London’s best bars

London has long been on my list of places to visit. I’m fascinated by British history and would love to see the Tower of London. But I’m also a traveler that seeks out experiences that allow me to immerse myself in a place, to really experience what it’s like to live there–not just travel there. And those experiences often unfold in bars. To find the best bars in London, a traveler need look no farther than Late Night London for the best bars, clubs, and restaurants in the big city on the Thames.

After browsing the site, here are a couple of places I’d love to check out should I make it to London:

The Booking Office, with its soaring ceilings, brickwork, and lovely wood detailing remind me of an old library–sometimes it’s fun to drink in places where you feel you shouldn’t. The inviting sofas look like a great place to kick back after a long day of walking London’s streets.

Happiness Forgets, by contrast, is a tiny basement with terrible lighting and dark wood finishes, but that seems cozy, perhaps a great place to snuggle in a booth with friends after a cold, foggy London day. Plus I hear they have great cocktails.

What bars do you recommend for an authentic London experience?

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Tips for starting your freelance business

Starting out as a freelancer is tough. There are tons of challenges and ups and downs on the road to freelance business success. In starting out, I recommend the following tips:

  • Hire a CPA who will help make sure you are documenting expenses and income correctly
  • Get active in social media
  • Consider hiring an outside firm for promotional marketing services. This is a great service to outsource to an expert company, who can ensure you’re reaching appropriate markets in the most effective manner possible.
  • Make a killer website
  • Shake as many hands as you can at social events and promote your work
  • Print business cards
  • Make an email signature with your business name and information

As a seasoned freelancer who was once a newbie, I can tell you it takes many months–and sometimes years–of hard work and persistence to get to the point where you are able to live comfortably and feel secure as a freelancer. It’s not impossible, but you absolutely can’t give up or slack off. Good luck!

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8 bizarre condo architecture inspirations

Most condominiums are predictable: right angles, traditional layouts. There’s usually not much of a surprise. But every now and then an architect is inspired to push the envelope and create a unique—sometimes bizarre—condo. Their influences are equally strange. Inspired by nature, human movement, and video games, here are eight of the world’s most bizarre condo architecture inspirations, many of which occupy international real estate.

1.       Jenga: The Beirut Terraces

Architects Herzog & de Meuron may or may not have been influenced by the classic kid’s game, but this Beirut tower certainly resembles a stack of Jenga blocks—with a few pieces removed. The slightly asymmetrical floor plates, heavy use of glass, and overhanging terraces add drama in this energy-efficient condo.

2.       Elephant: The Chang Building

This Bangkok landmark stands out in height and design among the traditional Thai homes it surrounds and pays homage to the animal Thais hold most sacred. The elephant stands at 335 feet high and includes a combination of offices, shopping, and luxury condos.

3.       Human body: Turning Torso Building

The distinctive twist in the marble-and-cube design of this Malmö, Sweden condo was apparently influenced by the Twisting Torso sculpture, featuring a human form in mid-turn. When the condo was built in 2005, it became the tallest building in Scandinavia.

4.       Cactus: Urban Cactus High Rise

This condo’s name resembles its inspiration source more than the building probably does. The Amsterdam building’s 98 prominent terraces swing outward, so each resident has access to sunshine and city views.

5.       Honeycomb: Marina City

These two high-rise condos absolutely clash with Chicago’s Gothic and Art Deco styles. The balconies and parking decks on the 65-story building resemble fish gills or honeycomb—neither of which looks very flattering on a condo. Regardless, residents have access to a river-level landing dock and soaring views of downtown Chicago.

6.       Dancing: The Dancing House

Designers Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunic built this Prague condo building to capture the motion of a dancing couple. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch; locals call it the “Drunk House,” which is probably more accurate.

7.       Video game: Tetris Apartments

This building’s designers wanted to guarantee you made the connection between their design and their inspiration. The cubes and clean lines of the Tetris Apartments appeal to more than just fans of the 1980s video game the building is modeled after.

8.       Rubik’s Cube: Cubic Houses

These Rotterdam creations are actually designed to resemble trees, but we think they look more like Rubik’s Cubes. Architect Piet Blom’s buildings combine both commercial and residential uses, with shops below and homes above.

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Best Shows to see in Las Vegas

No trip to Las Vegas is complete without seeing a show–or three. It’s easy to get to Las Vegas from anywhere in the US–and from anywhere in the world, really. If you’re considering a trip, be sure to check for both business and budget trip advice. Here are my picks for the best shows in Vegas:

Blue Man Group: Blue Man Group is absolutely fantastic. Part rock concert, part performance art, part comedy routine, the three-men Blue Man Group is a great bet for travelers of any age. Their ongoing show at Monte Carlo Resort and Casino is an easy pick for this list. If you don’t take my word for it, their ten-plus years of performing in Vegas should be an indication of their star power.

Cirque du Soleil Mystère: It’s tough to pick just one of Cirque du Soleil’s many shows as a favorite. The riveting performances are all worth the ticket prices, but Mystère might just earn top honors. The high-tech show is captivating from start to finish, and has been awarded “Best Production Show” by the Las Vegas Review Journal five times.

Absinthe: Cirque du Soleil’s grand stage is thrilling, but it’s also great to be close to the action. Absinthe is a similar performance of acrobatics and but performed in a smaller theater that makes everything that much more impressive. Comedy and some adult themes are mixed in, and the show has been Best New Show by Las Vegas Weekly.

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AmeriCorps NCCC: Cowpies in Cameron Parish

AmeriCorps NCCC

It was hard to imagine a home once stood on the empty concrete slab I stared at. The crumble of bricks, the remnants of tiles were the only reminders that lives once unfolded on this patch of earth surrounded by oak trees and knee-high grass. But I’d become immune to this scene; I’d seen enough destruction in the last few months that I wasn’t fazed anymore. I’d seen homes sagging like wet cardboard, entire houses tossed into swamps, houses where people had drowned in their attics in floods.

Fresh off two months of building homes in Katrina-damaged New Orleans, my eleven AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team mates and I were well-equipped to handle the destruction of Cameron Parish. Hurricane Rita, which came ashore just a month after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, flattened this place as if it were all made out of Legos. Since then, groups of church volunteers and college spring breakers and AmeriCorps teams have come to rebuild.

Read the rest of the story on The Voluntary Traveler website.

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A Louisiana Life: Shelby Stanga

Shelby Stanga might be a television personality, but you won’t find him living in luxury. The swamp logger prefers to sleep in a sleeping bag and hammock next to a boat launch on the Tangipahoa River.

Stanga has recently become a bit of a star thanks to the History Channel’s show Ax Men, which features him and four other logging companies around the country.

Stanga, as the show chronicles, pulls ancient sinker logs out of the Bedico Swamp in Tangipahoa Parish. Between 1850 and 1944, the swamp around Tangipahoa River and its creeks and bayous was milled extensively. The old-growth trees, most of which are cypress, were felled and floated down the creek to Lake Pontchartrain and used in home construction in New Orleans. Some of the logs sunk, and they’ve been sitting in the mud ever since — some for more than 100 years. The trees range in age from 2,000 years old to 5,000 years old.

Read the rest of the story online at Louisiana Life.


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People of the Mounds: Exploring Ancient Cultures

My first impression of the massive ancient earthworks at Poverty Point is not a good one.

I’m driving on Highway 577 east of Epps in Northeast Louisiana and don’t realize I’ve just driven past the site’s six curved ridges until I look at a diagram later. The highway plows right through the rings, but they’ve been so worn down by farming and natural erosion through the millennia that what must once have been an impressive sight now (to the untrained eye, anyway) appears to be little more than an empty field.

But when I get a chance to see the rings and the mounds up close and learn about their construction, I quickly change my mind.

Read the rest of the story online at Louisiana Life.

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Eight Reasons to Stop Eating Fast Food Right Now

It’s become fashionable to hate on fast food, and for the most part we’ve moved well beyond thinking it’s anything but a junk-laden comfort drug. But just in case, here are eight reasons to stop eating fast food that you may not already know – just in time for your New Year’s resolutions to kick in. You are making New Year’s resolutions, aren’t you?

Click here to read the rest of the story at Matador Life.

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Seattle sidetrip: Hiking in North Cascades National Park

I HEAR THEM as soon as I get out of the car. Waterfalls. Across the valley are 7000ft saw-toothed mountains, flecked with melting glaciers. The roar of those long streams of meltwater carries for miles.

After an hour of dodging potholes on a partially unimproved Forest Service road, I’m damn happy to be standing up straight, about to get my pack on my back and get up into the mountains.

Read the rest of the story online at Matador Trips.

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After the spill

National Geographic has dedicated most of their October issue to a special report on the Gulf oil disaster.

It’s become apparent to me, after reading these articles, that the spill is about so much more than just oiled pelicans and ruined marshes. It’s about the massive amounts of chemical dispersants used that, despite EPA approval, are turning out to have disastrous effects on the Gulf–worse than the oil itself.  It’s about the complete unpreparedness of BP, whose spill response plan was outdated and irrelevant. (Entire pages had been copied and pasted from plans for the Arctic, which did not apply to the Gulf.)

It’s about an entire nation beating up on Louisiana. A nation whose thirst for oil means tearing up the wetlands to make room for ships and drilling platforms and pipeline.  A nation whose hunger for cheap food means chemical fertilizers washing off Midwestern farms end up floating down the Mississippi River and causing an enormous oxygen-depleted dead zone where no fish survive. A nation whose inexplicable desire to continue eating fish caught from the Gulf threatens these species very existence.

A nation that seems unwilling to connect these actions with south Louisiana’s increasing vulnerability to hurricanes.

It is all connected. We are all connected.

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