Bob's Junkmail

Purveyor of fine tripe since 1999

Important Stuff.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Anchoring Youth

Dr. Bob Ballard is famous for discovering the wreck of the unsinkable Titanic 1985. But he also made a couple of other stops on that trip -- to the wrecks of the only two U.S. nuclear submarines ever lost.

USS Thresher, a nuclear attack sub, was launched in 1960. In 1962, while moored at Port Canaveral, Florida, a tug hit the Thresher and damaged a ballast tank. The sub was repaired at Groton, CT and tested off Key West. Then they were back in a dockyard for "refurbishment." In April 9, 1963, the Thresher left port for sea trials.

On the morning of April 10, 1963 the Thresher began deep-dive tests a couple hundred miles east of Cape Cod. As the submarine neared its test depth of 1300 feet, it had some problems and tried to blow its ballast to surface. Shortly afterward, the submarine broke apart and sank. All 129 people aboard died.

This is what probably happened:  At 9:09 am, a high pressure saltwater pipe in the engine room started leaking because it was brazed instead of welded. It sprayed saltwater onto an electrical panel, or maybe something shorted out because of the flooding, which resulted in an automatic reactor shutdown. This would not have been enough to sink the submarine, only enough to stop the propellers. In a situation like this, the submarine would normally blow its ballast tanks and surface. But there was another problem -- a design problem.

High pressure air tanks are used to feed air into the ballast tanks, which pushes the water out, which causes the submarine to float. When air (or any gas) goes from high pressure to low pressure, it gets colder. In this case, the air leaving the high pressure air tanks cooled to below freezing. This is not normally a problem, but that time the air in the tanks contained a lot of moisture. Enough of the moisture froze on strainers in the lines to block the flow of air into the ballast tanks. As a result, the submarine began to descend, tail first, until it collapsed under the pressure of the water. At 9:17 the Thresher reported exceeding test depth. At 9:18 the submarine imploded.

The USS Scorpion sank on May 22, 1968 in about 10,000 feet of water, about 400 miles southwest of the Azores. It did not have a sub tender nearby, so the details of the Scorpion's demise are not clear. Somehow, the submarine "suffered catastrophic failure of its pressure hull" and sank with 99 people on board. The Scorpion was probably sunk by one of its own torpedoes. Probably the torpedo started up on its own in the torpedo room, had to be jettisoned, and circled around and exploded near the sub. This happened on the Scorpion in 1967 with an unarmed torpedo. Some people think it was a Soviet torpedo that sank the Scorpion, a few weeks after the Soviet sub K-129 was lost in the Pacific.


After mapping the two submarine wrecks in 1985, Bob Ballard and the research vessel Knorr had 12 free days to find the Titanic -- and they did it.


The last I heard, they were in the Black Sea exploring 1500-year-old shipwrecks. The lack of oxygen there has kept the ships and artifacts from decomposing, so there is some amazing undersea archeology to be found there.

On March 31, Dr. Bob Ballard is coming to Pryor to give a presentation for the "Anchoring Youth" fundraising event, raising money for Green Country Boys and Girls Clubs and for Immersion Presents. You can reserve your table for 8 (or 10?) now for with a donation of $1500. I believe they are even considerate enough to accept larger donations. These are both really good organizations. You can get details at (918) 824-1908, or

Icy Landing

Two guys named Oliver and Troels were flying a Cessna Skymaster from the U.S. to Sweden last month. When they were nearing Iqaluit over the Hudson Strait, both engines on the Skymaster quit. They landed on the ice and then watched their plane sink almost immediately. The next morning, a fishing boat picked them up off an ice floe. Those are two lucky people. I never did hear what killed the engines, but since they both died it makes you wonder if they ran out of gas.

Here are Oliver and Troels on the ice just before their rescue:


In 1998 and 1999, there was a great crisis. Forgot Y2K already? Or maybe you were just 7 years old then and were worried about different crises. People were afraid that the dumb programmers couldn't handle a date change from 1999 to 2000, or from 99 to 00.

Software literate people tended to ignore Y2K as a non-event, or to exploit it as a means of additional income. "Experts" on television promised massive power blackouts, technological failures, and transportation stoppages. Had all this occurred, it might have adversely affected my drive-thru diet.

As time has a habit of continuing with or without a crisis, the year 2000 arrived. The world did not stop. I did not need emergency equipment and supplies, which was nice because had not acquired any. The newscasters were almost as disappointed as they are when a hurricane fizzles.

The worst thing about Y2K was the overreaction of the press and the overreaction of the politicians. The U.S. government required businesses and other organizations to come up with Y2K plans dealing with how the Y2K crisis would affect them, and how they would perform once the anarchy started. Billions of dollars were wasted, studying the impending, imaginary disaster.

Billions more were spend studying old computer source code to make sure there were no rollovers to the year zero. It was the last heyday of Cobol dinosaurs. Hopefully. I should mention that I have programmed in Cobol before, qualifying at least as a stegosaurus. But I didn't like it.

Countries who didn't join in the fray were accused of irresponsibility and of threatening civilization as we know it. Afterward when nothing happened? Nobody cared. People seemed to embarrassed to talk about the stupidity, although a few claimed credit for saving the world.


In 2001, a couple dozen suicidal idiots flew some airliners into some buildings. Most people were surprised when the Word Trade Centers collapsed. I don't think even the guys who rammed the buildings thought they would collapse. But they did, and as a result, about 3000 people died. Another airliner hit the Pentagon, but it was not hurt very bad.

Just like Y2K, the real damage came from the overreaction. We retaliated by taking over Afghanistan, which is reasonable since that's where these people were based, and Iraq, which is really strange because they had nothing to do with it. But the politicians and the press convinced people that Iraq was planning nuclear and biological attacks on the U.S., and that "ya gotta be afraid!"  Since then over 4000 U.S. citizens have died in the Iraq War -- many more than in the World Trade Centers.

The major damage from the 2001 attacks, in my opinion, is in the reaction of the U.S. Government. The fear-mongering included things like recommending that everybody buy plastic sheets and duct tape for protection against biological weapons, and to keep tuna fish and powdered milk under your bed. Really!

We built (and are still building) a huge Department of Homeland Security that will keep us safe from terrorists. Homeland Security has capitalized on the terrorism hysteria and has acquired other federal agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Authority, the Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Immigration, and even the U.S. Coast Guard. It's empire building at its finest!

Now, to fight terrorism (remember there were only a couple of dozen of those idiots when we started?), we blithely submit to surveillance and eavesdropping that used to be unconstitutional. Police and FBI officers have gone to jail in the past for what is common practice now.

Even worse, we take off our shoes when we get onto an airliner! I think this is something akin to a religious rite, to remind us we are in constant danger from terrorists and that we need the government to protect us. It's odd that passengers flying into the U.S. from another country don't have to take their shoes off.

But there's good news! Homeland Security has declared that airliners are now secure. The bad news: They say that since a terrorist can no longer hijack an airliner, they will hijack smaller private planes. So now the government has implemented a bunch of security rules that apply to private planes. I did not make this up!  Most of the rules apply to planes 12,500 lb and above, but some are across the board.

"As vulnerabilities and risks associated with air carriers and commercial operators have been reduced or mitigated, terrorists may view general aviation aircraft as more vulnerable and thus attractive targets."
     Department of Homeland Security
     Other Aircraft Operator Security Program

Doesn't anybody see the absurdity of this? Never, in the history of the world, has a private plane been hijacked for terrorism, not even before 1903. We are jumping through hoops and wasting money to fix a problem that does not exist.


This is a significant milestone, because for the "first time in the history of the United States, governmental review and authority will be required before a person can operate his/her own personal transportation conveyance."

Nearly 70 percent of private pilots who fly internationally said they would do so less often under new rules for international flying. They require prior approval by internet for anybody who wants to enter or leave the U.S. by private plane. I've never had to get government permission to leave the country before. They used to be glad to see me go.

I wonder what they'll target after they've decided that private planes are safe. Maybe I'll have to take my shoes off before I drive my car. It seems to me that the Department of Homeland Security has too much money and too many people, and they'll keep encroaching on my life as long as they have an unlimited budget.

Over the past several years, we have begun to accept whatever the government says, so long as they use magic words "terrorism" or "national security," and sometimes "child pornography." We accept lies and corruption as necessary to fight the war on terrorism. Millions of dollars missing in Iraq? Unavoidable. Lies from the government? It's for your own good. Criticize the government? "If you're not with us, you're against us -- you're unpatriotic."

I say it's a patriotic duty to criticize the government. It's also kind of fun.


This brings us to the third fiasco of the decade. If we look back into the early economic history of September 2008, we recall that President Bush gave a speech warning of worldwide financial panic if the Treasury Department did not get authorization to spend $700,000,000,000.00 to bailout financial institutions. And, by the way, he needed it by Monday.

This was to bail out banks that were caught in a bind because a lot of mortgage-backed securities were not worth the paper they weren't written on. The government said they planned to buy these securities that were worthless or worth less.

Instead, the government decided to buy stock in some banks and spend some money on other stuff. They refuse to say just what they've spent the money on, or in whose pocket it is ending up. I imagine there are some lawyers, consultants, bankers, and other executives who will be buying some large boats and airplanes next year.

I like this:  $1,600,000,000 was spent for executive retention pay. That means that we are paying the people who messed things up extra money to stay on the job. The technical term for this is inverse performance bonus. We still don't know which executives were retained, how much money they got, or even which companies they work for. AIG spent $503 million on its top executives, but I don't know whether this is included in the $1.6 billion.

These brilliant and brilliantly retained executives had to know (or certainly should have known) that if real estate prices dropped, then enough people would default on their new mortgages to cause a market bust in mortgage-backed securities. Instead, they chose to ride the gravy train. When real estate prices started to decline, they were hoping it was just a blip. When they kept going down, they got a little worried. Of course, they had to keep it quiet or the lack of market confidence would compound the problem of unsound fundamentals, and things would really get bad. Then things really got bad.

In typical form, the solution to this problem seems to be doing more damage than the problem itself. The government is going into debt big-time, as never before. The administration is giving money to people and companies without disclosing who's getting it to the public or to Congress. In fact, they are not even keeping track of it!

In a couple of years when the books come out, we'll be appalled at the level of corruption. If someone can get just one millionth of this bailout money into a personal bank account, that's a cool $350,000. But this corruption will likely be legal because the administration is authorized by Congress to pass out the money to anybody, and they don't even have to tell who got it. It's even better than lame-duck Presidential pardons.

I could go on for a few hours, because the level of stupidity is amazing, but I'll spare you. Here are a few points:
  • To improve their financial statements, banks in trouble have used bailout money to buy healthy banks and other companies.
  • When the government pays bailout money to a bank to buy mortgage-backed securities, the money is spent on the securities. When the government pays bailout money to buy stock in a bank holding corporation, the corporation is free to spend the bailout money on management perks... and executive retention bonuses.
  • GMAC is a car finance corporation. They called themselves a bank, got government approval, and got billions of dollars in bank bailout money for their trouble. This money was not supposed to be used to create new banks -- it was to aid ailing banks. If I wanted to create a new bank, I bet they'd require me to be more solvent than GMAC, and I probably wouldn't even get any bailout money.
  • Chrysler and General Motors harangued the politicians enough to get billions in government money. Does this mean that every mismanaged company is entitled to billions from the government? Upperspace, for one, would settle for a thousand times less and accept mere millions. And I can mismanage with the best of them!
  • Even the unregulated hedge funds, where you're required to be a "sophisticated investor" and able to withstand losses before you're allowed to invest, are getting access to $200,000,000,000 in federal bailout money....
  • I like Bush's attitude. In the midst of all this obfuscation, he politely demanded in a speech... that "nations must make our financial markets more transparent."
  • More than a thousand dollars for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. has been paid to bail out financial institutions in 2008. That's more than twenty times NASA's budget... and over five times the budget of the U.S. Department of Education.


How big is a billion dollars? If you take a billion dollar bills and place them end-to-end along the equator, they will circle the earth 3.89 times. It will take light a little over half a second to go that far. 350 billion dollars would get you to the moon and back half a dozen times, if you lay the bills end-to-end. You could go a lot more times than that if you spent them on space travel.

How big is a billionth of a second, or a nanosecond? A 3 gigahertz computer has three clock cycles every billionth of a second. Light will travel a little less than 4 inches in one of those clock cycles. That makes the physical layout of the motherboard pretty important.

Your brain may be pretty fast, but its synapses take a few milliseconds to fire. A millisecond is equal to a million nanoseconds. Your brain makes up for the slower speed with parallel operations, with billions of neurons operating at once. No wonder I get confused.

I regularly read and hear incorrect rates of growth, so I would like to set the record straight. A constant is no growth. A constant rate of growth is linear growth, because its graph makes a straight line. It is something like 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, etc., where each value of x is multiplied by some constant, in this case, 2.

Geometric growth is where each value of x raised to the power of a constant, something like 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81, 100, in this case 2. Geometric growth gets pretty big pretty fast. Geometric growth is the one that is frequently and incorrectly called exponential growth.

Exponential growth is when the exponent of a constant changes, kind of like 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, etc. It moves a lot faster than geometric growth, for similar x.

Here's another way to look at it. If you were given a penny on January 1st, 2 cents on the second, 3 on the third, 4 on the fourth, and so forth until the end of the month, you would have $4.96 at the end of the month.

If you were given a penny on January 1st, 4 cents on the second, 9 cents on the third, 16 cents on the fourth, and so on to the end of the month (x2), you would have $104.16 at the end of the month.

If you were given a 2 cents on January 1st, 4 cents on the second, 8 cents on the third, 16 cents on the fourth, 32 cents on the fifth, and so on to the end of the month (2x), you would have $42,949,673 at the end of the month, assuming you didn't give it away to wayward financial executives.

If you kept going to the end of February, the sum of the linear series would give you $17.70, geometric $702.10, and the exponential would give you $11,529,215,046,068,500.00 or so. (Standard double precision won't give me the last 4 digits and I'm too lazy to use my brain.)

Just think -- if we could double a penny every day for two months, we could pay off the national debt, balance the budget, and make everybody on earth a millionaire. But if everybody on earth was a millionaire, a dollar would not be worth much.

Now, do you think anybody could get this point across to a Supreme Court Justice?

Chief Justice Roberts took issue with both restrictions. The Navy had agreed to shut down its sonar if marine mammals were sighted within 200 yards. The appeals court's requirement that it increase the zone to 2,200 yards, Chief Justice Roberts said, would "expand the surface area of the shutdown zone by a factor of over 100," given "the exponential relationship between radius length and surface area."
New York Times, November 13, 2008

He is correct that the area would increase more than 100-fold (121, to be precise), but the relationship between radius length and surface area is geometric (proportional to x2), not exponential.

Web Numbers

There are now at least 186,727,854 web sites in the world. If I look at them all in one year, I'll have to read really fast -- I'll have to cover 7 sites per second. That doesn't include time for sleeping, eating, or anything else. put up over a million web sites last month. A lot of them were in the .pl domain, for Poland. Many of those were redirected to a fake pornography site, which actually sent people to the malware site

Here's my guess: Some spammer or other creative internet craftsman managed to get a few hundred thousand domain names from the Polish domain registrar. This person or group automatically built a bunch of web sites and pointed them toward a malware site. Then they spammed a few million potential suckers with links to the fake pornography site. At the malware site, visitors are enticed to click on a button and install some software, maybe claiming to be Adobe Reader or something like that. In fact, the software will enroll their computer, free of charge and probably free of the visitor's knowledge, into a botnet.

Google, Yahoo, and MySpace were the top three web sites in December. 997,445 places down from the top we find The other 185 million sites must not have a lot of traffic.

Of visitors to
* 84 percent speak English, or at least their computer is set up for English.
* 38 percent come from outside the U.S.
* 54 percent use Internet Explorer, 36 percent Firefox, 5 percent Safari.
* 89 percent use Windows, 8 percent Safari, and 2 percent Linux.
* 4 percent have screen resolution of 800x600, 34 percent 1024x768, and 1-2 percent of the rest have a screen resolution of less than 1024x768.
* 3 percent use dialup to connect (remember modems?). Others use something faster.

Google's bots visit a lot of web sites. While they're there, they check to see if they notice any malware. If so, they publish it. You can check out a suspect site here, just replace on the end with the site you want to know about:


Who operates the world's largest and faster supercomputer?  I'm not sure, but I would certainly place Google in the running. Their "computer" is really many thousand computers working together, so you could argue that it's not a single supercomputer. But they must consume as many CPU cycles and use as much storage for their related applications as any company or organization.

It's really impressive if you consider the amount of data they process. And they don't just do simple indexing. They do a lot of statistical analysis of web sites and user habits, as well as a bunch of other applications. And they do it successfully -- Google is an internet company that makes a lot of money!

Google does a lot of advanced research in searching and computing in general. I would not be surprised if, in several years, Google is the company that offers a useable voice interface for computer input. That is the major drawback of iPod-sized computers now. The tiny keyboards are either not tiny enough, or they're too tiny to use. A more efficient method of input is needed.

Google is also doing work on search semantics, so you can ask somewhat arbitrary questions and get something better than keyword and synonym searches. For example, I might ask, "Who were the first generals to fight a major battle in the U.S. Civil War?" If the search engine could recognize more meaning than just keywords when it scans a site, it could answer more "general" questions like this.

One requirement is for the software to be self-learning. It's not feasible for a person or team to sit down and train a search engine on the content of 185 million web sites, or even 997,445. The software would have to improve itself based on successful and unsuccessful search results, seen by user clicks, number of results, etc.

In unrelated Google news, Google has finally started charging web site owners for indexing. If you pay them, they'll index your site faster. This is a major policy change -- allowing people to purchase better search performance. It could end up killing off personal web sites if it goes very far.

NTSB Reports

The NTSB has improved their aviation accident web site. Searches are faster, they have downloadable data, standard forms, and more information than before.

One report shows that Michael Connell, Republican media consultant and chief IT consultant for Karl Rove, blew an ILS approach and died as a result. There was no conspiracy to kill him -- he managed on his own.

Weird Al Bleeps

Last Junkmail I mentioned some annoying bleeping of "Morpheus or Grokster or Limewire or KaZaA." It turns out that Weird Al did that intentionally after being ordered to censor it a couple of years ago by MTV. He made the bleeps as obvious as possible to highlight MTV's stupidity.

I Feel Safe!

The Transportation Security Administration has a good thing going at airports. They have persuaded people to use locks on their luggage that are TSA Approved. This means the TSA employees have keys to your bags, and they seem to be using them.

According to Lara Uselding, spokeswoman for the TSA, more than 460 TSA officers have been fired for theft since May, 2003, about 100 per year. Ellen Howe, another TSA spokeswoman, said the agency has fired 465 officers for theft since the spring of 2003, "a minuscule fraction of the work force."

In fairness, the TSA is headed in the right direction. Either that or they don't honor claims for missing items as much as they used to. In 2005, the TSA spent $3,000,000 in claims for missing items and damaged bags. In the first eleven months of 2008 they held it down to under $1,000,000. But that is still a lot of thievery, especially for a miniscule fraction of the workforce. Don't they know thievery is supposed to be the job of Congress?

Los Angeles:
New York:
Boston: (accusation)
Baton Rouge, Denver, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale:

Airports are not the only place TSA employees are arrested for theft:

TSA air marshals are determined not to let the baggage screeners get all the loot. That could be a little scary, since air marshals ride on airplanes and carry guns.

On the ironic side, in 2003 the TSA spent $461,745 on an awards banquet to congratulate itself, and then spent another $1,400,000 in cash bonuses for 88 senior managers. Maybe TSA and the Treasury Secretary share the same supervision.

When Obama takes over we won't have to worry about the Treasury Secretary any more. His nominee for the job, Tim, used to run a stock exchange, just like Bernie Madoff....

Tim's record is spotless, if you ignore $42,000 or so in taxes he forgot to pay. When asked about his illegal immigrant housekeeper, Tim responded, "I thought that was OK. That's what they all do at Homeland Security."

The Department of Homeland Security boss Michael took some harassment for paying "undocumented workers" to clean his house. I guess he should have used his own e-Verify system that Homeland Security advertises on National Public Radio. Instead, he fined the cleaning company $22,880 for sending him illegal aliens. Maybe he's planning another banquet.

Lorraine, the Homeland Security Port Director in Boston, also had some minor glitches with her Brazilian housekeeper's paperwork.

Today's Stupid Patent

Halliburton submitted an application to patent "patent trolling." A patent troll is a company that buys patents for the purpose of suing people and forcing them to pay license fees. The patent probably won't be awarded -- someone probably did it as a joke. But you never know with the US Patent and Trademark Office...

In November, Google was awarded a patent to search multiple databases at once, such as a web, news, and image database. I sure don't find anything novel, nontrivial, or non-obvious about this one. At least Google is not prone to sue over patent infringement.


XKCD is a funny comic! This one reminded me of me, carrying on about the RIAA and MPAA in Junkmail.

I wonder who would ever want a 4-letter domain name that starts with X and doesn't spell anything.

Express Scripts

Keep your database secure. Or not. Express Scripts is a company that contracts with about 160 companies to provide millions of employees with prescription medicine by mail. In October they got an extortion email with personal information on about 75 people, promising to expose their entire database if the extortionists were not paid a lot of money. This was unusual in that extortion emails ordinarily come from the RIAA.

Express Scripts handled it properly, in my opinion. They refused to pay, went to the FBI, and announced it all publicly. They are also offering a million dollar reward to catch the extorters.

Google is facing an extortion attempt, too. A company in Russia claims to hold the patent on displaying ads related to the content of a web page, and wants $3 billion from Google.

AVG Windows Improvement

AVG is a good, free antivirus program, and very popular. On November 9, AVG came out with a new version, which is important in the antivirus business.

However, the November 9 version identified a critical Windows component as a virus and killed it. Oddly, some customers complained when their computers wouldn't run any more. But how would you contact AVG for a solution without a computer? And would you suspect a hardware failure or your antivirus program as the cause?

This is a note from their web site. "In case you are not able to run your Windows XP operating system after AVG 8.0 virus definition update, it may be caused by a false positive on a specific "user32.dll" system file. The file was moved to the AVG Virus Vault and deleted. Therefore it is not possible to start Windows. Please follow the steps below to rectify this situation:"

I'll bet that never happens again at AVG!

Ocean Cooling

Here is a good article about ocean temperatures and sea level. It is, understandably, a very complex problem. People for and against global warming grab tend to grab snippets from various studies to support their politics. The Bush administration tends to push science funding and publications to support their politics. This article is clear, unbiased, and provides a good example of how one set of data does not answer all the questions in a complex system such as planetary climate or an MMRPG.

Escape from Tibet

An interesting (and a little scary) story:

Bombing Thule

In January 1968, a few months before the USS Scorpion sank, an airplane crashed in the bay off Thule, Greenland. This plane was big -- a B52. It had some atomic bombs, now referred to as nuclear weapons. Three of its four bombs were recovered. Three out of four is not bad, right?

Nigeria Rules

Did you ever wonder why people keep sending those Nigerian-type scam emails, wanting help in getting a few million dollars out of the country? Who would ever fall for that, anyway? Janella from Oregon. She paid them $400,000.

FCC and Nascar

The Federal Communications Commission spent $355,000 to sponsor a Nascar driver named David. That's certainly good use of my tax dollars. He crashed, too. I suppose it could have been worse. They might have given the money to financial executives, or even lawyers.

Creative Living

Some people just live interesting lives. A 42-year-old guy named Donald was arrested for driving down the street on a riding lawnmower under the influence of marijuana with a 49-year-old guy on the hood of the mower.

Donald was driving the lawn mower because he lost his driver's license for failure to pay child support. He was ticketed for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, driving an unregistered and uninspected motor vehicle, and not using headlights, among other things. The guy on the hood of the lawn mower got a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. Donald was taking the lawn mower to a pub where he planned to sell it for $200.

Online Calculus

Have you forgotten how to integrate an equation? Or, like me, maybe you never learned it very well in the first place? No worries! Use Mathematica's online integrator:^2)

Time Travel

I heard on CNN: "CNN projects that Ted Stevens lost the election on his birthday."

That's a Star Trek thing, being able to project into the past.

Air Traffic

24 hours of air traffic across the world. This is a cool video (20 meg):


Last-Accessed Timestamp

If you right-click on a file under Windows Explorer and then select properties, toward the bottom of the General tab you'll see three date and times, Created, Modified, and Accessed. Every time you open a file, even if it's only to read it, Windows stores the time and date of the access. You can turn off this "feature" in the registry.

To do this, run RegEdit and change the value of NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate to 1 under HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem. Odd things can happen on your computer if you muck up the registry, so you might want to set a system restore point first.


You can get (or put) publicly available photos and images on Wikimedia Commons:

If you need to add an image to a Wikipedia article, you can upload it to Wikimedia Commons and access it from there.

The German Government uploaded about 100,000 historical photos over the past month or two that are pretty interesting.

The captions are naturally in German, but you can use Google to translate if you can't decipher them:

You can use Google to translate to and from about 35 languages. The translations are not perfect, but they are usually understandable.

Rocket Men

I generally don't put YouTube videos in Junkmail, but the world's fastest sailboat rates it. It only goes one direction and won't handle waves very well, but the Vestas Sailrocket averaged 47.4 knots over a 500 meter course. It even flies (about 4:00 into the video).


Spaced Out

Raven Ridge, Colorado, last month from the International Space Station:

They fly around the earth going really fast. How do they keep bugs off their windows?

Pennsylvania Mountains from Space, Landsat, 2001:

Breckenridge, Colorado last October from the Space Station:

Mount St. Helens


I have finally bowed to the inevitable and the improbable, and started using Microsoft's .Net 2008. I was happy with the 10-year-old VB6, but compatibility problems kept creeping up around me.

As you would expect, .net has some advantages and disadvantages. The help system is very weak, which is a problem for someone new to the system like me. A lot of the links in the .net Help go nowhere. That seems like extremely poor quality control to me. Looking for help on many topics, I get a helpful message like this:

Information Not Found (/1:/2:09.00/3:09.00.07269.10000/4:dv_commoner/5:ms-help://MS.VSCC.v90/dv_commoner/html/1702ec84-76f9-4a82-9043-9ab8acb8aa5e.htm?keywords=ms-help://MS.VSCC.v90/dv_commoner/html/1702ec84-76f9-4a82-9043-9ab8acb8aa5e.htm?keywords="T:System.Diagnostics.PerformanceCounter"

But I can contribute to make it a better product. It makes me feel special. There is a Send Feedback button on the help screens I can use to let the people at know their links are dead. One afternoon I started clicking the "Send Feedback" button every time I got a dead link in the Help system, and forwarded the link to Microsoft. I got this reply for each one:

"Your e-mail was rejected by an anti-spam content filter on gateway ( Reasons for rejection may be: obscene language, graphics, or spam-like characteristics. Removing these may let the e-mail through the filter."

I suppose that explains all their dead links.


Harbor Wing Technologies has built an "Autonomous Unmanned Surface Vessel, for reconnaissance and surveillance by the U.S. government. The prototype is a 30-foot catamaran with a hard airfoil sail. The production model will be a 50-foot trimaran. It can sail at all points of the wind. I'll have to figure out how to do that someday.

The movie:

New Virus

Last Junkmail I mentioned finding some odd files on one of my computers. I sent them in to some virus companies. A couple months later I got this response from Symantec:  "The sample file you sent contains a new virus version of mydoom.j. Please clean your system with the attached signature."

I guess I was supposed to let it run rampant for a couple of months.

Pictures of Today!

A helicopter at the cone of Shishaldin, Volcano, Alaska, by Pathfinder Aviation:

Shishaldin Volcano this summer, by me:

Name this creature:

An Indecisive Tree (Laura Tapp took this):

The Moon:

Some Clouds:

A bunch of relatives (and a few strays) at Mom & Dad's for Christmas.

Google Data Center, Oklahoma

Chicken Farm, Oklahoma

A Tree:

Some Wires:

Some Links