More Junkmail from Bob!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Important Stuff

Be Afraid!

George W. Bush gave a 45-minute speech last week, urging the nation to "be afraid!" New York City complied promptly, shutting down part of Penn Station because someone left behind a soft drink bottle full of green drain cleaner.

New York brought out thousands of extra police to police the subway system after the FBI did (according to New York) or didn't (according to the FBI) warn them of an impending bomb attack in the subways. They also shut down a subway line when they found a bag that lost its owner.

New York police also offered safety tips to prostitutes:

In response to the action in New York, San Francisco's BART raised their terror level from orange to enhanced orange on Friday. A Bay Area spokesman reported, "We in San Francisco are more sophisticated and color-conscious than those heathens in New York. Enhanced orange is much more vibrant and vivid. It's more of a burnt chartreuse with a hint of ruthenium."

Elsewhere in the country, Washington DC closed the Washington Monument for a while and a Rolling Stones concert was shut down for a while in Charlottesville. Nobody was blown up at either place. The Rolling Stones must be about 100 years old by now.

Remember, if you're not scared, you're unpatriotic!

Bush finished his speech saying the people in Iraq have nothing to fear. OK, OK, I made that up. I didn't even listen to his speech. But it would have been pretty funny if he did say that.

In Berryhhill, Arkansas they were scared even before Bush's speech. A lawyer brought a firecracker to court as evidence. They emptied the courthouse and brought in the bomb squad from Springdale. They couldn't get it to go off.

I suspect that Bush's speech and several more publicity "functions" in the near future are intended to fight the bad press that will result from the 2000th U.S. soldier dying in Iraq, coming around the first of November.

Open Office

Would you like a free copy of Microsoft Office? Would you settle for a cheap (or free) imitation? Check out It's a free AND legal.

Open Office has a word processor compatible with Microsoft Word, a spreadsheet compatible with Excel, a presentation program compatible with Power Point, a database program, a drawing program that's not bad, and a program you can use to put pretty math formulas into documents.

The word processor, called Writer, will even output .pdf files. I don't think Word will do that until the next release. Open Office compatibility with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint is not perfect, but it handles most documents without any problems.

You can download it here:

You can also get a lot more free software, without spyware, adware, and trial versions, at:

Some I've used are:

      Gaim, a chat program that supports MSN, AOL, Yahoo, and IRC.

      CDex is a CD Ripper, that extracts mp3 files from audio CDs.

      Filezilla is an FTP program I haven't tried yet.

Here are the top downloads from Source Forge:

Pumpkin Tossing

A trebuchet is a siege engine they used in the middle ages to toss rocks, cows (I saw it on Monty Python), and, occasionally, people into castles. Now they use them to toss pumpkins. Four guys (Steve, Brandon, Scott, and Trevor) tossed a pumpkin 1,676 feet with their 58-foot trebuchet, a new world record. Last year the team set the world record of 12,69 feet, only to have it beat 13 days later at the "nationals" in Delaware (1,399 feet).   


Here's a good picture of Saturn's moon Enceladus. In case you're making plans to visit the moon, this is the southern hemisphere, anti-Saturn view. McDonalds will be located near the South Pole.

It's a false-color image, using infrared (752 nanometers) green (568), and ultraviolet (338) for red, green, and blue. That brings out the details better. This is a composite of 21 images taken earlier this year.

      PIA06254.jpg      hi-res image

Here is Hyperion, another of Saturn's moons:


This image is also false color, to bring out the detail. Hyperion really looks red. It sure has odd shapes.

More on Cassini:

      Cassini Red Nova Article

FEMA Browsers

FEMA has been getting a bit of criticism recently, in spite of the "heckuva job" done by "Brownie.",8599,1103003,00.html

One interesting bit is that you cannot apply for aid on FEMA's web site unless you have Microsoft's Internet Explorer Version 6.

I guessed that when this came out in the news that they'd fix it to avoid the adverse publicity. But they haven't yet.

This was on the FEMA web site today: "Currently to complete your application online you must be using Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6.0 or above. We are in the process of modifying the application so that it will be available to additional browsers." They did change it to make it look better. It used to just tell you to download IE6 from Microsoft, which is not exactly feasible if you're using a Mac, TRS-80, or Franklin.

Microsoft diplomat Steve Ballmer said of the FEMA requirements, "Let that be a lesson to all you Mac and Firefox users! You should be afraid!!"

If someone asked FEMA, I'm sure they'd get the standard bureaucratic response "We can't be expected to do this right when we're so understaffed and underfunded." This excuse can be used in most situations of incompetence in any government or private organization.

I still wonder who sold FEMA 25,000 body bags and delivered them to New Orleans after the mayor said "as many as" 10,000 could be dead. That's a "heckuva" salesman. Or saleswoman.,16441,1565187,00.html

Meanwhile, the President is making about his 8th trip to Louisiana and Mississippi after the hurricane. He was heard saying to the citizens of New Orleans, "... and I'm gonna KEEP coming down here until you people get my approval ratings up!"

In case you haven't read enough of the stuff that's been going on down south, here are "eight big lies:"

But everything will be better now. They've replaced the head of FEMA with David, the guy who says everybody should buy duct tape and plastic sheets to protect themselves from biological and chemical attacks.

Katrina from the Air

Who would fly through a hurricane?

Windows Media

A few years ago, a Norwegian guy named Jon deciphered the encryption used in DVD players, making is possible for people to write DVD playing software without paying royalties to the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the National Rodeo Association.

Now Jon has completed a new project. He's decoded the encryption around the .wmv files so non-Microsoft programmers can program players for .wmv files. Microsoft diplomat Steve said of the development, "It's nothing. You will be assimilated."

Here's a free .wmv player:

Lexmark Ink

Once upon a time, IBM built a printer. Then, in 1991 IBM spun-off their printer group and called the new company Lexmark.

Lexmark makes ink-jet printers. If you buy an eMachines computer at Best Buy, there's a fair chance they'll give you a free Lexmark printer.

Why would Best Buy give away the printers? To help sell computers, and also to sell printer cables. You'd be hard pressed to find a USB printer cable in a Best Buy store for under $30. With quick Google search I just now spotted one for $1.99.

Why would Lexmark give away printers? Because they sell ink. The ink cartridges that come with the free printers are tiny. Then you run out and buy expensive Lexmark ink.

In business, when someone is making too much profit, someone else will compete. So other people sell cheap US printer cables. And other people sell ink cartridges for Lexmark printers.

Lexmark got smart and had the printer software ask the software in the ink cartridge if it was really Lexmark ink. Yes, believe it or not, ink cartridges have microprocessors and software "included at no extra charge."

Static Control Components is a company out of North Carolina with about 1000 employees. They make, among other things, ink cartridges. They make some for Lexmark printers. When the Lexmark printer asks the Static Control Components ink cartridge if it's legitimate, the ink cartridge says "Yep!" It can do this even though it's encoded or encrypted or something similar.

Lexmark said that this is a clear violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The judge said, "horse hooey." Then Lexmark said that this is a violation of the "box contract." Lexmark made that up, by the way, copying from the software "shrink wrap contracts." The judge said "You're right!" and Lexmark won. That was in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals a few weeks ago.

Now it's ACRA (an association of cartridge remanufacturers) vs. Lexmark. I'm not sure how the name changed or whether it's a different lawsuit. Either way, Lexmark won.

The moral of this story: Before you open a box, you'd better read the fine print on it. The manufacture can now tell you what you can and can't do with the product you just bought.

This is a little like unlocking cell phones so they work with other services.,1284,68989,00.html

But it doesn't extend to garage door openers. Yet.

25 Dumb Quotes from 2004

This is a little out of date, but still funny. It's not too late to get yours in the running for 2005! (Warning -- there may be some naughty words here.)

They Took Our Jobs!

In Las Vegas, the United Food and Commercial Workers decided to go on strike against Walmart. This was kind of unique since they don't work at Walmart -- they work at other grocery stores. They wanted to picket Walmart because most Walmart employees are not members of labor unions.

But the United Food and Commercial Workers don't like picketing. So they hired non-union temporary workers at $6.00 per hour to picket for them. I'm confused.

The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations

This was recently posted on the Pentagon Web Site, still being revised.


Yahoo has been getting criticized lately for cooperating with Adware companies and turning in Chinese dissidents.

      business week article

Satellite Control

The Wall Street Journal had an article last month about satellites. It seems the Bush administration would like the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon to control all satellites, even weather and scientific satellites.

The government says nothing will change except in was and other emergencies. Didn't Bush say we're at war now, and will be for a long time?

Some privacy fans don't like this because they are afraid they'll be spied on. I'm not too crazy about it because I like using the GPS and weather satellites. When Homeland Security people get control they're likely to shut down GPS or weather satellites occasionally just to make sure we all stay involved with the "war on terror."
      (subscription required -- Wall Street Journal September 26, 2005; Page A6)

Ball Game

Last month, about 289 Gambian soccer fans chartered a Lockheed L-1011. Actually, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh charted the jet. They were headed to Lima, Peru, and then on to Piura to see their under-17 soccer team compete in the world championships.

They were running late for the game. So the pilot said they were low on fuel and had to divert to Piura, where the game was being held. They made it to the game.

"It truly was a scam. They tricked the control tower," Betty Maldonado, a spokeswoman for Peru's aviation authority said.

      cnn article

Pardon Me

Bush granted Presidential Pardons to 14 people last month. He's done a little less pardoning than Clinton.


In Nigeria, a governor cannot be arrested while he is in office. In England, he can.

Diepreye Alamieyeseigha is the governor of the state of Bayelsa in Nigeria. He has a home in London. Last month he had just flown in and was arrested at the airport for money laundering. Police found almost a million British pounds in his London home, and accused him of laundering a lot more.

Elsewhere in the BBC -- Visions of Science.

and... unrelated Random Earth Images from Red Nova. These are pretty good.


Last month a guy from Oklahoma named Robert (no, not me) won a $10,000,000 judgement against a spammer named Robert (no, not me) and his company Newport Internet Marketing.


In what country are you most likely to die by lightning? Cuba.

What country has the most people in prison? The U.S., ahead of China by 25%,  2,078,570 vs. 1,549,000. That surprised me.

The U.S. also leads in per capita prisoners:

This web site is pretty interesting. You can get all kinds of international statistics.

Space Tours

The third "space tourist" has launched . Gregory Olsen should get back to earth on Tuesday.

New Moon

The new tenth planet has a moon . That will help people figure out how big the planet is.

Harvard Funds

Harvard has an endowment fund, or funds, with lots of money -- $22.6 billion. They have investment people who invest the money. The top six investment managers at Harvard got paid a total of $78.4 million last year. That's a pretty decent salary for a university job. There's been a lot of controversy over their pay, and the top guy (Jack) has resigned. I'd probably take the job for half what he's been paid.

The investment managers managed a 21% return on investment last year. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, they've been investing in "more exotic and illiquid investments, such as timber and private ventures."

Being the skeptic I am, I would predict that the 21% return won't all be there when it's time to cash in. It's possible, but not likely, to do that well at investing year after year.

      business week article

      wall street journal article

State Secrets

Here's an op-ed piece about a girl named Sibel tangled in "State Secrets."

The recent secret police, secret courts, and state secrets in the U.S. bother me. Even libraries are prohibited from speaking out.

      washington post article

Microsoft Client Protection

Microsoft has gotten a lot of flak over the security flaws in Windows XP. Now they've solved it all with an elegant solution. Now you can pay Microsoft to protect your computer from trojans, viruses, hackers, and the like. I have to wonder... if they have that ability, why haven't they built it into Windows?

I welcome Microsoft's protection just about as much as I do the Department of Homeland Security. (Except for the Coast Guard. Those people still do good work.)

Cervical Cancer

Most cervical cancer is caused by one of two viruses. Within a year, an effective vaccine should be available.

Flying Free

Air Canada has a program where you can fly anywhere in North America for $3,500 a month. A guy named Marc took them up on their offer. He's flying a lot now. Every day. He's trying to rack up a million frequent flyer miles in a couple of months. That will give him about $70,000 worth of flights in the future for $7,000 now.

Air Canada found out about this. Some companies would fight him, sue him, change the rules, etc. Air Canada is a lot smarter. They are using the free publicity and encouraging him. They help him out whenever they can.



Apollo Diamond has had some success at making diamonds using chemical vapor deposition. They put some hydrogen and methane in 1/10 atmospheric pressure, then heat it until it's plasma. Then they let it precipitate onto diamond seed crystals. The diamonds grow.

They can make 2-carat diamonds now, and should be able to make 10-carat diamonds before long. Apollo's long-term goals are for industrial applications, but they won't ignore the gem market.

De Beers is not happy about it. They've been campaigning against the manufactured diamonds, trying to make sure their dealers won't go to the cheaper, almost indistinguishable manufactured crystals.

If diamond manufacturing becomes commonplace and diamond crystals are relatively, it will open up a lot of new areas in lasers, computers, and probably a lot of stuff I've never heard of.

      usa today article

Pictures of Today!

Trees, north of Frisco, Colorado.


Collioure, France, near the border of Spain. This was taken from The Minnow, the boat that Mike and I bought.


Canet en Roussillon


Colorado, south of Copper Mountain.


Mount Massive, Colorado, 14,421 feet high, a good reason not to "bust your altitude" when flying IFR. (10/4/05)


The south end of Peekaboo Gulch, Colorado, October 4, 2005.


Pyramid Peak, Colorado, near Aspen, October 4, 2005.


Maroon Bells, Colorado, October 4, 2005.

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These graves go back to the late 1800's:


A little house on the prairie:




The Birds! 

      P1000499.jpg       P1000503.jpg

These are brown-headed cowbirds, in McPherson, Kansas. I did not make up that name.


Wind caused these ripples on Mars. The picture was taken by the Mars Global Surveyor, September 15, 2005.


Peekaboo Gulch Photos, 9/3/2005.

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Along South Fork Lake Creek, Colorado:


A Moon and a Mountain:


A Moon and a Cow. Or two.


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