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September 14, 2008|Catharine Hamm; Christopher Reynolds; Jane Engle; Jen Leo

It's not haunted, just high-tech

Think of it as "Five-Star Wars: The Next Generation." In the battle for luxury hotel supremacy in Las Vegas, the 4,004-room Aria Resort & Casino, set to open in late 2009 in Vegas' new CityCenter, will use ultramodern technology as one of its fun guns. When a guest enters a room, the lights come up and curtains draping floor-to-ceiling windows will part. A 42-inch LCD TV in each room serves as the command center, allowing guests to adjust lights or temperature, play music and video and more -- all by a remote. Room rates haven't yet been announced. The Aria is part of the $9-billion CityCenter that will sit on 67 acres between the Bellagio and the Monte Carlo.

-- Catharine Hamm

Writerly rails

An upscale tour company is offering wealthy patrons an Arctic Circle steam train trip with Paul Theroux, the clever, cranky novelist and travel writer behind "The Great Railway Bazaar" and "The Old Patagonian Express," among others. The trip, planned for June 13-26, will take travelers via the Trans Siberian Express from Moscow to stops in St. Petersburg, the Kola Peninsula, Murmansk, Uglich and more. The 4,200-mile journey carries a price tag of $12,795 to $22,195 per person, and there's room for about 90 travelers. Meals are included. Info: (800) 633-1008,

-- Christopher Reynolds

Twitter alerts

Sure, it's fun to get instant updates on which brand of chips your sister is browsing at the grocery and how crowded the local Starbucks is. But wouldn't you rather know about security threats and ongoing violence in Lebanon? Lucky for you the State Department is now posting its country profiles and travel advisories on Twitter, the micro-blogging service that keeps friends and families in touch. For the latest word on where not to go, visit, where you can also find out how to sign up for Twitter, which is free of charge.

-- Jane Engle

A Kiwi head role

Air New Zealand is looking for 75 baldies (men or women) for an upcoming cranial billboard ad campaign that will inform passengers about the airline's new check-in process. They're paying 1,000 New Zealand dollars (or about $664) for the chosen globes but you must be a New Zealand resident. The open casting calls run Tuesday through Thursday. Heads that pass muster will wear a henna tattoo with the airline's message for two weeks. Info:

-- Jen Leo


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