is older than it's ever been and now it's even older


Water, water everywhere

The thaw is on. Today we have broken 50 degrees for the first time in 147 days. I'm pretty sick of cold. After my offhand comment about the lake we're camping by not being unfrozen by April 27, I went checking and found this page documenting historic ice-out dates on various lakes in Minnesota. According to this, the average ice out for lakes in the area of the state we're planning on going is between April 19 and 26th. Uh oh. We'll need some warmth to catch up to that. Otherwise, we'll be seeing how the new canoe works for icebreaking.

For some reason my thinking about boats is failing to confine itself to inland waterways. Actually, there is a reason; the pontificating about the international law questions arising out of the ongoing Hainan E-3P spy plane debacle have been tortuous and have included analogies about the national integrity of even sunken boats. Specifically, the US is arguing that China has no right to board or examine our plane (too late!). However, the US undercut its current position repeatedly during the Cold War. A good example of how they did so is the story of the Glomar Explorer, which is a big boat constructed in the early 70s for a very specific spy mission. In 1968, a Soviet submarine packed with ICBMs sunk off the coast of Hawaii. The US happened to know where it went down due to acoustic monitoring, so a mission was constructed named "Operation Jennifer" to salvage this sub and get some priceless intelligence in the process. For cover, they turned to eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes. Hughes agreed to build the massive Glomar Explorer purportedly to mine Manganese nodules off the ocean floor. In reality, it was constructed to have a massive hangar like structure in the middle with a big claw to reach down to the ocean floor and pluck the sub from the depths. Here are some pictures of the boat. Anyways, the Explorer performed its mission and actually recovered at least part of the sub in question, as well as the remains of six Soviet sailors. As an interesting aside, the US reburied these six at sea with full military honors, while not revealing this fact to the Russkies until 1992, after the end of the Cold War.

After Project Jennifer, Hughes gave the Glomar Explorer to the Navy, where it was placed in a mothball fleet until 1997. That's when it was leased to the Global Marine company, the descendant of the company that built it in the first place (hence GLOMAR). After six months or so of outfitting by Cascade General the Explorer sailed again as a deep sea drilling boat. The final footnote to this case was an exception to the Freedom of Information Act that was won by the intelligence community. Glomarization, as it became known, is the principle that the government may respond that they do not confirm or deny the existence of information about something in an FOIA request.

Updates, wincing, etc.

Mag and I have been watching the Eco Challenge for several years now, and although this year's production is not as awesome as it has been (I blame the switch of networks from the Discovery Channel to the USA network), there have been some rather gruesome moments. Last night's preview featured a competitor calling on the emergency radio that "a leech has disappeared up my urethra." OW OW OW OW. How do you let that happen? Well, it's not unheard of. There's a type of catfish in Brazil called the Candiru that has a nasty habit of swimming up your urethra and lodging itself there by dint of very spiny fins. It then gorges itself on your blood and swells up really big. I don't want to think much more about that. Thanks, I think, to My Dog Wants To Be On the Radio for the link.

Update on yesterday's bloggage; a feature on the obituary writer for the Orange County Register. She writes well, even though she cried when she originally got the assignment.

Finally, a tangential update on my pheromones entry from a while back. A recent study shows that men think that the shirts of women in the fertile part of their menstrual cycle smell better than the shirts of women in the non-fertile portion. Makes sense. Another piece of evidence for evolutionary biology.


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