Here’s a peek at an upcoming post…

July 30, 2010


Travel & Leisure’s Photo Contest

July 26, 2010

Travel & Leisure has a photo contest going on right now called “My Favorite Place”.  Voting is going on for the Top 10 Finalists currently and the winner will receive a Flip Video TM Camera (doesn’t seem like much for a large national contest of this sort; I bet they have an advertising budget for this far times greater than all the prizes combined, but nonetheless, it’s a cool contest).  Every month the contest changes themes.  The categories are: July is Becahes, August is Cities, September is Funny Signs, October is Nature, November is Locals, and December is View.

The grand prize winner from all categories will win a 5-night Hawaii travel package for two, including a $500 spa package.

The voting for June’s “My Favorite Place” contest is happening right now, and some of my favorites are:

Be sure to head over to their website to check out more of the photos and to vote for your favorite photo.

Amazing cruise excursions.

July 24, 2010

This is a really interesting article done by Time & Leisure about some amazing cruise ship excursions.  I’d highly suggest clicking on the link and flipping through the pages; there are 7 other excursions I didn’t mention below.  A few of my favorite ones are:

1.  Snorkel with Sea Dragons: Australia

One of the most unusual creatures of the sea is found only off the coasts of southern Australia. Not quite a sea horse and not quite a fish, the mysterious sea dragon—which can grow up to 18 inches long—was named for its resemblance to the mythical creature and often escapes perception by the human eye. Squint hard—they’re often mistaken for seaweed swaying in the undertow, thanks to their leafy camouflage.

Where to Book: Available through the Holland America Line; $167 to $199 on fall itineraries passing through Melbourne.

2.  Take a Helicopter Tour: Hong Kong and Dubai

The scene has become an action movie cliché: a deafening chopper drops down from the heights of a soaring skyscraper, narrowly dodging enemy fire. And just when you think you’re in the clear…Boom! Crash landing! Okay, cruise lines won’t let you re-create the scene frame by frame, but you can still get in on the action. In Hong Kong, a twin-engined copter takes off from the rooftop helipad of the Peninsula Hotel for a dramatic swoop over the Kowloon skyline and Victoria Harbour, while a “flightseeing” tour of Dubai surveys the desert coast before touching down at the suspended helipad at the iconic Burj Al Arab.

Where to Book: Yachts of Seabourn offers the excursion year-round in Hong Kong on its East Asian itineraries ($399) and in Dubai on its spring and fall Middle East voyages ($699).

3.  Swim with Sharks: South Africa

Thanks to Jaws, the great white shark has earned a reputation as one of the ocean’s most vicious predators. This journey starts off innocently enough, with a tranquil 20-minute sail from Kleinbaai harbor, southeast of Cape Town, but takes a menacing turn near Dyer “shark alley” Island. Dive-cage operators will lower you into the waters in a five-man steel cage, throwing out ground sardines to lure the beasts, who may swim up close enough for views of their razor-sharp teeth.

Where to Book: Crystal Cruises, on a 19-day cruise from Mumbai to Cape Town, embarking March 29, 2011; $448.

4.  Brave the Elements with Penguins: Antarctica

An extreme landscape of frigid cold and biting winds, the White Continent is home to only the hardiest of survivors. Among them: adélie, chinstrap, and gentoo penguins. The daylong trek to the remote King George Island is an adventure in itself: a seven-seater plane traverses the Strait of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego Island, and the jagged Darwin Mountains, before shooting south another 620 miles to Frei Base, a scientific research station on the penguins’ island of residence.

Where to Book: With Silversea Cruise, on the Silver Whisper’s South American itineraries, departing from the port of call of Punta Arenas, Chile; $4,999.

5.  Fly a Soviet MiG: Russia

What better way to channel your inner James Bond than an exhilarating whirl in a Soviet jet fighter? The adventure takes off at the Sormovo Air Base, on the outskirts of the historic Nizhny Novgorod; after a physical exam and flight instruction, you’ll strap on a helmet for a skyward journey up to the dizzying speed of 1,536 mph (or twice the speed of sound). The rewards of your mission, if you choose to accept it: a flight certificate and breathtaking—but blurry—views of the Russian countryside.

Where to Book: Crystal Cruises operates MiG tours from St. Petersburg on summertime Baltic cruises. The two-day package costs $45,999, including round-trip transportation to Moscow, overnight hotel accommodations, and a full-day sightseeing tour.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

July 15, 2010

A friend of mine from Oklahoma brought his little sister to the city this weekend to show her around and I met up with them Saturday to hang out.  It ended up being a really fun day.

From the start of the day, it appeared that it would rain very soon and the weather report called for 40% chance of rain.  Because of this, we were a little reluctant to plan a day outside but it never rained and we did end up keeping with our original outside plans.  I met them at Grand Central Station and we took the subway downtown and got off real close to the World Trade Centers.

I only got one picture of the WTC site itself, this is the South East corner of the site.

We didn’t have plans to see anything in particular but we walked from the WTC to Battery Park where we got a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.  Because my friend’s little sister is a picky eater, they looked up some restaurants online and decided on a German restaurant in TriBeCa called Blaue Gans.  I’m not sure what it is about Germany specifically that makes me want to visit so badly, but I was very thrilled to hear that we were going to eat at a real German restaurant.  In New York City, it’s not hard to find real authentic style places to visit and eat at, and Blaue Gans certainly is no exception.

Blaue Gans is located on Duane St between Broadway and Church, approximately five blocks directly North of the World Trade Centers site.  Walking by on the street, one would have no clue what a real gem they are walking past, and we even missed seeing the restaurant on our first pass.

When I think of schnitzel I always think of a hot dog like food because that’s how wiener schnitzel is served sometimes, but I never knew what real schnitzel was until this past weekend.  I ordered a beef sirloin schnitzel with wild arugula and shaved parmesan and it was hands down the best meal I have eaten since I’ve been in NYC.  Granted I haven’t eaten at too many nice restaurants and I don’t drop $30 on a plate of food very often (OK, so I didn’t pay but still..), but I’m confident it’ll remain one of the best meals for a while to come.

Other pictures from the day:


July 13, 2010

I was doing laundry the other day at the laundry mat up the street and out back there’s a bench.  One of those wooden ones that you put out front on your lawn and it rarely gets used.

No, no.  Not this type of bench, above, but something more like…

When I went to sit on the bench out back of the laundry mat, the iron bar on the side (in green) snapped and it feel to the ground.  Doesn’t seem as funny reliving the incident but it was kind of funny.  It was even funnier when a guy who saw told the guy working and their reaction, they seem very puzzled and just put it back together.  I hope a kid doesn’t get hurt on it next because it did scrap my leg a bit but nothing to cry about.

Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa

July 9, 2010

Tampa Museum of Art and the Glazer Children’s Museum

Curits Hixon Park, Downtown Tampa

Picture taken from University of Tampa’s Plant Park, directly on the other side of the Hillsborough River

(click to make larger)

Observations in Recycling

July 9, 2010

This morning on my way to work I saw a man, who appeared homeless but I don’t want to be so quick to judge, with four huge trash bags of recycled plastic and aluminum.  Apparently one of the bags had opened for some reason, and he was working diligently to replace his prized possessions back into the carrying bag.  This is not the first time that I have seen someone collecting recyclable goods and I’ve been thinking about it for some time now.  I’m pretty confident for anyone traveling in New York City or almost any large downtown metropolitan that it wouldn’t take long to see someone doing this.

This makes me wonder.  If homeless people (presumably) are collecting recyclable goods, most likely they are profiting from this somehow.  Certainly, there’s some driving force behind this behavior, and unfortunately I doubt it’s just to make sure these things get recycled.  I need to do further research to find out the process behind turning trash into cash, but it’s a very cool concept for me.

I think it’s very productive and I wouldn’t mind even going out of my way to give my plastic and aluminum recyclables to someone doing this.

Here are a few articles I’ve found that are interesting and after doing more research, I’ll make a more detailed post…

A misguided new California law prevents people from selling recycling if they do not have a valid state ID card.

On the rare sunny San Francisco day, people don’t flock to the beach as much as you’d expect-they head to the inland parks since often the beach is still cold. Dolores Park, one of the most popular sunny day hang-outs, will be jam packed on these days, leading to overflowing trashcans and recycling bins.


Luckily, there seem to always be a loyal handful of people wandering through the park collecting beer cans and water bottles from the partiers and picnickers. What’s their motivation for their almost surreal helpfulness? Well, a trade-in value of about 5-cents for each bottle or can.

But now the state is preventing many of these people from making their meager living.

Proponents of the law say that drug addicts use the rebate credit to feed their addictions, which very well may be the case. But really, is this the best way to help those people fight their addictions? Seems like a pretty backwards, mean-spirited idea to me, not to mention that many people who are collecting cans are simply trying to feed themselves. The law does nothing but make it harder for people to actually find a way out of homelessness.

And what about the environmental impact of the law? These people walk through the streets and pick recyclable items out of the public trash cans, saving them from landfills. People doing this should be encouraged, not made to jump through hoops in order to cash out their cans.

Not only will they now need to show a valid state ID card, but to exchange aluminum cans and other metallic cans, they will have their photograph and thumb-print taken, and then money will be withheld for 3 days. This action is due to metal theft from construction sites or vehicle parts, which is a legitimate problem-but why not exempt those who are merely cashing in aluminum cans?

Some San Francisco residents complain that scavengers pick through their recycling bins when they are out for collection, but again, I don’t understand what the problem is here. San Francisco, along with many other Californian cities, pays to have their recycling sorted. The homeless men and women who collect from the bins are doing the same service and probably lessening the sorting costs for the city in the process.


Quieter carts aid homeless recycling efforts

juiceSam VanSchie
You hear them before you see them: the rattling shopping cart, the bottles clinking together. They’re the bane of some apartment dwellers who would rather recyclables be left in their bins. And they’re digging out an existence in Victoria.
“Binners” are people who scour the streets and rummage through waste in search of bottles, batteries or other items they can sell to recycling depots or use for themselves. Often the best thing they’ve got to collect their goods is a rickety shopping cart, but with better equipment they can increase their productivity and improve their public image.

That’s exactly what a Victoria-based project called Multi-Opportunity Trailer/Homelessness Emergency Response Shelter (MOTHERS) hopes to show through a pilot project that, on Nov. 18, gave four binners quiet, custom-made trailers along with bikes to attach the trailers to, as well as helmets and locks. In exchange, the binners agreed to participate in a research project, which has them video-taping their experience using the cart to show its impact on their life.

“The idea is we’ll be able to use this footage as proof that indeed these carts make a positive difference in [a binner’s] life, and hopefully will lead to more funding for more carts,” explained Jutta Gutberlet from UVic’s Communities-Based Research Laboratory, one of several partners in the project.

Tony Hoar, owner of Tony’s Trailers who built the trailers for the project, is also part of the project. He’s been giving modified carts and trailers to binners in Vancouver, Victoria and other parts of Vancouver Island for the past three years. Hoar already knows they’re a success, if not by the growing waitlist of homeless people who want one donated to them, then by the binners who save to buy one.

“This woman, she collects disability insurance, but not enough to live on; she bought one of my trailers because she knew she could make money using it,” Hoar said. “Now she’s off the street and still binning with it.”

The most basic carts Hoar makes are simply re-claimed shopping carts donated by stores when they’re no longer being used. He removes the store’s logos from the cart, puts bike wheels on it, applies decals to identify the cart as property of the homeless and then gives it away.

“They’re quieter and it removes the stigma of theft from the people that use them, because it’s clear they didn’t steal this cart,” he said.

The next step is to add a trailer arm to the cart so it attaches to a bike. He sells these trailers for about $500, and when binners use them it allows them to cover more ground.

With the $4,000 grant MOTHERS’ project received, Hoar designed four new, more durable and multi-functional trailers. Each cart, made from the same steel as bicycles, has a single-person dome tent attached for the binner to sleep in at night.

“They call it their mobile home. It can be set up and put away in under 10 minutes,” said Rose Henry, a formerly-homeless person who has been helping to video-document the project. “When you allow people to have their simple basic needs met, they give back to the community 100 per cent.”

Henry explained that the binners recover resources that would otherwise go to the landfill. That environmental benefit is what drew Hoar to the project.

“I make the cart out of recycled material, and they’re used by a zero-carbon person to collect more recyclable material, so basically they have a less-than-zero impact on the environment — unlike the big diesel trucks that the city likes to use to empty blue bins,” Hoar said. “I’d like to see all recycling done by people power. It’s really a win-win because these people get to make a living while cleaning up the city.”

With the bikes and carts, binners report being able to double the area they cover in a day, and travel to parts of the city where there is less competition for bottle collection, meaning they can make up to $100 in about six hours.

“They can buy their own food, have their own shelter — it means they are relying on city services less,” said Henry, noting that it costs tax payers $35 per night to keep a single homeless person in a shelter.

Still, there is a stigma attached to supporting binners. A listener poll by CFAX radio station in Victoria found that of nearly 650 respondents, half believed it was a “bad idea” to give homeless people specially-designed bike carts for collecting recyclables.

Gutberlet, who in 2007 published a report based on her interviews with over 150 binners, said that people who do not support the project often don’t understand that binning is actually a job for some people.

“My research showed that binners are contributing to the community … yet, these people are marginalized, stigmatized and harassed,” Gutberlet said. “Many have a disability or addiction, but they don’t want to be a burden on society.”

Gutberlet said that offering binners a flexible way to generate an income is a source of empowerment for them, and for the 60 per cent of binners she interviewed who were homeless, it offered a real way to get off the street.

“It’s not the solution for all homeless people, but for some it really helps,” she said.

The four binners who received modified carts from the MOTHERS project are all homeless and were selected based on a needs assessment. Gutberlet hopes to see the project expand as more people get behind it.

“Four trailers definitely isn’t enough,” Gutberlet said. “We need more support to get more money and materials for carts, and more people to build them. I’d like to see every homeless person who wants one be able to have their own.”