March 08, 2017
Gratitude & Remembering America's Core Values Will Set Us Free
Given how much travel writing I do these days, I rarely post anymore over here which is where it all began. Two of my former blogs became Down the Avenue when I started publishing to the web, now more than 15 years ago. Truth be told, Down the Avenue is like an old friend. When the blog editor opens and I see it's old familiar interface, it's like going into an old coffee bar you used to frequent in your home town.
The difference is, that instead of opening up an old fashioned notebook in that same coffee bar and putting pen to paper like I did for many years across many continents, I type in a window and all of my personal ramblings come out, word for word. And, instead of those ramblings getting buried under a bed or in an attic somewhere that may someday be seen by a select few, the words get published for the world to see in a matter of hours, and often minutes.
When I'm in a reflective mood or simply need to make sense of something, I turn to my favorite cafe (this longstanding personal blog) and it all comes out. Once it's out there in black and white, it's so much easier to see that our lives and the world is far from black and white.
After the election, I like so many Americans were stunned with the outcome. While my intuition told me that Trump would win months before it became reality, a voice deep inside me wished this nation of immigrants would see through his sad but brilliantly navigated narcissist roadshow.
The truth is that racism and fear of others not quite like us, has always been front and center, especially for the white man. I grew up in that world. While I may not have been surrounded by Conferderate born conservatives, I was surrounded by people who told me to stay away from the other side of the tracks, you know, where poor black people lived because, well....it wasn't safe. My thinking as a child was that if it wasn't safe, why don't we invite them over to our side of the tracks where it was safe. Seems logical doesn't it? At least in a child's mind, who hasn't learned about fear and hate yet, it is.
I started traveling because I craved diversity which my small home town in upstate New York had very little of. I wanted to know how others thought and lived and ate and slept and walked. My grandfather was a conservative and while he had his own prejudices that he often shared about the Poles, Italians, Czechs, Dutch, Germans, Jews and others who lived among us, it was often with humor.
That said, underlying tones would remain, enough for me to want to see their worlds first hand. That same grandfather voted for Reagan and sent my uncle to New York Military Academy, the same school Trump went to and during the very same years. Founded in 1889, this private school,which we visited on more than one occasion years later, is spread across 120 acres in rural Cornwall. I think it was perhaps therapeutic for my grandmother or somehow confirmed their decision that sending him there was the 'right' decision to ensure he was on the 'right' path. I was sent to private catholic school by the very same grandparents for the very same reason.
You see, there was so much fear that we'd end up on the wrong side of the tracks if we didn't have discipline in our lives and military and catholic institutions are designed to bring you just that. For me, discipline is internal, not external as defined by an institution, school or political ideology. When we stray from our own voice, our own knowing, our own intuition, our own understanding, we can get in trouble.
Forgive the musings, but the reason I bring up this story is because it has to do with divide, something which plagues our world right now.
You see he believed in the rags to riches America, that this country was the place that his granddaughter as a woman could most succeed. When I used to talk about living in Europe, he said "if you want to be astronaut one day, you can in America, you can't achieve dreams like that in Europe. Even though there haven't been any women presidents, why couldn't you be the first?" As hard and difficult as he was at times, he used to say things like that to me all the time -- anything was possible. This was rare for the male generation of his time and while he expected me to set the table and help my mother clean the dishes after supper, he never expected me to only consider teaching or motherhood because that's what women did.
I guess my mother knew that too since I never gave birth to a child, I've supported more than one man and have worked my ass off since I was 14, starting with washing dishes for Italian-run restaurateurs who never stopped screaming at each other. When you're raised by a man who runs their own business, you learn to have an entrepreneurial spirit. From as long as I can remember, I've made my own source of income.
To make a living, I've mowed lawns, raked leaves, shoveled snow, wheel barreled sand, sold chocolate, cosmetics, and books door-to-door, worked in rural fields, sold art in Holland, picked greengages, grapes and oranges, patched and sewed in foam and glue factories, washed dishes, milked cows in Israel, managed restaurants, taught English in Kenya, bused tables in Belgium, waited on tables and tended bar on five continents and 8 countries, photographed events, performed plate smashing and dance ceremonies in Greece, sold ice cream in Australia, played piano in England, co-led swing dance classes, created direct marketing and advertising campaigns, written articles, authored photo books, led communications and marketing teams, run departments at a software and hardware company, given presentations and speeches, managed accounts and clients at PR agencies, launched start-ups, run my own communications consultancy, drafted creative briefs and written strategic plans.
Whoah Nellie - are you tired yet? I am and that's the point.
When people are surprised that anyone with a brain voted for Trump, I'm not. I know this other America because I grew up in it and around it. My America was one where you could buy a house and afford to send your child to college. It was doable for the working class family and even easier for a middle class one. It's 68 years since my grandfather paid $4K for our corner house, the one that would become my childhood home. They made sacrifice after sacrifice to make sure I had a better life (after all, that's what most parents do) and yet I still can't afford to buy a home in THIS America.
While I may live in one of the most expensive cities in the country and a former Google employee apparently paid $2 million in cash for a tear down house on my street, I realize that San Francisco and the Bay Area isn't reality. I get that. What is reality is that while house prices may not be $2 million in Phoenix or Seattle or Denver or Dallas, they're still far beyond what the average American can afford today. College is through the roof and our weekly grocery bill is absurd.
My monthly rent would make anyone with an above average salary bowl over, my health insurance payments even with a high deductible are nearly $700 a month (that's nearly $9K a year) and they just went up again and I have no health issues. I'm told that because I'm over 40, they'll go up even more with Trump's proposed healthcare plan, which quite frankly simply isn't doable. I can't work enough hours in a day to sustain these growing costs and so savings get depleted every year.
I think to myself often: it's not as if I haven't proved that I can do whatever it takes to make a living and am humble enough to go there. But...I'm tired. Most people are. And, this my friends, is why American born citizens are angry. It's not just white laborers and manufacturing plant workers who are wondering how to survive but 90% of the country. Will there even be a retirement fund? The Silicon Valley bubble I live in don't understand this 'other world' and that's why they were shocked when Trump won the election and I wasn't.
There's too much pain out there. While we were all immigrants once upon a time making a living on this great land, many of us expected (or at least hoped) we'd be better off 30 years later rather than struggling more than ever to pay bills, college loans and a mortgage. We all have our own stories of how we struggle and why we're tired even with a great education, skills and oodles of rich tried-and-true experience.
This tired group voted for Trump.
While I may feel some of their same pains, I couldn't conceive going there, because I don't believe in divided nations, divided communities, divided families, the result of a fear based approach to governing. After every decision and tweet, there seems to be more racist rallies, marches and incidents. Why? Because these decisions and words violate how we feel as unique individuals who make up the United States of America: Asians, Jews, women, blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, Italians, the list goes on. Conde Naste so elegantly wrote in a piece about the executive order on immigration which has turned into a Muslim ban, many of whom see as a religious war: "Above all of it loomed the spirit of the order itself, a sharp and cynical act from the highest office of this nation that, in spite of its many stumbles, has stood more than any other in modern history for refuge, for openness, for fairness and opportunity."
As a born marketer and brand expert, I saw it coming -- Trump is a brilliant rally chief. Making America great isn't about turning back the hands of time, nor is it to create a mantra that suggests we aren't great as a nation today. Let's face it, we are at a crossroads and the decisions we make during this very pivotal time will determine whether we continue to lead the free world -- or not.
NPR's Robert Siegel interviewed Yale historian Timothy Snyder this week, who is known for his sprawling books about war, genocide and the descent into dictatorship in mid-20th century Europe. His latest book "On Tyranny" addresses the concern about the rise of Donald Trump, and his lessons range from establishing a private life and listening to dangerous words to being weary of paramilitaries.
Says Snyder in his interview:
"The president has never given any indication that he understands or respects the rule of law and the things that the presidents have done so far. And this speaks directly, I think, to the central threat, suggests that he is deliberately spreading a world of unreality. And this is exactly why we have to understand history, because where fascism, to use your word, begins is with the neglect or the repudiation of the real world. Fascism says what you and I experience as facts or what reporters experience as facts are irrelevant. All that matters are impressions and emotions and myths.
And so when the president and his aides set out to create a world of alternative factuality, that is the catalyst which helps us slide from one system to another."
As alarming as that sounds, it's what many people feel is happening to our democracy (we do live in one right?) yet can't quite put the same words to it. They're feeling a loss of control. A loss of fundamental freedoms.
Why these new orders are impacting so many Americans, including third generation white ones, is because it feels like a betrayal of our nation's history, principles, laws, and customs. And, as Conde Naste also writes: "a betrayal of her spirit and aspirations."
Since the beginning, America's attractive power enticed millions of immigrants to leave the comforts and security of their homelands for the promise of hope, opportunity, and a liberty the world had never known. They also unleashed an entrepreneurial spirit that created unparalleled prosperity and spawned the greatest generosity ever exhibited by a country.
Several years ago, I wrote a book review on Rescue America, which devours why we're flailing and how we can return to an America we can be proud of again. They make countless references to American history, the Constitution, the principles behind freedom and what it means to be "free."
They take a deeper look at the Declaration of Independence, why it was created and what our forefathers wanted for Americans as a result. Equality and improving the human condition was a large part of what the "greats" who ran this country wanted; they also wanted a unified America.
"The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition...is so powerful a principle...(it is) capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity...(and) surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions." - Adam Smith
Thomas Jefferson didn't really propose an ideal on equality, but rather recognized and acknowledged an equality that already existed. What Jefferson meant by the Pursuit of Happiness and a "free" America was the inalienable right of the pursuit of happiness that one is free to become the best self that one is capable of becoming.
I love this as much as I love the benefits that Abraham Lincoln envisioned for Americans: the capacity and the freedom to choose, by the quality of one's decisions and by the inherent value and ownership of the fruit of one's labors.
"The man who labored for another last year, this year labors for himself, and next year, he will hire others to work for him." -- Abraham Lincoln
As a nation, we have achieved astonishing wealth -- if you combined the wealth of the Greek, Roman, Chinese and English empires, the wealth generated in America over the recent century would supersede them. And yet as free and democratic as our virtues are, most of us are struggling in today's America.
It's clear from the recent chain of events, we've lost a lot of important things along the way, the concept of gratitude being a big one and that attitude needs to come from the top so it can trickle down. The way out of this mess of course is action from the bottom -- continuing to exude gratitude regardless of how tough it gets, fighting for our freedoms and personal voices, ensuring that we always have a free press, not a constrained one and a healthier and happier life for all, not just the wealthy white.
Those who voted for a different America didn't think of the consequences of a leadership that uses fear to increase their power rather than service to lead with integrity. Diversity is after all, our biggest strength and guidance from the top matters a lot. Our children ARE watching and that's the point -- this generation is learning about what kind of leadership is acceptable for the most powerful leader in the western world.
"The direction in which education starts a man, will
determine his future in life." -- Plato
The mentors we meet along the way and the guidance we get determines our direction even more than education. It also determines our resilience and our ability to take one more step amidst negative set backs.
This is why voting for someone with a moral compass matters more than the laws they implement. As a nation, this guidance is what makes up our core ethics, values, the way we treat others and the way we look at the world.
What happens when the principles that gave you all you possess eventually lead to distracting and damaging habits and attitudes that take you away from those principles and lead to the wasting away of prosperity?
Do you abandon those principles, or do you recommit to them through honor, discipline and commitment? Isn't it time that as a nation we unite more than ever and work on restoring and recommitting to America's core values before its too late?
"Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves
neither liberty nor security." Benjamin Franklin
Photo credit: New Ten Commandments Website
Entitlement stands at polar odds with personal responsibility and gratitude. When we come from a place of gratitude, it's astonishing what's possible in our lives and how it flows to others around us. Everyone benefits. Gratitude is critical to restoring our spirit and our values, individually and collectively as a nation.
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." John F. Kennedy
The best thing we can do is to sit in another man or woman's shoes as often as possible. By demonstration, we show that we embrace all Americans, not just those who look, dress, act and worship like us. These acts will not only squash the hate and fear-based rhetoric that suggest that all Muslims are dangerous, all blacks carry guns, and all Mexicans are drug dealers, but it will set our hearts free as humans. From this place and as united citizens, we will only vote for and hire candidates who will truly serve this nation, not destroy it. Remember it's not just the economy that is flailing, but our spirits too, which is a far cry from what it means to be American. When our spirits crumble and shatter, our nation's spirits will too. And this my friends, is far more dangerous.
January 14, 2017
Proposed Cut of Planned Parenthood Funding by New Administration
As I listened to the discussion over the new Administration’s (can’t even say his name) proposed $250 million cut of Planned Parenthood on NPR this week, I thought "is this a throw-back Thursday joke of some kind?
This de-funding proposal, as all listeners of the latest developments know, is for standard women’s reproductive health services since federal funding doesn’t fund PP abortion. As someone who has lived in Africa twice and helped to bring on TEDx speakers to address the importance of birth control and empowering women in Africa and other developing regions of the world, I find it astounding that in the supposedly most developed country in the world, we’re having this conversation in 2017. Apparently most Americans still support Roe v. Wade (most recent numbers from Pew Research say 69%) and we've come so far with women's equality and rights or have we?
I was raised by my grandparents which means that my conditioning came from people born in 1915. Think about it. When I went on the pill for the first time after returning to the U.S. from living abroad, it came from Planned Parenthood – I wasn’t in an at risk category but felt safe going there when there were few people I could talk to about birth control. The grandmother who raised me died when I was 16 and I wasn’t about to turn to my grandfather. Yet, an interesting thing happened after I finally disclosed it to him. He said, “smart move – I’m glad you took the initiative, especially without your mother here to guide you.” Then we started talking.
He told me about a hospital scene when my grandmother was giving birth to my dad and the doctor asked him if there were any issues, what his decision was: to save my grandmother or the baby? I asked him with my wide open 21 year old eyes, “What did you say?” “Of course, I told him to save your mother. What kind of question is that?” as if I was a fool for not knowing the answer. My eyes watered up. Pro-lifers will likely say that the baby’s life is equal to the mother’s and sure, it is – after all, in an ethical argument, all lives are equal. After all, if there were labor issues in this scenario, I wouldn’t be here to write this heartfelt stream of consciousness or whatever it is turning into. Moments after his response, it occurred to me that the doctor asked my grandfather to make that decision. “Didn’t mom have the right to make that call herself?” I asked him. “No,” he responded. “It was the man’s decision.”
My grandfather was about as Republican as it gets, conservative about a lot of things and born in 1915, was an adult during times like this and yet he was pro-choice. Here we are having this conversation over a hundred years later as to WHY any government has a right to decide for a woman about her reproductive health? To decide for or in any way, impact a woman’s constitutional rights? Oh United States of America in all of your intellectual, financial, military and world power glory, haven’t you become smarter? Don't you know that women and diversity are the pulse of this powerful land?
How and where did this country get so lost? To a place of putting other desires above honor, truth and dignity. We have charted into a new world and definition of what it means to be an American or at a minimum, what American will now project to and come to be defined by the rest of the world.
Let’s not be so complacent or remotely okay with a new status quo, one which has begun to suggest that a man or woman’s honor, word, integrity, or conduct means nothing. How do we explain that words, conduct, and honor are not fundamental to America's ideology to our children who are watching and listening every single day? Words can’t describe how I feel as a woman listening to what is happening to this country and knowing what is yet to come in the next four years. The PP cut is just the beginning of many decisions that will take us far far back in time.
Meryl Streep summed it up in 5 powerful sentences in a response to the President’s Elect’s distasteful mocking of a reporter’s disability: “It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a move. It was real life. It was the moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. This instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life. Because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing”.
Lifestyle, Technology, Home & Health: My Top Picks from CES 2017Let's face it --- the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which is held every year in Las Vegas, can be a dizzying experience. I've been going for about 25 years, almost always repping a product and sometimes more than one, from kids education software and the world's best speech recognition system in my younger days to a myriad of startup innovations ever since. I tend to find the product recaps predominantly male; in other words, most of the top picks tend to center around early adopter products and they tend to fall in the following categories: video, cars, audio, and big screen TV's. While these categories impact all of us, especially car technology, I tend to look at unique designs, products and services which also appeal to women and solutions that help travelers on the road, either be more productive, or have more fun. I've curated a list of 25 products in several categories and some of the factors that I looked at when making the cut include originality, innovation, design, and whether it is or can look at the bigger picture and solve a need beyond what it is doing today. I include wellness, because that matters to me a lot, so much so that we've expanded the Wellness category. In this piece, you'll find the following: Toyota's futuristic car that thinks for you, the easiest to learn electronic guitar you'll ever use, a smart suitcase cover, a smart bed, a personal connected wine bar, a companion robot, the world's smartest air purifier, a fashionable wrist wearable that pairs with headphones, vibrating jeans and swim suits that alert you when to apply more sunscreen, a stylish panoramic camera with 17 lenses, smart dumbbells, a smart skateboard, the world's first electric violin made from a 3D printer, a genetic measuring kit, a smart assistant, a Titanium folding bike, a wireless speaker with a wool covering to integrate with your living room, a wireless antenna so you can cut those ties to Comcast and others, intelligent thermal clothing, a device that helps women increase their readiness and interest in sex, an AI-based smart home hub, a voice operated kitchen assistant, a pocket flying camera that all travelers will love and smart aromatherapy to improve your well-being. I also shot some video of this year's CES, which runs around five minutes but it includes product shots and some on-site experiences, so be sure to tune in.
The Toyota Concept-iCars are always fun to see at CES since it allows you to get away from large TV screens, audio and video devices, and in this year's case, Virtual Reality and Connected Home promised life changing innovations everywhere. The new Toyota Concept-i is focused on utilitarian autonomous transport. This car is so futuristic looking that it may be hard to imagine driving, at least if you're a woman that is. It has scissor doors and edgy styling and while it's not available to purchase just yet, it is setting the bar for other manufacturers to meet in this category. Calty Design Research center have dreamed up a new concept of automotive UX for Toyota -- intelligent cars that continually learn, and, in turn, keep getting smarter. They idea was to build a brilliant car that gets to know you and your needs, and then starts to anticipate them for you. Yui, in tandem with Artificial Intelligence (AI), anticipates your needs and informs the car so that Concept-i can consider and execute that next action accordingly.
It may sound all too futuristic, right? The key is that you're still in charge of the car however, through biometric sensors throughout the car, Concept-i can detect what you're feeling. That information then gets analyzed by the car's AI after which, automated features kick in. If you're feeling sad, the AI will analyze your emotion, make a recommendation and if necessary, take over and drive you safely to your destination. Yes, really! One of these days, it would be great to test drive this sleek device -- in the meantime, she's beautiful to look at for those into modern and future design.
D-Vine Connect, Your Personal Connected Wine BarAt the Sands in Eureka Park, it seemed as if French startups were dominating the aisles. You couldn't turn around and not hear a French accent or French being spoke. Enter French start-up who apparently launched at last CES but came back with more innovation. Keurig for wine on steroids and beyond? Sort of. Their D-Vine Connect is a 10-Vins’ wine-centric appliance, which allows you to taste a whole lotta wine at home without having to head to a restaurant or a vineyard. Given that we're big foodies here at We Blog the World and have a whole section dedicated to Food/Wine and Restaurant Reviews, we love this innovation. Their product features an interactive built-in touchscreen, which allows you to get top notch information instantly, kinda like having your own sommelier in your own kitchen. Imagine having wine transform into even better wine immediately. In other words, it actually changes the QUALITY of the wine. Additionally, D-Vine Connect helps you pair wine as well. For example, say you'd like to grill a steak with a salad and string beans for dinner. Or alternatively, you're in the mood for a smooth Cabernet Sauvignon or a Chardonnay -- D-Vine Connect will deliver suggestions on dishes, food pairings and so on that will go best with your preferred wine for the evening. This can be incredibly useful when you have guests over or simply don't want to think about it. Given my background in Artificial Intelligence (AI), I was impressed by the AI integration. Yes, this machine learns your tastes over time, so it can even make recommendations to you in the future based on your preferences. Simple, easy and oh so wonderful for wine lovers like me. Bravo! We liked the user interface as well, which makes it easy for anyone to browse through a myriad of wines and learn in the process. It's great for discovery and for making meals that much better. We also love the fact that the D-Vine Connect sets the right temperature for each chosen wine. The machine decants it for you from a dispenser after you make a selection and approve, automatically. Their assistant plays movies with views of the vineyards and explanations from 10-Vins’ oenologist about the wine you’re tasting -- how cool is that? Apparently, it will also analyze data on wine consumption and share it with the wine industry. The D-Vine will be shipping later this year and apparently is planning to open a wine lounge bar in California before the end of the year - we hope that they let us know when they launch this so we can check it out.
Sleep Number 360 BedWhile we're talking lifestyle and home, we should also mention the Sleep Number 360 Bed, which was getting a bit of attention at the show. Imagine being tired after a long day and you're ready to head to bed, but before you do, the Sleep Number 360 automates a process that will keep you toasty warm before you dive under the sheets. Yes, really. The bed will heat up the foot of the bed, which is such a great feature for those who live in cold climates -- oh so lovely right? Photo: BusinessInsider What else is cool is that the bed also adjusts the actual angle as well as the firmness of the mattress as the user moves in his or her sleep, making it a more comfortable and relaxing sleep overall. For example, if you move from your back to your side, it will adjust accordingly. And, this feature will be a godsend for so many -- et hem, but can it work? I call it the Reduce Snoring Feature. In other words, if it senses you or your partner snoring, it will automatically adjust one of the individual headrests to make it stop. Wow, right? Could potentially save a lot of marriages. The bed also has a feature that will alert you to wake up, adjusting your alarm to your own preferences. The Sleep Number 360 smart bed uses SleepIQ technology and intelligent biometrics to sense everything you need so it can customize a sleep experience for you. Yup, the bed is kinda like a smart bed in that it knows how you're sleeping and comes with a mobile app so you can track it. In the morning, you’ll both learn how the Sleep Number 360 smart bed is adjusting to your individual comfort and the effects the bed has on your sleep quality through something they refer to as a SleepIQ score.
My Buddy RobotThis adorable robot is being pimped as the Companion Robot, a new innovation from San Francisco and Paris-based Blue Frog Robotics. My Buddy Robot has a number of fun and useful features that enhance your home, making it smarter I suppose one could say. On the edutainment side, you can participate in interactive games, math and language learning, which is great if you have kids of the right age. There's also a security component as well. You can use My Buddy to patrol, detect, alert and notify you remotely of any issues at home, including a potential burglar. It can also act as a smart baby monitor, another great family feature in a device that does look like a friendly 'companion.'
He's adorable right? On the smart home side, My Buddy can act as a hub and connector to IoT and home automation appliances -- think thermostat, smart TV, door locks, motorized curtains, lights, a HiFi station and more. You may not want to enable all of those features depending on your needs and interests, but from climate control to the kitchen, there are useful benefits. Imagine it also acting as a photographer, a concierge, a messenger of daily weather, news, recipes and more.
I also think the elder care piece of it is also a wonderful feature. For example, you can use the robot to detect any falls from an aging parent, and it can maintain social links as well as act as an agenda posology. Cool stuff and.....the design is incredible cute. See a few second video clip of him buzzing around in Vegas in early January.
Helix CuffThey were pitching the Helix Cuff as the world's first fashion wearable with smart wireless headphones -- on your wrist. Helix Cuff is the flagship product of Ashley Chloe, which caters to fashion-forward consumers who crave sleek digital wearables that are modern and elegant. Helix Cuff aims to bridge the gap between high fashion and functional form, they say. It comes in six fun colors and is paired with a smart app.
Magic Instruments Guitar
Spinali Design ClothingSpinali Design produces smart clothes which are designed to integrate with your smartphone with a goal of helping to fight the "burnout" factor in your life. French designed and owned, they manufacture smart clothes (they had their jeans and swim suits at CES) and smart accessories. Their "smart bikini" line Neviano, embeds a device that alerts you when to apply more sunscreen. Cool, right?
A range of 70 swimsuits numbered from 01 to 06 (from the most covering to the least covering), combine design, sensuality, innovation and technology. The Neviano UV Protect has "suntanning tips" and as noted above, a "sunscreen alert", which integrates the function "Valentine" which makes sure you apply more sunscreen when necessary. The Neviano UV Protect also manages the UV index, the Distance function and the Multisensor function.
Their vibrating jeans (yes, really -- and we hope to review them soon) comes with two vibrating sensors on the belt which is connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The geo-location feature allows you to make it easier to find your car or your meeting place. A feature called “Ping” will allow people to interact with their surroundings through a vibration that can be customized by duration, frequency and intensity. They tout this feature for those who want to discreetly attract someone’s attention, for people communicating in open offices, or for students. The system can also be programmed to inform you if you are running late. With its integrated push button, this smart clothing has a variety of uses, from security alerts, home support, geo-location of your children, isolated workers, and more.
The Hair Coach by KerastaseYou'd expect a hair coach product to come out of a French company wouldn't you? Powered by Withings, I had a chance to see the new hair coach at CES in early January. Totally personalized, they tout this as the world’s first smart hairbrush that empowers you to track and improve hair health over time. This product results from a collaboration between Kérastase, L’Oréal and Withings, which brings state of the art sensors and app connectivity to everyday products. The resulting innovation is a brush that syncs seamlessly to your smartphone to provide valuable insights that can help revolutionize the home beauty routine. I had a chance to chat with someone about their new innovation in their booth, so while the sound isn't great, my short video will give you an idea of the jist of it from a spokesperson at the show. You simply brush and the technology does the rest. For dry hair, you can follow hair elasticity to learn how to avoid dry hair and measure your cuticle damage to help ensure moisture retention. It also helps with breakage and the ability to optimize sebum distribution to avoid tangles. The smart app will measure all of this and provide insight into how to avoid damaging hair. I love this since this so called gesture analysis helps you understand and improve brushing habits. The handle is sleek and lightweight and boasts high density of professional-grade boar and nylon bristles and the brush seamlessly integrates with a mobile app. The brush detects when it is being used and begins data collection automatically. As soon as you complete your brushing session, all data will be sent automatically to your phone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. They tell me it should be available sometime in Q3 of this year.
STARO: Panoramic CameraI love the design of this very cool panoramic camera, STARO, not yet out and only shown as a prototype, at least that was my understanding. This 360 panoramic camera claims to have the highest resolution at 136 mp which avid travelers will love. It's also small,easy to pack and beautiful to look at as well. Of course, I only saw it at their booth so didn't have a chance to test it out though we'd love to sometime this year on a trip where we can catch the best drama of course. The stitching of photos is decent but may require software to make it all come together.
See a sample shot of the Great Wall below, where you can see that the camera was able to capture most of the highlight detail in the clouds, while also showing detail in the wall itself. As noted above, the camera has quite a few lenses -- 17 in total (multi-lense simultanous imaging), which makes shooting sports easy. All lenses can simultaneously photograph and stitch 17 photos into a single panoramic photo with 136 million pixels.
They also boast one touch shoots, all of which can be managed within the Staro mobile app. Three photos in different EV levels automatically do HDR-merge, which is what provides the higher dynamic range they tout as a notable feature. Auto 3D modeling makes scene roaming more fluent and smooth and it is compatible with computers/tablets/smartphones and VR equipment. They offer wifi synchronization as well which makes it easy for travelers on the road to post to social media and share with friends/family at home. Total weight is sweet at only .4 pounds.
This is a standalone device that can supplement other camera devices you may already be using, unlike the Insta360 Nano which I reviewed recently and included in both our Holiday Gift Guide as well as my top picks for 2016. The Insta360 Nano churns out a few different 360 effects and note that the below shot was a selfie I took from inside a balloon on my most recent trip to the Dominican Republic. Here's another shot taken on a boat from the same trip.
Helko's Smart DumbbellsSince we're huge fans of wellness and holistic lifestyles here, I was drawn to the smart dumbbells at the show, which bring games to fitness from Helko. It seems to be early days from these guys so I don't have a lot of details on the product itself, except that its goal is to combine universal fitness equipment with multi-functionality of a biotracker and gamepad. These dumbbells are most definitely futuristic in every way with a modern sleek design that is sure to attract women and hipster millennials. They weave games and entertainment together to motivate your workouts -- cool idea and I'm looking forward to hearing more as they get closer to shipping.
SPECTRA: Most Portable & Intelligent Personal Vehicle
While we're talking about transportation, let's visit something smaller but also elegantly looking. Enter the SPECTRA, the most portable and intelligent personal vehicle. Like the Segway, you need to be aware of your posture and stance but it has a lot of great features to help you along the way. Unlike the Segway, it's portable, electric and they say, you're up and running after only five or so minutes of learning.
While this may be a little male dominated (it seems to be a theme for my post, right?), I love what these guys are doing. As a kid, I was a big skateboarder, so this chic innovation really resonated with me. As someone who has always had good balance, the Segway was a natural for me the moment I stepped on one so the SPECTRA in a natural progression, only smaller and cheaper.
Its length is around 19.4 inches, its range can go 11.2 miles at a 12.5 mile (top speed) and it only weighs in at around 12 pounds -- there are heavier laptops than this if you get all of the bells and whistles. The device boasts a 2D posture sensing module which has a series of pressure sensors and an intelligent algorithm, meaning you can control it simply by shifting your weight. Even though I gravitated to it because I'm a former skateboarder, you don't need any skateboarding experience to be able to use it -- they're designing this for everyone.
With the same stable structure as a skateboard, SPECTRA is mechanically robust (they say) and adaptive to all kinds of commuting needs. With the dual-hubmotor design in the front, it has the ability to climb up a 20 degree ramp and recharge when decelerating or going down ramp (nice feature!!). It comes with an app, which has a speed mode selection, digital control keys, a battery status and odometer screen, lock mode and sharing economy feature and a path post and SNS. There's also flashing brake lights in both the front and the back and in addition to the brakes on the bub motors, SPECTRA has dual protection with its extra electromagnetic drums. The company is Walnutt Technology and they're planning to do a Kickstarter campaign this spring, with shipping planned for sometime in the late spring or early summer.
Varius, World's First Electronic Violin (from 3D Printing)
3D printing is growing in popularity and is becoming more known among the masses. There seems to be no shortage of new products that can be created from a 3D printer, but an instrument? If you're a serious music guru regardless of what instrument you play (or teach), you may have a hard time thinking that an instrument created through a printer can deliver the same quality of sound as a traditional one. This will largely be a personal opinion of course, but the bottom line is that a 3D printed violin is now possible. Varius claims they're first to market with a 3D printed concert electric violin. Have a listen to a very short video I shot on the CES show floor of someone actually playing it.
Printed as a single piece, the 3D Varius violin departs from traditional musical instrument production technology. This particularity ensures a perfect accuracy of the audio spectrum and a total respect of the musician’s emotion, they say. It was designed to facilitate the transition for all violinists from a classical violin to the 3Dvarius. Its dimensions can be customized and adapted to any morphology. The instrument was also designed to offer a maximal playing comfort as the weight distribution was optimized to re-create the comfort of a classical violin. Its sound sensors, located under each string, were carefully selected to accurately translate the sound frequencies.
Join the genetic movement if you haven't already. I love this stuff -- bottom line, the more you know about your personal temple, the more proactive you can be to take better care of it. A very cool genetic assessment kit by Orig2n measures a bunch of things, including food sensitivities, fitcode (exercise, recovery, endurance, etc), your skin and whether you have genes or not for super strength, speed or intelligence (yes, really!).
I actually did this test with their team on the show floor so am still waiting for my results and whether I'm a SUPER WOMAN or not. It's a simple and quick process that merely requires you to take a swap of the inside of your cheeks (left and right) and send it in. Genetic assessments can empower you with information about your body so you can make more informed decisions about your fitness, diet and skin health. The company behind this cool test is ORIG3N, which is involved in stem cell research and regenerative medicine and apparently has established the world's largest cell repository in the world - how cool is that?
Based in my former hood and stomping ground -- Boston -- these guys are at the forefront of genetic testing in ways that can directly help consumers. After I get my results back in a month or so, I'll post an update on my experience including using their app.
Lenovo's Alexa Smart AssistantTruth be told, I'm a Lenovo fan and no, I am not a Lenovo ambassador nor have they ever been a client. I've owned a few of their laptops over the years and long for one today after several years of glitches with my MacBook Pro. I don't want to hear it from Mac fan boys -- there are issues despite your love with the simplicity and beauty of a Mac's design and I don't just mean compatibility ones. The Lenovo at CES I'm referring to is not one of their latest laptops however but a speaker...something they refer to as the Alex Smart Assistant, which many in the press room compared to the Amazon Echo although it's a tad cheaper. They call it a smart speaker (of course it has to be smart given the trend at CES in the last couple of years) and it employs Amazon Alexa. The speaker is available in two models and a variety of colors. I cringed when I saw a male writer talk about how he gravitated toward the black edition, which apparently sports Harman Kardon speakers. If you read WBTW often enough, you know that I applaud vendors who think about women buyers and offer a variety of fun colors and I don't mean masculine red, orange and bright blue. Lenovo gives us choices in elegant soft colors - bravo!! I've yet to test them out and would love to review a set, so check back for more when we get our paws on a pair. The basic Lenovo Smart Assistant is priced at only around $129. The Amazon Echo has 7 microphones whereas the Alexa has 8so in addition to their beautiful design, the sound should be top notch as well. The more advanced version (aka the Harman Kardon edition) delivers even better audio apparently.
Seattle Cycles' Titanium Folding BikeThis beautiful prize isn't an option for those on a budget. Starting at around $10K, the gorgeous titanium folding bike on the CES show floor was a stunner. Seattle Cycles tout their latest as the worlds lightest e-bike -- it folds up, is airline 'legal at only 16 inches and weighs about 18 pounds.
Designed for taking on travels by plane, boat or train, the Burke 20 can be folded and packed into a 28"x22"x12" suitcase in one minute, without disassembly of wheels, handlebar or use of tools. Unfolded, the 20-inch wheels, wide gear range, and a full titanium frame with an extended cockpit give a fast and reassuring ride. It apparently 'fits' like a full-size bike, has adjustable seatpots and handlebars and will work well for any rider from 5' tall to 6'+. It has a leather saddle, foam grip and MKS pedals. They may be targeting men, but I love the design and let's just say, wish I had one in my garage.Photo credit: Seattle-Cycles.
Beoplay M5 SpeakerNot quite as attractive as the Alexa Smart Assistant, but a speaker that touts itself as a piece of furniture, the Beoplay M5 is a wireless connected speaker that can function as a standalone or be connected to other speakers across multiple rooms. It is covered in wool so I applaud them for getting away from ugly black and gray, and the material is soft, covering is soft and can integrate well into a living room. Photo: BeoPlay Beoplay's music systems and speakers feature the Bang & Olufsen Signature Sound, sound which they say is honest, clean and with passion. We haven't tested these out yet either, but hope to sometime this year, so stay tuned. All their products are made from premium crafted materials and offer a palette of colors and placement options to match your style and interior. (YAY -- thanks guys!) For technical geeks, you may want to know that it's actually Bang & Olufsen’s sub-brand which is a bit more affordable than some of their higher end solutions. To get your music music to the Beoplay M5, simply connect via Bluetooth, Chromecast, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, or Bang & Olufsen’s Beolink Multiroom. It seems like this is going head-to-head (so to speak) with the Sonos Play:5, however unlike the Sonos, you don't need a dedicated app. With the M5, you can play it all via a regular Bluetooth speaker. Many of us want the ability to have Spotify et al to deliver music directly and have a little more flexibility and freedom for how we use the device. The cost is around $599.
The Mohu AirWave Wireless AntennaLet's be honest, I HATE dealing with Comcast and am not alone. We've all been at dinner parties or networking events where there's a hate fest discussion over Comcast and it doesn't seem to be any easier to cut ties with them -- believe me, I tried. The last time I called to nuke my TV to bring my cost down and just use them for wifi access, it cost more, a way to keep you tethered to their God awful expensive plans. Also shown at CES, the Mohu AirWave wireless antenna can go anywhere in your house, and I have to admit, I love the fact that you can avoid those ugly wires which none of my engineer friends seem to mind. This flexible feature allows for optimal positioning, so you can access live, local broadcast channels onto your Fire TV, Apple TV, Android, iOS, Roku, and more. They tout this as the industry’s first-of-its-kind wireless over-the-air (OTA) and over-the-top (OTT) device that integrates live, local broadcast TV with free streaming channels across popular streaming devices as noted above. It is really dedicated to people like me who are looking for smart and creative ways to CUT THOSE CABLE CORDS for good. AirWave was built to give cord cutters open, simple and complete wireless access to the live TV and streaming content they enjoy, all in one place and with no monthly fees. Photo: Mohu AirWave wirelessly connects to the Mohu TV application (available for free across all compatible devices), so you can channel up and down through live broadcast content and free streaming content in a familiar, cable-like TV guide. You'll be able to view streaming video in a cable-like program guide, complete with program descriptions and select your favorite channels, while also being able to view up to 14 days of upcoming content. You can set up AirWave anywhere in a home where there is an Internet connection and the price point is sweet at only $149. (available this spring). Bravo!! We can't wait to test this out -- if it works, I'll be their loudest voice and biggest fan!
Sprimo, World's Smartest Air PurifierLet’s face it -- indoor Air Pollution is dangerous and climbing at alarming rates. Air pollution in general rise worldwide, killing more than 3.3 million and one study says it could double by 2050. Given that we spend nearly 90% of our time indoors (some research says more) and indoor air pollution is slated to be from 3 to 10 times worse than outdoor air pollution, it’s no wonder that that cases of Asthma and Allergies are climbing and at an all-time high. If you think that all the places where you or your kids spend time is at safe levels, think again. Studies show that 50% of America’s schools have problems linked to indoor air quality and an issue in 6 out of 10 homes worldwide. Purer air is said to improve kid’s productivity and results at school. Bottom line, what we breathe in day after day, can impact the quality of our sleep, energy levels and even life span. Enter Sprimo, the “go-to” product for people who want the best quality air in the personal spaces they work, play or sleep. Unlike traditional air purifiers that focus on large square footage areas to measure success, Sprimo is aimed at improving the quality of life through bursts of clear air instantly. Sprimo’s small, lightweight and nearly silent air purifier is smart and adapts based on people’s issues, from chemicals and dust to seasonal allergens. Anyone who suffers from allergies can benefit from Sprimo as well as those at higher risks, such as children and the aging. The purifier’s low entrainment air flow works as a shield to block contact by reducing the chance of you breathing an airborne virus by up to 60%. Sprimo’s new Personal Air Module (PAM) and cloud-based mobile app delivers real-time data on air quality via your smart phone so you can be alerted wherever you may be. Simply plug it into your iPhone and you’re good to go – you’ll be alerted whether you’re breathing in poor quality air or not. They'll be taking pre-orders starting in March and Sprimo will ship sometime in Q4. See a video of me at their booth - note that the steam you see was made possible by cold ice and merely for the purpose of seeing roughly how large the clean air blanket is around you when using Sprimo.
C-me Pocket Flying Cameras by Hobbico
Truth be told, I didn't have much time to learn about this product at all but I did SEE it briefly and loved the design as well as the fabulous four color options. I've been wanting to test out a drone for awhile now, however the combination of ugly designs, the price and the fact that they seem to cater mostly to men, has held me back. Top all of that with the need to get a certificate, a process of registration that albeit I'm told is easy, is still a barrier. They're also sizeable and I get the feeling there's more of a learning curve then I'm willing to commit to, at least now. And dang, they're noisy.
Travelers will likely be most interested in camera drones, which are typically ready-to-fly quadcopters that have stabilized cameras for shooting both video and stills. Drones with cameras can be used for a variety of things, including video production, search and rescue, agriculture and more. The simplest reason to use one is to simply see the world from above, which is an entirely different perspective than we normally get when we travel. I ran across a small and attractive one that seems to be a great fit for travelers called C-me, which they don't really call a drone, but a pocket flying camera -- they tout it as the smallest micro folding pocket flying camera to be precise. Those who think (like I do) that most drones are ugly, made for geeks and too bulky, take a look at this more consumer-oriented option that comes in fun colors and cloaked in a design that women will love.
Photo: Hobbico.It's small enough to fit in your pocket and provides one-touch instantaneous social media sharing of full HD images and videos including selfies - bravo! So, whether you’re taking high-flying selfies or full HD aerial images and videos of your trip to the Grand Canyon, Hobbico’s C-me makes selfies and video easy. It is the first micro folding drone that fits in your pocket, the first device of its kind with a Full HD 8MP digital camera, and the first to feature touch-of-a-button social media sharing to your favorite social channels. It’s also a snap to use – no previous flight experience necessary – as it comes with an innovative single-thumb control interface that can be mastered in only five minutes plus connectivity to the most popular IOS and Android smartphones via their free-to-download C-me app. When not in flight, the arms and propeller blades uniquely fold completely inside the body cavity for the ultimate protection against accidental snagging or catching that can cause damage or imperfection to the blades or arms resulting a less-than-perfect flight performance. A proprietary chip delivers many of the features of a commercial-grade drone for half the price of other camera drones. The device uses a Full HD 8MP digital camera with resolution equivalent to the iPhone 6 and self-generated WiFi, which all travelers will love. There's also a 360° option for panoramic video, a burst mode that captures up to 15 images sequentially with one touch and a feature which I love, a ten second delay timer, although I wish they offered longer options, i.e., 25 seconds and even up to a minute for those harder to take shots when you're on the road. Nature shots come to mind. And look at this fabulous C-me in PURPLE! Although we haven't tried it yet, they tout one-touch takeoff and landing, which for those who fear the drone learning curve, seems like a godsend. It's not quite available yet (dang) but a spokesperson tells me I may be able to get my paws on one sometime in March to review -- we can't wait! Photo: Hobbico.
Clim8: Intelligent Thermal ClothingThis is a B2B innovation -- in other words, it's not clothing you can go out and buy, but technology that will be built into clothing you already know, a bit like the Intel chip inside for clothing, but rather than speed, it's about warmth, or more accurately -- regulation. They don't think of themselves as a smart wearable but it absolutely is in that it's smart about regulating the temperature in your body. You can receive what they refer to as thermal consistency in order to maintain personalized comfort, no matter what the weather conditions or activities that you do. Their revolutionary (their word, not mine) textile process, integrates tiny sensors into the yarn, leading to optimal temps. Sensors in the garment monitor skin temperature and their app analyzes your surroundings, activities and skin temperature. From this process, heating zones embedded into the garment activate to adjust skin temperature and maintain thermal comfort. Cool, right? The garment then regulates heat exchanges by evaporation as it matches sweating zones on your body.
Fiera: Personal Care Device for WomenSo many online sites cater to the geek in all of us, but let's face it, most of the picks and reads are tailored to men. I read the round-ups and rarely do we find cool innovation picks that's about something a bit more obscure or, hmmm, controversial, like sex. Fiera, which they refer to as a Personal Care Device, is the first hands-free wearable product for women, which is designed to increase interest in and physical readiness for sex, naturally. Fiera is used before sex to help get her mind and body ready for a physical, mental and emotional connection with her partner. Given that the chief 'scientific officer is a woman, I decided to listen for a bit longer when I first heard the pitch at the Showstoppers media event.
WooHoo's Smart Home HubWooHoo is an Artificial Intelligence based Smart Home Hub & Cloud-based platform designed by SmartBeings. They were exhibiting at Showstoppers and at the Sands (Eureka Park), so in the early startup category. They say they're the first device with facial recognition, voice recognition, an Internet of Things (IoT) hub and a 7 inch touchscreen all in one. The world's easiest-to-use cloud based SmartHome software is also baked in, they say. Is it the easiest and most innovative? Hard to say since I only had a quick peak at it, but I like the promise. With a name like WooHoo, it's no surprise that they're Silicon Valley based, the home of some of the silliest names I've ever heard. That said, its easy to remember and I suppose....cute! Think of it as an Amazon Echo combined with a Nest Cam except that it also has a touchscreen. Its motion detection is a useful feature as well, meaning you can use it as a security cam for your home (cool) and you can make video calls on it as well, the connection being via Bluetooth, Z-Wave, Wifi, and more. The extra security comes from a number of ways, but some of it has to do with its smart ability to recognize both your voice and your face, as well as your own personal touch, i,e, customize it with your own commands that you use frequently. Photo: WooHoo Its early days, so it's not shipping yet, but I'll be curious to test it out when it is and not one of the earliest shipping ones either - I'd rather wait until any early version bugs are ironed out, but overall, it seems to be a really comprehensive solution with lots of bells and whistles for the price.
AromaCare, a Wellness Aromatherapy CompanionYou know we're huge fans of mind/body balance here at We Blog the World, so much so that we have an entire section dedicated to wellness, from general wellness travel to wellness stays and health-related products and services. I love Aromatherapy and am a huge believer of its value -- we even included essential oils in our holiday gift guidethis past year. Imagine a smart aromatherapy diffuser and a smart app that allows you to control smells through your smartphone. The AromaCare delivers you a blend of essential oils by a simple and calibrated way to improve your well-being and health. Photo: AromaTherapeutics Their connected diffuser creates a well-being bubble for 20 minutes, which they refer to as a “personal and natural care” session. The company behind it, Aroma Therapeutics, has developed six blends as ready-to-use essential oil capsules: Sleep to help improve falling asleep and improve sleep quality, Calm to destress and calm down, Tonic to stimulate the body and soul, Memory to improve concentration, Breath to liberate the lungs and Pollen which provides seasonal support. AromaCare also plans a White capsule for people wishing to use personalized treatments (by using their own essential oils), a feature that I personally love. It works with a mobile App which allows you to control sessions, get access to the consumption as well as coaching - Boost, Air or Zen - sessions over a one-month period in order to obtain longer lasting health benefits.
Hello EggWhat a name right? Hello Egg seems like it would be an assistant right? Maybe even one that belongs in the kitchen? This smart voice-operated kitchen assistant from a company called RnD64 (seriously??) has a number of useful features, including the ability to plan your weekly meals and order groceries for you. It will also provide easy-to-follow step-by-step recipes via video RnD64, whose name I'll never remember, unveiled it for the first time at this year's CES. Photo: RnD64 Think of it as a smart digital assistant that can automate your meals for you based on dietary preferences and needs and can also adjusts to unplanned surprises, such as a friend stopping by for a bite and you have very little in the fridge. Hello Egg can also overlook your kitchen pantry, orchestrates your shopping list priorities, and if you want, handles the delivery of your groceries, a godsend for so many single men I know. The device will also answer cooking-related questions and backs you up with 24/7 support of a real cooking experts team -- who couldn't use that? I know I could. Give or take, it will be priced around $350 and available sometime in Q2. My video recap of the show:
May 27, 2016
Exploring the Future of Travel @ TravelTechCon
Introducing Travel Tech Con, an independent conference organized by a group of travel startup founders who share a common passion of moving the travel industry forward. Now in its first year, the event this month spanned over two days, the first of which had 15 startups present at the Plug & Play Center in Sunnyvale California. Day two focused on players in the world of travel tech addressing what needs to change in the next ten years to bring an industry with an antiquated infrastructure up to what consumers expect in 2016 and beyond.
Photo credit: EMaze.
From Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, the Internet of Things, Big Data, Open Travel Standards, Automotive Innovations and more, we heard from Adobe’s Head of Global Industry Strategy & Marketing for Travel & Hospitality Mohammad Gaber, Emergent VR’s Peter Wilkins on the future of VR and Travel, OSLET’s Gadi Bashvitz on using personalization to drive conversions, Chute’s Ranvir Gujral on AI, GEIOS’ Michael Frischkorn talked about using IoT to help travelers create more memories, and Roomstorm’s Maksim Izmaylov talked standards, a necessary for efficient global communication.
There was also an interesting panel on emerging automotive tech which was addressed by Roadgazer’s Maria Mokhnatkina, Bosch’s Tom Lindma, Skurt’s Tin Hang Liu and Princeton Optronics’ Alexey Kovsh. The second day was held at Yelp so not surprising to hear from Yelp’s Rachel Zhao who talked about making it global while keeping it local. SFOX’s Akbar Thobhani, Factom’s Tiana Laurence and Norm Rose talked about the opportunities Blockchain can bring.
Think of it as a distributed network that offers value….value that can’t be duplicated. When you’re dealing with strangers, blockchain can offer tremendous benefits. Since travel is so distributed and so global, blockchain is a way to help make travel booking more direct and more efficient, cutting out the umpteen number of middle men that are in the way of a vendor and the consumer today.
This will allow direct booking will increase and improve. Since blockchain is all about being decentralized, it may be harder at first to establish loyalty although new models will certainly evolve to re-engage and build loyalty with customers. The future is here but it's just not distributed…yet. The idea for vendors is that they should be able to continue using their existing systems but supplement them with blockchain to more directly reach their customers.
Blockchain is contextually the next infrastructure platform that could eliminate the middle man in travel as well as help to reduce fraud. Other trends include the growth of services like AirBNB and couchsurfing and as more services like it emerge, identity and transparency will increasingly become more important. And of course, we talked about the interests of millennial travels since their patterns of behavior is so different than the generations behind them.
Millennials increasingly want experiences not physical objects. People are traveling earlier than ever and they want to see the world. There’s less fear than ever before, largely because millennials are more familiar with the world because of social media and technology.
While so many tour companies and destinations still focus on print articles and advertising, they don’t realize that most millennials find their ideas about where to travel and what to do through social media and online networks. They trust what their friends recommend on these social networks over something they might read in a magazine they don’t have a personal connection with. Because they use technology all the time and it’s an integral part of their world, they also expect technology to be part of their travel experiences.
May 10, 2016
uHoo, Most Advanced Indoor Air Quality Sensor Now Available for Pre-orders
When I was approached by a company that is trying to transform how we all think about the air we breathe, I was intrigued. After I learned that it wasn't an outdoor environmental play, but indoor air, I was even more intrigued. After all, how bad could indoor air be? It turns out, pretty bad.
After I did some of my own digging, I wanted to be involved. There are some alarming stats of why you should care and why what they're doing matters.
Meet uHoo, the most advanced indoor air quality on the market, which is now open for pre-orders over on IndieGoGo starting today.
More than any other product in the market, uHoo provides real-time alerts on unhealthy air, going deeper and broader than other products. What sets uHoo apart is its eight dedicated sensors, detecting Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ozone, Air Pressure, Volatile Organic Compounds, which are found in paint and home cleaning products, Temperature, Dust and Humidity and all sensors are dedicated, which is not the case with most other solutions.
With concerns on indoor air quality at an all-time high and the fact that we spend nearly 90% of our time indoors (some studies say more), uHoo aims to transform people’s health by providing an affordable solution for asthma and allergy sufferers, for people with toddlers at home and for anyone who genuinely cares about their health.
Couple that with unhealthy indoor air being linked to cancer and heart disease, 6 in 10 homes being hazardous to their owner’s health and half (yup, that's 50%) of America’s schools having problems linked to indoor air quality, a product that detects the particles and chemicals we breathe in real-time can be transformative to our day-to-day lives.
What Don’t We Know?
Given the tragic news reports on poor air quality in schools and drinking water in Michigan, it’s more important than ever to be proactive and know whether you’re in a healthy environment before it’s too late. With uHoo, you can know first-hand what the quality of air is like in any room or building where you live or work. uHoo is only 3.3 inches in diameter, 6.2 inches high and weighs less than a pound, so it can easily sit unnoticed at home, in gyms, churches, spas, community centers, basements, your office or kid’s bedroom. The list is endless as to where uHoo can be used.
According to the American Lung Association, “it’s hard to know when air in your home needs cleaning; the indoor air you breathe can be hazardous to your health without any telltale signs.” In other words, we can’t manage what we don’t know or can’t measure. Their site includes other useful information worth checking out as well, like identifying what makes indoor air unhealthy and how pollution can hurt your body. They also have a useful list of what all of them are so you know exactly what could be in the air you breathe at home or work.
Revolutionary For Businesses Too
You can have multiple devices on one account, so you can monitor different locations around the clock. This is not just a great feature for businesses that are looking to ensure the quality of the air is healthy for employee’s optimal well-being and productivity, but can significantly reduce operating and health-related costs by knowing how to regulate the air more effectively.
Here's How It Works
Simply plug uHoo in to a power outlet and connect it to the WiFi network – uHoo does the rest. The quality of air is detected instantly and shows up on your smartphone via a free app (support for both iOS and Android).
All of this data is securely and safely stored in the cloud for easy access from anywhere in the world and can be shared with loved ones and/or health practitioners. The ability to share data and devices means that you can stay on top of other family member’s indoor air quality, such as an aging parent or grandparent, or your child when you are away. What else is cool is that it shows the history of your rooms over time. You'll also get notifications so you can track what's going on in real time.
Or, you can simply get a glimpse of your day, knowing which rooms performed well and which ones didn't. uHoo even recommends things you can do to improve your air depending on what the reading is. Imagine being able to track your kid's school remotely -- if the air is unhealthy, you can know about it right away. Same goes for your own home, office or wherever you spend a significant chunk of your time.
There's also a very cool Health Diary, which allows you to track how you're feeling and when. It will record symptoms or issues in the room you happen to be in, all of which correlates back to the data uHoo is picking up.
You can also see results in chart form, which will lay out the results by VOCs, ozone, temperature, humidity, CO2 and so on.
uHoo comes in two versions: Classic and Premium, the main difference being the number of dedicated sensors that the device will detect. The device comes with a power adapter, and a micro-USB cable.
Details on how to pre-order a uHoo from only $99 for a limited time can be found on https://www.indiegogo.com/at/uhooair. I love this - questions on any of it, let me know. Since I'm working the company, I already have a uHoo and absolutely love knowing when I'm breathing healthy air or not. This is particularly useful for travelers as well who stay in hotel rooms on a regular basis -- you might be surprised by the results, even from high end hotels.
They'll be shipping in Q4 of this year and availability is worldwide.
May 08, 2016
In Honor of Mother's Around the World & My Own
The truth is, I used to reflect about Mother's Day every year and even write about it occasionally. My mother who was actually my grandmother -- Irene was her lovely name -- was one of the most inspirational woman I've ever known and I've encountered a lot of amazing female souls over my lifetime. It wasn't until later in life that I learned that Irene was the English name for Renee and the French name came from my mother's side who apparently came from several generations of French heritage, although we rarely talked about that.
I always assumed I was much more English than anything else until Ancestry.com told me otherwise and I realized just how dominantly French my background really was. In fact, my nearly 30% Italian genetic make-up was even more prominent than the English side of the family -- their DNA seemed to have passed over me somehow. When I think of her, I think of roses. I think of tulips too, since we planted them together and without fail, they sprouted from our upstate New York garden every spring.
What set her apart was her ability to be raw and truthful, raising issues people were uncomfortable hearing, but doing so in the most genuine and diplomatic of ways -- her English mother Ida taught her well perhaps although given what I knew about my great grandmother, my guess is that it was simply unique to Irene. I've never been able to live up to the level of dignity and elegance that she showed everyone around her simply by walking into a room.
I learned so much about the trials and tribulations of motherhood and what it was like to be a woman growing up in the 1920's and 3o's simply by being a good listener in my mother's kitchen, one which was never modernized. Its retro white cupboards remain until this day even under new ownership.
I wrote about the connection between My Mother's Kitchen and blogging on my personal blog 12 years ago (yes, I've been blogging for a long time) and that wasn't even an early entry. Her sassiness and loveliness will always be remembered and while it is no doubt tragic that she never witnessed my wedding day nor has she seen me as an adult woman facing so many of the same challenges she did over forty years later, her voice and the decisions she made never leave me.
She was one to take the high road, which I've had to do on more than one occasion, especially in business when those who you encounter are not as ethical and honorable as you had hoped.
I wasn't planning to write about Mother's Day this year -- honoring her memory is a wonderful thing to do, but often so painful that it derails me from a forward march, which is more and more necessary every day as I see myself age as she had and for many of the same reasons. Given how much I've traveled and where I've lived (ten countries), a part of my life she also never witnessed, I have been fortunate to discover other incredible women who while may have never replaced her, were integral to shaping how I see the world....through sad and nurturing and yet still innocent and deliciously loving female eyes. While most of these women are no longer with us, kudos and hats off to Josephine Blodgett, Betty Cummings, Donna Blodgett Ambrosino, Bertha Blodgett Herkel, Audrey Farnum, Bernie Daggett, Shirley Lockwood, Dona Badman, Callie Marcellus, Adelaide Sachs, Maryjane Fredericks, Nila Edwards and Charlotte Lawton. Seeing each and every one of them in my mind's eye brings a smile and a comforting imaginary hand I can somehow hold onto during tougher times. As for the others, one of these days, I will write about all of them, but for today in honor of mothers around the world, the Clinton Foundation came up with a great list of six moms they want to honor this year, who share an unyielding desire to support their families and give their children better lives. As they so beautifully portrayed, "regardless of their starting point, it’s the upward mobility these moms are working to enable that’s important. This Mother’s Day, and every day, we’re honored to help empower moms to build better lives for themselves and for generations beyond." I chose three of the women they honor today who are part of the Clinton Foundation's initiatives - for the others, please read the original piece on Mom's That Inspire Us. CHRISTINA MWALE, SMALLHOLDER FARMER, MALAWI Christina Mwale, a smallholder farmer with the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI), lives with her son on a small farm in Malawi. With each harvest, Christina hoped that she would finally grow enough crops to support her family and earn an income. But more often than not, the harvests would yield less than before. With the help of CDI, Christina was able to learn new farming techniques that have helped her improve the quality and quantity of her crops, and increase her earnings. Her new income has enabled her to move her family into a new house. And she is also using her money to purchase land so she can generate a higher profit from her harvests in future seasons. Christina has become a leader in her community. She finds being able to support her son and share her knowledge with other smallholder farmers in the community to be the most rewarding parts of her work. SHARON BOYD-STRUTHERS, ART TEACHER AT ROCKEFELLER ELEMENTARY, ARKANSAS Sharon Boyd-Struthers, a mother and grandmother, is an art teacher at Rockefeller Elementary in the Little Rock School District. She epitomizes the wonderful relationship that the Clinton Center staff has with educators across the community. Sharon is a regular attendee of the Clinton Center’s annual professional development workshop held in partnership with the Arkansas Arts Educators Association, which supports teachers in continuing their education. During the Clinton Center’s temporary exhibit, Chihuly, Sharon lead a summer-long program, where she taught children the art and creativity of glass fusion. Upon completion of the Chihuly exhibit, the Clinton Center was able to support Sharon and her students with the addition of a second kiln for her classroom. She understands the important role a teacher plays in a child's life, and whether it's with her students, her children, or her grandchildren, Sharon goes out of her way to provide young people with enriching opportunities. (PHOTO CREDIT: ST. BERNARD PROJECT) EVELYN STEVENS, NEW YORK Evelyn Stevens lived with her son Khepera in a home in Far Rockaway when Hurricane Sandy hit. The storm badly damaged the first floor of their home, forcing Khepera to move out. The loss of her home and Khepera moving out was devastating to Evelyn. Evelyn quickly began to take the necessary steps to repair and rebuild her home. She received assistance from FEMA and Flood Insurance and then used that money to hire a contractor to start the reconstruction. Unfortunately, the contractor ended up being fraudulent and never started the work. Determined to rebuild a home for her and her son, Evelyn applied for aid from various nonprofit organizations. The St. Bernard Project, a CGI commitment maker and Clinton Foundation partner, answered her request to assist with the rebuilding of her home.
March 30, 2016
DENT 2016: From the Morality of Sex Robots & AI to Free Diving & Mental Health
Putting a dent in the future -- isn't that a compelling idea? And, what's even more compelling is that it means such different things to different people and why the eclectic DENT Conference in Sun Valley Idaho, is so unique.
From technologists, entrepreneurs and scientists, to artists, astronauts and Olympic Gold medalists, people gather around to hear radical new ideas, learn from the best of the best and share their best practices, all under the roof of the Sun Valley Inn, a stone's throw from Baldy Mountain and incredible skiing, even in the Spring. The brain child of Seattle-based Steve Broback and Jason Preston, DENT is now in its fourth year and my third year of attending, DENT's format is a mix of educational, interactive and thought provoking, with un-conference break-out sessions, fireside chats and general talks.
Since the backbone of the conference stems from the technology community, it seemed fitting that American futurist and author Amy Webb would speak. As the Founder of the Future Today Institute and an Adjunct Professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, she dabbles in a lot of projects. She asks us wryly: "What happens when we get what we say we want?" On the topic of Emerging Tech Trends and the hot button in Silicon Valley right now: Big Data, she addressed where and how that data will change how we think about the world and how we interact with it. What if an algorithm could predict our news? What if a news story could be written by an algorithm, using curated and scraped data that could get published? If you follow financial and sports news today, you may be surprised to learn that many of these stories are already being written by algorithms. Yet, it's not something we really think about and curation is already there in some industries. What if algorithms designed our real world experiences OR even more radical: what if algorithms could program our people?
Photo credit: www.goldenhourblog.com
I've been seeing this for the last few years -- curation is becoming more and more automated and we are moving towards hyper personalized news. Rather than reading a single news story, data that reaches our desktop or mobile device is becoming more personalized for you....all programmed by an algorithm.
The nugget of news will be personalized based on our own old data and online behavior which means that there’s an infinite number of possible stories that could be distributed. What if in the not too distant future, there will be editors but no journalists. Imagine that you will have your own personalized news feed that is pre-filtered based on your likes and preferences.
Yes, it's happening, but it begs the question: is that what we really want? Because there are so many possible places to get our news, the real value will be super customized and personalized. Sure, it will be content vetted, but isn't there an element of joy when we discover new things outside our comfort zones? If the vetted, curated big data funnel merely delivers me content on travel, photography and food because those are topics of interest I search about the most, will I ever learn about something new I might want to try, like martial arts or sky diving?
And, if I'm a democrat that searches more for Bernie Sanders talks than Ted Cruz, will the articles on Bernie be more favorable than the ones on Ted Cruz, and how does that algorithm decide what bias to let me see -- and more importantly, not see. What gets marshaled to the top and what gets moved to the third page of my search? Machines are learning from human behavior every day, including political views, our income brackets and the ugly biases of racism and homophobia. Truth be told, we are leaving bread crumbs everywhere, every single day. Perhaps in the future, we will PAY to be anonymous and that will be worth more than anything else. I couldn't agree more.
Amy reminds us that the future isn't something that happens to us passively -- – it is something that we are creating proactively and collectively. PATH's CEO Steve Davis addressed Malaria. What does Malaria have to do with technology and innovating the future you ask? A lot when you reflect on the fact that it's 2016 and with all of our advancement, Malaria still remains the number 3 killer in the world.
A child dies every two minutes, and 453,000 people die each year. How is that possible you wonder? It's not just that Malaria is a disease of poverty, but Malaria contributes to poverty.
If you're not familiar with PATH, they work on vaccines, drugs, diagnostics, service and system innovation and they partner with organizations to drive down these diseases that affect so many and so unfairly. With so many creative and bright minds in the room, Davis asked people to think about how to effectively design new issue and systems over the next 10-15 years around products, around operational management and logistics and around financing, all of which could accelerate the progress they make in Africa and beyond.
Currently, Malaria is not being solved by the private sector but he suggests that the real solution is a complex level of collaborations between private sector and governments and that cost and affordability is critical to solving this. Says Davis, "In regular technology innovation, we think about the cost later.
With Malaria, we need to think about the ultimate cost first and then design around that to get to that price, otherwise it won't work." They work in endemic conditions, where there’s not proper education systems and the environment is harsh which means that their work comes with enormous constraints. It should be no surprise that the health systems they work in, especially in Asia and Africa, are incredibly complicated from years of aid and development agency and colonialism mixed with new agencies pouring money into the system.
They are tracking index cases through droids and an app and using this model alone, they are attempting to check and treat every household to better figure out where people may have gotten infected. With a bunch of new data models, knowing where the reservoir is and where the mosquitoes are, is critical to their long term success.
They've been working with Tableau to see where transmission is coming from and to give the data back to the health workers in the front line. To make malaria history, they need to deploy resources faster than the disease can spread, so it's an aggressive but important mission. There's a huge sea change in global demographics. The faster we can get people in these countries to move into lower and middle working class, the faster we can eradicate diseases that are impacting so many.
DENT is a dazzling and mind-expanding experience where people join forces for various collaborative efforts to move the needle and dent the future.
This my friends is how community forms and how the magic and power of one mind + one mind = ten minds gets started. It happened in Silicon Valley and it happens around the world, including once a year in beautiful Sun Valley, where people with a genuine desire in helping good ideas grow and spread, all come together with overlapping interests and empathetic hearts. Those interested in additional photos, below is a collection of networking and after hour shots....
Greg Kisor, Renee Blodgett, Michael Grabham -- photo courtesy of Russell Sparkman
Kris Krug with Jason Nunnelley
Above, Matthew F. Reyes of GoPro and Scott Jordan of ScotteVest
Above, Jason Preston interviews Buick's Dan Kinney who leads User Experience for their Global Connected Customer Experience Group. See journalist Myriam Joire's video interview with Dan at DENT.
Speaking of Buick, how's this for stunning? T'was nice getting picked up from the airport in a gorgeous Regal, especially with backdrops like these.
Larry Brown plays magical tunes...
Marsha Collier, Phil Colley, Buick, Renee Blodgett
Simon Winthrop performs
Steve Broback, Co-Producer of DENT and Phil Colley of Buick's OnStar team
Renee Blodgett, Greg Kisor, Maryam Scoble
Food and wine is also an integral part of the event, so a great choice for foodies who also love tech and innovation...below are some shots taken at the delicious Vintage Restaurant, where Buick held a thought provoking dinner. See my write-up on two foodie gems in the heart of Ketchum.
There's also delicious dining at the Warfield Distillery & Brewery in the center of town...
And, a delicious spread at the home of Scott Jordan, CEO of ScotteVest
Did I mention that Sun Valley also has superb skiing, even in mid-March?
March 30, 2016 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Events, Magic Sauce Media, On Innovation, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, Science, Travel, TravelingGeeks | Permalink | Comments (0)
March 07, 2016
Watermark Conference for Women Hits Bay Area on April 21
I love conferences and events solely dedicated to women, especially those where mentorship is part of the value-add, whether that be from listening to inspiring powerful women's talks throughout the course of the day or networking with women going through similar issues you might be facing at home or at work. I'm new to learning about the Watermark Conference for women in the Silicon Valley Bay Area and plan to attend this year. At last year event, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who's now in the race for the White House, delivered a keynote address to thousands of attendees.
Keynotes this year include Glamour's editor-in-chief Cindi Leive, TV personality, comedian and author Mindy Kaling, Sama and Laxmi founder Leila Janah, Soccer Superstar Abby Wambach and Entrepreneur John Jacobs. The conference has networking, professional development, inspirational panels and keynotes. More details can be found on their site, including speakers, sessions and bios on the keynotes: https://www.watermarkconferenceforwomen.org. This year's event will be held in San Jose on April 21, 2016.
Watermark offers Community & Connection, Info & Inspiration, Motivation & Momentum....so you can Discover What You Want & Achieve It!
The event brings together acclaimed women who share their wisdom and expertise on a wide range of personal and professional development topics, to help you find clarity on your goals and what you need to accomplish them.
Topics include managing your money, reinventing your career, dealing with change, how to market yourself and network effectively, how to help your community, finding funding for your business, managing your health, attitude and more.
The event is targeting non-profits, community leaders, entrepreneurs, self-employed women, job seekers, students, or frankly anyone looking for some motivation and inspiration.
They will also have an Exhibit Hall which will feature organizations showcasing a wide variety of products and services as well. What else is cool is that the conference advocates for the advancement of women in the workplace by offering regular leadership development programs and networking opportunities and promoting gender diversity and equality initiatives.
Watermark also supports girls’ leadership programs, as well, to help build a well-qualified workforce for the future. The Watermark Conference for Women is generously underwritten by presenting sponsor Juniper Networks and supported by the following sponsors: Cisco, EMC, Amazon, Gilead, Akamai, Johnson & Johnson, Mercer, riverbed, and Oracle. Media partners include: KFOG-FM, KGO 810 and NASH FM. You can follow them on Twitter @wtrmrk as well to join in an ongoing discussion.
January 25, 2016
Find X With Thought Leaders & Visionaries at TEDxBerkeley on Feb 6
From innovative surgery and extraterrestrial intelligence to reporting from war zones and Grammy-Award winning music, this year’s theme for TEDxBerkeley 2016 -- Finding X, which will be held at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley CA on February 6, will look to solutions to our world's imperfections. Sixteen riveting speakers will address how we identify these problems and make sense of them in the larger systems where they belong.
Whether it be voyaging into uncharted technological or scientific territory, reconciling our diverse perspectives of the human condition, or unearthing the parts of ourselves that give our lives direction and meaning, we all hope to make an impact on this world by Finding X.
Now in its 7th year, this prestigious TEDx event will bring together thought leaders, visionaries, innovators and 54 performers who will enlighten and inspire more than 2,000 attendees across core disciplines impacting the world, from medicine and education to technology and diversity.
TEDxBerkeley strives to curate an outstanding group of inventive and provocative speakers who can shift global conversations in a way that makes the world a better place, central and core to TED's mission. The goal is to get us all to re-think conventional ideas and the status quo so that we can all make a positive difference in our own communities. Tickets for TEDxBerkeley 2016 are on sale through Friday, February 5 or until they sell out.
Attendees or those viewing via Live Stream at http://www.tedxberkeley.org starting at 10 am PST/1 pm EST, can also participate in the conversation on social media by using #TEDxBerkeley on Twitter, Facebook and other popular social networks.
This year’s line-up includes:
- Christopher Ategeka: Award-Winning Social Entrepreneur & Nano-Technology Inventor that identifies early detection and monitoring of chronic diseases.
- Celli@Berkeley: a cellist quartet made up of undergraduate and graduate students united by the passion to express the uniquely rich possibilities of the cello.
- Kathy Calvin: As President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, Kathy works to connect people, ideas, and resources to the United Nations to help solve global problems.
- Jacob Corn: Scientific Director of the Innovative Genomics Initiative & on faculty at UC Berkeley in the Molecular and Cell Biology Department, Jacob focuses on neurobiology, infectious disease, and oncology.
- Stephanie Freid: An International Conflicts Journalist, TV correspondent for CCTV (China) and Turkish TV International networks, Stephanie reports from some of the world’s toughest conflict and war zones.
- Rose Gelfand, Molly Gardner & Isa Ansari: this trio from Oakland School for the Arts Literary Arts Department, are performance artists who specialize in the spoken word and poetry on stage.
- Rob Hotchkiss: Grammy Award-winning Musician for the Best Rock Song for five-time nominated “Drops of Jupiter”, and was the musical force behind hits such as Meet Virginia, Free, I Am and Get To Me.
- Naveen Jain: An Entrepreneur & Philanthropist, Naveen is the founder of Moon Express, World Innovation Institute, inome, Talent Wise, Intelius, and InfoSpace.
- Jeromy Johnson: An EMF Expert, Jeromy is dedicated to mitigating the negative impacts of Electromagnetic Field (EMF) exposure, helping to implement solutions that reduce and eliminate EMF pollution around the globe.
- Reverend Deborah L. Johnson: Minister, Author & Diversity Expert, Deborah teaches practical applications of Universal Spiritual Principles and is founder of The Motivational Institute, which specializes in diversity.
- Aran Khanna: As Computer Scientist & Security Researcher on personal privacy, he builds tools that empower users to discover the consequences of the digital footprint they’re leaving.
- John Koenig: Creator & Author of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, which fills gaps in language with new terms for emotions, some of which (‘sonder’) have entered the language outright.
- Ellen Leanse: As Apple’s first User Evangelist, she brought Apple online in 1985 and has since helped more than 40 companies and policy makers increase their innovation and impact.
- Susan Lim: As Surgeon and Entrepreneur, Susan broke through the gender glass ceiling in transplantation surgery by becoming the first in Asia, and the second woman in the world to have performed a successful liver transplant.
- OSA Chamber Choir: the largest audition-only high school Vocal ensemble at the Oakland School for the Arts, this ensemble has performed for Governor Jerry Brown’s inauguration, Obama’s campaign tour and many other notable events.
- Sonia Rao: A BMI Spotlight artist, Sonia is a singer and songwriter whose latest album Meet Them At the Door is a collection of heart-felt pop songs that showcase her piano skills and soulful voice.
- Amandine Roche: A Human Rights Expert, Amandine’s focus is on civic education, democratization, gender and youth empowerment.
- Sriram Shamasunder: Sriram aims to deliver comprehensive healthcare in resource poor areas of the world through his work at UCSF and as co-founder of the HEAL initiative.
- Andrew Siemon: Andrew is an Astrophysicist, Director of the UC Berkeley Center for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Research & lead scientist for the “Breakthrough Listen Initiative”, a $100 million effort that is conducting one of the most sensitive searches for advanced extraterrestrial life in history.
- Joshua Toch: After being bullied because of Cerebral Palsy, Joshua founded Mind Before Mouth, which equips students to better deal with social aspects of life and get through times of hardship.
- UC Berkeley Azaad: UCB Azaad is a competitive Hindi Film Dance team which motivates audiences to connect with Bollywood culture.
This year’s partners include Repertoire Productions, Vÿykn Water, Zola, Peet’s Coffee, Fast Imaging, 18 Rabbits, Larabar, Victor Hugo Winery and EthiCal.
I am proud to be a co-curator again this year, joining Chris Lew as TEDxBerkeley’s 2016 curator and co-curator R. Jennifer Barr together with an incredible team behind us, including Leilani Gutierrez-Palominos, Max Wolffe, Melody Jung, Aaron Chelliah, Mehdi Kazi, Sean Kelly, Krupa Modi, Aashna Patel, Andrew Veenstra, Alvin Wan and Joe West.
January 25, 2016 in America The Free, Client Announcements, Conference Highlights, Entertainment/Media, Events, Magic Sauce Media, On Education, On Technology, San Francisco, TravelingGeeks, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0)
January 17, 2016
New York Times Travel Show Round-Up, Much More Fun Than CES!
I missed last year's New York Times Travel Show since we were about to embark on a 5 week long journey cross country -- our hashtag for the tour was #WBTWxAmerica for those interested in seeing photos on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We left New York the week before the event, and only a day before the city got hit with a snowstorm.
This year, we were proud media partners of the event since it remains one of my favorite travel shows in the industry. I love the fact that the show is a great mix of trade and consumer content and brings together some of my favorite destinations in the world all under one roof.
Despite the fact that is an American East Coast event, countries as far away as Taiwan and Japan showed up, there were wellness offerings from gems like Tahiti, St. Lucia and Bali, plenty of South American representation, and it took me nearly a day to make my way through the Africa aisle alone. From learning cool facts about specific destinations and exploring the latest from African safari tour companies, which we'll be expanding in 2016, I could have easily spent a full day in discovery mode.
Below, Arthur Frommer, from the infamous Frommer's Guides, opened the official consumer day of the event, which included a formal ribbon cutting at the entrance on Saturday morning, January 9. Some of my personal highlights are outlined below - as always, questions or comments, leave them in the comment section or feel free to tweet or email me @weblogtheworld.
I was thrilled to see my pals from Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia on-site; we went on a press trip with them a few years back and loved it -- see my coverage of Estonia and Lithuania. They also served scrumptious cheese from the region which I dared not say no to -- food is such an integral part of travel for me, that I can't separate the two. Speaking of food, Dubrovnik is having a Good Food Festival from October 20-23, 2016, where you'll get dinner with a famous chef, taste traditional and not so traditional dishes, take part in gastro tours, entertainment and live musical performances and have an opportunity to attend workshops and presentations. More details at www.tzdubrovnik.hr.
Croatia was promoting Wellness Travel among other things, which was exciting for us since we are not only expanding our Wellness coverage significantly in 2016, but it's a personal passion of mine and has been for years. Be sure to read my Wellness Travel Round-up of the show, which is going live next week.
I also got enticed by some of Adriatic's tours, which does land tours to Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Albania and Macedonia and charter cruises of the area. They specialize in excursions to Croatia and the Balkins, including island hopping, which had me at "hello." Niche Touring offers fully guided travel for small groups, which makes for a much more intimate setting, something we applaud.
They too focus on Croatia, but to off-the-beaten-path hidden places often not found on a typical tourist itinerary. Their tours emphasize the history, local food, and culture of each region, shared by the Croatian people you meet along the way. We're keen on reviewing one of their tours as I was impressed by their big heart and personalized approach to tours of the area, which include both water and land experiences.
I didn't have time to visit the Hungary or Czech Republic booths, although I have been in recent years and they remain on my fabulous destination list, so if you haven't been, be sure to read our coverage (Hungary and Prague specifically). Our content on Russia isn't deep but it's worth a meander as the content is full of rich photographs and history. And, my last trip to Berlin Germany this past year included more time in East Berlin than West, so be sure to read through our coverage over the past year.
I've lived in Europe, traveled through the continent extensively and have had long stints in Amsterdam, Corfu, Innsbruck and London, where I studied for many years. In fact, I've been to every country except for Norway which is very much calling to me -- seeing new images of northern fjords makes it hard to resist. If you're eager to see what I'm referring to, there's no better place to start than Instagram - do a search for #Norway and you'll be blown away.
This past year, I went to Germany and Austria, so be sure to browse through my articles of Berlin, Vienna and Salzburg, including a fabulous one on Salzburg's 50th Anniversary of the Sound of Music and the previous fall, I went to Normandy and Brittany, where I took so many enticing photos, you'll be booking your flight to France tomorrow. High on my "return list" over the next two years are Greece, Italy, Switzerland and Spain. Who knows -- maybe one will even be a winter trip. It was great running into Michael Gigl from the Austrian Tourism Board aka @AustriaTravel at the show.
I didn't spend time with destinations at the show because of my strong familiarity of the countries, however I did talk to a few tour companies and river cruise companies who are offering some interesting itineraries in Europe today. I'm far from a cruise expert although hope to experience a few of the higher end cruise lines so we can do a unique comparison based on "physical/experiential", "fine touches" and "wellness" in 2016 and 2017.
On my hot list right now are RIVER CRUISES. Watch for more from us in that area as we begin to explore what some of the leaders in river cruising are doing in Europe and Asia. For example, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises operate a fleet of 21 river cruising cruise ships along the rivers of Europe, Russia, Egypt, and China.
All inclusive Scenic offers unlimited drinks and butler service for guests and Viking River Cruises apparently has six new Viking Longships making debuts in 2016 across Europe. Avalon operates 15 ships in Europe and eight more in the Galapagos, Mekong Delta, China and Egypt and AmaWaterways has an impressive list of options through European rivers as well. Itineraries across river cruise companies range from major cities like Amsterdam, Budapest, and Vienna to delightful, small towns and villages like Austria's Durnstein and Germany's Breisach.
Africa, in particular, South Africa has always had an emotional hold on me, largely because I spent an exchange student year abroad in South Africa during my most formative years, lived there again just as Apartheid was lifted and led a blogging tour there roughly a decade later.
I also taught English in Kenya, saw some of the most surreal desert scenery on the edge of Somalia, slept on beaches in Lamu, Pemba and Zanzibar and saw gorillas up close in Uganda and Zaire before the western world had an opportunity to. I have gone on life changing safaris in Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa where I watched elephant trunks swaying in unison over a river for hours and was transformed by a tree standing alone in silence along the Namibian Border.
I was swept away by the hospitality and insights of the people of Zimbabwe and it's majestic Victoria Falls, ate so many avocados and bananas on Dizzy and Wally's farm in Zambia that I could barely walk, and I was brought to tears by the generosity and warmth of the Malawi people where we camped on a beach for more than a month. In the nineties, I marveled at ancient tombs in Egypt and fell in love with the markets of Morocco -- the list goes on. It's clear that I have a bias but with good reason. Africa is a magical continent and it boasts far more than safaris and Stellenbosch boasts some of the best wine you'll ever taste.
The girls from Zambia were a hoot and I could have talked to them for hours and after seeing stunning photos of Botswana, my heart cried out to be there with nothing more than me, a tripod and my Canon 7D. I've been wanting to go to Madagascar for years as well as to some of Mozambique's more remote islands where they boast luxury experiences worth having. And, if I got an invitation to Mauritius, I'd be packing my bags tonight. Morocco and Egypt had plenty to take in (Egypt handed out fun t-shirts) and I learned about luxury properties in Casablanca I didn't know existed.
African tour companies were in full force, from offering a variety of options, whether it be glamping in the bush, safaris, photo tours, luxury resorts and spas to cruises departing from Cape Town. Uber Luxe Safaris were offering unique itineraries, from chimpanzee trekking, a canopy walk in the Nyungwe Forest National Park, Birding, Water Fall Trails, tea tours and hanging with monkeys. Uber Luxe Safaris is based in Rwanda and specializes in authentic luxury experiences in East Africa.
The Zulu Nyala Private Game Reserve looked compelling. Nestled between the wilderness reserves of Mkuze, Hluhluwe, St. Lucia and South Africa's Sodwana Bay, the reserve boasts elephant, rhino, buffalo, hippo, giraffe, leopard, cheetah, antelope and more. The privately owned reserve is home to over 40 different species of animal and bird life and on-site, they have 50 ethnic-styled suites and panoramic views from common areas in the Lodge.
They also have a tennis court, craft and curio center, a games room, which is great if you're traveling with kids in tow, a pool, a bar and reading lounges. I chatted with the guys from Eyes on Africa for awhile who offer tours to Namibia's Etosha National Park, Sossusvlei red sand dunes, South Africa's Kruger National Park, Livingstone and Vic Falls, River rafting and helicopter flights in Zimbabwe and Zambia, canoe rides along the Lower Zambezi River, Mount Kenya, Amboseli National Park, Zamzibar, Selous, Africa's largest wildlife reserve, the Serengeti for the Great Migration, Kilimanjaro and the Ngorongoro Crater, island hopping in the Seychelles and swimming with whale sharks in Mozambique among other experiences.
I was also enticed by Bush Butlers, who I might add were the only ones who served Biltong at their booth - two thumbs up! They offer tailor-made safaris and tours to a number of intoxicating locations, from Tanzania, Kenya and Bostwana to Uganda, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.
They cater to your needs, which include family style safaris, luxury safaris, or beaten track adventure style trips. Some of the highlights include seeing hippos in Gabon, viewing gorillas in Uganda, ballooning in Namibia, taking in Madagascar's Baobabs, seeing the world's largest land migration in Tanzania's Serengeti, scuba diving with whale sharks and manta rays, and catching tiger fish on the mighty Zambezi River. I can assure you that going through the Namibian Desert in a 4x4 Explorer will transform the way you look at the world.
While I still haven't been to Antarctica, we have a bunch of coverage on We Blog the World from other writers, so be sure to read through them and take in the photos.
The images are breathtaking and before seeing them, it wasn't a big priority on the list, but today, it's in the top 10. Hurtigruten is one company I discovered at the show that encompasses all things Antarctica. They're known as a leader in polar exploration and offer new Discovery Style Voyages, which is great for people with a true spirit for exploration and learning, but without the rigors of a full expedition.
MS Midnatsol is the ship, which holds a maximum of 500 travelers, and they start and end in Punta Arenas at the tip of Chile where I visited a few years ago. I'd encourage you to take the time to explore Chilean Patagonia including Torres del Paine if you venture that far south. The ship explores some of Chile's deep fjords before making it's way to the more wild and beautiful Antarctica. Remember how I said that Norway was calling to me earlier on? Note to self: Hurtigruten also sails to Norway, visiting 34 small ports, most of which big ships simply can't enter.
Truth be told, I didn't spend as much time in the Asia section as I had hoped, but did visit Japan, Taiwan who always has a big booth at the show, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. There were some great dance and music performances on-site all weekend and many countries were giving out bites, with all the spices from home. Oh so delish!
Malaysia had a colorful area with cultural backdrops where you could dress up in a traditional costume and have your photo taken - my favorite was this little girl who was eager to pose in front of the camera. Adorable!
While China can be overwhelming given the country's size, I find that it's worth spending time with locals who specialize in tourism since they have detailed maps, which you often can't find online and can elaborate on some of the gems outside traditional hot spots like Shanghai and the Great Wall.
I spent time with the rep from the region of Henan, which is central and to the north of the country, which touts a number of unique excursions and adventures. We may explore this region in more depth and consider a trip in the future.
Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan Airlines was holding a fun promotion at the show, which involved social media; simply engage your audience with a photo and hashtag #SriLankanUSA2016 for an opportunity to win a trip. Here, I learned a lot more about Sri Lanka than I expected and it's risen to the Must Visit List, so stand by as we do a little more research and plan for a future trip.
Central America and the Caribbean
Panama has been getting more visibility lately as has El Salvador so I spent time gathering information on eco-friendly lodges, resorts and wellness getaway ideas for both countries.
The Dominican Republic was handing out a salted cod concoction!
Cooking demonstrations were part of the agenda on both days for a variety of destinations including Latin America. On Saturday, they had a Taste of the World Kid's Kitchen where Robert "Chef Bobo" Surlves and Spoons Across America engaged children in hands-on tasting and cooking classes. There were number of other cooking presentations as well, from Taiwan and South Africa to upstate New York and Lebanon.
Anguilla presented me the biggest surprise from the Caribbean Region. A place I knew so little about before the New York Times Travel Show, I left with a burning desire to visit -- after doing a little digging, it seems like an ideal location for a romantic getaway or a wellness retreat.
We love Canada and there's a ton of coverage on We Blog the World so be sure to read through the articles, which cover a variety of regions from the west to the east coast and everything in between.
We also have coverage of some of the southern Arctic region as well. As for the U.S., remember that we drove across country earlier this year, so in 2015 alone, we hit around 20 states between our trip and other side trips on both coasts separate from our journey. It's hard to say what my favorite memory was, but rest assured, there was no state that didn't hold a precious gem of some kind, whether it be blues music, food, culture, dancing, fashion, theater, thermal baths or nature.
There is a ton of coverage on our trip, which includes New York, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Arizona, California. If you've never done the drive, I strongly encourage it and feel free to hit us up for tips. Below, a shot of a break we took at dusk on the way from Oklahoma to Texas.
This year, hot on the list is New Hampshire, Vermont, more Upstate New York (we're biased remember) and Long Island (I've yet to really explore), Pennsylvania and North Carolina. A trip to New Orleans would also be a nice plus if there's time between our international travel.
As lame as it sounds, I only visited one booth in South America - Argentina, a country I've been wanting to visit for years.....of course, they were pouring fabulous wine wine from Mendoza on Sunday and serving cheese, crackers and salami to accompany. I love the Argentina Tourism PR and marketing team as well as the guys from Aerolineas Argentinas. One of these days, you'll find a wealth of rich photography taken on my Canon 7D from an extended stay in Argentina, so stand by.
Above, I refer to Ines Segarra as the Head of Fun for Argentina, although her official role is the Director of Tourism based out of New York. That doesn't mean I'm not paying attention to other countries on the continent.
Also high on my wish list is Peru and Colombia, although we have plenty of coverage on We Blog the World on both from other writers. At the show, I talked to a few tour operators about some of the excursions they offer to the region. I loved my time in Chile and Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands, so be sure to read our coverage of both countries, where there are plenty of engaging stories and photography from other writers as well.
At some juncture, I want to see and experience Bolivia's Salt Flats or Salar de Uyuni in Spanish. It is located in the Daniel Campos Province in Potosí in southwest Bolivia near the crest of the Andes and they were formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is apparently covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness and is beyond surreal. While this photo is sure to blow you away, you'll find plenty of other breathtaking images on the web and on Instagram.
Photo credit: Huffington Post Below, saying YES to GLOBAL WELLNESS in the Wellness Pavilion, a new section of the show this year. (see my write-up for the specifics). Also in the Wellness Pavilion, I attended a light experience with the folks from Color Spa -- more details in the wellness travel post.
There was an entire section dedicated to fun things for kids to experience across cultures and tons of music and traditional culture.
Trade Day is simply what it says it is....the day those of us who are in the travel trade come together to learn from each other and network. It is typically held the day before the official show opens, and tourism boards, government officials, cruise lines, safari companies, hotels and resorts, chefs, authors, journalists and others in the travel biz, partake in conversations centered around marketing, sales, operations, logistics and best practices.
To give you a snapshot, I attended panels on Travel Media in the Digital Age with Facebook's Mike Rooney, PhocusWright's Lorraine Sileo, and TripIt's Lauren Moreno, a session on Wellness Travel with Anne Dimon of Travel to Wellness, Brian Povinelli of the Westin and Bonnie Levengood of MSC Cruises, and a Culinary Tourism discussion with TravelSommelier's Darren Humphreys, Parla Food's Tim Ries, Friends of the High Line Stephanie Schneiderman, and Tia Stephanie of Tours Cultural Journeys to Mexico and Colombia.
The cruise lines showed up in force and we heard from Cruise Planner's Michelle Fee, Celebrity Cruises Michelle Homoky, Wendy Whitener of Carnival, Ken Muskat of MSC, Lisa Falango of Royal Caribbean, Anthony Viviano from Princess & Cunard Line, and river cruising specialists, Cindy Christen from CroisiEurope, Cindy Sullivan from Globus, Susan Shultz from American Cruise Lines, John Restuccia from Uniworld, Chris Greco from Rauck and Kirsten Karst from AmaWaterways. Other sessions included a focus on Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, Latin America, Hawaii, Florida and National Parks.
Speaking of Florida, they had a great chef at their booth who was preparing delicious popcorn, shrimp and papaya - YUM!
I'll end with a visual of where this piece began -- below is a shot of Arthur Frommer doing the ribbon cutting on Saturday morning. Bravo and kudos to the New York Times Travel Show team. If you haven't been before, it's a must attend, so be sure to watch for announcements on next January's date and the details.