Saturday, May 30, 2015

Quirky Questions Tourists Ask

It's the start of the summer tourist season (in the Northern Hemisphere). Some of us will be tourists and some of us will encounter tourists.  And tourists invariably ask questions.

At one time or another when we were in school, we've probably all heard a teacher say that there are no stupid questions in an attempt to get us to express our curiosity about something without being embarrassed.

However, as an adult that old adage doesn't apply to all situations.  The travel industry is filled with weird, quirky, and in some cases just plain stupid questions asked by tourists.  Here's a sampling of some from various sources.

Actual Questions Asked On Cruise Ships:
Does the crew sleep on board?
Is the island surrounded by water?
What happens to the ice sculptures after they melt?
What time is the 2 o'clock tour?
Can you see the equator from the deck?
I know that ships often serve smoked salmon, but I am a non-smoker.
Can the iced tea be served hot?
Will I get wet if I go snorkeling?
Should I put my luggage outside the cabin before or after I go to sleep?
Does the outside cabin mean it's outside the ship?
Where is the good shopping in Antarctica?

And cruise ships aren't the only place that tourists seem to have absurd questions.  Here are some actual questions received by Australians from foreigners, along with some well-deserved replies.
Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (question from the UK)
A:  We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.
Q:  Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (question from USA)
A:  Depends how much you've been drinking.
Q:  I want to walk from Perth to Sydney—can I follow the railroad tracks? (question from Sweden)
A:  Sure, it's only 3000 miles, take lots of water.
Q:  Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay? (question from the UK)
A:  What did your last slave die of?
Q:  Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia? (question from USA)
A:  A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe.  Aus-tra-lia is the big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not…oh forget it.  Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night at Kings Cross.  Come naked.
Q:  Which direction is north in Australia? (question from USA)
A:  Face south and then turn 180 degrees.  Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.
Q:  Can I wear high heels in Australia? (question from the UK)
A:  You're a British politician, right?
Q:  Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (question from Germany)
A:  No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers.  Milk is illegal.
Q:  Can you tell me the regions in Tasmania where the female population is smaller than the male population? (question from Italy)
A:  Yes, gay nightclubs.
Q:  Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (question from France)
A:  Only at Christmas.

The Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom put together an international list "of the most inexplicably simple queries fielded by tourism officials."
Are there any lakes in the Lake District?
Why on earth did they build Windsor Castle on the flight path for Heathrow?
Is Wales closed during the winter?
Why did they build so many ruined castles and abbeys in England?
Do you know of any undiscovered ruins?

And here are some tourist questions asked at Niagara Falls:
What time do the falls shut off?
How far into Canada do I have to go before we have to drive on the other side of the road?
How much does it cost to get into Canada and are children a different price?

And here are some goodies from Minnesota:
I'm coming in July and I want snowmobile rental information.
We want to tour the Edmund Fitzgerald. (the ship sank in Lake Superior during a storm in 1975)
One traveler asked to see the bridge in Minnesota with the arches.  She was shown various photos, none of which were the bridge she was looking for.  She finally identified a picture of the St. Louis Gateway Arch as the bridge she wanted to see.  She was given directions to Missouri.

And finally …these tidbits.
One tourist to Scotland asked what time they fed the Loch Ness Monster.  Another visitor to New York City thought they would end up in Holland if they drove through the Holland Tunnel.  A traveler in Miami asked a tourism official which beach was closest to the ocean.

So…I guess the bottom line is to maybe think about that question a second time before you actually ask it.   :)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

MEMORIAL DAY: A Holiday With A Dual Distinction

The last Monday in May, this year falling on May 25th, is Memorial Day in the United States—a holiday honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War but didn't become an official federal holiday until 1971.

In addition to being a day observed by many Americans visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in patriotic parades, it's also considered the unofficial start of the summer season and vacation time.

The Civil War claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history. This required the establishment of the country's first national cemeteries. In the late 1860s, Americans in various small towns and large cities held springtime tributes to fallen soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers. On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan proclaimed May 30th as Decoration Day, the date chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the first Decoration Day, General Logan made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery where 5,000 participants decorated the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

Decoration Day originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But by the time the U.S. became involved in World War I, the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

The name Decoration Day gradually changed over to Memorial Day during the ensuing years, but continued to be observed on May 30th. In 1968, one hundred years after General Logan made his Decoration Day proclamation, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. This law also declared Memorial Day to be a federal holiday. The change went into effect in 1971.

In addition to nationwide parades and the decorating of graves and monuments, Memorial Day has come to hold a second distinction. It is also a time of many family gatherings which include backyard BBQs and picnics. With an official date of the last Monday in May, the holiday is considered the unofficial start of summer and the beginning of the vacation travel season in the Northern Hemisphere with the Labor Day holiday on the first Monday of September signaling the unofficial end of summer.

Many recreational boaters launch their boats on lakes and rivers over the Memorial Day weekend for the first outing of the summer. Tourist attractions gear up for the summer vacationers.

And a sure sign of the start of the summer season—all across the country gasoline prices go up in preparation of increased need!

Saturday, May 16, 2015


It's not unusual to see all sorts of things washed up on beaches around the world.  There's the natural things such as seaweed/kelp and sea shells, including all things native to the oceans such as dead sea animals of various sorts ranging from small creatures to the occasional large whale.

But things washed up on the beaches also includes strange and surprising items that are not normally associated with beaches. Most of this marine debris, such as plastic bags, bottles and cans are from land-based sources.  Some, however, is due to weather events such as hurricanes and tsunamis.  While some comes from vessels in storm-tossed seas. We have seen several very large and strange things washed up on the shores of western U.S. and Canada that arrived from Japan courtesy of the 2011 tsunami.

Here is a list I came across of unusual beach findings that didn't belong there.

In January 2012, huge shipping containers from a distressed cargo vessel washed up on one of New Zealand's most popular beaches. Up to 300 containers were reportedly tossed overboard when 6 meter (approximately 19.5 feet) waves struck the ship. People were warned against looting, but both locals and tourists flocked to the beaches to take photos of the giant containers.

A recurring washed-up-on-the-beach sensation appeared at Zandvoort, Netherlands in 2007, and Brighton Beach in England in 2008, and at Siesta Key Beach in Florida in 2011. And what was this surprise visitor to these shores?  It was a giant (8 feet tall) Lego man that weighed about 100 pounds and featured a bright green torso showing the message "No Real Than You Are."  The number 8 appeared on its back along with the words "Ego Leonard." The mystery was finally resolved when it was revealed that "Ego Leonard" was the alter ego of a Dutch artist.  The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office joined in the fun and issued a press release saying it had taken the giant Lego man "into protective custody." In response, numerous "Free Lego Man" Facebook pages and campaigns popped up on the Internet.

In September 2005, hundreds of giant squid washed up in Newport Beach. Calif. The creatures, believed to be Humboldt squid, normally reside in deep water.  It was rare for locals to encounter them on land or sea. Authorities said the squid might have been pursuing bait fish and gotten too close to shore. Other factors, such as warm ocean temperatures or record rainfall were also suspected.

In May 2012, dozens of fly swatters emblazoned with logos of collegiate and professional sports teams washed up on the beaches of Kodiak, Alaska. The fly swatters were originally believed to be debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, but were eventually proven to have come from a shipping container that got loose from a ship carrying products from China. The container went overboard in dangerous weather in the Gulf of Alaska. Other sports-related items, such as Nerf balls and water bottles were also found on Kodiak's beaches.

In August 2010, hundreds of tea packets washed ashore in Rajbandar in the Raigad district, Maharashtra, India.  Nine containers from the cargo ship MSC Chitra spilled into the sea after the cargo ship suffered a collision with another ship.

In 2007, residents of the Dutch North Sea island of Terschelling, 70 miles north of Amsterdam, discovered thousands of bananas washed ashore after at least six containers of the fruit fell off a cargo ship in a storm and at least one of the containers broke open. Bunches of the still green bananas from Cuba also washed up on neighboring Amerland Island. It's not known exactly what happened to the beached bananas, but at the time residents suggested sending most of the fruit to local zoos.

In February 2006, also on the Netherlands' Terschelling Island, thousand of sneakers washed up on the beach when containers from the P&O Nedlloyd ship Mondriaan fell overboard in a storm. Residents of the island rushed to get the sneakers, searching for shoes in their size.  Other items washed up on the beach from those containers included children's toys and briefcases.

Perhaps one of the most famous container spills in history occurred in January 1992 when 28,000 rubber duck toys fell into the sea.  The incident inspired a book titled Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn. The great rubber ducky spill occurred when a shipping crate on a cargo ship headed to the U.S. from China fell overboard onto the Pacific Ocean during a stormy night. Some of the rubber ducks (nicknamed Friendly Floatees) have since washed up on the shores of Alaska, Hawaii, South America, Australia and the Pacific Northwest. Some have traveled 17,000 miles, floating over the site where the Titanic sank or spending years frozen in an Arctic ice pack. Some 2,000 of the rubber ducks are still circulating in the ocean and helping researchers chart ocean currents.

On January 26, 2011, a grand piano was found on a sandbar in Miami's Biscayne Bay (pictured above), mysteriously charred from being burned. Speculation about its origins included the idea that it was part of a music video production. It was later discovered that the piano was a junk art installation, the brainchild of a 16-year-old hoping to use the piece for a college application.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Things NOT To Say At A Job Interview...

...and Six Red Flags That Say Perhaps That Job Isn't For You
We all know that going on a job interview is cause for varying degrees of anxiety.  We're uncomfortable, very concerned about making a good impression both personally and with our resume and work history.  Saying the wrong thing…misspeaking…is upper in our mind.

All of this discomfort is part of the process.  But, there are those who go beyond the bounds of mere jittery nerves.  The following comments were actually said during the course of a job interview.

Q:  Why did you leave your last job?
A:  "I have a problem with authority."

Q:  Why should we hire you?
A:  "I would be a great asset to the events team because I party all the time."

Q:  Do you have any questions?
A:  "Cross dressing isn't a problem, is it?"

Q:  Why are you leaving your current job?
A:  "I was fired from my last job because they were forcing me to attend anger management classes."

Q:  Why do you want to work for us?
A:  "My old boss didn't like me, so one day I just left and never came back.  And here I am!"

Q:  What are your weaknesses? [related to job skills]
A:  "I get angry easily and I went to jail for domestic violence.  But I won't get mad at you."

Q:  When have you demonstrated leadership skills?
A:  "Well my best example would be in the world of online video gaming.  I pretty much run the show.  It takes a lot to do that."

Q:  Is there anything else I should know about you?
A:  "You should probably know I mud wrestle on the weekends."

Q:  When can you start?
A:  "I need to check with my mom on that one."

Q:  Have you submitted your two weeks' notice to your current employer?
A:  "What is two weeks' notice?  I've never quit a job before.  I've always been fired."

The following are random responses and comments made by job seekers at interviews.

"If I get an offer, how long do I have before I have to take the drug test?"

"When you do background checks on candidates, do things like public drunkenness arrests come up?"

"May I have a cup of coffee?  I think I may still be a little drunk from last night."

And finally…
[During a telephone call to schedule the interview]  "Can we meet next month?  I am currently incarcerated."

While we put a lot of effort into that all important job hunt, we should not be so anxious to land a job…any job…that we ignore those red flags trying to tell us this might not be the best place to work.

While those red flags might be flying during your interview, you could be so busy talking about how well you work with your team or bragging about your killer sales record that you don't see them flapping in the wind trying to get your attention. Or you pretend you don't see them. You pretend you don't hear the interviewer complain about a colleague or working long hours. Or you decide it's no big deal that she interrupted your interview twice to take a call.

If getting the job means a large pay increase, or if you've been looking for a job for quite a while with no luck, you're more likely to ignore the signs. But if you don't want to be job hunting again in a few months, you need to pay attention to those red flags.

The good news is that there are usually clues during the interview process that you could be heading for trouble. Spot any of these signs, and you may want to turn down that job offer you've been seeking.

Your interviewer is late. Being a few minutes late for an interview is no big deal. However, if someone is 15 or 20 minutes late, that deserves some added attention on your part especially if your interviewer doesn't appear to care. Being on time is a sign of respect for both the interviewer and the interviewee.

And rescheduling your interview a few times doesn't bode well, either. Your interviewer might be overworked or disorganized, and you really don't want to work in that type of situation and atmosphere.

Your interviewer hasn't reviewed your résumé. If the hiring manager isn't familiar with your background, you have to wonder why you're being interviewed at all. If the person who is doing the hiring hasn't taken the time to read your résumé then that person isn't doing their job.

Ideally, the hiring manager and your potential boss will have called you in because they've carefully read and discussed your résumé and read your online profiles. If they haven't done this, they're not invested enough in bringing in the right person, or they're just desperate to hire someone…anyone.

There's confusion about the position. Sometimes you get called in for an interview through a referral or because you have a great résumé, and the manager is trying to figure out where you fit. You may wind up getting hired, but the job you get might not be best suited to you.

Taking a job because you like the company or the manager isn't enough. Try to pin down specifics about what you will do and how you will be evaluated. Can't get any information? Perhaps it's best to walk away.

Your interviewer checks email. It's just too rude. Your interviewer should be paying attention to the interview, not checking his email. And if someone is that uninterested in what you are saying, there's a good chance that you won't be hired anyway.

The department has a lot of turnover. During your interview, ask why the previous employee in that position resigned, as well as how long that employee had been in that specific job and how long with the company. When you meet other team members, ask them about their career paths.

If many team members are recent hires, be sure there is a sound business reason for the hiring spree, such as a new product or client or a round of funding. Otherwise, too much employee turnover hints at a toxic boss, culture, or work atmosphere.

You hear negative comments about the job situation you're interested in or read them online. If your interviewer criticizes the person you will be replacing, other team members, a boss or even the company in general, don't disregard it as unimportant. It isn't professional, and it might mean you will be working for someone who doesn't respect other people or is impossible to please.

Pay attention to negative comments in online reviews of the company as well. A few negative reviews are one thing—there are always a few disgruntled employees. But if there are many such comments, consider yourself warned. Look for patterns in the comments, too. If the same negative words or phrases pop up in many reviews, such as "political," "lacking vision" or "endless hours," the problem might be the general atmosphere or the leadership, rather than a single manager.

So, with all of this information at your fingertips…good luck with the job search!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Blondes vs. Brunettes: Stereotype or Reality?

For decades it's been a matter of speculation…possibly even for centuries: blondes have more fun but brunettes are smarter.

Is there any truth to that stereotype? The one that claims blondes are dumb as far as intellect is concerned but have that innate ability to manipulate men with their sex appeal. The one that claims brunettes are by far the more intelligent and capable but lose out in the sex symbol department?

Even Hollywood has played into the hands of the stereotype, by making changes in the image they present to the movie going public. In the days of the silent movie, blonde Mary Pickford was the sweet and virginal heroine while brunette Theda Bara was the bad girl sex symbol whose screen persona was the vamp who stole boyfriends and wrecked marriages.

Then in the 1930s the show biz image changed. The blonde became the home wrecking hussy, the gold digging sex symbol while the brunette was either the dutiful wife, the hometown girl next door girlfriend, or the intelligent woman who stepped out of the housewife mold and pursued a career in the business world as a single woman.

Most of the big screen sex symbols were blondes, a few natural and most from a bottle of peroxide. There were a few brunette sex symbols and the occasional redhead such as Rita Hayworth. Probably the most famous of all time was the iconic Marilyn Monroe whose name became synonymous with sex symbol. Marilyn co-starred with a brunette sex symbol of the time, Jane Russell, in the ultimate blonde vs. brunette movie—the 1953 release of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

But do gentlemen really prefer blondes? Results from a study conducted by the University of Westminster in the U.K. and the Scandanavian Journal of Psychology show something quite different. Their study shows that men actually prefer brunettes. The study was conducted with a woman going to three different nightclubs as a brunette, a blonde, and a redhead to see how many men approached her. She was approached most as a blonde, second as a brunette and least as a redhead. That would seem to prove the gentlemen preferring blondes theory.

However, followup with the men in the same three nightclubs showed that the men found her most appealing overall as a brunette. They said she came across most attractive, intelligent, approachable and dependable as a brunette, more temperamental as a redhead, and emotionally needy as a blonde. Previous studies had upheld the stereotype by showing that men prefer blondes.

Interestingly, women of all hair colors prefer men with dark hair…another stereotype of heroic tall, dark, and handsome. And apparently that choice applies to female lions as well. Male lions with dark manes are more likely to be leaders of a pride!

In a different study in 2011 in the U.K., 2000 men were surveyed and blondes were selected as the preference. Then when the same study was conducted in France, U.S., Spain, Italy, and Brazil, the preferred hair color was dark. Psychologists say that women who are not natural blondes usually go blonde because thy want to stand out. Since only about 10% of the population are natural blondes, this tactic works.

Hmmm…I guess those psychologists forgot about the mature women who go from dark hair to blonde because it softens their facial features, i.e. makes the wrinkles not as noticeable while not being that mature gray color.

However, old stereotypes die hard. With the current state of the economy, society has observed more blonde women dying their hair dark in order to be perceived as more professional in the work place and thus less likely to be laid off.

Interesting Fact:  Natural blondes have significantly more hair than brunettes. Evolutionary science tells us that hair evolved in part to protect our scalp from the sun's rays. With less pigmentation than brunettes, blondes developed more hair to achieve that protective barrier.