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FAA needs an upgrade

Earlier this week, there was a scare in the skies that reminds many people of the situation that happened on one infamous day in 2001.  Flights all across the north east, reaching as far west as O’Hare in Chicago, were affected when the FAA was forced to ground hundreds of flights, due to a cascade of computer problems.  The systems that failed were absolutely crucial to safety and function, and with them unable to function as they were designed, there was a very high risk for catastrophic events.  The problem simply highlighted the FAA’s need for an overhaul to prevent disaster.

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Top 10 “do not miss” places in Tampa, Fla.

Tampa, on the West coast of Florida, typically is overshadowed by its eastern neighbor Orlando, which is home to Disney World. This town is full of history, diversity and some really good food. If you’re ever in the area, here are the top 10 places to check out.

1. Kaleisia Tea Lounge - Located at 1441 East Fletcher Ave. Suite #133, this community-oriented tea lounge offers loose leaf teas, smoothies and vegan food options. While close to the University of South Florida, it promotes a “tea community” and welcomes anyone. Owners Kim Pham and Lan Ha are dedicated to customer service and love helping people learn more about tea and Asian cultures.

2. Dunderbaks - Located at 14929 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., this German bar and restaurant offers delicious, authentic food and hundreds of draft and bottled beers from all over the world. With more than 50 beers on draft, there’s a beer for everyone and a size for everyone including Das Boot. If you get really lucky, maybe you’ll get to see the accordion player who sings underneath the gazebo some nights.

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Affordable summer fun not found in Florida

We rounded the next bend and that’s when I saw it for the very first time. From left to right my eyes slowly scanned; my lower jaw hanging in disbelief, my eyes unblinking at the sight of them one right after the other. Red, blue, green, yellow, orange…the rocky, white sand coastline was absolutely covered in roller coasters. Even at that distance, a good mile away, it took me two shots with my digital camera to capture the whole stretch.

“There it is, Dad!” I almost screamed.

“That’s why they call this ‘America’s Roller Coast,’” he responded with a smile.

It’s true that my dad and I drove a solid 18 hours from our home in Clearwater, Florida, a more than 1,100-mile trip through seemingly endless cornfields, tired farm towns and broken roads to visit what is arguably the top-rated thrill park on the planet, but I had no idea how fitting the extreme version of our trip just getting there actually fit the thrill power of this attraction….

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Gotta get away? There’s no better time than now

Whether it’s a trip to the Golden State or the Golden Kingdom, airline prices have been slashed as a result of the current (slumping, to use a euphemistic term) economic situation. Even more than this, many theme parks, hotels and other various travel destinations are now offering deals on admission, stays, meals and just about everything else in an effort to keep tourism afloat in a time when we all have little bucks to buy with.

I can’t think of a single reason not to take advantage, and here’s a little help:

Top budget travel destinations for 2009 (according to Budget Travel):

If you’re really looking to save – and maybe even help stimulate that slumping economy we were just talking about – stick to the U.S. for all your travel desires. Here are those top three spots:

Austin, Texas. This city is chalk full of free and affordable events this year, such as the Austin City Music Festival (Oct. 2-4). Austin is also known for its good weather, pop culture, diversified private and public sectors and art.

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