Saturday, September 26, 2009

Water, water everywhere ...

... and hopefully plenty for us to drink, once we get there.

There's water all over the moon, after all.
"Widespread water has been detected on the surface of the moon," said planetary geologist Carle Pieters of Brown University in Rhode Island, who led one of the studies detailing the findings.

While the findings, detailed in the Sept. 25 issue of the journal Science, don't mean there are pools of liquid water sitting on the moon, it does mean that there is — entirely unexpectedly — water potentially tied up or mixed in the minerals that make up the lunar dirt.

"What we're detecting is completely unexpected," Pieters said. "The moon continues to surprise us."

And Mars hides water ice just beneath -- really, just beneath -- the surface of the planet.
Craters gouged into the ruddy Martian terrain have revealed subsurface water ice closer to the red planet's equator than would be expected, new orbiter images show.

The ice also seems to be 99 percent pure, instead of the dirty dust and ice mixture some scientists expected to see, scientists said today [September 24, 2009].

I'm optimistic about space travel. I am confident that we will eventually colonize other planets, and not soon enough for me. So it's encouraging to know that we can possibly get something to drink, once we get where we're going.

Fighting panda extinction

Or perhaps not.

"Evolutionary dead end?" Chris Packham may have a point. But where have I heard similar sentiments before?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Duck morning


Nothing but a Mallard hunkering down amongst the foliage.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A place I would like to visit


I had no idea the Air Force had a place that looks as magnificent as this.

Image created by Wikimedia Commons user Hustvedt

That's the interior of the cadet chapel at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. It's a stunning, breathtaking version of the traditional university chapel, and I was struck by its futuristic look when I happened to stumble on the image while searching for other information online. I don't know if I will ever get the chance to see this place in person, but I hope someday I might.

And, in case you thought it was just the inside that looked cool and ultramodern, take a look at the imposing, angular exterior of the chapel.

Image created by Swedish Wikipedia user Greverod.

This is an all-around beautiful building. Though I tend to prefer more traditional styles for religious structures -- Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, and the like -- some modern styles can be appealing, if done right. The USAF Academy Cadet Chapel does it right.

Read more about it at Wikipedia.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What I just tried today


One word: blech.

Yes, that's Shiner Smokehaus Mesquite Smoked Beer, a brew that some brilliant marketing dude at the Spoetzl Brewery thought would be a good sell around here. I don't know if my fellow Texans liked it much, but I don't.

The back label describes this beer thus:
Brewed with pale malt that's been smoked with native mesquite in the backyard of our little brewery in Shiner, Texas (pop. 2,070), this refreshing Helles-style beer has a smoky flavor that goes great with all the flavors of summer.
No, it doesn't. It goes great with nothing. I will probably finish the six-pack I bought (simply because I hate to waste money, and, hell, the beer's already paid for), but I don't see myself ever wasting another dime on this crappy variety. I like my smoke flavor on my barbecue brisket, not in my beer. Shiner does so well with its Bock, Hefeweizen, and other seasonal flavors that there's no reason to keep this line on.

Dump it, marketing dude.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Limiting your "cash back" options

So, I signed up for Time Warner's digital cable option because they offered me a good deal. And now, just recently, I got this tempting "Cash Back Redemption" offer from the cable company:

That doesn't sound half bad, eh? Twenty-five dollars cash, going right back into my pocket. All I've got to do is fill out this rebate form and I will get it. Why not, right?

Oh, but then it says "See terms and conditions for cash rebate on back of this coupon." So I look, and I see this:

And I look closer at the fine print:

And it says:

Valid for residential customers in Time Warner Cable Texas region only.

No problem. I'm residential, and I live in Texas. So far, so good.

Limit one coupon per account.

Again, no problem. They only sent me the one coupon, so that's all I intend on filling out.

Coupon may not be assigned, transferred or reproduced.

I don't intend to, even if I knew how to "assign" it anyway.

Other restrictions may apply.

Hm. OK. I wonder what those are.

Must return form within 90 days of PLG activation to receive credit.

OK, fine. That gives me some time to fill it out.

$ 25 Cash Back will appear as a bill credit approximately 4-6 weeks after form submission.

What the hell? A "bill credit?" Cash, to me, means cash, legal tender that can be spent. Dollar bills, or at least a check. How in the hell can "cash back" mean a "bill credit?"

Bill credit has no cash value.

Oh, come on, Time Warner. Now you're just rubbing it in. First, you have the stones to say that cash really means credit, and then you hammer this point home with a sentence that pretty much says, "In case you are so dense as to think 'cash' actually means cash, we're telling you flat out that it doesn't. Especially in Time Warner Land."

Well, at least you're pretty clear on that, I guess.

Must have an active Price Lock Guarantee account in service longer than 60 days to receive credit.

Wait a minute. A few lines above, you told me I only had 90 days to submit this form or I wouldn't get the "cash back," and now you're telling me that I have to wait at least 60 days after my activation to even think about sending it in. That's just a 30-day window. Wow, Time Warner, you sure are restricting my options for redemption.

Time Warner Cable is not responsible for lost, late, or misdirected mail. Offer may not be combined with any other offers or discounts.

Of course not.

"The Power of You."

Sure. Just not too much power, I suppose.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Space smells

Here's an interesting article from Tariq Malik of on rookies in space and the unexpected things they experience.
"It's a very, very different environment than I expected," Discovery shuttle pilot Kevin Ford, a first-time spaceflyer, said from orbit late Friday.

One of things Ford wasn't ready for is the weird smell.

"From the [spacewalks] there really is a distinct smell of space when they come back in," Ford said from the station in a Friday night news conference. "It's like...something I haven't ever smelled before, but I'll never forget it. You know how those things stick with you."
And one of the coolest things about the moon is that it apparently smells like gunpowder, at least it did to the Apollo explorers when the astronauts got back into the landers and took off their helmets.
"It is really a strong smell," radioed Apollo 16 pilot Charlie Duke. "It has that taste -- to me, [of] gunpowder -- and the smell of gunpowder, too." On the next mission, Apollo 17, Gene Cernan remarked, "smells like someone just fired a carbine in here."
Which gets me to thinking: Could firearms work in space? The cartridges are sealed, and they operate on simple chemical reactions, so I guess you could theoretically shoot a gun in space, or on the moon. Now, whether you'd actually want to is another thing. There's that whole law of physics that says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, which means recoil would be a bitch.