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Getting green energy via balloons

Last week, reports came out that the Carteret Islanders of Papua New Guinea, the planet’s first official climate-change refugees, had left their island home for excellent. The island is expected to be really underwater by 2015.

This milestone was yet another reminder that we desperately need to switch over to greener, renewable energy sources. One of the most well loved energy sources, wind energy, is often derided in view of the fact that a) it’s hideous, b) it can cause serious harm to local birds who glide into the turbine blades and get hurt or killed, and c) wind doesn’t blow all the time, so it’s unreliable. These are all honest points (though it’s beyond me how a windmill is uglier than a power plant), but Altaeros Energies may have the answer: BATs.

Buoyant Airborne Turbines, to be exact. They’re basically large balloons with wind turbines in them. They’re inflated and can be deployed to high altitudes, where wind is much more dependable, where they’re for the most part out of eyesight, and where they’re much less liable to cause hurt to local birds and wildlife. They produce twice as much energy as regular wind turbines, and they also have the extra benefit of being portable, which means they can harness wind energy in remote areas, or can be quickly went to disaster-injured areas that are going through power outages.

The first BAT is set to be launched in Alaska, and obviously there’ll be kinks to work out, but it’s certainly an exciting development for green energy.

The post Balloons are the next green energy revolution appeared first on Matador Network.

Borobudur Temple

One of the 72 seated Buddha statues which surround the main dome of Borobudur Temple in Indonesia.  The statue is facing the active Merapi volcano which last erupted in March 2014, when this card was sent to me. Merapi can be translated as Mountain of Fire.

The Borobudur Temple is a UNESCO Planet Heritage Site.

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Aloha Friday Photo: Koko Head Hike View



Mahalo to Sharon Ferguson for sharing this gorgeous Oahu shot from Koko Head. Sharon took this photo while hiking to the top of Koko Head on October 31, 2013.

We’ve never hiked Koko Head, though we’d like to do so someday. Per TripAdvisor, this hike is described as a very strenuous, but with scenes like this one that Sharon has shared, the views look like they are worth the effort.

Pleased Aloha Friday!

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28 incredibly useful packing hacks

Packing for travel is an art, and it’s a minimalist art. Experienced travelers will have, over time, developed either a system for packing lightly and efficiently, or insanely strong back, arm, and neck muscles. But if you don’t want to look like Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises, then there are a bunch of other modest tricks — other than just cutting back on clothing or shoes you aren’t going to need — that can help make you a more space-efficient traveler.

Lately, many budget airlines, like EasyJet or Ryanair, are charging pretty outrageous amounts for bags that exceed a particular size. Most luggage stores will know what their luggage requirements are, and will sell you a decent bag within their “acceptable” range, but it’s still not a ton of space. Here’s how you can get a full week’s worth of clothes into that bag:

Vacuum seal

As a courtesy to persons of you out there who just frantically Googled “packing tips” the night before leaving for your trip and found this page, we’ll start with the vacuum seal, in view of the fact that it’s the last resort — if you can’t arrange and jam your stuff into your luggage otherwise, vacuum sealing is the way to go. There are a lot of products for sale that can help you vacuum pack your bags. Vacuum packing is never a terrible thought for packing tightly, in view of the fact that a excellent chunk of the space in your bag is going to be empty air. First, you can get the particular bag and pump.

It works for sure, but then you’re carrying the pump the planet over you go. This is solved if you get the space bags, which basically allow you to place your luggage in the bags and then roll the air out of them manually.

Here’s another, not altogether horrible option, but you need to spend on the bags themselves. A third option — probably the best for the budget traveler — is the DIY vacuum seal. There are a couple of excellent ways to do this:

The dip-it and zip-it

vacuum sealer2

(via), (via), (via)

First, fold and place your item into a regular, sealable plastic bag. Then dip it in a sink or tub full of water. This forces the air out, and you can seal it yourself. This is a technique usually used for food, and you might be constrained when it comes to larger items.

If you don’t want to risk the possibility of getting all of your clothes wet, try this instead:

The ghetto vacuum pack

Place your item in a Ziploc bag, leaving it slightly open. Then, place that bag in a larger Ziploc bag, and insert a regular vacuum hose, sealing the larger bag around it as much as possible. Turn the vacuum on, and it’ll suck the air out of both bags. Close the smaller bag manually (without taking it out or turning the vacuum off), and voila!

The issue with vacuum packing is that it’s going to either be time consuming, expensive, equipment-dependent, or it’s going to get your shit all wet. So here are some other tricks to conserve space.

Packing efficiently

There are a lot of schools of thought about how best to pack a bag. I’m going to leave that up to you — I don’t reckon there’s a definitive way. I tend to be in the “make space at all costs” school, but some people are more concerned with neatness preventing wrinkles, and there’s an entirely different set of rules for that. That said, here are some space savers:

Roll ‘em up.

roll em up


Sure, it can wrinkle the clothing, but veteran packers know that rolling all of your clothing up makes it way more space efficient than laying it in flat. An additional tip is to wrap the clothing in rubber bands to make sure it’s not loose, and to keep some semblance of organization in a bag full of rolled-up clothes.

Wear what you can’t fit.

wear what you can't fit


Travel with as much of the bulky clothes on as you can. Even if you prefer light clothes on planes, remember that you aren’t limited in how much clothes you can be wearing on a smooth, and you can take off a couple of layers and place them in the overhead compartment or under the seat if you have to. All it’s doing in your luggage is taking up space.

Use all of the space. Even in your shoes.

socks in boots


If you must pack an extra pair of shoes, remember that there is space inside of them for socks and underwear.

Shaving cream is not necessary.



If you don’t want to bring a bulky thing of shaving cream, you can use soap, conditioner, or sunscreen as shaving cream instead.

Underwear is your #1 priority.

undewear pack hack


When you’re trying to figure out what to take out and what to place in, remember this: Unless you’re on a business trip, you don’t need more than one nice set of clothes. But you will absolutely need a lot of underwear. Seriously, guys — trust me on this.

Light clothes go on top.



Flight attendant Heather Poole suggests putting your heavy clothes and shoes in first, and then moving up towards the lighter clothes. That way, when you have to close the suitcase, you aren’t trying to push down on the bulkiest items.

Finding excellent containers

If you don’t want to buy handfuls of “travel-size” items when you already own the stuff you need, just in too large of a container, you can use regular household items to fit stuff in.

Everything fits in medicine bottles.

q tips storage


Q-tips and bobby pins will fit nicely into medicine bottles, as will jewelry. I would suggest finding a more opaque bottle for jewelry, or possibly lining it with paper if you don’t want it to get stolen. Another obvious use is just place in more pills — possibly multivitamins. But make sure you can clarify that you don’t need a prescription for the multivitamins.

You’ll find shampoo. You won’t find moisturizer.

moisturizer shampoo


Though I can usually find shampoo or conditioner to use while traveling, unless I’m staying in a nice hotel, I always have a hard time finding moisturizer.

Make your own dry toothpaste.

toothpaste-dots hacks


Toothpaste really isn’t a worry when you’re traveling — you can find it anywhere. But if you really want to give yourself that modest extra space, the site Her Packing List suggests making modest non-liquid toothpaste capsules. Simple enough: Squeeze a drop of non-gel toothpaste onto a sheet of foil, sprinkle it with baking soda, and then wait a few days in anticipation of it’s dry and pop it into a bag. When you’re using it, just pop it in your mouth, rub it against your teeth with your tongue, and then brush.

If you don’t want to catch your luggage on fire.

pot holder hack


If you need to straighten your hair and then leave before it has time to cool down, use pot holders.

Keeping things clean and well-behaved

One of the problems with packing so tightly is that if something smells, then in a very small while, everything will smell. Another problem, with all of the jostling, is that you might squeeze that toothpaste right out of its tube and all over your clothes and toiletries. Here are some tricks to help prevent that:

Take no chances with fluids.



Before leaving, unscrew your bottles with liquids or gels inside them, cover them in cling wrap, and then screw the cap back on. Not only does this help the lids stay on tighter, but it provides another layer of defense between the gel and all of your clothes.

Jewelry tangles. Straws don’t.

To keep jewelry from tangling, try running it through a straw.

Keep your collar straight.

If you want to keep a shirt collar clean and not smashed, you can wrap your belt around the inside. It also makes a nice spot for your belt.

Keep your earrings from diminishing into the deepest crevice of your bag.

Earrings can be held together using buttons.

Protect your clothes from your shoes.

protect clothes from shoes


Stinky or dirty shoes? Place them in a shower cap. It’s not a perfect seal, but it’ll keep them together and will be at least a affront barrier between them and the clothes.

Protect your clothes from wrinkling.

protect clothes from wrinkling


To keep clothes from wrinkling, roll it or fold it over tissue paper.

Protect your clothes from travel stink.

dryer sheets in luggage


You can dodge a terrible-smelling suitcase by throwing in a couple of dryer sheets.

Keep your headphones untangled.

headphones paper clip hack


Headphone wires wrap nicely around paperclips / binder clips.

Hiding / smuggling proceeds

Look, we’re not advocating smuggling things into countries (have you seen Locked Up Abroad? It’s terrifying.). But sometimes, you don’t want people to be able to easily find what’s in your luggage.

Hide your money and emergency numbers.

chapstick hiding spot (1)


The website Instructables suggests hiding emergency money and phone numbers inside emptied lip balm sticks or magic markers.

Protect (and hide) your wine.

wine bottle in shoe


A wine bottle will fit nicely into a pair of gym shoes. Note: X-ray apparatus can see through your shoes.

Hide your jewelry.

jewelry in pill box


Small proceeds can go into daily medicine containers.

Space-saving gadgets

For the most part, I’m not an advocate of getting travel gadgets. They take up extra space, are wasteful, and don’t really help all that much. But there are a few gadgets that are spectacularly useful in terms of space conservation when it comes to travel.

Get an e-reader.

e-reader travel hack


The e-reader is essential for people who like to read when they travel. I’ve had a Kindle for about 4 years now, and it’s my favorite possession on the road. The newer versions fit into most jacket or cargo pockets, and they can replace hundreds of books, which used to be the primary source of excess luggage weight when I traveled. If you go the tablet route, you’re further combining your computer and music into the same device.

Use one plug to charge all devices.

universal power plugs cords


There are a number of universal travel adapters out there, and they tend to be on the pricier side — usually at least over $100 — but if you spend enough time traveling, and if you travel with a lot of electronics, it’s worth getting. It’s a release adapter for your computer, your tablet, your phone, your e-reader, your electric shaver, and so on.

A final bonus cheat

Okay, this is a modest shitty, but you can game the system, and it will keep your luggage from being harmed and will also get you out of baggage claim quicker.

Categorize it “Fragile.”

fragile luggage tag


Luggage listed as “fragile” is placed on top of the pile of luggage, and thus, is the first luggage off the smooth.

The post 28 incredibly useful packing hacks appeared first on Matador Network.

North Korea is perfect for Americans

Marijuana is pretty much legal.

Technically it’s illegal, but it seems not everyone knows that. Here’s the grocery bag full that I bought in a market in Rason for about 80 cents.

There’s free healthcare.

If you’re pro-Obamacare, just wait till you get a load of Kimcare. Tourists who’ve sustained unpremeditated injuries while visiting North Korea have received free and surprisingly high standards of medical care at the country’s elite, private hospitals.

There’s microbrew.

North Korea inherited their brewing technology by way of 19th-century German colonists in East Asia, and the beers here were better than anything I tried in neighbouring China.

It’s totally safe.

From a purely tourist perspective, you’ll never travel anywhere as safe as North Korea. Excepting the possible outbreak of a nuclear war, you’ll be given the royal treatment from start to end.

You’ll always have an escort.

Sure, your ‘minder’ might not be a sexually striking member of your ideal gender, but once paired up, you can rest assured they’ll never stray from your side.

You don't have to worry about being a "traveler" versus a "tourist."

There’s absolutely no chance your minder will allow you to wander off on your own anyway, so leave that map in the hotel! Oh yeah, right…they don’t give you a map.

You don't have to be paranoid about your cell phone conversations being recorded by the NSA.

Here, you can just assume that Kim Jong-un’s got his best guys on it.

You can enjoy quality, old-fashioned interaction.

I don’t know in view of the fact that of the aforementioned point, in North Korea you’ll never see a room full of people paying more attention to their smartphones than each other.

hey like your favourite 90s bands!

At the karaoke bar in Pyongyang, the catalogue features singalong classics such as Slipknot, Pearl Jam, and Nine Inch Nails. Although, at the time of my visit they politely clarified that the disks had been taken elsewhere for cleaning. Just terrible timing, I guess.

You don’t need to worry about getting drunk and cheating on your partner.

It’s strictly illegal for locals to enter into a romantic relationship with foreigners.

All photos by the author.

The post 10 reasons North Korea is perfect for American travelers appeared first on Matador Network.

Killing German stereotypes in Berlin

German woman

Photo: Gustavo Gomes

German sounds horrible!

It might be right that more typical languages English learners tend to go for — like French and Spanish — can sound pleasant to listen to even if you don’t know them, but it’s better to reckon outside of persons limitations. Comparing German to Italian, for example, is like comparing ice cream to pizza. The most enjoyable food doesn’t have to be “hot,” and particular aspects of communicating in German can be more pleasant than in other languages.

English and German are in the same language family (Germanic), so a lot of what makes German sound “different” can really be its similarities that we don’t notice in English and may not expect to encounter in other languages. Listen to this video of what English sounds like to non-natives (from an Italian perspective), and you’ll get a better thought of how weird it can be!

English also has weird strings of consonants that can cause problems to non-natives but seem really normal to us. Words like “catchphrase” and “thousandths” have several consecutive consonants that German doesn’t outdo much (certainly not as much as a language like Czech).

The tone and musicality of German is really something that makes it much simpler to know and leaves less room for misinterpretation, as is the case in other languages. The clear separation of words vastly helps you to know them (compared to French, for example, where words are merged together when spoken). I find the discussion of whether this is “pretty” or not to be really irrelevant. We may as well argue about which colour is the “best.”

Why are they so mad?

This superficial argument is like saying you know what the elephants are thinking as you see them through binoculars on safari. Without the right context and understanding of how German works, any conclusions you might make may amount to nothing remotely close to the truth.

The clear way Germans converse in is something we would tend to do in English if we were mad and wanted to make it clear what we were mad about. For example, you can imagine an mad mother sternly warning her son: “Don’t — you — dare — do — that!” clearly enunciating each word.

This is a style of expressing rage in English. Applying it to German just doesn’t work in the same way. In understanding what they were saying, I can generally say that from my (albeit limited) experience, Germans lose their temper way less than many English speakers do. In fact, Germans tend to be way more patient from what I’ve seen. What sounds harsh to the untrained ear can really be a amusing joke or helpful advice, etc. when you listen to the actual words.

When you really pay attention to what they’re saying, rather than applying the incorrect nonverbal cues (using English tone and body language rules) to imagine what you reckon they’re saying, you’ll see that Germans are talking about the same things you and your friends talk about in other languages.

They all converse in English and will never help you with your German.

As expected, when I announced I’d be in Berlin for this mission (rather than some small unknown village), many people told me I’d find it exceptionally hard to convince Berliners to help me with my German, in view of the fact that they all converse in “perfect” English.

Like in other places, there are people who did poorly in school or don’t expose themselves to foreigners enough to maintain a excellent level. But for the most part, they do indeed have a better level of English than southern Europeans or some Asian countries.

Despite this, it was exceptionally simple to convince Germans to help me. Even in my first week I was successful, and for the main three months of the mission I nearly never spar English with Germans — the few times I did were in view of the fact that other foreigners (not learning German) were present, or in my final weeks before leaving. When they saw how devoted I was to my project, they were pleased to give me lots of encouragement to boot!

This confusion is another issue that results from the Germans being accused of something that’s really entirely the bone idle learners’ fault. Germans are usually really helpful, so if you look like you’re undergoing medieval torture as you struggle to converse in the language, they’ll want to save you from that discomfort and may converse in English in view of the fact that of that.

I made sure to make it clear that I was enjoying myself, that I was devoted to making serious progress, and used all my usual social (Language Hacking) tricks when out and speaking with new people, and without exception I never even had to work hard to convince anyone to help me, even when my level was quite poor. They simply went with the flow. Alas, the flow many expats command is, “German is too hard and Germans don’t want to hear me try,” and that mantra becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

German is one of the toughest languages in the planet.

In view of the fact that I’ve also learned other “toughest languages” in the planet, like Hungarian and Japanese, I will discuss this ridiculous concept another time soon. But first, I can confirm that German itself isn’t particularly inherently harder than many other languages in the planet. It all depends on the learner and his/her attitude.

Expats I met who had been living in Germany for a long time would complain about how German is too hard to converse in, and I could see very clearly and told them very frankly that this complaint and devotion to believing in it was what was really holding them back from speaking it.

I was attempting the exact same language as they were — the main difference I see is that they simply focus on the negative and look for more reasons to prevent them from speaking it. An optimistic approach can dramatically change their potential to make progress. What helps me get through languages quicker is not some magic part of my brain that’s sprouted up in recent years to turn me into a language-guru — it’s really the ability to focus on the positive and have new information about the language help me to progress rather than hinder me.

But simply telltale someone, “Chin up! It’s not that terrible!” is not enough, in view of the fact that there are aspects to the language that can seem intimidating at first, especially if it’s your first foreign language and if it’s clarified to you in dull, traditional literary ways.

In view of the fact that of this, I will be writing in fantastic detail about Why German isn’t as hard as you reckon and will take all the “toughest” aspects of the language and attempt to clarify them in such a way as to turn some pessimists into optimists and help struggling learners dramatically improve their progress by attacking what I feel is the source of the problem for a lot of them: the incorrect attitude that German is hard.

I learned German for five years in school, and the incorrect attitude kept me believing that aspects of German were too complicated for me to get my head around, and so I did poorly in my exams and never truly dived into properly speaking German in anticipation of this year. Starting over fresh and forgetting the overly technical way that the language was clarified to me in school saved me from being doomed to never speaking it.

Sometime soon I’ll be releasing a guide to hacking the German language: giving shortcuts to get around seemingly hard aspects, explaining a better way to look at the Accusative-Dative-Genitive problem, and seeing that the word order and recall vocabulary is really way simpler than people reckon it is. Sometimes all you need is to hear these things clarified in the right (non-overly-technical) way and it all makes perfect sense. This guide will not attempt to replace any courses, but augment them for learners already vaguely familiar with the language but feeling frightened by it.

I am positive that what I have to say can help people progress in their German, as I have been giving this advice to other learners throughout my time in Berlin to help persons struggling with the language themselves and it worked to help some of them get out of their shell and irrevocably converse in.

If you’d like me to mention any aspect of German you find particularly hard, let me know! More on that guide soon…

Are Germans strict / rude?

There are many stereotypes I won’t even dignify with a response, but the strict one comes up a lot. I imagine this is influenced by the “German sounds harsh” thought, and I don’t know gets combined with the Germans’ fame for efficiency. How well they design cars was the least of my concerns for my time there, though.

I did find it curious that Berliners would nearly always wait at red traffic lights before on foot crosswise the road, even when there were no cars for miles. Most other places I’ve been would have people “jaywalking” in this situation quite frequently (I personally consider the red man a proposition rather than a rule; it’s a excellent proposition only if cars are really on the road).

You will also see bus stops indicate the minute the bus is expected to arrive at any given stop — I remember how hilarious Brazilians found this concept when I mentioned it to them, but I reckon things like this are helpful and it’s something I’ll miss in other countries. Conveniences like this have come so naturally to me over the last few months that I simply consider other countries as doing it incorrect, to be honest.

One thing that may influence the thought of them being “rude” is that I did find Germans to be very honest. Nobody will ever argue about this being terrible, but some Germans tend to be very frank about the truth and this will probably hurt your feelings if you’re too sensitive. I really found it quite refreshing, but it took some getting used to!

For example, I was dancing for several hours one night and a girl I had just met told me that I smelled and could do with a shower! It was right of course (it was a hot night and I was dancing enthusiastically), but this is not something you would hear from people you’ve just met in many cultures. I suppose this level of non-sugar-coated honesty could be read as rudeness if you jump to conclusions too quickly, but that girl continued to dance with me after sharing the “fascinating” information.

So, if you’re sensitive about your weight, etc., you should probably not question Germans if persons jeans make you look stout. But this isn’t rudeness. You could argue that many other countries are way too sensitive — to the point of dancing around issues and never being direct enough.

Germans have no sense of humour!

When Germans laugh and smile, it’s in view of the fact that something is genuinely amusing. I don’t like the inauthentic “thank you for shopping at Walmart” smile that’s sometimes overused in places like the States. Many European countries don’t go around laughing and smiling at each release thing, and this means that when they do smile / laugh, you know it’s genuine.

What this means is that if someone doesn’t laugh at your joke (either in view of the fact that they do reckon it’s amusing but not enough to guffaw at loudly, or in view of the fact that it’s really a terrible joke), you might reckon they don’t have a sense of humour. I don’t know if it’s my personality or being Irish, but I didn’t find this at all in Germany and found many Germans quite hilarious and content people.

Anywhere you go requires a change in mindset.

The fact of the matter is, if you truly believe any of the above headings, you will filter out any information that doesn’t help it and only look for confirmation, and you’ll probably find it. I know this in view of the fact that I did it myself when I refused to be open-minded about a culture I didn’t like in the past. I’ve met people who persist that I’m not “really” Irish in view of the fact that I don’t drink, and not surprisingly if they washed-out time in Ireland, most of it was in pubs.

If I had a weird stereotype of all Belgians being hairstylists, for example, I could confirm this by spending all my time in Belgium in hairdressers. No matter where you go, you’ll find your stereotypes answered if you look for them. I prefer to start with a clean slate if possible and get to know the people as directly as possible. I don’t know more Germans are rude, strict, humourless, and mad than I reckon, but in view of the fact that I wasn’t looking for these signs, I didn’t find them.

After learning all the fascinating cultural differences, what I usually find is that we aren’t that different after all. It’s one reason I can feel at home so quickly in many places. Berlin was one of these places and I will miss it!

This post was originally in print at Fluent in 3 Months and is reprinted here with permission.

The post Are Germans rude? Killing the stereotypes after living in Berlin appeared first on Matador Network.

15 legendary recording studios

I was visiting London a few weeks ago and on a slow day chose to do the Beatles on foot tour (which was inevitably called the “Magical Mystery Tour”). The tour of course finished at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in northwest London, and I got to see no fewer than six tourists nearly get killed stepping directly into oncoming traffic while trying to catch the iconic crosswalk photo.

Modern music fans usually don’t listen to music live, unlike our ancestors, who listened to live music exclusively. As I stood outside Abbey Road Studios and watched a 16-year-ancient Colombian girl weep at the site where the likes of “honest Slumbers,” “A Day in the Life,” and “All You Need Is Like” were recorded, I realized that a musical tour of the planet — a tour of the songs that went you to tears, or helped you through a hard time, or amped you up for a huge moment — would really be a tour of the studios, these often nondescript buildings that are typically hidden in unadorned sight in our cities. Here are some of the planet’s greatest studios.

Abbey Road Studios

Abbey Road

The studio itself doesn’t stand out particularly from the rest of the buildings around it, and it sits in a honestly silent posh northwestern London suburb. If it weren’t for the tourists crowding the crosswalk and the Beatles-related graffiti covering its outer gate, one might pass and never notice it. The most legendary image of Abbey Road is of course the crosswalk right outside the studio. Vehicles in London are legally required to wait at so-called “zebra crossings” as long as you physically stay in motion, so you can take as long as you like taking your picture, as long as you go in slow motion.

Aside from most of the Beatles albums, Abbey Road (formerly EMI Studios) is also the recording site of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Duran Duran’s eponymous debut album (1981), parts of Radiohead’s The Bends (1995) and OK Computer (1997), and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way (2011).
Metaphors via, via, & via

The Dungeon

Dungeon Family

The Dungeon is probably better renowned for the hip-hop collective that was born out of it, the Dungeon Family. The Dungeon itself was a studio in producer Rico Wade’s mother’s basement in Atlanta, Georgia, but the collective has included some of the greatest hip-hop acts of the South and, consequently, of all time.

At the top left is the only picture I’ve been able to find of the Dungeon — pictured in it are the Dungeon Family and production-company founders of Organized Noize, Sleepy Brown, Ray Murray, and Rico Wade (from left to right). Probably the most legendary members of the Dungeon Family are Huge Boi and Andre 3000 (bottom left). Virtually all of Outkast’s albums were recorded with the Dungeon Family. It’s also the home of Gnarls Barkley, Cee-Lo Green, Bubba Sparxxx, Janelle Monae, and Future (pictured to the right with a Dungeon Family tattoo on his forearms).
Metaphors via, via, & via

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio01

Muscle Shoals may be best renowned for a song that wasn’t recorded at Muscle Shoals: Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” One of the lines is “Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers / And they been renowned to pick a song or two.” Muscle Shoals was formed when a band, the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section (nicknamed the Swampers) ruined away from the fantastic FAME Studios nearby and formed their own. While they’ve got a slightly larger studio these days, it’s still in the tiny town of Muscle Shoals, way off the beaten path in northwestern Alabama.

Muscle Shoals Sound Studio

Even though the original studio looked like a roadside mechanic’s garage, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio would go on to record tracks for the likes of the Rolling Stones (“Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” from Sticky Fingers in 1971), Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” (1973), Bob Seger’s Night Moves (1976), the Black Keys’ awesome Brothers (2009, at the new studio), and, of course, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first album (but not released till much later), Skynyrd’s First (1978).
Metaphors via & via

Trident Studios

Trident Studios

It’s hard to play down how vital London studios were to rock ‘n’ roll in the ’60s and ’70s, and high among persons studios was Trident. Tucked back in an path in London’s posh Soho neighborhood, Trident is barely noticeable from the street, and it takes a modest bit of searching to even realize it’s a studio.

Trident Studios

Relation anonymity aside, Trident Studios were responsible for the discovery of Queen and their first four albums, Queen (1973), Queen II (1974), Sheer Heart Attack (1974), and A Night at the Opera (1975), as well as James Taylor’s eponymous debut album (1968), the Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed (1969), David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars (1972), and Lou Reed’s Transformer (1972).
Metaphors via & via

Sunset Sound Recorders

Sunset Sound Recorders

On the other side of the planet, we have Sunset Sound Recorders, on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California. It was originally built for recording the music to Walt Disney movies, and you can thank them for Mary Poppins, Bambi, and 101 Dalmatians, but they went on to much greater rock heights.

Sunset Sound Recorders

Probably the most legendary album recorded here was the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street (1972, and pictured above), generally believed to be their best ever, but it was also the home of the Beach Boys’ best album, Pet Sounds (1966). My personal favorites, but, are Led Zeppelin’s albums Led Zeppelin II (1969) and Led Zeppelin IV (1972), both of which were partially recorded and diverse here. Other legendary ones include the Doors’ The Doors (1967) and Weird Days (1967), Jet’s Get Born (2003), the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, and, of course, Macy Gray’s On How Life Is (2000).
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Headley Grange

Headley Grange

Headley Grange is a former poorhouse in Headley, England, and it gets on this list for a release reason: its stairwell. During a recording session in the room next door, Jimmy Page was trying out the riff to “When the Levee Breaks,” when the crew started background up John Bonham’s drum kit in the hall. He went out, start playing, and they recorded it from the stairwell. The result is one of rock’s best ever sounds. Terrible Company, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, and Peter Frampton recorded here as well.
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Of course Motown is on here. Technically, the studio itself is called “Hitsville, U.S.A.” (now a museum, pictured at the bottom), but the site was also the home of Motown’s headquarters in Detroit, and as such I’m calling it Motown. It was without a doubt one of the most vital recording studios of all time, and if you say the name “Motown” now, it evokes an entire genre of music place out by Berry Gordy’s Motown categorize.

Among the many fantastic albums recorded at Hitsville are Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On (1971) and Let’s Get it On (1973), the Jackson 5’s debut Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5 (1969 — Ross and the Supremes are pictured at the top left with Berry Gordy), the Marvelettes’ Please Mr. Postman (1961), and Stevie Wonder’s debut, The Jazz Soul of Modest Stevie (1962).
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Electric Lady Studios

Electric Lady Studios

Electric Lady Studios (as you’ve probably guessed) was founded by Jimi Hendrix after how much it cost him to record his epic album Electric Ladyland. Hendrix was only able to use the studio for four weeks before he died, but the studio, in New York’s Greenwich Village, is still very much in use.

Electric Lady Studios

We can thank Electric Lady Studios for Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy (1973) and Physical Graffiti (1975), Patti Smith’s Horses (1975) The Clash’s Combat Rock (1982), Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell (1983) Weezer’s eponymous 1995 album, Santana’s Supernatural (1999), the White Stripes’ De Stijl (2000), the Roots’ Game Theory (2006), as well as a ton of Kiss albums.
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Sun Studio

Sun Studio

We’ve been focusing a lot on rock, so let’s just get this out of our system: Sun Studio, in Memphis, Tennessee, was originally more of a blues outfit. But blues begat rock, and it begat it right in Sun Studios in the form of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Johnny Cash, all of whom recorded albums here.

Sun Studio

Aside from the founders of rock, Sun Studio also recorded albums for blues greats B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, and Junior Parker. It closed for a while but then reopened in 1987, where, probably most notably, it recorded U2’s Rattle and Hum (1988).
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Studio One

Studio One

It’s called “the Motown of Jamaica,” but really, it should just be called Studio One. In view of the fact that Studio One is the home of reggae, and it doesn’t need the Motown qualifier.

Studio  One

Founded by Clement “Coxsone” Dodd (the man with the microphone) back in 1963, Studio One recorded albums for Bob Marley and the Wailers, Lee Scratch Perry, Burning Spear, and Toots and the Maytals. You’re welcome, planet.
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Rolling Stones movable Studio


This one could get on here just for the novelty of having what’s basically a truck with a recording studio in it, but it’s really been the site of a number of insanely excellent recordings. It was set up by Mick Jagger when he got sick of all the problems of using regular recording studios. They set up a studio in his home and then, so they could go it around, place a control room into this van.

We can thank the mobile studio for songs like Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” and — in view of the fact that it’s mobile — for the most legendary live recording of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Weep” — the one appearing on the posthumous Legend (1984). It also recorded parts of a number of Stones and Zeppelin albums, as well as Simple Minds’ 1979 debut album, Life in a Day, and live performances by Patti Smith and the Ramones.
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Capitol Studios

Capitol Studios

The home of Capitol Records, Capitol Studios gets on this list for the sheer breadth of the artists they’ve recorded here. All major record marks are going to have crazy amounts of awesome musical artists recording in their studios, but Capitol Records is best renowned for its “echo chambers,” which are part of an underground concrete bunker designed by legendary guitarist and sound engineer Les Paul to get a better reverb sound.

Capitol Studios

The studios are most legendary for being the place where Frank Sinatra did a lot of his recordings — his microphone is still here, and the band Bastille recently recorded on it — as well as being a home to Nat King Cole and the Beach Boys. But it wasn’t just older music: Oasis, Daft Punk, Aaliyah, Outkast, and fun. have all recorded here.
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Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Black Ark

Black Ark

Easily the most fascinating studio on this list is Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Black Ark Studio in Kingston, Jamaica. While not quite as mainstream, and certainly more low-tech than nearby Studio One, the Black Ark was renowned for Perry’s innovative producing techniques, and also for his incredibly weird behavior. He was renowned for blowing ganja smoke into the tape decks, burying tapes, and spraying the unprotected tapes with blood, urine, and whiskey to “bless” them. Eventually, after a few rough years of being extorted by gangsters, Perry covered the entire building in magic-marker drawings and then burned it to the ground to get rid of ‘terrible spirits.’ Other than producing many of Perry’s own records (and basically inventing the ‘dub’ genre), Black Ark gave us recordings from Bob Marley, Paul McCartney and Wings, the Clash, and Junior Murvin.
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Hans Zimmer’s Music Lair

Hans Zimmers

You may not have heard of Hans Zimmer, but you’ve certainly listened to him. Zimmer is the German composer renowned for writing the scores to movies like Gladiator, The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Lion King. I’ve always been a fan of his music — try listening to The Dark Knight when you’re trying to get some work done, it’s following only to Daft Punk’s Alive — but I never knew he had an awesome pad like this. It looks like what I imagined Hogwarts looking like. Yes, persons are skull lamps, and persons aren’t bookshelves in the back — that’s a synthesizer.
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Chase Park Transduction

Chase Park Transduction

Athens, Georgia, has become synonymous with awesome music, and one of its most prolific studios is Chase Park Transduction. It’s recorded the granddaddy of Athens rock bands, REM, as well as acts like Bright Eyes, Deerhunter, Animal Collective, and Queens of the Stone Age.
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Things you should never tell a Brit

1. “I like British accents!”

I’ll start with my largest bugbear. Let me just give a quick geography lesson here. Fantastic Britain (or, rather, the United Kingdom) is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. All of these countries have very distinct national characteristics and very different accents. Within these countries there are even further variances in accent. Like, huge variances. A person from Glasgow will sound absolutely nothing like a person from London.

There is no such thing as a “British accent.” Tell us instead that you like our accent, and don’t insult us by instantly letting on you know nothing about our country and culture.

2. “I can do the best British accent.”

This is a terrible go for two reasons. As stated above, “British” accents don’t exist. For that very reason, your version probably isn’t very excellent — reckon Anne Hathaway in “One Day” when she somehow managed to mix a heavy Yorkshire accent with elocution-lesson English (appalling).

Also, the novelty of hearing an American bark “tea and crummmmpets!” at you like it’s the most amusing thing you’ll ever hear tends not to be the most amusing thing you’ll ever hear when you’ve heard it several times in one evening.

3. “Oh, you’re from London!”

Maybe your victim is in fact from London and you’re very excellent at guessing. But that would be like me hearing you were from America and then immediately assuming you were from New York, when really you hail from a backwater in North Dakota.

Stick with “the UK,” “Britain,” or, if you’ve really been doing your homework, “England”/”Scotland” (or no matter what else you can discern — you’ll score several points for specific counties).

4. “Oh, you’re from Europe!”

The UK is not Europe. Well, okay, technically yes it is part of Europe — but it’s also not. Not to us. We’re pretty proud of our poky modest island, and we don’t tend to lump ourselves in with mainland Europe. We’re British, thank you very much, not European.

5. “Cheers, mate!”

This is very closely linked to point #2. But “cheers, mate” is, without doubt, the most irksome. Why? In view of the fact that each other person we meet will invariably drop it into conversation. And we cringe. Each. Release. Time. Just…don’t do it. Rise above.

6. “My fantastic-grandmother was British!”

It’s not that this is annoying; it’s just kind of irrelevant. One thing I noticed in the US was that you guys all seem to be very aware of your family tree; aside from being ‘Murican on the face of it, you know your roots, where your family come from, and you like talking about it.

Now, much as I reckon this is fascinating, you must know that in Britain we kind of don’t care about that sort of thing. Unless we are very closely descended from a family of immigrants, our cultural ties to our ancestors are generally nonexistent. No offence, but I’m just not bothered if you have some British lineage everyplace down the line — unless it turns out you’re a secret descendant of the Tudor family or something, but that is unlikely.

7. “Ohmaigaaad I could listen to you talk all day.”

Is there anything more hard to maneuver than having someone look at you with pure adoration and tell you they could listen to you perpetually? Not really. Our hard to maneuver British dispositions aren’t programmed to cope with the simplest of compliments, so direct and unwarranted declarations of like from strangers are just painfully cringe-inducing.

8. “Do you live in a castle?”

9.9999 times out of 10, the answer is no. Don’t bother.

9. “You drink in Britain? But you do it in a classy way, right?”

I have legitimately been questioned this question, and although the girl who spar these now infamous words is one of my best friends, I still cringe when I reckon about this. Here’s another nugget of cultural wisdom for you about the UK: We drink a lot. In fact, we are renowned around Europe for being disgusting, binge-drinking louts.

Save yourself the embarrassment if you’re even curious about what British drinking habits are like. FYI: We go hard, we’re disgusting, and we drink a lot of hard cider. Not classy at all.

10. “What is a crumpet?”

The distress here, apart from the question apt so repetitive, is that I just don’t know how to describe a crumpet. My befuddled on-the-spot answers have included “like some kind of bread with holes in it” and “kind of like a pancake but really stout and holey.”

Spare your British friend/crush/weirder from accurately describing the planet’s most confusing carbohydrate, and do your research instead. And if you really want to impress us, make some yourself (recipe here), in view of the fact that crumpets are distressingly hard to come by in your average American supermarket.

This post was originally in print at Literally, Darling and is reprinted here with permission.

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The Roman villa at La Olmeda

In 1968 Javier Cortes Álvarez de Miranda found the remains of a Roman villa on his land in northern Spain.  He excavated it and maintained it for the next 12 years, then handed it over to the Provincial Council of Palencia.

The villa dates from the 1st century and rebuilt in the 4th.  The main hall is in very excellent condition and the mosaic pictured in part on the card is from that hall. It is thought that the portraits show the owners of the mansion.

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Massive aurora borealis [video]

The aurora borealis — or Northern Lights, as it’s commonly renowned — is one of the most bizarre natural phenomena out there. It’s also relatively unpredictable, a result of solar winds hitting Planet’s magnetic field, and some solar winds are cooler than others. So if you’re trying to plot a trip to, say, Iceland in the chill, and are just taking a few days there with the intent of transmittable the Northern Lights, you could very well go home without seeing anything, or transmittable only very weak, mild auroras.

That’s not the case for the makers of this film, taken in Russia. They caught a oversize aurora on film, and it’s just as incredible as you’d expect.

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