Saturday, August 28, 2010
Adam Goldstein was a whiz-kid MIT engineering student with an enviable network of tech contacts and a decade of industry experience. He also had a lofty dream: To reinvent Internet flight search.
So he called up his old friend, Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman, and embarked on a summer project. It culminated in this week's launch of Hipmunk, which drew instant acclaim for its new approach to an old but still daunting search challenge: matching travel shoppers with flights. Hipmunk arranges flights on a colorful, user-friendly grid, letting browsers evaluate their options in a blink.
Just days old, the site is already winning rave reviews. "When you see the results you'll never want to see flight results in any other format," TechCrunch gushed. "It's one of those 'that's so obvious why didn't I think of that' moments."
Lifehacker calls the site "fantastic" and praised its visual innovation.
"We spent a disproportionate amount of time on building that interface," says Goldstein, who graduated from MIT this spring. "Helping users find the right flight in the least amount of time is what informs every decision."
Hipmunk cuts the clutter, displaying all flight options on one screen. Prices show on the grid's vertical axis, with departure times on the horizontal axis. Airlines are color-coded -- JetBlue (JBLU) flights in blue, Delta (DAL, Fortune 500) in orange, and so on -- allowing searchers to zoom straight in on their favorites.
From there, browsers can sort by factors including price, flight length, and the number of stops. The aptly named "agony" button is a one-click combination of all three. Users can search in multiple tabs, filter out flights that depart too early or late, and share links to their searches with friends.
Goldstein met David Pogue, the New York Times tech reviewer, at a book signing in 2003. The 14-year-old Goldstein was already an adept programmer, and he stayed behind to chat with Pogue. Soon after, he became a technical editor on one of Pogue's books.
In 2005 he penned his own book for one of Pogue's series, called AppleScript: The Missing Manual. It was Goldstein's ticket into the tech world, and he soon found himself in business with the editor-in-chief of Wired to create the website BookTour.
As for Hipmunk, Goldstein and his longtime friend Huffman hatched the idea this summer at the San Francisco apartment building they share. Huffman -- who sold his social news startup Reddit to Conde Nast in 2005 for an undisclosed sum -- lives upstairs with his wife, while Goldstein lives one floor below.
The pair met with several flight booking sites and eventually settled on a deal with aggregator Orbitz (OWW). For now, all flights found on Hipmunk are booked on Orbitz. While Goldstein won't reveal the details, "when Orbitz makes money from us, we make money from them," he says.
With the Orbitz deal set and site built entirely by the two developers, all they needed was a name. Goldstein's girlfriend stepped up to the challenge.
"She said, 'If you pick a small, cute animal and a good logo you'll never go wrong,'" Goldstein says.
Hipmunk's flight-goggled chipmunk mascot has the same "awww" factor as Twitter's iconic bluebird. With that, Hipmunk was born.
But Goldstein knows his work isn't done: "Some things are lacking, even compared to our competitors," he admits. "We have steps to take before we become the go-to site."
Hipmunk doesn't currently support multi-city search. Some commenters on the Hipmunk blog have complained that the site's international flight search is weak. And, of course, Orbitz supplies all the flight data.
Hipmunk has received small investments from two venture-capital firms that focus on startups: Ron Conway's SV Angel and Y Combinator. Goldstein won't confirm how much Hipmunk took from each company, but he says TechCrunch's report that Y Combinator put up $15,000 is incorrect.
"We haven't fully decided on a long-term plan for monetizing," Goldstein says. "We know we don't want to have ads or spam people. There isn't a ton of money in just flight data, which is why a lot of sites expand into hotel and package search."
No matter how Hipmunk evolves, Goldstein says clarity for consumers will be the core mission. He's confident a user-friendly site can win in a crowded field that includes Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity and Kayak.
And his ambitions aren't limited to travel: There's other interfaces Goldstein would like to reimagine.
"It's not in our immediate plans, but we work day by day," Goldstein says. "Just because it's not on the list now doesn't mean it won't be tomorrow."
Julio Iglesias has married his girlfriend of 20 years, Dutch model Miranda Rijnsburger, his rep tells TVGuide.com.
The couple wed Saturday at the Virgen del Carmen church in Marbella, Spain. Iglesias, 66, and Rijnsburger, 45, have five children together.
It is the second marriage for the Spanish singer, who also has three children, including Enrique Iglesias and Julio Iglesias Jr., from his first marriage to Isabel Preysler.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Thursday, August 5, 2010
In the 15th anniversary issue of Vibe magazine, Eminem admits that he's still haunted by the death of his "8 Mile" co-star - and former flame - Brittany Murphy.
"It was crazy...It's crazy because at one point we were very close and she was a really good person," the rapper says of Murphy, who died December 20 at age 32 from pneumonia compounded by anemia and prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
"It's crazy when you see things, not just with her but just all these things that are happening in Hollywood with people in music, with people in acting," he said. "Famous people are overdosing at alarming rates and that almost sounded like a commercial. Wow."
Thirty-seven-year-old Eminem, who shared the big screen with Murphy in 2002, has also endured his own battles with drug addiction, and blames the problem on doctors who enjoy basking in a star's spotlight.
"Doctors will kiss your ass because they love the celebrity. 'Oh, I can call up Eminem and get him on the phone right now. Oh, hi Marshall, how are you doing? Do you need that [prescription]?'" he explains. "There are doctors that will give you certain things just because of who you are."
A little over a year after Bill Gates and Warren Buffett began hatching a plan over dinner to persuade America's wealthiest people to give most of their fortunes to charity, more than three-dozen individuals and families have agreed to take part, campaign organizers announced Wednesday.
In addition to Buffett and Gates — America's two wealthiest individuals, with a combined net worth of $90 billion, according to Forbes — 38 other billionaires have signed The Giving Pledge. They include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, entertainment executive Barry Diller, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens, media mogul Ted Turner, David Rockefeller, film director George Lucas and investor Ronald Perelman.
"We're off to a terrific start," Buffett, co-founder and chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, said in a conference call also attended by Bloomberg and San Francisco hedge-fund manager Tom Steyer and his wife Kat Taylor, founder of OneCalifornia Bank.
Buffett said he and Gates, the Microsoft co-founder, and Gates' wife Melinda made calls to fellow billionaires on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans — in many cases, people they had never met — to try to persuade them to join the giving pledge.
"We contacted between 70 and 80 people to get the 40. A few were unavailable. We don’t give up on them. Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future. We’ll keep on working," Buffett said.
Bloomberg, who made the bulk of his estimated $17.5 billion fortune from financial news and information services company Bloomberg L.P., said it didn't make sense to leave everything to his children and have them go through life as members of "the lucky sperm club."
"You don’t want to leave them so much money that it ruins their lives," Bloomberg said. "You want kids who can look back and say, 'Yeah my family helped me but I did something on my own.'"
Added Steyer: "We need to support each other. I look at this as replanting your garden so that future generations will have a full bounty of crops."
The United States has roughly 400 billionaires — about 40 percent of the world's total — with a combined net worth of $1.2 trillion, according to Forbes. If they all took the pledge, that would amount to at least $600 billion for charity.
The 40 names that have pledged to date have a combined net worth surpassing $230 billion, according to Forbes. Several of them have said they plan to give away much more than 50 percent of their wealth. Buffett has promised to donate more than 99 percent of his wealth.
The pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract. It does not involve pooling money or supporting one cause or organization. It's up to each person who signs the pledge how to divvy up their wealth.
In letters on the givingpledge.org website, the 40 billionaires explain what motivated them to follow in the footsteps of Gates and Buffett.
"I’m particularly thankful for my father’s advice to set goals so high that they can’t possibly be achieved during a lifetime and to give help where help is needed most," CNN founder Ted Turner said. "That inspiration keeps me energized and eager to keep working hard every day on giving back and making the world a better place for generations to come.”
“My pledge is to the process; as long as I have the resources at my disposal, I will seek to raise the bar for future generations of students of all ages," filmmaker George Lucas said. "I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education.”
Gates and Buffett hatched the idea of a giving campaign in mid-2009 at a secret dinner meeting in New York with a few select billionaires. The campaign went public this June.
Buffett acknowledged that some wealthy people may find it beneficial to donate more so they can avoid or write off more taxes. But he said that's not the reason billionaires are taking the pledge.
"Of the 20 or so people that I have talked to that have signed, not one of them has talked to me about taxes," Buffett said.
"It may be a consideration but I think the motivation goes far, far beyond taxes."
And of the billionaires contacted who didn't join the pledge?
"There were a few people who gave answers that indicated their various dissatisfaction with government," Buffett said. "A few had dynastic ideas about wealth … an intergenerational compact with family to keep that going. And there were others who said, 'I’ve got a plane to catch and I'll have to hang up.'"
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Spoon Up: Low-fat cottage cheese
Hair is almost all protein, so attaining a strong, vibrant mane starts with eating enough of it. Reduced-fat cottage cheese is a protein heavyweight, with 14 grams in half a cup.
Pack: Pumpkin seeds
Zinc helps reduce shedding, says Francesca Fusco, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York's Mount Sinai Medical Center. Toss a tablespoon of these zinc-heavy seeds into your cereal.
Surf for: Arctic char
This cold-water fish is a great source of the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA, which can improve brain function and ward off the blues, says Elizabeth Somer, R.D., author of Age-Proof Your Body. Omega-3s help squelch inflammation in the brain and regulate feel-good neurotransmitters. Sprinkle fillets with sea salt, ground pepper, and fresh lemon juice, then pan-fry on medium-high until one side is slightly brown. Flip and cook until the inside is slightly pink (6 to 8 minutes total).
Feed the 100 billion neurons in your noggin with nutritious kale. A study in the journal Neurology reports that getting two-plus servings per day of veggies — especially leafy green ones like kale — slows cognitive decline by 40 percent. Temper kale's bitter flavor by sautéing it lightly with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, a chopped garlic clove, 2 ¬tablespoons of pine nuts, and a pinch of salt.
Nosh: Sunflower seeds
Hay fever affects more than 40 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Halt the drip with vitamin E. Researchers suspect it calms the parts of your immune system involved in allergies. With 49 percent of your daily vitamin E needs in an ounce, these seeds are your shnoz's best friend.
Scramble: Whole eggs
Forgo egg-white omelets. The yolks are an all-star source of two antioxidants — lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that fight cataracts as well as macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness. Don't worry: University of Massachusetts researchers have concluded that eating an average of one egg yolk a day will not hurt your cholesterol levels.
Steam: Orange cauliflower
Yes, that really is orange cauliflower popping up in your produce aisle. Food scientists at Cornell University reworked the white variety to provide 25 times as much beta-carotene, which maintains the protective covering over the cornea. As with any low-cal vegetable, you can enjoy peachy cauliflower with reckless abandon, provided you don't drown it in salt and fat-laden butter.
Cozy up to your nearest Italian eatery. The fruit is especially beneficial when cooked—more of the carotenoid lycopene makes it into the skin, where it can limit UV damage to lower skin-cancer risk and hold off wrinkles.
Experiment with: Hemp
The omega-3 fatty acids in hemp help your skin retain moisture so you don't look like a cast member from Dawn of the Dead. Toss a tablespoon each of lemon juice, pine nuts, and shelled hemp seeds ($9 for 8 oz, manitoba*harvest*.com) into a blender with ³ cup of hemp-seed oil ($10 for 8 oz, manitoba*harvest*.com), a chopped garlic clove, a pinch of salt, and ½ cup fresh basil. Whirl to create a delicious and healthy pesto.
Munch On: Walnuts
To get moist, beautiful, chap-free lips, your body needs to constantly replace old skin cells with new ones. "Omega-3 fats help regulate this turnover so that it happens all the time," Fusco says. And unlike much-lauded almonds, walnuts have tons of the phat fats. So do your lips a favor and pucker up to an ounce (about 14 shelled halves) a day; eat them plain or add them to salads, cereal, oatmeal, trail mix, or your favorite muffin recipe.
Grill up: Beef
Of all the sources of highly absorbable iron in your supermarket, beef is among the best. Low iron levels, which are common in women, not only zap your zip, but, Fusco says, can cause brittle nails. With the least fat of the common cuts, top round (and other round cuts) deserve high billing on your broiler pan.
Add: Broccoli sprouts
Sulforaphane, found in baby broccoli, fires up enzymes that may stop breast-cancer cells from growing. Johns Hopkins University researchers discovered that broccoli sprouts have up to 20 times as much of this compound as fully grown plants. Pimp your sandwiches and salads with ½ cup of robustly flavored broccosprouts — developed by scientists at Johns Hopkins. A one-ounce serving contains 73 milligrams of the naturally occurring precursor of sulforaphane.
Snap Up: Asparagus
Italian researchers have found that the B vitamin folate reduces homocysteine, an amino acid believed to promote inflammation, which can up your risk of heart disease. Eight steamed asparagus spears deliver 20 percent of your daily folate requirement, as well as other heart-chummy nutrients like potassium.
Sip: Purple grape juice
Pull over, OJ! According to researchers at the University of Glasgow, purple grape juice is high in phenolics, "a group of powerful antioxidants that swallow up heart-damaging free radicals," says Anne VanBeber, R.D., Ph.D., a nutrition professor at Texas Christian University. To cut calories while guarding your arteries, mix equal parts grape juice and seltzer.
Reach for: Dried plums, aka Prunes
These high-fiber fruits help keep your gastric system working like a finely tuned machine. They may shrink your stomach, too. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that among 74,000 women surveyed, those who got more fiber were 49 percent less likely to suffer weight gain. Make your own trail mix with a handful of chopped pitted prunes plus walnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried blueberries, and hemp seeds.
Toss in: Tempeh
Made from whole soybeans that are then fermented, tempeh pads our guts with beneficial bacteria. After taking up residence, VanBeber says, these live microorganisms improve digestion, reduce gas production, and kill bacteria that cause ulcers. Like tofu, tempeh soaks up the flavors around it, so crumble a block and toss it into chili, soup, and pasta sauce.
Your Girl Parts
From vision-protecting vitamin C to appetite-quelling fiber, there are plenty of reasons to be sweet on these tiny antioxidant powerhouses. And scientists now believe that, like cranberries, blueberries battle urinary tract infections, Somer says.
Pour on: Kefir
Yeast infections put a serious damper on bed play. "Having lots of fermented milk products, including kefir, is a good way to reduce infections," VanBeber says. These products may add beneficial bacteria to the vagina, keeping infectious bacteria in line, early research indicates. Blend ½ cup low-fat plain kefir (we like Lifeway) with a cup of milk, a handful of berries, and a tablespoon of almond butter for a creamy smoothie.
Your Muscles & Joints
Mix in: Ricotta cheese
Loaded with all of the amino acids muscles need to grow and mend, whey protein is a virtuoso when it comes to helping you build a buff bod. While milk curd is used to make most cheeses, ricotta is produced from the whey that's left behind in the cheese-making process. Mix low-fat ricotta with scrambled eggs, salsa, and broccoli sprouts for a killer breakfast.
Drizzle: Extra-virgin olive oil
Ditch fat-free dressings. Olive oil contains oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory that may work like ibuprofen, report scientists in the journal Nature. Drizzle two teaspoons of Spectrum organic extra-virgin ($12 for 12.7 oz, spectrumorganics.com) onto your veggies.
Indulge in: Chocolate
Chocolate is rich in magnesium, vital to bone health. "It forms the crystal lattice that gives bone its structure," VanBeber says. That may be why University of Tennessee scientists linked higher mag intake with greater bone-mineral density. Nibble an ounce of the dark stuff each day.
Open up: Canned salmon
New research suggests that the omega-3s in these fatty swimmers can boost bone density. Canned salmon is inexpensive and typically lower in heavy metals like mercury than many other fish. "Canned salmon [with bones] is also a good source of calcium — another bone must," Somer says. For a better burger, make patties with a tin of salmon, an egg, ¼ cup breadcrumbs, ¼ cup chopped onion, and ½ tablespoon cumin powder.
Peel: Mango and Kiwi
Together, these two tropical fruits deliver more of the proven gum protector vitamin C than an orange. Bonus: Researchers in Italy have found that each fruit portion you down daily (that's just a single kiwi) reduces your risk for oral cancer by nearly 50 percent.
If you have periodontal disease, you're churning out more cytokines, proteins that stimulate inflammation — turning your mouth into a hotbed of pain and bleeding. Research has shown that vitamin D can put the smackdown on cytokines. Three ounces of shrimp provides 65 percent of the RDA of vitamin D, so cast the crustaceans into your next wok full of vegetables.