Canada by Train

We’re heading to the Maritimes this weekend and rather than flying or driving, we’re taking the train.

The girls have never been on anything other than the GO Train, so taking VIA Rail to Montreal and then through to Moncton should be a great new experience for them.

Ginny on the train back in 2002.

Ginny and I have done this trip many years ago and we’ve also taken VIA’s The Canadian on a few occasions. We both love riding the train.

Once we get to Moncton, we’ll rent a car, and make our way around New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. We’ll fly home, mostly to save money, but also because it’s a fair bit faster.

Stainless and Renaissance

The Ocean, which is VIA Rail’s train between Montreal and Halifax isn’t quite the same as it was when we rode it last time. Back then it was all stainless steel vintage Budd rail cars.

These days, it’s what VIA calls Renaissance cars – newer sleeper cars that VIA bought which were supposed to be used for an overnight service through the Channel Tunnel between the UK and France.

VIA still tacks a Budd stainless dome Park Car on the end of the train that provides a great place to watch the world go by. While I wish the entire train was Budd equipment, I suspect it’ll be nice to have our our bedrooms in these newer cars.

I’ll likely write about our East Coast Adventure here over the next couple of weeks.

Off to Ottawa

I’m off to Ottawa until Monday to attend WordCamp Ottawa. While I’m there, I’m hoping to get at least two, or maybe three runs in.

Running in Ottawa is always nice, and getting a chance to put in some miles without the pressure of the Race Weekend. I’ve got WordCamp during the day on Saturday and Sunday, so morning runs won’t be possible. But if everything goes to plan, I’ll run tonight (long) and then Saturday night and perhaps Monday morning.

Last year I ran along the Ottawa River mostly, including making it across to the Gatineau side. There are great views to be had along the river from the Quebec side. On the Ottawa side, you can run below the Parliament Buildings and behind the Supreme Court.

Perhaps this time I’ll run the Rideau Canal as well. With more time for a longer run, I might be able to get out to some areas that I haven’t run before.

Running while travelling is a great perk of my job. I used to travel a bit more than I do these days, but so far this year I’ve been out to San Francisco and now to Ottawa. I suspect a west coast trip to Kirkland, Washington (near Seattle) will also happen in the late summer or early fall.

This post was cross-posted to my running blog.

The End of Social Media

Crazy prediction time: I think 2017 will mark the year that social media began a significant decline.

I’m seeing many blog posts and stories on the mainstream media about people checking out of Twitter, Facebook and other services. Millennials already don’t use them in a lot of cases and Generation X is getting a clue as to why. It’s a waste of time, energy and it’s terrible for your mental health.

My own experience with quitting recently has been positive. I don’t miss Twitter, and I never really cared for Facebook anyways. Instagram is still enjoyable, but that’s a carefully curated stream of photos of things I want to see and nothing else.

Imagine if Twitter declined to the point that it was no longer relevant. Would you miss it? I think the only thing I thought I was giving up was the ability to get news updates and real-time information about services I use like the TTC and some web services.

It turns out that most of that was noise. It seemed useful, but in reality it was a stream that contained far too much useless and unimportant information to be really useful. I thought I needed to know, but the truth is, I didn’t.

Here’s a challenge for you: go a week without using Twitter and/or Facebook. After seven days, honestly assess whether you’ve gained or lost from the experience.

I’m Out

I think I’m done with social media.

I don’t check Facebook anymore. The app is gone from my phone and the bookmark is gone from my browser favourites. Every one of my “friends” has been unfollowed. In Facebook parlance, that we are still “friends”, but I don’t see any of their posts, likes, and other Facebook activity like article shares.

I held onto the Facebook Messenger app since some friends use that to contact me now and then. I’ll check a lone Facebook group now and then for the Sunday running routes.

On Twitter, I’ve unfollowed pretty much everyone. My timeline consists of TTC notices, and tweets from a few select people and services whose tweets I find interesting. If the TTC provided those notices some other way, I’d probably kick Tweetbot to the curb as well. I’ll see if I still check those updates. I think I probably won’t.

What I used to see on Facebook years ago is vacation photos, some updates on friends lives, a birthday, some pics of a dog or cat, maybe a Dailymile run or two. You know, actual stuff that I’m interested in hearing about so I can get a glimpse into the lives of people I care about.

What I get now is endless shared articles, mostly political, hurled into a vast echo chamber. For years I’ve been carefully pruning my Facebook feed through the “hide all from website” feature. Hide all from BuzzFeed. Hide all from Huffington Post. Hide all from OMG Facts. You get the idea.

It’s become too much. Despite my constant pruning, Facebook insists on showing me article after article about how the world is ending, and how society is breaking down around me.

Do I blame Facebook? No. Because that is literally all it has to show me. That’s all people post these days. See an article, share on Facebook. Comment. Like. Shake head. Rant and rave. #whatever.

Twitter is the same thing.

OMG, this is INSANE! Retweet some celebrity going on about some cause. Someone died. RIP. So sad. Some company gave me bad service. Call them out with “Hey @starbucks…” so everybody knows that Starbucks messed up my latte in some awful way. RT to try to win some contest.

I’ve been guilty of some of this over the years. It’s too easy to just type out 140 characters and send it out into the world without thinking whether a) it needed to be said, or b) anyone either read it, or cared.

I write a blog post, link to it on Twitter, see a few likes, and when I check analytics, it turns out that nobody actually read the post. What’s the point? There isn’t one.

No time to actually read or learn or investigate or come to your own conclusions. Read clickbait headline, retweet and like. Repeat.

The value of these social networks to me has been diminishing and a tipping was reached where I don’t think the value I get out of being a part of it is greater than the cost I’m paying in time and mental health. Ironically it was #BellLetsTalk that really pushed me over the edge and got me thinking about quitting.

I’ll keep my accounts for now, but don’t expect any posts on Facebook or Twitter from me. If you need to reach me, Twitter direct messages aren’t a good way anymore. I’ll be on Signal, iMessage or Facebook Messenger (if you must).