Archive for July, 2008

Delta does it again, but why?

July 31, 2008

I wish someone could explain this to me. Delta Air Lines again has upped its fee for checking a second bag on domestic flights, from $25 to $50 each way. Of course, they’re blaming the cost of jet fuel. (Second bags on international flights remain free. For now.) Delta’s luggage fee is now the highest among the six biggest US carriers. (My darling Southwest Airlines doesn’t charge a thing for the second bag.)

This collection would now qualify for fees (from 2001 archive)

This suitcase collection would now qualify for fees (from 2001 archive)

So here’s what I don’t get. According to a Bloomberg News story, Delta reported that fewer than 20 percent of all passengers check a second bag and “declined to say” how much additional revenue the new fee will generate. But it can’t be all that much, right? Could it even come close to CEO Richard Anderson‘s current compensation package of $11.3 million, as reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution? Yes, that’s more than Eleven Million Dollars, or roughly 2.3 million second pieces of luggage. I know, small potatoes in the corporate world, right?

So why bother, what with all the bad press Delta has gotten from this announcement? Is it 1) We’ll take what we can get? 2) There’s no such thing as bad press? 3) We’re laying the groundwork for something? Now what would that something be?

Wessel's MBA (Master of Bicycling Activities)

Wessel's MBA (Master of Bicycling Activities) (Click to ENLARGE)

I don’t have an MBA, though Wessel does, and he doesn’t get it either. (Granted, his MBA is a Master of Bicycling Activities from the University of Okoboji in Milford, Iowa, so that doesn’t really reflect on his business acumen. But you should see his leg muscles!)

One of my favorite consumer books from last year was “Gotcha Capitalism: How Hidden Fees Rip You Off Every Day — And What you Can Do About it,” by Bob Sullivan. Well, I think Bob needs to write the sequel, “How ‘Fuel Fees’ Rip You Off Every Day,” and what they’re hiding.

Happy travels.


What in tarnation? It’s Reinbarnation

July 29, 2008

Wessel and I have been doing a lot of bicycling lately in rural areas of North Carolina. If you’re not from these parts, you’re probably thinking, isn’t that all there is? While if you live in an NC metro area among the suburban sprawl, you’re probably asking, are there rural spots left? Absolutely, there are!

We’re “training” for a 62-mile annual group ride called BikeFest, organized by the Carolina Tarwheels cycling club. There’s also a century option (100 miles), but we’re just too plumb lazy, not to mention the thermometer will likely reach between 90 and 100 the day of the ride. Back in the day, a 62-mile ride was just a ride. Now it’s a minor ordeal. And so we train.

Tobacco barn in Stokes County, NC

Tobacco barn in Stokes County, NC

One thing we love passing by during our rides are old barns, in various states of health or decline. They come in all sizes and shapes, but our favorites are pine tobacco barns, still fairly common sights in North Carolina. These were where the tobacco leaves were hung to be dried and cured.

When I first moved back here, five years ago, I was a bit repulsed by the state’s tobacco past. But now I’ve reconnected with my childhood, having grown up in Wake County, just outside of Raleigh in the 1960s and ’70s.

What I recall are rows and rows of tobacco plants on red-clay farms that practically covered the state. (Sadly, North Carolina leads the nation in the rate of lost farmland, with the state shedding more than 6,000 farms and 300,000 acres of farmland since 2002, according to the USDA.)

Crumbling tobacco barn in Surry County, NC

Crumbling tobacco barn in Surry County, NC

Yes, tobacco does awful things to people, but the plants are beautiful, and many families and businesses depended on the crop. So as much as I scorn smoking, I do have a fondness for the agricultural tradition. OK, minus the slavery, of course. I’m not winning over any of you, am I? So let’s just stick to barns then, and forget the tobacco part.

Diane (right) talks to Roger Dinger (mirror image)

Diane (right) talks to Roger Dinger (Click to ENLARGE this mirror image)

Because I write regularly about NC artisans, I’ve come across several who use reclaimed barn wood for different things. By far the most impressive use has been by Roger Dinger, who lives outside of Siler City. (Yes, Andy and Barney used to go there! It really exists!) Not only are Roger’s furnishings and home accessories from barn wood absolutely gorgeous, he came up with the best name ever for his company — Reinbarnation. Perfect! I wrote about him for the News & Observer in the spring. You can read the story, and check out his goods, on his website.  I traded him reprint rights for objets d’art, and Wessel and I now own two much-prized Reinbarnation mirrors.

Tag with mirror made frm wood from a cure house in Silk Hope, NC

Tag accompanying mirror made from tobacco barn in Silk Hope, NC (Click to ENLARGE)

Not only is Roger’s work wonderful, he adds a tag to each item that says what farm the wood is from. He truly is recycling the state’s history. (And, yes, he can ship a part of that NC history to you.) Thank you, Roger, for perpetuating the legacy of North Carolina barns, and in fine fashion at that.

Yoga? Sure. But where’s my coffee?

July 25, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published June 22, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s Eyes: I’m with you, Janet. Pass the coffee and don’t expect me to show up at for 6 a.m. chanting. I’d love the yoga and writing parts, though!

WHO: Janet Spurr, 52, of Marblehead, Mass.

WHERE: Bahamas.

WHEN: One week in January.

WHY: “I had had a death in my family, and I really wanted to get away on a retreat, something with yoga and writing, on the water. I’d done writing retreats and yoga, but never together.”

Janet Spurr (left) and workshop teacher Virginia Frances Schwartz (Click to ENLARGE)

Janet Spurr (left) and workshop teacher Virginia Frances Schwartz (Click to ENLARGE)

BACK TO BASICS: Online, Spurr found Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat on Paradise Island, Nassau, which included yoga, meditation, and a writing workshop with young-adult novelist Virginia Frances Schwartz. Based on other writing retreats she had attended, Spurr expected cushy accommodations. “I guess I didn’t do enough research,” she said. “It was very minimal. There was no coffee, but I brought my own, which people joked about.”

DON’T DO MORNINGS: The rooms were simple, with bunk beds and bookcases, though she was able to reserve a single room. Bathrooms were dormitory style. “The bells started ringing at 5:30 a.m., and then at 6 there was chanting and meditation. You were expected to go, but I only went once. I did go to the evening meditation four nights out of six,” she noted. “The food was all vegetarian, and it was good. But for dinner there was only tea and you had to bring your own water.”

A NEW PLACE: The two daily yoga classes took Spurr’s practice “to a whole new level. I’ve been doing yoga on and off for two years, and this was very challenging and really excellent. You do quite a bit of stretching and a lot of relaxation, and they really concentrate on positions. This one monk brought me to a higher level of understanding yoga and helped heal my heart after the death of my aunt. It was like physical therapy for my heart. The best part was it was outside on platforms at the beach.”

Janet (left) and Virginia hugging

Janet (left) and Virginia hugging

SOME MIND BENDING: The three-hour daily workshop, called “Writing from the Spirit: Yoga and the Art of Creative Writing,” combined writing and yoga moves. “We learned to do basic yoga poses to open your creative energies more to writing. It definitely opened me up, and was the best writing workshop I’ve taken,” said Spurr, who recently self-published a collection of essays called “Beach Chair Diaries.”



BURGER IN PARADISE: Spurr likened the week to “college at the beach without alcohol. I met some great people. There were no computers, no phone, no cellphone service, no TV.” Still, there was one thing she didn’t want to give up. “I needed a hamburger,” she said. So she walked 20 minutes down the beach to Atlantis, a huge resort and casino where people were drinking, smoking, and gambling. “It was so strange to see that,” she said. “I ordered a bacon cheeseburger, because one meat wasn’t enough.”

Italian master turns stemware into sculpture

July 24, 2008

It took three trips to Venice over some 25 years before I finally ventured to the nearby island of Murano, known for its glassblowers and, of course, glass galleries.

It was one of those things that seemed like a hassle — finding the right boat to ride, getting tickets, etc. Wessel is much more adventurous in that department, so when we went there last November, I let him do all the work. Love that! Indeed it was a bit of an ordeal figuring out boat details. You’d think that with the hordes of tourists in Venice, they’d make it easy, but then perhaps it wouldn’t be such a charming place. Can you imagine not getting lost in the maze of streets and canals? How memorable would that be? 

Ferry from Venice to Murano on a grey fall day

Ferry from Venice to Murano on a gray fall day

The 10-minute boat-taxi ride there would have been incredibly scenic — if we could have seen  anything. Instead, it was raining, so we had to sit inside, and the windows were fogged up. Wessel, of course, ventured out to take photos, and it was indeed beautiful in its own way. When is Venice not beautiful?

Murano, a mile north of Venice proper, is very cute in its own right and sort of like a very miniature Venice. In the summer especially, tourists arrive by the boatload to visit the famed glassmaking studios and galleries. Though the shops vary from low-end to high, most of them quickly blend together.

Engraved glasses from Luigi Camozzo

Engraved glasses from Luigi Camozzo

After popping into several stores along the main street, I was getting a little bored. That is until I happened upon the studio and gallery of Luigi Camozzo. truly an island apart from the others. And, I have to warn you, so are the master engraver’s prices. But if you can’t afford his museum-quality work, ranging from $250 to $7,500 and up, don’t let that stop you from looking.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find Camozzo, 56, in his small workspace at the back of the shop doing what he’s famous for: using an assortment of diamond, copper, and stone-engraving wheels to transform handblown glass vessels into works of art.

Luigi Camozzo at work

Luigi Camozzo at work

Camozzo doesn’t blow the glass; he uses existing pieces. But by cutting, marking, and carving into the glass surface, he adds texture and depth to each piece, elevating them into something even more special. He works his magic on everything from modern sculpture to antique stemware, including paper-thin English and Bohemian crystal.

Amy West apprentice of Luigi Camozzo

Apprentice and artist Amy West

Camozzo doesn’t speak English, but his friendly apprentice, Amy West, who hails from Kansas City, Mo., and has lived around the world, will be happy to explain the fascinating history and techniques of glass engraving. She has her own glass and beadwork on sale there as well, and it’s of course more affordable. 

Here’s the address to the gallery, and good luck finding it! (Be glad it’s in Murano and not Venice, but really, it won’t be that difficult.)

Luigi Camozzo Studio Galleria, Fondamenta Venier Sebastiano 3, telephone (011) 39-041-736-875.

Where silence is seen and heard

July 22, 2008

Below is a profile I wrote about Gordon Hempton, the creator of One Square Inch of Silence in the Hoh Rain Forest at Olympic National Park in northwest Washington state.  It appears in the July/August of Ode Magazine, with photos by Wessel. The entire issue  is dedicated to silence and is well worth a read.

By Diane Daniel

Surrounded by towering Sitka spruce trees dripping with rain and bearded lichen, Gordon Hempton comes to a sudden halt, mud oozing out from the bottom of his tall rubber boots. He raises his right hand, points a gloved finger toward the gray sky and squints in the universal sign for “Listen!”

Gordon points up to listen

Gordon Hempton (left) points up to listen while Diane takes notes (Click to ENLARGE)

Hearing the chirp of a bird in the distance, I expect our unofficial park guide to identify another animal resident here in Olympic National Park, as he had earlier with the call of a Roosevelt elk.

“An intruder,” he whispers in a serious tone.

Gordon holds his sound meter

Gordon holds his sound meter

As Hempton whips out a hand-held sound meter from his bike messenger bag, I realize it’s not a birdsong but the drone of an airplane in the far distance that has brought him to attention.

“1:19,” he notes in an official voice, reporting the time while opening up the instrument that charts noise level on the decibel A scale, the easiest way to measure the weight of sound.

“Overpass duration: two minutes. 51 dBA, with a base of 42. That base is from birdsong and the river in the distance.”

The intrusion, he reports, is twice as loud as the natural sound, based on the logarithmic formula of decibels.

“I’m not going to do anything about it because it’s not in One Square Inch,” he adds.

Hempton is referring to our destination and his mission, a tiny spot in northwest Washington state that he has deemed One Square Inch of Silence. It is marked with a reddish rock and a “Jar of Quiet Thoughts” — visitors’ musings on what Hempton has declared to be “the quietest place in the United States.”

Although the claim is arguable, it is certainly plausible.

Hempton, a 55-year-old Washington-based natural sound documentarian and audio ecologist, is one of the world’s top sound recordists. He’s measured sound in hundreds of spots across the country and the world, and has witnessed, painfully, a sharp decline of spaces devoid of mechanized sounds.

Gordon's Emmy Award

Gordon's Emmy Award

“I don’t want the absence of sound, I want the absence of noise,” he says.
Hempton’s professional credits include radio and television documentaries, a collection of 53 natural-sound recordings, and an Emmy award for the 1992 PBS documentary “Vanishing Dawn Chorus.” Next spring Simon and Schuster’s Free Press will publish “One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Quest to Save Silence in a Noisy World,” a book Hempton is co-writing with journalist John Grossmann.

“The logic is simple,” explains Hempton, who lives in the tiny town of Joyce, two hours northwest of the park. “If noise can impact many square miles, then a natural place, if maintained in a noise-free condition, will also impact many square miles. When you defend one square inch, in today’s world you help manage, to some degree, thousands of miles.

Entrance of Olympic National Park

Entrance of Olympic National Park

“Olympic National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve and a wilderness area. If we can’t save quiet here, don’t tell me we’re going to save it anywhere else.”

While Hempton keeps One Square Inch focused on Olympic National Park, he hopes others will pick up the mantle across the country and beyond.

Had today’s offender been heard at One Square Inch, some three miles east of the visitor’s center and about 50 yards off the Hoh River Trail, Hempton would have checked flight paths and airline schedules for the day and written a note asking the intruder to circumvent the park. (Only Alaska Airlines flies over regularly.)


Paintings really come alive in California

July 18, 2008

I pulled this “Where they Went” out of the files to coincide with the timing of Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, California. If you haven‘t heard of this amazing annual event, which this year runs through Aug. 30, read on. This year’s theme is “All the World’s a Stage” and, as always, the “living pictures” are stupendous!!

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Dec. 16, 2007, in the Boston Globe)

WHO: Kathy McIntyre, 61, of Needham, Mass.; Chris Ward, 61, of Mattapoisett, Mass.; Janet Lurie, 61, of Vancouver, Wash., and her sister, Linda Hayes, 59, of Coronado, Calif.

WHERE: California.

WHEN: One week in August 2007.

From left, Kathy McIntyre, Linda Hayes, her sister Janet Lurie, and Chris Ward savor Main Beach in Laguna Beach, Calif. (Click to enlarge)

From left, Kathy McIntyre, Linda Hayes, her sister Janet Lurie, and Chris Ward in Laguna Beach, Calif. (Click to ENLARGE)

WHY: The trip was a reunion and 60th birthday celebation for McIntyre, Ward, and Lurie, who together attended St. Mary’s in Lawrence (now Notre Dame High School) and Emmanuel College in Boston. Hayes hosted the trio.

WESTWARD, NO? : It was McIntyre’s idea to meet in California. “My husband and I lived there in 1978 and I absolutely love the West Coast.” While McIntyre had visited her friends consistently, Ward and Lurie hadn’t seen each other for 30 years. “Janet was jumping up and down on the sidewalk when she saw us.”

LOCAL HIGHLIGHTS: In the San Diego area, where Hayes lives, the women took in several sights, including downtown and Balboa Park, as well as Cabrillo National Monument. “It’s out on Point Loma on the tip of the peninsula and faces San Diego Bay. You have a view [of] downtown and the Coronado Bridge.”

An actor is made up for a role in the painting "Italian Comedians in a Park" by Jean-Baptiste Oudry.

An actor is made up for her role in the painting "Italian Comedians in a Park" by Jean-Baptiste Oudry.

MASTERFUL TIMING: McIntyre timed the trip to coincide with the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, where actors replace characters in enactments of classic pieces of art, and which had been on her wish list for decades. Shows often sell out far in advance. “Chris and I took a membership in the Festival of Arts, the sponsor, so we could get tickets early,” she said. “We got seats in the 12th row of the center orchestra.”

NUNS ARE FUN: They stayed at By the Sea Inn in Laguna Beach for two nights. “We stayed in one room and had lots of laughs talking about the nuns at St. Mary’s. Laguna Beach is lovely, and the beaches are pristine.”

Living version of "Le Café Concert" by Edgar Degas, in 2008 show. (Click to ENLARGE)

Living version of "Le Café Concert" by Edgar Degas, in 2008 show. (Click to ENLARGE)

REJUVENATION EFFECT: The pageant, held in July and August at the 2,600-seat Irvine Bowl, had its 75th year last summer. “They have two casts that alternate every other week,” McIntyre said. “Most of it is run by volunteers, about 600 people. … This year’s theme was `Young at Heart,’ which was most fitting for us.”

HOW ART WORKS: Music and narration accompany the 35 pieces of “artwork,” McIntyre said. “Each piece is lit on the stage for a minute and a half, but it seems longer.” Re-created pieces included covers from The Saturday Evening Post, Sir George Frampton’s bronze Peter Pan statue at Kensington Gardens in London (“You can’t believe it’s a person”), and “Apple Gathering,” an 1856 painting by Jerome B. Thompson (“nine people in an orchard setting”). A highlight for McIntyre was “The Giant” by N.C. Wyeth. “I work at the Needham library. Wyeth grew up in Needham, and we have 10 of his original paintings in the library, but not that one.” Halfway through the program, “they show you how they do everything. It’s fascinating.”

HEARTFELT ART: The friends spent the rest of their time in Laguna popping into shops and cafes and attending the Sawdust Art Festival, connected to the pageant. “It’s an amazing place, with 200 artists and bands,” said McIntyre, who treated herself to silver earrings. She also gave her friends necklaces of red sea glass bearing the Chinese symbol of long life.

Delta is ready — with more fees

July 17, 2008

It seems superfluous and redundant to rail against escalating add-on fees imposed by airlines, but how can I not?

Another additional fee?

And they're charging for baggage too.

For those of you in the dark (including Delta customer service reps, you’ll later see), Delta, US Airways and American Airlines are going to charge their “valued” award-miles customers money for using their “free” tickets. Delta’s fees start Aug. 15. I’m not sure about the others. For Delta, it’s $25 domestic and $50 other. The stated reason? Fuel surcharges, of course. They’re not charging *all* customers extra, mind you, only the valued ones.

Remember, all you dividend-miles holders, these miles are not “free.” They are what you earned and are part of a huge marketing scheme that has pulled in much revenue for the airlines and its legions of partners.

Something that really put me into a tailspin was some customers’ reactions to the surcharge in this article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Delta is based in Atlanta). One called it “a little unfair” and another said, “I don’t like the thought of having to pay it, but it’s part of what’s going on.”

Whatever happened to: We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”?

An interesting thing happened today when I was researching this. To back up, yesterday I sent an email to Delta customer service using their cumbersome process to complain about the new fees.

I got a form email back addressing not the upcoming fees I’d complained about but others I didn’t even know existed. Like, if you reserve less than three weeks out, you pay $100. Nice way to take advantage of valued customers in need of a flight.

Delta plane gets supplies in Salt Lake City

Delta plane during layover in Salt Lake City

Initially, when reading Delta’s email, I thought the new fee structure had changed. When I called customer service to check on it, the rep didn’t know about the Aug. 15 fee at all! She put me on hold twice and finally declared there was no surcharge. She was in Jamaica, so I thought maybe the news hadn’t traveled south. She transferred me to a supervisor, upon my request, who happened to be in Salt Lake City and totally on the ball, but even she didn’t know about the fees starting Aug. 15 — until I told her, that is. So I guess Delta values its poor employees about as much as it does its customers.

Luckily, my favorite consumer travel journalist and blogger Chris Elliott jumped right on Delta and other airlines about new fees, as I expected he would.

So did the always topical Michelle Higgins in this Practical Traveler column in the New York Times. What Michelle presented was particularly illuminating. For people who rack up miles mostly through their credit cards (like I do) she broke down the card fees and how long it takes to amass miles. For folks using their awards for domestic flights, they could potentially lose money. I use miles only for international flights. Deducting the card fees and new airlines surcharges, I’ll likely pay about $200 a ticket. But because I use the miles for flights that cost more than $500, and usually closer to $800-plus (like from North Carolina to Norway this summer), it’s still worth it financially if not spiritually for me to stick with what I have.

You should do your own calculations. As Michelle mentioned, it might save you money to switch to a no-fee card that gives you cash back.

Meanwhile, I’m sticking with my favorite airline — Southwest — whenever possible.

Long (dog) weekends at NC beaches

July 15, 2008

We’ve been out and about at two North Carolina islands over the past couple months and danged if we didn’t have wiener dog sightings at both. Very exciting! (Admittedly, not everyone shares my enthusiasm in this department.)

Maddie a brown and red dapple dachshund from Rock Hill, SC

Maddie a brown and red dapple dachshund from Rock Hill, SC

On Bald Head Island, a car-free community I wrote about for Budget Travel (July issue) and the Boston Globe (coming up), we met 2-year-old Maddie from Rock Hill, South Carolina. She’s a red dapple dachshund, not a common blend. Wessel had never seen a dapple before, which is spotted like a Dalmatian and not to be confused with a piebald coat, which has a more blotchy beagle pattern.

Maddie a brown and red dapple dachshund from Rock Hill, SC with human companion Cortnee Rushlow

Maddie with human companion Cortnee Rushlow

Maddie’s human companions are Cortnee and Chad Rushlow, who said Maddie is mad about the beach. Bald Head Island is so dog friendly that canines are allowed to hang 10. Poop-scoop bags are at every one of its more than 40 public beach access points. Really, I don’t understand why more beaches don’t allow dogs, at least one day a week or something like that. OK, I do understand the No. 1 and No. 2 reasons, but, dangit all, dogs love the beach, and so do their humans!

Jean and Chris Frey with Stumpy and Morgan

Jean and Chris Frey with Stumpy and Morgan

And, yes, there are some other enlightened communities, such as Oak Island, where we went over Fourth of July weekend, just for fun! Wessel first spotted Morgan, 6, a black-and-tan male, and Stumpy, 8, a red male, zipping along the shore pulling their humans while we were relaxing in our beach chairs. I bolted up, grabbing paper, pen, and camera and rushed over to introduce myself to Jean and Chris Frey of Havre de Grace, Maryland. They were vacationing in a pet-friendly house right on the beach. Lucky dogs, all of ’em! We stayed in a house that doesn’t allow pets, so poor Roxy and Sabrina had to stay home.

Stumpy pulling his human companion on the beach

Stumpy pulling his human companion on the beach

The Freys, long-time dachshund devotees, recently had adopted Morgan and Stumpy through Dachshund Rescue of North America after losing two other beloved dachshunds the year before. Like me, they subscribe to the dachshund lovers’ creed: “you can’t have just one.” The low-riding pooches looked sooooo cute trotting down the beach, with specks of sand sticking to their noses and bellies.

LXR lodgings’ bottled water is all wet

July 11, 2008

Not to be crude, but I about spit out my unfiltered tap water from Durham, North Carolina, USA, when I read a press release about a cushy lodging group’s “super-premium water” offering. (Full disclosure: I usually filter my tap water in a Brita pitcher, but absolutely not always.)

Being on the receiving end of the hospitality industry’s publicity machines, let me tell you that there’s a lot of green-washing out there. Usually I let it, well, wash over me, because I can do only so much. But for some reason, I decided to wade into this one.

From the Susan Magrino Agency in NYC:
“Good Afternoon, I wanted to make sure that you received the news about LXR Luxury Resorts & Hotels becoming the first hotel collection to offer Icelandic Glacial, a super-premium bottled water with a net-zero carbon footprint.”

Um, didn’t LXR hear the news that bottled water is baaaaad for the environment? I guess not, because the release states: “LXR’s partnership with Icelandic Glacial is yet another example of the hotel collection’s ongoing campaign to become an industry leader for ecologically-sensitive operation.”

While Icelandic Glacial *may* be “greener” than some other bottled water companies, NOT using bottled water is the only environmentally sensivite option. But wait, there’s more.

Iceland Glacial, which indeed ships water aaaalllllll the way from Iceland, is 20 percent owned by Anheuser-Busch, which is why you’ll find this fancy wet stuff not only at luxury lodgings, but also at such swanky spots as SeaWorld (owned by Busch).

And here’s a little excerpt from this Aug. 13, 2007, Business Week article by Ben Elgin. The headline is: “How ‘Green’ Is That Water? A close look at one company’s claims of “carbon neutrality” points to problems for the industry”:

“Icelandic can point to a carbon-neutral certification it obtained from a paid consulting firm, but BusinessWeek’s examination of Icelandic’s environmental reports reveals that the company has not zeroed out all of its emissions.”

After citing specific examples, the article then goes on to say, “More broadly, the reports indicate just how difficult it would be for the bottled water industry, which has soared to $11 billion in U.S. sales, to address consumer anxiety about its role in global warming.”

Like I said and like you’ve no doubt heard from a wellspring of sources, no matter how you pour it, bottled water is not “environmentally sensitive.” If you agree, you can let LXR know by emailing Now, let me get back to my tall, cool glass o’ tap. Ahhhhhhhh…

Oh, in case you’re curious, here are LXR properties offering Icelandic Glacial bottled water: The London West Hollywood and the Carmel Valley Ranch, both in California; The Peaks Resort & Golden Door Spa in Telluride, Colo.; The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa in Carefree, Ariz.; South Seas Island Resort in Captiva Island, Fla.; the Inns of Sanibel in Sanibel, Fla; Naples Grande Beach Resort and Edgewater Beach Hotel, both in Naples, Fla.; Fort Lauderdale Grande Hotel & Yacht Club, Bahia Mar Beach Resort & Yachting Center and Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Resort & Spa, all in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida; Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.; Miami Beach Resort in Florida; Casa Marina Resort & Beach Club and The Reach Resort both in Key West, Fla.; Key Largo Grande, A Hilton Resort, in Florida; The Saratoga Hilton in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and The London NYC in New York City.

Help Caitlin help Mali

July 10, 2008

There’s an important update to this “Where they Went” I wrote for the Boston Globe. It was published Dec. 30, 2007, just before I started this blog, so I’m going to share Caitlin’s amazing story now. Below it is information on how every day until Aug. 4, 2008, you can help her nonprofit agency win a $100,000 award to continue its work to bring health care to the slums of Mali. Please spread the word if you’re so inclined!

WHO: Caitlin Cohen, 22, of Providence, Rhode Island

WHERE: West Africa.

WHEN: June 2006 to August 2007 (and she’s been back since)

WHY: “I really fell in love with Mali when I went 2 1/2 years ago to do research on AIDS with the Global Alliance to Immunize Against AIDS,” Cohen said. That group was founded by a professor at Brown University, where Cohen is getting (just got!) a degree in international development studies and will attend medical school. “I went back to start the Mali Health Organizing Project  with two other students.” She also visited other African countries and lived in Rwanda for four months.

Caitlin Cohen in Mali

Caitlin Cohen on child vaccination day, with Lindsay Ryan, co-founder of Mali Health Organizing Project

OPTIMISM AND OPENNESS: “The people are dirt poor, but so energetic and lively and optimistic,” she said. “They have a national philosophy of hospitality, and that openness was compelling. The impact of health issues and the child mortality rate is really depressing, but they’re very supportive of each other. They’re very practical and they seek their own social solutions, like sharing of wealth.”

NATIVE TONGUE: In Mali, Cohen lived in Sikoroni, an impoverished area outside of the capital of Bamako. “Most of the official business in Mali is in French, but in my town nobody spoke French, only Bambara,” she said. “It’s fun and it gains you so much credibility instantaneously.” She learned the dialect through usage and a Peace Corps manual.

Sali Diarra (left) and Caitlin Cohen. Sali moved to Mali from Burkina Faso and was the host-sister for Caitlin in Mali.

Sali Diarra (left) and Caitlin Cohen. Sali moved to Mali from Burkina Faso and was the host-sister for Caitlin in Mali.

MALI TIME: Getting a nonprofit off the ground was challenging, she said. “The time thing is very, very different. It’s hard going from an Ivy League environment, when your days are planned in five- minute increments to waiting two weeks for a document to arrive.” They formed their public health group using a community committee that involves locals. “We have a full-time Malian director and had three volunteers this summer from US colleges.”

ACROSS BORDERS: While in Mali, Cohen traveled to Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, and Benin. “They’re so different; it’s incredible. Some depends on whether they’re French vs. English. In Ghana the weather is nice, and it’s so beautiful. Togo is very French. Benin is a small, long country, and people live in stilted villages. It was the origin of voodoo and a major place of the slave trade.” She has applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to study there. Cohen was in Burkina Faso when civil unrest broke out. “It was a small skirmish, but there was machine-gun firing two blocks from where I was staying.”

Allison Huggins (left) and Caitlin Cohen at Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Allison Huggins (left) and Caitlin Cohen at Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

TO RWANDA: Not wanting her experience to be based on West Africa only, Cohen visited Rwanda, where she worked with WE-ACT, or  Women’s Equity in Access to Care and Treatment, which mostly helps those who are HIV- positive from genocide-related rape. “The people are very vivacious and the southwest part of the country is beautiful,” she said. She visited the Democratic Republic of Congo with a friend, where they hiked up Nyiragongo volcano. “The intense militarization there was oppression, just the sheer number of guns.”

PARENTS ON BOARD: Cohen grew up in Westminster Station, Vt., where her parents, both artists, still live. “The first time I went to Africa they were very concerned, but once they learned I was capable of taking care of myself, they felt better. Now my father helps with the NGO. He’s our logistics coordinator.”




Caitlin has been named by FOX’s Teen Choice Awards and Do Something Inc as one of the top nine youth activists in the US! Online voting until Aug. 4, 2008, will determine if she wins $100,000 to build a health system in the slums of Mali. One in four children dies before his or her fifth birthday and 93 percent of urban Malians live in slums.

 1) VOTE NOW AND EVERY DAY UNTIL AUGUST 4 by visiting You get one vote per email address per day, you must enter a birthday between 1989 and 1995 for your vote to count. (That leaves out yours truly!)


3) BECOME A G.O.T.V. TEAM CAPTAIN: Email for a  kit on how to get out the vote! The top five captains will receive prizes, such as VIP tickets to the celeb-filled Teen Choice pre-party, as well as Malian jewelry, music, and fabric.

 Go, Caitlin, Go!!!