July 15, 2010
Airlines & Airports Need to GET Technology FasterThe New York Times has a piece on technology and social networking for travelers - how airlines, airports and travelers are using social networking as a way to what, make traveling easier? Perhaps a little less painful if you can connect with a like-minded person when you're stuck at the Detroit or Delhi airport for hours.
Yet, the article references a survey of 84 of the world’s largest airports done by the Airports Council International earlier this year, which found that 96% offered Wi-Fi connections, and 73% had connections throughout their terminals. The survey reports that 45% offer the service free; the rest charge an average of about $8 an hour. Hmmm, so if I'm stuck for 6 hours because of a technical difficulty, I have to pay $50 to stay connected and get my work done, more than I pay for a month's service at home.
The piece talks about increasing availability of Wi-Fi at airports yet I still struggle to find 'reliable' connections even in places that tout they have it and then, they overcharge. Thanks to Verizon Wireless (AT&T obviously has also in the states but only half as reliable in my experience), I don't have to be hostage to airports' expensive connectivity plans that are often sketchy anyway. And while we're at it, what about the lack of power outlets? On every trip, I am on my hands and knees looking for the only one or two power outlets in the waiting area and 9 times out of 10, someone is charging their iPhone on it.
So I learn that "more than 10 airlines in North America, including American, Delta and Southwest, are wiring their planes for Internet access, and major foreign airlines like Lufthansa are introducing new technology that will let customers connect on transoceanic flights. And, as many as 1,200 commercial airliners in the United States will have Wi-Fi capability by the end of the year, according to Chris Babb, senior product manager of in-flight entertainment for Delta Air Lines."
Apparently Lufthansa has consulted with members of the FlyerTalk service to potentially develop an iPhone app so people can tap into the power social networking from anywhere. (a Blackberry version coming later). How it would work? A built-in GPS allows users to find fellow fliers who might be nearby. It also has a taxi-sharing feature that travelers can activate upon landing. I LOVE THIS ONE BTW and this is so logical and overdue I can't believe no one has launched something like this earlier.
It's great that the travel industry is starting to embrace technology, but frankly, they need to embrace it faster AND make it less painful to use - more power outlets, free wifi in airports and hotels, and easy-to-find and use mobile devices where you can connect locally at your new destination without the need to go through weeks of advance research to figure out the best mobile option for your four day stay. It needs to be easier and it needs to be cheaper so that not only the business traveler who can expense his $100 for the day wifi charge can benefit.
Mobile warriors have to stay connected in order to be productive on the road otherwise, staying home and doing a Skype call or virtual conference may prove to be a more productive and less stressful alternative.
July 02, 2010
A Chat with Virgin America's CEO David Cush
Fortune's Adam Lashinksy interviews Virgin America CEO David Cush, who discusses the innovative tools the carrier uses to expand its routes and please its customers.
Below, Virgin America vs. big U.S. carriers. In a second interview with David Cush, he says that in going up against U.S. airlines, they are competing on price, flights and routes. They're not yet making money yet, but he says they hope to make a profit this year. The initial plan called for profitability in year three and it looks like they're on target.
June 11, 2010
Israel Film Festival: What We Can ExpectLast week at The Israel Conference, I interviewed Meir Feningstein about this year's Israel Film Festival, coming to Los Angeles from October 20 to November 4, 2010 and New York from December 2-16, 2010. They'll also be holding one in Miami in February 8-17, 2011. We learn about some of the highlights and what you can expect. Join us.
May 19, 2010
Should You Pack Candles for the World Cup?
In January of 2008 South Africa endured blackouts that crippled the country, shutting down some of the major industries for days and causing a general drag on the economy.
Power has been rationed to the major consumers and general public since then and other conservation measures have been in effect.
Yet blackouts continue, in spite of a reduction in demand due to the global recession's effects on South Africa's economy. The problem is a result of decades of neglect in capacity generation and is exacerbated by power cable theft. Increased supply is supposed to help the problem but this isn't coming until 2012.
The problems were serious enough to draw the world's attention and questions have been raised about whether the country would be able to power the World Cup.
A trip to South Africa 18 months ago included a meeting with Eskom, the public utility which supplies 95% of the country's electricity and is one of the world's ten largest producers, and a meeting with FIFA, the international football organization presenting the tournament.
Questions to Eskom were met with brief and confident responses, and FIFA's answers focused on the games themselves, with reassurances that power generators would provide sufficient electricity for the stadiums during play.
When the same questions were asked of business leaders and the general citizenry the responses were much less certain. Many people mentioned crime and public safety as a trouble spot, but electricity was the primary infrastructure concern cited, with ground transportation a distant second (freight transport workers are on strike and the passenger train unions joined them earlier this week).
Now with the tournament less than a month away it is clear that authorities are worried. Eskom recently released a statement saying that they "expect quantities to be sufficient" but acknowledge pressure on the system and increased their calls to spare usage. Color-coded referees will appear on television to alert citizens and visitors about imminent reductions in power, at which point people will be asked to limit their usage to one light and one television.
Hopefully they are also asking people to "power pool," something that would make sense for a social activity like watching football. Perhaps an ad campaign of "Got Torch?" (We call them flashlights in the States).
The scheduling of matches can't help. FIFA understandably wants to avoid overlap. But 19 of the preliminary round's 48 matches are at night, with an additional 19 finishing after dark. Only 10 are day games. Among South Africa's biggest electricity consumers are the natural-resource extractors, but these consume electricity day and night. Residential consumption increases dramatically in the evening, and the games are taking place during South Africa's winter, so people are going to need heat as well as light.
In addition to concerns about the effect on the games themselves, there is the considerable matter of public safety, particularly with large crowds. It's not going to matter that FIFA has sufficient generator capacity to keep the bulbs on in the stadium if the traffic lights, street lights and public transit are shut down.
Meanwhile, here in San Francisco the first matches begin at 4:30 in the morning, or at nautical twilight, which is the point at which seafarers are able to discern a soccer ball against the horizon. Our biggest concerns are whether to stay up all night or wake up early, and how to change the city's liquor laws so that the game's first match can be met with a civilizing Bloody Mary or Mimosa. How about a new pub tradition called Groggy Hour? Ah, the problems of a first-world nation in consumptive decline.
Which brings us to the matter of global perception. This is being pitched as South Africa's coming-out party. It's been 17 years since the end of white rule, close to a generation, and the country is eager to demonstrate its modernity and readiness for a prominent place among the many new players in the global economy.
But what happens if the lights go out while everyone is watching?
February 08, 2010
Munich's Pulse During a Frigid January WeekBelow are a sampling of colors and shapes and lack thereof during a cold January week in Munich this past month.
January 30, 2010
Sensuality in Germany? How You Wonder? #munichClick below to energize your senses with the aromas of homemade German chocolate. Tucked away on a side street not far from Munich's food market where you are mainly faced with sausage, sausage and more sausage, a little gem called Sama Sama sits.
The building itself on Westenriederstr is crooked and crammed inside, every corner filled with homemade delicacies oozing with combinations you are unlikely to have tasted.
Not only do they use the best quality ingredients to create dark and milk chocolate masterpieces but they incorporate pistachios, cherries, lemons, ginger, amaretto, pepper, lavender, violets, roses, blueberries, vanilla, strawberries and more.
Allow yourself to surrender to chocolate everywhere you travel on this magical globe of ours. In one video, you will also see the chocolate in process as well as the finished product.
December 31, 2009
Sacha Finkelsztayn for a Yiddish Gastronomic WonderI ran across legendary Sacha Finkelsztayn in Paris earlier this month. On a mission to find dark chocolate, my tastebuds found taramasalata, mini baguette-like pastries with poppy seeds and some wondrous looking dumpling instead.
Imagine trying to get a shot of the place without 6,000 people coming in and out of its regularly visited door on a Saturday afternoon close to Christmas. As I stood there with frozen fingers trying to shoot -- and waiting to shoot -- more than one Parisian shouted the word "Impossible" at me.
Progress at last.
The area is old, so this incredibly quaint and adorable shop along Rue Des Rosiers isn't your only surprise, but it's so memorable that it had me longing for another visit days later.
Taglined La Gastronomie Yiddish D'Europe Centrale et Russie, it's a Yiddish gastronomic wonderland.
They have their own beautiful description: "On y retrouve les saveurs et les senteurs qui ont charmé l'enfance de Chagall, Soutine, Freud, ou Woody Allen. On y entend tous les accents des langues d'Europe de l'Est, des Balkans aux pays Baltes, et l'on y croise bien des célébrités du spectacle ou des Arts et Lettres."
It's been standing tall through three generations of Finkelsztajn. The colors, its heritage and the smells bring you in.
The collective experience, including the people who show up -- and stay -- are what keep you there.
It was far too busy to shoot video or do an interview despite the urge to do so. Instead, I hung out in the corner and observed for a long time, while sampling one thing after another.
And, each and every time, I was greeted by this man at the end of the shop who took my money and grinned, because clearly I was a newbie.....clearly I wasn't a local. It was not just the camera that gave it away. The must would have been my awe-stricken face in the corner oohing and aahhing after every bite and then again before the next one.
It's shocking to me that I had never entered its walls, despite my countless visits to Paris over the years, which often included a stroll up and down Rue Des Rosiers. All I can think of is that my priorities must have been different in the past. It's like trying to see the color green on shop signs when you are only looking for blue.
After more than a decade living back in the states, where food is not honored and worshipped as it is in Europe, particularly Paris, I now seek out the best of the best on every trip with a goal of having a gastronomic breakthrough each time. Indeed, a fabulous find.
December 24, 2009
The Greek Too Know How to Sing and DanceIn Mythos Resaurant in Paris' Latin Quarter.
August 23, 2009
Tips for Last Minute Travel Getaways
Great tips for last minute travel getaways in the Miami Herald. Deals, deals, deals. Check it out.
August 20, 2009
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