Can You Trust Airbnb Reviews

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North to Alaska

I have only been to Alaska once and I only spent two weeks in the enormous state, but it left a lasting impact. The stunning video below captured many of the extraordinary wilderness areas that I was lucky enough to visit. Wild Alaska was shot by Aliscia Young and Richard Sidey. If you’ve been to Alaska, it will make you nostalgic big time. Those of you who haven’t yet been to this great state will be checking Kayak for flights.

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Amsterdam: Tag you’re it

I recently received an email from KLM about their new “KLM Care Tag” project. The video below explains how it works, but it’s basically a cleverly designed location-aware luggage tag that provides voiced tips for tourists in Amsterdam. The speaker-equipped device contains a GPS module that functions completely offline without an internet connection. As visitors travel around the city, the tag automatically offers information based on location.

If you’re planning a first trip to Amsterdam, it might be fun to use the KLM Care Tag during the visit. You can try and order one at the dedicated website for the tag. I’m a big fan of KLM and Amsterdam, so I tried to get a tag just to check it out, but was told that none were currently available if I wasn’t ticketed on a KLM flight this month and to try back at the beginning of September.

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Manhattan Cowcatcher

I recently read Kim Stanley Robinson’s outstanding—but way too long—climate change, post-apocalyptic, science fiction novel “New York 2140.” Although much of the plot takes place in Manhattan’s Met Life Building, the characters frequently comment on the neighboring Flatiron Building. It got me thinking about this iconic New York City landmark and the fact that although I’ve literally passed by all of my life, I’ve never been inside and I knew next to nothing about the OG skyscrapper.

So here are a few things that I discovered about this gem. When it was built in 1902, the Flatiron Building was originally called The Fuller Building. It was named for Chicago architect George A. Fuller who has often been dubbed “the father of the skyscraper,” although the building was actually designed by fellow Chicago architects Daniel Burnham and Frederick Dinkelberg. The official name didn’t last long, as locals quickly began calling it the Flatiron.

Amazingly the landmark was built at a rate of one floor a week once the foundation was erected. Most people don’t realize that the top three floors were added years after the 1902 opening. In fact, to get to the upper floors, it’s necessary to change to a special elevator. And, the original elevator system was water-powered and frequently leaked.

Not long after its official launch, the Flatiron became the city’s most popular tourist attraction. They even began running bus tours of New York City from the building. The open-air tours cost just $1. These days, you can visit the building’s ground floor galleries for changing exhibitions.

In case you were wondering, Manhattan’s “cowcatcher” got its nickname early on from the prow-like front of the building. It’s a reference to the metal frame that was attached to most 19th century locomotives to keep livestock off of the rail road tracks.


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Sharing is caring

When I was scrambling to learn a little Russian last year prior to a trip, I naively thought that shared letters between the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets would somehow make the task a little easier. Of course that proved to be untrue. Still, I love this simple Venn diagram of shared letters among the Greek, Cyrillic and Latin systems.

h/t Languages Ahoy

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Look to the Skies

With the solar eclipse less than a week away, much of North America is looking to the skies.

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For the first time in decades. folks in North America will have the opportunity to view a total solar eclipse on Monday August 21, 2017. Astronomer and artist Tyler Nordgren has created a series of colorful posters to celebrate the celestial event.

The “2017 Great American Eclipse” posters were inspired by 20th century travel advertising and 1930s WPA poster art. Most of the individual pieces in the series were commissioned by cities, counties, states, institutions, and national parks.

You can see the entire series and purchase your own prints at Nordgren’s website. 

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Cover Art

Two years ago I shared a story about German designer Henning M. Lederer’s clever animated book covers. Now he’s back with another set of intriguing 20th century abstract cover design animations.

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I needed color

Okay, I admit that when I first ran across this short documentary video about the artwork from actor/comedian Jim Carrey I waited for the punchlines, but they never came. The film shows Carrey sketching, drawing, and painting large, colorful canvases in his studio. In contrast to his manic characters and on screen persona, the actor appears to be a thoughtful, serious, and committed artist—really.

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Is It Mold ?

One of the hazards in collecting and/or selling antiquarian and secondhand books is the frequent presence of mold. Active book mold is usually identifiable, as it is typically damp and fuzzy, but inactive mold can often be confused with dirt, staining, or just commonplace foxing. I recently found the very helpful chart below, which was designed to help bibliophiles and librarians to identify signs of mold. A big h/t to the Michigan State University Library for sharing.

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