We've bought the tickets, so it's official: Karen and I will be going to Portland for the last week of February, then take a very short side-trip to Seattle on the way back. We're taking the Greyhound bus down from Vancouver, B.C., so we'll get a lot of Interstate 5 goodness. Since we didn't know exactly how we were getting back from Seattle, we decided that at least on the way from PDX to Seatown that we'd take the Amtrak train. A little more expensive, and the Amtrak guy in Vancouver wanted to see our passports. We managed to convince the ticket agent that we didn't know we needed them to buy tickets and that we had just made the decision (both true), so we'll finally be able to do as Djun did in 2005.
We very tentatively decided to neither of us bring our laptops, the idea being that we'll find enough computing power with friends and cafes to check our email as much as we need to and that's it. I'll bring my iPhone, which I'm assured by the fine folks at Fido will cost me an arm and a leg to use the data plan while roaming in the United States. As part of our trip budget, I have an amount of total usage in mind. Again, friends and wifi in the wilds of PDX will get us jacked in when we need to.
To update my thoughts on the PDX Bus iPhone application, the developer today had approved a 2.0 release of the app, which embeds Google Maps inside the application. It also adds a flashing screen to make it easier for TriMet bus drivers to see you. I didn't believe that TriMet actually recommending this, but the transportation agency itself has an explanatory video, including asking for what are called in Vancouver "request stops", i.e. getting dropped off anywhere along the route, not just at designated stops.
Last night, taking a walk in the park, I sat down on a bench and looked at all the iPhone apps that have to do with Navigation. One that caught my eye was PDX Bus, which takes TriMet data and makes it accessible in a nice easy-to-use interface. Users can type in a stop ID, browse stops on a per-MAX line and per-bus basis, with each stop giving users the estimated time of arrival and, tapping through to the individual train or bus, users have the option to show the location on a Google Map of where that vehicle is currently located. The following screenshot shows the Library/SW 9th MAX station with a train arriving in 7 minutes from the time I took the screenshot. Clicking the icon in the bottom right-hand corner gets users the option to find the train on a map.
Now, as a Canadian not (yet?) living in Portland, Oregon, at the moment, it was a little difficult to verify any of the information that the app obtains from the TriMet data store. In fact, all my research leads me to believe that data roaming will not be cheap when I visit PDX. As the app relies on information over the Internet, it'll probably take finding a free wi-fi spot to get the latest info on MAX trains, streetcars and buses while traveling.
My interest in the app stems from both the fact that I have an iPhone 3G and that TransLink, Vancouver, B.C.'s transportation authority has commissioned an iPhone app, not-yet-released but demoed at a recent MobileCamp Vancouver. I'm looking forward to such an app (which I understand will be a wrapper for a web app using TransLink's data) and urge the developers to take a look at PDX Bus for inspiration. The PDX Bus app itself could use a little more GPS integration (for example, what are upcoming transit options for stops near me?).
Check out Dalas Verdugo's offbeat guide to New York City, which features PGE Park, an underground MAX train, the Lloyd Center Ice Rink, and ... hold on a second. That's Portland, Oregon! Deception!
Thanks to Tylor for pointing it out Dalas' hilarious video!
I've been following the Portland Apple Store saga starting with an article at Portland Architecture (which I submitted to Daring Fireball) and after a subsequent Portland Architecture article I see that John Gruber linked to Cabel Sasser's plea to Apple, the Landmarks Commission, and site developers to renew the project. Cabel, who lives on NW 21st and whose software company, Panic (which develops for the Mac), has an office on NW 10th, would have loved to have an Apple store in his neighbourhood. I'd love to know where he got the proposed design from, though it's possible I missed it from reading his article on the subject.
Last night I listened to Roland's podcast with Will Pate and Michael Tippett which had an extended discussion about video available on the Internet, and Will mentioned he wanted to be able to subscribe to the RSS feed of a tag of videos that were, in his example, documentaries. I recalled that you can subscribe to RSS feeds of file types in del.icio.us, including video. So I tried a couple of examples with the plus "+" operator, and came up with del.icio.us bookmarks of .mov files also tagged with 'music'.
So, having dispensed with the breadcrumbs, I found a video Broadcast's "Tender Buttons" (I did a Technorati search for the URL to see what the song was titled, not really knowing the band very well and not finding any info about it on the momentmachine website), played it, and though it was interesting if not remarkable. It's shot in "one-take" style of the aftermath of a car crash plus shots of suburban life plus, strangely, a burning chair.
The still from the video above has what looks like a Portland bike path stencil, which leads me to believe the video was filmed at least partially in the Rose City. Some great information and photos of bike path stencils come from the link found at a Flickr photoset: an article in The Portland Tribune; an article in Velo Vision [PDF] (there is a discrepancy as to how much of Portland's streets have bike lanes: the former says 153 miles, the latter says over 250 miles); and, naturally, a Flickr bike path stencil group with photo pool.
The part I love most about Portland is the MAX, the city's street level light-rail system connecting the suburbs with the downtown core. I've only riden it once from the suburbs—during my friend's bachelor party—so most of the times are from and to a point inside downtown Portland to somewhere just outside the core. This year, while at a week-long conference, I took either the Red Line or the Blue Line train to the Oregon Convention Center from my downtown hotel, since, well, it was free to do so.
A couple of weeks ago, I watched Zero Effect, set in Portland. The movie is primarily about a timber tycoon who is blackmailed and is given elaborate directions to drop payments each time. During one of the payments, the tycoon is directed to hop on a MAX train (though to my recollection, it's never reffered to as "the MAX" but as "the train"). I just edited the Wikipedia page for the MAX to include information about that reference, since other appearances in film of the MAX were listed. It's my first major contribution to the Wikipedia, so I expect it to be edited—it could maybe use a little more detail—I'll save for a little posterity the text that I wrote:
Zero Effect (1998, dir. Jake Kasdan): the wealthy blackmailed timber tycoon is directed by his blackmailer to board the train with a three-digit number delivered to his pager while on his way to deliver his next payment. A MAX train, with the painted number 119 and "Portland" displayed on its sign, pulls up to him. He is then shown on the train for about 15 seconds. As the movie is set in Portland, MAX train bells can be heard in the background throughout.