Just In Time For Halloween-A Haunted Titanic Exhibit

Okay I predicted this. Every year we get a news story usually around Halloween about a alleged haunted Titanic exhibit or something connected to Titanic (like a replica of the famous ship). Over at the Titanic Exhibition in Luxor (Las Vegas) reports of the supernatural are being reported in local press.

The Las Vegas Journal-Review reported that these alleged supernatural events include overhead music being turned off, strange orchestra, spectral voices calling names or giggling, and hair being tousled or unseen force grabbing at jackets. Now the person making many of these claims is Joe Zimmer, an artifacts specialist for the exhibition. He claims to be sober and telling the truth.

“I’ll say this a million times and on my deathbed, and maybe come back and say it after my death: I would not lie to you,” Zimmer says. “What I’m asking you is to keep an open mind. Some of the docents and even guests have had some serious experiences here. Now, is it a trick of the mind or something else?

Time to call the Ghostbusters, sorry, professional ghost hunters. These are the people who walk around with equipment that will detect the presence of a ghost. The journalist accompanied by Tina Carlson and Nancy Riggs (director and co-director respectively) of the Las Vegas Society of Supernatural Investigations decided to explore the exhibit after hours one night. They toured the exhibit and places where strange or spooky things have been reported, like the replica of the grand staircase where a figure dressed in black has been spotted.

Another is a picture of J. Bruce Ismay, which apparently fell off the wall by itself (security cameras showed it falling off with no one touching it). So the journalists and the ghost hunters walked around. A security alarm goes off! The alarm near the Ismay picture has been tripped! It is a motion sensor on glass display case. Then later in the hallway of the third class bunks footsteps are heard coming towards them. A check of the room shows no one there!

The emf detectors went off but it may have been the electronics all over the place giving them false readings. So the ghost tour ended with not much except the motion sensor going off and strange footsteps. No real proof but lets review what we do know for certain.

1) The falling picture

Putting aside spectral hands doing it, is there another plausible explanation for a picture suddenly coming off a wall? Vibrations can cause it if the fitting is not tight. I have seen this happen when something causes a major vibration (lots of people moving about, a truck or household appliance) that shakes it enough something to fall off a shelf or wall.The fact the security cameras saw no one suggests this a possibility. My guess is that the picture was not quite secure and vibrations (which can come from a distance and not be readily apparent) likely caused it to fall.

2) The Motion Detector

These are temperamental devices but models vary as does quality. Many things can set them off but if they are set to only go off when someone breaks the glass (or I suppose leans too hard on it). My first act is not to assume supernatural but test the equipment. if it is going off when no one is breaking or touching the glass, it likely is a malfunction. It could be a number of things from wiring going bed to the sensor being temperamental requiring adjustment. How would a ghost set it off and humans not? If people just walked by and then suddenly it goes off, that does not mean a ghost did it. That sounds like a vibration (that word again) the alarm picked up and sensed might be a problem. At any rate the alarm needs to be examined by an electrician to determine what the problem might be.

3)Ghostly Footsteps

This is more common than realized. Sometimes we here footsteps only to learn no one is there. For instance you are inside a building and you hear what seems like footsteps going up the stairs nearby. But no one is there! However outside are stairs and when someone walks up and down they sound like someone is walking on the stairs inside. Long time ago I was in the basement of a home watching television. I distinctly heard what I thought were footsteps above. Even the dog woofed a bit. Nothing was there though so what caused the sound of footsteps! Contracting floorboards. It was a cold night (below freezing) and the wood was constricting and as it did, caused those sounds.

So what did they hear that night? One possibility is they did hear footsteps but actually was someplace nearby. It only sounded like it was coming towards them. A simple experiment would confirm this hypothesis. Another possibility is fooling ourselves. We are so keyed up to experience something supernatural our brain latches on to something but it did no really happen.

Of course these days one has to suspect trickery as well. Too often clever pranksters can cause things to happen, like things appearing to fly off shelves as examples of poltergeists. There are many ways we can be fooled. Like the infamous Amityville Horror where it was simply all made up (virtually none of the things in the book or movie ever happened)by a defense attorney in cahoots with the Lutzes. Causing a chandelier to swing is not difficult with the right tools. Just ask Pen & Teller.

So if you are planning a trip to a Titanic Exhibition and worried ghosts might be about, do not worry yourself. The only ghosts you are likely to meet will be living ones dressed as people back then or the famous Captain Smith.


Las Vegas Review – Journal,Tours Explore Haunting Of Titanic Exhibit At Luxor, 21 Oct 2012

Titanic Artifacts Sold For $189 Million

Reuters reported yesterday that Premiere Exhibitions has found a buyer for the Titanic collection. The reported sale price is $189 million to a group that is not identified.

Artifacts recovered from the wreck of the Titanic are set to be sold for $189 million by Premier Exhibitions Inc, the company that holds the salvage rights to the doomed ocean liner. Premier’s shares jumped 18 percent on Tuesday, after it said in a regulatory filing it had signed a non-binding letter of intent to sell the artifacts for $189 million to an unnamed group of individuals. “(The buyers) are obviously a group of significant means because they have to have the resources to display and care for the artifacts and they have to be suitable for court approvals,” said Bill Vlahos, portfolio manager at hedge fund Odyssey Value Partners, which holds a stake in Premier. Premier officials said on a conference call Monday that the firm expects the deal to satisfy all of the court’s conditions.

It will interesting to learn who this group is. Three possibilities come to mind: 1)Government owned museums or an alliance of them; 2)Private group with very deep pockets that already own or control museums; 3)A company or consortium already in business and wants to keep the Titanic exhibitions alive.

Source: Reuters, Titanic Artifacts Collection To Be Sold For $189 Million, 16 Oct 2012

Titanic Tow

A few weeks ago the Endeavor space shuttle made its epic journey to Los Angeles. Right now it is being prepared for its voyage from the airport to its final destination at California Space Center. To get there requires quite a lot. The shuttle is not built for going down city streets and many trees (and other things) have to be removed to allow the shuttle to pass through safely. Do not fret, new trees are going to be planted to replace the ones being torn down.

For most of its journey, the transport is being driven by four self-propelled,multi-axle vehicles. These modular movers are being computer controlled. The operator with a joystick will walk alongside to make adjustments as needed. The final leg near the Space Center will be done using a 2012 Tundra CrewMax, which has a 5.7-litre V8 engine allowing for a tow capacity of 4.5 tonnes.

When this is actually done, it will be major news covered by national and local media. When the Endeavor made its flyby here in San Francisco, people lined up on the waterfront and anywhere the could be to get a view as it passed over the Golden Gate Bridge. It was neat to watch.

What does this have to do with Titanic? Nothing really. I just thought it was cool.

Source: Berwick Leader, TOYOTA: Titanic effort, 8 Oct 2012

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This and That

Roku For All
About two years ago I reduced my cable service to local broadcast channels (called Limited on San Bruno Cable). While I have missed a few shows and seeing Giants games, I have no regrets. The price had climbed too high and has been for several years. Right now it costs $63.86 to get 99 channels that all has all the major cable news, sports, family, and the major cable stations. I looked into Dish or Direct TV and while they had things I liked I opted not to go for either one. The cost was certainly good but required a year or longer contract (and canceling meant paying fees). Plus I live in on the ground floor of a two floor apartment. Getting that signal would be a challenge (though not impossible).

Hulu became a good alternative to view shows on my computer but alas does have commercials. Finally upgrading to DSL offered me some options I did not have before. Since I was already a Netflix subscriber, I added streaming. With an Internet capable television to watch streaming movies, I looked at the options. Since I have an iMac, I was drawn to Apple TV. It has much to offer but I wanted more from the Internet. And that led me to Roku.

Roku is a deceptively small box that packs a lot into it. I wish my dvr’s were as small. Roku has many options to view things online providing you have a broadband connection. With Netflix being one of them, I could easily watch movies on my television. And a lot of other stuff has well. The major cable news services have channels to view their content (mostly news stories and sometimes live feeds as well). Hulu, Vudu are also available (Hulu requires paying for Hulu Plus and Vudu is a pay as you go movie service). There are tons of free movie channels but some have commercials like Hulu. Sports fans will like access to the major pay services (like MLB network). There a lot of family oriented channels and quite surprisingly a lot of religious ones as well (Christian and Jewish mostly, there probably is a Muslim one there somewhere and if not coming soon). You can also purchase games as well. Mine came with Angry Birds but I added You Do Not Know Jack. This was a computer trivia game I used to play long ago. Except it seems tougher now.

There are also rumors that Roku and Dish are working together to make popular channels available for a fee (sports channels excluded). Right now that is all just rumors but shows that the move towards Internet streaming has become a market to be mined. The one advantage cable has is reliability. While I do use an indoor antenna to get local HD programming, all kinds of things can make it go wrong (weather and other interference. Cable can go out if the signal transmitted to them goes wonky (and it seems more so today with digital than old analog). For me keeping basic cable also gets me free music channels. Pandora is available on Roku and is very good but also has commercials. The many music channels cable provides gives me enough to choose from and no commercials.

So if you are thinking about getting an Internet streaming device, the Roku is good one to choose. Different models have different prices. The one limitation on nearly all of them is how you connect, which is wireless. I choose the hardwire approach due to my apartment and other interference so I had to buy the top model which has an ethernet port. If you plan to watch a lot of HD movies, then up your service to at least 6 Mbps. At 3 Mbps you can view nearly everything but HD will take more time to load and reload while running.

Now about Netflix. Like many I was very displeased with what they tried to to. They needlessly alienated a lot of customers by splitting off the streaming from the dvd service. And then retreating and going back to what they are now offering dvd only or dvd with streaming options. I have the 2 DVD out at a time plan with streaming. Mostly I am pleased but like many wish there was more available to stream. That is out of Netflix hands and up to whoever owns the content. It will be a long while before streaming offers a full library compared to what is available on DVD. Still Netflix offers a service at a good price. Vudu does offer a lot of movies quicker but you pay as you go. Netflix has one membership fee for the month that covers everything you get by mail or via streaming. Sometimes it is worth it, if the movie is something you really have to see, but going to Vudu. I see that as a companion rather than a Netflix replacement. If you view only a few movies a year, Vudu is cheaper. If you like to catch up on television shows, Netflix is cheaper for doing that.

MasterChef and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares
MasterChef ended with a bang. Christine ended up beating Joshua and it was a tough competition. What put the judges over the edge for Christine was her ability to take simple dishes and make them much stronger and a well thought out menu. Josh had good items but did not quite flow together. He also flubbed his starter by not fully cooking the lobster, using an odd concoction of vegetables on his entrée, and his bacon crust pecan pie lacked bacon flavor. Overall his dishes were good but Christine just had that extra touch to make her dishes really taste good. She showed that simple can mean very flavorful and delicious (I still want to try those fried chicken legs she cooked!).

I recently watched Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares which is very different from its U.S. counterpart Kitchen Nightmares. Both shows do have their share of challenging personalities. The U.K. version is narrated by Ramsay and tends to avoid the melodrama often in the U.S. version. The focus is squarely on two things: food and how the front of the house is run. Ramsay tries to get the head chef (if there is one) back on track to cook food rather than slop or ring-a-ding-food. Menus are revised to become more local and fresh. Staff are encouraged to be welcoming and the owners to really understand how a restaurant is supposed to operate. A follow-up at the end usually shows how the place is faring. Some manage to do well and some end up closing (for a variety of reasons). Ramsay, of course, use the F word quite liberally on the show.

Generally the reasons the Ramsay assisted restaurants seem to fail are (1)Despite new menu and uptick in business, their debts are too high or creditor decides to force them out; (2)landlord raises rent or a local problem (permits etc) causes them to close; (3)bad economic conditions; (4)restaurant fails to make changes, customers drop off and owners close up; (5)owners decide to sell and get out of business for personal reasons.

Mythbusters Takes On Cameron’s Titanic
Now I have never really given it much thought but others have. Would Jack have survived had he stayed with Rose? Mythbusters tackled it in their usual style. It turns out that Jack would have died if stayed in the water but with his wet clothes out of the water had a better chance. However he would still loose warmth and possibly die before Rose was rescued. You can read the full article here.

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Titanic Cliche of Day-Chinese Diplomat Warns Japan Relationship Will Sink Like Titanic

Relations between China and Japan are strained right now with China over the Diaoyu Islands. China claims the islands while Japan does not recognize the claim. So naturally a Titanic cliché is in order to show how serious China wants to resolve the current problems.

China’s assistant foreign minister on Friday urged Japan to seriously self-reflect to ensure bilateral ties get back on track, warning that continuous erroneous practices by Japan will see the relationship between it and China sink like the Titanic.

Le Yucheng made these comments at a seminar organized to mark the 40th anniversary of normalized China-Japan relations. One has to wonder how serious China really is. After all, Japan invaded China and was quite ruthless in how it dealt with its population. This is just one of those ways to poke at Japan in a small way for what happened during its occupation of China. Suffice to say that falling back on a Titanic cliché is never a good thing to do and looks foolish for a senior diplomat.

Source: ChinaDaily.com, Diplomat warns Sino-Japan ties may sink like Titanic, 28 Sep 2012

Titanic Musings

Titanic Musings
2 Oct 2012

Autumn is here and Halloween four weeks way. After a cool summer, a heatwave is hitting San Francisco Bay Area. It usually warms up this time of year with temps in the 70’s and 80’s inland. When one of those nasty hot air bubbles decides to sit over us though, we roast as our air conditioning (fog) is turned off. Beaches become places where people can actually sunbathe and it is hot enough for the pinecones to open up.

Coming back from summer, Titanic continues to create news. Exhibitions are always opening or closing, some new discovery is being revealed, and of course politicians continue using the Titanic Cliche with abandon to score political points. Here are several recent headlines from the news site:

  • Titanic Exhibition Docks In Shreveport
  • ‘Titanic’ Steers Big Year At The Henry Ford
  • 10 Years Later, Little Justice In Africa’s Titanic
  • Inflatable Titanic Slide Causing Controversy
  • Titanic Survivor’s Descendants Reunite In North Dakota
  • Titanic Captain Failed Navigation Test
  • Titanic Belfast Hits The Half Million Mark For Visitors

That headline about Captain Smith failing a navigation test is very interesting. If you have read sea novels, like C.S. Forester’s Hornblower books, life aboard ships in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was hard work and came with harsh punishments. The Royal Navy had well run ships but they had a system to train officers and rate noncommissioned. Merchant ships were a different story and stories of drunken sailors running them had a ring of truth to them. Water stored in wooden casks went off with nasty green stuff in it so alcohol was the preferred liquid refreshment. The Royal Navy had daily rum rations with lime (to prevent scurvy) but stories of merchant ships with drunken sailors and officers compelled a system be created to make professional officers and seamen. Hence the requirement for Masters and Mates certificates that began in 1850 in Britain. You had to sit for examinations in order to get those certificates so many had to sober up. The system is still in place today (with updates for our modern times) but the goal is the same: that merchant ships be led by officers who are professionals and mates who also understand how to make the ship run. Ancestry.com has put up a compilation of records from 1850-1927. Compiled in partnership with the British National Maritime Museum, it gives glimpse into how these things were done. And it turns out that the future Titanic captain, Edward James Smith, failed his first examination due to lack of navigation skills. Just some of the nuggets of information to be found.

Kids love slides (and least I have observed this fact often) but the Titanic slide shown here always generates controversy. Many argue it belittles what happened to all those who perished. And that point is valid. Symbols are important things and convey messages. Titanic went down and people died, which is not something to make fun of. And the slide, in its own way, trivializes what happened and reduces all to a slide for kids entertainment. The other side of the argument is that the kids enjoy the slide and it is no big deal. Now I disagree with that point of view but understand it. Some do not want to attach any connection to the real tragedy. And that is a shame. They ought to. Once we disconnect from appreciating such tragedies, it is all too easy to make light of things like the Holocaust, the excesses of Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot, and wear shirts that glorify a killer like Che Guevara.

Many in Senegal do not want to forget what happened on 26 September 2002 on the ferry Joola. The ferry was dangerously overcrowded in rough seas when it sank. The official death toll is 1,863, higher than Titanic although many claim they figure is closer to 2,000.The captain died and the government closed the book in 2003 with compensation to survivors and families. Yet as Radio Netherlands reports there is a lot of bitterness over how quickly the government investigation ended. They want a new investigation as to how the ferry was overcrowded in the first place and allowed to leave. Some maritime regulations were tightened in the end but many think the government covered up the guilty parties. Sounds familiar to anyone who has studied Titanic and the investigations that were done.

Sometimes Titanic comes up in courts of law but not in ways expected. An Irish court was recently asked to decide who got a 16ft replica. Carmel McGrath claimed she paid costs of building the replica that a Zoltan Panka removed from her home without permission. She wanted it returned fearing he would sell it. Panka disputes her claims but the court ordered him to disclose the replica’s location to McGrath’s lawyers and that it be inspected. Panka, who lived with McGrath since 2009, claims half ownership and spent many  hours working on it. He was kicked after she suspected he was seeing another woman. A recent update indicates both parties settled out of court.

Of course being in Halloween season, ghostly things about Titanic are reported. I am certain a news story will appear soon about “strange” things going on around a Titanic exhibit. Strange sounds, odors, perhaps a glimpse of someone who looks, well, dated. And of course there is the Mummy. Yes, Titanic has a mummy curse. As I say often to people on my discussion list, Marvin the Martian is more likely to have caused the sinking. Only that rascally rabbit got in the way.