Monday, November 28, 2011

Time Lapse View of Earth From Space

This video has been getting a lot of attention since it was released by NASA during November. The five minute time lapse film consists of "...sequences of photographs taken with a low-light camera by the crew of expeditions 28 and 29 onboard the International Space Station." The images where shot from August to October, 2011, at an altitude of around 350 km.
Watching the film, I was amazed at the number of storms that seem to be taking place at any one time, somewhere on the planet – as indicated by the numerous lightning flashes that you see throughout the flyovers.

Among the highlights of the film are images of the Aurora Borealis and the Aurora Australis;  a view of the Northwest coast of United States and Central South America; Central Africa and the Middle East; Islands in the Philippine Sea; the Mideast at Night; the Mediterranean Sea, and Eastern Europe.

This film really makes me appreciate the fragile planet we all share and inhabit. From a height of 350 kilometres the world truly is a beautiful place, a fact we can easily – and all too often do – lose sight of as we crawl around down here at surface level. Let me tell you, dear reader, if you think we humans are going to find a better place elsewhere in the universe – you are kidding yourself. This is it. This really is as good as it gets, and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can focus on protecting the planet, and doing everything possible to ensure it, and we, survive for many future generations.

Make sure you set the video to full screen mode, then sit back and enjoy…

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My second piece for Travelhoppers on the Australian outlaw, Edward 'Ned' Kelly is now online.

The post looks at the legend of Ned Kelly as it survives today, and provides a route map for a suggested road trip through Kelly's life and subsequent death, for true crime fans, and for travellers interested in Australian history and the story of the Ned Kelly.

It may seem incredible, but the story of Ned Kelly still resonates across the years, despite his death by hanging on November 11, 1880 at Melbourne Gaol. In fact, it wasn't until recently that his remains were finally identified and returned to surviving family members for burial or disposal as they see fit.

However, the lingering mystery of what has happened to Kelly's missing skull remains. Forensic examination of a skull thought to be Edward Kelly's and in the possession of a Western Australian family for 30 years, now turns out not to be the skull of Ned Kelly, but quite possibly the skull of another criminal also hanged at Melbourne Gaol.

It all makes for fascinating reading for history buffs and true crime fans alike, and a good place to start your examination of the Kelly legend might as well be my piece for Travelhoppers.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Bitter End – Natural Woman

This is the third in a series of videos recorded at The Bitter End All Star Jam during August 2010. The song featured here is the Carole King classic, You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman).

To my great shame and regret, I did not make a note of the singer’s name, although I do know she was (and may still be) working at The Bitter End behind the bar. In between serving punters and waiting on tables she would always do at least one song during the Jam session.

Nor do I know the name of the African-American guitarist playing during this song. However, the other musicians are Mark Greenberg (drums), Brett Bass (bass), and Danny Thompson (guitar). If anyone can provide names for the singer and the second guitarist, I would be very grateful.

The Bitter End is at 147, Bleecker Street, and remains one of my favourite New York night spots to catch live music. You never know which rising star will make an appearance there during the open mic nights or the Sunday and Monday night jams that start late and finish even later. Thousands of performers (including Lady Gaga) have graced the stage at the Bitter End, and the venue has been the go to place for many a rising star.

And since you are online anyway, why not check out their MySpace page…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Travel With Children

Image courtesy of Children At Risk Foundation (CARF Brazil)
CARF Blog... and CARF Website...
Julia Odgers and Laura Morris have put together a couple of excellent eBooks packed full of advice outlining ways to keep children entertained and occupied while travelling. As they say in their introduction to the first eBook: “Traveling with kids can be fun, exciting, rewarding and at times challenging,” which is why they put together this collection of their own “tried and tested” travel tips and activities.

Whether you are planning to drive, fly, or journey by train or other means, both these eBooks will give you dozens of ideas for keeping the kids happy. Best of all the books are free and can be read online or printed off before you hit the road.

The first 21 page book contains travel games, word search puzzles, coloring activities, and tips and advice for parents about road food, travel sickness, and even advice about camping with children.

Click here to read the Children's Travel Activities and Travel Tips eBook now…

The second (25 page) eBook from Julia and Laura continues the theme with more great ideas, including some from other contributors. With headings like 3 Simple Steps for Surviving Long Journey With Children; Handy Tips for Flying With Kids; Inspiring Kids to Get Walking, and Top 10 Tips for Feeding Kids on The Move, there really should be no excuse for you family holiday to turn into a test of wills and tantrums.

The second Children's Travel Activities and Travel Tips is embedded below:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Paris on $50 a Night

Luxury room at the Hotel de Crillon
A recent story over on the Consumer Traveller site got me thinking about travel accommodations. The story by Janice Hough headlined One person’s $1,000 dream hotel room can be another person’s nightmare, describes a clients dissatisfaction with a hotel room booking. Apparently the room didn’t meet her expectations.

Janice writes:
"...their entry level room was €700 a night (about US$1,000), with rooms going up, way up, from there."

The client, who was travelling to Paris for her honeymoon, was so unhappy with her room at the Hotel de Crillon (which may or may not be the one pictured above) , she made a tentative booking with another hotel " €200-€300 more a night."

Assuming this client eventually paid US$1250 per night for their room, one can only hope she and her partner found the new room to their satisfaction. I have no idea how long the newlyweds spent in Paris, but it is fair to say they probably spent more on their room for one nights accommodations than I spent in the whole ten nights and nine days I stayed in the city.

Palace Hotel, Paris, France
Clearly their room would have put my €35/night (US$50) room at the Palace Hotel to shame, but I still think I got the better deal.

Although my room didn’t have a television (I didn’t travel to Paris to watch TV!), bar fridge, hairdryer, complementary shampoo and conditioner, room service or chocolates on the pillows, it did have everything I needed to make my stay in Paris comfortable, warm and safe. I even had access to free WiFi during my stay.

Not only that but the hotel – located in Montmartre and close to the Gare du Nord railway station – was within walking distance of the Pompidou Centre, Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Left Bank/Latin Quarter, the Louvre, and many other major attractions.

Ok, I have limited finances available to me, so I am forced to travel on a budget, or to at least spend my money carefully and wisely. But even if I could afford $1250 a night for accommodations I don’t think I would do it. What’s the point? At that price, I would be reluctant to leave my room. I’d want to get full value for my dollars and so spend hours each day doing – what? Watching television? Sleeping? Admiring the décor? Somehow I don’t think so.

Why spend that sort of money if all you are going to do is sleep there at night? (Yes, I know, they are newlyweds – so they may not be planning to get much sleep, but I’m sure you get my drift).

To be fair, I have to admit that if I was going to Paris for my honeymoon, I would not stay in a $50 a night hotel, but nor would I want to spend $1200+ per night either.

Maybe it’s just me. What about you? How do you like to travel, and what types of accommodations do you seek out? If you could spend one night in Paris at $1200+ or ten days in the city for the same amount – what would you choose? I’d love to hear your opinions.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Bitter End - Money

This is the second in a series of videos recorded at The Bitter End All Star Jam during August 2010.

The Bitter End (at 147, Bleecker Street, New York, New York) is one of the few Greenwich Village venues that have survived from the heyday of the exciting music scene that characterized 1960s New York City. Especially among those venues that promoted folk musicians in particular.

The song featured here is the old classic Money. The singer is Don Cazio, a Bitter End regular, and a musician and singer in his own right. Mark Greenberg (drums), Brett Bass (bass), Danny Thompson (wearing the hat) and Benny Landa both swap lead breaks on electric guitars.

I have been to The Bitter End numerous times on both my visits to New York City, and each time I have been amazed by the lineup of talent that is presented there. As you might imagine, New York has musicians and singers to spare, and many of the best of these are on show at the All Star Jam.

The Bitter End All Star Jam Band performs from 10pm until late, on the second and fourth Sunday of every month). There is also a regular Monday night jam with Richie Cannata.


Visit The Bitter End Jam website…
And since you are online anyway, check out their MySpace page…

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Street View Comes to The High Line

I have no idea how they did it, but Google Street View has now mapped New York City’s High Line park. I’ve written before about the High Line, but to make it brief, the High Line is an elevated park that meanders above the streets along portions of some of Manhattan’s west side neighbourhoods.

Currently the High Line is about a mile long, but over time it will be extended at least another half mile or so to provide yet another unique New York experience to the millions of visitors and New Yorkers who had enjoyed promenading along its length. Last year Google donated $1 million to the High Line, so I guess it is only fitting that the company give the elevated park the Street View treatment.

The following video gives you a brief taste of the project and only adds to my desire to visit the park again on my next visit to New York City.


You can see another video (narrated by the actor Ethan Hawke) outlining the history of the High Line here…

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Bitter End – A Winner Never Quits

The Bitter End is one of those classic Greenwich Village venues that have been around since the 1960s. With regard to The Bitter End, the venue has been hosting live music, comedy and other entertainments since 1961.

So many famous and infamous musicians have performed at the Bitter End, that it would take a couple of pages just to list them all. However, how about these for starters: Woody Allen, America, Tori Amos, Joan Armatrading, Joan Baez, Jackson Browne, Harry Chapin, Tracy Chapman, Judy Collins, Shawn Colvin, Chick Corea, Jim Croce, David Crosby, Billy Crystal, Miles Davis, John Denver, Bo Diddley, Bob Dylan, Jose Feliciano, Steve Forbert, Steve Goodman, Stephane Grappelli, Arlo Guthrie, Bill Haley, Tim Hardin, John Hartford, Richie Havens, Gil Scott Heron, Norah Jones, Billy Joel, Kris Kristofferson, Patti La Belle, Jay Leno, Neil Young, Lady Gaga, and many thousands more.

I have made a point of going to The Bitter End (at 147, Bleecker Street), on both my stays in New York City. More specifically, I have made regular visits to catch the All Star Jam that performs from 10pm until late on the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

I filmed the clip embedded here, during one of the Jams in August, 2010. On drums is the shows host, Mark Greenberg, along with regular bassist Brett Bass. Singing duties on the number filmed here are by Danny Thompson (guitar and vocals). Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the other guitarist’s name, although at one point Thompson seems to refer to him as ‘Benny’.

I have a number of other clips waiting to be turned into videos and as soon as I have done so, I will upload them to my YouTube page and let you know via this blog. In the meantime, enjoy...

Visit The Bitter End website…

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