Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hittin' the Rails

When given the choice between planes, trains, and automobiles, I am usually either forced to fly due to time constraints or to drive due to financial limitations. Every once in a while I am in the lucky position to be able to make a journey via train, and I have yet to be disappointed when I do. It takes a few more hours than flying and it costs a bit more than driving, but it is a relaxing and entertaining part of the adventure.

Right now I’m sitting in the “sight seer lounge” (sp?) which is an open car with lots of windows and lots of AC outlets to power my phone, laptop, and ipod, which means I can drink fresh coffee, look out on the Arkansas countryside, listen to my favorite music while I blog about it all. I won’t even give Greyhound (grrrrrr) the compliment of a comparison with Amtrak’s level of service – friendly staff, clean facilities, hot meals, and a relaxing atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, I have a deep and undying love for roadtrips, but when I want a stress-free way to pass through 1000 miles, the train is the only way to go, especially for a short trip because 16 hours of solo driving has a way of draining all mental and physical energy, not to mention the inherent danger involved in cross-country interstate driving.

I’m tempted at this point to begin a diatribe about how the most well developed country in the world has one of the pitiful rail systems in the country and that came to be (we had a widespread rail system that fell into disrepair in favor of the interstate highway system), but I won’t. I’m not going to describe how India and China, two of the poorest countries in the world have a extremely efficient, well-utilized, and compressive train systems. I’m also not going to get started on how the government-owned Amtrak system is forced to pay to use private rail lines that were built with extensive government subsidies. Not only do taxpayers have to pay to use rail lines that were put in place thanks to government assistance, but Amtrak trains are directed as the lowest priority with all private freight trains receiving preference. What does this mean? I am now an hour and a half late because we have been forced three times to stop and let freight trains pass, something that Amtrak has no control over because rail lines are privately owned and controlled. I’m also not going to begin a tirade about how the government acts as a buttress for big business rather than a regulator safeguarding the peoples’ rights from the greed of massive corporate automatons. No really, I don’t have time for that tirade. Well, actually I do have time since I have nine more hours of train left, but I’d rather spend that thinking about my stupid-cute niece and nephew in Missouri rather than the pseudo-fascist state of our nation.

So far my loose and ever-evolving use of this blog has been to describe my experiences in the variety places that I have visited, but as a proud new uncle I can’t help but to post pictures of my little sister’s twin babies, Mason and Madelyn, who happen to be the cutest babies in the world (to me anyway).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Terror by any other name . . .

I thought I would write a quick blog since Austin has been all over the news recently. Unfortunately it wasn't the progressive technology rich aspect of the city that made news, it was the violent extreme right-wing element that caught the nation's attention.

The most interesting aspect of the attack to me was not the rants or motive of the assailant, but the official and public reaction. After the initial panic caused by 9/11 flashbacks, everyone I know was immediately relieved that it was just a rankled anti-tax nut. "Whew, I thought it was a terrorist attack" was a common refrain. What? Isn't this terrorism? A violent act against the state, right? When I questioned people, it became clear that the term terrorism is inextricably linked to Muslim perpetrators in many people's minds. Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of the race or religion of the perpetrators.

Here is an article, I'm sure there are better out there, but this is the best I could find that touches on the inherent racism that the terrorism label has developed.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Writing for Survival

I know, it has been over a month since my last post. Last fall it seemed like such a good idea to re-start this blog so that I could keep polishing my writing skills and share my life with those who are patient enough to read my blog regularly. Now that I have a challenging new job as a Special Education teacher, I find myself writing every day, but not for pleasure, just for survival. I write, on average, about thirty to forty emails a day, not to mention the standardized tests, individual education plans, lesson plans, and professional self-reports that I have to write daily. If you don't know what any of those things are, don't worry, they aren't terribly exciting and you are best left guessing. The point is that at the end of the day I have no energy to sit down and reflect further upon my experiences, it would just be another chore - just more paragraphs to churn out - and I really don't need more chores right now. So I'm probably not going to post for some time.

I feel like this post may be like standing in an empty room and telling everyone to go home - pointless because my sporadic posting has alienated and bored whatever readership I had developed over the past year and a half. I think I'm just going to be on a quasi-hiatus from posting; maybe feeling like no one is expecting me to write will make posting more enjoyable and less like a chore. Who knows. In the meantime, don't hold your breath until my next post.