Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reestablishing Communications

It's common wisdom in the radio industry that the absolute worst thing is dead air...that silence that leave listeners wondering if your radio station is actually still broadcasting or if a giant monkey climbed up and pulled down your broadcast antennas. The same applies in a fashion to blogs. I just finished reading an excellent set of tips on how to be a better blog written by Farhad Manjoo and published on and the very first tip was to set a schedule and blog often. Ooops...I fell down on that one this week as I was swamped at work to start the week and then attended a 3-day seminar in Manhattan for the latter portion of the week. Now however, I'm home and figure I'll rattle off some quick thoughts to get back on track.

On television, the Christmas tree and skating rink in Rockefeller Center always look larger than they seem in real life. Or maybe they really are very big but there are so many people there in the evenings looking at the decorations that it feels very cramped.

In either case, the tree and the skating rink really are fun to see during the Christmas season.

In fact, the city itself just seems even more fun to visit at the holiday season. I was staying on a hotel at the northern end of the Times Square area (W52nd and Broadway) and from my window, I could see down into the heart of Times Square, which seems even more lit up than usual, as well as the vertical lit sign for Radio City Music Hall, not to mention a giant Rockettes Christmas spectacular billboard, all of which added to the festive look of the place.

Walking throughout Times Square, over to Radio City (and the cattle pens of people waiting to get into see one of the aforementioned showings of Rockettes dressed as toy soldiers), to 30 Rock and back actually made for a pleasant evening. If you're not trying to get anywhere fast or hauling luggage, you have time to people-watch, window shop, and just soak in the atmosphere.

I became a fan of Cosí Deli while in New York. Steered there on the recommendation of the seminar leader, I had two outstanding lunches during my stay. The big benefit? Fresh-baked, really fantastic flatbread. You watch the bakers pulled the flatbread out of the open ovens, slice the hot bread up, hand it off to the folks making the sandwiches, at get your lunch on fresh-baked bread moments later. Personally, I'm a fan of the Chicken MBT (grilled chicken with fresh tomato, basil, and buffalo mozzerella, and house vinagrette). They also had a large salad selection and flatbread pizzas. I'd never heard of this chain before but they're apparently expanding so if you're in the neighborhood of one in the future, I highly recommend it.

I took the Acela to and from Manhattan this week and, given an option, it's my preferred means of getting from Rhode Island to NYC and back. Acela, Amtrak's high-speed rail service offers most things you would hope an airline flight would provide -- comfortable seats, plenty of legroom, quiet, smooth, easy boarding and exiting, electrical outlets so you can plug in a laptop if need be, and the opportunity to avoid the occasionally miserable traffic you encounter along stretches of I-95 from the New York/Connecticut line through New Haven.

Sadly, what the Acela doesn't do is offer a great savings in time. Despite the fact that the Acela is rated to reach speeds of 200+ mph, the trip from Penn Station to Providence is roughly 3 hours on the Acela and 3:45 or so on the regular commuter rail, with much of the difference coming from the frequent stops made by the older trains. Why? Because the Acela is running on the same tracks as those slower commuter train through the heavily congested Northeast Corridor. Coming home this evening took an additional 30 minutes for exactly this reason...we essentially caught up with a local train and got stuck behind it.

What I'd love to see is the equivalent of the Acela from Boston or NYC to Chicago and then to the West Coast. One of my favorite movies is North By Northwest and I was always fascinated by Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint traveling across sections of the country by train. Someday, when money and time are no object, I'd love to do that, seeing the country by train, perhaps east to west across Canada. Sure it would take longer but unlike a jet, you'd actually feel like you've traveled from one place to another. With a jet, you only see "flyover country".

The snow was socked in by the time I returned home tonight. Leaving Manhattan, it was just a heavy blattering rain but by the time we entered Connecticut, there was plenty of snow on the ground resulting in a very long drive home from the train station. However, because the weather might not be good this weekend, it will be the perfect time to catch up on writing our holiday cards and more while the cats do their best to interrupt.'s good to be home.

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