Sunday, March 16, 2008

The White Swan Hotel

For those of obsessed by strange mix of tragedy and grandeur that is the RMS Titanic, a small hotel in Alnwick England offers a unique opportunity. RMS Olympic was Titanic's sister ship-in nearly every respect an exact copy of the ill-fated liner. Olympic would give yeoman service to the White Star line until 1935 when she was scrapped. Before the great ship was cut up however, many of her fittings were auctioned off with various pieces being scattered about Britain.
The White Swan Hotel got the lion's share of what remains, including the First Class lounge and the aft Grand Staircase. When it came time to make the film Titanic, the makers of the movie made a pilgrimage to The White Swan, meticulously cataloguing every detail. It's on my list of places to visit the next time I'm the other side of the pond.

The Beat Museum

For Admiral Burns.

The Jeremiah Wright Factor.

[W]hen you're left with the choice of either acknowledging that you had sincere close, personal, and political ties with a minister whose views most Americans find beyond the pale, or defending yourself by using the "hey, I'm just a cynical politician who uses religion to get votes just like anything else, and I don't believe in it any more than I really believe that NAFTA is bad" excuse, I think you may be in for some trouble.

The Evolution of Tech Companies’ Logos.

You’ve seen these tech logos everywhere, but have you ever wondered how they came to be? Did you know that Apple’s original logo was Isaac Newton under an apple tree? Or that Nokia’s original logo was a fish?

Ragdoll Physics.

An oddly fascinating website. Basically it's a falling bikini-clad blond. As she falls she bounces off things. That's pretty much it. If she gets stuck click and drag.

Warning: Possibly Not Safe For Work given her bikini and that she might be construed as...well...dead.

The atheist delusion.

An appropriate post for Palm Sunday.

Contemporary opponents of religion display a marked lack of interest in the historical record of atheist regimes. In The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, the American writer Sam Harris argues that religion has been the chief source of violence and oppression in history. He recognises that secular despots such as Stalin and Mao inflicted terror on a grand scale, but maintains the oppression they practised had nothing to do with their ideology of "scientific atheism" - what was wrong with their regimes was that they were tyrannies.

But might there not be a connection between the attempt to eradicate religion and the loss of freedom? It is unlikely that Mao, who launched his assault on the people and culture of Tibet with the slogan "Religion is poison", would have agreed that his atheist world-view had no bearing on his policies. It is true he was worshipped as a semi-divine figure - as Stalin was in the Soviet Union. But in developing these cults, communist Russia and China were not backsliding from atheism. They were demonstrating what happens when atheism becomes a political project. The invariable result is an ersatz religion that can only be maintained by tyrannical means.

Problems for the Enron prosecution.

The specter of possible prosecutorial misconduct has been raised regarding the prosecution's destruction of exculpatory evidence in Andy Fastow's government interviews.

I can't say I'm surprised. While I'm a pretty strong law and order type guy and am relatively unsympathetic to white collar criminals-we've seen time and again prosecutors acting in a high handed, often corrupt manner in order to secure high profile convictions. I'm not sure how to fix that. Whether it was Ken Starr, Peter Fitzgerald, Mike Nifong, or Eliot Spitzer justice is poorly served by the relentless pursuit of convictions irrespective of the underlying facts. Prosecutors should be focused on a quest for truth-and I'm not sure how to incentivize that.

Media Obsessions

Overall, the odds that one of America’s 48 million children under age 12 will encounter an adult pedophile at the local park are startlingly remote. The Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute puts it like so: “Right now, 90 percent of our efforts go toward protecting our children from strangers, when what we need to do is to focus 90 percent of our efforts toward protecting children from the abusers who are not strangers.”

That’s a diplomatic way of phrasing the uncomfortable but factually supported truth: that if your child is not molested in your own home — by you, your significant other, or someone else you invited in — chances are your child will never be molested anywhere.

Maybe China Shouldn't Be Hosting The Olympics.

Ya think?