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New Haven 'Restaurant Week' is here and now

Now that my head is a bit less fuzzy (from drinking six glasses of Joe Bastianich's Italian wine, topped off by one--and that's one too many--glass of grappa), I want to recap the wonderful wine dinner I had last night at Zinc.

Zinc is one of New Haven's brightest stars on the culinary scene. Now, this modest town, sandwiched between its big brothers Boston and New York, can easily be forgotten as an increasingly exotic and vibrant foodie destination. But I would say, like the general renaissance that is New Haven, this town's food scene really deserves to be on the national radar (at least least on the radar if you're in New England).

New Haven's makeover could get bogged down by its reputation as one of the original homes of pizza (Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana) and hamburgers (Louis' Lunch). That's where the city's first Restaurant Week comes in--but more on that later and how you can get some of the country's best dinners, including what the New York Times called the best Spanish restaurant in the states, for $29.

Take Zinc, which serves modern American cuisine that chef Denise Appel (and co-owner) describes as "market inspired and globally infused." What sets this place apart is the cuisine is top-rated and sourced from local ingredients. That, however, doesn't mean you're just left with potatoes and whatever else Connecticut grows (I'm not even sure we grow potatoes).

A really easy way to blow up a plane

Try to recharge a non-rechargeable battery (by try, I mean don't). Yep, that little move almost blew up a plane.

So I was reading through the National Transportation Safety Board's Docket Management System (ok kidding, someone else was bored enough to do that), and found this gem:

The passenger was wearing an Ecoquest Fresh Air Buddy Personal Air Purifier around his neck. According to the manufacturer, it "generates an intense electrostatic ion wind that charges floating particles in the 'breathing zone.' ... As he held his telephone to the window, there was a noise that sounded "like a fuse." There was a flash and a loud bang, and smoke emanated from the device. The passenger yelled and flung the air purifier from around his neck because it had started to burn him.

It exploded into a ball of flames "about the size of volleyball" and fell between the seat cushions, starting a fire. Passengers poured water and other liquids on the smoldering cushions, and a flight attendant used a Halon fire extinguisher to put the fire out.

The report noted that a short circuit is the most common cause of battery fires, and that charging a non-rechargeable battery could cause an internal short that could lead to thermal runaway, battery failure, and possibly an explosion.

Just in case you want to replicate his fun adventure towards death, here's where you can get your own Ecoquest Fresh Air Buddy Personal Air Purifier (did they really have to use "Air" twice in the name?).

A review of 'Into the Wild'

I just watched Into the Wild this weekend, somewhat of an unfortunate choice only in the sense that it's been snowing here in Pittsburgh, and well, the movie is half set in Alaska. But all was not lost, because there were also scenes from South Dakota, California, the Grand Canyon, and even a stretch in Mexico.

And that diversity and breadth of storytelling was a big part of why I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

This movie will inspire the traveler in you to follow Thoreau (one of Chris McCandless's favorite authors) abandon the rat race for a piece of your own wilderness and adventure. Chris, by the way, is the real-life young Emory grad who the movie is based upon; he donates his life savings of $24,000 to Oxfam and becomes a full-time tramp. He eventually finds his way to Alaska, his dream, where he sets into the pure wilderness with nothing more than a gun and some reading material.

I had just a few qualms about the movie. First, the editing could be a bit better (which is quite a controversial stance, mind you, considering it was nominated for an Oscar for this). I just feel it could have been told in 2 hours instead of 2.5. This leads into my next quip, that some of the scenes were quite cliche, for instance the one of him surrounded by Alaskan mountains, with his hands above him, celebrating his freedom.

But it's worth a watch. I'm looking forward to Catherine's take, since she's from that neck of the woods.

Ever thought about swimming in the Venice canals?

I'm a big fan of pranks (see my posts about the "stopping time" series here and here). Add this stunt to the list, and after the jump, check out another video of a similar stun at the Roman baths in England.

From the 140th floor: Hope you're not scared of heights

That's the view from the 140th floor of Burj Dubai, which will become the tallest building (that's even including communication towers) in the history of mankind when it's completed sometime next year. There will be a total of 160 floors and some 3.5 million square of office and residential space. And don't forget about the $4.1 billion construction bill.

I recently had dinner with a couple of the guys who helped design the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, so I'm a bit awed by just how outrageous skyscraper engineering has become (as well as how fierce the competition has been getting--did you know there's a committee to designate the world's tallest skyscraper?).

Photo courtesy of

Guaranteed to make you smile: Improve Everywhere's newest stunt

News of Improv Everywhere's latest prank has been zipping all over the Internet tubes in the last 24 hours, and dare I say, it's perhaps their most successful--and heartwarming--performance.

Basically they managed to turn a little league game in California into the season's biggest event, complete with actual NBC sportscasters, a JumboTron, a Goodyear Blimp, oh, and a really professional-looking press conference. And the parents and players (even the team managers) had no idea what was going on, even after it was over.

Catching the travel bug: Attack of the killer mosqitoes

Welcome to Catching the Travel Bug, Gadling's mini-series on getting sick on the road, prevailing and loving travel throughout. Five of our bloggers will be telling their stories from around the globe for the next five weeks. Submit your best story about catching the travel bug in the comments and we'll publish our favorite few at the end of the series.

The swamp here could be the stuff of nightmares. Because this happens to be the rainy season, which lasts from October to March, the trails are meant to be waded, not walked. Yet I am utterly stuck, knee-deep in pungent red mud with stagnant water up to my waist. Ellen Meulman, a PhD student from the University of Zurich, doubles back to pull me out of the quagmire. It takes a few hard yanks. "Be careful," she says. "You can disappear in these waters." Thoughts of leeches and king cobras vanish, replaced by a more immediate fear.

We've been slogging and hacking through the Sumatran jungle for nearly three hours, on our way to rendezvous with today's observation team. The field staff hustles day in and out to arrive at the nest-site before dawn and do not return until after dark. In between, they track the individual behaviors of the orangutan in excruciating detail.

But for now, I'm too busy worrying about myself. Asides from the immediate danger of disappearing into the quicksand-like mud and trying to balance on a crude plank trail that's submerged in water, I'm being absolutely devoured by mosquitos. Before embarking on this afternoon trek through the jungle, I dumped half a bottle of herbal mosquito repellent all over my body, but that has made no difference. At one point, the constant biting and buzzing and circling drive me nearly to tears. Alas I'm too tired to cry.

Learn Norwegian in an hour

Misleading headline? Well, I just came upon a wonderfully detailed post arguing that Norwegian is the easiest language for English-speakers, to learn. This followed up on an equally fresh post from last week in which the poster explained why Persian/Farsi (two languages for which the CIA is desperately looking for translators) happen to be easier to learn than most people think.

Anyways, back to Norwegian. The guy's basic points are:

  • It's a Germanic language
  • But with simpler grammar than other Germanic language
  • And a word order that more closely mirrors English
You'll have to read the original post for the many examples. After an hour of this stuff, you'll probably feel like you have a rudimentary grasp of Norwegian! Great way to introduce a language.

Would you want to stay here? Wait for it ...

Aww, isn't this bed and breakfast nice and quaint? According to their website:

Alicja Hotel is a modern hotel facility located only a few minutes walk to the city centre and 500 meters to the covered market of international trade shows that often take place in Lodz. The outstanding location, family atmosphere and high quality of services are our good points.

Now, here is that same exact hotel from a slightly different angle. I usually I tend to stay away from places that are almost entirely hidden on Google Maps because of the smoke from the nuclear reactor in the backyard, but that's just me.

Goes to show you not to trust completely what you find on the hotel's own website).

And for extra points, see this unexpected sight in the bar.

So what's up with Iceland's 'national bankruptcy'? A possible explanation

Hidden far away in the North Atlantic, Iceland may seem like one of the last outposts for globalization to reach. One economist stressed that a century ago, Iceland was essentially Ghana in terms of economic development. And even as late as the 1970s, Iceland still remained one of the poorest countries in Western Europe, with a major portion of its economy reliant on fishing. Yet today, Iceland is, according to the United Nations Human Development Index, the most developed country in the world, with one of the highest rates of life expectancy, literacy, and per capita GDP.

So how has Iceland gotten where it is today and what exactly went wrong in the last month?

The answer to both is financial globalization. The very forces of global integration, which led to deregulation of the banking sector and creation of a national stock exchange, nearly pushed this distinctly first-world country a few weeks ago into "national bankruptcy," in the words of Prime Minister Geir Haarde.

What's really scary is that the on-going Icelandic crisis has been in large parts an external crisis of confidence. Its three major banks were quite well-behaved, with little exposure to the "toxic" subprime loans we've all heard so much about. But ultimately foreign lenders to Iceland's banks did not see the government as a credible lender of last resort. In other words, although the banks were too big to fail, they were also too big to bail (out).

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