Category Archives: Misc

Buzz Off – The search for a longer-lasting and more effective alternative to DEET

Short news clip from ScienceCentral about a study seeking a better alternative to DEET – hopefully a compound that is longer lasting, less irritating and (ideally) is even more effective. Oh yeah, and perhaps a substance that doesn’t dissolve plastics. We wait with baited breath.

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14,000 staff banned from flying BA because they threatened to bump the CEO’s daughter from a flight

Bump!Let me ask you a question? What would you do if, as CEO of a very large and influential company and your teenage daughter and her friend were intially bumped from an over-full international flight but placed back on the flight when you protest?

Complain? Sounds kinda reasonable.

Seek compensation? Perhaps, if you want to make a point. But maybe you’re still not satisfied…

Decree that none of your 14,000 employees will fly on the airline for business? Well naturally. Acorrding to The Times that’s exactly what an angry Chris Bell, chief cigar-chewer at UK bookmakers Ladbrokes, has done. British Airways, the airline at the center of the storm, claim to have offered the two girls, who were returning from a holiday in the Bahamas with Bell, £250 each in compensation. Mr Bell, however, is quite rationally having none if it. The Times claims ‘the private dispute, which has ratcheted up into a corporate row, could cost BA up to £2 million in business and has forced Willie Walsh, BA’s chief executive, to intervene personally in an effort to defuse the situation.’

For their part, Ladbrokes claim ‘the way Mr Bell had been dealt with was only one of a number of issues the bookmaker had with the airline’.

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[Image by zen]

The French are polite – so take that you English pig-dogs!

French Taunter

According to a Reader’s Digest survey New York, Zurich and Toronto are the world’s most polite cities and Kuala Lumpur, Bucharest and Mumbai the world’s rudest. Paris, unfortunately, did the stereotype of the rude Frenchmen no favours by managing no more than a mid-table finish of joint fifteenth with London. Even Sydney managed to do better, matching the Milanese as the 24th rudest city.

Three measures were used to test each cities rudeness quotient:

1) Walking into public buildings 20 times behind people to see if they would hold the door open for us.
2) Buying small items from 20 stores and recorded whether the sales assistants said thank you.
3) Dropping a folder full of papers in 20 busy locations to see if anyone would help pick them up.

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[Via Expedia]

Free! Travel Information Delivered To Your Door!

The internet is an incredible free source of destination information, but it can’t quite match the thrill of receiving a whole envelope full of free glossy brochures of beautiful people streched out before vistas of azure oceans. Here are two great sources of free travel information delivered to your door; one defintely useful, the perhaps somewhat other less so.

Travel BrochuresLet’s start with the best. Tourism authorities are a fantastic and often-overlooked source of travel information – particularly for decent free maps and basic info with lots of glossy pictures. ANTOR’s* represents 48 official tourism authorities (including the Australian State authorities) and the destination info page provides (along side some basic travel info) the URL, email address and contact details for all of them. If you’re interested in any major destination for Australian travellers it will be listed. Simply email the relevant authority with your address, rough dates of travel and as far as possible the specific regions or cities you’re interested in and wait for the postie everyday for a week or so! No substitute for a good guidebook or your own research but generally there will be at least a couple of genuinely useful items in the material sent.

TravelBrochures.com.au and TravelBrochures.SMH.com.au are another clearing house for free travel information, although arguably of a must less useful nature. These sites allow to order free tour company brochures, some of which are available in digital (tree-saving) format. All the majors are available as well as a few smaller operators – useful if you wish to compare tours from a number of companies or can’t get to a travel agent. Of course some major operators now send out (often unintenionally comical) DVDs as as a bonus! Be warned, however, apart from ending up on a tour (which may or may not be a bad thing in itself…), you are likely to end up on a mailing list of the tour companies from which it may be difficult to extract yourself!

*(Association of National Tourist Office Representatives in Australasia)

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[Image by Classroom III]

Europe to the Himalayas on a British double-decker

Double-decker

The Observer has an article about two British lads driving a pimped-out double-decker bus from Bristol along the ol’ hippy trail to Nepal. With years of experience pimping vintage cars the two adventurers have

rebuilt the bus from the bottom up – adding a new engine, bull bars and a fold-down top deck for negotiating low bridges. They make highly technical alterations sound like changing a light bulb. The bus’s regular supply of steaming hot water is simply ‘a calorific heat exchanger fed by engine coolant’. Of course it is.

More of a shock was the reaction of the European public. I hadn’t climbed aboard any old bus; I’d joined a celebrity on tour. With three bedrooms, kitchen, shower and sun deck, it attracted levels of adoration unimaginable on its old routes to Weston-super-Mare.

Thirty minutes later I witnessed its power as an aphrodisiac – albeit one that only works on middle-aged men. ‘Magnifico, I give you special price,’ cooed the randy moustache at the Italian motorway tollbooth, before charging for a 50cc moped. ‘Where are the sexy ladies?’

‘Excuse me?’

‘The ladies. You need sexy ladies. Go to the beach. In this bus, you will find sexy ladies in bikinis.’

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The Venice of Africa

Ganvie from the air Ganvie

A Welsh View’s post on Ganvié, a village built over Lake Nokoué, near Cotonou in Benin was eye-opening. Apparently it was built during the sixteenth or seventeenth century to save people from slavery as religious traditions forbade attacking communities on the water. I’m embarrassed to say I never even knew it existed.

Some more professional images or further information here, here and here.

A bag, in a pouch, in a bag

My Love Affair With Dorky Luggage

Rick StevesPBS travel writer and presenter Rick Steves is a lot of things. A good writer, an intelligent and passionate traveller and someone who successfully preaches to Americans that there’s a world out there (OK, Europe) that is worth not just travelling to, but really seeing and experiencing. But, no matter his qualities, I’m happy to consider him the friendly old uncle of travel writing, encouraging the emptynesters to get out there and explore. But my guilty secret is I lust after his bags. Particularly his convertible carry-on and his daypack – all sorts of cool features, the best of all of which is they’re durable but damn light. But they’re so lacking in badass cred that they ought to come with a pair of slippers and a bus pass. But the design! The practicality! However, they don’t appear to be available anywhere in Australia and Amazon, fortunately my own self image, won’t ship them to Australia.

Today The Geeky Traveller caught my eye with the Kiva Keychain Backpack, made by the same company as Rick Steves line.

Kiva Keychain Backpack 1

Kiva Keychain Backpack 2

The Kiva Key Chain Pakc is a 120 gram nylon backpack (around 40 cms x 30 x 7) that collapses into a keychain pouch roughly 10cms x 6 x 3. A great idea for a daypack or extra capacity for things picked up along the way, even if the few Amazon reviews seem to (predictably) warn that it won’t carry a whole hell of a lot of weight. Like the Rick Steves bags, Amazon will only ship to US addresses. Saved from my own unconcious yearning for naff baggage again.

All in all, I reckon Kiva are a company that deserve a more active, better, or just bigger, Australian distributor.

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