Clever: Murray Grove minister blogging

Funny: after all these years as a Universalist and living in the mid-Atlantic, I’ve never been to Murray Grove, the campground on spot of the New Jersey shore where Universalist pioneer and minister John Murray landed and met the “forerunner” Thomas Potter, thus restoring his faith.

But I would like to go, if only for a little while to walk the grounds and visit Thomas Potter’s grave.  (The little-known and less-occupied Universalist National Cemetery is also there to visit. Not one of the more successful national initiatives.)

And shazam! There’s a blog for it: a good idea for promoting Murray Grove to would-be visitors. A rather targeted, niche blog with only two entries, but the kind of thing that makes me want to go all the more.

Murray Grove for Ministers

Visiting D.C.

The tourists are coming to Washington, D.C., and despite the recession I can imagine numbers will be high. Once you’re here and housed, it is a remarkably cheap place to visit with the leading destinations free to the public.

So I have a request of local residents and recent visitors: what would you recommend to other newcomers? What often-missed site would you commend? What resource?

My contribution:

  • People miss the FDR Memorial — a shame, but it isn’t close to public transit. If you have reluctant walkers, take a cab from Foggy Bottom or Farragut North Metro and use the FDR Memorial as a jumping-off point to visit the Jefferson Memorial or the Lincoln Memorial.
  • The usual tour of the Holocaust Memorial is a long, emotionally-taxing experience, and — I may get some flak here — not for kids. Particularly sensitive souls might consider bypassing the main, time-ticketed exhibit for the children’s exhibit, the remembrance hall and whatever special exhibit there is.
  • The Renwick Gallery — near the White House — is an underrated art museum; is a part of the Smithsonian and is free of charge. Be sure to catch the demonstration de jour in Lafayette Square, adjacent.
  • The National Building Museum is another fun site: right on the Metro Red Line (Judiciary Square) and a short walk from Chinatown, which offers better food options than the Smithsonian museums.
  • When riding Metro, please, please, please stand on the right side of the escalator.

Your ideas?

Making do with Mennonites

I haven’t been blogging since Hubby and I took a vacation this week to Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Ah! the food! Chow-chow, kraut, apple dumplings . . . and more meat than I’ve eaten in the last six months.

But people are drawn there also for watching the plain people — a distasteful act, I think, because it exoticizes and somewhat de-humanizes them — and for the outlet mall shopping — also, distasteful because it feeds consumerism (as opposed to necessary consumption) and depends on the offshore labor of others, who are also somewhat de-humanized and outright forgotten.

Hubby, however, really did need some new clothes and even after shopping needs clothes to get through the winter. I’m so proud of him: he considered the country of origin of what he selected, rejecting some good buys from countries where the human and labor rights and environmental protections are especially poor. He didn’t overshop and he’ll get plenty of wear from what he brought home.

Since my wardrobe is about where I want it, that left me waiting while he combed the racks. Fortunately, we had already visited the Mennonite Information Center, where I picked up Doris Janzen Longacre’s 1980 Living More with Less. (find a copy to borrow; Herald Press, the publisher, has a broken Web site). It was her last book, posthumous really: she died at age 39 of cancer. But her legacy includes this, and her more famous More-with-Less Cookbook, (find a copy to borrow) which revolutionized simple, cost-effective cooking in solidarity with the world’s hungry people.

Living More with Less, despite its age, makes a better case for simple living with better practical suggestions than any other book I’ve seen. For instance, she makes a case of wearing out an inefficient car or appliance because of its embedded energy and environmental cost to scrap; if you want to use less energy, find a way to use it less. (I wouldn’t use ammonia like she does, though.)

Also, she makes her case from a Christian point of view, but without the seminary-ese that often plague such defenses. (I don’t recall seeing the words stewardship or metanoia at all.) True to her Anabaptist roots, she sees in the church fellowship the potential for mutual examination and support for a well-lived, materially leaner life.

In this spirit, once I’ve read and digested the book, and have loaned it locally, I will be happy to lend it to persons within the domestic reach of the United States Postal Service.

Good riddance to HIV travel, immigration ban

The ban on persons with HIV to travel and immigrate to the United States — a legacy of fear and the late Senator Helms’s power — seems to have died. This long-overdue piece of legislation has passed the Senate and now, likely to avoid conference, goes to the President’s desk. A good piece of news before fall into 24/7 presidential coverage.

We can leave the small club of nations — like Sudan and Iran — that think this kind of policy makes sense. I’ll leave the final word with conservative blogger and D.C. resident — who is a British national and HIV-positive — Andrew Sullivan, who obviously has more than a philosophic interest in this development: “The HIV Travel Ban Is Repealed.”

Rail happy!

House Resolution 6003 “To reauthorize Amtrak, and for other purposes” has passed the House. Since the Senate already passed an Amtrak resolution, does this mean it’s bound for conference? I’m too zonked to think straight, but I know I want this to be made law. (The President threatens a veto, but I don’t think he has the votes.)

An amendment would grant $1.5 billion to the cash-strapped Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which has to be good news after three crippling occurrences on the Orange line in two weeks.

While all the nay votes were Republicans, quite a few Republicans did vote for the measure, which is rather encouraging. More when I’ve had some sleep and more news on the subject happens.

General Assembly by rail

I know I don’t need to recap the situation about gasoline or air travel. Just groan among yourselves.

But I did notice that the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly this year and for the next three years are in cities with Amtrak service.

  • 2008 Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • 2009 Salt Lake City, UT
  • 2010 Minneapolis, MN
  • 2011 Charlotte, NC

I’m already thinking of going to GA next year.

Of course, from Washington, D.C., the train to Salt Lake City would take 55 hours each way and with a roomette the trip would be very expensive. But expensive travel is part of our future and delays, too, I suspect.

But putting a better face on it, say, even if a couple hundred GA attendees made the trip — coming from east and west — there would be a noticeable presence on the train and might-could extend the GA experience for the passengers. And it would be a lovely way to make the trip.

Higher oil, fewer flights

Last week, USA Today delivered a colorful map visualization — of course they did — about the changes in domestic air service spurred by the increasing price of oil. Colors points out who are getting flights (New Orleans is a winner; a rebound?) and the larger number of losers. Mouse-over the states to get details on specific airports. Boston, for instance, is losing 4.5% of its seats this October.

  1. This is worth noting when choosing vacation destinations and if you are planning meetings.
  2. It also offers a cautionary tale about waiting too late for getting a flight ticket.
  3. It points out how much more demand there might be for passenger rail, especially for medium-haul trips.

A vision for U.S. passenger rail

With gasoline within sneezing distance of a United States average of $4 a gallon and continuing airline cutbacks and failures, let me return to domestic passenger rail.

I was looking at a list of Metropolitan Statistical Areas — this is what led me to the Micropolitan areas I mentioned last week — because the National Association of Railroad Passengers has a vision plan to bring passenger rail to many, many more Metropolitan Statistical Areas and Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical areas (and state capitols that don’t fit that category) than Amtrak currently serves. (The rest are reasonably close to lines to allow for bus connections.)

A lasting solution means, of course, more than adding new cars or even new lines. The national rail infrastructure has been undersupported for years and freight pressures on the current rail system are likely to be more pressing than the wildest possible increases in passenger service. And there’s no reason one should lose to the other.

Even though I’m a confirmed Eastern Time Zoner, I’ve added Midwest High Speed Rail, Improving Amtrak Incrementally to my Google Reader news feed list. (Some of the most interesting movements in passenger rail are found in the Midwestern states.)

Dan Johnson-Weinberger, its author, advocates rail supporters contact their federal representatives in support of HR 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which would increase “the amount of federal money to match state capital investments.”

I agree. See if your member is on the co-sponsor list (more about that next time) and if not call his or her office, ask of the legislative aide for rail or transportation affairs, and make your opinion known.

We can plan and prepare now, or suffer later.

More on FOSS for transit

I put my last post on free and open source software for transit systems out as a lifeboat, thinking it would bob on the waves of the Internet until someone — far from now — might read the post and wonder. I didn’t think I’d get a reply so quickly.

So I’ve looked further for options.

  1. I asked the American Public Transportation Association’s point person if she knew anything. Not FOSS, but here’s their list of bus management software. Which, I suppose, might help a willing amateur like myself ask the right questions in future.
  2. I did find this Linux Insider article from March 2008 about FOSS traffic management solutions, which cited a project at the University of California, Davis. Not transit, but I’d think there’s some room for overlap
  3. That UC Davis program and this project especially. Again, to inspire
  4. Then there’s the legal imperative in a number of European and Latin American governments to use fee and open source software where available. So perhaps something is out there, but not in English.

I’ll keep looking.