For the Love of Amtrak

If you’ve ever spent time on the east coast, you’ve probably taken Amtrak at least once. It makes sense there. I could catch an early train in DC and be in the middle of Manhattan three hours later, then back home that night. Much faster than catching a flight.

If you’ve never spent a lot of time in the east coast, you may be one of those people who thinks we shouldn’t be subsidizing Amtrak. Once you’re west of the Mississippi River, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to take a train (unless you’re looking for the romanticism of crossing the country on a train).

However, a recent $16M grant to rebuild a section of the Amtrak Southwest Chief rail line highlights an important role that Amtrak plays: getting Boy Scouts to camp. With the new grant, the Boy Scouts who attend the Philmont High Adventure Camp in New Mexico can continue taking Amtrak.

The Southwest Chief line runs from Chicago to Los Angeles and passes about an hour from Philmont.


From Scouting Magazine:

Train travel has been part of the Philmont experience since the start. In 1941, Scouts visiting what was then called Philturn Rockymountain Scoutcamp were told that the railroad was “the best method for travel as it provides for greater personal comfort.”

These days, 80 percent of Philmont’s 22,000 summer visitors arrive by car or bus or plane. But the other 20 percent — about 4,400 Scouts and Scouters — choose the train.

Those traveling to Philmont make up half the boardings and exits at the Amtrak station in Raton. From Raton, it’s about an hourlong bus ride to Philmont’s gates.

Living in Colorado means a few hours in the car to Philmont. But for Scouts in the Midwest, the Southwest Chief provides a great adventure on a train to the high adventure camp. At $16M, that’s $3,600 per scout in the first year, $1,800 per scout after two years, and so on.

I believe we need to look at the rail infrastructure in this country the same way we look at the roads and bridges. Yes, Amtrak uses those rail lines to run their business, but so does the trucking industry, bus companies, and tour companies use our roads. Infrastructure is better for everyone, especially safe infrastructure. Better roads, better rails, better bridges, better water, better power. All of these are necessary for the lives we lead as Americans.

C’mon Man: Senator Event Photo Edition

I love me some photography, but I love critiquing bad photos even more. Senators Gardner and Bennet attended the launch of the USS Colorado, the Navy’s newest Virginia Class Submarine (I’m assuming the Virginia Class is missing turn signals and can’t drive in snow).

Let’s compare two photos from the event.

First, Senator Gardner. 


  1. Elements: Senator, Cute Family, Naval Officer, USS Colorado, US Flag
  2. Composition: everyone is centered, nothing distracting the background, maybe needs to crop the top of the picture – represents the event
  3. Technical: well exposed, no one is squinting, excellent lighting

Grade: A-

Second, Senator Bennet. 


  1. Elements: Senator, Cute Family, USS Colorado, Colorado State Flag
  2. Composition: background is cluttered, major squinting, is that a pole coming out of the Senator’s head? Crop the sun out at least
  3. Technical: OMG, can we get any more direct sunlight? And backlit? And it looks like the focal point is behind the main subjects.

Grade: C-

Look, you’ve got a staff. Someone on that staff is under 25, which means they’ve clocked about a million selfies in the past week. They understand lighting and presentation. Get the guy or gal who is constantly sending pictures from the Congressional Bathroom to their Instagram account to take these photos. It’s pretty simple: light to the side, pay attention to the background, include important elements, and crop well.

Mid-Life Crisis

I turn 40 next week.

In 2007, I started a blog. This blog as matter of fact. I was 29, living in Virginia, interested in politics, and full of inappropriate humor (thus the blog name). I would encourage anyone who wants to understand who I was as a younger man to review the wayback machine of this blog back then.

Then life came along: I got married, I got a couple of kids, I moved up in my professional career, I moved back home to Colorado, and just didn’t care about blogging, politics, or inappropriate humor any longer (just kidding – I’m the master of the dad joke). I let the domain expire and one of those guys who buys up domains and then sells them for obscene amounts of money picked up and tried to sell it for, you guessed it, an obscene amount of money. I will admit, the fart jokes were priceless, but not THAT priceless.

A few weeks ago, I was reminiscing with the old crew of the blog and found that the domain expired. So I snatched it up and here I am again. Instead of buying a sports car as I turn 40, I figure I’ll just start writing again.

The humor will be a little less irreverent, the politics will be more local (maybe). The language will hopefully be a little less salty (think: retired dock workers convention), and maybe, if we’re lucky, the thinking will be a little more mature (but probably not).

And with that, I launch my mid-life crisis with a picture of the old crew and Ms. Vivian J. Paige back in 2007: