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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

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Disney gives sneak peek of new Hawaii resort

Disney Hawaii
AP – This undated photo provided by Disney Enterprises, Inc. shows Construction on Aulani, a Disney Resort …

KAPOLEI, Hawaii – More than 80 years after Mickey Mouse piloted "Steamboat Willie" and whistled his way into the hearts of children across the world, he has finally reached the shores of Hawaii.

The Walt Disney Co. on Friday gave a peek of its sprawling, beachside Hawaiian resort that is under construction and scheduled to open next year.

"Aulani" is Disney's first major standalone resort away from a theme park and could serve as a model for future projects as the company diversifies and expands its vacation offerings.

"This is a very special project for us," said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "It's unlike anything that Disney has done before; at the same time, it's very like many of the things we do."

Aulani will have 359 hotel rooms, 481 time-share units, restaurants, a convention center, a 15,000-square-foot spa and a massive water play area that includes a volcano tube slide and snorkel lagoon.

It sits on 21 acres on Oahu's Leeward Coast in the Ko Olina development, known for its white sand lagoons, scenic golf course and colorful sunsets. Ko Olina is about an hour west of Waikiki, where most of the hotels and tourists are.

Jim Lewis, president of Disney's time-share component, said Hawaii makes "perfect sense" with its rich culture, traditions, warm greetings, family values, friendships and storytelling.

"Those are also terms synonymous with Disney," he said. "And by the way, Hawaii also happens to be one of the most popular vacation destinations on the planet, and that's the business that we're in."

Most of the resort is currently a jungle of concrete, steel, wires and pipes with no Mickey and Minnie in sight. Aulani is scheduled to open Aug. 29, 2011, with hotel reservations to begin next month. Time-share sales started three weeks ago.

With the construction phase alone costing more than $600 million, Aulani represents a huge investment for Disney amid a sharp tourism downturn.

Staggs, who previously served as Disney's chief financial officer, wouldn't comment on the final cost.

"Are we nervous about this investment right now given this economy? The answer is we really aren't," he said. "We really do have a fundamental belief in this location and Hawaii in general."

Staggs called the project "a tremendous opportunity," giving Disney a permanent presence in the islands. He wouldn't say what other areas Disney was considering because "right now, our focus is right here and making sure we get this right."

According to an economic impact study commissioned by Disney, Aulani is expected to generate 4,800 jobs during construction. When completed, 2,400 jobs will be created, with about half working at the resort. More than $271 million annually in economic activity will be generated.

The largest units at Aulani are 3-bedroom "Grand Villas" — 2,300-square-foot timeshare units that are larger than most Hawaii homes, sleep 12 and have sweeping views of the Pacific.

All the hotel and timeshare units have more of a traditional Hawaiian flair with touches of Disney that generally are subtle — other than the surfer Mickey lamp in each room.

David Uchiyama, of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said Disney's arrrival is a "validator" of the Aloha state as a family destination. He was impressed by Disney's efforts in trying to connect with Hawaiian culture.

"(Others) usually lay out a structure, put pictures up and put a canoe here. These guys went way beyond that," Uchiyama said. "The extent that they took to connect with the host culture should be commended."

While this may be Disney's first big push into Hawaii, the company has had a long and growing relationship with Hawaii. One of the most notable is the animated film "Lilo & Stitch," the centerpiece of a $1.7 million marketing deal between Hawaii and Disney.

Other projects have included the 2001 film "Pearl Harbor" and ABC's castaway drama "Lost," which filmed here for six seasons. ABC is owned by Disney. In addition, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" began shooting here this summer.

"We couldn't find a more perfect place in putting a resort like this," Staggs said.



The World's 18 Strangest Bathrooms


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Top 10 Spots Every Kid Should See

1. Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, New York City

Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, New York City is a must for any visit to the Big Apple, and combining the trip with a stop at neighboring Ellis Island packs the iconic image with new meaning. A top attraction for kids is the carefully restored Main Building’s computerized Passenger Record, which lets visitors trace loved ones’ lineage as far back as 1892 (for free). Map out the family tree before circling back to Liberty Island for an up-close-and-personal look at the country’s most famous statue.

Here are top ten best spots that every kid should see. From iconic emblems to engineering marvels, and natural wonders to theme park fantasy lands, these attractions for kids promise to spark the imaginations of young dreamers.

2. Fenway Park Baseball Game, Boston

Boston is home to a handful of must-see historic sites, but there’s none quite as kid-friendly as the oldest operating ballpark in the country — legendary Fenway Park. Diehard fans and curious spectators alike fill the ballpark every game to root for the home team, known in Boston as “The Sawx,” and the intense energy that fills the park makes this one attraction for kids that no youngster will soon forget.

3. Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska

For the best views of Alaska’s frozen wonders, take the youngsters to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve where glaciers cover over a quarter of the 3.3-million-acre park, located about 50 miles northwest of Juneau. Sadly, Glacier Bay is one attraction for kids that might not be the same for future generations. Though glacier melting here is not directly linked to global warming, the frosty namesakes of Glacier Bay have steadily retreated over the past 200 years. Today, there’s still plenty to see and do, but note that the only way to reach the park is by cruise or “flightseeing” tours, so odds are you’ll visit with a cruise ship or tour company.

4. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Spanning 277 miles and plunging to depths of close to a mile, the Grand Canyon rightfully earns its spot as one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. It’s also a spot every kid should see, thanks to abundant wildlife remnants of thousands of years of human settlement, and fascinating geological features. The park offers two types of Junior Ranger badges for children ages 4 and up, with additional programs in the summer months to spark kids’ interest in hiking and nature.

5. Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral

The concept of man in space has long captivated the inner child in us all, and as we plow forward into the new millennium, one fantastic chapter in the history of space aviation is readying to close. Regardless of whether your visit coincides with one of these historic launches, the Visitor Complex offers plenty of attractions for kids that entertain and educate in their own right, including a shuttle launch simulator, astronaut encounters, behind-the-scenes tours, and cool hands-on exhibits.

6. San Diego Zoo, San Diego

Frank the gorilla, Otis the hippo, Orbit the koala — these are just a few of the new friends your kids will meet on a visit to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, home to 4,000 rare and endangered animals, including six resident pandas and the largest colony of koalas outside of Australia. Large natural-looking enclosures and huge glass-viewing areas allow kids to get close-up views of the animals. Top attractions for kids include watching polar bears swim at the Polar Rim exhibit; meeting the zoo’s new panda cub, named Yun Zi, at the Giant Panda Research Station; or experiencing an “eye-to-nostril encounter” with massive hippos through the underwater-viewing window in the Lost Forest.

7. The Smithsonian, Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and its National Zoo (all but two are located in the D.C. area) are open to the public and boast a collection of scientific, historic, and cultural artifacts that is downright dizzying — 137 million specimens, to be exact. It would take eons to tour every nook and cranny, so choose a few attractions for kids that are primed for sparking even the littlest travelers’ imaginations.

8. Walt Disney World, Orlando

There’s something simply magical about visiting Walt Disney World as a kid. For all its touristy hoopla, the four-park resort captures childlike merriment — via castles, roller coasters, and the requisite fairy-tale princesses — in a way that’s hard for anyone who doesn’t believe in the tooth fairy to grasp.

9. Willis Tower, Chicago

For kids, the bird’s-eye look at the country’s third-largest city is revelatory (especially when those ears start popping on the elevator ride up!), but even parents can’t help marveling from the 103rd floor of the office building as it sways slightly in the wind. On the clearest days, spot four states (Illinois and its neighbors, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan) from the 1,353-foot-high Skydeck, and zoom into local neighborhoods with the high-powered telescopes on hand.

10. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park has long made the list of spots every kid should see — the region’s stunning natural landscapes wowed the earliest Western visitors enough to designate it the country’s first national park in 1872. A highlight of a visit here then and now is surely Old Faithful, the mind-blowing 130-foot geyser that erupts about every 75 minutes. The diversity of the park’s living creatures is equally as awe-inspiring, with 67 species of mammals and 322 species of birds, including iconic American animals like bison and bald eagles, as well as elk, wolves, and falcons. The park holds plenty of outdoor fun and attractions for kids of all ages, from hiking to camping to horseback riding.


Hidden Hotel Wall Art: The Secret’s Lurking in Your Hotel Room

by Shabana

If you thought all hotel room art was singularly bland and unimpressive, you might want to check what’s behind that cheesy countryside painting on the wall next time you’re holed up in your hotel room. You just might discover a hidden treasure. As this video shows, enterprising artists are leaving mementos of their talents behind wall hangings in hotel rooms across the world.

Wall hangings and pictures in hotel rooms are normally affixed with a supposedly fool proof mechanism that ensures the pictures don’t leave when the guests do. That’s not stopping these artists, however. On walls – above the head boards, behind the toilet cistern, behind wall paintings and shower mirrors, even beneath the bed – no inch of hotel room space is spared the artistic talents of these modern impresarios. Artwork varies from pencil sketches of nude women, Van Gogh style sunflowers, abstract forms, and everything in between.

Hidden Hotel Wall Art

The movement is supposedly the brainchild of Queens of the Stone Age lead musician Josh Homme, who calls each hidden art piece “a toy surprise.” Josh says the idea originated at a small arts festival in Joshua Tree where local musicians would “do” people’s rooms. The inspiration for Josh comes from all the hotel rooms the band stays in when they are on tour, and the intensity of the art depends on their duration they spend in each room.

You Want These Tron Legacy Sneakers

tron-legacy-shoes-video-small.jpgLast night at Comic-Con, Dixon and I attended a party for Tron Legacy that was intended to evoke a futuristic club (and would have succeeded, if not for all the Myspace signage). The best part wasn’t the Daft Punk music or the face-painted models. The best part was the shoes.

Behind glass, Disney showed off much of the Tron merch that will be hitting stores this holiday season, and that wonderment we felt upon seeing the first trailer (we’re not going to touch on the puzzlement we may have felt while watching Young Jeff Bridges plumb the uncanny valley in the second trailer) was nothing compared to the lust these light-up shoes evoked in us. Give some out as free swag, Disney! At least then the San Diego pedi-cabs wouldn’t try to run us over at night.

5 Ancient Egyptian Inventions We Still Use Today


Photo: Archer10

A country that is rich in history, a land that has known great prosperity and despair, a world that is beautiful and full of life yet can be just as raw and difficult to survive in. Egypt is a place that holds the roots of humankind and secrets still undiscovered. Many of the objects we use every day and the use of certain everyday objects originated in Egypt. Objects such as the toothbrush, toothpaste, locks and keys, makeup, combs, wigs, deodorant and scissors. Makeup was used not for beauty but for skin-care; it was mainly used to protect people's skin from the sun's harmful rays. Let's take a look at just five of those objects:

1. The Condom
Linen Sheath Condom

Photo: viaCherry

Did you know that even the idea of the condom originated in Egypt? It is said that as far back as 1000 BC, Egyptians used a linen sheath during
intercourse for protection against diseases among other things! Amazing
you say? Indeed!

2. High-heel shoes

Photo: Ed Yourdon

Ah yes, high-heel shoes. They say diamonds are a girl's best friend but in reality most of us have a much larger shoe collection (especially heels) than a collection of diamonds to wear. Let's face it, women (and men) LOVE heels! What is really cool about this sexy, sensual and yet sophisticated style of shoes is that they too originated from good ol' Egypt! Imagine as far back as 3,500 B.C., when it is said these type of shoes were being worn by the higher classes. The lower classes who were able to wear them definitely saw it as a privilege considering most of them could not afford to wear such works of art. However, I'm sure that the heels in those days were pretty uncomfortable compared to our modern day versions. If the lower class people's feet could have talked they probably would have thanked them!

3. Paper


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Yes, you guessed it! Paper is believed to have been invented by the ancient Egyptians around 4,000 B.C., although the name was actually Papyrus. It was the first substance used to write on similar to the paper we use today. The Egyptians would take a woven mat of reeds and pound them together until it created a thin yet stiff sheet. The next invention couldn't have been thought of unless Papyrus was invented first...

4. The Pen

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

We're sure everyone has heard the saying, "The pen is mightier than the sword", right? Well this pen is certainly mighty! It has survived through ages of humanity and is still in great shape! (Wish we could all say that for ourselves, eh?). Anyway, without Papyrus, these babies wouldn't have been needed. The people of ancient Egypt could no longer use things such as bones, metal stick or sharp rocks to write on the sheet of Papyrus so they had to invent something more useful that wouldn't break through; thus the almighty pen! Not only does this picture show you their version of the pen but these objects contained in the original pencil cases too!

5. The Water Clock


Photo: Wikipedia Commons

This list is incredible, I know; however it must come to an end. The last everyday object to originate from ancient Egypt listed here is the water clock. Never heard of that? Now you have. And guess what? Water clocks are still used to this day! They are more commonly used for decoration and for others to admire these works of art. However, the invention they preceded, the clock itself, is of course still used to tell time. Interestingly enough, it was hard to find a picture of an ancient Egyptian water clock, so we'll have to make do with this picture is of an ancient water clock in Athens, Greece. In this particular photo, the water would flow into another bowl, thus allowing people to time themselves.

All in all, the Egyptians were a clever group of people. If the ancient civilization were ro still live on today, they would be shocked to see how far many of their inventions have gone and how modernized they have become.

Attribution-No Derivative Works

Almost invisible mirrored tree house built in Sweden

mirrored treehouse sweden photo exterior

They said it couldn't be done. When we first wrote about the almost invisible tree house to be built in Sweden by Tham & Videgard, 899 commenters thought it was computer-generated eye candy, impossible to build, and death for birds.

But the architects built it, one of six units in a "Treehotel," which recently opened 40 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Sweden.

mirrored treehouse sweden photo reflecting

The four-meter glass cube looks as spectacular in reality as it did in the rendering. Kent Lindvall, co-owner of the TreeHotel, has been quoted as saying:

Everything will reflect in this -- the trees, the birds, the clouds, the sun, everything. So it should be invisible nearly in the forest.
mirrored treehouse sweden photo closeup

And what about the birds? According to Designboom, Lindvall says that a special film that is visible to birds will be applied to the glass.

mirrored treehouse sweden photo interior

The units are constructed from sustainably harvested wood and have electric radiant floor heating and "a state-of-the-art, eco-friendly, incineration toilet"

(Although I've owned an incinerating toilet, and it wasn't that eco-friendly. It used a lot of electricity and created noise and some smells. But perhaps they've improved.)

But other than that minor quibble, this appears to be a truly "eco" resort. The owners say in Designboom:

"This is untouched forest, and we want to maintain it the same way. We decided, for example, to not offer snowmobile safari which is very common up here," says Selberg. Instead, wilderness walks will be offered.

Where do I sign up?

All photos courtesy of Tham & Videgard.