Emirates chucks magazines…to save fuel

Interesting idea, but it honestly doesn’t make much sense to me.

Emirates has made a decision to get rid of all paper from the seat pockets on its new Airbus A380. Why? The Economist reports that they’re trying to save weight and, hence, fuel.

Don’t get me wrong. I think throwing out those silly in-flight magazines is a grand idea. However, can you seriously save significant weight by removing, say, 1000 magazines? Let’s say it’s the same weight as one passenger (after dinner.)

Does that really make a big difference?

The Economist writes that removing 2kg of paper from each of the 500 seats shaves a tonne off the plane’s flying weight. What do they mean by “2 kilos” of magazines, exactly? That’s 4 pounds. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I have never been on a flight where you find 4 lbs of reading material in the seat pocket in front of you.

What does Emirates provide for the reading pleasure of their customers? Bridal magazines?

Belize it or not: Living in harmony with M&Ms (monkeys and mosquitoes)

You can’t visit Central America and not make at least some effort to see the monkeys. That’s just wrong. Monkeys are way too cute to be missed.

Like Costa Rica, and other countries in this region, Belize is also trying to brand itself as an ecotourism destination.

The Community Baboon Sanctuary, a conservation project in which over 200 private landowners in Belize have voluntarily pledged to conserve their land for the protection of the Black Howler Monkey (called ‘baboon’ in the local Creole dialect) habitat, is well-worth the trip inland. It’s only about an hour drive from Belize City.

But, there is a but.

Mosquitoes. Mosquitoes. Mosquitoes.
Before I begin talking about how cute the monkeys are, I am going to say this: I had never, ever before, seen so many mosquitoes before visiting the Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS). Anywhere.

The closest I had ever come to this kind of mosquito infestation was in Venice. (Camping outside a city built on a swamp is not a good idea, note to self.)

I was covered in insect-proof gear from head to toe. Still, I had mosquito bites on my face and hands: the only two areas not protected, even though they were sprayed with high-percentage DEET repellent.

The thing is, these mosquitoes are not only tough, but completely DEET-resistant. My watch, on the other hand, wasn’t. DEET killed it (or its surface and band) right away.

What I particularly dislike about mosquitoes is how selective and discriminating they are in the people they attack. Our guide, Shane (see the first picture), was barefoot, wearing shorts and a T-shirt and did not get a single mosquito bite. How is that possible? Are the locals immune?

Clearly, it’s jealousy speaking. I am always the person with the record-breaking number of bites, no matter how much Vitamin B and gin’n’tonic I consume.

What? Gin and tonic doesn’t work, you say? Sure it does. It makes you more at peace with the unfair world of mosquitoes and their poor victims. In extreme conditions such as this, that’s all you can ask for.

I go on about mosquitoes, but don’t let me discourage you from visiting the CBS. But be prepared. Wear long pants (and stuff them into your socks), long-sleeve high-thread shirt and boots. A head-cover of some sort wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Chances are the mosquitoes might not be as bad when you go. We went during the rainy season, which generally means more mosquitoes in the jungle. The guides will give you a mosquito whip-type-thing, made from a certain type of palm tree, that you can use “as a tail” to repel insects (see picture). It works pretty well. At the very least, you’ll get an idea what it’s like to be a horse.

Enough about mosquitoes.

Baboons aka Black Howler Monkeys
CBS is truly a special place. The goal is to sustain the habitat of the Black Howler Monkey, which–hence the name–is the second loudest animal in the world, after the lion. The result has been an innovative project which offers promotes the economic development of the participating communities and provides a unique opportunity for visitors to experience the rainforest and witness baboons in the wild.

The landowners, all 200+ of them, benefit directly from the Sanctuary thanks to ecotourism, aka you. Many more benefit indirectly through the educational programs. The population of the Black Howler Monkey in the Sanctuary has risen to over 2,000 monkeys. And, you’ll get to see them up close, and — if you are lucky like us — feed them a banana.

The Sanctuary was founded by Dr. Robert Horwich, an American primatologist and Fallet Young, a landowner in the village of Bermudian Landing, in 1985 with the initial participation of 12 landowners. In 1998, the Women’s Conservation Group was formed, which currently manages the CBS.

The entrance fee is $7US. It includes a walk with a guide and lots of quality time with the M&Ms.


Photo of the Day: 07/21/08


I know what you are thinking. It’s not a very summery photo I picked. that’s exactly why. As I’m sitting here, sweating my butt off, this photo actually looks blissful.

Ultraclay! took this picture on Champs-Elysees in Paris, presumably in the winter. I love that the statue looks like it could be a real person, walking against the wind and snow. You could almost picture the Battle of Stalingrad this way.

***To have your photo considered for the Gadling Photo of the Day, go over to the Gadling Flickr Pool and post it. Make sure it is not copyrighted, otherwise we can’t post it here.***

Belize it or not: Caye Caulker; where backpackers outnumber locals

Isn’t this heaven? (Sorry if these photos find you in the middle of cubicle hell.)

I took these pictures last week in Caye Caulker, one of the northern islands off the coast of Belize. Most people opt to go to the bigger Ambergris Caye, which is a bit more family friendly, but also more expensive.

Caye Caulker is smaller (about 5 miles x 1 mile), cheaper and hence packed with backpackers. The last time I saw so many backpackers in one place was probably Yangshuo, China. These are the kinds of places where you literally see more backpackers than locals. Kind of defeats the point of adventure travel, doesn’t it.

There are a few great things about Caye Caulker, though:

  • Seafood. Especially when conch is in season.
  • Cheaper than other Belize islands. I already mentioned that.
  • Closer to Belize City than Ambergris Caye. Ferries to Ambergris Caye stop here first.
  • Close to the Belize Barrier Reef (about 10 minutes by boat)
  • Best of all: Beach. It is one of the few places in Belize you can find a nice beach for swimming. Most of the shallow cost here on the islands is covered with sea grass, which makes it a little hard to swim. The northern side of Caye Caulker has a great little beach (see pictures) which is almost completely sea grass-free! There is a bar right there on the beach, with tables in the water. A backpackers’ take on resort swim up bars.

Can you beat that?

No espresso in a to-go cup! No iced espresso! It’s the policy, stupid.

Road rage is so twentieth century.

Try coffee rage instead. According to the much-publicized story of Jeff Simmermon, it sounds quite satisfying.

Simmermon, a blogger from Brooklyn, walked into Murky Coffee, a coffee shop in Arlington, VA earlier this week and asked for his summertime drink of choice: a triple espresso over ice. The barista looked at him and said “I’m sorry, we can’t serve iced espresso here. It’s against our policy.”

Puzzled, Simmermon asked for a triple espresso and a cup of ice instead. Barista had no choice but to comply. He handed him both cups and said: “Hey man. What you’re about to do … that’s really, really Not Okay.”

Amidst coffee rage, Simmermon looked him right in eyes and poured the espresso onto the ice. (This is the satisfying moment, in case you are new to the coffee rage concept.)

For most coffee shop patrons accustomed to getting their signature drink at will, this would have been the last time they ever ventured into that coffee shop. Not Simmermon. An hour later, he walked back into Murky Coffee and asked for “the strongest iced beverage the policy will allow.”

The barista offered “an Americano with four shots and light on the water.” He filled up a plastic cup with ice, filled it 3/4 of the way with water and carefully added four shots of espresso. Apparently, diluting espresso with ice is not OK. Diluting it with water and ice is perfectly fine.

Simmermon went back home and ranted about this experience on his blog “And I am not lying“. His post quickly made it through cyberspace, generating thousands of comments and inspiring even the Washington Post to write a piece about “coffee rage.”

Finally, the owner of Murky Coffee made an official statement on his website:

“No modifications to the Classic Cappuccino. No questions will be answered about the $5 Hot Chocolate (during the months we offer it). No espresso in a to-go cup. No espresso over ice. These are our policies. We have our reasons, and we’re happy to share them.”

I don’t know about you, but this whole coffee culture thing is getting a bit out of control. I don’t exactly know who to side with here. The angry customer who, on one hand, wants to boycott Starbucks by giving business to small local coffee shops and, on the other hand, cannot handle not getting exactly and promptly what he wants? Or the staff of the small coffee shop which comes across as a pretentious bunch of posers?

Hmm, tough one. Based on my experience with coffee shop patrons, I am going to have to root for the coffee shop, I think.

Years ago, I actually worked at a Starbucks. Yes, I hate to admit it. It must have been one of the worst weeks of my life. The patrons of Starbucks, and probably of any coffee shop, must be collectively the worst customers of any customers out there. Imagine a group of A-plus personalities at 7am, before they get their morning coffee.

No, they don’t tend to be morning people. They get to the coffee shop already pissed off. Then, they get more pissed off because they have to wait in a line, because they have to wait at all, because they coffee is too hot, lukewarm, not sweet enough, too sweet, you name it.

I once had a woman who ordered a triple-grande-skim-light-on-the-syrup-caramel-macchiato or whatever, which I made. Clearly, not to her liking. She obviously wasn’t having a good morning. She tasted the coffee, looked at me and screamed: “THIS IS NOT WHAT I ORDERED,” and threw the coffee in my face. Literally. I can still remember the taste of the caramel syrup dripping from my nose.

She continued screaming: “At $5 a cup, this is not even worth it!!! WHY AM I EVEN HERE???”

That was a very, very good question.