Friday, May 31, 2013

Mortgage refinance

Signed the papers for our mortgage refinance, just before interest rates went up. This significantly reduces our interest and monthly payments, and reduces our overall payout.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Methane-based ecosystem

From Popular Science:

Scientists on a research mission sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have found what could be the U.S. Atlantic Coast's largest methane cold seep near Virginia.

Cold seeps are regions in the sea floor where fluid rich in compounds like methane flows out at the same temperature as the surrounding ocean water (in contrast to the hot water that seeps from hydrothermal vents).

Methane seeps allow life to flourish in otherwise fairly barren deep sea environments. This is the third seep documented on the Atlantic Coast, and is much bigger than previously discovered sites, with areas up to a kilometer long and hundreds of meters wide. Mussels can survive in seeps through chemosynthesis, a process that utilizes bacteria in their gills to turn methane into energy. The seep's surrounding ecosystem also contained sea cucumbers, shrimp and fish, some of which exhibited what the researchers call "unusual behaviors," though they did not elaborate.

Studying these undersea ecosystems can help us understand how life exists in harsh environments, including potentially other planets, researcher Steve Ross explained in a press statement. It could also enhance our understanding of gas hydrates, a potentially huge alternative energy source.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Not the sort that puts together phrases and clauses; this conjunction was planetary. Jupiter, Venus and Mercury were visible together in the west, just after sundown.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Cosmic impact event

According to an article on

About 12,800 years ago when the Earth was warming and emerging from the last ice age, a dramatic and anomalous event occurred that abruptly reversed climatic conditions back to near-glacial state. According to James Kennett, UC Santa Barbara emeritus professor in earth sciences, this climate switch fundamentally –– and remarkably –– occurred in only one year, heralding the onset of the Younger Dryas cool episode. The cause of this cooling has been much debated, especially because it closely coincided with the abrupt extinction of the majority of the large animals then inhabiting the Americas, as well as the disappearance of the prehistoric Clovis culture, known for its big game hunting.

By examining microspherules in the geological strata of North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East, a research team has concluded that a catastrophic cosmic impact event caused continent-wide wildfires,and threw enough dust into the atmosphere to block significant amounts of sunlight, leading to the destruction of the American megafauna.

The impact that scooped out the Caribbean and killed the dinosaurs was 65 million years ago, but this impact was comparatively recent. One wonders what the odds are of it happening again.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Kola Superdeep

On this day in 1970, Russian scientists began drilling on the Kola Peninsula, with the intention to penetrate the Earth's crust as deeply as possible. The deepest borehole reached a depth of over 40,200 feet in 1989. Due to the 180°C / 355° F temperature at that depth, further drilling was considered unfeasible and the project focus switched to analysis of the core samples that had been retrieved. The project was finally shut down in 2005.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


On this day in 1618, the Second Defenestration of Prague took place, igniting the first phase of the Thirty Years War. The hardline Catholic Ferdinand,King of Bohemia and shortly to be Emperor, reversed concessions made to the Protestants by the previous two kings; when the Bohemian Estates objected, Ferdinand dissolved the assembly and sent representatives to the Estates with a letter declaring their leaders' lives and honor forfeit; the leaders responded by throwing the representatives out the window; they fell 70 feet but survived. When Ferdinand was elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1619, the  Bohemian Estates deposed him as king and invited Frederick V, Elector Palatine, to the throne; Ferdinand, with the assistance of Bavaria, invaded Bohemia in 1620 and suppressed the rebellion.

Also, on May 23, 1829, the accordion was patented.

Monday, May 20, 2013


The city of Magdeburg had survived a siege by Wallenstein's forces in 1629; however, it was besieged again in 1631 by Imperial forces under Tilly. On May 20, 1631, Tilly's troops stormed the city and sacked it, killing at least two thirds of the 30,000 inhabitants and burning the town.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Now Reading

  • The electronic Advanced Reader Copy for John Ringo's Under A Graveyard Sky, in which a tailored virus causes people to turn into zombies--not technically "undead" but close enough--and our heroes, who are prepared for various end-of-the-world scenarios, take a boat out into the Atlantic and start rescuing people from other boats. And ships. The assault leader is Faith, a 13 year old girl, which makes sense, because teenage girls can be vicious.
  • The electronic Advanced Reader Copy for Larry Correia's Warbound, in which Franklin Roosevelt institutes some rather heavy handed government control--the parallel's with today's administration are, unfortunately, too applicable; Jake Sullivan picks up a couple of sociopaths and leads a team into enemy territory; and Faye Viera, despite being Spellbound, doesn't kill everyone, at least not by 75% of the way through the book
  • the advance PDF copy of the Hero System book for the Monster Hunter International Emplyee Handbook & Roleplaying Game.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

On this Day

On May 9, 1671, Colonel Thomas Blood attempted to steal the British Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. Technically, he did steal them--hammered a crown flat and tucked it into his clothing, and his confederates picked up a sceptre and an orb--but they were chased and caught after leaving the Tower.  However, Kind Charles II was apparently amused by this Blood's bravado and not only pardoned him, but granted him an estate in Ireland.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Action of 6 May 1801

On this day in 1801, HM brig Speedy, under command of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, attacked and captured the 32 gun Spanish frigate El Gamo, despite the fact that the Spanish ship was four times the size, with six times the crew and weight of broadside. The Speedy approached under American colors until she got so close that the Spanish broadside passed over her, and returned fire with double-shotted guns. After exchanging fire and repelling several Spanish attempts to board, Cochrane sent over his entire crew, leaving only one man aboard the Speedy; he then told that one to "send over the rest of the men!" and tore down the Spanish colors, whereupon the El Gamo's crew surrendered. The British took 12 casualties, the Spanish 55 killed and wounded and 261 captured.