Wednesday, May 28, 2008

When What You Think You Know Isn't True

Going through my RSS this morning, I found a shared item from Kevin about Bob Ballard, discoverer of the Titanic, and what really happened when when the wreck was found:

    According to newly declassified info and the lead scientist himself, Dr. Bob Ballard, the successful search for the Titanic wreck was actually part of a secret hunt for two sunken cold war American nuclear submarines. The USS Thresher and USS Scorpion had both foundered in the 1960s, and the Navy needed to know what had happened to their reactors over the years. When Dr. Ballard approached them in 1982 for funding to find the Titanic with his new deep-diving robot submersible, the Navy saw the opportunity and granted him the money on the condition he first inspect the two wrecks.

    Ballard agreed, and in 1984 set off to investigate. Thresher had been the most advanced attack sub of its time, but in 1963 had an accident during testing that left it without power. Ballard's robotic survey discovered that it had sunk so deep it imploded, turning into thousands of pieces. His 1985 search for the Scorpion—which had disappeared in 1968 with 99 crew, and was thought to be a victim of a Soviet attack—revealed such a large debris field that it looked "as though it had been put through a shredding machine." The survey data revealed the most likely cause of the loss of the sub was one of its own torpedoes going rogue and hitting the sub after firing.

    Once the two wrecks had been visited, and the radioactive threat from both was established as small, Ballard was able to search for Titanic. Due to dwindling funds, he had just 12 days to do so, but he used the same debris-field search techniques he'd used for the two subs, and, of course, it worked.
Ballard's search for Titanic was a very important part of my childhood development. It captured my imagination in a way that many other things did not, and helped put into context for my young mind history, determination, exlporation, science, learning, archaeology, and what could be accomplished with hard work and determination and scientific know-how.

And now I read that the reason Ballard didn't find the wreck immediately is that he was secretly looking for submarines, not that he was looking and didn't know where to go.

I realize as an adult that all of those things I listed, imagination, history, exploration, science, learning and so forth require money to accomplish on a grand scale and that money often comes from sources dedicated to many of the direct opposite of those things. Dear God, I recognize that my job allows me the security and time to travel and be creative. Well, sometimes it does. And that's a trade-off.

But it's a little mind-blowing to see that what I once thought was an expedition for pure science was really an afterthought of a military operation and accomplished because Ballard had already crossed the Ts on his creditors' mission, and that even he was beholden to those creditors.

There's a lesson here. It's a cynical one and something I really don't care to think about.

I need to wash my hands.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Scotch Review: The Peat Monster

<The Peat Monster
The Peat Monster
Scotch Review: The Peat Monster

Who could resist a Scotch called The Peat Monster? That was probably what the marketing folks at Compass Box Whisky were thinking and it worked. This was an impulse buy as I was selecting another Scotch, and I had to try it. Glad I did.

The label description:
    Front: Big, Peaty, Smoky. A superb, balanced and delicious combination of smoky, peaty Islay malt whisky with rich, old Speyside malt.

    Back: "The Peat Monster" is our big, peaty smoky malt whisky. This whisky is about balance - the balance between the power of smoky Islay malt whisky and rich, old Speyside malt. An ideal after dinner or late night whisky.
I have to respectfully disagree with part of their label copy: Peat Monster makes a fine afternoon sipping whisky as well. The 'monster' is a bit of a misnomer; the label is right in that this is an exceptionally well-balanced scotch. It is peaty but not too peaty, earthy without being overwhelming. What works best about this whisky is that no one element overwhelms the other, making it a pleasant drink all around.

I took their recommendation and had mine neat. The yellowish color gives a hint of its general properties: mild isn't the right word, and I keep coming back to "balance" so I'll stick with it.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I just restarted my account for the book social network Goodreads, and while I thought I was only connecting with the 10 people from my Gmail account who were already on the site, apparently I spammed all 492 people in my contact book.

If you're one of those (many, many) people, I'm very sorry. I blame Goodreads' shitty UI and not-very-transparent 'invite' system.

Update: Jesus, I spammed DeepDiscount's help system, Best Buy, everyone. Good fucking God I hate systems like that.

Note: If anyone out there is a programmer, add a fucking warning box when you want people to import their entire Goddamned address book or at least make it DAMN clear that's what you're doing.

Fucking assholes.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Matter of Time

This post may be more appropriate on my Yankee In London blog but it's a little more general, so I'll put it here.

Today is a very important milestone for me. I almost didn't notice it was happening. Nine years ago today I returned from studying abroad here in London, after a raucous trip to Scotland and a semester living in another country. That means two things:

I have now lived and been outside of the United States for longer than I ever have before.

I am approximately one-quarter of the way done with our contractual obligations to be here in London, should we decide to come back immediately. Our work visas only last that long anyway.

It's a strange feeling since in a way it seems like we just got here and our lives are still in chaos. At the same time, it's even less remarkable since the real milestone happened about a month ago for me, since I came about a month early this time. Yet there's still that chaos. Things aren't quite settled yet and they may never be.

Of all the things I miss, my friends and family are byfar the largest thing. There is barely a day that goes by where I don't think 'hey, X would love this,' or 'I wish I could show this to Y.' I thought the same thing when I was here before and having the Beautiful Competition here to share this with me certainly helps but I still miss my friends and family greatly. Admittedly, my webcam and Xbox Live does help me keep in touch in ways I wouldn't have been able to do before, but they are still stopgap measures.

As I continue to reevaluate my life as I lurch ever closer to my next birthday (which I'm not officially celebrating, by the way) I realize more and more what's really important and know that I'm adjusting my life accordingly so I can enjoy every bit of time I have with the people I care about. Life's just too damn short to do otherwise.

Apologies for not posting in a while, the weather has been fabulous. This is the first morning it's rained in weeks. Which may be affecting my mood slightly.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Gone Silent

I realize it's been pretty quiet around here lately, mostly because I haven't had a hell of a lot of time to update things. Part of that is how busy I've been at work lately; another part is because GTA4 came out and I've been playing it a lot. A third part is that when I get home from work I just don't care to sit down at a computer and type more stuff. It's also gotten a lot nicer in London lately and I've been outside a lot more.

Last night I finished a new short story that is bound for the next Blue Kingdoms anthology. A Yankee In London has its new banner art. It's a bank holiday today and I'm planning to get out and doing something even if I haven't decided what that something is yet.