Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Please Don’t Vote for Me

In the world of American politics, elections on odd numbered years don’t get too much attention. Neither the Presidency nor anyone in Congress is up for election and most states only have low-level state and local elections (except New Jersey and Virginia who have governor races this year.) Perhaps this is why this one strange mayor’s race in the small rural town of Saxonburg, Pennsylvania got any press at all. Incumbent mayor Jody Pflueger initially decided to run for re-election this year but now as election day nears she is begging the town’s residents to not vote for her. Apparently she and her husband found their dream home a few towns over which now means that she’ll no longer be living in the town she’s the mayor of and she doesn’t want to be the mayor of a town she doesn’t live in. It goes to show you that finding the perfect place to live can dramatically change your life for the better even if that transition can be really awkward. Still it’s kind of amusing to see someone who is serving in an elected office actively campaign for the candidate running against them.

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The Man Who Found The Titanic is Now Finding Much More

Most people have a rudimentary knowledge of the Titanic. 101 years ago the unsinkable RMS Titanic sunk off the coast of Canada after crashing into an iceberg on its maiden voyage. 85 years later James Cameron would make an incredibly successful and sappy movie about it and jump-started the acting career of Leonardo DiCaprio. Here’s something you probably didn’t know about the Titanic though. Prior to 1985, we didn’t know exactly where the ship sank and we had no idea what the Titanic looked like at the bottom of the ocean until the wreck was found by a man named Robert Ballard.

It turns out that finding the Titanic was only the tip of the iceberg for Ballard though. National Geographic has a great article on what he’s done since then and it is far cooler than just finding an old shipwreck. Since 1983 the national borders of the United States have included not just the 50 states and various islands like Puerto Rico and Guam, but all ocean 200 miles offshore (provided there’s not another country’s territorial waters in those 200 miles.) Robert Ballard’s mission is to try and map all of that underwater territory in detail. According to him when America’s land area doubled in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark out to explore and map it all. When America’s size doubled again in 1983, there was no accompanying exploration effort until Ballard took up that mission on his own.

Granted the practical use of this knowledge is irrelevant to many people’s lives but it is important to science. There is still much we don’t really know about the deepest depths of the ocean and this effort is an attempt to learn more about it and the creatures that live down there. Simply observing the ocean floor is notoriously difficult due to the extreme water pressure and in some ways it is easier to map outer space because there is nothing standing between our telescopes and the stars beyond. Still I find it fascinating that there are still parts of our country beneath the ocean waves that have yet to even be fully explored and that there is a real effort to change that.

That’s what the ocean floor looks like from far away. Ballard is filling in the details.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or for more information.

An Interactive Map of San Francisco… in 1859

Few people know this but the United States once had an emperor. Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico reigned from his seat of power in San Francisco between 1859 and 1880. In reality he was an English businessman who moved to California seeking fortune only to lose all of his money and kind of went crazy as a result. After declaring himself Emperor and publicly demanding the American government submit to his rule he became a local celebrity in San Francisco and was treated like royalty by most of the city though no one with any real power would actually listen to him. His lasting legacy was his repeated decrees that a bridge be built across San Francisco Bay. About 50 years after he died completely penniless the Golden Gate Bridge was built and today there is even a political effort to rename the bridge after Norton.

The Smithsonian has a great interactive map of San Francisco in 1859 when Norton began his reign compared to a satellite image of the city today. Back then it was the largest city in California but only about 56,000 people lived there which was tiny compared to the bigger cities back east. Most of what is now urban San Francisco was either wilderness or farmland back then. The other really shocking thing I found about that map was just how much people built over bodies of water. There was a creek that emptied out into a cove in the Bay back then but today that creek is underground and that cove is filled in completely. Looking back at these maps makes me marvel about just how quickly our cities got built up.

san fran
Norton’s imperial capital then and now.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or for more information.

World’s Tallest Mountain is Discovered in the Pacific Ocean

We have known for quite a while that the summit of Mt. Everest is the highest point of land above sea level in the world at 29,029 feet above sea level. However, it’s not actually the world’s tallest mountain nor is it the solar system’s biggest mountain. The reason is because the definition of a mountain is more complicated than you might think. Using Wikipedia’s definition a mountain is “a large landform that stretches above the surrounding land in a limited area, usually in the form of a peak.” This is a moment in science that is very similar to when Pluto got demoted to being a dwarf planet.

One thing that many of us tend to forget is that the ocean floor is by no means flat and there are massive, undersea mountain ranges in all of our oceans formed mainly by underwater volcanoes. Some of these volcanic mountains get so tall that they break the surface of the ocean and become islands. Some of those islands include all of the islands that make up Japan and Hawaii. Using that definition though, scientists just recently discovered the largest mountain in the world beneath the Pacific Ocean about 1000 miles east of Japan. This mountain, Tamu Massif, is a rounded dome about the size of the state of New Mexico that rises up 21,120 feet above it’s base reaching its summit about 6500 feet below the ocean’s surface.

Tamu Massif has been known to humanity for about a century but it was only recently that it was discovered that this mountain is one giant volcano. It was previously thought that it was an underwater plateau or mountain range built up by many different volcanoes close to one another but further analysis revealed that most of the mountain was formed by one massive eruption about 145 million years ago when dinosaurs were walking the Earth. Geologists estimate that the volcano went extinct very soon afterward and has been quiet ever since. Now that it has been confirmed that the mountain was made by one volcano, this mountain actually takes the title of the biggest mountain in our solar system away from Olympus Mons on Mars. This is one of those moments that makes us realize that there is still so much about our own planet that we still don’t yet know especially when it comes to things in the depths of the ocean.

A topographic map of the ocean floor is not quite as impressive as Mt. Everest

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or for more information.

Illegal Fantasy Football?

With the passing of Labor Day, fall is now upon us and so is football season. For millions of Americans the start of the NFL’s regular season means the beginning of millions of fantasy football leagues. By this point most fantasy drafts are done and rosters are being set for Thursday’s games. However, it turns out that in some states some fantasy football leagues are illegal. It turns out that certain states have gambling laws that would technically make playing fantasy football for a cash prize illegal. Those states define illegal gambling as betting on an event where random chance can possibly play into the result. As a result if you’re playing in a fantasy league with money involved and you live in the states of Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Iowa, or Tennessee keep the money part of your fantasy league quiet because you’re probably breaking the law. I wish the best of luck to all of your creatively named fantasy teams this season.

As an aside back when I played fantasy football regularly, I think I got the greatest fantasy draft steal of all time. In the summer of 2007 I drafted Tom Brady in the fifth round in my league. He went on to throw 50 touchdowns that season, a feat no quarterback has achieved before or since. I then lost in the first round of the playoffs in part because the Patriots had already locked up home field advantage and Bill Belichick sat Brady in the second half of the game to keep him healthy for the playoffs.

Bill Belichick: He admitted to cheating and screwed me out of a fantasy title.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or for more information.

Dial-Up Internet Still Exists

In a recent post I briefly mentioned that nearly one in five Americans are still without a personal internet connection. Well the Pew Research Center investigated that figure further and has given us some valuable insight. The way we get to that 19 percent figure of Americans without internet is by adding up the number of Americans without a household broadband connection or a data plan on a tablet or smartphone. The rise of mobile data has reached a point where it can be a viable substitute for a traditional internet connection for a more traditional computer and that has become a big part of the strategy for closing the digital divide both in America and all over the world.

Also it may be hard to believe but 3 percent of Americans still access the internet through a 56k dial-up connection. Apparently there are still holdouts who want to stick with a really slow internet connection even as the internet has evolved way past them. (If you want to see a site designed for a dial-up connection, here’s Bob Dole’s campaign website from 1996. Yes it’s still on the internet and hasn’t been touched in 17 years.) Also apparently 2.5 million Americans are still under the misguided notion that they have to pay AOL for their internet connection and email address. The reasons cited for sticking with narrowband? Lack of broadband access in certain rural areas, lack of interest, and cost. I guess most of those people don’t try to stream Netflix.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or for more information.

Where People Are (and Aren’t) Using the Internet

Let’s face it, if you’re reading this you have internet access. You are one of the 2.5 billion people on this planet that have reliable access to the internet and all the benefits that it brings. That also means you’re not part of the roughly 4.5 billion people who don’t have internet access. Well Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced that he’s going to try and change that. The ride of the internet and social media have allowed people to access unprecedented amounts of information, created entire new businesses and markets all over the world, and has even helped overthrow governments. Zuckerberg of course has a big financial interest in greater worldwide internet access. 4.5 billion more internet users means 4.5 billion more potential Facebook accounts and a potential rise in value of Facebook’s stagnant stock price.

In reaction to this news CNN Money made up an interesting interactive map showing which countries have the best and worst percentage of people with internet access. Iceland, Norway, and Sweden lead the world in internet access with 96%, 95%, and 94% connectivity rates while the three countries with the lowest percentages are Eritrea, East Timor, and Myanmar which have rates of 0.8%, 0.9%, and 1.1% respectively. One interesting revelation of this map is what it says about the United States. Only 81% of American households have internet access and I find that pretty astonishing since we’re the country that invented the internet in the first place. This would suggest that Facebook hasn’t quite run its base of potential subscribers completely dry in America despite many reports to the contrary.


The darker the better.

Churchill has short-term corporate housing available Nationwide. Please contact us at 866-255-0593 or for more information.