Friday, April 26, 2013

Lanzarote - A Legacy Shaped by Nature and Art

Lanzarote, the fourth largest of the Spanish archipelago, the Canary Islands, is a very popular holiday destination with tourists flocking from all over Europe.

Lanzarote is a tourist favorite thanks to its year round climate, thanks to its location and close proximity to the Sahara desert. Even during the winter months Lanzarote enjoys 8 hours of sunshine and temperatures that rarely drop below 20 degrees Celsius.

However, whilst the tourist industry plays a major part in the economy of Lanzarote, there is much more to it than hotels, nightclubs, restaurants and beaches. Lanzarote was thought to have been named "The Red Mountains" after the it was born out of fiery volcanic eruptions around 35 million years ago! It is said that Lanzarote, along with the other Canary Islands was formed as part of the break up of the African and American continental plates.

One of the most magnificent natural attractions on Lanzarote is the Timanfaya National Park. The park that is sparse in vegetation and distinctly identifiable by air from the number of large craters on show, tells the story of volcanic eruptions that took place during 1730 and 1736. The eruptions of the 1730's are known as the greatest in Europe and saw many residents on Lanzarote take refuge in Gran Canaria.

To this day areas around the Timanfaya park still measure temperatures of 600 degrees just 13 metres below the ground that you stand on. You can see demonstrations of how hot this is within the park, through geyser demonstrations and watch straw set on fire as it is pushed just metres underground.

Whilst the eruptions helped to forge Lanzarote's natural landscape, in more recent times a local artist, Cesar Manrique, helped to shape Lanzarote as we know it today in terms of the style of buildings, local sculptures, paintings and genius natural attractions that are scattered around the island. You could say that Manrique used Lanzarote as his canvas.

Some of the Manrique creations that are open as visitor attractions on Lanzarote include Mirador del Rio, a lookout built into the northern cliffs with amazing views over La Graciosa (a neighboring island) and Jameos del Agua, a lava tunnel containing a natural pool that is home to albino crabs (said to be the only place in the world where they can be found). Jameos del Agua also has an auditorium / concert hall built into the lava landscape. The lava based rock formations that line the walls of the auditorium are said to creating amazing acoustics that really bring classical music alive.

The legacy of Manrique is still very much alive today. Apart from a few large hotels, there are no high rise buildings and all buildings are painted white with either blue or brown door and window frames. It is because of this, along with the barren landscape that Lanzarote stands out from the other islands that make up the Canary archipelago.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Inness Paintings

George Inness is a famous American painter from the art movements of tonalism and Inness produced many great landscape paintings, for which he is best known. Inness chose to develop his skills and philosophies on art by travelling and living in France at various stages in his career. Inness was later to become the leading American painter in Barbizon-style techniques due to this careful study and willingness to learn new ideas about landscape art, which was still developing throughout the 19th century.

Famous George Inness paintings included Lackawanna Valley, Lake Albano, Pool in the Woods, Old Elm at Medfield, Sunset on the Passaic, In the Roman Campagna, Summer Landscape and Early Morning Tarpon Springs. During his career Inness painted many hundreds of works, but always stuck closely to his preferred use of landscapes.

In conclusion, George Inness is an artist who left a great mark on the art movement of tonalism and also helped developed the legacy of the Hudson River School into new directions. Inness greatest contribution is the acceptance and discussion that he encouraged around the link between the artist's spiritual side and the paintings that they would create. This explains why Inness chose to return to solely landscaped paintings without influence from modern inventions. This purity of his subjects and passion for his art form is why many art lovers continue to buy Inness paintings as handmade reproductions across America and Europe as his legacy lives on. Inness sits alongside the likes of Bierstadt, Cole and Church in their great contributions to North American art on the 19th century.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Private Residence Club for The Cowboy at Heart

Preserving a Treasure of the American West

Shell Valley is a tiny hamlet nestled in the foothills of the spectacular Bighorn Mountains in picturesque Shell Wyoming, population 50. Here, nature remains unspoiled and the traditions of the Old West continue uninterrupted. Tradition, honor and the Cowboy Code are fundamental to the foundation of life here in the West. Now, this legacy that has lived on at the Flitner Ranch for over one hundred years can become part of your family's history, thanks to the Hideout Private Residence Club.

This private, experiential club combines the best of Equestrian Private Residence communities and destination clubs. But what you may ask are these elusive definitions? Simply put, a Private Residence Club membership is a form of fractional ownership, frequently described as "luxury home ownership without the hassles". A destination club in contrast is a membership to a collection of destinations that provide the owner with luxury accommodations at each destination.

The Hideout Private Residence Club is a non-equity membership offering an equestrian based, experiential adventure through the use of their 300,000 acre Guest Ranch. Members enjoy luxurious accommodations with unparalleled recreation opportunities while making a positive contribution to the environment through membership in their conservation and preservation trust, The Shell Valley Preservation Initiative.

As fourth generation ranchers, the Flitner family is passionate that the magnificence of The Shell Valley remains intact forever. After watching other areas of the West fall victim to indiscriminate commercial development, David and Paula Flitner have made a commitment to preserve The Shell Valley as a living treasure of the American West and are actively seeking members who want to share in this vision.

The Hideout Private Residence club is offering by invitation only, a total of 88 memberships to be shared among 11 luxury homes offering dramatic views of the Bighorn Mountains and Shell Valley. Legacy Members receive a total of 5 weeks year round use and additional use according to availability. Membership features include concierge services, use of recreation & dining amenities from the Hideout Guest Ranch, Snowshoe Lodge and the Upper Hideout, thousands of miles of trails to explore with your equine friends, an international clientele, and all of the benefits with none of the hassles of second home ownership.

"The Hideout is a place to share with our children and our children's children; a place they will come to know as their own private sanctuary. A chance to be land stewards so that future generations may marvel at the same spectacular, unspoiled landscapes. Our members embrace this valley as their own national park - as a treasure that, if protected, can herald its history and heritage through the test of time."

Monday, April 15, 2013

Smart Energy Management

Sustainability and energy management are amongst the most talked about issues across the industrial landscape today. The costs associated with purchasing fuel and energy to run operations are significant and can affect the achievement of plant goals. Energy management needs to be assessed when making equipment decisions. Intelligent consumption of this energy can provide significant savings and free up funds to be allocated for other projects.

A great start is doing an energy audit on your equipment. It is not only a low cost way to gain vital data on your plant, but it can also troubleshoot issues that you may not have known were even there. A machine that is using an abnormal amount of energy is likely to have internal issues that may need to be assessed and/or fixed that are not only wasting energy, but could possibly be creating defects in your product.

* "When a decision is made to acquire a new machine, a manufacturer should consider the amount of energy that will be consumed by this machine during its lifecycle. Among expenses from the acquisition to dismantling of a machine, the purchase price accounts for 2% to 3% of the overall costs; the remainder is mainly its energy consumption."

It is a similar case with motors also. Oftentimes when sizing a motor, the thought process is that implementing a motor with extra power is the safest bet, but running a motor below its rated power will yield a drop in its efficiency and add to energy waste.

* "Making intelligent choices when choosing motors can save up to 30% of energy consumption over the life of the machine."

Thanks to new systems in motors and drives, simply upgrading one or both can provide significant savings without much effort. Making simple upgrades on equipment can greatly reduce the energy cost per part, thus significantly cutting costs and enhancing your bottom line.

*Ian Hitchins, Edited by: Mark T. Hoske, "OEM Sustainability: Energy Efficiency For Machines" 12/25/11

Upgrading to energy efficient and performance enhancing controls can provide big benefits to your bottom line.

What about the legacy systems that companies already have in place? The overall control system may be in need of improvements. By upgrading the components within the equipment a significant savings can result from less energy consumption, improved quality, and increased efficiency all at a relatively low cost. Does your company have aged equipment that is suffering from long downtime, high energy usage, and low process quality? Consider an upgrade to your existing equipment to make the equipment run at or above its original levels.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Genius of Gaudi

Antoni Placid Guillem Gaudi i Cornet. Or simply, Gaudi.

The genius who has become synonymous with the city of Barcelona. The Catalan architect whose work is instantly recognisable and who helped transform his home city. And yet it all started so unpromisingly. Born in 1852 into a family of coppersmiths, the youngest of five children, Gaudi was a 'sickly child' - in his case, rheumatism, which prevented him from being very active at all. What he did instead was to become intensely interested in nature and natural objects - something which was to last throughout his life and prove to be enormously influential in his career.

Although never an outstanding scholar, Gaudi was accepted into the Escola Tecnica Superior d'Arquitectura, where, during his years of study, he helped to design the Parc Ciutadella on the site of the city's old fortress-prison. There is a famous quotation from the presentation of his architectural diploma - which may or may not be apocryphal - that they were unsure whether they were presenting it to a 'nut or a genius' and certainly were it not for the patronage of Eusebi Guell, he might have struggled to find employment.

Gaudí's distinctive style developed early in his career. Heavily influenced by the Gothic architecture that dominated parts of Barcelona, he was able to incorporate his love of nature into what became art nouveau architecture, or modernisme. He was intensely fanatical about incorporating natural organic shapes into his designs and this, combined with his vivid sense of colour, resulted in some truly amazing constructions.

La Sagrada Familia is probably Barcelona's most famous building - indeed, many people mistakenly think of it as the city's cathedral. Gaudi, who spent the last years of his life as a devout Catholic, actually inherited the scheme from someone else but his reworking of the design resulted in one of the world's most talked about churches. Inspired partly by the eerie shapes of the mountains around the monastery at Montserrat this beautifully grotesque building is a wonderful, if unfinished, legacy. Gaudi himself died in 1926 - knocked down by a tram and taken to a paupers' hospital, where he later died. A Gaudi museum has been incorporated into the church now which contains some fascinating models which show how the architect worked out the intricacies of his building process.

There are, of course, countless other examples of Gaudi's genius to be seen around the city. Ranging from his early street lamps in Placa Reial to the simply stunning buildings Casa Mila and Casa Batllo. All bear the architect's trademark elements - curved building stones, twisted metalwork, wave-shaped balconies, extravagantly coloured tile mosaics and a sense of sculpture permeating everything.

For me, the essence of Gaudi can always be found at the enchanting Parc Guell. With twisting pathways winding through the wooded grounds, there are benches, plazas, hidden grottos and stonework columns - all guarded over by a fantastically shaped mosaic serpent. The bizarre, spectacular designs fit perfectly into the idyllic landscape, overlooking the city. Casa Museu Gaudi, the surreal spired house hidden in the trees, still has the furniture and designs of the artist cum architect inside.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Exploring the Stunning Amalfi Region

In Amalfi, villas are an important part of the holiday landscape. But just why is this part of Italy so popular? Read on to find out.

The coastline

This part of Italy's coast is arguably its most beautiful. Mountains crash down into the azure sea and the vicinity is littered with tiny harbours, fishing villages and quiet bays with beaches. Many of the towns don't have beaches (or major sandy beaches) as such, but they do have typical Italian 'Lido' type facilities that are charming and could come directly out of a 1950s or 1960s movie backdrop.

Of course, there are some excellent beaches around if you care to make the effort to leave the spectacular attractions of the towns and head to the sand and sea. Speaking of the sea, this part of the world has always seen the ocean as a great transport mechanism and, as a result, from this part of the coast it's possible to take a variety of boat trips to numerous quaint (or in some cases glamorous) offshore islands. It's an experience truly not to be missed.

The history

In Amalfi, villas position you close to one of the great architectural gems of the world - the town itself.

For well over 1000 years, this town has been important in one sense or another and it has a fantastic architecture as a legacy of that huge period of time. The cathedral (Duomo) is stunning, as are many other buildings in the town. If you enjoy gaining a sense of place and time, just spend an hour or so taking a coffee or drink in the cathedral square and watch the world go by. It's a very different experience to that of most people's normal daily life!

The history isn't restricted to the town itself. For example, Amalfi is only about an hour's drive (just under 50kms) from the world-famous site of Pompeii - the location of one of history's great tragedies, but one that has left us with a marvellous historical legacy of the Roman period.

The cuisine

To be honest, little needs to be said of the glories of Italian cuisine - other than perhaps to re-emphasise that it is about so much more than just pizza and pasta. Try some of the local, freshly caught seafood dishes to see just how varied southern Italian cooking can be - and how delicious. Also, don't forget to try the local liqueur - Limoncello. Yes, you can get it outside of Italy but there's nothing like a chilled taste of it 'in situ' to help your taste buds develop.

The weather

Yes, it's perhaps stating the obvious but the blue skies and warm days here are nothing short of magical. It can get hot at peak times during the height of summer but, even then, the mornings, later afternoons and evenings leave you feeling as if this was the weather human beings were built to live in, rather than the cold damp environment of Northern Europe. If you're in any doubt of that, just book in to one of the many Amalfi villas available for rental and find out for yourself! It's a decision you won't regret.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Changing Landscape of Business Travel

The ongoing global economic downturn has affected nearly all major industries but the effect has been particularly devastating on the global airline industry which has been grappling with various woes like rising fuel costs, falling revenues and rapidly diminishing demand especially in the premium class of travel. In a recent forecast, the International Air Transport Association director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani, estimated that global airlines would face a 12 percent decline in revenues for 2009.

These airline industry woes have affected all airlines and both the legacy carriers as well as the low cost carriers have had to deal with this changing global economic scenario. While several low cost carriers like the all business class transatlantic services, EOS, Silverjet and Maxjet have simply shut shop and disappeared into oblivion whereas many airlines have even dropped certain routes or reduced the frequency of service to certain destinations in order to combat revenue losses.

Business travel which is usually associated with the premium cabins of airlines has been especially badly affected by the recession as companies all over the world have gone into cost cutting mode and have eliminated or altered their business travel programs in keeping with their new conservation mantra. A recent survey by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives found that more than 70% of corporations were in the process of cutting down on travel budgets by 10% to 20% this year. Additionally, companies such as AT&T have reportedly reduced business travel by 15% through the use of video conferences and web meetings while consulting giant, Accenture has begun the process of setting a network of video conferencing rooms at its various locations worldwide in an effort to limit business travel.

However in spite of all this, the general consensus seems to be that business travel is extremely essential to the conduct of regular business and cannot be done away entirely with especially in situations that demand interpersonal interaction across international borders or require specialized training which needs to be imparted. Some companies do in fact realize this and are currently leaning on their travel departments to control costs by procuring the best airline and hotel deals for their executives who need to make these essential business trips.

Airlines also realize that these business class travelers are their primary source of revenue and profit and need to be retained at any cost. In order to fill their planes and retain custom they have resorted to offering fantastic discounts on tickets for their cabins located in the front of the aircraft. Recently British Airways had a 2-for-1 sale on business-class seats from the United States to London for travel between June 1st and October 31st 2009. This offer was soon followed by similar sales from airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and Continental.