North by Northeast


I’m in Philadelphia
16 July, 2008, 12:57 pm
Filed under: General

I’m on my lunch break in the second and final day at the University of Pennsylvania’s Higher Education Web Symposium 2008. My own UIE helped to put the conference together and I must say that I think it’s going exceedingly well. Big congratulations go to Ben Adams and the Penn Med Web team for really getting the conference going smoothly. Plus, it’s all being held in Wharton’s Huntsman Hall, which is a structure that’s less than 10 years old, and is a wonderful scholastic building.

I’ve had the privledge of attending with presenter perks, thanks to UIE’s involvement, and it’s pretty nice to get a nice dinner and lunch without having to conduct a 7 hour workshop. One day, maybe.

They’ve put us up in the Club Quarters Hotel. From what I can tell, only organizations that “belong” to the Club can have their members stay there. A neat business model for CQ, and it seems hotel rooms in the heart of Philly are really cheap there for the member orgs. Overall it’s a classy place, the room was comfortable, if compact (think European proportions). I had the misfortune of arriving to a room with a few issues, but my gripes were quickly addressed. A fine enough place to spend sleeping hours.

Working at UIE, I have the good fortune of being able to schmooze with all the speakers, which is a real treat. They’re always a lot of fun as people, beyond just being very intelligent people. The two are not always found in a single person.

I took the Acela down from Boston’s Back Bay Station, and just found that the train goes all the way to South Station (maybe another mile down the track) which would be much more convenient to my travel. The question is, will I be able to stay on the train 5 minutes longer than I paid for? We’ll see.

I was impressed with Philadelphia’s 30th street station. Reminiscent of New York’s Grand Central, with a very high ceiling and a classical design. I had expected something less, and compact, like Boston’s Back Bay which architecturally uninspired, but perhaps functional. Boston could really use a beautiful train station. (See post update below) Of course, we could also use a tunnel that connects North and South Stations, so Amtrak can travel on to Maine! If you are unaware, currently, to travel by train from, let’s say DC to Maine, you have to get off in South Station, and travel by another mode (there’s a subway connection for example) to get to North Station, and hop on another Amtrak train. That’s pretty lame, if not downright embarrassing. Especially given the Big Dig project.

I’m thinking we’re going to see a major shift to train travel in the next few decades, due to its efficiency. Amtrak needs a lot of help, but the basics are there. Following Europe’s and Japan’s lead, high speed rail works. Maybe not the fastest for trans-continental travel, but for most trips, it is a pleasant mode of travel. Especially when the tracks have been converted for high speed travel (>100mph, which means banked rails and few stops). But I digress.

I felt pretty awful this morning, but I’ve recovered and hope to maintain till I get home to Medford. Sadly, this meant I had to strategically skip today’s authentic Philly Cheesesteak lunch. If you know my tastes, despite eating a reduced-animal protein diet, this saddened me greatly.

That ends today’s dispatch.

UPDATE: I short changed Boston’s South Station here. I had not been in the portion that Amtrak travelers would see until the night I returned from Philly. It’s pretty cool.

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