo):

“Welcome To Doha,” takes us on a spectacular journey through the remarkable city of Doha, Qatar. Located on the coast of the Arabian Gulf, Doha entices our curiosity and excites the imagination. We behold some of the most magnificent architectonics in the world, while by contrast peer into an infinite desert terrain and a thriving Middle Eastern nation.
With the ever-growing cityscape, Doha continues to be one of the most unique settings to experience. “Welcome To Doha,” illustrates the persistent blooming of this marvelous metropolis, the evolution of it’s history from the old and new world, and the quintessence of the countries culture; all of this captured through the art form of Timelapse photography.

This is why we go through airport security

From the government TSA blog’s week in review:

Concealed Firearms– Normally when our officers discover firearms, they’re inside carry-on bags. This week, three loaded firearms were discovered on the passenger.

  • A 380. caliber firearm loaded with five rounds and one chambered was discovered strapped to a passenger’s ankle after walking through a metal detector at Cincinnati (CVG).
  • A loaded 380. caliber firearm with a round chambered was discovered in the rear pocket of a San Antonio (SAT) passenger during Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) screening.
  • A 380. caliber firearm loaded with five rounds was discovered after a passenger walked through a metal detector at Dallas – Ft. Worth (DFW).

 

51 Firearms Discovered This Week – Of the 51 firearms, 45 were loaded and 20 had rounds chambered.

“This week” was last week. People know when they go to catch a flight that they’re going to be scanned and their bags are going to be scanned. But we have in one week a bunch of idiots trying to carry 51 guns on planes. And a hell of a lot of them were loaded (the guns, not the idiots).

Here are just a few:

Guns+1Here’s a full list of the types of guns found as people were checking in for their flights:

Guns

Want to know what else miscreants tried to carry on planes last week?

•Two inert artillery shells were discovered in a checked bag at Chicago O’Hare (ORD). Two minors were returning from Europe and had found the shells at a French WWI era artillery range.
•Four inert/replica/novelty grenades were discovered in carry-on bags this week. Two were discovered in Atlanta (ATL), and the others were found at Baltimore (BWI), and Oklahoma City (OKC).
•Two razor blades were detected inside the shoe and wallet of a Cincinnati (CVG) passenger.
•A 6-inch saw blade was detected, concealed inside a bible at Orlando (MCO).
•Three box cutter blades were detected concealed in a shoe inside the carry-on bag of a Baton Rouge passenger.
•A cell phone stun gun was discovered at Omaha (OMA).
•A comb knife was discovered at John Wayne (SNA).
•A lipstick stun gun was discovered at Detroit (DTW).
•A shocking device was detected inside a cane at Billings (BIL).

I could almost understand the razor blades. Until I saw they were hidden in shoes. You know, you might have a razor blade in your carry on because you packed your razor there by mistake. Putting a razor blade in a shoe isn’t a mistake. And what’s with the saw in the Bible? Someone going to visit a friend in prison and planned to “spread the word” for an early release?

And fake grenades? What bothers me here is I often fly through BWI.

I do get annoyed with the check in process, mainly because I’m always behind people who apparently have never been on a plane before and have no concept of keeping the line moving. Last time I flew, I ended up behind a woman who kept going to the scanner and who kept being told … you have to take your coat off … you have to take your shoes off … you have to take the change out of your pocket … you have to remove your jewelry …

And then it turned out her boarding pass said “TSA Pre,” which means she had been already approved to go to the pre-check line, where she just could have walked through. But instead she got in the line with the rest of us and delayed the process.

But again, after seeing what people were trying to carry on planes last week, I’ll put up with the hassle and just get to the airport an hour earlier.

Watching planes land from outer space

I guess this video (which won’t embed, so click here) is kind of cool, but I’ve been on enough flights to know it’s not much different than watching planes land from a plane flying overhead. You see this all the time on those clear days when you’re at a window seat only halfway through your trip and flying over any major airport.

What is cool, by the way, is riding on a train and setting your Google map app on hybrid then hitting your location button. It’s like you’re flying overhead and watching your dot move across country. Zoom in and you feel like you’re moving faster than you actually are. And as you look at the map, you see what the buildings you’re going by look like from the skies. Give it a try sometime when you’re riding Amtrak.

A reunion in more ways than one

I was over at BlacktopXchange, the sports blog, and saw this video:

Very touching. There are lots of YouTube postings of soldiers making surprise returns home. But this had deeper meaning for me.

I’m now spending my time between Washington and Louisville. But see the football field in International School of Brussels this video: Our house was less than 1,000 yards from it when we lived in Belgium. That’s on the campus of the International School of Brussels in the Watermael-Boitsfort commune. We literally lived right next door to the campus for six years. And I mean literally in the literal sense.
See that guy on the left in the black outfit at the 1:10 mark? That’s the ISB athletic director Jason Baseden. That building behind him? That’s where our son went to middle school and high school.

Our son didn’t play football at the school, much to the disappointment of parents on the football team. (He was big enough to play tight end.) His sports were cross country, volleyball, basketball and track. He played baseball with the kids in the local league, not with the school. His heart was in basketball, and we told him the downside of playing football was if he got hurt, he wouldn’t recover in time for hoops season.

And he had a rewarding high school sports career. He played basketball through middle school and high school. His under-14 middle-school team came in second place in the European championship in Frankfurt. His high-school basketball team won the European championship for his division in his senior year at the Hague. His volleyball team placed third in the European championships in his junior year in Brussels, and then went to the Hague the following year and came in second, where he got an honorable mention for the all-star team.

ISB had an extensive sports program. Practically everything your kid would want to play. And the kids who participated in sports, boys and girls, traveled all through Europe. As parents, we got to see high school gyms in Germany, England, the Netherlands, France, Austria and Greece. And our son got to countries were weren’t able to get to because I had to work.

Just so you know, ISB is hosting Bitburg, high school at the military base in Germany, in this video. The only time I’d hear of Bitburg before we went to Europe was when Ronald Reagan went to the Nazi military cemetery and when the Ramones released the album “Bonzo goes to Bitburg.”

ISB football and basketball regularly competed against the high schools at the military bases. We held our own pretty well, all things considered, given that the military kids considered our athletes as the rich diplomats’ kids.

So seeing this video is a reunion for me as well. Of all the places I’ve lived, Brussels was my favorite. I flashed back on obsessing over high school sports, going to the football games on this field.

Anyway, I saw the video, and now I’m homesick.