Commercial space travel? Thank the Russian-American partnership

Participants 2016 Essay Contest



One of this years most intriguing commercial travel trends are space expeditions. Kayak is now accepting reservations for flights aboard the XCOR Spacecraft. For a mere $100,000 in loose change you can float around suborbital space for a mind-blowing hour.

Sounds more science fiction than reality, right? Well, it’s happening and after years of close collaboration, you can thank the Russian-American partnership in space for the progress.

And who better to talk about this monumental launch than the first place winner of the 2016 Albany-Tula Alliance Essay Contest.

“I really wanted to write about something that I am passionate about,” said Albany High School sophomore, Erin Lippitt, “and that’s space.”

Lippitt won pocketed the first $1000 for her work on an essay posed that best answered the question “Identify and discuss ways in which Russia and the U.S. have worked together successfully to solve problems and how they can continue to work together on partnerships of mutual interest to create a more harmonious world and improve lives.”

Capital Region students, 15 registered in total, were given one month to construct a 1500-word answer and submit by deadline. Lippitt chose The Final Frontier: Space Exploration providing a historical analysis of the Space Race, Space Treaties the and the International Space Station as keys to unlocking tensions and uniting both flags.

Here’s a sample of her well-researched contribution:

Russia and America have worked productively and successfully together time and time again. Both nations have continued to cooperate with one another through some of the greatest political challenges, from the tension of the Cold War to today’s political unease. It is almost a miracle that space relations are at their best. That goes to show that united under a common goal, these countries can have a great partnership and achieve amazing, wondrous, scientific advancement. If space truly is the Final Frontier, it is best that the world faces it united and working as one.

In 2014, ATA board member Jack Aernecke and myself visited Moscow’s Museum of Space and Cosmonauts with Essay winners Isaac Smith and Tarek A. Benson.

America’s best idea turns 100

National Parks Adventure 3D doc

“All that the sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.”
– John Muir, Poet

What’s your first memory of visiting a National Park? Those who remember their first childhood experience can usually share a bittersweet moment. Maybe you befriended a squirrel. Maybe a raccoon made off with your lunch. Maybe the fish hook you used to bait your line stabbed you in the finger.

Whatever action or visual might enrich your recollection the experience is firmly rooted in your being, and with good reason, nothing beats being in the great outdoors. That is, of course, until you see MacGillivray Freeman’s 3D journey called National Parks Adventure.

In no more than 43 minutes, 18,000 miles of land and water trails are covered on celluloid through a country-spanning expedition following three adventure-seeking mountaineers. Complete with high-end gyro-stabilized cinematography, immersive time lapses and a pounding soundtrack, the documentary thrusts the viewer on a soulful trip through ice caves, temple-like forest groves and the everglades.

Coinciding with the centennial of the founding of the National Park Service, history is, wisely, not forgotten; Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, the Native Americans, they are valued for protecting America’s best idea.

Get yourself to NYC’s American Museum of Natural History like I did this week and enjoy this Robert Redford-narrated treasure.

Majoring in green travel ideas


Travel is not exactly known for being easy on the planet but a vacation getaway doesn’t necessarily have to hurt your carbon consciousness. On Earth Day, I rush to read the New York Times Green Travel issue for ideas, many common sense, on how to make that happen.

Case in point, Kate Galbraith’s well-researched article “How to Travel the Earth and Protect It, too.”

Galbraith suggests sustainable ideas on where to go, how to get there, where to stay and eat, and what to do by citing environmental experts at,, Sierra Club, WWF, National Geographic and the Clean Transportation Council.

And, surprise, surprise – an eco-friendly upstate shoutout goes to the Hotel Skyler in Syracuse, one of only a handful of LEED certified hotels in the U.S.. This former temple and theatre refurbished into a cutting-edge eco-luxury pad beats a Motel 6 any day.

Check out more emissions-free articles here:
10 Ways to Be a Greener Traveler, Even if You Love to Fly
In Los Angeles, Ditching the Car for an Eco-Friendly Trip
Five Hotels and Tours for the Eco-Conscious Traveler

Hiking the Ski Bowl trail in North Creek

North Creek, Ski Bowl trails,

The hamlet of North Creek, surrounded by the foothills of the Adirondack Park, is famous for its railroad, country stores and downhill skiing. But, there are also dozens of easy hiking paths varied enough for mother and daughter (and a little black French poodle) to enjoy on a sunny afternoon.

I took mine on an 1-hour loop starting from the parking lot at the North Creek Town Park off Dump Road. It was too late in the day to hike the 9.8 mile Schaefer Trail, to the top of the Gore Mountain Fire Tower, so we skirted around an expansive trail system called Ski Bowl.

The trails are technically single track and (I think) only open to mountain bikers. But, being the only people there that day, Mom and I took our chances and hiked the beautiful network in peace. The gently graded routes roamed alongside sandy meadows, ridges and streams.

We paused briefly for views of the valley from the chair lift exit point and a high ridge overlooking Roaring Brook. The opportunity provided us with just the right amount of woodland solace.

Ski Bowl trail North Creek

Ski Bowl trail North Creek

Ski Bowl trail North Creek

Ski Bowl trail North Creek

Ski bowl trail North Creek

Mutti and Renee North Creek

Griots Republic: urban black magazine for travelers

Griot Republic

Tantra communities in India, meditations laboratories in Brazil, sexual tourism in Tanzania – there’s a new online travel magazine and Volume 1, Issue 4 is all about sex!

Griots Republic describes itself as “an urban black travel magazine” but that doesn’t mean this pasty-white conservative can’t pursue a few chapters of African diaspora. After all, this 96-page issue tackles stereotypes, taboos and gender inequalities across all countries.

The word Griot means West African historian and storyteller.

This morning alone, I got an eye-opening lesson on erotica through the ancient illustrations of ceramic pottery from Peru, followed up with a romantic Thailand retreat by an woman who calls herself a Sensual Shaman and, finally, a few minutes watching documentary-style vignettes profile celebrities like adult star-turned-professional travel photographer, Heather Hunter.

Naughty adventures can be transformative for many; doing something as discreet as sharing tea with a stranger in Italy to having forbidden pleasure with a Maasai warrior in Mombasa. But, if this topic is still too provocative for you, know that there are a variety of exciting themes debuting every month. March was a destination issue all about Ireland and February focused on millennials of urban travel.

Griots Republic


Thank you to the satellite truck operator, Chad McKelvey of Kindred Films, for talking up his wife’s wanderlust for adventure and latest entrepreneur creation. Who knew that something meaningful would come out of shooting the Trump rally in Syracuse yesterday?

Uterus outta know this guy!

Bill Baird

When I didn’t get the call from CBS on Monday to cover Hillary at Cohoes high school, I was upset. When I did get the call from Lois Shapiro-Canter (former NOW president) to cover Bill at Skidmore College, I was deliriously happy. I’ll swap Bill for Hillary any day.

Bill Baird, that is.

You see women’s access to health care is at risk. Donald Trump wants to criminalize abortion. Bills have passed to strip federal money from Planned Parenthood. And states have passed nearly as many anti-choice laws in the past five years as they did in the 15 preceding. I know this because of Bill Baird.

Since before I was born, Baird has been the “father” of the birth control and abortion-rights movement. In 1972, he won the landmark United States Supreme Court case that established the right of unmarried people to possess contraception on the same basis as married couples. In 1976 and 1979, he won two more United States Supreme Court cases that give teenagers the right to obtain an abortion without parental consent.

Having appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Face The Nation, CBS Sunday Morning, along with dozens of radio shows and newspaper articles, I was expecting a packed Gannett Auditorium of diverse thinkers, proactive college students and local media outlets. Moreover, given the GOP frontrunner’s inflammatory remarks about ‘punishing’ women who have abortions and the recent bogus assault on Planned Parenthood, what morning news story could be better?

The NCCA, crappy weather and gas prices, apparently…

So, here I write, not about travel or hiking, but offer a glimpse into my camera viewfinder of an empowering figure that too few people know about. And, maybe, that’s because Baird doesn’t fit the profile of a stereotypical women’s rights activist.

He’s not a woman, he’s not gay, he’s not black and he’s not a minority of any kind. At 84 years, he’s the consummate American hero, flaws and all, still on a steadfast plight to help women. He’s stubborn but strategic, cunning but creative, enraged but empathic.

On stage, he shared a big chunk of his personal bitterness for allies that have misunderstood and maligned his contributions. His tactics have not been without controversy and he makes no bones about forgiving (but never forgetting) the challenges he’s faced: fire bombings, prison time, divorce and financial bankruptcy.

His heart-wrenching stories are told with humor and unflinching honesty and regardless how you feel about the message, you can’t help but admire his commitment. But, don’t take my word for it. Please watch this select soundbite and let his logic resonate with you, like it did me: