All posts by amysenger

Top 3 Reasons To Choose Airbnb Over Hotels

Airbnb is disrupting the hotel industry.

As of February 2012, 5 million guest nights have been booked worldwide since the site’s launch in 2007, with a 500% growth in the past year and accommodations in over 19,000 cities.

 

Airbnb Global Growth Infographic

 

I’ve now stayed at two properties (one in San Diego and one in Santa Barbara) and I’m officially on the Airbnb bandwagon. Here’s why:

1. Comfort: After traveling so much in my career, I’ve grown weary of the generic, cookie cutter look and feel of hotel rooms, even 5-star accommodations. Staying at an AirBnb is like staying at a friend’s house, with all the comforts and spaciousness of a home, like a kitchen and a comfy living room with books and magazines to peruse.

2. Amenities: I’ve started to deplore how hotels nickel and dime guests, especially when it comes to wifi and water. Both Airbnbs I’ve stayed at offered free, secure wifi and purified drinking water. It might sound trivial, but I feel like water and wifi should be included in a guest’s stay. And at our Santa Barbara rental, the owner provided two bikes, with bike locks and helmets for guests. I can’t tell you how awesome it was to arrive and jump right onto the bike to explore the city. Plus, there was free street parking just feet away from the entrances at both properties.

3. Cost: Bottom line, you get a lot more for a lot less at an Airbnb. And you don’t have to pay for all the hidden costs of hotels.

Not all people will love Airbnb (especially those enamored by turn-down and room service). But I get a feeling a growing number of folks will like what Airbnb has to offer (on both the demand and supply side) and it’s going to take a big bite out of the hotel industry pie.

Tony Hsieh: Delivering Happiness to Downtown Las Vegas

Beyond the casinos, past the clubs, over the glittering, multi-million dollar hotels that light up the Las Vegas Strip, beat the quiet drums of innovation and progress. Change is afoot.

Las Vegas is on the verge of a renaissance, thanks, in part, to the fantastical vision and persuasive passion of Zappos CEO and Delivering Happiness author, Tony Hsieh.

Credit Marc Burckhardt

What began as a relocation project, moving the online shoe and apparel shop headquarters from its Henderson location to downtown Las Vegas, has blossomed into a revitalization project, breathing new life into an area all too often described as seedy and run-down.

By the end of 2013, Zappos will take over downtown’s old City Hall building, which will receive a major renovation to accommodate 2,000 of its employees (the Henderson office is home to approximately 1,200), and several blocks of surrounding real estate have been procured to round out the “Zappos campus,” serving as a spark plug to the surrounding area.

It’s all part of Hsieh’s vision to make downtown Las Vegas a vital community — attracting families, urban dwellers, and business owners — to not only visit, but to live and thrive, with art galleries, yoga studios, coffee shops, book stores, sporting events and charter schools.

Hsieh is investing $350 million into the Downtown Project, with $200 million in real estate development, including residential, $50 million for small business investment, $50 million for education, and $50 million for start-up investments, in companies who are already in Las Vegas or are willing to relocate to downtown.

The start-up investment is a ripe opportunity for seedling companies looking for the right environment to get off the ground. Besides providing a lower cost of living, compared to many start-up hubs, the Downtown Project offers access to mentors, space and peers.

When I asked Zach Ware, who oversees campus, urban, and start-up development, about the strategy to attract start-ups and compete against fertile start-up grounds like Palo Alto, San Francisco and Seattle, he explained:

We’re less about comparisons and more about creating something new. Most cities have their fair share of incubation programs and other formal ways to accelerate learning and happiness. We see an opportunity to create a form of an incubator in an entire city, but without the formalities. So if you consider the elements that make up an incubator (proximity to mentors, proximity to others like you, access to capital and space) we think those things can be more organically scaled if they are a part of a city. 

Taking a cue from the edicts in Triumph of the City, the project aims to make downtown Las Vegas a great place to eat, meet, work, live, learn, and play.

After witnessing first-hand the kind of company Tony Hsieh has built with Zappos — during my recent headquarters tour, one senior woman commented, “Boy, would I have loved to work here when I was young” — I have no doubt the project will be a success. In fact, it’s the only Vegas bet I’ll make.

ZERO DAY: An inside look at Facebook cybercrime and other threats on the Internet

What if I offered you a keyhole view into the seedy underbelly of the Internet, a journey into the world of cybercrime, cyber-espionage and other threats? Would you want a look?

If the answer is yes, you’re in luck, because that’s exactly what Charles Koppelman is offering with his film ZERO DAY, a documentary exploring “the dark side of the Internet.”

Embedded with Facebookʼs Security Team at its Menlo Park headquarters, given unprecedented fly-on-the-wall access to intrusions, hacks, and criminal activities, Charles and his crew deep-dive into the most high severity cases of e-crime at Facebook.

Add in the investigative journalism of former Washington Post “Security Fix” reporter, Brian Krebs, who takes the audience on the wild ride of money laundering for the Russian mafia (that sadly prey on “mules” through work-at-home job scams), and you have one compelling narrative.

Now the film is in its final push to completion, looking to Kickstarter to bring in the remaining dollars needed to make the project a theatrical reality. I’ve already kicked in $10 and in return will receive the finished film (in down-loadable format).

If any of this sounds at all interesting to you, I recommend checking out ZERO DAY’s Kickstarter page and help it cross the finish line.

Meryl Streep’s Heartfelt Thank You to Hillary Clinton (scrunchie time!)

Last month at The Women in the World Summit, Meryl Streep delivered a rousing tribute to U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, which seemed to make even the consummate actress and orator a little nervous and tongue-tied.

Streep struck home the point that while the world has been busy “judging [Hillary], assessing her hair, her jackets, supporting her, worrying about her – is she getting enough sleep?” our Madame Secretary has been “busy working, doing it, making those words ‘Women’s rights are human rights’ into something every leader in every country now knows is a linchpin of American policy.”

 

Streep also reminded the audience:

“…it is not a simple job to be a role model. It is not just being endlessly compassionate, polite, and well-groomed. It’s equal parts being who you actually are and what people hope you will be. It’s representing, for all women, our very best selves. It’s an enormous burden to be placed upon any sweetly rounded shoulders. But that’s what we ask of her.”

And she thanked Hillary for “her willingness to take it all on – the hostility and the sniping and the special scrutiny and the heavy artillery.”

In light of the recent “Texts from Hillary” phenomenon, I sincerely hope “scrunchie time” makes it into the inevitable Hillary-Clinton-Played-By-Meryl-Streep-Biopic.

Thx 4 the LOLZ, Hillz. But more importantly, thanks for being the inveterate leader and fighter that you are.

The Happiness Advantage, Principle #7: Social Investment

Several years ago, I read about a psychology course being taught at Harvard, “Positive Psychology,” which became the most popular course at the university. The Head Teaching Fellow for the class, Shawn Achor, went on to write and publish, “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.”

A fascinating, well-researched and convincing read, what I found most compelling about The Happiness Advantage was Principle #7: Social Investment. With it, Achor highlights the study, “Very Happy People,” in which researchers sought out the characteristics of the happiest 10 percent among us. Of all the factors considered, including wealth, warmth of climate, and physical fitness, only one characteristic distinguished the happiest 10 percent from everybody else: strength of social relationships.

Achor buoyed the argument with his own research:

My empirical study of well-being among 1,600 Harvard undergraduates found a similar result—social support was a far greater predictor of happiness than any other factor, more than GPA, family income, SAT scores, age, gender, or race. In fact, the correlation between social support and happiness was 0.7. This may not sound like a big number, but for researchers it’s huge—most psychology findings are considered significant when they hit 0.3.

He then goes to explain one of the key mistakes people make that utterly disembowels of our central happiness. During times of challenge and stress, people will retreat into themselves, producing an emotional retraction. Perhaps it’s the perceived stigma of showing fear, of feeling shame, that causes us to divest from our social network. But in doing so, we only isolate ourselves, lose perspective, and most importantly, lose the benefit of having a support network in the first place.

After all, what’s the point of having social capital if we can’t tap into it when we need it most?

I recently experienced this phenomenon while going through some major life changes and relationship issues. I kept retreating, putting on a happy face while hiding the fact that I was dealing with some pretty heady stuff, and in the process, only made the situation worse. Finally, I hit a wall. I realized I couldn’t continue repressing and be happy.

So I finally opened up to a few trusted friends and family members. I even talked to a therapist. And to my own stubborn, arrogant surprise, it worked, as if my soul let out an exasperated sigh of relief.

As Achor warns in The Happiness Advantage, even though basic instincts might compel us to turn inward, positive psychology knows better. It can prove the difference between our ultimate success and failure.

“You’ve Been Trumped” Kicks Off The Environmental Film Festival

Last night, I attended the D.C. Environmental Film Festival Premiere kick-off film, You’ve Been Trumped.

As someone who has experienced Scotland’s breathtaking beauty and decadent history, the Scottish government’s decision to overturn its own environmental policy to allow Donald Trump to build a golf course on Europe’s most environmentally sensitive stretches of coast, described by one leading scientist as Scotland’s Amazon rain forest, is certainly intriguing. After all, this is a fiercely nationalistic country with a Freedom to Roam policy and a strong record for preserving its environmental landscape and natural heritage.

But tough economic times call for tough economic decisions.

Trump’s development proposal “to build the world’s greatest golf course” was initially rejected in 2007 by a local subcommittee of elected members; however, in 2008, John Swinney, the Scottish cabinet secretary for finance and sustainable growth, overturned the council’s decision by announcing permission for the development, as Trump promised to create over 6,000 jobs:

With latest official statistics showing unemployment in Scotland has risen to 7.6 percent, the move has been welcomed by the country’s government who are anxious to bring investment to the area.

A spokesman for the ruling Scottish Nationalist Party told CNN: “Ministers agreed with the public inquiry conclusion that there was significant economic and social benefit to be gained from the application by Trump International Golf Links Scotland to develop a golf resort at Balmedie.” (via CNN)

Many economists, nonetheless, have been challenging Trump on his economic estimates:

Paul Cheshire, professor emeritus of economic geography at London School of Economics and Political Science, carried out his own assessment of the economic case for the development of the Menie Estate. He was surprised to find that the Scottish government had not commissioned its own independent analysis of the likely benefits – instead, the government relied on an economic impact assessment carried out for TIGL by Strathclyde University.

Professor Cheshire describes that assessment as “wildly optimistic” because of its assumptions about the creation of new jobs for local people. He points out that constructing a golf course is not like building houses because very few specialist companies are capable of doing it. As it turns out, an Irish company is managing the construction of the resort, using mainly its own labour. (via The Guardian)

Trump also promised to leave the dunes in better shape and condition than they were before. Evidence, thus far, however, has proven otherwise as documented by local residents and You’ve Been Trumped filmmaker, Anthony Baxter:

In an interesting twist, Trump is now embroiled in a fight to prevent the building of an offshore windfarm near his luxury golf resort which he deems will be “an eyesore.”

Whatever the outcome, You’ve Been Trumped (funded via @IndieGoGo) was a tremendous start to the festival. I’m looking forward to checking out more films in the coming two weeks (March 13-25): http://www.dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org/

Most Beautiful Men of Surfing: Valentine’s Day Eye Candy For The Ladies

If living in Southern California and becoming entrenched in the world of surfing has taught me one thing, it’s that surfers are a beautiful lot. Here are some of my favorites…

 

Owen Wright

Australian. 21. 6’3”. Laid-back, sweet demeanor. Killer smile. And an Australian accent to boot. What more can a girl ask for?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dane Ward

The epitome of the Southern California surfer boy, how can you not adore a guy who chooses Acai over coffee?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelly Slater

The #1 surfer in the world, I thought I was looking at a 1950s movie star when I saw this photo of him.


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Most Beautiful Men of Surfing: Valentine's Day Eye Candy For The Ladies

If living in Southern California and becoming entrenched in the world of surfing has taught me one thing, it’s that surfers are a beautiful lot. Here are some of my favorites…

 

Owen Wright

Australian. 21. 6’3”. Laid-back, sweet demeanor. Killer smile. And an Australian accent to boot. What more can a girl ask for?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dane Ward

The epitome of the Southern California surfer boy, how can you not adore a guy who chooses Acai over coffee?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kelly Slater

The #1 surfer in the world, I thought I was looking at a 1950s movie star when I saw this photo of him.


Continue reading

Pinterest Hits 10 Million Monthly Uniques, Proving Women ARE Visual

If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, the visual bookmarking site/service that allows users to “pin” interesting images found online, along with notes and links back to the original source, take note.

TechCrunch recently attained exclusive data from comScore showing the site just hit 11.7 million unique monthly U.S. visitors, crossing the 10 million mark faster than any other standalone site in history.

The majority of Pinterest users are women (97 percent) with its largest growing demographic being women ages 18-34, located in middle America. And apparently this is a lucrative demographic, as Pinterest drives more traffic to retailers than Google+.

I’ve had an account for about 4 months, but haven’t really started using it until recently. The reason I like it is the same reason I enjoy screenwriting: it’s a visual art form. I may not fit the “scrapbooking” middle American female stereotype, but I do like being able to see information I save and organize from the web, in an aesthetically pleasing way (check out my Screenwriting Board, as an example).

Not only does Pinterest provides a practical service, but it does so in a manner that matches the way I like to process information. Which just goes to show, women are visual.

 

Feeling Sick? Google "Flu Trends" Tool Smarter Than The CDC

A new study in Clinical Infectious Diseases shows that Google Flu Trends can predict surges in hospital flu visits more than a week before the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

For the study, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine researchers compared Baltimore-specific data from the Google Flu Trends website, which estimates influenza outbreaks based on online searches for flu information, to ED crowding and laboratory statistics from Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Using Google Flu Trends, researchers found that the number of online searches for flu information increased at the same time that the hospital’s pediatric ED experienced a rise in cases of children with flu-like symptoms. The Google Flu Trends data had a moderate correlation with patient volume in the adult ED. Moreover, Google Flu Trends signaled an uptick in flu cases seven to 10 days earlier than CDC‘s U.S. Influenza Sentinel Provider Surveillance Network. (via Advisory.com Daily Briefing)