Tag Archives: trains

Redesigning Penn Station

Earlier this year I wrote a post about indie podcasting and the mistake of centralized publishing, comparing it to the lesson from the demolition of Penn Station in New York City. That train station can never be returned to what it was, but the city hasn’t given up on updating it. Here’s the New York Times with an idea to turn it into a beautiful space again:

Just as the new Amtrak train hall for Farley, designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, reuses the catenary structure of the building’s original trusses to bring in natural light, this plan foresees a sunny public space, open to the street, framing views of Farley, its height dwarfing Grand Central Terminal’s main concourse. It reclads the arena’s facade with double-skin glass, doing away with doors into and out of the building, letting commuters, long lost in the existing warren, know where they are and see where they’re going.

It’s a nice article with photos and diagrams. I hope to see something like this new Penn Station on a future trip to New York City.

Tickets for Release Notes 2016

I’m registered for the Release Notes conference, coming up later this year in Indianapolis. This will be the only conference I attend this year outside of another ticketless WWDC week. If you didn’t go last year and want to know more about it, check out the web site or listen to episode 151 of their podcast.

One of my favorite blog posts on this site from last year was my review of the conference, because I think it both described the conference itself and also captured that inspired feeling you get when you’re heading off to the airport and your head is buzzing with ideas. And because it’s a blog, where I allow myself to be informal, it also has the meandering narrative of the everyday — a stop for coffee, a conversation with an Uber driver. My memory of the conference wouldn’t be complete without those things.

I’m looking forward to visiting Indianapolis again. I may also look at flying into Chicago and taking the train down, then flying out. Sounds like some people did that last year, and I think it would make a great start considering the venue at Union Station. We’ll see if the schedule works out.

Lowline Park

Nice write-up at The Verge on the proposed Lowline Park, an underground park built in an old trolley terminal in New York City. The space has been relatively untouched for over 50 years:

“Not that the abandoned trolley terminal, which opened the same time as the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903, is a neighborhood blight. In fact, it’s in pretty decent shape right now. The station served elevated lines and trolley cars from Brooklyn, but closed in 1948 when trolley service was discontinued, and has been empty ever since.”

One of the highlights to our trip to New York City a couple of years ago was the High Line, a park built from an abandoned elevated freight train line originally scheduled for demolition. As a train fan — I did a podcast episode about trains and animation 10 years ago — I love to see any of these historic lines preserved in a new form.

Release Notes 2015

The best blog posts we write are as much for ourselves as for our readers. That’s one of the traits that makes personal blogging so special.

I published my essay last week from the hotel at Release Notes, right before heading downstairs as the conference got underway. Almost no one had read it yet, but the essay still helped me because it made me even more aware of when I accidentally monopolized a conversation. I did end up talking a lot about my new project while at Release Notes, but I also caught myself many times, making sure to turn the conversation around and listen.

And there was plenty to hear at Release Notes. I got something out of every talk and from many conversations with developers who I had never met before. Congratulations to Charles and Joe for putting together a great conference.

Highlights for me included Myke Hurley’s opening talk on Wednesday night about quitting his job and the first full-time year of Relay FM; Rob Rhyne’s fantastic whirlwind tour of accounting, which scared me a little because of everything I still don’t know about being independent; Jean MacDonald’s talk about podcast sponsorships and the fundraiser for App Camp for Girls; Pieter Omvlee’s advice on aiming to build a bigger business; and David Smith’s talk, which I’ll get to later. I could pull out lessons from each of these talks as well as the others from Rachel Andrew, Georgia Dow, John Saddington, Chris Liscio, Daniel Pasco, and Jim Dalrymple.

Thursday night was the “dine around”, a clever idea to split attendees into groups of about a dozen people, each meeting for dinner at an assigned restaurant. It’s easy to fall into cliques at conferences. This was a great solution to mixing it up, all but guaranteeing that you’ll meet someone new.

It’s worth saying something about the venue. Converted from the Indianapolis Union Station, which was built in 1853, the conference center and hotel served as a beautiful backdrop to the conference. My hotel room was even made from an old train car. As we left the conference center late Friday afternoon, I took another look up at the vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows, making a mental note to read more about the history of the original train station.

On Saturday I checked out of the hotel, walked up to Bee Coffee Roasters (where I ran into a couple other attendees who were also still processing everything we learned at the conference), and then took an Uber to the airport. My driver was a musician; he had toured the country playing with bands, was working on a soundtrack which he played on CD for me, and had such an optimistic take on the world that it struck me in obvious contrast to the negativity we see online sometimes.

And he said something that stayed with me even longer while I waited at airport security and for my flight to board. He said that everything he had wanted to do in life, he had done. Sure, he’d love to tour with another band, he’d love to find success with his new music. But already he was content. He laughed when he said he could die happy, and he was not old.

David Smith mentioned in his talk at Release Notes that he used to want to do everything. Have a best selling app, win a design award, be admired by his peers, and other goals that many of us share. It was only when he set out with a more singular focus — judging every decision by whether it moved his business forward so he could continue to support his family — that all the other secondary goals started taking care of themselves as well. It was a great talk and something I needed to hear.

As a community we’re ambitious. We want to build something amazing and we want to make a positive impact on the world. But this week was also a reminder to me that it’s okay to be more focused, to tackle niche vertical apps, or make small boring decisions that will help our business. It’s okay, even as we want to do more, to slow down and be proud and content with the path that we’re on.