Capitol Tile Room in Washington, D.C.

Capitol Tile Room in Washington, D.C.

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Deep in the vaulted belly of the Capitol Building there’s one unusual room stacked full of ornate floor tiles, leftover from the 1850s expansion. The tiles are a part of a set imported from Italy during the Civil War to decorate the fantastic Brumidi Corridors on the first floor of the Senate wing.

The Brumidi Corridors are highly ornate spaces that were architecturally based on Raphael’s Loggia in the Vatican. Unlike the heavily trafficked corridors above, the basement tile storage room has a layer of dust and obscurity that suggest they may have been entirely forgotten about.

The tile room is at the end of a winding labyrinth of century-old passageways which gives the place a major Nicholas Cage/National Treasure vibe. Members of the public won’t have a chance getting in, but Capitol Hill interns and staffers who sweet talk facilities employees might get a special off-the-record tour.

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April 27, 2017 at 10:16AM

Sans Souci Island in Waterloo, Iowa

Sans Souci Island in Waterloo, Iowa

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Wooded area of Sans Souci Island

Nestled in the Cedar River in Waterloo, Iowa, is an unassuming 100-acre landmass called Sans Souci Island. "Sans Souci" is French for “no worries,” but in 2008, the island’s name proved oxymoronic.

That year, Iowa experienced massive flooding. Like many of eastern Iowa’s rivers, the Cedar River, the major tributary of the Iowa River, overflowed. Many homes in the Cedar Valley were underwater, as was Waterloo’s downtown area. Thanks to the establishment of large dikes that were put in place after previous years of extensive flooding, the Cedar Valley was better off than other cities in Iowa, where bridges collapsed and homes were devastated. But Sans Souci Island sustained unsalvageable damage.

Here, the flooding exceeded that of the Great Flood of 1993. Around 50 people lived on this largely wooded piece of land, and in June of 2008, they were forced to vacate due to a breached sandbag dike. This breach likely explains the pockets of sand that are now scattered among the island’s long, flattened grasses on its western edge.

In the mid-1800s, Sans Souci Island, originally called Merwin’s Island, provided timber for bridges that crossed the Cedar River. Gradually, cottages and permanent residences were built on the island, as well as the Sans Souci Hotel and Waterloo’s first golf course. The flood changed everything. No utilities have been present on the island since it was abandoned, and the buildings once there have since been demolished.

When you visit now, you are more likely to see a herd of white-tailed deer than another person. During the cold months, the land feels as though it has been untouched and unexplored for years. The isolated nature of the island makes it a quiet respite, a peaceful, almost eerie place for hiking and observing some of the Midwest’s flora and fauna. Fallen, twisted trees leaning against their straight-backed neighbors give the island an otherworldly vibe. Aside from the entrance area, there are few to no paths to follow, allowing hikers to carefully work through a maze of trees and their vines, detritus, new growth and occasional pieces of concrete, reminders of what was.

Sans Souci Island can be circled on foot in approximately an hour. Search the eastern border a mysterious wall-like stone structure and ruined, uneven stone stairs that lead down to a narrow river walk, on which you can spot the occasional fisherman. Then, travel to the opposite coast for a view of the wing dam, which whips the water in mesmerizing loops.

Now is the time to experience Sans Souci Island in an uninhabited state. Though it may not happen soon, the city is toying with plans to restore the island to a campground or park.

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April 27, 2017 at 10:09AM

Sans Souci Island in Waterloo, Iowa

Sans Souci Island in Waterloo, Iowa

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Wooded area of Sans Souci Island

Nestled in the Cedar River in Waterloo, Iowa, is an unassuming 100-acre landmass called Sans Souci Island. "Sans Souci" is French for “no worries,” but in 2008, the island’s name proved oxymoronic.

That year, Iowa experienced massive flooding. Like many of eastern Iowa’s rivers, the Cedar River, the major tributary of the Iowa River, overflowed. Many homes in the Cedar Valley were underwater, as was Waterloo’s downtown area. Thanks to the establishment of large dikes that were put in place after previous years of extensive flooding, the Cedar Valley was better off than other cities in Iowa, where bridges collapsed and homes were devastated. But Sans Souci Island sustained unsalvageable damage.

Here, the flooding exceeded that of the Great Flood of 1993. Around 50 people lived on this largely wooded piece of land, and in June of 2008, they were forced to vacate due to a breached sandbag dike. This breach likely explains the pockets of sand that are now scattered among the island’s long, flattened grasses on its western edge.

In the mid-1800s, Sans Souci Island, originally called Merwin’s Island, provided timber for bridges that crossed the Cedar River. Gradually, cottages and permanent residences were built on the island, as well as the Sans Souci Hotel and Waterloo’s first golf course. The flood changed everything. No utilities have been present on the island since it was abandoned, and the buildings once there have since been demolished.

When you visit now, you are more likely to see a herd of white-tailed deer than another person. During the cold months, the land feels as though it has been untouched and unexplored for years. The isolated nature of the island makes it a quiet respite, a peaceful, almost eerie place for hiking and observing some of the Midwest’s flora and fauna. Fallen, twisted trees leaning against their straight-backed neighbors give the island an otherworldly vibe. Aside from the entrance area, there are few to no paths to follow, allowing hikers to carefully work through a maze of trees and their vines, detritus, new growth and occasional pieces of concrete, reminders of what was.

Sans Souci Island can be circled on foot in approximately an hour. Search the eastern border a mysterious wall-like stone structure and ruined, uneven stone stairs that lead down to a narrow river walk, on which you can spot the occasional fisherman. Then, travel to the opposite coast for a view of the wing dam, which whips the water in mesmerizing loops.

Now is the time to experience Sans Souci Island in an uninhabited state. Though it may not happen soon, the city is toying with plans to restore the island to a campground or park.

Travel

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April 27, 2017 at 10:16AM

Capitol Tile Room in Washington, D.C.

Capitol Tile Room in Washington, D.C.

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Deep in the vaulted belly of the Capitol Building there’s one unusual room stacked full of ornate floor tiles, leftover from the 1850s expansion. The tiles are a part of a set imported from Italy during the Civil War to decorate the fantastic Brumidi Corridors on the first floor of the Senate wing.

The Brumidi Corridors are highly ornate spaces that were architecturally based on Raphael’s Loggia in the Vatican. Unlike the heavily trafficked corridors above, the basement tile storage room has a layer of dust and obscurity that suggest they may have been entirely forgotten about.

The tile room is at the end of a winding labyrinth of century-old passageways which gives the place a major Nicholas Cage/National Treasure vibe. Members of the public won’t have a chance getting in, but Capitol Hill interns and staffers who sweet talk facilities employees might get a special off-the-record tour.

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April 27, 2017 at 10:02AM

Is NDC bringing some order as Lufthansa connects travel management firms?

Is NDC bringing some order as Lufthansa connects travel management firms?

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Airlines that are implementing flavours of the IATA New Distribution Capability standard are, ironically, adding complexity to air distribution.

And, so far, this goes against initial claims that NDC would simplify distribution.

Bosses from large travel management firms would like to be able to easily add more airlines but the carriers have been developing NDC-capable or compatible solutions as opposed to a wholesale adoption of the standard.

Lufthansa Group this week unveiled its first NDC-enabled direct-connect solutions with travel management companies Click Travel and Portman Clarity.

During a UK distribution update from Lufthansa, Click Travel chairman Simon McLean acknowledged that there is more complexity but says IATA is “encouraging airlines to adopt the standard by the book”.

So far, an NDC-compatible solution has been announced by Emirates while British Airways describes its own initiative as the “British Airways NDC”.

McLean says the TMC would love to be able to use the same technology for different airlines but it’s not that simple and adds:

“NDC is very early days. It has been around for a long time but implementations haven’t been. Everyone will pull towards a common standard some time in the future.”

Although McLean sees direct connects as the future and Click Travel has another airline lined up to follow Lufthansa with NDC connection, he describes it as “positive progress, but disappointingly slow”.

Portman Clarity boss Pat McDonogh adds that “there is a danger of more complexity” but that it’s up to TMCs to manage it. He says:

“Ultimately it will shake out and we’ll find efficient ways of doing things.”

McDonogh also believes there will be different challenges as more airlines come in.

However, both TMC bosses believe revenue streams are going to change in the industry and that TMCs need to be more efficient.

Andreas Koester, Lufthansa Group senior director of sales for the UK, Ireland and Iceland, also acknowledges the complexity saying:

“None of us deny that it is getting more complex but the customer wants choice and individual answers and the task it how we manage it.”

Lufthansa Group‘s direct connect solutions with the UK TMCs mean business travellers will get access to “exclusive” content from the Group’s airlines including Swiss, Brussels and Austrian Airlines, which would otherwise only be available via its direct channels.

Koester describes the move as “catching up with the significant development in our home market”.

He adds that partners who have implemented a direct connect solution will have access to “differentiated offers” and avoid the €16 surcharge Lufthansa introduced in September 2015 for GDS bookings.

Koester also says “corporate bundles” with fast-track security and wifi are coming soon as well as similar packages for leisure and that eventually the group wants to deliver real-time offers.

It’s an interesting move in the UK following Lufthansa’s direct connect initiatives with Siemens, Volkswagen and TUI in its home market.

Koester says Lufthansa Group attracted the big corporates because of the high-volume of business it does with them while in the UK it was not such a big airline and it could not implement the same solutions because of a “complex IT infrastructure”.

McLean says “access to content as well as product and price parity” were a critical element for his company pursuing the direct connect partnership. He claims the GDS only show three options for the London to Munich route while the direct connect presents eight.

Testing with the TMCs was carried over March and April with the deal being implemented on May 1.

Koester says the group is talking to more TMCs including HRG, which it announced it was working with about a year ago.

NB: Lufthansa pic via Pixabay.

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April 27, 2017 at 10:01AM

Sneak Peek in the New NYC Ferry Boats, System Launching May 1st [Photos & Video]

Sneak Peek in the New NYC Ferry Boats, System Launching May 1st [Photos & Video]

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This morning, we got a sneak peek on the NYC Ferry, before the system officially launches Monday, May 1st. Five boats, including “Lunch Box,” the very first named by students in Rockaway, were docked at the GMD Shipyard inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard. A flurry of activity was taking place as the boats were being readied for inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard this morning.

We broadcast a Facebook live video (our stabilizer was down, so bear with us!) of our visit, speaking with executives and project managers at Hornblower, the operator of the NYC Ferry and New Stand, the concessions partner aboard the ferries. A full photograph set follows below showcasing the ins and outs of the new ferry vessels.

The ferries, of which there will eventually be twenty, were built in one of two shipyards along the Gulf Coast in Alabama and Louisiana and sailed up to Liberty Landing in Jersey City earlier this month. We’ll have an article on Monday going over the many fun facts we learned on our visit today but for now, check out the photographs of the new ferries!

The ferry has large windows along both sides, with the concession stand, New Stand in the middle that has beer on tap, pastries from Brooklyn’s Bien Cuit, a wide range of beverages, and all the accessories you could possibly need if you’re short.

The stylishly designed New Stand, which sells much more than just food and drink:

There are bike racks on the NYC Ferry, and the Rockaway ferry has surf racks!

Only one boat, Lunch Box, has been named, so the rest still have their standardized names:

The ferries fit 150 people each and a ride costs $2.75. Here is the top deck with its brand new life vests:

Here is the captain’s booth:

See our full coverage on the NYC Ferry. Stay tuned for more coverage on Monday as the system launches!

 Brooklyn Navy Yard, Citywide Ferry Service

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April 27, 2017 at 09:45AM

Daily Cartoon: Thursday, April 27th

Daily Cartoon: Thursday, April 27th

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April 27, 2017 at 09:34AM

Sam Anthamatten: Inside the head of a pro freeride skier

Sam Anthamatten: Inside the head of a pro freeride skier

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How do you decide your line in a contest?

As well as good snow, I’m looking for a line that’s special and suits my strengths. On the day, we have to walk to the start area, so we can see the face close up. But by then I have a plan ready, sometimes two – one that’s fast but with smaller jumps and a more technical one with bigger jumps. Sometimes you wake feeling powerful, sometimes tired, so you have to be able to adapt.

From the starting gate you can see the other skiers go and get an idea of their result. At the FWT final in Verbier two years ago, there were five of us going for World Champion. The three in front of me fell and lost a ski. So one of the two of us left would win. I played it safe, and that brought me second place because I didn’t fall. But Aurélien [Ducroz, who won] wasn’t playing safe at all. His riding impressed me that day!

What safety kit do you use?

All FWT riders have to wear transceiver, back protector, helmet and a backpack with shovel and probe. Many wear airbag backpacks, although that’s not compulsory. The airbag is a really good tool and I ski with one a lot. But it’s heavier than riding with just a small pack – for really big cliffs, every gram counts!

Even with the risk management, it’s possible an avalanche can happen during an event. If you think about it, even a pocket of four metres square is a lot of snow. Not enough to bury you, but you can still be carried away by sluff.

What about when it’s not a contest?

I always have transceiver, shovel and probe, even if I’m planning to be on piste, because you never know what might happen – if I meet some friends and they say “Hey, let’s go,” I want to be ready.

I always wear a back protector and crash pants too. And I’m used to skiing with a helmet, so wear one most days, even on piste – there are more people around so it’s harder to manage the risk. But people need to take responsibility for themselves. I almost never wear a helmet when hiking – you sweat a lot. But if it’s really exposed or a rocky gully, you ought to.

I heard your motto is “steep, deep and crazy”?

Yes, why not! But it’s not me that’s crazy, it’s the lines. In the movies you see two minutes of action, but you don’t see any of the preparation. They say we’re crazy, maybe that fits the sport. But there’s not as much risk as people may think. I reckon Formula One drivers take more risks.

How do you prepare when it’s not a contest?

For a first descent, the planning takes weeks. But there’s a lot to think about the day before any trip. You check the weather and the temperature to assess potential avalanche danger. Then the next day, out in the field, if conditions are still the same, you adjust plans accordingly. Even when I’m going up in the cable car on the day,

I’m looking around at the terrain for information – you need to keep eyes and ears open. The patrollers working on the slopes are up at 5am so they always know what’s going on. I prepare all my kit the night before. I’m very precise – it feels good to trust that in one quick movement you’ll have an ice axe in your hand when it’s needed. It’s not about being able to take more risks, it’s about being prepared for whatever happens. I need to sleep well too. If you don’t sleep well because of a bad feeling in your stomach, it’s time to change your plans.

What does it feel like to ski a really steep off-piste descent? Is it fun?

Of course it’s fun. But when you’re on a really technical, steep face, you’re not thinking about how much fun you’re having, you have to stay really focused. You have to be precise and ski well and not make any mistakes – but it’s really all in the mind. When you successfully get down, that’s when it feels amazing.

How do you ensure you don’t make a mistake?

You try to keep the risk low and go step by step. In the end, though, it’s you and the face, and you have to make the right decisions. Usually, when you’re skiing the really crazy stuff, there are only a few people with you. If you get in trouble, it’s good to have someone with you who you know really well, so they can take over the decisions.

Why do you enjoy “the really crazy stuff”?

I started skiing very young, and I’ve spent a lot of time on the slopes, teaching and as a mountain guide as well. After a while skiing on normal slopes, you look elsewhere for something special. Your exposure to risk increases but you get a lot back – mental and physical challenges.

What’s the attraction of doing a first descent? Does it scare you?

The thing is, you don’t do it for the recognition of being the first. The appeal is that no one has been there before you, there’s no information about it, you don’t even know if it’s possible. You go with a different feeling in your head – it’s not, “Hey, we can do this, let’s go.” You have to make every decision yourself, it’s much more focused on that process. The feeling isn’t fear, it’s more respect.

What should holiday skiers and snowboarders think about before going off piste?

If taking a guide, you don’t have to worry about risk management yourself. Anyone going on their own needs to keep the risk as low as possible. Wear a transceiver, check the weather and avalanche risk and don’t go into the unknown. Last season I was skiing a really cool couloir in Zermatt. There were a couple of people in front of us, and it turned out they didn’t know it ended with a cliff – one fell down the cliff, another one ended up in a tree.

Of course, even when going with a guide, people should take some responsibility for themselves. Anything could happen. Everything you know helps keep the risk down. Even a little knowledge is worthwhile – to understand you don’t know enough is good.

How long did it take you to feel confident going off piste on your own?

I know a lot more than when I started. I first went off piste when I was 10 years old. Sometimes I think back to what I was doing age 13 – some really crazy runs. I’m sure the first time I had no shovel, no transceiver. I was full of confidence, but I was wrong. After my mountain guide education, I felt I had a good base to assess risk. But you never finish learning.

How often do you decide not to ski a slope you had already planned to?

You might decide to call it off at any point. I’ve made that decision so many times I can’t remember. You need to have the strength to walk away. To say yes is easy, no is much harder. Once I was out with my older brother, Simon, I was maybe 13. We wanted to do a slope, and Simon said we’ll do another, easier one first, then we’ll see. When we looked up at the slope we wanted to do from the bottom, we saw a guy on it. He was in an avalanche. I learnt from that. Trusting your instinct and knowing when to say no keeps you alive longer.

Is knowledge power?

It’s a kind of power. But after a while you get experience, from seeing a lot of things. Not all are great – sometimes you see nature is much bigger than you, it makes you scared. I have lost friends mountain climbing and ice climbing. It’s usually down to a stupid accident when you’re not even in a difficult place. A loss of concentration, a little mistake. Even on the easy slopes you have to stay focused. That’s when you relax, so that’s when you need to take extra care.

What’s the most important piece of safety kit?

The other day, I read something, “they had the best piece of safety equipment with them, but they didn’t use it. Their brain.” I would agree, to use your brain is the most important.

Sam appears in the 2012 Matchstick Productions film Superheroes of Stoke, celebrating the history of freeskiing, available to buy from £7.99. He’s also in last season’s Xavier de le Rue movie, White Noise, free to watch at timelinemissions.com.

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April 27, 2017 at 09:20AM

Dancing Forest in Kaliningrad, Russia

Dancing Forest in Kaliningrad, Russia

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Between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon, on the Kruglaya Dune of the Curonian Spit, there is a forest where the pine trees seem to be doing the twist.

Dozens of trees in the Dancing Forest of Russia have trunks that are contorted into rings, spirals, and other loops and squiggles, and the reason for this mysterious malformation is not known. The trees were planted in the early 1960s to stabilize the dune sand, but the unstable sand is one explanation people posit for the trees seeming so unstable themselves. Locals call the crooked wood the Drunken Forest.

Studies have been done to try to determine the exact cause, though results are inconclusive. The leading scientific theory is that pine shoot moth caterpillars damaged the pine shoots’s apical buds at an early age causing them to start out growing at an odd angle, from their lateral buds. Since plants naturally grow toward the sun, they eventually corrected themselves and started growing up again, but with their new deformities intact.

Some blame strong winds, others manipulation by humans. The supernatural-inclined have suggested that the forest is in a place where positive and negative energies clash, and that these forces have manipulated the shapes of the trees. Some say that the trees willfully follow the movements of the dune sands.

One local legend says the dancing trees twist and bend because centuries ago, on that very spot, trees were made to dance in order to prove the power of the Christian God. Superstition fuels many of the theories, and has also made the Dancing Forest a popular source of hope: Climbing through one of the rings has been said to add a year to a person’s life or earn that person a granted wish. 

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April 27, 2017 at 09:05AM

Dancing Forest in Kaliningrad, Russia

Dancing Forest in Kaliningrad, Russia

http://ift.tt/2pm28o9

Between the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon, on the Kruglaya Dune of the Curonian Spit, there is a forest where the pine trees seem to be doing the twist.

Dozens of trees in the Dancing Forest of Russia have trunks that are contorted into rings, spirals, and other loops and squiggles, and the reason for this mysterious malformation is not known. The trees were planted in the early 1960s to stabilize the dune sand, but the unstable sand is one explanation people posit for the trees seeming so unstable themselves. Locals call the crooked wood the Drunken Forest.

Studies have been done to try to determine the exact cause, though results are inconclusive. The leading scientific theory is that pine shoot moth caterpillars damaged the pine shoots’s apical buds at an early age causing them to start out growing at an odd angle, from their lateral buds. Since plants naturally grow toward the sun, they eventually corrected themselves and started growing up again, but with their new deformities intact.

Some blame strong winds, others manipulation by humans. The supernatural-inclined have suggested that the forest is in a place where positive and negative energies clash, and that these forces have manipulated the shapes of the trees. Some say that the trees willfully follow the movements of the dune sands.

One local legend says the dancing trees twist and bend because centuries ago, on that very spot, trees were made to dance in order to prove the power of the Christian God. Superstition fuels many of the theories, and has also made the Dancing Forest a popular source of hope: Climbing through one of the rings has been said to add a year to a person’s life or earn that person a granted wish. 

Travel

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April 27, 2017 at 09:05AM