Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, January 12, 2018



While 2017 will be remembered by hurricanes, wildfires and floods, at least one thing went horribly right last year: It was the first year EVER without any fatalities from commercial airline flights worldwide. Wow! To celebrate the safest method of travel, here are the TOP SEVEN most popular routes airlines fly. NOTE: All are domestic flights.

#7 Los Angeles - San Francisco, USA. 34,897 annual flights. America's sole entry links California's two metropolises. Inside the suburbs of each city you'll find six other airports that fly similar routes. If you add in all the flights between Oakland, San Jose and Long Beach, Burbank, Ontario and Orange County airports, this route would be #1.

#6. Sapporo - Tokyo, Japan. 38,389 annual flights. Two entries on our list connect Japanese islands with Tokyo and Honshu. Although the two islands are connected by the world's second longest tunnel (even longer the Chunnel), the airlines still boast impressive ridership numbers. And...yes...the Sapporo Brewery offers fun tours! 

#5. Rio de Janeiro - Sao Paulo, Brazil. 39,325 annual flights. Ginormous Brazil is the most airline-dependent nation on the list. Roads are few and rails even fewer. Airlines keep the nation going, so it comes as no surprise to see the two metropolises of Rio and Sao Paolo at #5. NOTE: At $88/average ticket price, this is also the cheapest on the list as well.

#4 Fukuoka - Tokyo, Japan. 42,835 annual flights. This route connects Japan's two largest islands, Honshu and Kyushu. Again, a bullet train is also available, but an airplane does the job in two hours, twice as fast as the train. I guess that means planes are faster than bullets!

#3. Mumbai - Delhi, India. 47,462 annual flights. It takes just over two hours to fly from India's
commercial center to the political establishment. With 1.4 billion people to look after, this results in a hundred flights every day. Airline travel is experiencing a boom in India, as constant technological advances cut times and fares. Not so much on the trains, where the same route takes 16 hours!

#2. Melbourne - Sydney, Australia. 54,519 annual flights. Another vast nation heavily dependent on air travel, Australia's top route is now the second most popular on the planet. While the numbers have grown, the airports themselves have not. Congestion leads to delays and this route is second-most delayed on the list (LA - SF is tops with 36% of flights leaving late.) 

#1. Seoul - Jeju, Korea. 64,991 annual flights. The busiest route in the world is surprising. It connects Korea's capital with it's favorite vacation spot. That's right, while the other routes are all about business, this one is all about pleasure. Jeju features beaches, casinos, nature trails and even Loveland, a sex-themed amusement park.

Thursday, January 4, 2018



Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the world's top movie for the third straight week! It just passed the $1 billion mark and notched an impressive 96 on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics applaud the special effects and the appealing cast. It features Carrie Fisher's final role and showcases newcomers Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver. However, the real scene stealer in the film is Skelling Island, the secret hideaway for Luke Skywalker. Shot by drones in HD, the Irish isle mystifies on the big screen. It's funny, although set in a galaxy far, far away, the eight movies are actually filmed right here on earth. Here are some of the most memorable locations and how to get there.

Skelling Island, Ireland. There are a hundred tiny islands dotting Ireland's rugged Atlantic coastline...but none is more stunning the Skelling. Twin peaks rise 800 feet instantly out of the sea in spectacular fashion. Luke's house is actually the ruins of a 6th century monastery. Horribly worn stairs are still in use. It's difficult to visit...but not impossible. Only a dozen tours from Kerry County are allowed each year. Environmentalists worry about disturbing the thousands of migratory birds who also pilgrimage there.

Onk Jemal, Tunisia. Audiences are first introduced to Luke Skywalker when he was a lonely teen living on the distant desert planet of Tatooine. He lives in a futuristic underground cave. To recreate such a fantastic place, George Lucas filmed in the Sahara Desert foothills in Tunisia. In the thirty years since the original movie, locals have turned the abandoned movie sets into a tourist attraction. They'll rent you robes and light sabres for a small fee.

Tikal, Guatemala. At the close of A New Hope, the Millenium Falcon lands on the jungle moon of Yavin. Here, the Rebels will use an abandoned base to launch an attack on the Death Star. Here on earth, one of the best places for ruins and jungles is found in Guatemala. Tikal, once a thriving Mayan capital city, served as the perfect substitute. While a ticket to see the ruins is a mere $2.50, getting there is expensive. No paved roads serve Tikal, so you must take a flight from Guatemala City.

Hardangerjøkulen Glacier, Norway. One of the most memorable scenes in 1981's Empire Strikes Back is set on the ice planet Hoth. Luke battles the giant mechanical Imperial Walkers.  The only place on earth that could possibly be as cold as the distant planet is Norway. The Imperial walkers were transposed onto footage of the glacier. Good news! Norwiegan Airlines has expanded service to ten American cities, but getting to the tiny village of Finse near the glacier will be difficult. NOTE: Lucas' inspiration for the walkers themselves came from the cranes in the Port of Oakland.

Lake Como, Italy. Although generally panned by the press and audiences alike, The Attack of the Clones did succeed in choosing some stunning locations for filming. Our favorite is Villa del Balbianello, site of the wedding between Anakin and Queen Padme. Getting there easy: Take a simple 40 minute train ride from Milan, then a ferry across the lake.

Redwood Regional Park, California. Not all Star Wars scenes are filmed in horribly remote countries. In fact, the forest planet of Endor is actually in Northern California. Getting to Del Norte is a long, but spectacular drive up Highway 101 from San Francisco. In the Return of the Jedi, the rebels set up camp among the Redwoods and ferns. If you go, try to catch one of the uber-cutesy Ewoks that still inhabit the park.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017



Across America, people look at their December calendars, anxiously counting down the days to Christmas. Afterward, we look at the day after the holiday and we see in the box...next to the number 26...the odd entry: BOXING DAY (UK, CAN, AUS). Americans scratch their heads and wonder what this holiday means. We asked our British friends about it...and guess what? Most people in the UK don't know what Boxing Day means either. This sounds like the perfect topic for a blog.

Before we start, let's clarify what Boxing Day is not. It has absolutely nothing to do with the sport of boxing. (You don't love people on the 25th, but then sock them in the face on the 26th.) Most people think the term derives from 'boxing' up used wrapping paper, unwanted gifts and discarded fruitcakes for the rubbish heap...but that's not the case. Nor does it have anything to do with horse racing, Premier League Soccer, cricket or jumping into frozen lakes.

Nope, according The Guardian the origins of Boxing Day "lie not in sport, but in small acts of kindness." During the Middle Ages, parishioners collected money, gifts and food for the poor in alms boxes during the Christmas Mass. These were then opened by the poor the next day. During the Victorian era, the process was expanded. Although the domestic staff of large manors had to work on Christmas Day, they were given the next day off for their own families. Before leaving, servants, maids and cooks were given extra wages, gifts and food in fancy boxes.

During the Victorian Era, there were thousands of manors with tens of thousands of people working in them. Not surprisingly, the day evolved into an important event for a large percentage of the British population. Boxing Day became an official bank holiday in 1871. Since then, the holiday has been celebrated in a variety of ways. Since the help was gone, aristocrats went hunting or to the race track. This expanded into the soccer and rugby leagues. Today, Boxing Day matches are now a fixture on the sports calendar.

These days, Boxing Day has an entirely new purpose. Gone are the traditional trips to church to give boxes to the poor. Nope! Today, Boxing Day is the busiest shopping day of the year in the UK and Canada, with billions of pounds in retail sales. In fact, it is just like Black Friday in the US. Stores ceremoniously open their doors at 5am, welcoming in a mad rush of consumers clamoring for bargains. Sigh. Let's just hope people take their purchases from Oxford Street home, put them in a fancy box and give them to the homeless.

Friday, December 15, 2017



The Egyptian government is worried. No, it's not about the Muslim Brotherhood. Nope...It's not another attack on Coptic Christians. And it has nothing to do with Jerusalem becoming the capital of Israel. Nope, today, the political ministers in Cairo are worried that the Nile River will dry up. Since 95% of the population lives in the Nile River Valley, this means 85 million lives are in danger!

Why do Egyptian ministers think the Nile River will dry up? Because 1,500 miles upriver, the Ethiopian government is busy building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). It's now 70% completed and will be operational next year. Once done, it will be Africa's largest, producing 6,000 megawatts of power. Today, only a third of Ethiopians have electricity, so this is really quite an accomplishment.

This is exciting news for Ethiopia...a nation previously only known for drought and starvation. But downriver in Egypt, concerns are high. See, Addis Ababa has been a bit hush-hush on the nuts and bolts of the dam. The Ethiopian government raised the $5 billion to build it without foreign help, so the outside world has little idea of what's going on. We do know it will take ten years to fill a reservoir that will bring the power. Cairo worries about these projections as well as the safe maintenance of the flow of the world's longest river.

As any History Teacher will tell you: Egypt is the 'Gift of the Nile.' However, the annual flooding went away decades ago. The High Aswan Dam opened in 1965. Since then, the Nile flow levels are controlled...so the Nile won't dry up anytime soon. However, the flow will be cut by 25% beginning soon. This will mean less water and power in the long run. That's why Egypt is demanding a Pan-African committee to be formed to look deeper into the environmental affects of the GERD before any operation.

While this conflict may seem odd and insignificant, expect many more to pop up in the future. Simply put: Fresh water reserves cannot keep up with the world's rapidly expanding population. Across Asia, disputes rage. Turkey wants to control the Euphrates, putting Iraqis at risk. Thailand is angry with Laos for their dam on the Mekong. And in the Americas there's the Colorado River dispute. Americans drink every drop before it gets to Mexico!

Saturday, December 9, 2017



Americans have many norms that confuse people in other countries. For example, we insist on having ice in our beverages. Americans think coins are basically worthless, and only to be used as 'spare change' for the homeless. We wear shirts with words on them: "I'm with stupid." But perhaps the most confusing thing Americans do is use a driver's license for all personal identification.

See, in the other 242 nations on earth, the government issues standard, uniform identification cards for all her citizens. (Note: These are not to be confused with a passport, which is for international affairs.) Now, when you need ID for a credit card or alcohol purchase in any nation other than America, a federal ID card is the main form of identification. Weird, huh? Anyhow, this difference becomes apparent when Americans try to check into hotels overseas. Desk clerks cannot figure out what driving a car has to do with renting a room.

This was all supposed to change back in 2005 when Congress passed the REAL ID ACT. After the horrific 9/11 attacks, it was brought to light that the Saudi terrorists all used driver's licenses from various US states in preparation for the onslaught. With so many different IDs, it makes it difficult to keep tabs on the people we need to be keeping tabs on. People like TSA officers really need to see, instantly, more information than a state issued driver's license can provide.

Sadly, after multiple failures to pass, a watered-down version of the REAL ID ACT ended up becoming a law in 2005. Instead of issuing all citizens a national ID card, individual state driver's licenses will still be used to board a plane. However, the government is requiring that states adhere to stricter codes and regulations to insure TSA agents get the information on passengers they need. So residents of twenty states, including California and New York need to go to a DMV to get a new card. But don't rush. This week, Congress extended the deadline to October of 2020 to get the new, enhanced driver's license.

You might have noticed I only used the term "American" in this blog when referring to people. But, in actuality, we are the UNITED STATES of America. Maybe this driver's license issue is one of the last remaining instances when state's rights being placed ahead of federal rights. Come to think of it...Maybe our nation would be better off with more regional government. We'd really love to see 50 individual currencies as well!


Saturday, December 2, 2017



Nothing gets the tabloids of the world more excited than a Royal Wedding! So, when Prince Harry popped the question to actress Meghan Markle last weekend, news outlets from Sydney to Stockholm went wild. They're still a-flutter with probing questions, wacky predictions and wild speculation. As your trusted source for news about royalty worldwide, we here at the DUNER BLOG are ready to answer your queries.

Which role made Meghan famous? She is best known for playing Rachel Zane on the TV show Suits. It airs on the oddly-named USA Network. Fans have watched the outgoing character rise from a lowly paralegal in Season One to a full-fledged attorney in Season Five. On the silver screen, she played the hot FedEx girl in the comedy Horrible Bosses. However, the role that made Meghan Markle famous was as briefcase girl #24 on the Howie Mandel-hosted game show Deal or No Deal!

How did Harry and Meghan meet? Naturally, Harry was asked this question during a recent BBC interview. It all began with a simple BLIND DATE last year. See, Meghan was friends-of-a-friend with Princess Eugenie, who also helped play matchmaker. They met for a drink in London last year. When did Harry know she was the one? "The very first time we met." Harry admits. So people...the next time a friend wants to set you up with someone...think twice about turning them down!

What will her royal title be? This will be announced after the wedding. In all likelihood, Meghan will become the Duchess of Sussex...just like Kate Middleton became the Duchess of Cambridge. This will not stop the press from calling her Princess Meghan, as the word 'Princess' has special place in the heart of Disney-loving girls worldwide. Prior to any of this, Meghan must become a British citizen and be baptized into the Church of England.

Is she the first American royal? Given the large number of Royal houses worldwide, dozens of Americans have become royalty. The most famous being Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco and Queen Noor of Jordan. Meghan will be the second American to join the House of Windsor. For eight months in 1936, Wallis Simpson was a de-facto Queen, but the abdication of Edward VIII unceremoniously ended her curious reign.

Will the Queen attend the wedding? Although no official word has been given, many feel her Highness will not be at the ceremony. No, it doesn't have anything to do with Meghan being an American. Rather, Meghan, like Willis Simpson, is divorced. Although the Church of England now accepts divorce, the queen does not. She also skipped her own son's second wedding on the same grounds: Camilla is divorced too.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017



November is an important month for many Americans. For most, it's a time to give thanks for having four days off work. Others choose to remember our military veterans. In sports: It's rivalry time in College Football and it's time for the coveted Breeder's Cup in horse racing. However, for us here at the DUNER BLOG, November means one thing: The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.

Not familiar with this holiday tradition? It began 20 years ago to promote the famed lingerie line's new store in Midtown Manhattan. A makeshift runway featured Stephanie Seymour parading around in a push-up bra and matching panties. Then, she was followed down by a dozen other scantily-clad supermodels prancing around in their undies. What's not to love? At first, the fashion show proceeded Valentine's Day, but in 2001, they switched to November, as Christmas sales are much more lucrative.

Things became BIG TIME the following year, when ABC aired the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in Prime Time. As popularity grew, the show was moved to various other fashion capitals, like L.A., Miami, Paris and Cannes. But this year, the ambitious company decided to expand to Shanghai. A great idea has ran into a myriad of problems. Media covering the event are angry about burdensome restrictions. For example, no shots of the exterior of the Mercedes Benz Center are allowed. Although tickets were not released to the public, they are selling online for thousands of dollars.

However, the biggest issue facing the Fashion Show involves travel visas. Naturally, four Ukrainian and Russian models were denied visas, due to Cold War restrictions still on the books. Next, pop star Katy Perry was blocked. Why? Well, two years ago, she performed a concert in Taipei. She waved the Taiwanese flag while wearing a sunflower dress. In China, this is grounds for denying a visa. But the biggest blow to the event is the omission of IT GIRL Gigi Hadad. She was banned for a multitude of online posts celebrating the Dalai Lama.

While Bella's long legs will be missed, the show will still be held in a week on November 28. But many other entertainment and sports moguls are taking notice. Although China is an enticing, billion-strong market to tap, hosting an event in the People's Republic is strenuous. There are many confusing and arbitrary laws and regulations. Surprisingly, no complaints involve the objectification of women. So long as the supermodels don't form a resistance party opposed to the government, they can wear whatever they like!