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Daily Archives: February 12, 2020
Posted: February 12, 2020 at 9:46 am
Basking in the sunshine on a private island in the Bahamas and relaxing in floating cabanas amidst the crystalline waters... sounds like a holiday for millionaires.
However, thanks to Royal Caribbean us mere mortals can get exactly the same experience.
That's because the cruise line has just opened a swanky new beach club on its $250 million private island (approximately 192million), Perfect Day at CocoCay.
The exclusive club can be booked by passengers on sailings to Perfect Day, and offers lavish floating cabanas with slides leading directly into the ocean.
There are 20 floating cabanas in total, each one offering the slide, an overwater hammock, its own dining area, a freshwater shower, a wet bar and of course, heaps of incredible ocean views.
Basically, everything you could want for an absolutely dreamy day out.
But that's not all that Coco Beach Club has to offer. Also on the cards are 10 luxurious beach cabanas, each also offering incredible ocean views and top notch service.
Alternatively, you can always make do with the incredible oceanfront infinity pool which boasts in-pool loungers and poolside service.
Getting peckish? There's plenty of gourmet dining to be had at the restaurant, and of course if you fancy a tipple there's an exclusive bar.
For those who want to stretch their legs and do some exploring, there's the thrilling water park with 13 slides including the 135-foot-tall Daredevil's Peak, Splashaway Bay with heaps of water games and beachfront sports, and even the Caribbean's largest freshwater pool.
No wonder it's tipped to be one of the best private islands owned by cruise lines, even though it only just opened back in 2019.
At the moment you can't spend the night on the island, but it does make for a seriously glamorous day out on top of an already exciting sun-soaked itinerary.
Posted: at 9:46 am
From above, Kaashidhoo, a coral island southwest of India and Sri Lanka, looks like a yin-yang symboltwo curves, one dark and one light, fitting into each other like kidney beans. In this case, the dark half is a tropical forest, including plenty of coconut trees, and the light half is the brilliant turquoise of a lagoon.
Kaashidhoo is one of the largest of the 1,192 islands that make up the Maldives archipelago, but unlike many other islands, it does not teem with sunbathing Europeans. Its broad dirt roads are often deserted, flanked by pink Maldivian roses, mango-orange impatiens, and papaya and banana plants. The main occupation of the islanders is cultivating coconut and other tropical produce that can be sold in Mal, the Maldivian capital.
But lately, the local economy has been thrown out of balance. Crater-like holes have begun to appear across the island, some filled with dry leaves and others left as barren pits. These bald patches are the places where mature coconut trees used to stand tall. In the last year, Kaashidhoo farmers have sold hundreds of trees to new luxury resorts on nearby artificial islands.
While some locals are grateful for the newfound income$20 to $100 for each treeothers worry that beach erosion has intensified since the trees started getting uprooted. They see this as a fragile ecosystem threatened by the proliferation of luxury resorts. Its a huge issue, says Ibrahim Naeem, Director General of the Maldives Environmental Protection Agency. Importing coconut palm trees is prohibited in the Maldives, so they have to rely on residential islands.
There are already 144 three- to five-star resorts in different parts of the Maldives, and the national tourism ministry has leased 115 uninhabited islands and lagoons to private investors, for the sole purpose of tourism. Many resorts are being built on artificial islands, which are constructed with large machines that reclaim land by sucking sand from the bottom of lagoons.
These new islands have been coming up from nothing, Naeem says. Once these islands reclamation work is completed, the developers look for greenery. The man-made patches of land are typically decorated with coconut palm trees and other coastal vegetation, which are transported from over a dozen local islands, including Kaashidhoo.
Since last year, several locals and activists have taken to social media with the hashtag #mvtreegrab, to express their anger against what they call ecocide. They say it is impacting the resilience of residential islands. Jeelan Jameel, a Kaashidhoo resident, says that since contractors began uprooting trees in 2018, many things around the island have changed. A wide road was constructed from the beach to the location from where coconut trees were being uprooted.
At first, many of them were happy with the extra income and some signs of development, Jameel says. Locals are generally pro-development, she says, because theyre reluctant to move to Mal to look for jobs. In fact, the Maldivian government promised to develop local tourism in Kaashidhoo that would provide them with better employment opportunities.
Yet as the year went by, and more coconut trees disappeared, Jameel says that many locals grew concerned. Coral islands like Kaashidhoo are highly dynamic, constantly adjusting and dancing to the idiosyncrasies of wind, tides, and relentless waves. Everyone has observed far more erosion around the beaches. Thats what we end up talking about most of the time, Jameel says. In response, she joined a non-governmental organization called Young Leaders, to spread awareness about environmental issues on the island.
Sonu Shivdasani, the CEO and founder of Soneva, a chain of luxury resorts in the Maldives, acknowledged in an email that the widespread uprooting of trees has caused problems, and that the practice should be better regulated. When this has happened, this has been detrimental to the local islands, writes Shivdasani. That said, the Maldives is a fast-developing nation, and there is a growing need for land that trees currently exist on, whether it is for more housing, schools, and other public buildings, or even airports. In such instances, it is better that the trees are transplanted.
Emboodhoo lagoon, close to Mal, is one of the sites where uprooted palm trees end up. A Thai company called Singha Estate is developing a multimillion-dollar resort project, Crossroads, that has been advertised as deeply sustainable and spans three artificial islands in the lagoon, in collaboration with Hilton and Hard Rock Hotels. Previously, this area was just a massive lagoon that fishermen and seasoned scuba divers visited regularly.
But today, after a few years of heavy construction and dredging work, the lagoon is home to artificial islands and their brand-new villas, interspersed with plenty of imported greenery. It has become private property that locals are strongly discouraged from visiting. (The developers of Crossroads did not respond to requests for comment.)
If the resort developers had planned ahead, nurseries could have been set up to grow coconut trees and other vegetation, says Ibrahim Mohamed, deputy director-general of the Environmental Protection Agency. But they cant wait for four to five years for the trees to grow and want to open their resorts within one year.
Maeed Zahir, advocacy director at the Mal-based NGO EcoCare, says that theres still not enough oversight from the government. The problem is, the trees are usually uprooted in the middle of the night with excavators, Zahir says. As a result, the environment ministry rarely finds out that their regulations are being violated. Zahir tipped off the E.P.A. of one such violation in Laamu Atoll, and the contractor was made to replant all the trees that were uprooted without a permit.
There is some tentative good news for environmentalists. This year, Ali Waheed, the minister of tourism, announced that resort development projects on 70 of the 115 lagoons or islands have been discontinued. Still, trees continue to be sold for the landscaping of upcoming resorts. In 2019, the national E.P.A. issued permits to 19 islands for vegetation removal, and 2,706 trees were sold to resort developers.
For now, the Maldives E.P.A. office in Mal continues to receive complaints from concerned citizens. They say that due to a lack of resources and manpower, they cant monitor all islands where trees are being uprooted, and they worry about the consequences. If this goes on, ultimately, the whole system will fail, says Ibrahim Naeem, the E.P.A. official. Tourists wont be as interested in traveling to the Maldives to see artificial islands. They can enjoy that in Dubai.
Originally posted here:
Posted: at 9:46 am
Orion was shining brightly in the dark sky above Anegada in the British Virgin Islands. But the constellation had some electric competition in the band of bright mast lights bobbing offshore like a bejeweled Orions belt, observed a new acquaintance who introduced himself as Spoons, the pilot of one of those yachts. He and his crew of five friends from the Boston area had paid $10,900 for eight days on a 45-foot catamaran to sail from island to island.
Chartering a boat is one way to island hop in the B.V.I. and a popular one. According to the tourism board, slightly more than half of all visitors to the British overseas territorys 60 islands and cays stay on yachts.
I, on the other hand, chose a far cheaper way to travel between islands. Using the B.V.I. ferry system, I spent $140 not including accommodations, which added about $700 to my expenses over a five-day trip, reaching four ports in bargain, connect-the-dots style.
In the Caribbean, several ferry companies offer opportunities for multi-island vacations, such as the LExpress des Iles, which cruises from Guadeloupe to Dominica, Martinique and St. Lucia. Others offer domestic service, including ferries from St. Vincent to some of the outlying Grenadines, and those that link the United States Virgin Islands.
But few Caribbean destinations offer a ferry system as extensive and convenient as the British Virgin Islands. The tourism board details schedules and links to seven islands on an interactive web page devoted to island hopping.
From my first childhood ferry trip to Mackinac Island, Mich., where cars are banned, I have had a romance with ships that fill in for roads, carry vital cargo and allow communities to thrive in isolated places. They are buses for commuters, trucks for suppliers and relatively cheap maritime thrills for travelers.
Yes, cruise ships can actually be a rock-bottom ticket to the Caribbean on my trip, I met a couple from South Carolina who spent only $600 each on an 11-day Norwegian cruise but as an independent traveler, I find those affordable ships too big, and small charters too expensive. The ferry system seemed just right to this backpacking Goldilocks.
Seeking a winter warm up and a budget tropical vacation, I went to the B.V.I. in January to test the convenience and cost of the ferry system, hitting the cruise hub of Tortola, the mountainous beauty of Virgin Gorda, and remote Anegada.
Often, the cheapest flights from the United States that arrive nearest the B.V.I. land in St. Thomas (in the United States Virgin Islands), which is where I caught the 8:30 a.m. Road Town Fast Ferry from downtown Charlotte Amalie to Road Town, the B.V.I. capital, 50 minutes away on the island of Tortola ($60 round trip; the United States dollar is the official currency of the B.V.I.).
A mix of day trippers, business commuters, yacht renters and one friendly couple from Tortola who helped me with my immigration form joined me on the windy trip aboard the 82-foot passenger ferry BVI Patriot. With four-foot waves and occasional sprinkles, I sat on the upper deck inside the cabin, which was both strangely ordinary two flat screens tuned to CNN delivered news of the Democratic presidential debates and a snowstorm in New York and wildly exotic as we passed leggy cactuses growing out of rock islets, forested hillsides of undeveloped islands and a few stands of barren mangroves, evidence of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which struck in 2017. (The damage inflicted by those hurricanes brought the hotel room inventory to about 1,500, down from 2,700.)
Two cruise ships in the harbor dwarfed the 149-passenger BVI Patriot when we arrived. After clearing immigration, I hired a taxi driver, Conrad Dodgy Lewis Dodgy doesnt describe my driving, he insisted to take me from the congested capital over the islands mountain spine to Cane Garden Bay, one of Tortolas most popular beaches, and back several hours later, in time for my late-afternoon ferry to Virgin Gorda for $50.
At Cane Garden Bay, lounge chairs and umbrellas colonized the sand in front of a series of restaurant terraces and beach bars, welcoming travelers from the cruise ships, arriving in open-air buses. On an overcast day, I walked the beach between sporadic downpours to the more than 400-year-old Callwood Rum Distillery where Matthew Callwood, a distiller, bartender, tour guide and member of the family that has owned the distillery since the 1800s, led me and two cruise passengers on a tour ($5) of the mostly outdoor distillery works, including a 19th-century sugar cane crusher originally powered by harnessed donkeys.
There used to be 28 distilleries on the island, and now theres just us, he said, pouring shots of Callwoods four rums, including white, spiced and the smoother aged version he recommended. Its good for sipping, or putting in your coffee in the morning.
I stashed a pint ($12) in my pack and moved on down the beach, watching divebombing pelicans on the water and free-ranging chickens on land. Beachfront restaurants teemed with day drinkers, but I followed Dodgys advice for lunch and went to Bananas Bar & Grill, a polished bistro where cabdrivers were stopping in for takeout chicken soup. I learned why. Inexpensive and delicious, my $9 bowl brimmed with root vegetables, spinach and large tender pieces of chicken, bones and all.
If I had had time, I would have enjoyed outlasting the cruise passengers and staying on Cane Garden Bay at a place like Myetts Garden Inn on the Beach, running $250 a night on Airbnb. But I had a ferry to catch.
Racing to make the late afternoon Speedys ferry to Virgin Gorda ($30 round trip), I was joined by a day-tripping set of cruise passengers, another American couple bound for a week at a luxury resort, uniformed schoolchildren and several returning islanders clutching bunches of stuffed shopping bags. One visitor leaned over the port railing, welcoming the warm wind in his face for the entire 30-minute passage toward Virgin Gorda, said to have been named Fat Virgin by Christopher Columbus for its pregnant profile.
You can tell a lot about an island by its ferry cargo. There were pallets of bottled water on the boat to Tortola. On Virgin Gorda, Speedys deckhands unloaded cases of Veuve Clicquot and Cakebread Cellars wines.
Virgin Gorda has long attracted the rich and famous. Taxi drivers pointed out Morgan Freemans former home and Richard Bransons two nearby islands. Recently reopened after the hurricanes forced substantial rebuilding, Rosewood Little Dix Bay has catered to the affluent since Laurance Rockefeller developed the resort in 1964.
Consequently, a solitary backpacker seemed an usual sight in Spanish Town, the main settlement on Virgin Gorda. I declined taxi offers in favor of a 15-minute walk to Fischers Cove Beach Hotel, where blossoms were tucked in conch shells and towels in my tidy and spacious room ($175 a night). Only when I stepped onto the flamingo-pink patio and looked up did I realize there used to be a second story above, where rebar now pierced the blue sky. The Flax family, owners of the hotel, are gradually rebuilding after the hurricanes.
Tropical foliage has sprung back on much of the mountainous island, home to a series of national parks, including Gorda Peak National Park, with its panoramic trail to 1,370 feet elevation. Staying overnight on Virgin Gorda offers a rare opportunity to visit its best-loved beauty spot the Baths National Park, protecting a dramatic stretch of shore where massive granite boulders as big as 40 feet in diameter cluster in the shallows before the cruise ship crowds arrive.
At 7 a.m. when the first blush of light began pinking the clouds, I started down the park path past cactuses and the occasional orchid to Devils Bay where a septuagenarian foursome was quietly skinny dipping. I waited out a 10-minute rain shower in a shorefront cave weathered by the action of the waves. The path continued over and between the Baths boulders, sometimes with the assistance of steps or rope holds bolted into the rocks, walling off calm, shallow, swim-inviting pools.
I saw evidence of other early birds at the Baths M + M 2020 seemed freshly written in the sand but I never saw them until I completed the roughly mile-long circuit and returned to the entrance at 8:30 a.m. where a line was already forming.
Tortola is the big city to us, Dawn Flax, one of the family members who runs Fischers Cove, told me when I checked in. We go there when we need to go to the bank or the lawyer.
A day later, I ran into her at the ferry terminal on Tortola, returning home after a banking run. It was an unintended stop, but when the Wednesday departure from Virgin Gorda to Anegada was canceled, I was forced to the B.V.I.s hub to catch Road Town Fast Ferrys 300-passenger Lady Caroline from Tortola to Anegada ($50 round trip).
Of the six of us scattered among 30 seats on the outside upper deck, five were returning islanders, quizzing two with roll-aboard luggage about their vacation abroad. Children scrambled up and down the stairs for vending machine snacks and teenage couples leaned into each other, sharing earbuds. But the high seas soon quelled conversation, abandoned to the rush of the wind, the rhythmic rise and fall of passing boats under sail and the shifting view of outlying islands.
Sandy and flat where its sibling islands are steep and rugged, Anegada the most northeastern island in the B.V.I., and the only coral island in the volcanic chain resolved into view like an overgrown sandbar during the one-hour crossing.
From the concrete ferry pier, I got the vaguest of directions to my hotel walk down the pier and take your first left which turned out to be accurate. By late afternoon, the outdoor, oceanfront bar at the Anegada Reef Hotel was packed, not solely with guests of the 10-room hotel (from $155 a night), but also with sailors from the many yachts moored in front of it.
Other than the pre-sunset rush for rum-based Painkiller cocktails, the nightly hotel barbecue featuring the islands renowned spiny lobster, and a D.J. blaring Love Shack from a bar at Potters by the Sea down the beach, Anegada is quiet.
You come to Anegada to swim and sleep under the sea grapes in the shade and wake up and swim and eat and drink and sleep again, explained an islander at the bar. No one will bother you.
I hoped not, especially when I rented a scooter the next morning for $50 a day from Michael Hastick, the co-owner of L&M rentals. He gave me, a scooter novice, a quick lesson in operating the vehicle and when I asked the speed limit, he smiled.
Theres only one cop on the island, he said, pointing to the empty street. Its Anegada, and this is rush hour.
Technically, the speed limit is 30 m.p.h. And the occasional traffic obstacles were goats. Michael marked up a small map indicating where I would see the islands flamingos (distantly, in an interior pond), its endangered Anegada iguanas (in conservation cages next to the police station) and its best beaches, especially Loblolly Bay on the north shore, home to beach bars for castaways (Flash of Beauty) and party people (Big Bamboo).
Despite an open sign, Flash of Beauty was deserted at 10 a.m. Conch shells lined sand paths through the dunes to the beach, strafed by surf despite the barrier of distant Horseshoe Reef, visible in a line of frothy waves. I plunged in and immediately saw conch shells and rainbow-colored fish schooling around coral heads, but with the strong current I decided that as much as I love solitude, it wasnt safe to swim alone. It was, however, completely safe to leave my cellphone, wallet and scooter keys, and walk for miles down the deserted beach, returning to find everything as I left it, Flash of Beauty still closed and no other visitors.
Chased by another downpour, I stopped at nearby Anegada Beach Club, home to intriguing palapa-roofed beachfront tents, a kite-surfing school and a poolside restaurant where I met Paula and Michelle Mau, a couple from Omaha who regularly visit the island.
Anegada is the end of the world, Michelle said. Theres no one here. Its magic.
The Maus spread some of that magic by inviting me, after just a five-minute chat, to join them on a private boat they had chartered to snorkel around the uninhabited east end of the island. We saw four-foot barracuda, green sea turtles and shy puffer fish. We froze in another pelting downpour and dried out in the sun. We cruised by 12-foot-high islands composed of conch shells that harvesters, dating back to the indigenous Arawak, cast off after taking the meat, creating pearly pink mounds where terns posed in profile. They wouldnt take a dime in return, though the four-hour trip cost more than $300.
Before leaving on the next days 8:30 a.m. ferry to Tortola and onward to St. Thomas, I walked the beach to Neptunes Treasure resort where the aroma of cinnamon rolls from Pams Kitchen served as an olfactory siren to sailors aboard the 50-some yachts tied up offshore.
The Caribbean is rarely a thrifty destination. Food can be expensive (I paid $40 for half a lobster at the Lobster Trap on Anegada). There were unexpected fees, including a B.V.I. environmental tax of $10 upon arrival and a $20 departure fee. My hotels would have been a better deal if split with a companion. I spent close to $1,000 on the trip.
But the compensation of taking the ferries went beyond financial. I traveled with commuting islanders of all ages, passed the time in terminal waiting rooms with women doing word search puzzles and joined them in bringing my own lunch aboard. These regular sailors knew to sit starboard to avoid the sun on the afternoon Anegada run and to move to the exit before docking to beat the disembarking crowds at Tortola.
Still, no one seemed to take this special means of transportation for granted. Like me, they tugged on sweaters, sat in the shade and watched the successive hues of blue streaming in and out of sight between water and sky.
Elaine Glusac is a frequent contributor to the Travel section.
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Posted: at 9:46 am
Without more than $50 billion to his name, Bloomberg would almost certainly be running a campaign like another late-entrant, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who hasnt been heard from since filing for the New Hampshire primary a couple of months ago.
Bloombergs political strategy has always been built on the belief that nothing succeeds like excess. If he wants it, he can buy it, and money is no object.
Its a free country, and Bloomberg can spend as much money as he likes on whatever suits his fancy. No one should try to stop him from doing it through campaign-finance laws or other rules. In the scheme of things, lavishing tens of millions on your own presidential campaign is probably worthier than lavishing it on private islands, antique car collections, or yachts.
But Bloomberg 2020 is still an affront to small-d democratic sensibilities, a tribute not to his superior political skills or messaging compared with the other candidates, but his access to a personal bank account that the rest of them lack.
The level of his spending is truly astonishingCroesus goes all in on Super Tuesday. Hes spent more than $300 million on various forms of advertising. By the end, hes going to make the profligate self-funder Tom Steyerwho managed to pointlessly buy himself onto the Democratic debate stage and won about 1.7 percent of the popular vote in Iowalook like a spendthrift. Hes promising to double his spending after the delayed, inconclusive Iowa caucuses results.
Bloomberg is running a presidential campaign that Curtis LeMay would love, carpet-bombing the airwaves every single day. Hes single-handedly changed the market for TV ads in many places in the country by soaking up so much TV time. He spent $10 million on a Super Bowl spot, or about half of what Joe Biden raised in the entire fourth quarter.
This is the Bloomberg way. He spent a quarter-of-a-billion dollars to become and stay New York mayor for three terms. He doled out $100 million on his last campaign alone, outspending his hapless rival, city comptroller William Thompson, by 14-1 and still barely eking out a victory. When it looked closer than expected, what did Bloomberg do? Dump money on even more last-minute radio and TV advertising, of course.
He was only eligible for a third term because he got a term-limit law changed, with the support of charities that he happened to make generous donations to. The brilliant historian Fred Siegel archly observed, The traditional politicians are bought by special interest groups, but Bloomberg buys special interest groups.
Hes replicating this approach in his presidential campaign. Many of his endorsers among mayors around the country just happen to represent cities that have enjoyed his largesse.
Whats wrong with all this, beyond the cynicism of thinking everything has a price tag? Maybe Bloomberg is right, that trying to go in and convince voters of your appeal at town hall events and meet-and-greets in places like Iowa and New Hampshire is for suckers. Certainly, all the candidates might wish they had spent less time in Iowa the past 12 months, given its caucus-night meltdown.
But there is much to be said for grassroots politics. It forces candidates to take account, up close and personal, of what their voters believe and want. As president, Abraham Lincoln devoted serious time to meeting with random people who showed up to see him, in what he called public-opinion baths. Lincoln believed these wearisome encounters served to renew in me a clearer and more vivid image of that great popular assemblage, out of which I sprang, and which at the end of two years I must return.
The candidate who does dozens upon dozens of these events must have the ability to inspire and impress, think on his feet, show endless patience and stamina. If hes not up for it, or is a pretender, he will inevitably be exposed. Surely one reason that Joe Biden had such a lackluster finish in Iowa is that he was tested in this crucible and founding wanting. Through its rigors, this kind of campaigning also produces, when a candidate truly finds a way to click, phenoms deeply bonded with their supporters like Barack Obama and Donald Trump (a semi-self-funder, but also a powerful grassroots candidate).
In comparison to everyone else out on the early-state hustings, Bloomberg is a Wizard of Oz candidate, shielded and inflated by his TV ads.
Another advantage of the traditional approach is that anyone can do it. Peter Buttigieg, the former major of a small Indiana town whom no one had heard of a year ago, finished at the top of the Iowa caucuses through sheer talent, tireless work and clever messaging. He didnt have to amass a personal fortune to make a venture in presidential politics, although hes been an adept fundraiser, exactly because hes connected with people.
All this said, perhaps Bloomberg will break all the rules and be the last man standing between Bernie Sanders and the cusp of the American presidency, in the form of a major party nomination. Then, Bloombergs spending might look to a lot of Democrats like a public service. There is also no denying that Bloomberg is a genuinely talented man, which is why his money hasnt been wasted like that of countless other self-funders and instead actually won him elections.
But this style of campaigning shouldnt be the norm. If Bloomberg succeeds, he will enrich many TV stations, consultants, pollsters and campaign workers, but impoverish our politics.
Posted: at 9:46 am
It feels like standing at the edge of the earth.
The Devils Bridge National Park is an ancient limestone peninsula on the Caribbean island Antiguas far east side, carved away by centuries upon centuries of tumultuous Atlantic waters. Each wave approaches the rocks, which form a natural-arch bridge, and within a split second sends a tower of white ocean spray soaring into the sky or shooting up via tiny geyser-like holes in the rock. With tremendous winds approaching from all sides, and sweeping vistas of tall grass jutting up from the jagged rocks, it can be a truly dramatic, almost extraterrestrial place to stand.
And yet, literally right next door to this national landmark is Hammock Cove Antigua, the newest entry in The Daily Beasts The New Room With a View series.
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When one thinks of an all-inclusive resort, the usual images are overrun family hotels with watered-down liquor, sub-par food, and repetitive activities. With Hammock Cove, hotelier Robert Barrett seeks to reinvent that image. The property feels exclusive, with only 42 villas along its protected waters, each with its own private plunge pool; uninterrupted and personalized service, thanks to round-the-clock ambassadors assigned to your villa; complimentary premium liquors and wine both in the room and throughout the resort; and luxury dining envisioned by a Michelin-trained chef (a romantic meal at the upscale Lighthouse restaurant is a must) and an ample wine list curated by a house sommelierall included.
Much of the resort pays tribute to the stone excavation site it was built on, as well as the island on which it resides. All colorsinside and out of your villaresemble the minerality of Hammock Coves land, and each rooms vaulted ceilings, soft white linens, and enormous rain-head showers evoke traditional Caribbean luxury. Local artists are featured throughout the hotel, most notably inside along a road underneath the main building leading to several of the villas.
The protected bay is shared with several other resorts straddling the shoreline and framing the dramatic cliffs overlooking the water, which has a gentle chop from being on the Atlantic side of an island. The majority of Hammock Coves villas overlook this bay and, while it may at times be noisy with the sounds of an adjacent family resorts beachfront, the wide-open waters provide coolly refreshing views from each rooms private patio.
And with such an all-inclusive experience, visitors may never want to leave Hammock Coves property. But Antiguaan up-and-comer compared to tourism giants like Jamaica and the Bahamasgives visitors plenty of reason to get out and explore.
Of course, theres the Devils Bridge. While Hammock Covewhich, full disclosure, brought this writer out to review the hotelis technically adjacent to the park its address is literally inside the park. Like many Caribbean islands, Antigua is still grappling with the brutal legacy of slavery and colonialism. Locals openly relay folktales and legends about families destroyed by enslavement, disease, or sugar profiteers.
The dramatic landmark itself is, in fact, a stark reminder of that past, its name being the result of urban legends about slaves being lured to the ancient formation by some devious power, ultimately meeting their demise by leaping off its rocky, wave-pounded edges.
But many of the islands landmarks are rife with the hope, pride, and sense of community Antiguans have for their land since its emancipation and governmental independence. The islands hilly terrain is dotted with churches, stuffed to the brim on Sundays, hymns radiating throughout the otherwise quiet streets. Old British fortsparticularly ones overlooking English Harbourare now lookouts to observe the islands natural beauty and learn about its people via various presentations.
The old gun battery at Shirley Heights is perhaps most famous, with its stunning westward views of the island and its role as host to Sunday evenings wildly popular parties featuring a massive steel drum band and throngs of people drinking rum punch and eating gigantic pork ribs or jerk chicken. And excursions to view the islands Caribbean sidewhich includes a hilly, lush rainforest and beautiful white-sand beaches like Turners Beachare a must.
But one could be forgiven for also spending as much time as humanly possible in your private villa at Hammock Cove.
Take it from this writer, hours can melt away ordering the included room servicerecommended: the burger with a house-selected beef blend, bleu cheese, and an onion jamto your private plunge pool while soaking, sunbathing, or lounging in your own hanging hammock chair. It would be understandable to get lost in the mesmerizing views, particularly when a squadron of brown pelicans methodically take turns dive-bombing into the bay to scoop up a fish, or fail and try over and over again.
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Posted: at 9:44 am
August 9, 2011, 11:46 PM
4 min read
Aug. 9, 2011 -- Ray Kurzweil, a prominent inventor and "futurist" who has long predicted that mind and machine will one day merge, has been making arrangements to talk to his dead father through the help of a computer.
"I will be able to talk to this re-creation," he explained. "Ultimately, it will be so realistic it will be like talking to my father."
Kurzweil's father, an orchestra conductor, has been gone for more than 40 years.
However, the 63-year-old inventor has been gathering boxes of letters, documents and photos in his Newton, Mass., home with the hopes of one day being able to create an avatar, or a virtual computer replica, of his late father. The avatar will be programmed to know everything about Kurzweil's father's past, and will think like his father used to, if all goes according to plan.
"You can certainly argue that, philosophically, that is not your father," Kurzweil said. "That is a replica, but I can actually make a strong case that it would be more like my father than my father would be, were he to live."
Said to look and sound like Woody Allen's nerdier younger brother, Kurzweil has been working on predicting the future for decades. At age 17, he was invited to appear on the CBS show "I've Got a Secret" to demonstrate how a computer program he invented could compose music.
Kurzweil went on to invent optical scanners, machines that read for the blind and synthesizers. Still inventing today, Kurzweil has developed a reputation for himself from just making predictions, mostly about how fast our technology is advancing.
While holding a smart phone he said, "This is a billion times more powerful than the computer I used as a student."
To Kurzweil, the implications of the advancement of smart phone technology are beyond epic. He believes it will one day help him talk to his dead father and eventually eliminate death all together.
"I think all human beings are and should be fearful [of death], but realizing that death is a real tragedy," he said.
Does the inventor think he can beat death? "I believe I can," he said. "It is not a certainty."
One example he gives of how technology can overcome death is by taking computers and putting them inside our bodies -- microscopic robots that can fight viruses from inside our blood stream.
Again, referring to the smart phone, Kurzweil explained, "this will become the size of blood cells and we will be able to put intelligence inside of our bodies and brains to keep ourselves healthier."
Kurzweil predicts this will become a reality within a few decades. To be sure he lives long enough to see it, the inventor exercises extreme measures to stay healthy -- taking 200 vitamins a day and undergoing monthly blood transfusions.
His eccentricities are the subject of the hit documentary, "Transcendant Man." It celebrates his role as a prophet of the Singularity movement, the idea that technological advancement is so fast that soon humans and computers will merge. However, some skeptics see a doomsday scenario where the computers become so smart they won't need or want humans anymore -- think "The Terminator."
"'The Terminator' is not an impossibility," Kurzweil said. "I think that symbolizes the downside of artificial intelligence ... but technology has a big downside in general. There is a bigger downside to not pursuing it."
As for bringing his own father back to life through a computer avatar, Kurzweil didn't seem to mind the lack of intimate human contact.
"Creating an avatar of this sort is one way of embodying that information in a way that human beings can interact with," he explained. "It is inherently human to transcend limitations."
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What used to be viewed by many as one of the least exciting areas of an organization is now one of the most dynamic places to work. Human resources is evolving into more than just hiring and firing and having a huge impact on the employee experience and the future of work. I have explored this in my recent book on Employee Experience. Here are just a few of the ways HR is evolving:
From hiring and firing to enabling, empowering, and creating experiences
It used to be that HR was just the place you went to get hired or fired, but those days are long gone. Today, HR is responsible for a wide range of employee activities, most of which center around enabling, engaging, and empowering employees. HR workers are the major players in creating employee experience, which works with an organization's culture and growth and ensures that employees feel valued and supported along every step of their workplace journey.
From the "police" of the organization to the coaches, mentors, and thought leaders
Instead of being the people within the organization who enforce the rules, HR representatives are now thought of as mentors and thought leaders. Employees used to be scared of interacting with HR employees for fear that they would get in trouble for doing something wrong, but today that mentality has shifted towards viewing HR employees as the people to go to with suggestions or feedback of how to improve employee experience and to gain insights into how to better your career.
From maintaining status quo to destroying status quo
HR was long thought of the department that kept the organization humming along and that was resistant to change. If you wanted to try something new, create a new program, or change your work schedule, it would likely get held up in HR. Now, however, HR is often responsible for obliterating the status quo to keep the organization moving forward. Instead of holding things back, HR is the driving force in building a cohesive work environment where employees are happy and growth can happen.
From not technologically advanced to relying heavily on technology
The new HR embraces technology to expand its role. Using new tools like big data and analytics, HR can better understand employees and make more strategic decisions, as opposed to the old role of using emotion and tradition to make decisions. Internal data is available on just about everything, from how employees are performing to how often they visit certain areas of the office. HR representatives use this data to find trends and create the best possible strategy and employee environment.
From not defining strategy to shaping and leading strategy
It used to be that HR just did as it was told and didn't have much impact in the overall strategy of the organization. Today, human resources employees help shape and lead strategy, especially as organizations realize the impact employee experience can have on growth and revenue. Fulfilled and happy employees play a huge role in the overall success of an organization, which means HR now helps shape and lead the overall strategy.
From no seat at the table to a key seat at the table
Today, HR is evolving into a more central role in the organization where it has a key seat at the decision-making table. Many C-level executives come from HR backgrounds and work directly with the department to make sure its needs are met. HR is more involved than ever with other departments and often has its hands in many baskets through the company.
From payroll, compensation, and benefits to employee experience
HR now does much more than just work through payroll and compensation. Instead of focusing on the basic needs of employees, it focuses on building a great experience where employees want to come to the office and do their best work. With a great corporate culture, employees show up to work for more than just the paycheck, which means HR also has to work on more than just payroll.
From cost center to profit-enabling center
In many cases, the change in HR's role within an organization is due to executives realize its profit-creating potential. The old HR was often considered to be a cost center, but by driving strategy and employee experience, the new HR provides the opportunity to create profits and growth. This has helped the HR department get a larger budget because executives can see that investing in HR leads to stronger employees, a better workplace experience, and often to higher profits
From a clearly defined workforce to a dynamic and changing workforce
The workforce is changing right alongside HR, and the department has to be ready to meet those changes. As the workforce changes, so too does HR's approach to employee experience. More employees are also working in HR to gain experience they can use in other areas, which means the department is constantly getting new points of view, which it can use to create a more cohesive work environment.
From focusing on employee inputs to focusing on employee outputs
As HR evolves, it is having more interaction with employees and playing a larger role in the day-to-day activities and responsibilities of workers. Instead of focusing on employee inputs and what it takes to get the job done, HR today is more focused on employee outputs and how it can encourage employees to do their best work possible.
From treating employees like "resources" to treating employees like water and air
Employees are now viewed as HR less as resources and more as vital parts of the organization that they can't live without. It used to be that without employees, HR wouldn't have anyone to hire or fire--employees were simply things HR needed to do its job. Now, employees are seen as more vital--they are what drives everything HR does, and they play a huge role in the department's success. What HR does now depends on what employees want and is tailored to their needs.
From performance appraisals to real-time recognition and feedback with employee check-ins
HR is now more involved in the everyday employee experience than ever before. Much of this comes from real-time employee feedback with regular check-ins instead of the old way of annual performance reviews. With more applicable feedback, HR hopes to create a dialogue with employees where they feel comfortable hearing ways to improve and are open to making suggestions of their own
From filling gaps in jobs to unlocking human potential
In many cases, HR is now focused on making sure employees get the professional development skills they need to better their careers. Instead of simply plugging employees into positions in the organization, HR works with people to find their best skills, unlock and develop talents that might be below the surface, and shape a position in the organization that meets their skills and interests.
From a "one size fits all" model across the organization to "one size breaks all" approach
The evolving HR department no longer applies a one-size-fits-all solution to the organization and instead uses a one-size-breaks-all approach. HR now realizes that each department and employee is different and that a different approach needs to be taken to meet individual needs. This is often implemented by spending time with individual employees and departments to find how HR can best support them and drive their strategies.
From siloed from lines of business to working closely to understand business needs
HR used to work in its own corner of the office without much interaction with other departments. The result was often a siloed organization filled with red tape if other departments ever had to collaborate with HR. As things evolve, HR has begun working closely with other departments to best meet their needs. There is often a lot of overlap between HR and other departments, and open communication and good working relationships make it easier to join together for great results.
From multi-year project design and roll-outs to fast design, implementation, and iteration
The new approach helps HR quickly design and implement new programs and ideas and stay ahead of workplace trends. Technology is changing things quickly, and HR no longer has the luxury to sit back and create perfectly formulated plans. Instead, the department must act quickly to put plans into action while they are still relevant. The result is an agile department that has to stay close to employee sentiment and trends to build an environment that reflects the current needs of the organization.
From human resource job titles to people, talent, and experience titles
Many companies have moved from traditional HR titles like Chief Human Resources Officer to Chief Experience Officer or Talent Manager. New titles show the expanded scope of HR and how it is involved in many more areas of employee experience.
Published on: Nov 21, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.
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What Does The Future Of Human Resources Look Like? | Inc.com
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Unique Forms of Continuity in Space by Umberto Boccioni. 1913. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Fascinated by new industry and thrilled by what laid ahead, the early 20th-century Futurists carved out a place in history. Growing out of Italy, these artists worked as painters, sculptors, graphic designers, musicians, architects, and industrial designers. Together, they helped shape a new, modern style of art that still has staying power today.
The Futurists were revolutionaries, members of an avant-garde movement that sought to free itself from the artistic norms of the past. Through frequent, well-laid-out manifestos, they were able to spread their ideas widely and enjoyed great success prior to World War I. This group firmly looked forward and couldnt get enough of what they saw. For the Futurists, the past was something to look down on. Airplanes and automobiles symbolized the speed they craved and the dynamism with which they saw the world.
Today, the Futurist movement is known for its embracing of speed, violence, and youth culture in an attempt to move culture forward. Though the movement is probably most widely associated with Umberto Boccionis sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, theres a lot more to explore.
Italian futurists Luigi Russolo, Carlo Carr, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini in front of Le Figaro, Paris, February 9, 1912 (Photo: Wikipedia)
Futurism was founded in Milan by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. He published his Manifesto of Futurism in 1909, first in the La gazzetta dellEmilia and then in Frances daily newspaper Le Figaro.
This initial manifesto laid out the Futurists disdain for the past, stating We want no part of it, the past, we the young and strong Futurists! In the text, its also clear that Marinetti wishes to reestablish Italy as a new cultural center. Italy, which was only unified in 1870, was still basking in the glory of the ancient Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance. For the Futurists, this wasnt enough.
In fact, Marinetti was through with the past, writing, We will free Italy from her innumerable museums which cover her like countless cemeteries. Futurists saw much more beauty in the great industrial discoveries of the 20th century than classical painting and sculpture. In the manifesto, they outright state that modern industrial inventions are much more appealing: We declarea new beauty, the beauty of speed. A racing motor caris more beautiful than theVictory of Samothrace.
The manifesto also promoted violence and the necessity of war, but interestingly did not discuss or outline any rules for the visual arts. That would come later, with the 1914 Technical Manifesto for Futurist Painting. It was just one of many manifestos that they would produce, as the Futurists wrote about all sorts of topics, from architecture and religion to clothing.
Surrounding Marinetti during this early stage was a core group of artists that would shape Futurism and, particularly, the visual arts. Composer Luigi Russolo, as well as painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carr, Giacomo Balla, and Gino Severini formed the original Futurists.
Dynamism of a Cyclist by Umberto Boccioni. 1913. (Photo: Wikipedia)
As the early manifesto did not directly address the artistic output of Futurism, it took some time before there was a cohesive visual. A hallmark of Futurist art is the depiction of speed and movement.
In particular, they adhered to principals of universal dynamism, which meant that no single object is separate from its background or another object. The sixteen people around you in a rolling motor bus are in turn and at the same time one, ten four three; they are motionless and they change places. The motor bus rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with it.
This is best exemplified in Giacomo Ballas Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, where the motion of walking the dog is shown through the multiplying of the dogs feet, leash, and owners legs. Urban scenes such as this were typical subject matter for the Futurists, who saw the city environment as the apex of their ideals.
Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash by Giacomo Balla. 1912. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Umberto Boccioni explained the principals of Futurist art by distinguishing it from another avant-garde movementImpressionism. While the impressionists paint a picture to give one particular moment and subordinate the life of the picture to its resemblance to this moment, we synthesize every moment (time, place, form, color-tone) and thus paint the picture.
The Futurists were also highly influenced by Cubism, which was first brought to the group by Gino Severini. Severini came into contact with the style while visiting Paris in 1911 and introduced its use of broken color fields and short brushstrokes to the Futurists. The core artists used these techniques to create even more dynamic scenes of everything from cyclists to dancers to cities under construction.
Eventually, Boccioni took his work from two dimensions to three dimensions and created the acclaimed sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. Aerodynamic and fluid, its emblematic of the painters new obsession with sculpture and its ability to suggest motion. Interestingly, the sculpture was never cast in bronze during Boccionis lifetime. His original plaster cast is located in So Paulos contemporary art museum. Several bronze casts were made beginning in 1931, with one of the original casts acquired by New Yorks MoMA.
Dynamic Hieroglyphic of the Bal Tabarin by Gino Severini. 1912. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Brooklyn Bridge by Joseph Stella. 1919-1920. (Photo: Wikipedia)
The beginning of World War I signaled the end of the original Futurist group. Boccioni created only one painting during the war and was drafted into the Italian army. It was a huge blow for the group when he was killed in 1916 during a training exercise.
After the end of the war, Marinetti revived the movement. This period was later called Second Futurism which became associated with Fascism. Similar to many Fascists, they felt that Italy was a country divided between the industrialized north and agricultural south and wished to build a bridge to bring them together. Marinettis Futurist Political Party was actually absorbed into Benito Mussolinis Fascist Party, though Marinetti would later disagree with some of their principals and withdraw from political life.
Post-World War I Futurism was dedicated to new types of expression. In particular, Aeropainting became a popular style in the 1920s. It combined the love for flight with aerial landscapes and was often used in propaganda. Not limited to landscapes, Aeropainting was actually varied in its subject matter and remained popular until 1940.
After the defeat of Mussolini and Marinettis death in 1944, Futurism as a formal movement was dead. However, it remained highly influential for subsequent 20th-century art movements like Dada, Surrealism, andin terms of designArt Deco.
Today, works by Futurist artists can be found in major collections around the world and are essential to understanding early 20th-century culture.
Speeding Motorboat by Benedetta Cappa. 1923. (Photo: WikiArt)
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While dust devils arent exactly uncommon on Mars the Red Planet is, after all, a very dustyand windy place the whirlwinds often fade almost as quickly as they appear. That makes capturing an image of one in action a rare treat.
But in October 2019, NASAs Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter managed to snap a photo of a massive active dust devil and you can now see it for yourself.
The Reconnaissance Orbiter took the photo using its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), a powerful camera thats been snapping photos of the Martian surface since 2006.
On Monday, the University of Arizona team that built and manages HiRISE published details on the newly photographed dust devil, which formed on Amazonis Planitias volcanic plains.
The core of the dust devil is 50 meters (164 feet) wide, according to the HiRISE team, and based on the length of its shadow, they believe it is probably about 650 meters (2,132 feet) tall.
Though the dust devil is a big one, its far from the biggest.
In March 2012, HiRISE took a photo of an active dust devil that was a mind-blowing 20 kilometers (12 miles) tall. But despite its impressive height, that dust devil was barely wider than this newly spotted one: just 70 meters (229 feet).
In other words, Martian colonists already had a lot to worry about and now they can add towering swirls of dust and debris to the list.
READ MORE: NASA captures rare view of dancing Mars dust devil, and its a monster [CNET]
More on HiRISE: SpaceX Working With NASA to Find Mars Landing Sites for Starship
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China released an app over the weekend that lets residents check to see if theyve come in close contact with Covid-19, the coronavirus thats killed more than a thousand people in the nation.
According to Chinese state-run media agency Xinhua, app users must scan a QR code on one of several popular Chinese apps, such as WeChat, to make an inquiry. Next, they register their phone number and enter their name and government-issued identification number, with each phone number good for three inquiries.
The app then lets the user know whether theyve been in close contact with anyone infected with the coronavirus, suspected of being infected with it, or exposed to it.
As for how China defines close contact, according to the Xinhua story, it includes working with, going to school with, or living in the same house as a person. People who traveled in a fully enclosed air-conditioned train compartment together are also considered to have been in close contact, as are people who sat within a few rows of one another on an airplane.
If the app determines that a person has been in close contact with the coronavirus, it advises that they stay home and contact health authorities.
Xinhua wrote that the General Office of the State Council, the National Health Commission, and China Electronics Technology Group Corporations worked together to develop the app.
The app uses data collected and shared by several government agencies, including the National Health Commission, the Ministry of Transport, China Railway, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
While China is regularly criticized for the mountain of data it collects on citizens, this is one example of how that collection can benefit the public.
In China, and across Asia, data is not seen as something to be locked down; its something that can be used, provided its done in a transparent way, with consent where needed, Carolyn Bigg, a technology lawyer at the law firm DLA Piper, told BBC News.
From a Chinese perspective, this [app] is a really useful service for people, she continued, adding that its a really powerful tool that really shows the power of data being used for good.
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