Vintage isochrone maps show 19th-century travel times

In the late 19th century, travel times became a thing of fascination as modes of transportation improved by leaps and bounds (e.g., Around the World in 80 Days, published in 1873). Great thinkers of the day like Francis Galton even devised isochrone maps, which showed how long it would take to get from a central point to other points of interest. Read the rest

TSA to require some electronics out of bags at 10 U.S. airports starting Memorial Day weekend

The TSA will be testing out expanded screening for carry-on electronics larger than a phone and certain food items at selected airports around the country. The new rules come just two days after a major terrorist attack in Manchester, UK, and stepped-up security in response.

The TSA says they're “testing security screening procedures for carry-on bags at 10 U.S. airports” only, and “There are no changes to nationwide procedures.”

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The story of the TSA's oddly entertaining Instagram account

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)'s Instagram account is a real hoot, featuring weird, ridiculous, and sometimes helpful images of items that are prohibited and permitted to bring on flights. Apparently Jeremy Bentham's mummified head, above, "is allowed in carry-on as long as it's properly packaged, labeleled, and declared..." Also, who knew that Batarangs and Krull Glaives were so popular. From National Geographic:

“It almost looks like we’re in the entertainment business at times,” says Bob Burns, lead social media specialist with the TSA Office of Public Affairs and the man behind the account’s cheeky posts. After leaving his rock band in 2002, Burns originally joined TSA as a screener and later started the Instagram account in 2013—his idea to educate the public in a more engaging way.

“Everyone’s had that teacher where you’re afraid to ask questions because you’ll get criticized or yelled at. The human tone of our Instagram account makes us more approachable,” Burns says. “The majority of our photos are prohibited items and strange things … we try to use that as a teaching moment: A chainsaw is not allowed in your carry-on bag.”

Talk about deadheading... This crusty ol' chap is actually a prop from the #TexasChainsawMassacre movie. He was brought through a checkpoint at the Atlanta (#ATL) International Airport, where as you can see, he was screened and sent on his jolly way. #TSAOnTheJob

A post shared by TSA (@tsa) on May 15, 2016 at 3:41pm PDT

Some might find this nanner knife appealing. I’m guessing you have a bunch of them?

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An inflatable pillow to make flying in coach tolerable

This simple, inflatable pillow provides the lower back support I wish a coach airplane seat would. Read the rest

Racist border policies mean Toronto school board will no longer allow trips to Trump's USA

Toronto high-school students have been visiting the USA since their inception; I remember my own high-school trips to Buffalo's Albright Knox gallery warmly. But they are a relic of the past, because the Toronto District School Board will not risk harassment and worse of its students at the US border, where people born to Arab or Muslim families, or in majority-Muslim families, report widespread discrimination. Read the rest

Japan's "Weird Hotel," staffed by robots, in a Japanese theme-park

The Henn Na Hotel ("weird hotel") is staffed by robots: the Japanese-speaking check-in clerk is a vicious robot dinosaur, while the English-speaking one is humanoid; a robot arm stores and retrieves personal items from the guest lockers, and a chatbot serves as concierge. Read the rest

Living in a car: top 10 places to sleep

Ahle is committed to living in vehicles by choice, and her channel is a wealth of practical information for cardwellers, vandwellers, RVers, hobos, and vagabonds. Her tips for sleeping places are great. Read the rest

Gorgeous shots from circumnavigating Australia, aka "The Big Lap"

Tom Rex Jessett and his fiancee Vanessa tricked out a panel van and drove all the way around Australia, a journey known as The Big Lap.

We spent hours upon hours driving, walked on hundreds of beaches, Watched nearly every sunrise and sunset as well as ate a whole lot of tinned food! 35,000km later we were back where we started, the big lap complete! Here is just a small selection of the photographs I took along the way as memories.

Bonus video: Catherine Lawson and David Bristow take newborn Maya all the way around Highway 1.

I Spent 9 Months Road Tripping The Big Lap Of Australia And Took These Amazing Photos To Remember It! (Tom Rex Jessett) Read the rest

Human rights coalition to DHS: don't demand social media passwords from people entering the USA

A huge coalition of human rights groups, trade groups, civil liberties groups, and individual legal, technical and security experts have signed an open letter to the Department of Homeland Security in reaction to Secretary John Kelly's remarks to House Homeland Security Committee earlier this month, where he said the DHS might force visitors to America to divulge their social media logins as a condition of entry. Read the rest

The Airport Jacket is a suitcase you can wear

Many airlines are charging for checked and carry-on baggage. The Airport Jacket was designed to get around those fees. It has lots of huge pockets for stashing clothes, shoes, toiletries, your laptop, and more. It folds up into a suitcase, and unfolds into a jacket. Read the rest

China's "citizen scores" used to blacklist 6.7m people from using high-speed rail or flying

China's nightmarish "citizen scores" system uses your online activity, purchases, messages, and social graph to rate your creditworthiness and entitlement to services. One way your score can be plunged into negative territory is for a judge to declare you to be a bad person (mostly this happens to people said to have refused to pay their debts, but it's also used to punish people who lie to courts, hide their assets, and commit other offenses). Read the rest

Flying into the USA? Here's two ways you can help EFF and ACLU fight the #muslimban

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking first-hand reports of travellers being asked to divulge their social media habits by US border guards (beyond the optional field on the ESTA form) (email info@eff.org); meanwhile, ACLU urges travellers to stay on the customs/immigration side and let them know if people are being detained (Tweet @nobanjfk). Read the rest

Houseguests, technological literacy, and the goddamned wifi: a single chart

Randal Munroe nails it again in an XKCD installment that expresses the likelihood that your houseguests will be able to connect to your wifi (I confess to having been the "firmware" guide -- but also, having been reminded to do something about my own firmware when other difficult houseguests came to stay). Read the rest

Indicted Dieselgate VW execs advised not to leave Germany, lest they be extradited to the USA

The five Volkswagen executives who were criminally charged in the USA for their role in the Dieselgate scandal have been advised not to travel to the USA because they are liable to arrest there: they've also been told that leaving Germany is risky because they might be arrested and extradited to the USA. Read the rest

Travel blogger documents his near-death crash in Thailand

I enjoy Lithuanian travel vlogger Jacob Laukaitis' YouTube videos. He travels around the world and makes videos like this one about the ruins of Hampi, India, which was once the second most populous city in the world:

And this one of Khari Baoli in New Delhi, the largest spics market in Asia:

Recently, Jacob was hit by a drunk driver in Thailand and broke several bones in his face. His medical insurance company refused to pay the bill until it started getting negative publicity on social media, after which it agreed to pay the $10,000 bill. Lucky for Jacob he has a lot of social media followers to help him out. Jacob said he's heard from other people insured by the same company who have been denied medical coverage.

I'd be interested in learning from readers about the travel insurance companies they use, and whether they've had positive experiences. I've used TravelGuard (AIG) a couple of times, but have not needed compensation for anything, so I can't vouch for it. Read the rest

Touring northern Colombia by car in the rainy season

There are many options for touring Alta Guajira, the northernmost part of Colombia (and of South America), but overlanding in your own vehicle is definitely choice. The only rub is that many of the roads aren't really roads so much as they are just the tracks of the last vehicle that passed through, and not necessarily in the direction you're headed. So, navigation is tricky for a local, and nigh impossible for a visitor.

The various paths that lead to Punta Gallina are unpaved, rocky, and cut through a desert with infamously muddy patches that cars can be stuck in for up to a week. And driving through it during rainy season, as we did, can be especially treacherous.

We had a bit of "luck" on our side, if you can call it that. Unfortunately, the Guajira region has been subject to a five year long drought, making the difficult life of the Wayuu people who live there even more difficult. The UN and the Red Cross have both stepped in to try and alleviate the starvation and the lack of water, but providing aid has not been easy. So when we say "lucky," we mean only for the road quality, since we encountered little of the mud we'd been warned so vehemently about, and made it out with very little trauma to our 4Runner.

The other bit of luck we had was accidentally stumbling on a tourism agency that specializes in trips to Punta Gallina, while actually searching for different agency all together. Read the rest

Atlas Obscura – The intriguing website of life oddities moves to illustrated book form

It’s a big world we live in, full of fortune-telling fox-woman hybrids, libraries where books are chained to the shelves, rusting shipwrecks, and amusement parks at the bottom of salt mines. The website Atlas Obscura collects the most intriguing of them, and now Atlas Obscura is in book form, perfect for flipping through while waiting for water to boil. It’s plentifully illustrated, with photographs or drawings on every page.

This is not The Book of Lists, and it is not for young children. Many of the entries concern war or atrocities, and some photos are gruesome; the world is full of mummified limbs. The authors treat the subjects respectfully, and have done their research. The story of the Bicycle Tree in Washington State, for example, has both the glurgy and the factual versions.

Some entries are not location based, such as the two pages of entheogens from around the world, or the list of abandoned nuclear power plants. But most entries have the latitude and longitude for each attraction, and sometimes street addresses; you could use this as a guidebook for a particularly unconventional wanderjahr.

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton Workman Publishing Company 2016, 480 pages, 7 x 10.5 x 2.1 inches (hardcover) $21 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

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