Monday, December 17, 2012

You Really Ought to Give Iowa a Try

"Science Friday" Recommendations

I went off to college in Iowa—a far cry from my native Virginia—with an equal lack of justification and enthusiasm for such a big, peculiar move. Why Iowa? bemused East Coasters would ask me. I’d shrug in response. “To do something different!” I’d cheerfully proffer, but inside, I was asking myself the same question. 

My first few months there, I was not impressed. The airport was, quite literally, in a cornfield. The nearest mall was a half hour’s drive away. And speaking of driving, it was sixteen hours to my home. If you had asked me on September 1st if I would be coming back next semester, I would have laughed in your face. 

But something happened. Gradually, I fell in love with Iowa, an affection that not only persists but has led to me—now living in Manhattan, ironically about as far removed as you can get—making more than one heated dinner-party defense of the state. DON’T crack any corn jokes around me unless you’re FROM there. I will TAKE YOU DOWN. 

I could throw facts at you—like, Iowa has the highest literacy rate in the U.S.; it has the third largest wind power economy (if, like me, you have family concerned with being green), after Texas and California (two states which otherwise dwarf Iowa in both size and population); it ranks first in pork, corn, egg, and ethanol production and second in soybean and red meat—but really, who cares. Instead, here are some facts you can do something with. 


If the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (
RAGBRAI) is good enough for Lance Armstrong, it’s good enough for you. Iowa’s not as flat as you think it is, so start training now for the 472-mile race, which takes place in July. 

Iowa State Fair is internationally acclaimed and draws more than a million people every August. A 150-year-plus tradition, it was the inspiration for State Fair and hosts blue ribbon competitions, exhibitions, grandstands, food, entertainment, camping, and—the BUTTER COW. 

Hike, fish, camp, and grill out in the breathtaking 
Palisades-Kepler State Park or go canoeing on beautiful Lake MaCbride; catch an up-and-coming playwright’s work at Iowa City’s Riverside Theatre or visit the world’s largest collection of the works of Iowa native Grant Wood at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. 


My college town is host to the 
Lincoln CafĂ©, a restaurant with a world-class chef and national buzz (it’s been written up in everything from O Magazine to the NYTimes). Don’t pass up the dinner specials—smoked elk/grilled guinea hen/Alaskan halibut are some samples from a menu that changes weekly; but come back at lunchtime for the spicy chicken sandwich or the mushroom puree soup. BYO, or stop by the Lincoln’s newly opening wine bar a couple doors down. 

Think Iowa’s solely comprised of pork-lovers? Try Iowa City’s all-organic, vegan restaurant 
The Red Avocado or head downtown to vegetarian Masala. 

If you’re cooking at home, the 
New Pioneer co-op, also in Iowa City, will spoil you for Whole Foods, or pick up cheese, sausage, and beer in the historic Amana Colonies. 

And last but not least, I have tried every burrito New York has to offer: Chipotle, Blockheads, Rachel’s, Uncle Moe’s, Mezcal’s, Burritoville, Arriba Arriba, you name it. I’ve given up in disgust, not having found anything to match the deliciousness of 
Panchero’s. I used to joke about having visiting friends bring me a Panchero’s burrito in a Thermos on the plane. 

I’m not joking anymore. 


Thinking of filming a movie? Consider Iowa. No permits. No location fees on state property. Tax incentives. 
Check it out. 


In the end, though I’ll probably never move back there, I can’t help missing Iowa: the legendary, genuine friendliness of everyone you meet; the clean, quiet beauty of your surroundings; the sheer spatial luxury of what it’s like to be in a state whose total population is one-fourth of New York City’s. Living there for four years gave me insight into another way of life—one that might not be for everyone, but is unforgettable to experience. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Some tips for a successful cruise

Most of us accept that tipping on board a cruise liner is part and parcel of the cruise holiday experience. But how much should you tip, and when? Sometimes, the cruise company gives a few tips about tipping in their brochure to give you an idea. For example, it really depends on how long your cruise is for, obviously the longer the voyage; the larger the overall tip should be given. The timing is optional, although I've been on cruises where an initial tip was given at the start to the cabin steward, and then, if performance was satisfactory throughout the cruise, another tip would be given at the end. I once went on a Caribbean cruise in which gratuities were pre-paid in the cost of the actual fare. Nevertheless, once on board it was apparent that tips over and above this 'down payment' were expected. When it came to getting my suitcase put on board the ship at Miami, I found that it wouldn't be loaded unless I gave the porter five dollars to take it out of my hands, and then put it on the conveyor leading to the ship! He was on to a fairly lucrative income, because there were literally thousands of passengers lining up to embark. Maybe I should stop being a cartoonist, and get a job on the Miami wharves, loading suitcases!

It amazes me how much is spent just in tips on a vacation. I tried to figure out if there were any vacations I went on where I didn't have to tip every other person I saw and the only one that comes to mind is a rail vacation to Alaska. I should probably stop going on cruises. All the money I save not having to tip the cruise workers would be better spent on a train tour!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Switzerland Tourism Where Business Plays a Big Role

Rochers de Naye, and Hotel de Caux, , Switzerl...
The money made from travelers around Switzerland is a bit more business than one would expect. There are new statistics showing that 19% of the hotel overnight stays last year were from visitors that were in Switzerland to attend meetings and go on business trips. Quite often, these business trips and meetings are scheduled in high tourism locations, but are done in the off season so as not to compete with tourists on vacation, who are often ready to splurge and out buy businesses for rooms. Because hotels are a huge part of the tourism puzzle piece, and because that number is significantly up from last year, one would expect that this should give a bit of a boost to Europe's land-locked country.

It's already mid October, and it's the calm before the storm of winter travelers looking to visit and travel Switzerland during the holiday breaks, and to ski some of the most popular slopes in the world. There are plenty of places still available to stay for the upcoming season, and not all of them are out of a typcial budget. One of the most popular places has been the Backpackers Villa in Interlaken Switzerland, which is a quality hostel in the heart of the Swiss Alps. If you haven't made plans yet, and want to try something adventurous, I would highly recommend making the trip to Switzerland.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Vacation vs. Stress

Vacation is a complete contrast to life at Bates. There I am always up to something: running errands for International Club, working in the library, studying (all-nighters), eating gross Chinese food with Natasha and Ashley, and lately discussing Breakaway with Shawna-Kaye. Something is always going on, and when it isn’t Marta will change that by making something happening. Here in Sweden I wake up at 7.30 in the mornings (which I think is quite ambitious), take a morning walk with my mother around the peninsula (typically 10-13 km), go take a morning swim in the sea to cool down after the walk, eat breakfast, nap, eat lunch, read/write/do chores/solve sudoku puzzles, nap some more, go swim again before dinner, eat dinner, talk to my family after dinner, watch the evening news and any British crime series that might be on (Midsomer Murders), watch the evening news on the other channel, play some Gameboy if I am not tired, and finally I go to bed at around midnight (as opposed to 2.30-3.00 am which is normal Bates bedtime). I love being free, but at the same time I miss having nothing to do. I do not want to complain about being without occupation as I complain all school year about being too busy. I love my family and I love being home, but five weeks of this life is about enough for me. I need action not to feel restless and right now Sweden does not offer me that. Hopefully I will be able to spend the next summer doing research in the USA or abroad. Now that is a summer occupation that I would enjoy! If I can't get a job over the summer, I would love to go on a train trip and explore more of the world! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vacation Rentals

Rented house(Photo credit: lyman erskine)
Buying a vacation home is more popular than it has ever been. Today, more and more home owners are buying second homes and renting them as vacation properties. Consider buying one of the many vacation rental homes in the United States and make an investment in your future financial stability. Homes in the the United States are perfect for vacation rentals and can make you money on your investment if you maintain the property and rent it out wisely.
First, determine if a second home is right for you. When searching for a vacation home, you should take an inventory of what you enjoy doing on your vacations. Do you like taking cruises, train vacations, hiking or something else? Will you be able to partake in these activities in your location? Also, think about how often you will be able to visit and how convenient the location is. If you will be visiting often, you probably should choose a location relatively near you. If your lifestyle requires you to live near the city, don’t choose a vacation home in the rural, outer reaches of town.
Vacation homes are generally appreciating in value according to market values. Get the most out of the current state of the real estate market by making the right decisions about maintaining your new property. You certainly should have a professional inspection done before you buy the property by a trained professional, so you save on major repairs in future years. You certainly wouldn't want to put costly repairs on future generations either!
Next, determine how you are going to manage the property’s general up-keep. You can choose to do it yourself if you are close enough, or you can hire a property manager. If you would like to save on the large fees property managers often require, consider hiring a cleaning service and a lawn care service instead.
Another tip is to provide renters will general maintenance tools to fix problems themselves, and if major appliance problems occurs, hire a repair person to visit the property. Finally, for large problems, get second home insurance. Remember that because of the nature of vacation homes, second home insurance is usually more expensive than primary home insurance.
Some final advice to get the most out of your vacation rental property: rent your home for no more than 25 week and no fewer than 17 weeks per year. If you fall outside of these numbers, your house will either get too much wear or not pay for itself financially. As you rent, make friends with your renters because people are more likely to take care of a home that belongs to someone they like. Also, if you do make contact with other rental property owners, you may get a chance to trade properties and experience other areas of the country.
Vacation rental homes in the United States are great for someone looking to make extra money off of a valuable investment. There are many advantages to buying a vacation property you may not realize at first. Join this trend, and learn why so many people love owning vacation rental homes.