American Tourist Eats Pickled Human Toe



Traveling often involves eating things you’d never imagine ingesting at home. Fried tarantulas, grilled bull testicles, ant eggs, fish eyes… the list of unusual foreign foods goes on and on. But one thing we’ve certainly never imagined would make the list is human toes. However, that’s exactly what an American man ate over the weekend, during a peculiar drinking game in Canada.

According to the tradition, you’re expected to plonk the pickled toe into a beer glass filled with a drink of your choosing and ensure the toe touches your lips as you chug down your booze.

The drinking ritual has been taking place at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon for more than 40 years, but few have dared to swallow the toe. Doing so is frowned upon and will earn you a $500 fine. But that didn’t deter the American tourist who gulped the toe down along with his beer on Saturday. The man made off with the pickled digit lodged firmly in his digestive tract before the bar owner could stop him.The bizarre drinking game apparently started back in the 1970s when a local riverboat captain came across a frostbitten toe while cleaning out a ship cabin. It’s thought the toe was already about 50 years old at the time. In the years since, about 60,000 tourists have taken part in the strange custom, with a few brave souls chowing down on the gnarly body part. The first toe was apparently swallowed in 1980 and altogether about 15 toes have been lost or consumed. Where exactly the other 14 toes came from, however, is anyone’s guess!

The Pacific Ocean: Is It Really True That One-Third Of Young Americans Can’t Find It?

Pacific OceanWhile reading fellow Gadling blogger Chris Owen’s post about a Twitter mix-up between Chechnya and the Czech Republic, I was horrified to read that one-third of young Americans can’t find the Pacific Ocean.

I was horrified, but not surprised. I taught for several years in a community college and no amount of public ignorance surprises me anymore – not after a student handed in a paper stating that Iraq and Afghanistan were cities.

But I’m always suspicious of statistics. It’s a well-known fact that 85 percent of all statistics are wrong, so I emailed Chris and asked for his source, which turned out to be the Around the World geography project. They cite a National Geographic study that found 29 percent of U.S. 18-24 year olds couldn’t find the Pacific Ocean on an unlabeled map.

Looking at the original study, it turns out they got it wrong. “Only” 21 percent of those quizzed couldn’t find the Pacific Ocean. The 2006 study quizzed 510 Americans aged 18-24 on a number of geographic issues. The one that concerns us here was a blank map test to see if the participants could correctly point out certain countries and geographic locations. Boundaries were clearly labeled; they simply needed to match the shape and location with the country or ocean.

The Pacific Ocean wasn’t the only hard-to-find location. A staggering 63 percent couldn’t find Iraq, despite near-constant media coverage. Closer to home, 50 percent couldn’t find New York state. Check out the link to read more disheartening statistics.

I suppose we could blame the educational system, but 48 percent of the participants said they had a geography class sometime between sixth grade and senior year, so I suspect the blame lies with parents for not instilling a desire to learn about the world and the young Americans themselves for not realizing this information could be useful.

When I was discussing this post at the breakfast table my7-year-old scoffed, “I know where the Pacific Ocean is!”

I decided to test him. He correctly pointed out the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean and Red Seas. I stumped him on the Sea of Azov, though. Can’t let him get too big for his britches.

Of course he enjoys a key advantage – parents who channel his natural childhood curiosity into learning about the world around him and foster an enthusiasm for exploration and discovery.

In other words, we give a shit about his education.

[Image of the Pacific Ocean courtesy NASA]

American Airlines’ New Look Just One Part Of Master Plan

American AirlinesAmerican Airlines is still sorting out options for how it will operate, if a merger makes sense and other restructuring-related issues in a tentative financial future. But when it comes to what they do in the air, the course has been charted and is well underway.

American’s current fleet numbers almost 900 aircraft. As part of a 2011 order for an additional 550 new aircraft, 60 will go into service this year, positioning American Airlines to be one of the most modern fleets in the air.

“Since placing our landmark aircraft order in July of 2011, we’ve been building anticipation toward a moment in time when the outside of our aircraft reflects the progress we’ve made to modernize our airline on the inside,” said Tom Horton, American’s Chairman and CEO in a press release.

American Airlines unveiled a new logo and exterior for its planes recently, including the already delivered Flagship Boeing 777-300ER aircraft set to fly on Jan. 31.

“You’ve been hearing a lot about how the modern travel experience is going to feel, ” says American Airlines President and CEO Tom Horton in this new video, “and today we’re going to show you how it’s going to look.”




What else is new for American Airlines?

Expanded International Service to more destinations worldwide, including more international and domestic routes from Dallas/Fort Worth, more European and domestic service from Chicago O’Hare, new service to Europe from New York, and new service from Miami to Latin America and the Caribbean.

An Airport Technology Update for flight attendants, pilots and maintenance workers brings real-time tablet devices to increase efficiency. Next year, passengers too will see the result of increased technology that promises to make the travel experience more enjoyable.

On-board Enhancements in premium class cabins on international routes with new china, menu choices, and restaurant-style, personalized service. Increased availability of Samsung Galaxy tablets for entertainment use in the premium cabins is coming too.

[Photo Credit- American Airlines]

Americans Shouldn’t Be Afraid To Travel

Americans
Obama is a Muslim. The Moon landings were faked. The South should have won the Civil War.

People believe a lot of stupid things, and one of the stupidest is that Americans are somehow at much higher risk than other nationalities when traveling. Many Americans I know won’t travel to foreign countries, and I’ve even seen Americans wearing Canadian flags in the hope that it will make them safe. Many Americans seem to think they’re targets, especially in Muslim areas. My own personal experience says otherwise.

Although I’m Canadian, I lived in the States a long time and have an American accent. Most people assume I’m American, so I know what it’s like to travel as one. I’ve been to lots of places that my American friends think I’m crazy to visit, like Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Palestine and Somaliland. Instead of being threatened or insulted, I’ve been welcomed.

Again and again I’ve told my American friends how surprisingly safe it is to adventure travel around the world, yet they persist in the belief that what I do is crazy or brave or just plain stupid, when in reality the only real threat I face is from the microbes. Oh yes, foreign microbes have kicked my Western ass on numerous occasions. Damn foreign microbes. The people have been much nicer. Here are two examples of “exotic” locations where I was assumed to be American and treated well.In Isfahan, Iran, I got into a conversation with a religious teacher at a madrasa. This guy decided to give me a driving tour of his city. I hopped into his car and we zipped around Isfahan to see the sights, including the many beautiful blue-tiled mosques.

At one point he asked, “Do you have mosques like this in America?” He seemed surprised when I told him I wasn’t American. His treatment of me after he found out I was Canadian was no better or worse than it was when he thought I was from the Great Satan. While he probably wasn’t terribly fond of the U.S. government, like most people he could distinguish between people and governments. Yes, I’ve said that before, but it bears repeating.

In the predominantly Muslim city of Harar, Ethiopia, I was a regular member of a daily qat chewing session. One of the younger guys there talked to me every day in order to improve his English. The Arab Revolution was all over the TV so we had plenty to talk about. Several weeks into my stay he asked, “You are a Jew, yes?”

“No, I’m not,” I replied.

“But you are American. Ninety percent of Americans are Jews.”

“Actually it’s more like two percent, and I’m not American anyway.”

So this Muslim guy not only thought I was an American, but a Jewish American and still had no problem hanging out with me.

That’s not to say that I’ve never had problems while abroad. I live part time in Spain, and four or five times I’ve had Spaniards start bitching to me about “damn Yankees” needing to go home. Every single time they’ve been lone, older drunk guys – losers, in other words.

And are you really going to shut yourself off from the world just because of a few losers?

For a slightly different take on this from a real American, check out Dave Seminara’s post on National Pride While Abroad.

Photo courtesy flickr user Cali4beach. One of these ladies is actually Australian. Appearances can be deceiving!

American workers protest, say company is blaming labor AgAAin

AmericanJust a couple weeks ago, American Airlines revealed its restructuring plan, proposing to lay off 13,000 employees, terminating pensions and shutting down its Alliance base in Dallas-Fort Worth. Worried about losing their jobs, American employees are protesting.

“I understand it somewhat,” 24-year mechanic Greg Cooke, one of 300 American workers protesting at DFW this week told Star-Telegram. “But I don’t want to have to move again just to put another four years in before I retire. I’m tired of them taking and asking off of the backs of the employees.”

Protesters including pilots and members of other unions, showing their support, marched in front the DFW terminal holding signs saying “Blaming Labor AgAAin.”

Workers believe the airline needs to pay its pensions and called for an end to the “corporate greed” of executive bonuses in previous years.

American, meeting now with union leaders, said that the restructuring process is difficult but necessary and will affect all employee groups, union and nonunion alike.

“We are meeting with representatives from each union to negotiate the changes needed to make us successful, and are focused on reaching consensual agreements in the next few weeks,” spokesman Bruce Hicks said. “Our goal is to exit as a growing, profitable company that preserves tens of thousands of jobs.”



Bankruptcy for American Airlines

Flickr photo by wbaiv