Category Archives: culture

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.

The Secret To Success? You Have To Learn How To Fail

Craig Stecyk, Tony Hawk, Stacy Peralta

Hear the name Stacy Peralta and you instantly think either: A) I love Stacy Peralta! or B) Who the heck is she?

He is the highest-ranked skateboarder of his time, turned multi-million dollar businessman, turned filmmaker. He is also the creator of, and father-figure to, the Bones Brigade, a skate team that featured the era’s top competitors, including Tony Hawk.

While heading up the Bones Brigade, Stacy went on to produce almost a dozen videos, which became some of the most influential skateboarding flicks of their time and set him on a path to film-making. His film Riding Giants, which traces the origins of surfing, specifically focusing on the art of big wave riding, became the first documentary film to open the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 and established him as a powerful filmmaker and storyteller.

His latest documentary, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography is not only a look-back at his life, but more importantly, an insider’s view on the evolution of skateboarding and how its pioneers and legends (like Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, Steve Caballero, Lance Mountain, Tommy Guerrero, and Mike McGill) were driven by sheer passion to create an art form. They were true innovators.

This was hands-down my favorite film from Sundance 2012 and in this intimate interview at the Sundance Cinema Cafe, Stacy shares his secret to success:

The secret is I had to learn how to fail. That’s the secret to success…is that you’ve got to learn how to fail. Because you fail more than you succeed.  You’ve got to get up off the ground and that’s the thing about success. You have to learn how to take those punches. When we skateboarded, we banged ourselves up all the time. But if you didn’t learn how to fall, if you didn’t learn how to bang yourself up, you couldn’t continue.

The film, expected to get a distribution deal for a theatrical release, is not a movie about skateboarding, but an emotional journey about passion, self-expression and the drive to create something meaningful and beyond the realm of possible.

Got Adderall? The Great D.E.A. Versus F.D.A. Duke-Out

Maybe you heard about The Great Adderall Shortage of 2011 that impacted “millions of children and adults” who rely on the pills to help stay focused and calm? Maybe you haven’t.

In terms of national crises, like joblessness and obesity, I wouldn’t rank it at the top of the list (although a country producing drug-addicted college graduates should be a concern), and yet it’s become very much a crisis for people dependent, or more accurately, addicted to the drug.

At the heart of the shortage is an ever-growing struggle between the F.D.A., who recently included several attention-deficit disorder drugs on its official shortages list, and the D.E.A. who is trying to minimize abuse by people, many of them college students who use the medication as a study aid.

It’s become so much of a problem in academia that colleges like Duke University have issued new policies to address misuse, qualifying it as cheating:

The unauthorized use of prescription medication to enhance academic performance has been added to the definition of Cheating.

The D.E.A., who authorizes a certain amount the core ingredient of Adderall — mixed amphetamine salts — to be released to drugmakers each year based on what the agency considers to be the country’s legitimate medical need, finds itself embroiled in a growing epidemic.

In 2010, more than 18 million prescriptions were written for Adderall, up 13.4 percent from 2009, according to IMS Health, which tracks prescription data.

As someone who has been on, and gotten off Adderall, I’m steadfastly in the D.E.A.’s corner. It is a highly addictive drug with serious side effects, especially after continued use, and can create more problems than it solves. Go to any ADHD forum/message board and read the testimonials of folks dealing with its impacts.

'Tis The Season For Pomegranates

If you live in Southern California, one fruit that’s no stranger to farmer’s markets and CSA-boxes is the pomegranate.

I only recently discovered how much I enjoy this fruit, after years of watching it be bastardized and exploited by food companies. The fruit has long been celebrated for its health benefits (it’s a good source of vitamin C and B5, potassium and polyphenols) as well as for its externel beauty (it makes a great decorative fruit, especially around the holidays) and has a deliciously rich history:

The pomegranate tree is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and has been cultivated since ancient times throughout the Mediterranean region of Asia, Africa and Europe. The fruit was used in many ways as it is today and was featured in Egyptian mythology and art, praised in the Old Testament of the Bible and in the Babylonian Talmud, and it was carried by desert caravans for the sake of its thirst-quenching juice. It traveled to central and southern India from Iran about the first century A.D. and was reported growing in Indonesia in 1416. It has been widely cultivated throughout India and drier parts of southeast Asia, Malaya, the East Indies and tropical Africa. The most important growing regions are Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, India, Burma and Saudi Arabia. There are some commercial orchards in Israel on the coastal plain and in the Jordan Valley.

Ripe and in season, typically from September/October to January/February in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s like eating sweet cranberry-flavored corn of the cob (I’ll admit this not the most elegant description but you get the point). The juicy red seed casings (what I refer to as “kernels”) are called arils and can be eaten on their own (I hear they’re great with a little salt and pepper).

Getting the arils out of the skin and inner pulp can be tricky (I’ve stained a couple white shirts with the red juice) but if you score the shell correctly and use a bowl of water (as shown below), you can save your countertops and clothing from a speckled red motif.

Happy pomegranate eating!

‘Tis The Season For Pomegranates

If you live in Southern California, one fruit that’s no stranger to farmer’s markets and CSA-boxes is the pomegranate.

I only recently discovered how much I enjoy this fruit, after years of watching it be bastardized and exploited by food companies. The fruit has long been celebrated for its health benefits (it’s a good source of vitamin C and B5, potassium and polyphenols) as well as for its externel beauty (it makes a great decorative fruit, especially around the holidays) and has a deliciously rich history:

The pomegranate tree is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and has been cultivated since ancient times throughout the Mediterranean region of Asia, Africa and Europe. The fruit was used in many ways as it is today and was featured in Egyptian mythology and art, praised in the Old Testament of the Bible and in the Babylonian Talmud, and it was carried by desert caravans for the sake of its thirst-quenching juice. It traveled to central and southern India from Iran about the first century A.D. and was reported growing in Indonesia in 1416. It has been widely cultivated throughout India and drier parts of southeast Asia, Malaya, the East Indies and tropical Africa. The most important growing regions are Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, India, Burma and Saudi Arabia. There are some commercial orchards in Israel on the coastal plain and in the Jordan Valley.

Ripe and in season, typically from September/October to January/February in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s like eating sweet cranberry-flavored corn of the cob (I’ll admit this not the most elegant description but you get the point). The juicy red seed casings (what I refer to as “kernels”) are called arils and can be eaten on their own (I hear they’re great with a little salt and pepper).

Getting the arils out of the skin and inner pulp can be tricky (I’ve stained a couple white shirts with the red juice) but if you score the shell correctly and use a bowl of water (as shown below), you can save your countertops and clothing from a speckled red motif.

Happy pomegranate eating!

Becoming A Soup Master

This Fall, I started doing something extremely rare and extraordinary (for me)…cooking.

After months, okay years, of me partaking in (he calls it mooching off) @robotchampion‘s culinary creations, he challenged me to literally start bringing something to the table. So I have, in the form of soups.

I’m a little surprised to admit this, but I’m loving it for several reasons:

  1. It’s the perfect food for the fall and winter months.
  2. I typically avoid ordering it at restaurants and buying it at stores because they add so much salt.
  3. We get a weekly delivery of CSA produce and I’m able to use a lot of it in one recipe.
  4. Finally, I’ve been cooking in the afternoon when I need a break between writing away at my laptop. I turn on NPR and use it as an opportunity to get off my ass and experiment like a mad scientist in the kitchen.
So far I’ve experimented with:
  1. Butternut Squash: For this I just remove the skin, bake the squash for an hour, then throw it into the blender with some water and cream. It’s super yummy and simple.
  2. Tomatohttp://www.formerchef.com/2009/08/02/how-to-make-fresh-tomato-soup/
  3. Acorn Squash, Turnip and Applehttp://redhookcsa.com/2011/10/29/winter-squash-and-apple-soup-with-turnips-and-walnuts/

If you click on the recipe links, you’ll notice these are all blended soups (there’s something about using the blender and pureeing that delights me).

Next I’ll be trying out this Roasted Cauliflower and Red Pepper Soup.

If you have a favorite recipe or site, please let me know. NOTE: I prefer minimal effort recipes that yield maximum taste:)

Second Life Failed Because Facebook Became Our Second Life

Slate recently did a piece on why Second Life, the virtual reality world, failed. It concludes, rightfully so, that the Linden Labs creation world lacks a clear purpose. Given how significant this factor is in the “real world” — people with a strong purpose and vision in life thrive, while those who lack direction, don’t — the rationale makes sense. In the words of Kit DeLuca (Pretty Woman): “You gotta have a goal. Do you have a goal?”

But there’s something missing, and I believe it’s an even bigger part of the equation: social, more specifically, Facebook. Second Life launched in 2003. Facebook came out in 2004 and with it came the rise and explosion of Zynga games, FarmVille and CityVille.

If purpose is the defining factor for success, then why is one of the most purpose-driven games in the world, World of Warcraft, losing players? My answer: Facebook. Blizzard Entertainment’s now seven year-old brainchild has been losing players since last October and has lost ~two million subscribers during the last 12 months.

Let’s compare this to The Sims Social, the Facebook addition to the Sims series. By augmenting the videogame with a Facebook edition, it expanded its user base and is second only to CityVille, Facebook’s most popular leisure activity.

Second Life failed because Facebook became our new virtual world, our “second life.” The alternate world is simply too disconnected from where people spend the majority of their time online.

World population at 7 billion and won’t peak until 9.5 billion

Sometime on Monday, October 31, 2011, a Halloween baby was born. This special tyke is the 7 billionth human being living on our planet. An incredible number that shocks, interests, awes, and scares all of us.

Here are some interesting facts about this major milestone.

  • Standing shoulder-to-shoulder all 7 billion of us would fill Los Angeles (so space is not the problem).
  • Today there are 5 births for every 2 deaths.
  • We speak 7,000 languages.
  • And, we live in 194 countries.

Now, get ready for this. We are not going to stop at 7 billion, with many experts predicting that we will peak at around 9.5 billion sometime in the middle of this century (~2050).

Which brings up a whole slew of questions. First, food, where agriculturists expect “supplying food for nine to ten billion people will not be an issue.” Though, distribution will undoubtedly continue to be a problem.

Second, how are all of these people going to live. The trend is a massive urbanization of the world’s population. Our cities have grown to titanic sizes with the current unit of measurement being 10 million or more residents, called a megacity.

Keep in mind that up until the industrial revolution in the early 1800s, no city in the world ever had more than a million and change. As the revolution took hold, cities like London and New York quickly sprouted up to 10 million and beyond.

Today, there are 26 megacities with the 10 largest having populations beyond 20 million. Before this growth is complete another 25 will join the ranks.

Imagine that, a world with 50 megacities. Should make for some exciting travel opportunities. Here is how they will likely be spread out:

  • 8 in China
  • 6 in the US
  • 6 in India
  • 6 in Latin America
  • 4 in Africa
  • 3 in Japan
  • 3 in Europe

Though, as the world matures we might see some drastic changes. For example, if Africa gets on the right track it could quickly become the new growth zone.

Which brings up the third topic: growth areas. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that most of Europe isn’t growing. The majority of its country’s have reached their ideal population size, with growth rates steady or even slightly shrinking.

Now compare that to the fastest growing countries who will be doubling their population in the next 15-20 years: Liberia, Burundi, Afghanistan, Western Sahara, and East Timor.

The demographers have noticed this too and concluded the following. First world economies have already reached their peak population, the fast-risers like India and Brazil are booming, and the third-world countries have yet to experience their growth.

Modern medicine, sanitation, and capitalism have yet to reach certain areas of the world.

Here is a graph from Google’s Public Data Explorer which highlights this trend.

The United States is still booming (0.97%) despite being a first-world economy, and China is not with a growth rate (0.48%) half that of the United States and very close to the European rates.

The overall world growth rate is 1.17%.

Some of the growth rates around the world:

  • Japan: -0.02%
  • Germany: -0.07%
  • Russia: -0.051%
  • Italy: 0.12%
  • Sweden, France, UK, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium: less than 0.48%

Countries with the world’s largest populations:

  1. China – 1.34 billion
  2. India – 1.21
  3. United States – 0.31
  4. Indonesia – 0.24
  5. Brazil – 0.19

And, their growth rates:

  1. China – 0.48%
  2. India – 1.46%
  3. United States – 0.97%
  4. Indonesia – 1.16%
  5. Brazil – 1.26%

Fourth, and final point involves the sustainability of all these people. We can barely keep this planet functional with 7 billion people, so imagine how much worse everything will get with 2.5 billion more people.

The good news is that many places in the world are working hard to create sustainable cities in tune with nature and civilization. The place where I live, Huntington Beach, is one such example.

They have created a space for endangered birds and marine life which also serves as a stormwater run-off cleanser. The result is a booming wildlife population alongside a burgeoning surburban population, both living sustainably together.

Even more these moves are saving the city money and reducing the taxpayer burden, through a combination of community involvement and non-profit management.

As we move forward and another billion children are born, there will be a growing need for more of these win-win sustainable solutions.

World population at 7 billion and won't peak until 9.5 billion

Sometime on Monday, October 31, 2011, a Halloween baby was born. This special tyke is the 7 billionth human being living on our planet. An incredible number that shocks, interests, awes, and scares all of us.

Here are some interesting facts about this major milestone.

  • Standing shoulder-to-shoulder all 7 billion of us would fill Los Angeles (so space is not the problem).
  • Today there are 5 births for every 2 deaths.
  • We speak 7,000 languages.
  • And, we live in 194 countries.

Now, get ready for this. We are not going to stop at 7 billion, with many experts predicting that we will peak at around 9.5 billion sometime in the middle of this century (~2050).

Which brings up a whole slew of questions. First, food, where agriculturists expect “supplying food for nine to ten billion people will not be an issue.” Though, distribution will undoubtedly continue to be a problem.

Second, how are all of these people going to live. The trend is a massive urbanization of the world’s population. Our cities have grown to titanic sizes with the current unit of measurement being 10 million or more residents, called a megacity.

Keep in mind that up until the industrial revolution in the early 1800s, no city in the world ever had more than a million and change. As the revolution took hold, cities like London and New York quickly sprouted up to 10 million and beyond.

Today, there are 26 megacities with the 10 largest having populations beyond 20 million. Before this growth is complete another 25 will join the ranks.

Imagine that, a world with 50 megacities. Should make for some exciting travel opportunities. Here is how they will likely be spread out:

  • 8 in China
  • 6 in the US
  • 6 in India
  • 6 in Latin America
  • 4 in Africa
  • 3 in Japan
  • 3 in Europe

Though, as the world matures we might see some drastic changes. For example, if Africa gets on the right track it could quickly become the new growth zone.

Which brings up the third topic: growth areas. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that most of Europe isn’t growing. The majority of its country’s have reached their ideal population size, with growth rates steady or even slightly shrinking.

Now compare that to the fastest growing countries who will be doubling their population in the next 15-20 years: Liberia, Burundi, Afghanistan, Western Sahara, and East Timor.

The demographers have noticed this too and concluded the following. First world economies have already reached their peak population, the fast-risers like India and Brazil are booming, and the third-world countries have yet to experience their growth.

Modern medicine, sanitation, and capitalism have yet to reach certain areas of the world.

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Huntington Beach's Oil Rush from 1919 to 2010

"Oranges and Oil - a Combination That is Hard to Beat," Circa 1921

“March 11, 1919 put Orange County in the black in more ways than one. On that day Fullerton area citrus grower Charles C. Chapman watched as his gusher came in. Thousands of gallons of crude oil flew into the sky at Chapman No. 1, his Placentia-Ritchfield District well leased to the Union Oil Co. This well began producing 8,000 barrels of oil a day and quickly became the most productive single well in California.

Representatives of Rockefeller family-controlled Standard Oil were impressed, too, and scouted the surrounding countryside. Standard quickly leased the Samuel Kraemer property across the street and drilled six wells including the deepest “Kraemer Zone” well. All were productive in 1919.

The county’s single most productive “soil product,” crude oil, accounted for nearly on fourth of 1912′s $26 million countywide take. After Chapman No. 1 came in in 1919, estimates put the county’s production at 1,475,000 barrels a month, which equated to $22.15 million a year.

Standard Oil was quick to exploit the newfound oil potential of Orange County and quickly leased 500 acres in the northwestern of Huntington Beach. By 1920, the first well, A-1, was bringing in 91 barrels a day. The town’s sleepy population of about 2,400 in the late teens nearly quadrupled by 1922, changing forever the face of the coast as derrick forests spread to the beach.”

- From Orange County 2000, The Millenium Book, pg 54, Chapmans Gusher

Huntington Beach Pier, circa 1930s

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