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Hotel through blue-colored glass

Inside a cool, blue glass tower that soars 32 stories above San Francisco, an InterContinental hotel is getting ready to open Thursday in the South of Market district. Besides 550 rooms, the InterContinental San Francisco, near the Moscone Convention Center, will offer a restaurant called Luce with a 200-label wine cellar and Tuscany-themed menu and design. The hotel's Bar 888 promises to get a grip on grappa, with an extensive selection of the Italian brandy. And you'll also find a spa, fitness center and indoor swimming pool. Room rates average $259 to $400 a night, the hotel said, although we found rates as low as $170 in March. (888) 811-4273,

-- Jane Engle


TSA is listening

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration last month launched a blog, Evolution of Security, saying, in effect, "Bring it on." Travelers did. In hundreds of postings, they have called TSA officers "brain-dead-looking," ranted about rude treatment and said restricting liquids in carry-ons was "the stupidest idea ever." And it's not just talk. After fliers complained about being ordered to fish their BlackBerries and iPods out of carry-ons for screening, the TSA halted the practice at several airports where it was being tested. At first the blog "gave everyone an opportunity to spew all the venom," said TSA spokesman Nico Melendez. "Now it's serving as a great forum for dialogue. . . . Our TSA leadership is reading that blog every day." Except for posts that contain name-calling, "almost everything is being published," he added. The URL:

-- J.E.


Here I am

Personal locater beacons that track your whereabouts with satellite signals are not new. Hard-core hikers and back-country skiers and snowshoers have relied on these gadgets for years to alert emergency rescue crews when things get hairy. Milpitas, Calif-based Spot Inc. recently introduced the Spot satellite messenger, a locater device with a twist. First, it costs less than a third of the price of most GPS-guided beacons. Second, it allows you to send not only an emergency alert to authorities but also an "I'm OK" e-mail message to friends. The message includes a link to an electronic map that shows your location. We tested the Spot in the Donner Pass back country. We didn't try the emergency alert signal, but the "I'm OK" message worked fine as long as we were in an outdoor location with a clear view of the sky. It took up to 20 minutes for the gadget to get a lock on a satellite signal, which may be too long if you are in serious danger. Cost: $170 for the device, plus a $99 annual service fee. Available at REI stores and

-- Hugo Martin


Capital chronicles

"Berlin: Portrait of a City," a new photo book by Hans Christian Adam and published by Taschen, captures much of the energy of that historic city and chronicles it from 1860 to today. The 672-page book contains essays, but its photographs command attention, and you'll find images by such luminaries as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helmut Newton, Willy Romer and Heinrich Zille that portray the grandeur, horror and rebirth of the city founded in what was once the hinterlands of the Roman Empire. Written in German and translated into English and French. Info:

-- Josef Molnar

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