Travel

Mosquitoes are the worst in these cities, pest control company Orkin says

Summer is fast approaching, and with warmer weather comes one annoying pest: Mosquitoes. Pest control company Orkin on Monday released its Top 50 Mosquito Cities list, which “ranks metro areas by the number of mosquito customers served from April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019,” the company said in a statement, noting the list includes both residential and commercial treatments. Coming in at No.1 — for the sixth year in a row— was the Atlanta, Ga., area. Following just behind was the New York market, which Orkin said moved up the list this year by one place. In third place was Washington, D.C., followed by Chicago. Next up were two Texas cities: Houston and the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Detroit was seventh, followed by Philadelphia. Rounding out the ninth and tenth spots were Charlotte. N.C., and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. “Mosquitoes are more than annoying; they can be a major health threat,” Orkin entomologist Mark Beavers said in a statement. “Mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus, encephalitides, dengue, chikungunya and for those who may remember, Zika, threaten the safety of humans and pets.” West Nile virus, specifically, spreads through infected mosquitoes when they bite humans and animals. The virus, was first reported in the U.S. in 1999, can result in a fever or headache, though most people infected do not experience symptoms. That said, about 1 in 150 people who are infected with West Nile virus can develop a serious illness — such as inflammation of the spinal cord or brain — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. Click here to see if your city made the list:

Worst airport in US has been named

Newark Liberty Airport Opens a New Window. has officially been the dubbed the worst U.S. airport, according to a new ranking list. The New Jersey-based hub held the lowest U.S. spot at 116 of 132 around the world, according to AirHelp’s annual rating list, which is an organization that specializes in air traveler rights by seeking compensation for delays and cancellations. Bloomberg News Opens a New Window. was first to report the rankings. Overall, U.S. airports ranked poorly on the global list with the highest-ranking American field going to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, which scored the 34th spot. Henrik Zillmer, AirHelp’s chief executive, told Bloomberg the major reason why American airports scored low was due to weather-related delays and poor quality of service. Additionally, long security lines were frequent problems, causing a slew of customer complaints. To determine the list, AirHelp rated airports on three key factors: on-time performance, service quality, and food and shopping options. Additionally, the group surveyed more than 40,000 passengers in 40 countries last year on their personal experiences. This is the group’s ninth annual report. Doha’s Hamad International Airport and Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport have scored the highest on the list since 2015. Click here to see the 10 Best, and 10 Worst, airports of 2019.

Carnival Cruise Line eliminating free room service starting mid-January

Travelers who love hitting the high seas with Carnival Cruise Line will be paying more for their vacation in 2019 after the company announced room service would no longer be complimentary on every ship in its fleet. According to the official website of the cruise line, Carnival will be switching to an a la carte stateroom service menu starting in mid-January 2019. Prices for a wide variety of menu items will range from $2 to $5 per item. While passengers will be charged for lunch, dinner and late-night menu items, Carnival officials said continental breakfast would continue to be offered free of charge. The cruise line said the changes would provide guests with a “greater variety of culinary choices for in-room delivery.” Carnival also announced it would be increasing the price of the Bottomless Bubbles package to $5.95 per person, per day for kids and $8.50 per day for adults, plus gratuity. For passengers who already purchased the package, the previous price will be honored. Last year on January 1, Carnival officials announced the cruise line’s CHEERS! package increased by $2 per person, per day. Despite all of the changes, Carnival brand ambassador John Heald also pleaded with passengers to continue tipping servers despite the price increases.

But, of course, people will naturally reduce their tips because of this nonsense.

United Airlines to provide passengers with stroopwafels once again

The much-loved Stroopwafel, a waffle-like Dutch treat, is returning to the air. United Airlines says it’ll serve the cookie, a favorite snack to pair with coffee or tea, onboard in 2019. This is big news for frequent flyers. As reported in June, the Stroopwafel has been a beloved free perk for United passengers since 2016. They’re wafer cookies sandwiching caramel, and are traditionally served in the Netherlands steamed over coffee. The steam from the hot beverage softens the cookie to reveal its melty center. Back in June, the airline replaced Stroopwafels with “maple wafers” on flights departing before 9:45 a.m. and customers complained on social media. But on Dec. 28, United tweeted they were coming back. “We’re starting 2019 on a sweet note — the stroopwafel will be back in the snack rotation starting in January!” the tweet reads. United Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but a United spokesperson told The Points Guy website that the “intention has always been to bring it back.” No exact date was given for the cookie’s return. Cookie monsters on Twitter were pretty excited. “My now-husband had his first stroopwafel on our first trip together (ORD-MSY), and he got so hooked, we served them at our wedding a couple years later,” wrote Zena Burns. “Thank you for bringing them back!”

It’s the little things…      🙂

What lies beneath the Transylvanian castle that imprisoned ‘Dracula’?

A historic Transylvanian castle that may have once imprisoned Vlad the Impaler — likely inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula — still stands today. But what lies beneath it? Because of centuries of rebuilding and additions, archaeologists weren’t sure where the castle’s original foundation lay. However, new research using radar scans of the ground beneath the structure is revealing what’s going on below the building’s imposing facade. The findings were presented on Wednesday (Dec. 12) here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Castelul Corvinilor — also known as Corvin Castle, Hunedoara Castle or Hunyadi Castle — began as a fortress built in central Transylvania (now Romania). The structure’s oldest stone fortifications date to the 14th century, and its transformation from fortress into a castle was well underway by the 15th century, according to lead researcher Isabel Morris, a doctoral candidate with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University in New Jersey. In the 15th century, the bloodthirsty despot Vlad III, prince of Wallachia, aka Vlad the Impaler, was purportedly imprisoned in Castle Corvin by Hungarian Gov. John Hunyadi (Ioan de Hunedoara), who oversaw the castle’s first expansion, according to the Romanian tourism website Rolandia. Two more expansions to the castle, in the 17th and 19th centuries, followed Hunyadi’s efforts. Consequently, the building is a hodgepodge of construction from different periods, Morris said. It has also been the subject of numerous excavations; however, maps of the site are inconsistent, and much of the archaeological record is missing, presenting challenges to scientists exploring the castle today, Morris explained. For this reason, she and her colleagues chose ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to conduct their surveys. “In order to do a good job with our reconstruction, we need to know where all these pieces are,” she told Live Science. The scans helped the researchers identify an administrative complex built during the 17th century, Morris said. The radar also revealed places where parts of the castle were held up by bedrock and supported by built-up, human-made structures. “That’s important moving forward for conserving this exciting historic site,” Morris said. Already-reconstructed rooms in the castle’s depths include a torture chamber — with a model of an unfortunate victim bound and hung from the ceiling — but it is unknown if the grim chamber ever housed the infamous Vlad the Impaler.

Fascinating!!    🙂

Virgin Galactic flies its first astronauts to the edge of space, taking one step closer to space tourism

Virgin Galactic completed its longest rocket-powered flight ever on Thursday, taking a step ahead in the nascent business of space tourism. The two pilots on board Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft Unity became the company’s first astronauts. Virgin Group founder Richard Branson was on hand to watch the historic moment. Virgin Galactic said the test flight reached an altitude of 51.4 miles, or nearly 83 kilometers. The U.S. military and NASA consider pilots who have flown above 80 kilometers to be astronauts. Test pilots in 2004 were awarded a commercial astronaut badge by the Federal Aviation Administration for flying a previous, experimental iteration of Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft design. Lifted by the jet-powered mothership Eve, the spacecraft Unity took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert. Upon reaching an altitude above 40,000 feet, the carrier aircraft released Unity. The two-member crew of Mark Stucky and Dave Mackay then piloted the spacecraft in a roaring burn which lasted 60 seconds. The flight pushed Unity to a speed of Mach 2.9, nearly three times the speed of sound, as it screamed into a climb toward the edge of space. After performing a slow backflip in microgravity, Unity turned and glided back to land at Mojave. This was the company’s fourth rocket-powered flight of its test program. Unity is the name of the spacecraft built by The Spaceship Company, which Branson also owns. This rocket design is officially known as SpaceShipTwo (SS2). Unity also carried four NASA-funded payloads on this mission. The agency said the four technology experiments “will collect valuable data needed to mature the technologies for use on future missions.” “Inexpensive access to suborbital space greatly benefits the technology research and broader spaceflight communities,” said Ryan Dibley, NASA’s flight opportunities campaign manager, in a statement. The spacecraft underwent extensive engine testing and seven glide tests before Virgin Galactic said it was ready for a powered test flight — a crucial milestone before the company begins sending tourists to the edge of the atmosphere. Each of the previous three test flights were successful in pushing the spacecraft’s limits farther.

Very cool!!  For more, click on the text above.     🙂

Early snowfall stokes Colorado skiers, clouds climate debate

A heavy autumn snowfall has ski resorts across Colorado holding some of their earliest opening days in a decade or more, stoking skiers and fueling another snowball fight over climate change. Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek plan to open this week, shaving several days off their anticipated starts to the ski season and marking the first time that both resorts have launched ahead of time in 10 years, said Vail chief operating officer Doug Lovell. The resorts credited a “combination of some of the best early-November snowmaking conditions and more than four feet of natural snowfall last week.” Ski Cooper plans to open Nov. 23, 10 days earlier than scheduled, while Monarch Mountain in Salida announced Monday that it would invite skiers and snowboarders Friday, its earliest first-day-of-the-ski-season since 1996, after receiving a hefty 34 inches of powder. “We couldn’t be more thrilled for an early opening this year,” said Randy Stroud, general manager of Monarch Mountain, in a Monday press release. “We did our snow dances and Mother Nature delivered.” The state’s snowpack sat Thursday at 124 percent of average, according to the Colorado Snow Survey, after a Veteran’s Day weekend storm that dropped more than a foot of snow on areas of the Front Range. Some resorts have already opened after receiving double-digit snowfall. Eldora Mountain began operating a week ago, nine days earlier than scheduled, while Arapahoe Basin, Wolf Creek and Loveland celebrated their first days of the season last month. “The early season snowfall has created momentum and excitement for the opening of the ski season here in Colorado,” said Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, in an Oct. 18 statement. “Winter has arrived in the Colorado mountains and it’s great to see winter sports enthusiasts out in force!” Klaus Wolter, climate scientist with the NOAA-ESRL Physical Science Division and University of Colorado Boulder, attributed the early snow to several factors, including the weak El Nino, which “tends to make it wetter in the fall over Colorado.” “Below-normal temperatures mean that (a) most of the precipitation fell as snow, even at lower elevations, and (b) snow-making conditions were in place for the last four weeks or so,” Mr. Wolter said in an email. The rush to the slopes comes as a welcome change from last year’s disappointing Colorado ski season. Last year, environmentalists cited the drier-than-average 2017 winter, the state’s 14th driest on record, as evidence of global warming’s threat to snow. “The whole state is having its worst opening in 20 years,” Auden Schendler, vice president of sustainability for Aspen Snowmass, told the Coloradoan in December. “This is the weather and climate we fear. It’s already here.” Mr. Schendler serves on the board of Protect Our Winters, a Boulder-based climate advocacy group that has pushed to recruit skiers and snowboards by warning that “climate change is threatening winter as we know it.” “In the last decade, we have begun to see and feel climate change’s devastating impacts,” said Protect Our Winters. “Ski seasons are becoming shorter, more extreme, and less reliable.” Climate Depot’s Marc Morano compared such warnings to the infamous pronouncement of former University of East Anglia climate scientist David Viner, who warned that winter snowfall would soon become “a very rare and exciting event.” “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” Mr. Viner said in an article for the [U.K.] Independent headlined, “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past.” That was in 2000. “Climate activists and scientists claimed for years that snow was ‘a thing of the past’ due to ‘global warming,’ but snow has not cooperated,” said Mr. Morano, author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Climate Change.” “How do the activists explain away the record snows of recent years?” he asked. “Easy, by ignoring the current reality and predicting less snow in the future due to ‘climate change.’ Rest assured, snow is a thing of the present—just ask the autumn skiers enjoying the slopes.” Then again, climate change may actually be causing more snow. The EPA’s snowfall map showed that the white stuff decreased at 57 percent of its stations from 1930-2007, but not everywhere. Total snow increased during that period in some regions, including the Great Lakes and parts of Colorado. Snowfall in south-central Alaska has doubled in the last two years, while the East Coast has been socked with a series of snowstorms. Why? “Global warming means hotter air, and hotter air can hold more moisture,” said the Union of Concerned Scientists in a post. “This translates into heavier precipitation in the form of more intense rain or snow, simply because more moisture is available to storms.” Not surprisingly, Mr. Morano was skeptical. “So no matter what happens, the activists can claim with confidence the event was a predicted consequence of global warming,” he said. “There is now no way to ever falsify global warming claims.” For those trying to decide whether to buy a season ski pass, the best advice may be that there’s no predicting weather. “Just because it started snowing in November is no guarantee that it’s going to keep snowing,” said Jeffrey Deems, National Snow and Ice Data Center research scientist. “So get out there, get your days in, and take advantage of when the skiing’s good.”

Agreed…