Posts by tk

Starwood’s chain looses your key, but its okay

Posted on Feb 5, 2014 | Comments Off on Starwood’s chain looses your key, but its okay


Starwood’s chain looses your key, but its okay they have introduced iPhone, Android devices are your room key in new Starwood hotels

The trial, which uses Starwood’s smartphone app and the low-power Bluetooth 4 wireless standard, will begin at Starwood’s chic urban Aloft hotels in Cupertino and Harlem by March.

If the pilot program is successful Starwood plans to roll out the technology to all of its Aloft and luxury W Hotel properties by the end of next year.

Guests will be able to skip the check-in queue at the front desk by checking in on the smartphone app before they reach the hotel.

The app receives a digital token which acts as a ‘virtual key’ to the room. On arrival at the hotel you head straight for your room and tap your smartphone to the lock (you can also use an ‘unlock’ gesture which mimics twisting a key).

“We believe this will become the new standard for how people will want to “It may be a novelty at first, but we think it will become table stakes for managing a hotel.”

Starwood reckons it’s covered for any low-tech wrinkles which may cruel the advanced system. Guests can get a regular key if their smartphone is lost or its battery runs out.

Likewise, the battery-powered Bluetooth locks run independent of the hotel’s IT system so they won’t be affected in the event of a computer crash, and hotel staff receive an automatic alert whenever the battery in any lock needs replacing.

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Don’t know much about geography

Posted on Aug 19, 2013 | Comments Off on Don’t know much about geography

Published: August 18. 2013 4:00AM PST


In Sam Cooke’s classic 1959 hit “Wonderful World,” the lyrics downplayed formal learning with lines like, “Don’t know much about history … Don’t know much about geography.”

More than a half-century after Cooke wrote that lighthearted song, such ignorance is now all too real. Even our best and brightest — or rather our elites especially — are not too familiar with history or geography.

Both disciplines are the building blocks of learning. Without awareness of natural and human geography, we are reduced to a sort of self-contained void without accurate awareness of the space around us. An ignorance of history also creates the same sort of self-imposed exile, leaving us ignorant of both what came before us and what is likely to follow.

In the case of geography, Harvard Law School graduate Barack Obama recently lectured that, “If we don’t deepen our ports all along the Gulf — places like Charleston, South Carolina; or Savannah, Georgia; or Jacksonville, Florida …” The problem is that all the examples he cited are cities on the East Coast, not the Gulf of Mexico. If Obama does not know where these ports are, how can he deepen them?

Obama’s geographical confusion has become habitual. He once claimed that he had been to all “57 states.” He also assumed that Kentucky was closer to Arkansas than it was to his adjacent home state of Illinois.

In reference to the Falkland Islands, President Obama called them the Maldives — islands southwest of India — apparently in a botched effort to use the Argentine-preferred Malvinas. The two island groups may sound somewhat alike, but they are continents apart. Again, without basic geographical knowledge, the president’s commentary on the Falklands is rendered superficial.

When in the state of Hawaii, Obama announced that he was in “Asia.” He lamented that the U.S. Army’s Arabic-language translators assigned to Iraq could better be used in Afghanistan, failing to recognize that Arabic isn’t the language of Afghanistan. And for that matter, he apparently thought Austrians speak a language other than German.

The president’s geographical illiteracy is a symptom of the nation’s growing ignorance of once-essential subjects like geography and history. The former is often not taught any more as a required subject in our schools and colleges. The latter has often been redefined as race, class and gender oppression to score melodramatic points in the present rather than to learn from the tragedy of the past.

The president in his 2009 Cairo speech credited the European Renaissance and Enlightenment to Islam’s “light of learning” — an exaggeration if not an outright untruth on both counts.

Closer to home, the president claimed in 2011 that Texas had historically been Republican — while in reality it was a mostly Jim Crow Democratic state for over a century. Republicans only started consistently carrying Texas after 1980.

Recently, Obama claimed that 20th century communist strongman Ho Chi Minh “was actually inspired by the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and the words of Thomas Jefferson.” That pop assertion is improbable, given that Ho systematically liquidated his opponents, slaughtered thousands in land-redistribution schemes, and brooked no dissent.

Even more ahistorical was Vice President Joe Biden’s suggestion that George W. Bush should have gone on television in 2008 to address the nation as President Roosevelt had done in 1929 — a time when there was neither a President Roosevelt nor televisions available for purchase. In 2011, a White House press kit confused Wyoming with Colorado — apparently because they’re both rectangular-shaped states out West.

Our geographically and historically challenged leaders are emblematic of disturbing trends in American education that include a similar erosion in grammar, English composition and basic math skills.

The controversial Lois Lerner, a senior official at the IRS — an agency whose stock and trade are numbers — claimed that she was “not good at math” when she admitted that she did not know that one-fourth of 300 is 75.

In the zero-sum game of the education curriculum, each newly added therapeutic discipline eliminated an old classical one. The result is that if Americans emote more and have more politically correct thoughts on the environment, race, class and gender, they are less able to advance their beliefs through fact-based knowledge.

Despite supposedly tough new standards and vast investments, about 56 percent of students in recent California public school tests did not perform up to their grade levels in English. Only about half met their grade levels in math.

A degree from our most prestigious American university is no guarantee that such a graduate will know the number of states or the location of Savannah. If we wonder why the Ivy League-trained Obama seems confused about where cities, countries and continents are, we might remember that all but one Ivy League university eliminated their geography departments years ago.

As a rule now, when our leaders allude to a place or an event in the past, just assume their references are dead wrong.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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Hydro Majestic Hotel Begins Again

Posted on Jun 15, 2013 | Comments Off on Hydro Majestic Hotel Begins Again

Hydro Majestic Hotel


The much-anticipated revitalisation of the iconic Hydro Majestic Hotel has commenced in early 2013, a $30 million redevelopment aimed at reviving its golden age.  Owners Huong Nguyen and George Saad are behind the grand revival. The couple paid $11 million for the property five years ago.  Following almost four years of detailed planning and review, the Hydro is scheduled to open in two stages, with Stage (1) building works scheduled for completion in April 2014. Opening is scheduled for July 2014.

The long awaited opportunity to peel back the layers and rediscover the essence of the most famous historic holiday resort in the Blue Mountains has arrived. The refurbishment scheme will see the hotel’s facilities, interiors and gardens – which now stretch more than a kilometre across the escarpment – revitalised to a world-class standard. Past glories, architectural and design aspects, and lost atmospherics are to be revived and rediscovered, while a touch of the here-and-now is set to take the building into the future.

Stage One will include the revitalisation of the majority of the existing buildings including the Casino Building, The Wintergarden, The Billiard Room and Cat’s Alley, The Delmonte Building and Conference Rooms and The Majestic Ballroom. This famous and fondly remembered space will have a beautiful new Lobby and pre-function area and will also include a large garden reception terrace.

Casino Lobby Artists impression

Casino Lobby Artists impression

majestic ballroom Artists impression

majestic ballroom Artists impression

winter garden Artists impression

winter garden Artists impression


The new Mark Foy Pavilion will reflect the spirit of the much-loved Easter Show Pavilions of Sydney’s old showgrounds. Operating as a magnificent interactive living history space and the vibrant Providores showcase – demonstrating the best regional gourmet food and wine of the area: A Taste of The Blue Mountains. This retail and exhibition space will be a tourism destination: a place to discover the history of theHydro, including multimedia screening suites, tours and places to discover the amazing produce of the Blue Mountains and surrounding regions (including Bathurst,Mudgee, Orange and the Western Plains).

Hydro View

The Boiler House (which has been neglected for decades) is to be restored, celebrating the fact that the Blue Mountains was wired for electricity four days beforethe Sydney metropolitan region. The Boiler House will be opened to the public for the first time in history, and is to include the gallery and beautiful Megalong Terrace Café looking over the breathtaking Majestic Point Lookout.

The new Majestic Point Lookout, picnic and market grounds will provide public access to the best views of the Megalong Valley. Located 10 minutes drive from Jamison Valley in Katoomba, the lookout provides a panoramic vista for picnics, music and the lost art of public promenading!

The rejuvenation and expansion of the accommodation facilities at the Hydro Majestic are planned for 2 years following the opening of Stage One. During this time the Belgravia Wing will be used to house the Hotel Management Institute, an exciting new hospitality school with its first intake scheduled for Feb 2014 .

The challenges of adding another layer of history to these significant buildings have not been taken lightly. A team of highly regarded heritage experts, architecture specialists and designers have been enlisted to realise this vision, with particular weight being given to examining and respecting the Hydro Majestic’s social history and heritage.

The team has been assembled by Sydney based hotel investors and is under theguidance of the acclaimed heritage consultant Graham Brooks with Jonathan Bryant of Graham Brooks & Associates, with over 30 years of professional experience inAustralia, Asia, UK, Europe and US.
“We are all proud to play a key role in the revival of the much loved Hydro Majestic at Medlow Bath,” said Brooks. “The Hydro Majestic Hotel has developed eccentrically over time under the guidance of retail baron Mark Foy, from relatively humble beginnings as an Edwardian house hotel and hydropathic resort to its glory years as a grand hotel and resort between the two World Wars. Throughout, it has enjoyed periods of great success and periods of lengthy decline. Despite recent refurbishment under previous owners, the hotel has become increasingly run down, with a host of inherent short comings that have never been appropriately or comprehensively addressed. We are delighted that the current scheme to rejuvenate the hotel includes a comprehensive plan to revive gardens, interiors and facilities to a truly world class standard.”

The team philosophy is mindful of the past but always has an eye to the future, to ensure the hotel continues to live well beyond current generations. Our alterations choose to borrow from the existing structures, enhance the old and provide a feeling of total renewal.
The vision for the rejuvenation is to continue the Hydro Majestic’s unique and eclectic combination of architectural styles; where additions made to the hotel over the past hundred years reflect time and place. Architect Ashkan Mostaghim of Mostaghim &Assoc has created a series of magnificent new additions for Stage One and Stage Two of the development. The Mark Foy Pavilion and the new Belgravia and Mark Foy Wings add the 21st century layer to this famous Australian landmark – with absolute style and reverence for the staged form that is the Hydro Majestic.

International interior designer Peter Reeve of CRD will create luxurious, new, and historically-inspired interiors which reference the past and fold into the present with absolute luxe. They will work to harness the atmosphere and mood of the Hydro Majestic with a range of carpets and rich textiles based on period influences, timbers and stones, referencing the austere beauty of the Edwardian, the generosity of the Art Nouveau of the Belle Époque and moments of Art Deco.

Using the whites and soft tones taken from its original palette and expressed against the elegant contrast of ebonised timber and Black Japan, the interiors will work to reflect the Hydro’s flamboyant origins under the auspices of the retail baron Mark Foy. Design cues are also seen in the Raffles of Singapore and the Lavinia in Sri Lanka – sister hotels in a time of Empire, reflecting the flavour of the original Hydro Majestic.

The Avenue of Pines is to be reinstated with magnificent new landscape plantings reflecting the great gardens of the Blue Mountains and inspired by legendary landscape architect Paul Sorensen. The historic croquet lawn will live again, plus a beautiful new garden terrace entry to the Majestic Ballroom and lookout and escarpment aprons, encompassing a unique horticultural vision incorporating both European and Australian plantings.

Steeped in historical and social significance, the newly renovated Hydro Majestic Hotel, with its outstanding facilities, fine dining and accommodation, is set to offer an enormous boost to tourism and employment in the region and will re-establish the Blue Mountains as a glamorous national and international tourist destination.

The Hydro’s original owner Mark Foy was a visionary and this next chapter aims to continue his grand vision for the Blue Mountains.

Official Site

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Power Charging on the Go

Posted on Jun 15, 2013 | Comments Off on Power Charging on the Go

PocketCell Duo


For power charging on the Go.  The PocketCell™ Duo is an ultra-compact rechargeable battery bank, featuring an impressive capacity and dual USB power-ports that allow you to charge two tablet-PCs or two smartphones to full charge twice simultaneously.

Two built-in USB power ports combined with the critically acclaimed Magic Cable Trio—featuring an Apple-compliant tip, a micro and mini-USB tip—enable you to charge up to 10,000 USB-chargeable devices anytime, anywhere!

The Smart Charge feature intelligently detects the type of device the PocketCell™ Duo is connected to, and delivers the right amount of power to charge your device quickly and safely every time. The Innergie PocketCell™ Duo is equipped with a suite of protection features.  These features provide you with ease-of-mind while charging your devices wherever life takes you.

Well worth adding to your road warrior kit bag. SRP $89 USD

PocketCell Duo

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Old Hong Kong Airport Opens As Cruise Terminal

Posted on Jun 15, 2013 | Comments Off on Old Hong Kong Airport Opens As Cruise Terminal

by Chris Owen

Old Hong Kong Airport Opens As Cruise Terminal.  Hong Kong’s $1 billion Kai Tak cruise terminal is open and processing cruise travelers as anticipated. Located at the site of the former Kai Tak International airport runway, the terminal will eventually source passengers from a pool of 50 million potential middle-class passengers in China. This week though, it’s all about the Americans.

Passengers disembarking Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas this week found a bit of a different experience than that of other cruise ports around the world. Showcasing some of what China has to offer cruise travelers, Mariner of the Seas offered passengers a kung fu demonstration, a lion dance at Mikiki mall in San Po Kong, shopping, dining and more on planned tours.

Adventure cruise travelers with a desire to go it on their own had a bit different experience, finding transportation options limited. “The terminal is fine, the building is fine but there is no good connection to the city,” passenger Fred Lutjens said in a Standard report that notes a queue of 100 people waiting for a taxi.
Kai Tak airport, which closed in 1998 after 70 years of service, was replaced by the current Chek Lap Kok International Airport. Using that valuable and available land efficiently, the $1 billion Kai Tak cruise terminal has the ability to handle passenger vessels as large as two of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class cruise ships, the largest in the world.

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Searching for Dragons

Posted on Jun 13, 2013 | Comments Off on Searching for Dragons

The Game of Thrones season finale may mean life feels a little empty but you can cheer yourself up with a trip to Northern Ireland and the dramatic locations where the series was filmed – plus those in Iceland, Croatia and Morocc

The Guardian

Alfie Allen in Game of Thrones Balintoy

Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones

Few things make Game of Thrones fans happier then the chance to get our geek on and argue the finer points of George RR Martin’s world. So it is that I find myself in Northern Ireland‘s picturesque Ballintoy Harbour – used as the landing spot for the windswept Iron Islands in season two – waving my hands around and saying: “Well, you know, I actually feel a little sorry for Theon Greyjoy: he’s generally humiliated at every turn by pretty much everyone he knows and now he’s just spent an entire season being tortured by a nameless sadist. I sort of think the guy deserves a break …”

My fellow Game of Thrones (GoT) fan merely sighs and says, with a shake of the head: “He’s still an idiot, and a pretty ungrateful one at that.”

Balintoy Harbour, Northern Ireland

Ballintoy Harbour, Northern IrelandBallintoy, a short drive from the Giant’s Causeway on County Antrim’s beautiful Causeway Coast, is just one of a number of stops on our bus trip around Northern Ireland, organised as part of a joint initiative between theNorthern Ireland Tourist Board and Northern Ireland Screen to promote tourism within the country.For just as thousands of Lord of The Rings fans flocked to New Zealandeager to pretend they were leaving the Shire like Frodo or battling the dead with Aragorn and Legolas, so the success of GoT has drawn increasing numbers to Northern Ireland. Government-backed agency Northern Ireland Screen admits to being hopeful the series “will deliver the widest media exposure Northern Ireland has received outside of politics and the Troubles”
Dark Hedges, on the route Arya Stark, masquerading as a boy, took when when escaping King’s Landing. Photograph: Northern Ireland Tourist BoardIt could be right. San Francisco-based travel company Viator recently added a nine-hour tour of the series’ Northern Irish locations to its list of trips. My taxi driver from George Best Belfast City Airport dwelt at length on how visitors to the city increasingly asked him to “take them to where Game of Thrones was made”, and locals were eager to talk of how Titanic Belfast, the impressive museum and cultural centre that opened last year, and Game of Thrones were gradually changing people’s perceptions of their country
.Dothraki camp
Dothraki camp at Shillanavogy Valley, near Slemish, County Antrim.The GoT bus tour does hammer home just how much spectacular scenery there is in Northern Ireland. Hit it on the right day – when the rain has stayed home and the usually grey skies are blue – and you’ll be rewarded with impossibly green fields, sparkling seas and jaw-dropping mountains from Mourne in the south – near Tollymore Forest park – scene of poor Theon’s desperate bid for freedom this season, to Slemish mountain, supposedly the home of Saint Patrick, which looms over Shillanavogy valley (the Dothraki grasslands, where Dany first learns what being a Khaleesi means)
.Cushendun, northern Ireland
Cushendun, Northern IrelandBest of all, however, is the small coastal village of Cushendun, from which you can see Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre on a clear day. Largely owned by the National Trust since 1954, Cushendun, with its golden beach, great pubs and fantastic self-catering cottages, is the perfect place to while away a couple of days. It’s also home to some fabulously spooky caves, and thus better-known to GoT addicts as the place where dubious Red Priestess, Melisandre of Asshai birthed her murderous shadow baby.It was easy to see why the location scouts chose them. Standing in those caves, with the wind whipping through and the water ominously edging in, it was easy to believe that we were not in 21st-century Northern Ireland but back in Martin’s world – that dark, depressing and dangerous place where the only certainty is that you win or you die.• More information on holidays in Northern Ireland For flight and ferry deals see

There’s an exhibition, too …

Game of Thrones exhibition, Belfast

Game of Thrones exhibition, BelfastDie-hard fans desperate for a fix after tonight’s season finale can head to Titanic Belfast, where an exhibition of costumes, weaponry and artefacts from the show runs until 17 June. Among the best bits are the chance to sit on the Iron Throne, to examine Dany’s dragons in model form, and to take part in your very own stimulated Battle of Blackwater. Yes, the fiery arrows are included.

It’s not just about Northern Ireland

While Northern Ireland accounts for the bulk of Game of Thrones locations, it’s not the only place where the series is filmed. Croatia, Morocco and Iceland also provide otherworldly backdrops to the backstabbing and bribery of Westeros and beyond.

Kit Harrington as Jon Snow on location in Iceland

Kit Harrington as Jon Snow on location in IcelandIceland
Iceland expert Discover The World has a four-night package, Iceland: Beyond The Wall, which allows you to take in the region’s impressive glaciers, volcanic plains and waterfalls. The package includes a night at the Hilton Nordica Hotel in Reykjavik, the base for the cast and crew during filming, and features trips to the Hofdabrekkuheidi area and the Vatnajökull glacier in Skaftafell, both of which featured in character Jon Snow’s epic trek beyond the wall. With optional activities including an Ice and Fire sightseeing flight, snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier and horse riding, it’s available June-August 2013, from £872pp (based on two sharing) including flights, B&B accommodation and car rental.Morocco
This season Morocco has formed the backdrop to Dany’s ransacking of Slaver’s Bay, with scenes shot in Essaouira and Aït Benhaddou near Ouarzazate. Epic Morocco has a 10-day Forts & Kasbahs trip which includes a visit to the Ouarzazate film studios and a three-day stay in Essaouira, for £775pp for 10 days including transport, all accommodation and some meals.Croatia
The plots and politics of King’s Landing are largely filmed in Croatia, with locations in Dubrovnik, nearby Lokrum Island and Novigrad in Istria.Completely Croatia has hotels and packages in both Dubrovnik and Novrigrad. (There is no accommodation on Lokrum, although its lakes and monastery are easily accessible from Dubrovnik with tourist boats making the 10-minute crossing every half hour in summer). US company Viator offers a three-hour walking tour of Dubrovnik.
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