I was thinking about Osama bin Laden a couple of days ago as my wife and I rushed through Penn Station in New York City to board a train bound for Washington, D.C.  He was on my mind specifically because we learned shortly after his death that an American train might be a likely future mass-murder al Qaeda target.

Imagine our surprise when (1) neither of us was required to produce ID at any time, (2) our considerable luggage wasn't scanned or inspected in any way, despite the fact that we inquired several times about railroad security, and (3) our actual tickets were required only after we'd been on the train for about an hour--and then only to double-check our final destination.

You guessed it:  THERE ISN'T SECURITY at Penn Station (and maybe all U S train stations?), even though, according to Wikipedia, "(Penn Station serves) 300,000 passengers a day at a rate of up to a thousand every 90 seconds, (and) it is the busiest passenger transportation facility in the United States and by far the busiest train station in North America. . . . Penn Station saw 8.4 million Amtrak passenger arrivals and departures in 2010."

The route to the nation's Capitol took us through some major cities--Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Wilmington (Delaware)--and a number of smaller ones.  Plenty of easily accessible and highly populated "soft targets," particularly for a militant who'd just like to put some deadly cargo on the train and leave--alive.

So, if the alternatives are planes, trains and automobiles, I think I'll drive, thanks.

(Editor's note:  Roger Scime is a good friend of ours here at Great Places, having worked with us for several intriguing months as we optimized the website.  We truly welcome this guest blog from him.  You may contact him at

I'm the invisible man. I turned 62 in September, and in any group younger than 30, no one notices me, nobody listens to me, it's as if I'm, well . . . invisible.

I first noticed this in 2003, when I was a mere 54 years old and decided to go back to school for my Master's degree. Most of my fellow grad students were in their 20s-30s, and immediately made friends, bonded, grouped, swarmed. I tried joining in as naturally and unobtrusively as possible. Occasionally I would offer advice on one subject or another, which the youngsters would accept willingly, then turn their backs as my existence faded from their consciousnesses. 

I finally managed to make a few friends, upon offering to host a field trip to a nearby city where an event was occurring. Everybody seemed to have a good time, but only two exchange students—one from
China, one from India—showed any interest in continuing any kind of relationship. I asked my Indian friend about this just a few months ago, and he said, "In India, we look upon those older than us with respect, something Americans don't seem to be capable of."

I'm currently taking MBA classes (we seniors seem to be addicted to learning. Go figure), and the professor had us self-select into groups of 3-4 for the final project of the class. I went from group to group, offering my services (a highly desirable one, for which none of the others were prepared), practically begging to join one or another, but I was—for all intents and purposes—ignored.

Finally, an exchange student from
Bangladesh, asked me to join his group. Mind you, I didn't have to ask, beg, or abase myself. He just asked. Do you sense a pattern here?

Well, we're working on his project (a business plan for a multimillion- dollar hospital in
Bangladesh), and I'm making my contribution as wordsmith, editor, and social-media facilitator. Additionally, he's invited me to a cocktail party tonight, where Angels and other investors will be present. He told me he wants somebody mature there representing his venture and I was the best person he knew to be the face of his company.

It's a shame I'm invisible to my own countrymen, but not to others.

Posted by: Laurence Harmon on 3/13/2011 | 0 Comments

Naturally, the news cycle has been dominated for the past few days by the horrific tsunami in Japan. It turns out that there's a lesser--and equally interesting--tsunami story that's just happened to surface in the past year or so.  And it's coming to your local television via the National Geographic Channel tonight.

It's claimed that the fabled lost city of Atlantis has been located by means of satellite photography, ground-penetrating radar and underwater technology.  Experts are surveying Spanish marshlands, looking for proof of the ancient city.  If they can match geological formations to Plato's descriptions and accounts of the city, one of the world's most intriguing mysteries might be solved.

A U.S.-led research team believes that Atlantis was swamped by a huge tsunami thousands of years ago in mud flats in southern Spain.  Head researcher Richard Freund says the find illustrates "the power of tsunamis. It's just so hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland; that's pretty much what we're talking about."  

Read more here

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