Swiss Army Knife Turns 125

It started out as a simple tool, designed to allow soldiers to disassemble their rifles and open tins of canned food.

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Gazpacho Recipe

With temperatures topping 105°F here in central California, and no end to triple digits in sight, there's no chance I'm going to add to our air conditioner's strain by heating up the kitchen. It's time for some cool food, and in the heat of summer there's nothing better than a bowl of gazpacho.

This cold soup originated in Andalucia, the southern portion of Spain. During the time of the Roman Empire, soldiers traveling along the roads would carry with them bread, garlic, vinegar, salt and some olive oil, mashing them together to form a paste. It was a simple, nourishing meal that could be eaten on the run. Fast forward about ten centuries and the arrival of the tomato in Spain, probably brought back from the New World by the conquistadors. Crush the tomatoes along with the other ingredients and you have a basic soup, ideally suited to Andalucia's hot climate.

I don't really use a recipe for my gazpacho -- I just kind of eyeball the quantities. The amounts shown below are more like guidelines.

Gazpacho al Andaluz


  • 2 lbs tomatoes, peeled
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut in pieces
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, cut in pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp wine vinegar (sherry wine vinegar if you have it, otherwise white or red is fine)
  • 2 slices French bread, dried and chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin

Soak the bread in just enough water to thoroughly wet it.

In food processor or blender, puree all of the ingredients together.

Add a little water if you need to thin the mixture.

Refrigerate several hours before serving.

Serve in a bowl topped with garnishes.


  • Cucumber, diced
  • Green bell pepper, diced
  • Tomato, diced
  • Red Onion, finely chopped
  • Croutons, made from one or two slices of French bread

Vatican Museum will offer extended hours this summer

The Vatican Museum, which includes the Sistine Chapel, is joining a host of other museums in offering late evening hours. Beginning July 24, the Vatican Museum will be open from 7:00pm to 11:00pm. At the moment this is being publicized as a temporary experiment by the Vatican, but if the test is successful they plan to make the late openings permanent. Not all of the museum will be open during the evening hours, but the main attractions will be available.

Tourists drawn by Michelangelo's frescos in the Sistine Chapel have made the Vatican Museum among the most crowded in Europe. Snaking around the wall that divides the Vatican City from Rome, the security line for entry to the Museum can stretch for up to half a mile, with wait times exceeding two hours. I have complained long and loud to many of my past groups about the Vatican's limited hours, and how that forces visitors into a very narrow time window. It makes the museum more crowded than it needs to be, and visits far less enjoyable than they should be.

Assuming a set number of people plan to visit the museum on any given day, extending the hours should spread the load out, meaning less visitors in the museum at any one time. Hopefully this marks a new attitude by the Vatican towards making the museum more user friendly. Now if they would just bring back the short cut from the Raphael Rooms to the Sistine Chapel, instead of forcing everybody to walk up and down hundreds of stairs and through miles of modern art that they're not interested in . . .

You can book tickets for small group, guided tours for the Vatican Museums as well as tickets that will let you skip the line.

United Breaks Guitars: the power of the internet

What happens when a major, multi-national corporation does wrong by one of their customers? In the not too distant past, nothing happened. If an airline lost your luggage, if the "view cabin" on your cruise had a view of the lifeboat, if your hotel room turned out to be infested with bed bugs, complaints to the corporate office often fell on deaf ears. When faced with a complaint, all too often big companies rely on their size, and the insulation it provides, to stymie the average customer in search of a little justice. We know that this isn't the way it should be. We know that good, responsible companies should step up and say "You're right, we made a mistake, how can we fix it?"

But for the average Joe Consumer, navigating the twisting labyrinth of a corporation was too much to deal with. Letters begot form letter replies. "Dear Mr. Consumer, I'm very sorry to hear about your experience with XYZ Corp. It is always our policy to blah blah blah compensation denied." Phone calls would be shuffled from one office to the next, each less willing than the last to accept responsibility for the problem. Months would pass, and eventually Mr. Consumer would drop it and get on with life. XYZ Corp. might have one disgruntled customer, but that was about the end of it.

Enter the internet. Some companies have realized just how powerful a force YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the like have become. Many actually have a dedicated employee who monitors posts on Social Media sites to see if there's anything negative (or positive) coming across the air. Others are apparently still oblivious to this new-found power in the hands of Joe Consumer. Everybody who follows you on Twitter will soon know about the viewless cruise cabin and vow never to use that cruise line. Thousands of people on TripAdvisor will learn about the hotel with the bed bugs. And if you have a bad experience with an airline, well, you might just write a song and post it to YouTube, where (as of this posting) over 1.5 million people will see it:

Emergency Medical Information at Your Fingertips

Whether you're exploring deep in the wilderness or just traveling abroad, having comprehensive first aid information at your fingertips is always a good thing. Medjet, one of the largest providers of emergency medical evacuation, recently released iMedjet, a free app designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch that gives you one touch access to emergency numbers, stores critical medical information, and provides a comprehensive guide to emergency first aid.

Content for the first aid portion of the application draws from more than 10 years of research and clinical experience, and was developed by Adventure Medical Kits. First aid techniques covered in the iMedjet application come complete with cross-reference hyperlinks between categories, situational descriptions and various technique illustrations. The techniques covered range from treatment of stings and bites to CPR.

iMedjet also offers mobile medical information storage. This portion of the application is useful not only to the user but can also provide vital information to doctors and emergency professionals in a crisis. The mobile medical information storage component of the application allows you to upload and organize medical contact information directly from your iPhone’s contacts, detail any pre-existing conditions, record allergies and list medications.

Finally there is the mobile Medjet portion of the application. If you are a Medjet member, the application allows you to record your membership information and provides one-touch access to Medjet emergency phone numbers.

iPhone and iPod Touch owners can download the free iMedjet app here. You can get more information on Medjet from InsureMyTrip, or directly from Medjet.

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