Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Virgin America Flight

Boarding Pass

A week or so ago, I had the pleasure of taking one of the new Virgin America flights from L.A. to N.Y.C. If you're a designer, you'll understand why I was excited to try out some of the new amenities these flights feature, especially the interactive touch screens in the back of each seat. I've created a photoset on Flickr with some select pics from my trip.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Calming the Plague of Tics

In this engaging video, the jovial DrPoodle explains how YouTube's "Tourette's Blocking System" calms his tics each time he makes a video. He's grateful to YouTube for actually changing his life. For most of us it's an entertaining distraction. For him, it's a highly anticipated 10-minute relief. I imagine it must work because of the concentration involved much as surgery did - or flying a plane - for the surgeon with Tourette syndrome in Oliver Sacks's, An Anthropologist on Mars.

I'm reading Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn, which features the Tourettic detective, Lionel Essrog, and I wondered if YouTube features any documentary clips about the disorder. It does, but the videos contributed by individual people are often more compelling.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Kindle: Fire or Fizzle?

Amazon's Kindle reading device launched today and Newsweek has a huge writeup on it. But why wouldn't you just buy an iPhone if it incorporated the same features? And why carry multiple devices? Plus, sorry, but the design looks clunky, especially compared to, um, the iPhone.

More on Amazon. Of course, if it gets more people reading, I'm all for it. Just can't see it competing when it costs more than an iPhone (400 smackeroos) with far less functionality. And I don't even own an iPhone.

Update: Forbes agrees in spades.

Cruel & Unusual

Another man dies today after getting tased: How many dead people does it take before Tasers are recognized as cruel and unsual punishment? Amnesty International reports there have been 150 deaths since 2001 in the United States due to the use of police stun guns.

Amnesty International submitted this October report to the U.S. Justice Department, which actually says over 290 people have died via Tasers since 2001. I'm not sure why there's a discrepancy, though it does include 15 deaths in Canada as well.

In the report, AI also says that of all the deaths, insofar as they could determine, only 25 of the individuals tased were bearing any sort of weapon.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Head in the Sand Department

I stopped reading Instapundit a long time ago, when I realized much of what Glenn Reynolds said didn't make a lick of sense. So I happened across this post today where he mentions that the war in Iraq "seems to be drawing to a successful close." Successful close? Violence is down in Iraq, so that means the war is drawing to a successful close? Has Reynold spoken with anyone who's actually been to Iraq for any length of time? I recently saw a panel of journalists at Columbia University, including the NYT's Anne Barnard, NPR's Deborah Amos, CBS's Elizabeth Palmer, and Ali Fadhil, an Iraqi interpreter and physician. They described what they believe Iraq will be like if American troops withdraw and were unanimous in their thoughts on the subject. So, if by "successful close" you mean our troops come home and Iraq falls into calamitous disarray and civil war, then, yes, I suppose the end is nigh.

Seriously, though, does Reynolds really fail to see this simple this simple equation: when the surge ends, incidents of violence will again rise in Iraq. Kevin Drum agrees.

Tying into this subject, here are some more notes I took away from the informative "Reporting Iraq" panel, which I meant to blog at the time:

Anne Barnard
: It's more "terrifying" to be in Baghdad now than after the fall of Saddam.

Ali Fadhil: We need to show what it's like for Iraqis now, trying to survive from day to day. He said he is limited in his ability to move around as an Iraqi - even from East to West Baghdad. Due to ethnic cleansing, people with Shia names can't go to Mosur, and since his is a mixed family, two of his own brothers can't go.

Fadhil has visited morgues where bodies are piled up in the hallways. Not all of the dead are counted either, since bodies are sometimes removed from the hospital by family members, and if no name was provided, they're not counted.

The corrupt government is involved in lynching, kidnapping and ethnic cleansing.

Elizabeth Palmer: Young people have both Sunni and Shia badges and pictures on their cell phones, which they swap out according to who's at any checkpoint they're passing through.

If you try to take photos of contractors, "they shoot us," which is one reason TV hadn't covered contractors more before the Blackwater story erupted.

Ali Fadhil: you learn to avoid the streets with black SUVs on them because contractors drive them.

And Fadhil is advising his family to leave Iraq by April, 2008 since he doesn't believe the surge will work in the long term.

Yeah, Glenn, sounds like we've about got this whole thing wrapped up, huh?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Quote for the Day

Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane.
- Philip K. Dick

The Gift of Language

Pat Conroy writes a great rant to The Charleston Gazette. Local parents recently tried to ban his books from a public high school. Near the end, he rhapsodizes about all that books have done for him:
The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in “Lonesome Dove” and had nightmares about slavery in “Beloved” and walked the streets of Dublin in “Ulysses” and made up a hundred stories in the Arabian nights and saw my mother killed by a baseball in “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” I’ve been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language.