Gear: Travel Halo is a little bit of heaven for your head

Travel neck rests have their benefits. But what about your head? The Travel Halo is cranium-centric.

Think of a padded headband with two plump cloth “bumpers” at the back to cushion and stabilize the back of your head while snoozing.

Add fold-down eye shades at the front to bring on the dark. It’s all one piece that fits inside an included pouch about the size of an eyeglass case, and it weighs less than 3 ounces.

This won’t be your sexiest look, but then you’ll have your eyes closed under those eyeshades and you won’t have to see yourself.

Info: The Travel Halo costs $29.99.


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A chef’s tour of north-west England

If British food in general was the laughing stock of Europe 30 years ago, I dread to think how the north-west of England in particular was viewed. We had our Eccles cakes and Chorley cakes, and our Bury black pudding, but it’s not very sexy.

We’ve always done other stuff brilliantly in the north-west: art, music, fashion, design, clubbing, brawling … But we never quite got that combination of cool and quality right where food is concerned. But things have changed around here over the past couple of years, and we have a load of places to be proud of.

OK, you could argue that some of it is a northern interpretation of a London thang. The Venetian small plates at Cicchetti on the ground floor of House of Fraser in Manchester may have been inspired by Polpo. Almost Famous – whose Manchester gaff was sadly destroyed by fire, but which now has a new site on Liverpool’s Parr Street – may owe something to MeatLiquor. But the important thing is how well a concept is executed, and it is precisely this that is changing in the north-west.

There is little more cringeworthy than a trend badly replicated (remember the crimes committed against good taste in the name of “fusion”) but we are now seeing much more substance over style, and high-concept dining offered with real skill. What’s even more exciting is that, once a few places of real quality get going, it is catching: everyone works hard to keep up, and standards rise all over.

All the more reason to be happy that Manchester is now home to a Simon Rogan restaurant, the French at the Midland Hotel (three courses £29). His flagship Cartmel restaurant L’Enclume has been doing beautiful and innovative things with food for over a decade, and it is a delight to have a chef of his class in our city. So many people said a Michelin-starred restaurant couldn’t survive in Manchester. I am almost certain that Mr Rogan is about to prove them wrong.

The French at the Middland Hotel
Simon Rogan’s The French at the Midland Hotel

Umezushi (sushi from £3, hot dishes £12) is a fabulous sushi joint under the railway arches near Victoria station. It is in such an unlikely location that on several occasions I have struggled to convince taxi drivers to take me there. The restaurant is tiny, with maybe 20 seats, so booking is advisable. I’ve been three times this year out of the, ooh, five or six times I’ve actually gone out. The sushi and sashimi are the freshest and best I’ve had in forever, the specials are always interesting (burdock root, crispy pig’s ear, sole pirate ship!) and the Japanese wine is excellent, as is the sake. Plus, it is the work of two plucky young things who sought to provide excellent food and drink while operating on a shoestring, and I applaud that.

Food shopping round these parts has been on the up for some time – we now have a few Waitroses, and a Booths at MediaCity. But the local markets are the best bet for interesting local produce. As well as permanent markets, there are regular farmers’ markets. Find them at

I may be biased as it is my home town, but I think Bury Market is the best for food. A sign outside states that it is “World Famous”, which used to make us weep with laughter as schoolchildren. I mean, the hubris! It stank! That was the 1980s though; it really is very good nowadays. Check out the website intro. Turn it up loud.

We use Brian Iddon’s fruit and veg stall a fair bit, as much of the produce is grown on their farm up near the Fylde estuary, and the rest comes from their neighbours. The fish and game stands just behind Brian’s stall are also very good, and of course there are the black pudding stalls, cheesemongers and butchers.

Katsouris deli (23-25 Market Square), just around the corner from the main outdoor market, is a Bury institution and I know many that swear by its hot pork roll. Mr Katsouris himself is delightfully grumpy. If you are lucky, he might even tut at you for joining the wrong queue (it’s a confusing system, OK, Mr Katsouris? That’s why so many of us go in the wrong queue. It is not solely to piss you off. At least, it wasn’t the first couple of times …)

Fraiche in Birkenhead
Fraiche in Birkenhead: ‘Quite how Marc Wilkinson produces such exciting and exquisite food with no assistance, blows my mind’

If my wallet, my restaurant and my children would allow, I’d make the hour’s trip to Fraiche (0151 652 2914,, three courses £35) in Birkenhead every week. Quite how Marc Wilkinson produces such exciting and exquisite food with no assistance, blows my mind. I have had meals there that easily match and may even out-do many two-Michelin-star establishments: every course is so well thought out, and then so well executed that … that … it makes me feel a bit angry inside. But mainly I love eating there and think Marc is an incredible talent. Due to its size (tiny restaurants seem to be a bit of a thing round here) and its popularity, it isn’t always easy to get a table at Fraiche, so book weeks or months in advance.

The Parker’s Arms at Newton-in-Bowland (01200 446236, is well worth a trip. It takes just over an hour from Manchester, and the drive up through Lancashire is beautiful, if often a bit drizzly. The landscape gets more dramatic north of Clitheroe and there sometimes comes a point, as you are exactly in the middle of nowhere, when you lose mobile signal and the sat nav stops working. But that’s kind of exciting.

Perservere, and you will find the perfect country pub. Owner Stosie Madi is a fabulous cook, and a fabulous woman. She produces such great food because she is a real enthusiast, concentrating on finding exceptional produce and treating it real nice. Whatever the time of year, you’ll be offered the best produce from right on their doorstep (the lucky buggers have excellent farms and producers all around), cooked with love and care. The fires are nearly always lit, and the welcome is equally warm. You can’t really ask more from a country pub. Oh, and the wine list is top-notch, too.

Finally, Ramsbottom. I grew up near here and though once upon a time its pubs were mainly for fighting, that has now changed. The Shoulder of Mutton (mains from £11.96), the Hearth of the Ram (01706 828681,, mains from £12.95) and the Eagle and Child (01706 55718,, mains from £9.95) are all doing great stuff with local produce. There is also a decent chippy and an excellent south Indian restaurant, Sanminis .

And then there’s Ramsons (mains from £11.50) a place close to my heart as I spent two years prior to opening Aumbry working there. I really like its downstairs Hideaway restaurant. You get the same incredible Italian wine list as in the main restaurant, but the food is more rustic Italian: beautiful cured meats, cheeses and fresh pasta, as well as slow-roast meats and stews. It is a tiny, dimly lit, cellar-like room, perfect for those cold nights we have coming our way soon.

Mary-Ellen McTague at Aumbry
Mary-Ellen McTague at Aumbry

Mary-Ellen McTague is chef and co-owner of Aumbry (0161-798 5841, in Prestwich

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Why Barbecue Doesn’t Travel Well

I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Arthur Bryant’s original barbecue sauce.

His Kansas City smokehouse, which was made famous decades ago in a Calvin Trillin essay, served a sauce that’s been described as a mixture of Comet and ketchup. That description isn’t far off. The sauce’s gritty texture negates whatever pleasant flavors its ketchup-like ingredients might offer. By the standards of traditional sweet barbecue sauces, it’s a bitter abomination. But when it comes to personal aesthetic statements, Bryant’s sauce is without peer. It represents a throwing down of the gauntlet; a simple, unwavering declaration: “This is the sauce we serve. Take it or leave it.”

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, takes a similar approach. Its mayonnaise-based white barbecue sauce is a shocking sight when slathered on smoked chicken. But it’s their sauce, and they stick with it.

In our barbecue epoch, the personal and the unwavering are sorely missing.

Barbecue has rapidly spread from the great Southern smokehouses of its birth all the way to such once-primitive backwaters as New York and Washington. Even in Midwestern and West Coast cities where barbecue was introduced during the great black migrations of the 20th century, there is a resurgence of interest.

Delta Blues

In this way, barbecue is following the path of another Southern art form: the blues, which spread from the Mississippi Delta to Memphis and Chicago and ultimately found its way to England. Along the way, the sound was transformed from the acoustic version played by Son House and Robert Johnson into the electrified, rocked-out music of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

Barbecue’s migration to the national stage is almost complete. This summer, in Parade magazine, John T. Edge declared this the “new golden age of barbecue,” saying, “Americans adopted barbecue as our national folk food.”

That is exactly what barbecue didn’t need.

So much of its mystique has hinged on its value as a taste of place; a gustatory signature that told the tongue whether it was eating food from the Southeast, Southwest or Deep South. The old verities about the Southwest being beef country and the Southeast being pork country were never absolutely true. But the fervor and chauvinism with which the Texans argued with the Carolinians about which meat, wood and sauces were appropriate raw materials for barbecue provided a refreshing reminder that they were arguing about something personal, definitive, that mattered.

For those of us outside the barbecue belt, we can sit on the sidelines and enjoy the toothsome luxury of tasting the barbecue of various regions, even if we don’t understand or appreciate its origins. In much the same way, hipsters of the late 1960s and early ’70s could drop out to the sounds of British blues-infused rock, without necessarily being tuned in to the music of the Mississippi originals.

Whether they are found in San Francisco, New Orleans or Atlanta, contemporary barbecue restaurants are apt to offer a full range of sauces and meats. The South Carolina mustard sauce, the North Carolina vinegar sauce and the Kansas City tomato sauce sit side by side on their tables. These new places are disjointed, much as the Holy Land Experience theme park is conveniently close to Walt Disney World in Orlando and the pyramid at the Luxor in Las Vegas is only a few minutes away from the canals of “Venice.”

Big Barbecue

New restaurants have also introduced something that barbecue menus haven’t seen in years: side dishes containing fresh vegetables. Even the best traditional barbecue restaurants seldom served sides that could stand alone without smoked meats to buttress them.

For the new big city barbecue joints, this approach makes sense. A restaurant doesn’t want to be disqualified because it doesn’t offer something for the person who doesn’t eat meat or the one who doesn’t consider macaroni and cheese to be a vegetable. Even Arthur Bryant’s now serves two more conventional sauces in addition to the original, a Rich Spicy Barbeque Sauce and a Sweet Heat Barbeque Sauce.

But now that restaurants offer smoked meats and quality vegetables nationwide, what we really need is a new “golden age of barbecue.” An era in which these new capitals of ’que distinguish themselves by developing regional and subregional approaches. This will be no easy task. Wars, railroads, national commercials and worldwide food conglomerates have herded us away from our regional differences and closer to national conformity. We know what barbecue sauce is supposed to taste like because Kraft Foods Group Inc. (KRFT) and Clorox Co. (yes, that Clorox!) have subtly won us over to their products.

To extend the blues analogy a bit further, the original barbecue style (whole hogs cooked in a pit) most closely resembles the acoustic blues of the Delta pioneers. The seasoned, smoked and slathered pork shoulders and ribs of Memphis and Chicago parallel the electrified sounds of the Beale Street Blues Boy, B.B. King, and his Chicago counterpart McKinley Morganfield, also known as Muddy Waters.

The new barbecue joints in places such as Seattle and Denver are reminiscent of the British invasion of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton and other rock musicians who started off covering the rhythms and styles of the blues masters. It wasn’t long before those musicians could no longer be characterized simply as blues-rock. They developed their own signature sounds. New barbecue restaurants are developing their own styles, and some, like Blue Smoke and Hill Country in New York and Smoke Restaurant in Dallas, are showing signs of greatness.

Overall, we are still at the cover-band stage, I’m afraid. The barbecue nation has a ways to go before it can reach the peaks achieved by Bryant in 1908 and Gibson in 1925. In the meantime, there’s still plenty of great barbecue in unlikely places.

(Lolis Eric Elie is a writer for the AMC show “Hell on Wheels” and the author of “Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country” and the recently released “Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans.”)

To contact the writer of this article: Lolis Eric Elie at

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Alex Bruns at

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Chinese Cinema: Have Pics, Can’t Travel

While the Chinese film industry is booming at home, with production volume, cinema numbers and theatrical box office all racing ahead, film exports are going almost nowhere.

Official figures are vague on the value of overseas sales achieved by Chinese rights holders, but data points to overseas box office for Chinese films dropping for the past two years.

In some quarters this is a cause for concern, but for others it is a matter of sublime indifference. That’s because they are too busy figuring out how to profit from this domestic golden era.

“China’s companies have no idea about international sales. That’s because they are so strongly focused on their home market,” says Albert Lee, CEO of Emperor Motion Pictures, another conglomerate that straddles Hong Kong and China.

When local films can gross anywhere between $30 million for “Say Yes” to the $200 million earned by “Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons” and “Lost in Thailand,” (pictured) China’s filmmakers will not go to the trouble of learning the complications of overseas territories for only marginal extra income.

While the new commercial movie crop is well-made and marks a refreshing break with the past, its stories are also more local. They may resonate with audiences in Asia, but for audiences in the U.S. and Europe, the new films, young directors and little-known TV and Internet stars may remain remote.

“For Chinese-language films, only kung fu movies work internationally,” says Bill Kong, head of Hong Kong- and China-based conglomerate Edko. In August he unveiled plans for “Rise of the Legend,” an attempted revival of Wong Fei-hung, one of the iconic characters of the Chinese action genre.

The irony here is that Kong was one of the producers of Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” a surprise global hit that was largely responsible for a massive surge of interest in Chinese movies in 2000. Unfortunately the boom, which had happened at the tail end of the video and DVD era, did not last. Also, the great financial crisis in the West meant many film funds never took off, output deals were allowed to expire, and U.S. and European buyers became more risk-averse — across the board, not just with Chinese movies.

The structure of China’s film industry has also hampered overseas success, especially its censorship system. Stories must not only steer clear of sex, drugs, religion and present-day politics, but also sci-fi, time travel, ghosts and contemporary thrillers. Censorship has also made international co-productions tricky, as regulations do not officially permit multiple versions of a Chinese film.

Filmmakers such as Chen Daming have complained that such rules make it difficult to have a strong antagonist, while John Woo’s producer partner Terence Chang says a contemporary crime thriller, such as the Chinese version of “The French Connection” he dreams of making, is out of the question because crime, corruption and police procedures are all taboo.

After liberalization in 2000-01, this meant a clustering of titles in “safe” genres: martial arts and ancient historical action.

Film regulators have gradually eased up and a genre normalization has taken place. The transformation has become more apparent with a succession of local hit movies this year, ranging from romantic comedies “Say Yes” and “Wedding Diary” through glossy actioner “Switch” to “American Dreams in China” and “So Young,” light contemporary dramas projecting a hip and aspirational universe contrasting with the naive simplicity of Chinese film just a decade or two ago.

In the longer term, the weight of history and economics may be on China’s side. China’s booming economy will draw in international talent, investors and co-producers such as Oriental DreamWorks, Legendary Pictures, Village Roadshow or Fox Intl. Productions. Chinese companies like China Film, Enlight, Le Vision, Bona Film or Huayi Bros. will seek the prestige and brand enhancement that comes from being a Hollywood player. Few believe that property-to-cinema group Wanda’s acquisition of U.S. cinema chain AMC is the last move in the Chinese film industry’s international expansion drive.

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Top Indonesian energy official barred from travel in latest government scandal …

Sat Aug 31, 2013 3:32am EDT

JAKARTA (Reuters) – A top Indonesian energy official has been banned from overseas travel, media reported on Saturday, in the latest graft case this month which threatens to further tarnish President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s final year in office.

The reported travel ban on Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry Secretary General, Waryono Karno, follows the arrest earlier this month of the head of the energy regulator SKKMigas, Rudi Rubiandini, on bribery charges after large amounts of cash were found in his Jakarta home.

Officials from the Corruption Eradication Agency (KPK) and the immigration office were not immediately available for comment.

“Yes, that was two days ago,” Kompas daily quoted deputy head of the KPK Busryo Muqoddas as saying when asked if his agency had requested the travel ban on Waryono.

KPK routinely imposes travel bans when it is investigating individuals in corruption cases, and has already imposed them on three other SKKMigas officials.

Waryono has come under investigation after $200,000 was found in a bag in his office, KPK officials have said, although the Jakarta Post quoted Energy Minister Jero Wacik as saying the money was for legitimate purposes.

The scandals are the first to hit the top levels of the energy ministry, which oversees a major part of Southeast Asia’s biggest economy. The Indonesian economy is heavily dependent of the production of oil, gas, coal and several metals.

They add to confusion over government policy in the industry and could undermine attempts to attract more investment from international energy companies, several of which have threatened to scale back operations due to uncertainty about the investment environment.

The cases also come at a tricky time for President Yudhoyono. The energy minister is a top member of Yudhoyono’s ruling Democratic Party and the party’s fortunes have already been damaged by other high-profile corruption cases which are expected to come to court in the next few months.

The minister has denied any involvement in the SKKMigas case.

The scandals undermine Yudhoyono’s claims that during his two terms as president he has successfully reduced the graft that has long been a routine part of doing business in the world’s fourth most populous nation.

It also comes as his legacy for successfully managing the economy comes under attack from a global retreat by investors from emerging markets, especially those like Indonesia that are running large current account deficits.

If the cases spread they could add to the problems of Yudhoyono’s party, which has seen its popularity slide ahead of next year’s parliamentary and presidential elections.

Opinion polls almost all show that Jakarta’s popular governor, in office for less than a year but widely viewed as clean and effective, would easily win the presidential race.

Governor Joko Widodo has not said whether he would run and the party he is most closely linked to, the opposition PDI-P, has yet to decide who its candidate will be next July.

Just the possibility that he will run has been enough to shake up the political establishment. Most of the other likely candidates owe their initial rise to links to the now widely discredited former president Suharto.

Suharto was the second of two autocrats who dominated most of Indonesia’s nearly 70 years of independence.

In a sign of the consternation Widodo has caused among established parties, the presidential candidate for the Golkar party – Suharto’s political vehicle – was quoted by media as saying he would be prepared to be the governor’s running mate.

(Editing by Paul Tait)

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UN staff quit Syria, warning on travel to Lebanon

Sat Aug 31, 2013 9:49am EDT

AMMAN/DOHA (Reuters) – Dozens of U.N. staff have left Syria and several countries have warned citizens to stay away from neighboring Lebanon as regional tensions grow over a possible U.S.-led military strike.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said he is planning a “limited, narrow” military action to punish Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad for a poison gas attack that Washington said killed 1,429 people.

Syria denies the accusation and says rebels trying to overthrow Assad were responsible.

Several U.N. agencies had scaled down their staffing in Syria as a precaution, a U.N. source told Reuters from Damascus on Saturday.

“Most of the midlevel and nonessential foreign staff left on Thursday. The heads of the various agencies have stayed behind, together with a skeleton local staff,” the source added.

The United Nations has about 1,000 national and international staff working on humanitarian and relief projects in Syria, spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said on Friday. She said she could not comment on reports of U.N. staff leaving the country.

U.N. agencies active in Syria include refugee agency UNHCR, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organisation and the World Food Programme.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Britain and France warned their nationals not to travel to Lebanon, whose divided communities have been pulled into the increasingly sectarian conflict next door.

Austria told its citizens to contact its embassy in Lebanon before travelling there.

A senior security source in Lebanon said 14,000 people had left the country on Thursday alone, mostly Europeans.

Bahrain’s foreign ministry said its advice was prompted by growing concerns of the impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon, news agency BNA reported late on Friday. Kuwait’s embassy in Lebanon told its citizens to leave the country due to “security uncertainty”, news agency KUNA said.

Britain advised against all but essential travel to Lebanon on Friday, citing the recent violence there and wider regional tensions. It also said there may be an increased risk of anti-Western sentiment linked to the possibility of military action. France issued similar advice on Thursday.

At least 100,000 people have been killed and two million driven abroad by Syria’s conflict.

(Reporting by Amena Bakr; Additional reporting By Mirna Sleiman in Dubai, Michael Shields in Vienna and Khaled Oweis in Jordan; Editing by William Maclean and Andrew Heavens)

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Picture quiz – do you know your world cities?

Some city skylines are so iconic they are instantly recognisable. Leaving out the most obvious contenders, we’ve put together this gallery of cities around the world – see how many you can guess

Click here for the answers
(You may want to open it in a new tab, so you can read them side by side)

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Labor Day traffic congestion could become everyday norm, US Travel …

Labor Day travelers contemplating a trip from Boston to Hartford on Interstate 84 might want to take note — or take a helicopter. In 2011, vehicle volume on that stretch of highway was 149 percent higher than traffic on a typical day that year.

That’s one bit of information included in a new study from the US Travel Association. The study’s title: “Typical Day on US Highways Will Soon Look Like Labor Day.”

In other words, if policy changes and infrastructure investments aren’t made, “average daily car volume will soon surpass that of the notoriously congested first weekend of September—within a decade in some places,” said the association, a nonprofit group that represents the travel industry, and because big transportation projects can take a decade or more to complete, action needs to be taken quickly.

In studying highway traffic, the study examined highway usage data and growth rates along 16 interstate corridors nationwide, including the I-84 corridor that many Boston area travelers use either to get to Greater Hartford or to another destination that requires them to pass through Hartford. The study uses data from 2011, the most recent year for which such information is available. In many of those 16 corridors, either Labor Day weekend or Thanksgiving weekend had the busiest traffic of that year.

The analysis of that data was conducted by Cambridge Systematics. Besides geographic diversity, one reason why those 16 corridors were selected for the study was that they are monitored by automatic traffic recorders, which collect data about vehicle volumes.

“Traveling with relative ease cannot be taken for granted, whether it’s for business or pleasure,” US Travel Association president and chief executive Roger Dow said in a statement. “If the average day on the road resembled those brutal periods when bumper-to-bumper traffic is the norm, it would devastate our economy and way of life. For a great number of America’s major corridors, that day is not that far down the road.”

According to a new survey, 58 percent of recent Labor Day travelers said they would alter their yearly travel habits if US highways regularly experienced Labor Day-like conditions

“While some improvements have been made in the last decade, the current level of investment is not nearly enough to prepare us for what’s ahead,” Dow said. “There is simply too much at stake for our economy and quality of life to let travel in America grind to a halt.”

The association added that it is gearing up to propose a variety of policy prescriptions designed to prevent a “traffic crisis.”

Chris Reidy can be reached at

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Gogobot, The Travel Site Where Friends And Experts Plan Your Vacation, Is …

Travis KatzWe first heard about Gogobot a year ago, when it suddenly snagged 1 million users in a mere two months. Since then, the social travel website has really exploded.

It now has 3.7 million registered users and has become the fastest growing travel site on the web, according to data from Comscore and eMarketeer shared with us by cofounder and CEO Travis Katz.

In the summer-travel month of July, Gogobot was a more popular website than AirBnB, Bing Travel or Hipmunk, at least in the U.S., the data showed. (Though this doesn’t include mobile traffic, Katz clarified.)

Granted, Gogobot is still less than half as popular as Frommer’s and a fraction of the size of Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor. But it’s also only 2.5 years old, Katz points out.

Gogobot growth

Comscore via Gogobot

The site is popular because it helps you get travel recommendations from your own friends in your own social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare. Instead of posting a status and asking friends, “Hey, where’s a great place to eat in Denver?” it automates the process.

If your friends can’t help, or you are going to some exotic location, it has expert travel writers that can. Or you can join a “tribe” and trade tips with people who have similar travel tastes (adventure, budget, backpackers, foodies, history buffs, etc.)

Naturally, the site will book your reservations. Then it keeps a travel log for you, including your photos, favorite restaurants, etc.

And it does it all from your smartphone, too.

Before founding Gogobot, Katz formerly ran the international business for Myspace. Cofounder Ori Zaltzman was the chief architect of an innovative Yahoo search service, Yahoo BOSS, and worked on Yahoo Answers, too.

Gogobot has raised $19 million over two rounds from investors like Battery Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, and Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors.

These People Work In Paradise (And You Can Too!)

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Plus, flying the unfriendly skies, and the differences between American and …

Portland is for yuppies

Ah, Portland, Ore. (“Recharged and Upbeat” by Christopher Reynolds, Aug. 25)! It is a great place to visit — indeed, where the young go to drink beer and coffee and ride around on bicycles with every inch of their bodies pierced and tattooed.

During my 10 years as a Portlander in the ’80s, I was a lawyer for most of Hawthorne Boulevard. I lived at the eastern end of the street, alongside Mt. Tabor. It was great, because anyone with an idea and a brain could afford the rents and start-up costs for a business. I got paid in trade — shoe repair, pasta, fresh baked granola, fresh squeezed orange juice, cappuccinos, entry to live concerts. (The barter, along with my representation of area Native Americans, got me audited by the Internal Revenue Service twice. The IRS couldn’t figure out how a lawyer could have such little income.)

Reynolds’ articles missed one important undercurrent. Portland always was and still is segregated. Blacks lived in northeastern Portland, Latinos in the Willamette Valley and Native Americans on the coast and in the Columbia Gorge.

I had the pleasure of representing many black Portlanders. One magnificent client was George Thrower, who ran the Bagdad Shoe Repair. His shop started out in the theater building noted in the cover story. Every year when I visit, Thrower’s shop has moved farther and farther up the boulevard from the theater. As he told me last April, the rents are now too high for businesses other than bars and restaurants and places that cater to white yuppies. Every time rents go up, his shoe repair goes east two blocks.

He still offered to do my boots for free and mail them back to me when they were finished. Gotta love that guy.

Jack L. Schwartz

Los Angeles

The unfriendly skies

The Aug. 25 letter (“Airline Tickets,” Letters) from Lynn Harris illustrates one reason I refuse to fly anymore unless absolutely necessary. Too many airline employees don’t give a rip about their customers.

Who cares where the ticket was purchased? Every ticket holder uses equipment owned by the airline and has to deal with the airline’s customer service.

I can almost hear a stranded traveler being told, smugly, “Oh, you didn’t buy your ticket from the airline? Too bad. Next!”

Bonnie Sloane

Los Angeles

Harris’ letter suggests a need for clarification between voluntary and involuntary changes.

Airlines have an obligation (and my experience is that they meet it) to accommodate passengers with involuntary changes. This includes flight delays because of weather, mechanical or other causes, schedule changes, flight cancellations, etc.

In my experience, airline agents are authorized to waive the usual limits on booking category and fee collections for involuntary changes. This applies regardless of where or how the ticket was issued.

In contrast, airlines are reluctant to touch a ticket issued by a third party for voluntary changes. I’d be surprised to learn of an airline that refused to rebook a passenger stranded by weather.

Randall Gellens

San Diego

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