Sunday, 28 August 2011

The 7 Best Pet Friendly Hotel Chains

Gone are the days of sneaking your dog into your hotel room in the dead of night. With over half of U.S. households claiming a furry family member, the hospitality industry is rolling out the red carpet for dogs, with a wide range of amenities and services from plush beds to canine room service and even spa treatments. These seven upscale brands are the "leaders of the pack" with the most pet friendly accommodations. Tip: Pet fees and weight limits vary, so be sure to call ahead and always bring current vaccination records.

Kimpton Hotels

Kimpton Hotels

Pet Perks: The Kimpton Group was the first to offer "HosPETality," and 11 of their properties even have a Director of Pet Relations, a canine ambassador who gives you a wagging welcome. With no fees and no weight limits, all of these elegant hotels offer welcome amenities that include beds, bowls, and treats, in addition to special options like gourmet room service or a human and dog yoga session, known as doga.

Details: 52 properties, no fees or restrictions on number of pets, no weight limit, Kimpton Pet Policy

Loews Hotels

Loews Hotels

Pet Perks: "Loews Loves Pets" and that’s why pet owners love Loews Hotels. In addition to the welcome package that includes a pet bowl, dog tag, and treats, many properties offer special services like dog walking, pet sitting, and doggie spa treatments, as well as detailed information on local pet services and loaner beds, leashes, and pet videos. Loews has also partnered with Banfield Pet Hospital to offer furry guests a complimentary examination and a 15% discount on services during their stay. Some special packages like the "Woofie Weekend" include room service and waive the modest pet fee.

Details: 18 properties, $25 fee per stay, no weight limit, Loews Pet Policy

Mandarin Oriental Hotels

Mandarin Oriental Hotels

Pet Perks: The exclusive Mandarin Oriental group, known for the ultimate in Asian-inspired luxury and stellar service, extends their welcome to your whole furry family, although fees and weight limits vary at each hotel’s discretion. Your pet will be welcomed with a gilded, fan-shaped MO tag (see photo above), gourmet treats and toys, and a plush loaner bed and bowls in your room or suite, as well as a welcome letter from the manager and room service menus for both you and your pooch. Don’t be surprised that every staffer in the hotel will greet both you and your pet by name when you walk by.

Details: 6 properties (Boston and Las Vegas in addition to below), fee and weight limit at each hotel’s discretion (expect to pay $100 or more per stay, many are 25 pounds or less), contact each hotel directly for their pet policy.

W Hotels

W Hotels

Pet Perks: All W Hotels in North America welcome four-legged guests with a custom W pet bed and food bowls with mat in their guestroom, as well as a welcome amenity package that includes a W pet tag, treats, and waste disposal bags. Furry visitors get a treat at turndown as well, and a welcome letter with information about local pet services.

Details: 29 properties, $25 per day fee plus a non-refundable $100 cleaning fee, 40 pound weight limit and one pet per room, W Hotel Pet Policy

Ritz-Carlton Hotels

Ritz-Carlton Hotels

Pet Perks: Ritz-Carlton pampers pets with services ranging from a loaner Burberry raincoat to certified canine massage therapists. While not all Ritz-Carlton Hotels are pet friendly, those who accept pets offer welcome amenities including treats and toys, loaner beds and bowls, and special services ranging from canine room service to spa treatments for pooches between 10 and 30 pounds. The usual charge is between $125 and $250 non refundable pet fee. Pets are usually restricted to certain areas of the hotel. Several locations offer special pet packages including pet hikes, beds, treats and toys.

Details: fee and weight limit varies by property (expect to pay $125-250 as a nonrefundable cleaning fee, generally between 10 and 25 pounds), call hotel for details.



Pet Perks: Photographer William Wegman’s famous Weimaraners are the "spokesdogs" for Hilton’s pet program, and Wegman designed the in-room Crypton Clean Pet Pillow. Also included in Fido’s room are two dog bowls and a placemat, and at check-in your furry friend will get his or her own travel tote with organic treats, bio-degradable waste bags, and a travel-sized bottle of deodorizing disinfectant.

Details: 378 properties, $75 non-refundable fee per stay; must reserve in advance, 75 pound weight limit and two pets per room max, Hilton Pet Policy

Hotel Indigo

Hotel Indigo

Pet Perks: For a stylish stay on a modest budget, Hotel Indigo is a great choice for four-legged travelers. All of the hotels are pet friendly, and while fees and weight limits vary (some do not charge a pet fee and weight limits are set by each individual hotel), expect some amenities like dog treats and water bowls. The Atlanta and San Diego hotels even host a weekly Canine Cocktails "Yappy Hour", and have canine ambassadors in residence.

Details: 31 properties, fee varies by property (no fee at Atlanta Midtown or San Diego), weight Limit varies by property,


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Top 10 Natural Wonders of the U.S.A.

America's most iconic outdoor spots can be experienced in different ways, whether by hiking and scenic drives or flightseeing and scuba diving. From the tallest peak in North America to unique undersea worlds, we've got the greatest U.S. outdoor attractions, in alphabetical order. Check off all of the ones you've seen in our Facebook question or share your experience below in the comments.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Maine-Acadia-National-Park The first National Park east of the Mississippi River, Acadia, was established in 1916.

Acadia doesn’t have quite the jaw-dropping grandeur of the national parks of the West, but it holds many of the greatest pleasures to be experienced on a visit to the Maine coast: expansive views from the top of Cadillac Mountain, miles of paths for hiking and biking, a craggy coastline with an iconic lighthouse, inland ponds perfect for swimming, and remote outer islands.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina

North-Carolina-Cape-Hatteras-National-Seashore-ponies Banker Ponies are the descendents of wild horses on the Outer Banks.

The barrier islands along the coast of North Carolina are one of the best places in America for a classic laid-back beach vacation, with miles of pristine sand, great surfing, and unparalleled shelling. The protected status of Cape Hatteras National Seashore keeps the influences of commercial development in check.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah Wind and sand erosion along with the freezing action of water created many Southwest arches.

The red-rock landscape of Arches National Park feels like another world, with rocks balanced precariously on pedestals and some 2,500 sandstone arches framing the sky. The most famous, Delicate Arch, stands as tall as a four-story building and has become Utah’s state icon, depicted on license plates and postage stamps.

Denali (Mount McKinley), Alaska

Denali (Mount McKinley), Alaska Leave enough time to avoid disappointment—clouds often cover the mountain in summer.

Peaking at 20,320 feet, Denali (the High One in Athabascan), is North America's tallest mountain. It's also part of one of Alaska's most accessible parks that's a popular excursion from cruise ships. Most visitors enjoy the view from afar, that almost 1,000 climbers summit the peak every year.

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon, Arizona Get down into the canyon on a hike, mule ride, or raft trip for an unforgettable experience—or soar above it on a plane or helicopter.

When it comes to the Grand Canyon, there are statistics, and there are sensations. While the numbers are impressive—the canyon measures in at an average width of 10 mi, length of 277 mi, and depth of a mile—they don't truly prepare you for that first impression. Seeing the canyon for the first time is an astounding experience.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii Molten lava spills into the sea releasing plumes of steam and becoming new land.

Hawaii's volcanic landscape isn't just a product of the past, but also of the present. Kilauea's current eruption started in 1983, and visitors can see the drama unfold at the Pu'u 'O'o Vent. Elsewhere in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, exploring the crater-filled landscape is like visiting the moon.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Florida

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Florida John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Florida

The pleasures of John Pennekamp Park are found out on the water, and under it. Offshore you’ll find Florida’s best diving and snorkeling, through coral reefs, sea-grass beds, and mangrove swamps. The adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary contains 40 species of coral and nearly 600 varieties of fish.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado Peaking at 12,183 feet and 48 miles long, Trail Ridge Road is a must for park visitors.

The highest continuous paved roadway in North America, Trail Ridge Road, provides views around each bend—of moraines and glaciers and craggy hills framing emerald meadows carpeted with columbine and Indian paintbrush—that are truly awesome. Numerous turnouts throughout Rocky Mountain National Park give you the opportunity to stop and take in the lush valleys and glacier-etched granite peaks.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Cliff Geyser near Old Faithful - YNP Near Old Faithful, Cliff Geyser is just one of Yellowstone's more than 300 geysers.

America’s first national park is still its most spectacular. The concentration of geological phenomena—geysers, mudpots, fumaroles, hot springs—is unequaled anywhere else in the world, and the abundant wildlife and the gorgeous terrain make Yellowstone a nature-lover’s paradise. Even in the height of the summer season, a well-planned hike can leave you alone with the great outdoors.

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

Did you know that Yosemite Falls is actually a three-tiered cascade?

The highest waterfall in North America (the fifth-highest in the world) is arguably the highlight of Yosemite, but it has lots of competition: Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, Sentinel Dome, and the Merced River are all musts for a visit to the park.


Sunday, 21 August 2011

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The 7 Most Horrifying Parasites on the Planet

The 7 Most Horrifying Parasites on the Planet

As soon as your doctor says you've got parasites in your body, you don't need to hear any more details. They're all horrible, right? How can it get worse than little tiny worms or something feeding on your insides?

Actually, it can get way, way worse. As it turns out, there's nothing in nature more creative than a parasite. And we don't mean that in a good way. For instance...

7. The Guinea Worm Will Make You Do Its Bidding

guinea 01

Technically, your body is full of tiny creatures already. Bacteria, viruses and so on. So really, should we get freaked out when we find out that there's a specific kind of worm that lives under our skin? And should it really bother us that said worm can grow to be longer than your leg?

This brings us to the guinea worm. It starts small, really small. It begins life as a microscopic larva tiny enough to fit inside of the common water flea. Like the elderly residents of Florida, water fleas love to hang out in stagnant pools of water, gossiping and doing water exercises until they are unknowingly ingested by big, thirsty, humans.


So you go swimming and the flea makes its way down your throat. Now, not being adequately equipped to survive the harsh environment of the human stomach, the water flea is dissolved away, leaving the guinea worm larva behind. It finds a soft, fleshy cavity to burrow into and starts growing.

And growing.


About a year after infection, the full sized guinea worm is no longer microscopic, but instead measures two to three goddamned feet long. As long as a three year-old human child.

Being so large, a cramped human body is no longer adequate real estate. So the worm wants to get out, and here's where it gets even weirder. The worm burrows to the surface of the skin and creates a blister, and causes a burning sensation. It does this on purpose, because the worm has figured out that a burning feeling in a limb makes humans want to dunk it in water.


This is exactly what the worm wants. It pokes its wriggling head out of the blister, and releases its foul, milky brew into the water, containing hundreds of thousands more larvae. They are promptly eaten by water fleas and the whole thing starts all over again.

6. Is That Your Tongue, Or is it Cymothoa Exigua?

Is That Your Tongue, Or is it Cymothoa Exigua Is That Your Tongue, Or is it Cymothoa Exigua00

On one hand, you can relax because this one doesn't affect humans... as far as we know. On the other hand, it's about the most fucked-up thing you'll ever hear.

Cymothoa exigua is a tiny crustacean that sneaks up on a fish (specifically, a red snapper) and works its way in through the gills. Typical parasite behavior so far.

Then it attaches itself to the base of the fish's tongue, the tongue evidently being the tastiest part of the fish (get it!?). The parasite uses its claws to dig into the tongue and drink the fish's blood--and that's just the beginning.


As cymothoa exigua grows, less and less blood is able to get into the fish's tongue which causes the tongue to slowly atrophy and ultimately fall off--well, not so much "fall off" as pathetically float away, but you know what we mean.

With the tongue dead and gone, the parasite settles in and replaces the lost tongue with its own body. Somehow, cymothoa exigua is able to attach itself to the fish's tongue muscles, allowing the snapper to use it just like a normal tongue, the parasite flapping around as a permanent fixture in the fish's mouth for the rest of its life.


Why does it do this? We don't know, but we're going to go with the commonly held opinion that the cymothoa exigua simply thinks it's funny.

5. The Horsehair Worm's Side Effect? Suicide.

horsehair 01

Imagine you're a happy grasshopper for a moment, joyfully kissing your grasshopper wife and kids goodbye as you leave the house, tiny briefcase in hand, ready to hop to work for the day.

Suddenly, on your way to the office, a sudden urge overtakes you, an urge that cannot be ignored. You obediently follow the siren song to the nearest body of water, and promptly fling yourself in. For weeks afterward, your widowed wife and friends will wonder what could have possibly made a perfectly happy and content grasshopper tragically commit suicide, by drowning no less. Depression? An affair gone wrong? Crushing gambling debts? No, it turns out it was just another strike from the soulless and evil menace known as the horsehair worm.


Resembling a coarse, thick horse hair (well, duh) the horsehair worm infiltrates insects, and sometimes even crabs, as a larva when the insect drinks tainted water. From inside the aforementioned grasshopper, the worm goes to work.

It weasels its way into the body cavity, and nourishes itself on the insect's tissues, sometimes growing up to a foot long. After a time, when the worm has matured, it starts to get horny, as teenagers do, and decides that the time has come to find himself a sexy mate. The problem is, all of the sexiest female worms hang out at the swimming pool club, and he's stuck inside of a prudish grasshopper.

That's a problem easily and dickishly solved by the horsehair worm, however, by simply reprogramming the insect's brain to seek out the nearest body of water and to hop right in, despite the sad fact that grasshoppers, like many other insects, can't swim.


As his former host panics and gasps its last breaths of sweet life, the worm casually slithers out of its anus, bids adieu to the drowning grasshopper and swims in search of the orgies of knotted up worms he's heard so much about.

4. The Filarial Worm Can Turn You into an Object of Horror

filarial 01

F*cking mosquitoes. As if there weren't enough reasons to hate these living dirty needles, the bastards are responsible for yet more horrifying diseases thanks to the multitude of parasites they unwittingly inject into us every time they feed.

One such parasite is the almost too-weird-to-be-real filarial worm and, yes, it does affect humans.

filarial2Nature's douchebag.

After a year spent bumming around in our bodies, the worms mature into adults and finally take up the job they were born to do, by moving into the lymphatic system. Doesn't sound so bad...

Well, here's the thing. The lymphatic system keep excess fluids moving out of your body. It's one of those unnoticed bodily tasks that you don't appreciate until it stop working. Like if, say, a bunch of worms clogged it up. The filarial worm does just that, bunches of them all working hard in the vessels near the lymph nodes, causing those vessels to become obstructed and inflamed. Shit starts backing up, and the tissue starts inflating like a freaking balloon.

Finally, you wind up with massive and debilitating enlargements of the legs and genitals, a condition commonly known as Elephantitis. Goddamn mosquitoes.

filarial3Despite his rampant case of filarial worms, this man is still too proud to use only one flip-flop.

3. Sacculina Will Make You Her Bitch. Literally.


Sacculina has adopted the age-old parasite disguise of sounding like a really hot Italian chick. Well, we're not fooled.

Sacculina is actually a not-at-all-hot female barnacle that is able to inject itself into various species of crab, grow inside them and eventually emerge from the carapace as a large sac. Right near his genitals.


There, sacculina goes to work. She manipulates the crab's hormones, sterilizing and basically emasculating him. Next, the parasite starts forcing changes in the crab's body to make it resemble a female, presumably by causing a couple of huge crab boobs to flop out. As the final insult, she forces her victim to perform humiliating female mating dances.

Finally when it comes time for sacculina to release her fertilized eggs--after having had sex with another sacculina on top of the poor crab's genitalia, that is--the former male crab is compelled to release them into the ocean and stir the water with his claw, as if the eggs were his own.

sacculina3Where the crab's genitals used to be, that's sacculina.

Again, there are no known cases of this happening to a human, but, you know. If you see a huge egg sac growing near your junk we urge you to get it checked out right away.

2. Mind Control, Part I: Leocochloridium Paradoxum

para 01

Leucochloridium paradoxum is a parasite that has an impossible dream. Luey, as it shall henceforth be known, begins life literally in a puddle of shit. But Luey dreams of flight, and the method by which it achieves it is both complicated and fucked-up beyond comprehension.

First, knowing how much some animals love to eat shit, Luey lies in wait in his fecal puddle until the vacuum cleaner of nature, more commonly known as the snail, comes around to slurp it up.

Once inside the snail, Luey enacts the next part of his ingenious plan. Knowing that birds aren't too fond of eating slimy snails, he migrates to the snail's eyestalks and begins to stretch and change them into something that looks much more appetizing to birds: caterpillars.


The eyestalks that are usually so well-guarded and often retracted by the snail, are now pulsating, swollen and brightly-colored morsels of imitation caterpillar meat. Wait, it's not done.

Now is when Luey hacks into the snail's brain. It takes complete control, driving it like a little, slimy car out into the open so all of the hungry birds in the sky can see and swoop down on the irresistible caterpillar-like eyestalks.

para3Kind of like this.

Once inside the luxuriously spacious and soaring bird, Luey is free to feed on its insides, grow into an adult and reproduce knowing that soon, his babies will be shat out of the bird like he was, to start their own rags-to-riches lives. Meanwhile, the poor and confused snail is less one eyestalk, but has learned the hard way that eating shit is always a bad idea.

1. Mind Control, Part II: The Emerald Jewel Wasp


The emerald jewel wasp is a marvel of evolution. And evil.

The female, not being content with just laying her eggs in a hole and hoping the larvae find a way to survive like other insects, makes sure that her larvae will hatch right on top of their preferred food source: a cockroach. The problem with that is a typical cockroach is aggressive, and two to three times larger and beefier than the female.

She has found a way around this. An inventive, terrifying way.


Like a surgeon, the wasp uses her long stinger to penetrate the surprised cockroach, to paralyze and anesthetize the front section of its body. Now, she can take her sweet time, to make sure the second injection of her stinger is perfectly placed into a specific area of the roach's brain. She injects more venom directly into it, precisely blocking very specific receptors of neurotransmitters that essentially destroy the roach's fight or flight responses and leave it zombified.

Yes, the wasp knows how to do this.

Now in control of her very own cockroach, the wasp leads it back to her burrow. Once inside, she finally lays her egg on top of the cooperative cockroach, bites off its antennae in order to drink the roach's blood and replenish her energy, then exits the burrow, sealing it off with rocks and pebbles.


After a few days, the eggs hatch and the larvae slowly consume the insides of the roach until they form a cocoons and the roach is finally allowed to embrace the sweet relief of death. Eventually the adult wasp emerges from the cocoon/dead roach husk to begin its own life of surgical zombification.


Monday, 15 August 2011

Top 10 Animal Fashion Disasters

When it comes to keeping up appearances, the streets are full of do's and don'ts, and the same goes for the animal kingdom. While plenty of creatures look sharp, others could seriously use a Tim Gunn intervention. From sagging skin, to teeth not even an orthodontist would love, to flashy colors and polka dots, here are the top 10 animals in need of a little style advice!



This amphibian gets his giggle-worthy name from his homestead in Lake Titicaca, which sits 10,000 feet above sea level in South America. As one might imagine, there's not a lot of air up there, and seeing as frogs breathe through their skin, this presents a bit of a challenge. Solution? More skin! And boy do we mean more — the sag on these frogs can stretch over 20 inches wide. Titicaca frogs look like they've posed for their "after" shot but are still wearing their "before" pants. Sounds like a prime candidate for a little nip/tuck!


porcupine 01

Its coat of 30,000 sharp spines may help protect the porcupine from predators, but it does nothing for its love life: fellow porcupines are not immune to the sting of the quills. In fact, the porcupine's own life is in jeopardy by its coat as well — if porcupines are hit with a craving for leaves and small twigs, they will climb trees to get what they want. Problem is, porcupines often fall and impale themselves with their own spines. Talk about making a sacrifice in the name of fashion!


fiddler crab 01

Is that a claw in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? Laugh if you will, but when it comes to male fiddler crabs, it couldn't be more true. They're armed (yuck, yuck) with one claw that weighs up to 65 percent of their total body mass! Picture a guy doing arm curls on one side only and you're on the right track. The supersized claw is used to attract females, and in this case, size does matter. The ladies have been known to peruse more than 100 mates before settling on a match. Unfortunately, the enlarged claw also proves to be quite a hindrance; it's pretty useless when it comes to chowing down, not to mention a big neon sign to predators. Chalk this one up to being a blessing and a curse.


peacock 01

With a tail measuring 8 feet wide and containing over 200 feathers, the peacock is the tacky Vegas showgirl of the animal world. Here's where the scientific part comes in: peacocks with the bluest blue eyes on their tail are deemed to be the healthiest. Of course, that also presents a con, as peacocks with too much junk on the trunk have a little trouble when it comes to flying — too big equals no liftoff. This presents a challenge when it comes to fleeing predators. Run, peacock, run!



Some say it's a no-no to wear white after Labor Day, but the Bengal tiger doesn't really have a choice. Their unusual coloring is caused by a mutant gene, and while it's not harmful to their health in any way, it does impact their ability to survive. White is not exactly ideal when it comes to blending in with the jungle. Quick, someone page a colorist with camouflage skills, ASAP!


lion 01

For the male lion, a hairdo can never be too big or too dark. This cat's iconic mane is his calling card for attracting the ladies. And the more brunette, the better — it indicates a lion who is relaxed, better fed and with fewer parasites. However, a darker mane also attracts sun, which makes the lion's body temperature soar — and its sp*rm count plummet. Hmm, maybe bald is beautiful after all!



It's the clash of the tiny-tans. Though only a few centimeters long, male guppies have some pretty loud fashion, having been known to sport splashes, spots and stripes in just about every color of the rainbow. Sounds like a big ole' hot mess, but the ladies don't seem to mind; in fact, it's a large part of what drives their attraction. Unfortunately, the colorful display is also a beacon for predators, which makes a strong argument for the safety of basic black.


sage grouse 01

Talk about pumping up the volume! The male sage grouse is equipped with two yellowish air sacs underneath his feathers. He fills the sacs with air and then makes a popping sound that can be heard from up to three miles away! While that may sound like something a doctor should look at — immediately — it's actually a cue for the females that it's time to choose a mate. The bigger the pop, the more attractive the male. Along with this bird's ability to sing and dance, this event has got to be part of the weirdest talent and beauty pageant ever. However, with a population that's got twice as many females as males, beggars can't be choosers!



You know you're in trouble in the looks department if your nickname is "pig-deer." Native to the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, the babirusa looks a bit like something out of Where the Wild Things Are, with its canine teeth growing straight through the roof of its mouth. Not only is this unsightly to look at, but also a danger to its survival; if the teeth continue to grow, they can curve back and lodge into the babirusa's brain. Now that's a migraine!


deer 01

The deer earns the No. 1 spot thanks to its rack of antlers, which can measure up to 7 feet wide and weigh in at 80 pounds or more. That is quite the headdress! In fact, it is believed that the largest deer species ever was the Irish elk, with antlers over 12 feet wide — almost twice the length of what a moose sports today! Not exactly the animal you want sitting in front of you at the movies. During the mating season, male deer use their antlers to head-butt the competition. However, by doing so, they also run the risk of locking together, leaving them prone to predators or starvation. Perhaps it would be wise to keep the Headbanger's Ball in check?



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