Monday, November 17, 2008

You know what sucks? XM Radio

I have my car again for a few weeks, until I drive it down to Texas to sell it to my friend.

It has XM Radio in it. I've had XM Radio for years. When I lived in Minnesota, I had a 15 mile (each way) drive through heavy traffic, and being able to listen to fun stuff is what helped keep me sane. Now that I don't drive much anymore, XM is far less important to me.

Since I had the car, I drove it down to work in Indianapolis, instead of taking the bus. I forgot to bring my iPod along. No worries, I thought to myself, I'll just listen to XM.

Except...XM has changed, and not for the better. Last Wednesday, which is the day I was driving down to Indianapolis, XM and Sirius executed their merger. What this means is, most of XM's music channels went away. No more "Fine Tuning." No more "XM Cafe." No more "Ethel." Just lots of soundalike channels with smaller playlists and slightly different focus. For example, Ethel has been replaced with Alt Nation. Alt Nation is apparently all Southern California Frat Boy Hard Rock Masquerading as Indie, all the time. Yuck.

BPM, the dance channel, survived. And now there's another dance channel, called Area, which is....just about the same. Heavy on the trance, heavy on mix sets, heavy on European stuff. Not Different Enough.

There's a new NPR channel -- that's good, I like it. And they added BBC Radio 1 - one of my favorite pop stations around. Great! But, what about the rest of this garbage? They took away other stations to add a Grateful Dead channel? Really? In fact, there are now six or seven "single artist" channels -- apparently for people who don't know how to work an iPod or a CD changer.

Where's the punk channel? Where's Ethel? And Lucy? And Flight 26? And the disco channel?

This seals the deal for me -- since I'm ditching the car, I'll hardly be listening to XM any more, anyway. I'll cancel my home receiver, and my car's subscription, as soon as I drop the car off in Texas.

Bye, XM. It's been fun. (Did you know that I was one of your first subscribers? I've had XM for years.)

My friend Mickey is the guy buying the car. Think he'll activate the XM? I suspect not, cause he ain't happy about the merger, either.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Megabus Double Decker Fun

I've written about Megabus before. I take it down to Indianapolis for work pretty often. I've ridden it many times, though after my one bad experience with the bus breaking down, I avoided it for a while.

So, I started taking the Amtrak down. It's a lot of fun if it's a night when the Cardinal runs. There's a bar car and food to be had, and it's a comfortable ride. Takes longer than driving, or longer than the bus, though. The Amtrak is always delayed in transit due to freight traffic, and it makes a lot of stops. This means what is about a three or four hour drive ends up being a five to six hour train ride. By the end of it it's after midnight and I'm usually sleepy and grumpy. Still, better than driving.

The return train from Indianapolis to Chicago leaves very early in the morning, which doesn't work for me. So, I ended up drifting back to the Megabus. For a while I was doing a split ticket, taking the Amtrak down and the Megabus back. That worked out well. If the bus doesn't break down, it's a comfortable ride. Sometimes, if it's crowded, it's a bit less fun, but still, usually tolerable.

Last time around, I wasn't able to book my travel until the last minute. The train was sold out, so I had little choice but to take the Megabus down. To my surprise, I was able to ride a double decker bus. A friend had warned me that the top floor of a double decker can feel a little wobbly as you bob and weave down the highway, so I sat downstairs. I had just about the entire downstairs to myself, and it was a pretty sweet setup. It had chairs organized in a sort-of lunchroom/kitchenette setup, with a set of two chairs facing front, two chairs facing back, and a table in the middle. Since it was just me, I had plenty of room to spread out, set up my laptop and catch up on work, etc. It was a very nice ride. Very quiet, and since I had just about the whole downstairs to myself, I imagined that this is what it feels like to ride on a private bus, like the Madden Cruiser. Not bad at all.

So, next week, I'm probably heading down that way again. Should I take the train, or the Megabus?