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Monday, March 31, 2014

TRAVEL SPECIAL.................... 6 skywalks you shouldn’t miss

6 skywalks you shouldn’t miss

    Mount Titlis, Switzerland
It is believed to be the highest suspension bridge in the world, at a height of 3,000m above sea level. One needs nerves just as strong as the steel cables, of which this 100-metre long and just 1-metre wide walkway is made of! Once on the bridge, you probably have the best view of the Swiss Alps. It is advisable to look around than look below...
    Sogn og Fjordane, Norway
How about parking at the end of a hilly road and walking over the valley like a swimmer atop a diving board? The view is vertigo-inducing even for the bravest and not many actually walk till the end. Those who do walk the entire stretch (till the frameless glass structure on the edge) get to see the best — and the scariest — view of the valley.
    Canyon National Park, Arizona, US
Suspended at an altitude of more than 4,700 feet, this glass walkway is definitely amongst the most vertigo-inducing sites across the globe. Stroll through the museum, lounge, souvenir shop and finally step out in the open to soak in the unmatched view of the canyon. Since many find a walk on this horseshoe-shaped bridge too scary, they usually sit back and relax at open cafes and bars nearby, to catch the same adrenaline pumping view.
    Monteverde, Costa Rica
A major ecotourism destination of the country and the South American continent, walking along tree tops in a misty rainforest is an unmatched experience. This 2.5-km walk on a network of hanging bridges offers you a chance to see over 100 animals, 400 birds, thousands of insects and over 2,500 plant varieties! “In the tropics, trees and plants stretch upwards as high as they can, to get some sun, which barely reaches the forest floor. So we got a better view of the forest life from aerial hanging bridges in Costa Rica than from below,” recalls Payal Jain, who recently visited the place.
    Zhangjiajie, Hunan, China
Soak in breathtaking views of the Hunan province while treading on this walkway at the height of over 4,700 feet above sea level. What really takes the breath away is the walkway itself with rocky mountain slopes for support on one side, deep valley on the other and a 3 feet wide and 2.5 inches thick passage made of see-through glass. A walk across this passage is rightly termed ‘Walk of Faith.’ “It is certainly not a path for the faint-hearted; you have a sheer rock face on one side and a 4,000 ft drop on the other!” shares housewife Aprajita Anil, who undertook this adventure with her husband last year.
    Augrabies National Park, Northern Cape, South Africa
A 5 km wooden track trail takes you around the waterfall where Orange River falls into a 240 m deep and 18 km long gorge. Locals call it the place of great noise and various viewing decks offering a first-hand experience of deafening noise of water falling are the sights and sounds you wouldn’t easily forget.
No open footwear! Wear non-slippery and covered clothes for all these walks.
    Loose items such as cameras, sunglasses and mobile phones are not allowed for open skywalks. Usually guides are equipped with cameras to click you.
    People under influence of drugs or alcohol are not permitted. The heights are enough to cast a dizzy spell.
    Do not hide any medical condition at the time of starting. For people with height or health-related problems, indoor observation decks are advised.
    Book tickets in advance. They are not only cheaper than on-the-spot ones but also save a lot of time.
CITYSCAPE Some skywalks and observatory decks do not require us to drive to interiors of a country to catch the breathtaking views. For travellers sticking to prominent cities, skywalks atop these buildings are equally exciting. Harness up and start treading in the sky!
EdgeWalk, CN Tower, Ontario, Canada: You need guts of steel while you explore Ontario from a height of 356 m with just a harness for support. Amongst the highest walks in the world, every step of this ‘hands-free’ walk on the five-feet ledge is heart pounding yet fascinating. OBSERVATION DECKS
    Canton Tower, Guangzhou, China:
Declared as the highest observation deck in the world, a walk along this deck lets you watch over the modern dragon kingdom from a height of 488 m.
    100th Floor, Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai, China: Fancy walking on air! That’s what it seems like here, as you walk on a glass floor at a height of 474 m.
    At The Top, Burj Khalifa, Dubai: Hop on to the lift at the reception that travels at a speed of 10 m per second and transports you to a height of 452 m on the 124th floor. “As the door opens, the glass wall observatory offers a daring view of this desert wonder. Night-time view with a clear sky is a unique experience,” says Junaid Ali Khan, a Delhi-based marketing executive.
    91st Floor, Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan: Wonder how a bustling business hub looks from a height of 392 m? Head here to find out. The outdoor observatory has ample space to walk and explore.

TL 140323

HEALTH SPECIAL.................... For a good night's sleep

For a good night's sleep

Do you feel sleep deprived often? There are many reasons for this.

According to ayurveda, sleep deprivation is caused when there is an imbalance of the basic energies. Not eating on time,
stress and irregular sleep patterns lead to a vata imbalance.

Similarly aggression, anger, excessive eating and drinking leads to a pita imbalance.

Here's how you can
treat chronic sleep deprivation:

Shirodhara: In this ayurvedic treatment, a gentle but continuous stream of medicated oil is made to drip on your forehead. This treatment relaxes the mind and improves sleep.
Nasyam: This treatment helps to decongest the nasal sinuses. When you breathe better, you sleep better.
Abhyangam: Medicated oil massages are effective in relieving chronic stress.

Ayurvedic herbs
Ashwagandha: Not only does it rejuvenate the body, it also rejuvenates the nerves. Have a teaspoon of ashwagandha powder with milk.
Jatamansi: This herb is used in many tonics for its nerve-calming properties.

Chamomile: Drink chamomile flower tea at bedtime.
Valerian root: Western naturopathy has been using this herb for its sleep-inducing and calming effects. 

Tire yourself out: When the mind is more tired than the body, it leads to disturbed sleep. So make sure you get ample exercise. 

Better lifestyle choices
Don't eat a heavy meal at night: The digestive system kicks in to process the heavy load at night, which leads to restless sleep.
Exercising earlier in the day: If you exercise just before sleeping, it activates your system. If you exercise at night, follow it up with a warm water bath.

Oats: They have natural minerals that are good for your nervous system.
Milk: Drink a warm glass of milk at night with crushed dates and nutmeg for good night sleep.
No caffeine: No colas, coffee and tea before your bedtime.
Warm soup: Eat vegetable soups to calm your nerves.

Shikha Sharma, From HT Brunch, March 23
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BUSINESS SPECIAL....................... How Chipotle Changed American Fast Food Forever

How Chipotle Changed American Fast Food Forever
Chipotle set out to challenge fast food trends and be better than the competition--in the end, they launched a new industry. Here's how they rose to the top of the fast-food chain.
In 1991, Steve Ells couldn’t afford to eat regularly at the legendary Stars restaurant where he was working as a $12-an-hour line cook. Instead, he was more frequently found gorging himself on giant burritos at a taquería in San Francisco’s Mission District called Zona Rosa. It was there, over a carnitas burrito, that Ells had the insight that would change his life--and American fast food--forever.
Ells looked up from his table at the long line of people waiting to order their food and the small group of workers behind the counter preparing the rice, beans, pork, and guacamole. “I remember jotting down on a napkin at that moment how many people were going through the line, how quickly,” he told the Rocky Mountain News in 2006, “and I thought, they probably have this much in sales, the food costs might be X--a good little business.”
As a trained chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Ells was intrigued by something else about Zona Rosa. Its food was produced fast and inexpensively, but the quality and the flavor weren’t compromised in the way that typical fast food fare is. He returned to his hometown of Boulder, Colorado, and there in 1993 he opened the first in a chain of Chipotle Mexican Grills.
There are now over 1,400 Chipotle locations in 43 states, and the chain reportedly made a 25% profit margin on $2 billion in sales in 2011.
Chipotle began a trend in restaurants that the industry has dubbed “fast casual,” which offers a more upscale dining environment and food quality, along with higher prices, but in the familiar, convenient limited service format of fast food. “When I started Chipotle, I didn’t know the fast-food rules,” Ells explained years later. “People told us the food was too expensive and the menu was too limited. Neither turned out to be true.”
By either ignoring or directly challenging all the dominant trends in its industry, Chipotle quickly became a great brand. Now Chipotle has become the trend-setter in the category, and trade publications feature headlines such as, “Who Will Be the Chipotle of Pizza?” Wendy’s and Taco Bell are just two of the most prominent fast food players investing in new store designs that look shockingly similar to that of Chipotle. The Wall Street Journal dubbed Ells the “Fast Food Revolutionary,” and Esquire crowned him America’s most admired CEO.
The common wisdom in the fast food industry has always been that you grind out your
profits through reduced prices, expanded menus, and raised operational efficiencies. At the time of Chipotle’s founding, Taco Bell--the putative head-on competitor to Chipotle in the Mexican food category--was turning heads in the industry with its enormously successful penny-pinching “59–79–99” value menu.
But Ells grew Chipotle by going in the opposite direction. He determined that Chipotle
could introduce a higher quality of Mexican fare to a broader audience by defining a different value equation for fast food. All the food would be freshly prepared. The ingredients would be top quality. And the restaurants themselves would be beautiful, all wood and metal, offering a dining experience several notches above fast-food Formica counters and fluorescent lighting. Efficiencies in the fast food industry depend largely upon limiting spoilage and minimizing labor costs by cooking frozen meat patties and french fries, but Chipotle restaurants don’t even have freezers. All of Chipotle’s ingredients are delivered fresh. After the company bought hundreds of labor-saving onion-slicing machines, Ells ordered that onions go back to being hand-cut because he felt that made them taste better. Machine-cutting had left the onions a little dried out.
Another standard fast-food practice is to pay employees as little as possible, while Chipotle’s practice is to pay more, but to dismiss employees who lack energy or are otherwise mediocre performers (One industry observer marveled, “Who ever heard of a fast-food restaurant firing someone for being mediocre?”).
Despite its higher wages, however, Chipotle still manages to spend more on ingredients than it does on payroll, the exact reverse of the fast food formula for success. In the years when other restaurants of all kinds were cutting prices in a race to bottom, Chipotle either held fast or raised prices. For instance, when Ells was unhappy with the taste of his shredded pork burrito, he went out and sourced a higher grade of pork and raised the burrito’s price by a dollar, and sales of the product reportedly doubled to a full 8% of company revenue.
In the course of Chipotle’s rise from one store to over 1,400, there have been countless temptations for the company to stray from its distinct course and lapse into following trends. Much of Chipotle’s early growth had been financed by a large investment from McDonald’s Corporation, and executives there failed in their efforts to get Chipotle to offer low-risk high-profit menu items such as cookies and coffee. “They probably did give me grief,” Ells modestly explained to Time magazine in 2012. “We wouldn’t do [cookies and coffee] better than anyone else. And I don’t want anything to be part of Chipotle that wouldn’t be the very best.”
McDonald's sold its stake in Chipotle in 2006, and since then, Chipotle has moved farther and farther away from the typical fast food way of doing business. Ells’s latest obsession is the issue of sustainability. Chipotle is now the largest buyer of higher-priced pork, beef, and chicken from animals that have been naturally fed and humanely raised outside of the factory-farming system, which provides inexpensive commodity meats to the rest of the food industry. Produce served at Chipotle is also locally raised if possible (lettuce served in January on the East Coast still comes from California). What Chipotle has learned is that customers notice the difference in flavor from natural meats and fresh vegetables grown “with integrity,” as the chain’s tagline states--and they’re willing to pay extra for it.
By Denise Lee Yohn

GADGET GIZMO REVIEW.................... Fujifilm X-E2


The latest from Fujifilm’s acclaimed X series of cameras, the X-E2, offers an APS-C sensor with interchangeable lenses in a compact, well built body with beautiful retro design. Like others in the X series (including our favourite, the X100S), the X-E2 exudes quality and workmanship. There’s a lot of magnesium alloy here, with machined dials and a soft, leather-like material for the grip.
The X-E2 uses the same X-Trans CMOS II sensor from the X100S which automatically delivers impressive results. The sensor includes phase detection pixels for autofocus in combination with the regular contrast detection system. AF is fast but you’ll really notice the difference in speed while shooting video.
The kit lens is impressive: made in Japan, this 18-55mm unit has a maximum aperture of f2.8 and very effective optical image stabilisation. Even with a shutter speed of 1/15, images were sharp across the board. Apart from zoom & focus rings, the lens has an aperture setting ring. Since the shutter speed dial is on top, the idea is that you can adjust exposure without looking away.
The X-E2 also features built in WiFi which can be used for wireless transfer of images to your iOS or Android device using a free app. You can’t, however, use the app for remote shooting (remote control), which is a bit of a let down considering the premium nature of the camera.
While the image and video results are excellent, our biggest grouse with the X-E2 is that it doesn’t have the amazing hybrid (opti-digital) viewfinder from the X100S. Another gripe is the lack of a dedicated video recording button. While we liked the results, our rating is low only because of the price — for a lot less, you have so many other excellent choices, including pro-level DSLRs and APS-C compacts.
SPECIFICATIONS 16.3MP APS-C CMOS sensor, 3-inch LCD, OLED viewfinder, ISO 100 – 25,600, 1080p video (60/30p), built in pop-up flash, SD slot, HDMI out, 350 grams
Super-fast dual AF system, incredible ISO performance, effective image stabilisation
Expensive, lens casts a shadow when used at 18mm with built in flash, no touchscreen, no dedicated video recording button