Monday, April 30, 2012

A New and Better Titanic for the 21st Century?

That's one billionaire's plan:

Billionaire promises to build Titanic II by 2016
CANBERRA, Australia — An Australian billionaire said Monday he'll build a high-tech replica of the Titanic at a Chinese shipyard and its maiden voyage in late 2016 will be from England to New York, just like its namesake planned.

Weeks after the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the original Titanic, Clive Palmer announced Monday he has signed a memorandum of understanding with state-owned Chinese company CSC Jinling Shipyard to build the Titanic II.

"It will be every bit as luxurious as the original Titanic, but ... will have state-of-the-art 21st-century technology and the latest navigation and safety systems," Palmer said in a statement. He called the project "a tribute to the spirit of the men and women who worked on the original Titanic."


Palmer did not provide a cost estimate. He said he had established a new shipping company, Blue Star Line Pty. Ltd., and that design work for the Titanic II has begun with assistance from a historical research team.

The diesel-powered ship will have four smoke stacks like the coal-powered original, but they will be purely decorative.

The most obvious changes from the original Titanic would be below the water line, including welding rather than rivets, a bulbous bow for greater fuel efficiency and enlarged rudder and bow thrusters for increased maneuverability, Palmer said.

Brett Jardine, general manager for Australia and New Zealand in the industry group International Cruise Council, said Titanic II would be small by modern standards but could prove viable at the top end of the luxury market.

"From a marketing point of view, many will embrace it and perhaps there'll be some that wouldn't," Jardine said.

"If you've got a niche, it's going to work. Why go out there and try to compete with the mass market products that are out there now?" he added.

While the Titanic II would carry around 1,680 passengers, most modern cruise ships create economies of scale by catering for more than 2,000 passengers, he said.

Among the world's largest passenger ships, Allure of the Seas is 90 meters (295 feet) longer than the 270-meter (886-foot) Titanic and has 2,700 cabins.
An interesting idea. Kinda creepy. But it may have a niche market, and an appeal to history buffs.

If it has the same decor as the original Titanic, will it have the same 1st, 2nd and 3rd class rooms? I ask, because in one of the Titanic Museums, you can see what those cabins looked like.

First Class:

Not bad. Kinda small, but elegant.

Second Class:

Definitely SMALL. Cramped, by modern standards.

Third Class:

Dang! It's a walk-in closet/death-trap! Would
a Fire Marshall even allow it on a modern ship?

And of course, the original Titanic even offered cheaper accommodations in Steerage class. No rooms, just a storage hold, with hammocks hanging in it, I think. Hippies might like that, but insurance underwriters wouldn't.

Anyway, if the Titanic II does actually get built, it will be interesting to see what they do with it to accommodate it to the 21st century.

I got the pics from a slideshow, you can see the whole slideshow here.

Oops! I was wrong about Steerage. Third Class on Titanic WAS the "new and improved" version of "Steerage". All the cabins were above the water line. They had self-flushing toilets for every corridor, access to a lounge, an open air deck, and a dinning room where they were served three hot meals a day.

A step up by the standards of the day. But a new Titanic would not have classes partitioned, at least I wouldn't think so. I doubt they would have the tiny 3rd class rooms either, but we'll see, if they every build it.

Here is a comparison of the size of the original Titanic, with the modern cruise ship, "Oasis of the Seas":

Makes Titanic look pretty small!

You can see more Titanic links here.

Why I'm not an Environmentalist

I really enjoyed the part about the spotted owl, it was spot-on:

“If I wanted America to fail” video goes viral, but Twitter suspends group’s account

“Crucify them:” It’s the Obama Way

I'm a conservationist, and I agree with practical things like recycling, clean air and water standards, efficient energy use, development of renewable energy sources, etc. But that doesn't mean I believe every liar with a hidden agenda who claims to be "Green". Too many of them are "Watermelons"; green on the outside, red on the inside.

Using physical, mental and social skills all help keep mind and memory sharp

For a Healthy Aging Brain, 'Use It or Lose It'
Social, Mental, and Physical Engagements Help Maintain Memory
[...] Although some memory decline is inevitable with age, the research now shows this decline to be highly variable from person to person.

Imaging studies also confirm that the brains of older people with no evidence of memory loss more closely resemble those of much younger people than their memory-impaired contemporaries.

This suggests that avoiding the changes linked to memory decline, rather than trying to "fix" declines that already exist, may be the key to successful aging, the researchers write.

"There is quite solid evidence that staying physically and mentally active is a way toward brain maintenance," says researcher and Umea University professor of neuroscience Lars Nyberg.

This "use it or lose it" message is not new, but the review highlights a shift in thinking about brain health in the elderly, says Pepperdine University psychology professor Louis Cozolino, PhD, who in 2008 published the book, The Healthy Aging Brain: Sustaining Attachment, Attaining Wisdom.

"The brain is a very complex organ, with many different systems," he tells WebMD. "Some of these systems start to decline in the third or fourth decade of life and others actually function better with age."
Engage Socially and Physically

Although our genes certainly play a role in how our brains age, it is now clear that our social interactions do, too, especially new interactions, Cozolino says.

"Social relationships stimulate the neurochemistry of the brain to help it stay healthy," he says. "One formula for sustained brain health is continuing to engage in social adaptation."

On the other hand, social isolation can cause accelerated brain aging, he says.

"If you want your brain to deteriorate, just watch TV all day and don't do anything else."

Garrett, who almost never watches television, agrees.

"There are two kinds of people -- those who walk into a room and turn the television on and those who walk into a room and turn it off," he says. "I turn it off."

Though Garrett certainly has good genes -- his mother lived independently until two years before her death at age 96 -- his days also include lots of social interaction. [...]

I can find too much social interaction tiring. But I find too much TV tiring, too. I like to read and study, which I'm sure also helps keep the brain sharp. I suppose there is a balance to be found, that's just right for each person. But I suppose it still comes down to the wise old adage, "use it or lose it".

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Bring back memories, not measles"

Measles is coming here from Europe:

U.S. Measles Cases, Outbreaks Quadruple in 2011
Unvaccinated Children, Teens at Risk
April 19, 2012 -- Measles cases are spiking sharply in the U.S., the CDC reported today.

The 222 cases and 17 outbreaks seen in 2011 are nearly four times the median of 60 cases and four outbreaks per year seen over the last decade. A third of patients were hospitalized.

The surge in cases is largely due to people who have not been vaccinated with the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, the CDC says. A significant percentage of these people are children and teens whose parents exempted them from school vaccination requirements.

"Unvaccinated people put themselves and others at risk -- particularly infants too young to be vaccinated, who can have the most severe complications," Anne Schuchat, MD, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a news conference held to announce the new report.

Measles Makes European Comeback

Vaccine refusal is more common in Europe than in the U.S. The result: more than 37,000 measles cases in Europe last year. Five countries account for 90% of the cases: France, Italy, Romania, Spain, and Germany.

Nine out of 10 U.S. measles cases could be linked either to a U.S. resident who was infected in a foreign country or to foreign visitors to the U.S. Many of these travelers imported measles from Europe.

Thanks to high vaccination rates in the 1990s, the U.S. eliminated year-round measles transmission in 2000. But the current spike in cases threatens that achievement.

Schuchat pointed to France, which was down to about 40 measles cases per year. Suddenly that went to 604 cases in 2008, over 5,000 cases in 2010, and over 15,000 cases in 2011.

"You can go from a small number to a very large number of measles cases very quickly," Schuchat warned.

Fortunately there were no measles deaths in the U.S. in 2011, although one infant in intensive care had a narrow brush with death. Before the measles vaccine came along in 1957, there were one to three deaths for every 1,000 cases. Worldwide, measles kills 164,000 people a year.

While U.S. measles vaccination rates remain high, pockets of unvaccinated children offer a foothold to the virus. And that's all this extremely contagious, airborne disease needs.

"You can catch measles just by being in a room in which an infected person has been, even if that person has left the room," Schuchat said. "And you can get it from another person before that person has symptoms."

It's too soon to tell whether measles cases will continue to spike in 2012. So far there have been 27 cases and two outbreaks.

If you're thinking of traveling this summer -- to the London Olympics, for example -- now is the time to get vaccinated.

"Bring back memories, not measles," Schuchat says.

The report appears in the April 20 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Changes That Are Coming: Good or Bad?

You decide. I got the following in my email:

9 Things That Will Disappear In Our Lifetime

Interesting to note and very true too.....
Whether these changes are good or bad depends in part on how we adapt to them. But, ready or not, here they come .....

1. The Post Office
Get ready to imagine a world without the Post Office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the Post Office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills.

2. The Check
Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with check by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. This plays right into the death of the Post Office. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the Post Office would absolutely go out of business.

3. The Newspaper
The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services.

4. The Book
You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I wanted my hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a real book. And think of the convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book.

5. The Land Line Telephone
Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they've always had it. But you are paying double charges for that extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes.

6. Music
This is one of the saddest parts of the change story. The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. The record labels and the radio conglomerates are simply self-destructing. Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalog items," meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with. Older established artists. This is also true on the live concert circuit. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies."

7. Television
Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they're playing games and doing lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator. Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I say good riddance to most of it. It's time for the cable companies to be put out of our misery. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix.

8. The "Things" That You Own
Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud." Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider. In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device. That's the good news. But, will you actually own any of this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big "Poof?" Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.

9. Privacy
If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. That's gone. It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure that 24/7, "They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits. "They" will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again.

All we will have left that can't be changed are "Memories"...

When "Boring" really is Better

Why Mitt should pick a boring Veep:

Romney, make a boring pick for VP
[...] Vice presidential picks are not an opportunity to make a game change, at least in a positive direction. When McCain turned to Palin, he did so in an effort to overcome many of his perceived weaknesses against candidate Obama -- his inability to attract the base of his party, fears that he would appear to look like the "older" candidate in the race, as well as the concern that he was a less charismatic candidate in the eyes of the media.

Clearly the Palin pick backfired. What can Romney and others learn from this episode?

The first lesson is that vice presidential picks should be boring. In the end, Mitt Romney must overcome his weaknesses as a candidate by what he does on the campaign trail, not by who he picks as his running mate.

Having the right person stand beside you rarely will change the way the public sees you. But calling on the wrong person can draw all the focus away from the campaign's main themes and raise serious concerns about the competence of the candidate.

Very often, less than exciting candidates -- Dick Cheney in 2000, Sen. Al Gore in 1992 or George H.W. Bush in 1980 -- turned out to be perfect primarily because they didn't cause much of a stir. When it comes to vice presidential candidates, less attention is better.

A second lesson is that candidates must make sure that their running mate can handle the national spotlight in the modern media age. It's far different to be a rock star in Anchorage than it is in Washington.

With all the outlets for news today, with cable television, the Internet and social media constantly finding and supplying information, it is very difficult to contain charges or gaffes before they go viral.

And despite all the criticism that our current politics are shallow, the fact is that competence can matter very much when candidates stand before the media. When Palin stumbled in her interviews on national television about basic foreign policy questions, the media immediately exposed her flaws.

Katie Couric's questions did huge damage to Palin in 2008 in a manner that most Democrats could only have dreamed of doing.

A third lesson is that appealing to the party's base during the general election is not always the best move to make. After all, Romney's chief asset remains the fact that he is the moderate Republican in the campaign, the Republican who has the best chance to win over independents and disaffected moderate Democrats in November. [...]

Read the whole thing. And lets remember, Obama also made a boring Veep pick, and it worked out well for him.

Sometimes boring really IS the better choice.

Testosterone for Heart Failure?

It may help:

Male Hormone May Help Heart Failure Patients
[...] Heart failure is a leading cause of hospitalization in people over the age of 65 in the U.S.

About 5 million Americans have heart failure, and each year about half a million more get diagnosed with it, which means their hearts have a reduced capacity to pump blood efficiently.

When this happens, the heart can become enlarged, fluid may build up in the soft tissues and organs, and people typically become exhausted with exertion.

"Patients with heart failure don't feel very well, in part because they can't exercise," says Clyde Yancy, MD, chief of cardiology at Chicago's Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine and a spokesman for the American Heart Association.

"The idea of a novel treatment approach that can help improve exercise capacity is very intriguing," he says.

The studies included nearly 200 patients, most of whom were men. They were 67 years old, on average.

About half the patients received testosterone by injection, patch, or gel, for as little as three months or as long as a year. The other half got a placebo.

The study appears in the journal Circulation. [...]

Read the whole thing for the details.

Are we are moving beyond peak oil and into "peak everything."?

Exactly one year ago, I posted about peak oil. But can that concept be applied to ALL the worlds resources? Someone thinks so:

The Earth is full
(CNN) -- For 50 years the environmental movement has unsuccessfully argued that we should save the planet for moral reasons, that there were more important things than money. Ironically, it now seems it will be money -- through the economic impact of climate change and resource constraint -- that will motivate the sweeping changes necessary to avert catastrophe.

The reason is we have now reached a moment where four words -- the earth is full -- will define our times. This is not a philosophical statement; this is just science based in physics, chemistry and biology. There are many science-based analyses of this, but they all draw the same conclusion -- that we're living beyond our means.

The eminent scientists of the Global Footprint Network, for example, calculate that we need about 1.5 Earths to sustain this economy. In other words, to keep operating at our current level, we need 50% more Earth than we've got.


Even the previous heresy, that economic growth has limits, is on the table. Belief in infinite growth on a finite planet was always irrational, but it is the nature of denial to ignore hard evidence. Now denial is evaporating, even in the financial markets. As influential fund manager Jeremy Grantham of GMO says: "The fact is that no compound growth is sustainable. If we maintain our desperate focus on growth, we will run out of everything and crash." Or as peak oil expert Richard Heinberg argues, we are moving beyond peak oil and into "peak everything."

Despite this emerging understanding, the growth concept is so deeply ingrained in our thinking that we will keep pushing economic growth as hard as we can, at whatever cost is required.

As a result, the crisis will be big, it will be soon, and it will be economic, not environmental. The fact is the planet will take further bludgeoning, further depleting its capital, but the economy cannot -- so we'll respond not because the environment is under great threat, but because the science and economics shows that something far more important to us is jeopardized -- economic growth.


So when this crisis hits, will we respond or will we simply slide into collapse? Crisis elicits a powerful human response, whether it be personal health, natural disaster, corporate crisis or national threat. Previously immovable barriers to change quickly disappear.

In this case, the crisis will be global and will manifest as the end of economic growth, thereby striking at the very heart of our model of human progress. While that will make the task of ending denial harder, it also means what's at risk is, quite simply, everything we hold to be important. The last time this happened was World War II, and our response to that is illustrative of both the denial and delay process and the likely form our response to this crisis will take. [...]

It's not all grim. The author seems to think we may get through it somehow, if we adapt.

It's food for thought. But consider, what if the "peak oil" theory is completely wrong:

Fossil Fuels: They've only just begun

Is the financial crisis really being caused by growth, or is growth just going to be the official scapegoat?

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Gone Too Soon: Thomas Kinkade, R.I.P.

Kinkade's painting, "Gazebo of Prayer"

Thomas Kinkade, 'Painter of Light,' dies at 54
Thomas Kinkade, one of America's most popular painters, died Friday at his California home.

The 54-year-old "Painter of Light," is believed to have died from natural causes, his family said in a statement, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

"Thom provided a wonderful life for his family," his wife Nanette said. "We are shocked and saddened by his death."

The exact cause of death was unknown. Kinkade's family is planning a private funeral service, the San Jose newspaper reports.

Kinkade painted more than 1,000 works, including nature, cityscapes, and holiday art. His paintings, sold in shops across the country, can be found in one of every 20 homes in America, according to the Mercury News.

Some of the art in his recent 2012 Spring Collection are of bridges and cottage homes. Though most of his paintings are relatively affordable, some cost as much as $10,000. [...]

Kinkade's painting, "Spirit of New York"

Follow the link for more paintings. A lot of "Art Experts" looked down their noses at him, but so what? "Art Experts" often like and praise Crap anyway. Kinkade also made over 53 million from his art, so apparently he had fans, regardless of what Expert Idiots think.

Thomas Kinkade dead: 'Painter of Light' had many fans, but few critics were among them
[...] Yet some of the qualities that made Kinkade's art popular and accessible to everyday consumers also led to its criticism from art experts.

"I think the reason you probably aren't going to find his work in many museums, if any, is that there really wasn't anything very innovative about what he was doing...," said Michael Darling, chief curator of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art. "I really think that he didn't bring anything new to art."

Kinkade was also criticized for selling reproductions of his works, not the originals.

"That was something that drove the art world crazy," Vallance said. "You were never really buying the real thing, you were buying something made by a machine."

In the 2004 catalog to his California show, Kinkade offered an answer to his critics, saying he didn't look down upon any type of art.

"As to the myriads of products that have been developed from my paintings, I can only state that I have always had the attitude that art in whatever format it is accessible to people is good..." he wrote. "All forms of art reproduction have meaning to some body of people."

But Alexis Boylan, who edited a 2011 book of essays, "Thomas Kinkade: The Artist in the Mall," said Kinkade presented his art as value-driven and contrasted it with rap music and other forms of art that he was less fond of.

"He saw his art as antagonistic towards other forms of artistic expression," she said. "He was very antagonistic towards modern and contemporary art."

Amid the success, though, Kinkade had run into personal difficulties in recent years. [...]

I wish he'd had a longer life. I was a big fan. He will be remembered in his work.