Airbnb’s new business travel program offers all the comforts of home

Airbnb’s new business travel program offers all the comforts of home

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Airbnb introduced “Business Travel Ready,” a program that aims to provide business travelers with the most appropriate accommodations. It also offers a range of tools for corporate travel managers.

The program is designed to provide all the comforts of home – a kitchen, a comfortable workspace, a parking space and room to collaborate with colleagues – with the conveniences of a business class hotel.

All properties designated “Business Travel Ready” must meet a list of criteria: At least 60% of their reviews must earn five stars.

The whole home or apartment must be available, be smoke- and pet-free and include hotel-like amenities, including Wi-Fi, laptop-friendly workspace, iron, hangers, clean towels and fresh linens, hairdryer and shampoo.

It also must include smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, which Airbnb will provide to hosts free of charge.

“Business Travel Ready” properties are identified in listings by a suitcase badge.

Hosts must respond to booking requests within 24 hours, and travelers must be able to check in at any time with 24-hour doorman, lockbox or other device.

For travel managers, Airbnb provides simple reporting, and a dashboard that ensures visibility into where their travelers are, where they have been and what they are spending.

Travelers are required to provide their company e-mail addresses to ensure ease and accuracy of tracking.

The program also provides centralized billing: Airbnb can either send the company an invoice on behalf of business travelers or link to the company credit card to allow direct trip expensing.

Airbnb says hosts will benefit through the program as well. Business travelers most often travel during the week, so more dates can be filled.

Properties that participate in the Business Travel Ready program will be need to continue to qualify after the initial evaluation in order to maintain their status.

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May 1, 2017 at 12:12PM

The Last Wild Apple Forests in Almaty, Kazakhstan

The Last Wild Apple Forests in Almaty, Kazakhstan

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Riding on horseback through wild apple groves outside Almaty.

It might seem strange to think that the common apple was not originally a universal fruit, but in fact it has its roots in one specific region of the world. The ancestor of the domestic apple is the Malus sieversii, which grows wilds of the Tian Shan mountains in Kazakhstan.

In the early 20th century, biologist Nikolai Vavilov first traced the apple genome back to a grove near Almaty, a small town whose wild apples are nearly indistinguishable from the Golden Deliciouses found at grocery stores today. Vavilov visited Almaty and was astounded to find apple trees growing wild, densely entangled and unevenly spaced, a phenomenon found nowhere else in the world.

Scientists believe the Tian Shan apple seeds were first transported out of Kazakhstan by birds and bears long before humans ever cultivated them. By the time humans did begin to grow and trade apples, the Malus sieversii had already taken root in Syria. The Romans discovered it there, and dispersed the fruit even further around the world. When modern genome sequencing projects affirmatively linked domestic apples to Malus sieversii, Almaty and its surrounding land were officially recognized as the origin of all apples.

Almaty means "father of apples," and the town touts its heritage proudly. A fountain in the center of town is apple-shaped, and vendors come out each week to sell their many varieties of domesticated apples at market. Apples weren’t always a precious fruit in Almaty though. They used to be commonplace, and during Soviet development many of the trees were cut down for their wood. Up to 80 percent of the wild apple forests were destroyed.

Today, reserves throughout the Tian Shan mountain range keep the last wild apple forests growing safely—except from foraging bears, who don’t care at all about botanical history. Pomologists report that the wild apples have a variety of flavors, depending on how the bees pollinate the blossoms. There are honey- and berry-flavored apples, sour crabapples, apples that taste like licorice, and a few strains that would be good enough for a supermarket’s produce section.

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May 1, 2017 at 12:04PM

The Last Wild Apple Forests in Almaty, Kazakhstan

The Last Wild Apple Forests in Almaty, Kazakhstan

http://ift.tt/2oYBuzK

Riding on horseback through wild apple groves outside Almaty.

It might seem strange to think that the common apple was not originally a universal fruit, but in fact it has its roots in one specific region of the world. The ancestor of the domestic apple is the Malus sieversii, which grows wilds of the Tian Shan mountains in Kazakhstan.

In the early 20th century, biologist Nikolai Vavilov first traced the apple genome back to a grove near Almaty, a small town whose wild apples are nearly indistinguishable from the Golden Deliciouses found at grocery stores today. Vavilov visited Almaty and was astounded to find apple trees growing wild, densely entangled and unevenly spaced, a phenomenon found nowhere else in the world.

Scientists believe the Tian Shan apple seeds were first transported out of Kazakhstan by birds and bears long before humans ever cultivated them. By the time humans did begin to grow and trade apples, the Malus sieversii had already taken root in Syria. The Romans discovered it there, and dispersed the fruit even further around the world. When modern genome sequencing projects affirmatively linked domestic apples to Malus sieversii, Almaty and its surrounding land were officially recognized as the origin of all apples.

Almaty means "father of apples," and the town touts its heritage proudly. A fountain in the center of town is apple-shaped, and vendors come out each week to sell their many varieties of domesticated apples at market. Apples weren’t always a precious fruit in Almaty though. They used to be commonplace, and during Soviet development many of the trees were cut down for their wood. Up to 80 percent of the wild apple forests were destroyed.

Today, reserves throughout the Tian Shan mountain range keep the last wild apple forests growing safely—except from foraging bears, who don’t care at all about botanical history. Pomologists report that the wild apples have a variety of flavors, depending on how the bees pollinate the blossoms. There are honey- and berry-flavored apples, sour crabapples, apples that taste like licorice, and a few strains that would be good enough for a supermarket’s produce section.

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May 1, 2017 at 12:02PM

Why Female Dragonflies Fake Death to Avoid Males

Why Female Dragonflies Fake Death to Avoid Males

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article-image

“I’m used to dealing with angry, aggressive, dysfunctional men—i.e., men," Selina Meyer, the fictional politician in HBO’s Veep, declared in the show’s season-four premiere. It turns out female dragonflies may sympathize.

That’s because, according to new research, female moorland hawker dragonflies sometimes drop from the air and play dead when they see an eager male approaching—a strategy designed to protect them from what would constitute a heinous sex crime in the human world.

Among some dragonfly species, male mates hang around to guard egg-laying females. Moorland hawker females, on the contrary, are on their own, and are therefore vulnerable to harassment. And the consequences for them are severe, as another mating encounter could damage their reproductive tracts. Playing dead appears to be a common tactic in the face of intense attention from males, Rassim Khelifa of the University of Zurich told New Scientist. Of the 31 females he observed, 27 attempted the tactic and 21 of them were successful in fending off the unwanted advances.

Female dragonflies, in other words, are used to dealing with angry, aggressive, sexually predatory male dragonflies—i.e., male dragonflies.

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May 1, 2017 at 12:02PM

Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden

Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden

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The Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden, might sound like it houses the most depressing collection ever. But it is actually meant to inspire.

Founded by organizational psychologist Dr. Samuel West, the museum exhibits corporate products like Google Glass and Sony Betamax that totally flopped, yet represent a willingness to take risks. The way West sees it, successes are well known and celebrated by publicity departments, but the failures that come along the road to success are also important and worth recognizing. 

The effort that went into Apple’s Newton device, the company’s answer to the Palm Pilot, paved the way for the iPhone and iPad later on. When Coke II was introduced in 1984, it was so disliked and drove so many people back to the original Coke that Coke started outselling Pepsi in 1985.

Some of the items on display represent the end of an era. The DVD case from Blockbuster will remind visitors of trips to the video store before streaming took over. And while the Eastman Kodak Company was once a soaring pioneer in the world of photography, the DC40 digital camera on display is a reminder that it didn’t embrace digital photography quite fast enough.

There’s also a Segway, a device with little purpose other than to check tweets on the go (and the screen wasn’t big enough to display 140 characters), a frozen dinner marketed by a toothpaste company, and President Donald Trump’s version of Monopoly from 1989.

The Museum of Failure started with West’s fascination with the psychology of failure, leading him to seek out and buy many of the unsuccessful items that would later make up this exhibit. Earlier this year, in January, he brought six of the flops to a conference in London, where his booth proved quite popular. He started working on the standalone museum with financial help from a Swedish innovation agency called Vinnova.

All in all, there are more than 60 failed attempts at the big time on display at the Museum of Failure, which officially opens June 7, 2017.

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May 1, 2017 at 11:06AM

Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden

Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden

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Coke II

The Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden, might sound like it houses the most depressing collection ever. But it is actually meant to inspire.

Founded by organizational psychologist Dr. Samuel West, the museum exhibits corporate products like Google Glass and Sony Betamax that totally flopped, yet represent a willingness to take risks. The way West sees it, successes are well known and celebrated by publicity departments, but the failures that come along the road to success are also important and worth recognizing. 

The effort that went into Apple’s Newton device, the company’s answer to the Palm Pilot, paved the way for the iPhone and iPad later on. When Coke II was introduced in 1984, it was so disliked and drove so many people back to the original Coke that Coke started outselling Pepsi in 1985.

Some of the items on display represent the end of an era. The DVD case from Blockbuster will remind visitors of trips to the video store before streaming took over. And while the Eastman Kodak Company was once a soaring pioneer in the world of photography, the DC40 digital camera on display is a reminder that it didn’t embrace digital photography quite fast enough.

There’s also a Segway, a device with little purpose other than to check tweets on the go (and the screen wasn’t big enough to display 140 characters), a frozen dinner marketed by a toothpaste company, and President Donald Trump’s version of Monopoly from 1989.

The Museum of Failure started with West’s fascination with the psychology of failure, leading him to seek out and buy many of the unsuccessful items that would later make up this exhibit. Earlier this year, in January, he brought six of the flops to a conference in London, where his booth proved quite popular. He started working on the standalone museum with financial help from a Swedish innovation agency called Vinnova.

All in all, there are more than 60 failed attempts at the big time on display at the Museum of Failure, which officially opens June 7, 2017.

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May 1, 2017 at 11:01AM

Samantha Bee’s Awkward Praise for the Press

Samantha Bee’s Awkward Praise for the Press

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Early Saturday afternoon, in the ninety-degree humidity of Washington, D.C., twenty-six hundred people, many of them gently sweating through their formal wear, assembled at Constitution Hall for the live taping of Samantha Bee’s “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.” Strangers searched each other’s faces in hopes that the other person was famous. The bar had opened at 1 P.M. Inside the venue, where the air was cool and the lights were low and bluish, ticket holders found their places in the amphitheatre seating, and the journalists sat down at fancy round tables on the main floor, which were covered with bright flowers and perfunctory hors d’oeuvres. There was a small taco bowl on each plate, a dig at the President. “This is a lot nicer than the Hinckley Hilton,” whispered a man at my table, referencing the hotel two miles north where John Hinckley, Jr., shot Ronald Reagan; the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is held there each year.

Samantha Bee, whose show airs late each Wednesday night, on TBS, had announced “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” in January, before Donald Trump announced, via Twitter, that he wouldn’t be attending the official event. (He told Reuters that he “would come next year, absolutely.”) On Saturday, he flew to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to hold a campaign-style rally. “A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now,” he told the crowd.

The reference to the hotel was the main indication that he was talking about the White House Correspondents’ Dinner itself, rather than Bee’s alternative event, which has received more coverage across the board. In Constitution Hall, after the band Peaches played its song “Boys Wanna Be Her,” the theme song for “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” the comedian emerged, wearing a snappy white tuxedo with a black lapel, her blond hair blown out shiny and straight. She appeared, in a way, as a stand-in for Hillary Clinton—a liberal icon, a beloved and derided woman taking the stage in a white suit. Bee delivered her opening monologue—which, along with five other segments, was taped for later broadcast—and then turned to the crowd when the cameras stopped rolling. “I’ve never been in front of a crowd this big,” she said, euphoric. “Is everybody drunk?”

During these commercial breaks, slides played on the big television monitors, highlighting notable moments in the complicated relationship between Presidents and the press. (My favorite anecdote concerned Franklin Delano Roosevelt: in 1942, he sent a Nazi Iron Cross medal to the New York Daily News reporter John O’Donnell, who had criticized the Roosevelt Administration’s lack of transparency with regard to the war effort.) Bee returned to Trump’s highly irregular absence from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in her second segment, speaking from behind a podium emblazoned with her show’s logo. She ridiculed him for “celebrating his hundredth day in office by trying to win Pennsylvania,” and congratulated the assembled reporters for their luck, being spared the duty of covering Trump’s Harrisburg rally. “That plum assignment went to whatever reporter fucked his boss’s wife,” she joked. “Meanwhile, you guys get to sit indoors, in a safe space, getting fluffed by a minor celebrity!”

The press was, in fact, fluffed for a good portion of the evening. The “Full Frontal” correspondents praised regional newspapers like the Raleigh News & Observer and the Tampa Bay Times, NPR, the BBC, the Weather Channel, KCRW’s “Left, Right & Center” podcast, Slate’s “Trumpcast,” and, in a way that has come to feel both obligatory and condescending, the “unlikely” political content at Teen Vogue. “We are living in a golden age of journalism,” Bee proclaimed, next to a composite image of logos from various media outlets that are staffed by a wide variety of skilled and dedicated people who, nonetheless, like me, thought that Hillary Clinton was going to win. She lauded CNN and Mother Jones for their “journalistic restraint” in not publishing the infamous dossier that mentions the “alleged pee tape,” and then lauded BuzzFeed for its lack of restraint concerning the same thing.

“With so much excellent reporting out there, why do ninety-six per cent of Americans believe the media should be strung up by its own bowels?” Bee asked. “I don’t know, maybe because, when they turn on the TV, looking for news, all they can find are journalists trying to referee a pack of well-coiffed message robots shouting at each other all day from increasingly tiny boxes.” She dedicated the rest of the segment to mocking Jeff Zucker, criticizing CNN for its reliance on outrage-generating pundits, and calling the network’s political coverage a “reality show loosely based on the news, in which partisan hacks make us measurably dumber.” But even in this segment—as well as in another critical segment, where she called Rupert Murdoch a “sentient liver spot”—Bee made it clear that she was motivated by a sense of the media’s grand, imperilled destiny. “Your job has never been harder,” she had said, addressing journalists at the beginning of the show. “You expose injustice against the weak, and you continue to fact-check the President as if he might someday get embarrassed. Tonight is for you.”

At that line, I felt a little bit embarrassed myself. One of the most demoralizing things about Trump’s election was the way it immediately called into question the usefulness of even the strongest and most dedicated reporting. He was a sexual harasser, an alleged assaulter, a walking exemplar of conflicts of interest, a man who lied about giving to charity, a man whose business history was checkered by racism and failure and fraud. We elected him anyway. It’s true that journalism exposes injustice against the weak, as Bee said, but, at the moment, a good portion of the country seems to favor injustice against the weak. Without knocking the absolute value of a free and courageous press, there is reason to wonder if fact-checking the President will ever be as useful as we think it should be. A hundred days into his Presidency, all denunciations of Trump—the colorful ones written by bloggers, the carefully reasoned ones published by editorial desks, the satirical ones performed by comedians—feel essential and futile at the same time.

Bee is a remarkable performer, and she is trying to stay one step ahead of this reaction. Throughout her show, she strung jokes together at an unwavering clip that obviated, within the room, the sense of powerlessness and anxiety that, these days, is never far away. There was a surprise appearance from Will Ferrell, in character as George W. Bush, delivering a monologue that brought the house down and felt, at points, fundamentally uneasy: the crowd was clapping wildly for an impression of Bush mocking Trump over ineptitude in the realm of foreign policy. In the final segment, which began with a “Man in the High Castle” spoof, featuring a secret videotape of an alternative timeline in which Clinton had won the election, Bee gave the speech she might have given at the real White House Correspondents’ Dinner, about the first hundred days of the first female President of the United States. (“She’s done a lot,” Bee said. “I’m bored shitless.”)

In an interview with Jake Tapper on Sunday morning, on CNN, Bee disputed the idea that there was a “smug liberal problem,” as Tapper put it, citing a recent Bee-centric argument made by Ross Douthat in the Times. The primary function of her brand of political comedy—which is descended from “The Daily Show,” where she became famous as a correspondent—is catharsis, Bee said. Stephen Colbert has called this the “gentle high of condemnation.” And I did feel good on Saturday, though that might’ve been due to all the fluffing, or maybe the open bar. It wasn’t until late in the after-party, at the W Hotel, where the bartenders served a vodka-basil cocktail called the “Nasty Woman” and party guests walked blithely by the phone bank where they could drunk-dial their legislators, that my sense of release faded. I was on the balcony, looking at the White House, where just one light was on at the back of the building, and everything else in my sight line looked deserted and dark.

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May 1, 2017 at 10:58AM

How to Enjoy a Hawaiian Island-Hopping Cruise Vacation for under $1000

How to Enjoy a Hawaiian Island-Hopping Cruise Vacation for under $1000

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When planning a traditional vacation to Hawaii, you usually book airfare, a hotel, perhaps a car rental and even inter-island flights. Your budget could easily reach thousands of dollars when you add in meals and activities. There may be an alternative that can help you save on your vacation, make it fun and easy to island hop, include most of your food, and you’d only have to unpack once?!

A cruise to Hawaii that stops at each island may be just the plan for saving money on a Hawaiian vacation. Here’s how you can enjoy a five-day Pacific Ocean cruise combined with a Hawaiian island-hopping vacation for less than $1000.

The Itinerary

Carnival’s eleven-night cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia offers an extraordinary itinerary that includes five stops at four of the five Hawaiian Islands. Best of all, you’ll have your lodging and most of your meals included while you island hop. No inter-island flights to purchase, no hotels to book, and no need to haul around your luggage.  Just relax and enjoy the journey.

Departing from Vancouver, you have a five-day cruise at sea before you reach your first island, the island of Maui. Each day you’ll have another exciting Hawaiian port to explore. There are two stops on the big island of Hawaii at the ports of Hilo and Kona. Visiting the active volcano to witness the incredible lava flow might be a great way to spend your time in Hilo. You’ll also be visiting the island of Kauai, Hawaii. The cruise ends in Honolulu so you could spend extra time there if you wish. I have written previously of unique activities for your time in Honolulu and ways to do it on a budget.

 

 

The Cruise Deal and Pricing

Currently, the brochure price for this cruise is $2524 for an inside cabin and $2669 for an ocean view. The discounted prices are $953 and $1069 respectively including port charges. This cruise and many others that include stops in the Hawaiian Islands can be found on Repositioning Cruise.com. You’ll have to type in your email address to see the deals but I have never received an email from the site so don’t hesitate to do so. This deal is #26979 and you can search for it on the main page of the site.

Prices can decrease or the cruise could be withdrawn at any time depending on how quickly the cabins sell out. This cruise is scheduled for September of 2018 so there may be time to wait and see if the price goes lower. Another benefit of booking the cruise is that you do not have to pay the entire expense up front; you’ll only need a deposit. This is just one example of a cruise that includes port destinations in Hawaii. You can visit cruise sites such as Cruises Only.com and Cruise Critics.com for other options that may better fit your schedule or preferences.

 

Some Help with the Airfare Expense

You’ll need to secure transport to Vancouver, British Columbia for the cruise departure and a return flight from Honolulu, Hawaii when the cruise has ended. For securing the return airfare you could consider the Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard. It now offers a 35,000 mile sign up bonus when you spend $1000 in the first three months.

Perhaps you could even pay for your cruise with the card and take care of that spending requirement immediately. Plus you would be earning miles for doing so. One-way award flights to/from Hawaii to North America start at 20,000 Hawaiian miles. The card also offers 50% off a companion airline ticket.

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May 1, 2017 at 10:27AM

Grüne Zitadelle (Green Citadel) in Magdeburg, Germany

Grüne Zitadelle (Green Citadel) in Magdeburg, Germany

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The Grüne Zitadelle (or Green Citadel, in English) in the central German city of Magdeburg is a startling, whimsical, fanciful complex of apartments, shops, cafés, a hotel, and even a kindergarten. The last design of the late Austrian “alternative architect” Friedensreich Hundertwasser, he called his big pink project an “oasis for humanity and nature in a sea of rational houses.”

The striking building took two years to complete, and was christened in 2005. If it looks irrational, it’s mostly by comparison to its neighbors in and around Magdeburg’s Cathedral Square. Here there is a mix of Baroque and classical styles, as seen in its Gothic cathedral, 11th century Romanesque monastery, and the State Parliament. But none of those are pink, and zero sport a roof made of grass.

As one of the first prefabricated slab buildings constructed in Germany, its style, color, sensibility, and construction methods have all come together to help transform the otherwise staid central district of this small city. In the course of this one block’s transformation, Hundertwasser’s crowning architectural achievement fits into the unique ensemble of old edifices, and what you might call middle aged (many might call cold) post-war architecture seen in some of the vicinity’s commercial buildings. But the Green Citadel has snuggled right in, while at the same time remaining the antithesis of both.

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May 1, 2017 at 10:04AM

New York City Transit Reporter in Wonderland: Riding the London Tube

New York City Transit Reporter in Wonderland: Riding the London Tube

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My editors on the Metro desk decided to send me to London, a city that has been working aggressively to modernize its subway and reduce delays. It was like being dropped into an alternate universe where people actually like their subway.

On the upgraded Victoria line, subway riders used adjectives like “amazing” and “efficient” to describe service. A student told me he “very, very rarely” finds himself waiting on the platform, and trains were “almost always” on time. Every two minutes they pulled into the station like clockwork. I was a bit envious. On the F line in Brooklyn, I often find myself peering down the tracks wondering if my train will ever come.

Sure, Londoners have some complaints about the Tube, as their subway is called. During rush hour, officials sometimes shut down stations because they are too crowded. Labor strikes are common. The fares are much higher. (In London, you pay depending on how far you go; a trip from the Tooting neighborhood, where Mayor Sadiq Khan lives, to central London costs 3.30 pounds, or more than $4. New York has a flat $2.75 fare.)

Some riders were stunned to be approached by a nosy American reporter interrupting their peaceful commute. A local transit official told me eye contact was discouraged on the Tube. There are two appropriate places to focus your gaze: your neighbor’s shoes and the ceiling.

At Embankment Station near the Thames River, the crowds stuffed inside a train during the evening rush reminded me of a chaotic morning on the Lexington Avenue line in Manhattan. But there is a sense that Transport for London, the agency that runs the Tube, understands the problems and is working hard to fix them.

In New York, there is growing alarm over the subway’s decline. Annual ridership dipped for the first time last year, even as the city’s population grew, suggesting commuters are finding alternatives.

Subway signals aren’t the most exciting topic. They certainly aren’t as exhilarating as the opening of the gleaming Second Avenue subway in January. But they are important. If the signal system isn’t working properly, your subway train doesn’t get a green light to continue down the tracks.

During my recent signal delay, I remained seated on the train. I was tired after a long week and carrying a heavy laptop bag. I didn’t want to fork over $10 for an Uber to sit in congested traffic.

I posted on Twitter that I was stuck on the Culver Viaduct, a stretch of subway tracks that rises high above the Gowanus Canal. “At least you have a view,” a colleague replied. “I gave up and switched to another line.” “I feel your pain,” another man wrote, saying he was also stuck.

Our predicament might leave Londoners aghast — even more than having to talk to a stranger on the Tube.

Continue reading the main story

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May 1, 2017 at 10:03AM

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