Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cool Christmas Gifts

Roadboy Shares A Few Secrets

With the Thanksgiving dinner dishes cleared, I can now officially start thinking about Christmas!

So while many fellow American's waited till midnight and lined up to buy bargain toasters at Target, I start a search for gifts that I think people will actually cherish.

One of the benefits of my travel is the discovery of lots of potential gifts. So here are a few gems that could transform you from an average gifter to a hero.

And remember, Roadboy is thrifty (cheap?), so everything I recommend here (in my opinion) represents a true value.

A lot of us must wear glasses. But few of us wear truly wonderful glasses.

Buy someone you love a pair of over-the-top, way cool, handmade Italian frames direct from Venice! Your lucky recipient can take them to almost any optical shop in the US to have lenses fitted for glasses or sunglasses.

These are not just any frames, these are amazing frames created of rubber or acetate. And, if available in the US, would fetch $400-$500 at a yuppie optical boutique. The colors are other worldy and the fit and finish is superb.

And, when you buy them direct from Danilo Carraro they run closer to $120 USD!

After the site loads click the "English" link. I've been to the shop in Venice twice, but have also dependably ordered from Ottica Carraro online. I have three pairs of Carraro's and constantly answer friendly inquiries as to where I got them. 

VooDoo Dolls:
Yep thats right voodoo dolls! You know the little dolls people stick pins in.

Imagine giving a little bit of magic from New Orleans. I'm talking a real honest-to-goodness voodoo doll! I love their rustic construction and abundance of character. Interested? Then visit Voodoo Authentica to order a doll for any purpose.

Enamels from Alaska:
While on the subject of pins....

Arguably the coolest pins (and zipper pulls) in the world come from Alaska. More specifically, from a little upstairs shop on Franklin Street in Juneau Alaska. All it takes is one visit William Speer's Studio and you will agree.

Mr. Speer has designed a zillion little cloisonné masterpieces. There are dinosaurs, little houses, halibuts, even a few inside jokes exclusively for Alaskan's (Spenard Divorce).

These pins are colorful, very inexpensive and make perfect stocking stuffers. The shipping is $3 if you order one or twelve.

Just visit William Speer.

The Art of Ray Troll:
If you have a fishermen (or marine biologists) on your Christmas list consider a tongue-in-cheek T-shirt or framable poster by Ketchikan artist Ray Troll. This guy sees salmon in his sleep. He creates art posters like "Octopi Wall Street" and "Salmanchanted Evening".

The Troll Studio 
Conveniently Located
Just off the 
"Married Man's Trail" 

I proudly have "D is for Dogfish" gracing a wall in my modest little mid-century rancher in Phoenix.

A true original, venture into the wonderful world of Ray Troll here.

Ruby Slipper Earrings:
I love shopping at Museum stores everywhere. After returning from many trips I come to realize that my purchases nearly all came from museum gift shops.

That said, perhaps my favorite museum on planet earth is the Victoria and Albert in London. And, it offers an online store that showcases items that reflect both its permanent collection and its special exhibitions.

Right now there is a special "Hollywood" exhibition! Reason enough to go to London in my book! It also means you can buy a pair of those ridiculously long Audrey Hepburn gloves from Breakfast at Tiffanys, or a pair ruby slipper earrings. I can hardly wait to see what shows up in the shop when the David Bowie retrospective opens!

Visit the Victoria and Albert here.

Chocolate Enrobed Northwest Cherries:
A lifetime ago I lived in Idaho, then Washington and then Alaska and Hawaii. Whilst living in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) I developed some addictions. Halibut cheeks (yep they have tasty cheeks, sable fish (black cod), king salmon from the copper river, huckleberries in jam, pancakes and scones, chanterelle mushrooms, and anything that combines big wonderful PNW cherries and chocolate.

To sate my cravings I simply pick up some dark chocolate cabernet or dark chocolate amaretto rainier's at the "Made in Washington" shop at SeaTac airport!

But you can visit Chukar Cherries online. Cherries so freakin good I double dog dare you to not order an extra bag for yourself!

Hopefully my little list has got you thinking! I mean, a few google clicks can deliver berry cider from Colorado, or maple sugar candy from Vermont, or garlic from Gilroy, or key limes from Florida, Pralines from Savannah.

The world is big. Your gifting possibilities are equally big. Get creative and stay out of those depressing lines!

Happy Holidays from Roadboy!

Roadboy's Travels © 2012 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why You Should "Opt Out"

Just Say No!

Update: 1-18-2013
The TSA today admitted that its inability to fix privacy issues in Rapiscan Scanners has resulted in the decision to remove all of them from the 30 airports where they are still in use by June 2013.

This colossal waste of taxpayer money falls directly at the feet of Michael Chertoff (who, as you will read, went on the become a lobbyist for Rapiscan after leaving Homeland Safety) 

So lets start at the beginning. 

Just before his departure as TSA chief Michael Chertoff pushed hard for the purchase of backscatter whole body scanners in American airports.

These are the devices that work like Superman's x-ray eyes. There are two types: an x-ray device made by Rapiscan and a millimeter wave device made by L3.

I currently have no gripe with the L3's other than their cost. 

In the Rapiscan you walk between two big pylons and get x-rayed. In the L3 you walk into a clear glass cylinder and get scanned with waves.

These devices are essentially designed to be electronic stripper poles. They produce imagery that leaves NOTHING to the imagination. The marketing material for these devices states that these devices may be "optionally" used where faces or "key parts of the body" are blurred. That is why their images may never be viewed in public.

Before their implementation if you needed supplemental screening you got a reasonable pat down. Once these devices came on-line, the TSA started administering such punishingly aggressive pat downs that it resulted in the famous "Don't Touch My Junk" You Tube.

The result? TSA backed off fully implementing their new $180,000 toys.

Then little by little TSA started easing them back on line. They had too, they'd spent a king's ransom on them. TSA gently got more and more pushy, eventually resulting in almost everyone getting hustled through them. 

The whole need for them mystified me. No other major country is using them. In Europe I asked why the EU isn't using them. The answer? "They cost a fortune, have not undergone any biological testing and may well pose potential health risks." So before using them on me they were never even tested on a rat?

Slowly, I noticed that flight attendants, airport employees and pilots were all being waived around them. Later I noted that expectant mothers and small kids were also being waived around them. This seems kinda stupid since many well publicized problems have originated by unstable airline employees.

This brings us back to our hero - Mr. Chertoff.

After leaving TSA what did he do? He founded The Chertoff Group, a major DC lobbying firm, representing, drum roll please, Rapiscan!

A good gig since whole body scanner mfr's have more than doubled their lobbying budgets of late. For a bit more on that read this Huffington Post article.

Then most recently came the revelation that Rapiscan may have falsified reports regarding its software.  Click to see Wired magazine's recent feature on that.

So lets summarize:
1. These devices came into being under questionable circumstances.
2. These devices have never identified a terrorist.
3. These devices are illegal in the rest of the world.
4. These devices have never undergone biological testing. 
5. These devices invade of your modesty and privacy.
6. These devices slow down airport screening.
8. These devices cost a fortune.

For all these reasons......

I'll continue to allow a little more time at screening and I'll continue to opt out.

Gosh I'm getting cranky in my old age....

Roadboy's Travels © 2012