Saturday, December 20, 2014

To Japan!

Daigaku avenue in Kunitachi, Tokyo, Japan.
Daigaku avenue in Kunitachi, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To Japan!

My 5-year old girl is counting off, and she says, '3 days to Japan!'

As their father, I hope to carry on with this Christmas holiday travel on a yearly basis. That is difficult, financially, since I now have a college student, and my wife is not working, but by God's grace, it will happen.

See you all in Japan!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fighting Lionfish, Wreaking Havoc on Reefs and Prey

Pterois miles read sea Dahab
Pterois miles read sea Dahab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Pterois radiata is endemic to the Indian Ocean...
Pterois radiata is endemic to the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Antennata Lionfish, picture taken in Zoo Schön...
Antennata Lionfish, picture taken in Zoo Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria. Français : Un Pterois antennata. Photo prise dans le zoo de Schönbrunn, à Vienne, en Autriche. 日本語: ネッタイミノカサゴ。オーストリア、ウィーンのシェーンブルン動物園にて。 中文: 红须狮子鱼,摄于奥地利维也纳美泉宫动物园。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This article may not talk about travel, but it talks about a place which can be a travel destination. I'm just wondering if you would give it a try, either on the water, or on your platter...


MIAMI – They eat anything, reproduce copiously and adapt effortlessly. And they have become as ubiquitous and pesky as rats- only prettier and more conniving.

Nearly three decades after a lone venomous lionfish was spotted in the ocean near here, the species has invaded the Southern seaboard, staking a claim on Florida, the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and even parts of South America. Spreading gradually at first, then frenetically from 2005 onward, lionfish have become the most numerous marine nonnative invasive species in the world, scientists said.

Along the way, the predators, which hail from the Pacific and Indian Oceans and can grow here to 50 centimeters long, are wreaking havoc on delicate reefs and probably further depleting precious snapper and grouper stocks.

There is no stopping them now, salt-water experts said. But hoping to at least slow them, marine biologist and government agencies have been intensifying efforts recently to spearfish them out of certain areas that harbor fragile reefs.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has banned the importation of lionfish and prohibited the breeding of the fish, steps that experts said will focus attention on the problem. The commission also lifted fishing licensing requirements to hunt lionfish and even started an app so that people can report lionfish sightings.

“Eradication is not on the table, but local control has proven to be very effective,” said Lad Akins, special projects director for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation. “They are what many people call a near-perfect invader.”

Lionfish derbies, or rodeos, seem to have the best success rate. Groups of divers gather for a day of spearfishing; recently, 22 divers speared 573 lionfish in one day in the Florida Keys.

There is talk of offering bounties, but money is scarce.

Then there is the gourmet approach. Some Florida restaurants are now buying lionfish, which are light and flaky when cooked. Once there is a large enough market for them, scientists said, fishermen will pay attention and help haul them out of the sea.

“The tricky part is catching them,” said Maia McGuire of the University of Florida. “It’s labor intensive and requires divers, gear and boats.”

Scientists are finding that limiting the number of lionfish on a reef – as opposed to culling them all – will allow the reef and its fish to recover.

Scientists said lionfish wound up in the Atlantic Ocean when people bought them for their aquariums and eventually freed them in the ocean, where they do not pose a problem in their native waters, most likely because they are eaten by more powerful predators that keep the population in check. Here, the predators seemed befuddled by them.

The fish are gluttonous, stuffing 50 to 60 baby fish into their stomachs. Females can each release two million eggs a year.

“They can spawn as frequently as every four days, which is really crazy,” Ms. McGuire said, then wondered,” Are we going to end up with reefs just covered with lionfish?”

Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, November 1, 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

New hotel apps offer walking tours and room service

Interior of Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, USA
Interior of Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Reso...
English: The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort, Costa Navarino, Messinia Greece (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

THE first generation of hotel smartphone apps was about as useful as a flimsy shower cap:
Nice idea, poor execution.

Now, the next iteration is proving more powerful, giving guests incentives to download them, if only for the length of their trips.

Among those offering financial incentives, James Hotels – in Chicago, Miami and New York – will offer a new app feature next month that sends push notifications of in-hotel deals, such as when a guest walks by a spa, 10 percent off spa services, or a two-for-one appetizer deal in the hotels’ restaurants.

The new Aloha Guide from Starwood Hotels and Resorts Hawaii covers 11 Starwood properties on the islands and offers a range of rotating specials, like a 20 percent discount on breakfast at the Moana Surfrider and US$35 (S$45) off a facial at the Westin Maui.

Others apps tout convenience. In August, Hyatt Hotelsmobile app added an Uber button that will appear for the duration of a stay, allowing travelers to make car reservations using the hotel as their default pick-up location.

Instead of a guidebook, a new concierge app called Keys2TheCity from the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago features city walking tours, recommended restaurants and attraction, and transport information.

The Nines in Portland, Oregon, directs room-service orders through its app and updates information on events happening throughout the city.

As apps become more robust, travelers can expect more deals from them.

Forrester Research recently found that app spending represented 5 percent of United States online travel sales last year and forecast that to rise to 9.5 per cent by 2017, noting the advantage of mobile apps in reaching users when they are most receptive – while travelling.

In Mexico, Rosewood Mayakoba’s new app, which allows guests to request a spa appointment or restaurant reservation without leaving their pool chairs, embodies the trend: Since starting the app in May, spa bookings have increased by 25 per cent.


Taken from My Paper, Wednesday, October 15, 2014