When I was a little kid in Los Angeles, my dad would take our family of 7 on long Sunday drives. Once he drove us over a desert pass to a ranch Hollywood had used for old Westerns and where he'd heard there were pony rides. When we pulled off onto the dusty road, it became clear that the decrepit ranch was no longer open for tours.
Dad blithely drove into the movie-set town, wooden sidewalks and Western building facades attached to the fronts of battered house trailers. He made a U-turn and drove back through. "John," my mother hissed, "Hippies!" A few very scruffy men had ventured out onto the sidewalks and more faces appeared in windows, watching our Ford wagon hightail it back to the highway. Months later, from news coverage of the Sharon Tate murder trial, my parents realized that those hippies out at the Spahn Movie Ranch had been the Manson Family. Thus, my first (and only, to date) true-crime road trip adventure.
Some computer scientists at Cornell, on their way to figuring out how to automate classification of large visual collections, stumbled upon interesting information about "what the world is paying attention to" reports the New Scientist.
Using a sampling of 35 million images uploaded to Flickr.com, they extracted the existing information from them (the geographic coordinates embedded into some digital photos, the text tags that photographers assigned to them, and a kind of formulaic visual scan) and, as a project by-product, used that data to create some fascinating maps of the most photographed cities and landmarks in the world:
So many great Caribbean resorts are offering hard-to-believe values right now, but your first thought is often "Yeah, but the airfare'll be deadly." Ha! Jump on this and you can have a very affordable vacation indeed.
Air Jamaica is running an amazingly cheap but amazingly brief sale on airfare to Kingston. Book on or before August 4 (this Tuesday), for travel anytime between August 18—November 17, and you can fly roundtrip for prices that start at $128. Here are some sample roundtrip fares:
I'm a sucker for a live feed. After returning home from a trip to Spain, I discovered a website linking to a camera in Galicia that shows a sweep of rocky cliff, churning surf, and deserted green fields, refreshed every two seconds. For weeks, I'd sneak a quick peek from my work computer to recapture that blissful vacation feeling.
But besides a nostalgic, post-trip glimpse backwards, webcams and live feeds provide useful (and mesmerizing) information for trip planning—which beach has the best surf, the actual slope coverage the ski resort's website may be fluffing, the traffic downtown (should you rent a car?), the lines at fast food restaurants or for ferries to the San Juan Islands. Here are a few favorites:
Who wouldn't love a high-tech innovation that involves a low-tech suction cup? A product called iFlyz ($29.95), which bills itself as "your in-flight personal media solution," clamps onto airplane meal trays and holds your iPod, iPhone, or hand-held device for easy access.
The (patented) suction cup clamp, at the end of a gooseneck stem, attaches to the back of your gadget, holding it upright in front of you for easy viewing--and works whether the tray table is up, or down. You'll be the envy of all the passengers who are trying to prop their iPods into stable positions on a folded copy of SkyMall.
On January 7, a Continental 737 took a two-hour test flight from Houston, burning a 50-50 blend of petroleum-based jet fuel and an oil made from algae and a scrubby weed. Similar tests have been conducted in New Zealand and England, and another is planned in Japan later this month.
The tests, sponsored by Boeing, were initiated in response to rising petroleum prices, but also address aviation industry goals to reduce carbon emissions before a 2012 European Union deadline.
Though current aircraft design requires some petroleum in the fuel blend to ensure that engine seals work properly, the most efficient and beneficial mix of bio- to fossil fuel has not yet been determined. Chemists continue to experiment with the blend and with the plant feedstocks being used in the biofuel portion in hopes of reducing the greenhouse gases created by flight and a Boeing spokesperson hopes that biofuels play a "significant part of the commercial fuel supply by 2015."