(photo flickr user jpmatth, click on image for the amazing original!)
with my long distance train adventures in north america, i've always wondered how the united states can kick out the jams and revolutionize it self as a leader in long distance transportation. if you've ever ridden a long distance train, you know the beauty of sitting back and letting the conductor do the driving. in north america, it's not always the quickest, but it sure is the most beautiful journey. away from the distractions of modernity and transportation infrastructure, amtrak takes one though the wondrous back road of america.
with a verizon EDVO usb adapter connected to my mac and my mac plugged into one of the few three pronged 120 volt electrical outlets, i'm cruising the country side working away at changing the world.
while the food is hearty, it's really not healthy. the tracks on the other hand are a cluster mess. most of this journey has featured long winding turns on single pair of tracks. stopping for freight or other passenger trains has delayed us by a few hours. ever so often we pass by a freeway, a orchard, vineyard, or small town. inch by inch we craw down the west coast of america.
with the cost of petroleum increasing and gas prices on the verge, i wonder if it's time we take a few pages from the open community playbook and think about pulling our resources together and see if this great nation can spearhead a nationwide conversation on alternative transportation. if you don't know about the unconference, it is a workshop like / peer to peer conference where individuals present issues, problems, solutions or host conversations to the issues surround the central topic.
just imagine if ordinary citizens from around the nation gathered in homes, community centers, schools, etc to talk about what they can do to change their transportation woes?
imagine if each group went to city hall and invited the transportation director to chat with them.
imagine actually engaging them in conversation.
imagine not inviting them, and formulating your own alternative plan and then visiting city hall?
imagine taking a few pictures, writing up a mini-press release and sending it to the newspaper to say "we did it! we're planning another one! we want you to join us!"
imagine if Amtrak riders around the country submitted THEIR ideas and plans on what amtrak could do to improve service... (ie healthier food, wifi, more outlets, etc...)
imagine if they filled in a wiki and promoted it on trains and had people vote for their favorite ideas.
someone should contact my buddy Tomas Purves and ask him to open up transit camp's framework.
(click on your fav gender for more pictures from vangroovy.)
like a jewel in a crown, vancouver sits atop north america's granola coast. this glisting gem hold the sparkle of many a geeks eye - a political party that incorporates FLOSS into it's charter, an organic network of evangelists building an 802.11b mesh network to blanket the city, a drupal/barcamp revolutionary, a computer recycling organization which harvests discarded computers for environmentally friendly recycling and helps homeless people connect to the internet... as if that wasn't enough, vangroovy is home to the worlds most popular citizen journalism news site - nowpublic.com
my friends, that's just the beginning... i wasn't able to meetup with workspace (one of the original coworking locations) nor the countless other drupal nor linux geeks who inhabit canada's most temperate climate. oh and did i forget to mention that vancouver had a very "healthy" merry-jane community? not that i'm into it, but the vangroovyites seem to be proud. combine the fact that the restaurants are delicious, the night life / arts community thriving, there's abundant coffee strong and a growing culture of brew pubs... vangroovy got's a groovy thing going on...
it's not like all of this fell into place. each one of the individuals whom i met spent years working with others to building their ideal city. the city isn't perfect. there's quite a bit of homelessness, drug abuse, displacement of affordable housing and gentrification.
through each of my interviews, everyone paraphrased the same statement "we're here, we're not moving away and we want to make a difference."
my time in van-groovy is totally groovy. the past 24 hours has shown me the wonders of a cohesive geek scene built on the same philosophy. it's amazing to see the hive buzz...
speaking of buzz, i'd hope that you'd take some time to come visit me at the following events in van-groovy and columbus.
bbq at bryght / raincity studios
thursday, 8 nov @ noon-thirty-ish
1 Alexander Street Suite 400, in Gastown close to Waterfront station
columbus blogger / social media club meeting
thursday, 15 nov @ 6.30 pm to 9ish (facebook info)
333 west broad st, c-bus, ohio
sorry to be a ham and get all porkbelly on all y'all. i really don't even know where to begin. the american experience is one hell of a show.
as i write these words, the northwest seaside of washington passes to my left. to my right, everything that i've known fades into a bewildering memory of love. off in the distance, i see islands of prosperity, amusement and a future not yet determined.
since my return to the "main land" i've settled into the gentle embrace of friends. old friends, new friends, friends whom i once disagreed with... friends whom i'll never properly know... friends whom i still don't understand...
as the early morning fly fishermen whip, i wonder what i've caught. i wonder what type of trout has snagged my line. it's been really weird to know that i am four months in this journey. with a little more than 100 days left, i can feel the prickly point of having less than $70 USD in my checking account. i also feel the prickly point of this journey, but do not know what is the exact prickly point. i know that every step brings me closer to the big fish. yet, the fish i attempt to sang is perpetually eluding me.
off in the distance, a steam rises from an urban outcropping and video the scene wondering how my state of nature has evaporated, condensed, purified and boiled off. there are so many things i see that need work. so many ideas that have to be explored, purified and condensed. so many others need to be boiled, frozen or thawed. i no longer see a simple solution to world's woes, but ideas that can transform minds.
we don't need revolutions, we need an evolution to find symbiosis.
to be honest, it is hard to condense what i've seen. it's hard to sit and think about what we are doing when paul hawken brings about more conclusions than questions... frankly, i feel he's written every i wanted to say. it's hard to read benkler and think about the complexity of a networked solution. it is hard to balance the curatanical views of "community managers" who talk about a networked - peer to peer world - yet only want "their" way of salvation through sustainable consumption. it's hard to think of an open solution when history is stacked against us... it's harder to find a solution when many more questions bubble up.
traveling away form the coast, the cold earth hugs a dense fog and envelopes my train... i wonder where if the rosy picture of a networked ecology brings me any closer to understanding.
as we bank to the left and bend to the right, i wonder how to stand for something and yet stand for nothing at all... i wonder who is the conductor and who is the ticket taker... or wether there must either... i wonder how to let my own frustration subside and focus on the ecology of seven.
when i first boarded this train, i did not see an alternative ecology. now as we pass the steaming marshes of everst washington, i see a golden sunrise. a sunrise that awakens us to an opportunity like none-other. i see rays showering the trees with a million points of wealth. i see lagoons glistening with opportunity.
i see an evolution of revolutions.
no longer must we stand in line for gadgets, badges or briefs.
off in the distance, underneath an orange hard hat and donning an orange work vest, i see you.