Crowdfund campaign for a 500-kilometer walk across rural Japan

In January 2019, Peter Orosz plans to live broadcast his snowy trek across the Japanese island of Shikoku. He will also produce a printed field report.

The story is that last year I walked 2,700 miles from one end of Japan to the other, and now I will go back to walk the most interesting 300 miles in the winter, then write and print a large format Field Report about it. You will also be able to follow it live on YouTube and Instagram.

It costs $45 to support the expedition, for which you get a copy of the Field Report, an extra $20 will get your name in it as a Patron, and there’s also some cool hand-crafted stuff from my collaborators: a watercolor map, a book of essays on Japan by Alan Booth, an indigo-dyed towel. It’s shipping worldwide in Spring 2019.

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The three coolest places in the world are Setouchi, Antarctica, and Pittsburgh

National Geographic compiled its list of the twenty coolest places on planet Earth in 2019. The top three: the small Japanese town of Setouchi, the continent of Antarctica, and the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Setouchi has the world's greatest small-town art scene and the coast looks like something from a movie about colonizing another worlds. Antarctica is the last place on Earth, a vast and unspoiled testament to nature's extremes. Pittsburgh has a giant Heinz ketchup bottle made of regular Heinz ketchup bottles. And it won World War II.

Here is the entire “cool” list: 1. Setouchi, Japan 2. Antarctica 3. Pittsburgh 4. Corsica 5. Cambodia 6. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico 7. West Yorkshire, England 8. Hong Kong 9. Zimbabwe 10. Guyana 11. Oslo, Norway 12. Eritrea 13. KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa 14. Bhutan 15. Dundee, Scotland 16. Uganda 17. Matera, Italy 18 Indonesia 19 Sibiu, Romania

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The human and financial cost to summit Mount Everest is staggering

Everest isn't the most difficult mountain in the world to climb, but it is one of the most expensive. The individual cost of getting one's athletic ass to the top of the mountain range is between $40,000-$130,000. Most of this cheddar gets thrown at logistics. It takes a lot of money for a mountain outfitter to set up multiple camps at varying altitudes along the route to the top of the world. It takes considerably less money to hire the ludicrously underpaid Sherpa guides to set it all up and, if things go well, get their clients up the side of Everest and back down to base camp again in one piece. This in-depth video explains it all. Read the rest

Vardø, the witch capital of Norway

Chelsea G. Summers' beautiful article about a beatiful place recalls its ugly history: the murder of 91 "witches" in Vardø, Norway, part of a century-long persecution against which the Salem witch trials pale in comparison.

There’s no easy way to describe Vardø’s extreme, compelling weirdness. It’s hard to believe that Vardø once held a population of 5,000 in the many buildings that squat on concrete haunches around the harbor. Vardø’s hotels once burst with rich Russians who traded rubles for cod. The wharf once slapped with the sounds of fish being beheaded, gutted, skinned, salted and dried. The harbor once rang with the sounds of ships — at first small with sails, then larger with motors, then metal monsters — coming and going. Just 70 years ago, sailors swaggered in and out of Vardø’s bars and shops; just 25 years ago, more than 350 Sri Lankans staffed the fish processing plants. Now Vardø is a fraction of its former size, and its ghosts seems to hug you close.

Photo: Chelsea G. Summers Read the rest

My life on the road: watching life roll by from the corner of my eye

Two days of waiting in Casper, Wyoming, $1,200 and two new tires later, we were back on the road. Casper is a small city. It is one of Wyoming's most populated cities. It is a city flanked by mountains and, while we were being held captive by a blown out tire on a holiday weekend, a miserably cold, humid city.

It was a city we were happy to leave.

The man who taught me how to fight once told me that the only thing worse than getting punched is waiting to get punched. This holds true for many things in life. As my wife wheeled us back onto the Interstate, headed south, there was a tension in the air between us. We did not speak. We did little else but listen. Would the rest of our tires prove sound? Was there any indication that they might blow like one of our outer duelies had? When the next blow-out happens would it be one of our steer-tires? How fucked or dead would we be? The answer to this last question: pretty fucked and, depending on the speed we'd be traveling at when the blow-out hit, pretty dead.

Both of us were wondering these things. Neither of us talked about it until after we had stopped for the night.

Long distance trips can be full of new foods and interesting people that make for fond memories. More often, you're left to contend with hours of a ribbon of road cut through the plains mountains and dead towns that lost their vibrance years before you were born. Read the rest

My life on the road: stranded in Wyoming

Few things can fuck an RV up worse than a frozen water system. Grey, black and potable water tanks, water pumps and the delicate tubing that run through the undercarriage and into the living area of a motorhome don't do well when exposed to subzero temperatures. Some RVs, like ours, come with blowers that force warm air from the furnace into the undercarriage. Others, like our old rig, have systems that draw power from the chassis battery to keep the tanks heated and the liquid inside of them, well, liquid.

We started our first day headed south at -4° Celsius. We assumed that we'd be able to make it to Lethbridge, Alberta, a few hours south of Calgary. The overnight temperature would dip to -10° there. Fading headlights and the encroaching dark forced to a halt, short of our goal, in Claresholm. There, the overnight temperature dipped to -17°.

We knew that we could weather the weather in Lethbridge. Claresholm, cold as it was, would have been a test we weren't prepared to sit for. Fortunately, we were able to find a hotel. Even more fortunate was the fact that we'd winterized our RV well before the first cold. Our tanks were drained dry. Our lines were wetted with anti-freeze. For the first three days of our trip south, we traveled without any water, save what we brought with us in bottles. We used it to flush our toilet, brush our teeth, make coffee and wash. On the end of the third night, we felt it warm enough to risk de-winterizing the RV. Read the rest

My Life on the Road: Headed to Texas - chicken and booze in Bozeman

We left Claresholm after eating a continental breakfast of terrible coffee and decent muffins. The hotel’s owner chatted lazily with us as we noshed. He had been a manager of Woolworth's department stores, from Toronto, Ontario to Terrence, British Columbia. He served the chain loyally for decades of his life, never questioning when they sent him north, east or west. They fired him after 27 years of service. He’d become redundant.

I told him that I remembered eating grilled cheese sandwiches at the Woolworth’s lunch counter where I grew up. There was pride in his voice as he told me that, before McDonald's came along, the department store’s lunch counters were the biggest restaurant chain in the world.

The sun was high for it being so early in the day. We heated the RV’s engine for a half hour before wheeling south.

It’s a strange time to write for a living. Where normally I expect to raise an eyebrow when I tell folks what I do, my vocation of late has roused opinions and suspicions. I wasn’t sure if I would stand up to questioning at the border. I needn’t have worried: the border guard was more concerned about where we were going, how long we’d be there and whether we had any contraband onboard. In her rear view mirror, my wife saw our border guard staggering through a pee-pee dance from her booth to the border patrol facility a few feet away as we drove off.

Montana.

The mountains are different here than they are in Alberta. Read the rest

In-flight "brawl" between American Airlines stewards leads to lawsuit

An American Airlines steward is suing the airline, claiming that a colleague assaulted her during a flight and that it refused to address her complaints. A lawyer representing the airline, as quoted by USA Today, says that she had it coming: it is "not liable because Plaintiff caused or contributed to cause the harm".

An American Airlines flight attendant who says she was dragged down the aisle by her scarf by a fellow crew member has sued the Dallas-based carrier for failing to investigate the July 2016 brawl or take actions to ensure her safety.

In her lawsuit, filed Friday in federal court and obtained by The Dallas Morning News, Kathy Ida Wolfe says another flight attendant, Laura Powers, "maliciously dug her fingernails into my arm, and slammed the door of a beverage cart on my arm" and later "grabbed my scarf, choking me, and dragged me in the aisle and in front of the passengers."

Alas, there's no video of the "brawl." Dallas News has more:

Wolfe, of Irving, said she followed American's procedures by reporting the attack to the captain, other flight attendants and the flight service manager.

"I also reported the assault and battery to legal authorities after American Airlines failed to investigate and/or take action to ensure my safety," she said in the lawsuit, which was initially filed in June in Tarrant County district court.

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My Life on the Road: Headed for Texas, crazy cold in Claresholm

With my wife's gig in north central Alberta spinning down for another year and the cold charging hard at us like a bull moose in rut, it's once again time for us to head south. This year, thanks to the two weeks it took me to replace a lost passport, we started off later than we would have liked.

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We left Calgary late in the day. No matter how much lead up we have, there always seems to be a few last things to do. Saying goodbye. Picking up snacks for the road. Double checking our rig's engine, air bags, air brakes, tires and all else. Even after receiving my passport last Friday, we waited until today--Wednesday. The weather was too coarse to risk in the rig.

We aimed at Lethbridge as a first night target. Not far, but out of Calgary and within reach of the border early tomorrow morning. As the dusk settled in, we noted that our headlights were not up to the task of leading us. The bulbs would need to be replaced. But not tonight. We made for Claresholm: a highway pass-through town on the road south. By the time we pulled off for the evening, it had already hit -10. We lurked through town, the size of a semi truck with our Jeep in tow, searching for a dark corner of asphalt to call ours for the night. On with the generator. On with the furnace to warm our dog and our bones. Read the rest

This mobile workstation is my new favorite travel companion

One of the big problems I've had with taking long drives, anywhere, has been that I'm forced into unproductive time when I should be working. This isn't a problem when I'm going on vacation. But here's the thing: I seldom take a vacation. As I'm self-employed, there's no such thing as vacation pay in my world. When I stop writing, the money stops coming in. Working on the road is possible--all I have to do is tether my laptop to my iPhone and I'm in business.

So long as I can keep my laptop, you know, in my lap.

Maintaining a stable platform to work on while my wife wheels us across the continent has proven difficult. I've tried lap desks, balancing my computer on a backpack, you name it. My computer always slides around, making it damn near impossible to type. What's more, a neck injury that I sustained eons ago makes it painful for me to tilt my head down for any length of time. This combination of poor conditions has forced me, up until now, to twiddle my thumbs for hours at a time, working only once we've come to a stop for the day.

However, I think that I may finally have figured it out.

RAM Mounts makes a wide variety of mobile work solutions to keep nerd stuff in one place while you're driving along. Cops use RAM Mount gear in their cruisers to keep their laptop secure. Their in-vehicle smartphone and tablet stands are, arguably, among the best out there. Read the rest

My life on the road: A lost passport, no ID, and bullshit paperwork trying to get back to Canada

16 October, 2018 My wife drops me at the airport in Calgary. I'm traveling to Chicago. A fancy audio hardware company called Shure invited me to the city to check out some of the new tech that they'll be releasing in the coming months.

I pass through security with no issues. As I lace on my boots, I am certain that I have my passport. It is in my hand as I board my flight. I place my passport in a buttoned pocket in my jacket before sitting down on the plane. Standing up at the end of my flight, my passport is still there. Upon landing, I pay it no further mind. I'm on the hunt for a cab ride into Chicago's downtown core.

"They say they don't have any money but Jesus: lookit alla this construction," my cab driver says to me. "It's alla the time." I tell him that we have construction season in Calgary, too. But yeah, the traffic headed into the downtown is weaponized bullshit. My smartphone says that the trip should take 35 minutes. Curb to curb, it is a 90-minute ride.

I pay the driver his due and step out of his hack.

In the hotel's front door to the hotel's front desk. I have my luggage. I have a reservation. I have a credit card for incidentals.

I do not have a passport.

I don't have a driver's license, either. I haven't had one for years: my PTSD makes my being behind the wheel a bad idea. Read the rest

Ryanair says it "will not tolerate" in-flight racial abuse after tolerating it

A disheveled, rather soggy-looking white gentleman directed racial abuse and threats to a 77-year-old black woman during a Ryanair flight from Barcelona to Stansted. Read the rest

What 'Independence Day' Is Like In Transnistria, An Unrecognized Country Inside Moldova

Transnistria, officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, is an Eastern European territory with a strong Soviet vibe. Technically, the country does not exist. Transnistria is considered a part of the Republic of Moldova, and isn't an officially recognized nation of its own, despite declaring independence in 1990, followed by a war in 1992. I attended this year's Independence Day celebrations in Transnistria, hoping to understand what the place and the people are all about. Here's what I saw. Read the rest

Ben and Jerry's has a Flavor Graveyard for the 'dearly de-pinted'

There's a plot of land in Vermont where ice cream flavors go when they die. Located next to the Waterbury home of Ben & Jerry's plant and headquarters, the Flavor Graveyard is the final resting place for the company's discontinued flavors such as Wavy Gravy, White Russian, and (32) more.

Travel + Leisure:

“Ben & Jerry’s is known for outrageous, chunky, funky flavors,” said Flavor Guru Eric Fredette in a company press release. “But experimentation comes with risk, and not everybody likes our edgier ideas. Like everything else, ice cream flavors have a beginning and an end.”

This year, visitors who take a Ben & Jerry's factory tour, along with a visit to the Flavor Graveyard, between Oct. 29 and 31 will be treated to a sample of a limited edition pumpkin pie ice cream available only in Waterbury.

You can also visit their virtual burial ground and, if you wish, submit a request to "resurrect" any of the dead flavors. Zombie Schweddy Balls, anyone?

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Interactive sea level viewer shows what will happen to America's beaches

Gone, obviously. Tom Scocca:

Using our advanced technology, it is possible to look up the beaches in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Level Rise Viewer, and to imagine what will happen if we visit them, or try to visit them, in the future—when the sea levels have risen three feet, or six feet, or more, if you want. You can use your pocket phone-computer to watch them move ahead through time below.

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Dystopia watch: Guide to spotting hidden cameras in your Airbnb

If you're worried that your Airbnb host has hidden a camera in the place you've rented, because that is a thing that garbage people do, you can use these handy tips to spot it. Read the rest

WestJet Airlines says no to drugs as Canada prepares to decriminalize cannabis

Last month, the Canadian Armed Forces announced its strict but reasonable policy surrounding the use of cannabis by service personnel. With Canada's decriminalization of cannabis nearly upon us, a lot of companies and organizations that deal with dangerous tasks or complicated hardware are following suit. Earlier this week, one of Canada's most popular air carriers, WestJet released its policy for when their employees will be allowed to use cannabis.

The short version of the rules: If you're a WestJet employee doing anything other than riding a phone for the company's customer service line or working at an airport check-in counter, chances are that you won't be allowed near the stuff.

From the CBC:

Spokesperson Morgan Bell said employees were notified of the changes on Tuesday morning.

She said cannabis is being treated differently than alcohol, which is banned for certain staff members within 12 hours of coming on duty.

Bell said WestJet's list of affected positions would be similar to Air Canada's, which includes flight and cabin crew members, flight dispatchers, aircraft maintenance engineers and station attendants.

The new WestJet policy also includes a prohibition on possession or distribution of cannabis on company property while on duty or attending a company social function.

Air Canada, Canada's flag carrier, has pretty much the same policy on dope, which makes me happy. In almost all instances, 12 hours is long enough for the blood alcohol level of most drinkers to dip back down to safe levels. Despite all the criminal bullshit that we've laden cannabis down with over the years, we still know comparatively little about what it does to a user's reflexes or how long it may continue to have an effect on judgement. Read the rest

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