Teaching Geography With Google Maps

Google Maps
Travelers aren’t born, they’re raised.

Last week we talked about how to connect with your kids while you’re away traveling. There are plenty of ways to get them interested in this great big world of ours while you’re both at home too. One of the best and easiest ways to fire their imagination is with Google Maps.

Like many good ideas in our family, my seven-year-old son thought of it first. He’s recently gotten into Internet Radio, especially Tonik Radio out of Dublin. Tonik and most other stations show a Google map with pointers to where their listeners are. I find it kind of freaky that our house is clearly indicated on a map for all the other listeners to see. The kid just thinks it’s cool. He’s of a generation that has always known the Information Age and thus has a whole different attitude towards privacy.

So as he listens to House and Trance he surfs the globe, looking up where the other Tonik Radio listeners are–the cluster of fans in Dublin, the farmer in Israel, and the guy in the apartment block in Sterlitimak, Russia. Zooming in with the power of satellite photography, he can see what far-off countries look like from above. In some places he can even use Google Street View.

Once he gets bored hunting down his fellow radio fans, he starts exploring the Terra Incognita of the spaces between the points. This week he conducted a close-up survey across the Pacific and happened upon the Johnston Atoll, a lonely little former U.S. military base that I had never heard of.

I also show him places where I’ve been. He got an aerial view of the amusement park in Baghdad where I ate mazgouf. When the satellite took its photo, a small plane was flying over the riverside park and left its shadow on the water of the Tigris. A week later I came into my office and he’d found it again. He’s learning to navigate.

I can even show him my past, hovering with him above the Danish farm where I was an exchange student back in my teens. I brought him up the country lane to the nearest highway and its bus stop, the same route I rode with my bike when I wanted to go to Slagelse, the nearest town. The hedge and ditch where I hid my bike before I caught the bus are still there.

Strangely, this obsession with the computer hasn’t killed his interest in regular maps or his light-up globe. So if you have a young kid who’s curious about the world, try surfing Google Maps. It’s more than a bit Orwellian, but it’s a lot of fun.

Image courtesy Google Maps, copyright 2011.

Disney photo privacy questions raised by new ‘Let the Memories Begin’ campaign

Disney photo privacy questions raised by new show

Walt Disney World and Disneyland are inviting guests to share their Disney Parks memories in the form of photos, video and stories submitted to a Disney Web site as part of a 2011 marketing campaign called “Let the Memories Begin.” Videos shot by Disney visitors are being used in TV commercials for the theme parks.

And a key component of the new marketing campaign starts early this year, when Disney will begin projecting images of guests in the park that day on Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World and on It’s A Small World at Disneyland.

So, how will those images be chosen, and what if you don’t want your larger-than-life likeness shown?

Disney says the up to 500 photos used daily will be provided by Disney PhotoPass Photographers, those guys and gals who stop you and ask to take your picture at various scenic locations throughout Disney’s theme parks.

You will be able to opt out and keep your photo out of the nightly show, Disney tells the Orlando Sentinel. That’s a smart move for a company using the images in what is essentially another piece of a marketing campaign.

However, on an individual basis, you should know that photos taken of you inside U.S. theme parks are pretty much fair game. If your image winds up on someone else’s Twitter stream or Flickr account, there’s really nothing you can do.

Some theme parks print a generic “use of likeness” release on the physical ticket you are given; others include it in the terms and conditions you agree to when purchasing tickets online.

But lawyers say that even without some sort of printed photo release, you don’t have much recourse if you want a photo removed from, say, someone else’s Facebook. With thousands of people taking thousands of photos every day, there’s no real expectation of privacy if your face is captured in the crowd.

Flying Pasties video review

Last week, we told you about Flying Pasties. They’re the 2mm thick pieces of rubber that profess to conceal your nether regions from security agents monitoring you while you pass through airport fully body scanners. For obvious reasons, we can’t film somebody walking through a full body scanner while wearing Flying Pasties. However, we can see how they look and feel.

I tried out Flying Pasties to see if they’re the newest must-have travel gear or just a gimmick. Should you order a set immediately? Watch the video to find out.

Best viewed by enabling HD playback.

Top 5 hotels for having an affair

Looking for a place to take your mistress for the weekend? Trying to plan a secret rendezvous with your lover? If so, check out ABC News’ list of the top 5 hotels for having an affair.

The draw of these hotels, according to the article, is “thick walls, a discreet staff, a bit of romance”. Noel Biderman, the creator of a website that matches would-be cheaters with potential dates (The tag line is “Life is Short. Have an Affair”. Classy, huh?) says ideal hotels for trysts also allow guests to check in under a pseudonym and offer good room service.

Biderman recommends the Beverly Hills Peninsula Hotel, for its private residences outside of the hotel, and suggests looking for hotels that are new or off the beaten path. There is less chance you’ll run into someone you know at one of these places. Also recommended is the Amenjena Hotel in Marrakech. It comes at a price, but Biderman says an affair is the time to splurge (Why not, you may as well spend your money now so your spouse can’t take it all when he or she divorces you, right?).

Another high-style option is the Il Palazzetto Hotel in Rome. With it’s simple but luxurious decor, it gives guests the feeling of being in their own residence (Of course, because you want to think about your own marriage bed when committing adultery.) &Beyond Mnemba Island, a private island retreat near Zanzibar, makes the list, as does the 1870 Banana Courtyard in New Orleans. The hotel is in the fantastically romantic French Quarter, and its history as a bordello adds to its allure.

Of course, the article also wisely points out, you could just stay at any of these hotels with your significant other. The privacy and luxury they offer may make you feel like you are doing something naughty, spicing up your stay (and maybe your relationship) in a way that won’t land you in divorce court.

Ritz-Carlton announces Ritz-Carlton Reserve for global travelers

Looking to expand the company’s luxury brand to the far corners of the planet, the Ritz-Carlton has officially announced the first Ritz-Carlton Reserve resort in Phulay Bay in Krabi, Thailand.

These new resorts will be built in beautiful, remote destinations, with the guest suites designed for peaceful relaxation and seclusion, while resort amenities will feature all the luxury that is associated with the Ritz-Carlton name.

The Phulay Bay resort was designed by Thai architect Lek Bunnag, giving the property a modern style with local flavor. The guest rooms have gorgeous views of the Andaman Sea as well as private plunge pools and sheltered outdoor baths and rainforest showers. Public amenities at the resort include an infinity pool, fitness center, spa, casual and fine dining, cooking and batik painting classes, and an event space perfect for wedding of up to 80 guests.

The Ritz-Carlton Reserve is now taking reservations for Phulay Bay for 2009. Visit www.ritzcarltonreserve.com for more information. Future resorts are planned for Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Turks & Caicos and The United Arab Emirates.