Bob's Junkmail

Purveyor of fine tripe since 1999

Important Stuff.

Sunday, March 5, 2017



Notice

Nobody I've ever met has agreed with all my political views, although everybody should. I've included a few political topics in today's junkmail. Feel free to skip these sections. This material will not be covered on the exam. If you'd like to make your own political rants, try medium.com


Space Launch Schedule

SpaceXDragon.jpg
SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon, February 19


This is pretty interesting. You can watch many of these launches in real time.

      https://spaceflightnow.com/launch-schedule/


Coast to Coast

Josh, Rachel, and I ran the Coast to Coast race in New Zealand last month. It was fun!

route.jpg

We ran the 2-day version, a total of 140k cycling, 37k running, and 67k kayaking from the west coast of New Zealand to the east coast.

      http://www.coasttocoast.co.nz/

Free Software!

NASA has release its 2017-2018 software catalog. The best part about it is that the software is free!

      https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/02/nasa-released-a-ton-o...

      https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-releases-softwa...

17-023_aeronautics_2_-_glenn_1.jpg


AOL Still Exists?

Vice President Pence chastised Hillary Clinton for using her personal email server to send and receive official email while she was Secretary of State, and rightly so. That was really stupid. What could be worse?

Vice President Pence used his personal AOL account to conduct government business while he was governor of Indiana, that is, until his AOL account was hacked last June. Oops.

      https://arstechnica.com/security/2017/03/mike-pence-use...

      http://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2017/03/02/...


Presidentiality

I believe President Trump was off his meds this morning.

First, he made a few tweets about a Breitbart conspiracy theory, unsupported by any evidence:
"How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"

Elections are "very sacred"? Isn't this the person who said they were rigged? How can someone misspell "tap", anyway?

Then he regressed to Hollywood gossip:
"Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show."

It looks like there will be some cleanup work to do on the Sunday TV talk shows.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cleanup-duties-...


Balancing Act at U.S. Customs and Immigration

President Trump issued a fairly vague and unconstitutional immigration order, blocking anybody from seven countries access to the U.S. It caused more than a few problems, although though it is now operating like a finely-tuned machine.

While it's a generally uncontested fact that the notoriously uncivilized residents of Australia should not be allowed into the northern hemisphere, one particularly nice lady named Mem from Adelaide was recently invited to speak at a conference in Milwaukee.

Mem is a world renown author of children's books, particularly dangerous in this day and time. Her 1983 book Possum Magic is the best selling Australian children's book of all time, no doubt full of subversive material meant to corrupt our children. I think I'll buy one.

When she arrived on her 117th visit to the United States, she was detained for an hour and forty minutes, questioned for 15 minutes, and treated very badly.

      https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/28/i...

After lodging complaints at the Australian embassy in Washington and the U.S. embassy in Canberra, Mem received a formal apology from the United States.

Mem Fox is 70 years old. So is President Trump.

A software engineer named Celestine was visiting the U.S. on a short-term work visa. Celestine was helping NYC-based startup First Access create a JavaScript application for emerging markets. Celestine is from Lagos, Nigeria, but apparently has no connection to any of the multitude of princes who need your assistance in moving millions of dollars out of the country.

When Celestine reached the United States in New York's JFK airport, Customs and Immigration grabbed him and ordered him to write a function to determine whether a binary tree is balanced. That is really funny. First, a binary tree is rarely used in practice. It's mainly and educational tool. Second, most of the software engineers I know would not be able to do this after a 24-hour flight. Maybe they learned it once, and it's not overly complicated, but you'd have to think about it for a bit if you haven't seen it for years.

There is no word yet on whether Celestine was allowed to use recursion.

      http://www.recode.net/2017/2/28/14764064/nigerian-softw...

Celestine was also required to answer, "What is an abstract class, and why do you need it?" Many languages don't even have abstract classes, and I would guess that most developers never write one, although they may use them unknowingly.

While Celestine was not entering the U.S. for the purpose of immigration (he had a short term work visa), it might make more sense to require all immigrants to solve two or three Project Euler problems before they're allowed entry, as opposed to working with binary trees.

      https://projecteuler.net/archives

One might suggest this as a requirement for citizens to remain in the U.S., but that would virtually empty the Capitol and the White House, where cognitive thinking seems to be limited to maintenance personnel.

In other customs news, a New York business owner, Juan Garcia Mosqueda, educated in the U.S. and living here legally, was denied entry to the U.S. after visiting Argentina. Juan obviously needs to study up on binary trees.

Dear Friends,

This past Friday, February 24, 2017, I was denied entry into the United States - the nation where I have been legally residing for the past ten years. The procedure was dehumanizing and degrading every step of the way.

After being escorted to the secondary inspection premises, I was brought down for interrogation where I was questioned under oath and threatened with the possibility of being barred from entering the country for five years.

The border patrol officer denied me the right to legal counseling, arrogantly claiming that lawyers had no jurisdiction at the borders. Shortly after my sworn statement was delivered to the chief officer in charge, they informed me that I was not permitted to come into the country and, therefore, would be forced onto the return flight to Buenos Aires later that evening.

During the following fourteen excruciatingly painful hours, I was prohibited from the use of any means of communication and had no access to any of my belongings, which were ferociously examined without any warrant whatsoever. I was deprived of food. I was frisked three times in order to go to the bathroom, where I had no privacy and was under the constant surveillance of an officer.

Finally, I was escorted by two armed officers directly onto the plane and denied my documents until I reached my destination, Buenos Aires.

This thirty-six hour nightmare is nothing but clear evidence of a deeply flawed immigration system in the United States, carried out by an administration that is more interested in expelling people than admitting them.

I was educated in America, worked at prestigious design entities, and, now, as you all know, own a gallery which employs Americans and non-Americans alike. Chamber supports architecture and design studios in the United States and abroad.

I own several properties in New York and have collaborated in numerous projects with architects, contractors, and construction workers to bring to life projects around the city. We have created a network within the creative industries that span all disciplines and media that help individuals sustain their practices and do what they love.

We proudly carry the New York flag to every fair that we do and every project we initiate across the globe. We self-publish books printed in the United States. And, needless to say, we pay considerable federal and state taxes that help fund many of the societal aspects that fuel the American engine.

Although I am not an American citizen, Chamber is an American product that I hope adds to the cultural landscape of the country. The gallery was conceived in alignment with the same idea of inclusion that was found in the streets of the Lower East Side (where I live and was denied access to) not so long ago: a melting pot of all nationalities and religions, importing ideas from abroad to a culturally embracing metropolis.

We have worked with over 200 artists and designers, from Tokyo to Los Angeles, from Amsterdam to Santiago, in our less than three years of existence and rely heavily on social mobility to get our message across and display the works that we want to show.

To my American friends, I urge you to contact your congressmen and push for immigration reform. Push for a system that does not alienate, intimidate, and bully foreigners but that, on the contrary, welcomes and encourages citizens from all countries to want to keep investing in and contributing to your wonderful country.

This coming Thursday, I will not be able to celebrate the opening of our newest show, Domestic Appeal, which my team and I worked hard to conceive, and will not be able to meet some of the incredible participants that are traveling to the United States to take pride in displaying their creations in one of the most culturally relevant cities on the planet.

Please come see it, have a glass of wine, and enjoy it on my behalf!

Hope to see you all very soon,

Juan Garcia Mosqueda
Buenos Aires, Argentina

A few days ago, French historian Henry Rousso was scheduled to speak at Texas A&M in College Station, Texas. He flew into Houston, was detained and questioned for 10 hours, and was in the process of being sent back to France when Texas A&M officials managed to get Customs and Immigration to let Henry into the land of the free.

Henry was born in Egypt, but his family was exiled in 1956 for being Jewish. It's odd that he would be stopped at the border, because President Trump himself said, "I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life," and "There's nobody more pro-Israel than I am."

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/...

A 7-year-old girl named Daniella was brought to the U.S. from Argentina by her parents in 2001. They came on a 3-month visa, but stayed. Daniella is 22 now. She spoke at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi after her father and brother were arrested by immigration agents. Customs and Immigration officials arrested Daniella on the way home after speaking at the conference.

Daniella is now enjoying the hospitality of the LaSalle Detention Facility, a private prison in Louisiana operated by the Geo Group.

      https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/03/daniela...

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017...

White House officials said of the detention and impending deportation, "Just look at her. Short hair. Clearly a bad dude."  OK, OK, I made that up. Here's what President Trump really said:

"We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before, and they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation, because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence, and you’ve read about like never before all of the things, much of that is people that are here illegally, and they’re rough and they’re tough, but they’re not tough like our people. So we’re getting them out."

In Texas, the war on immigration experienced a minor setback when two hunters shot each other instead of illegal aliens.

      http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/hunters-charged-in-...


The War on Education

Oklahoma! Where state income tax cuts have resulted in almost one fifth of the state's school districts going to 4 days of school per week.

Oklahoma! Where teacher salaries rank consistently in the bottom 3 states of the nation and have not been raised since 2008.

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/...

Oklahoma! Where science education is politicized and scientific facts become opinions.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2016/01/this-years-firs...

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/02/states-competin...

Join the war on public education! Move to Oklahoma!

http://okpolicy.org/oklahoma-continues-lead-u-s-deepest...

NEA Rankings and Estimates - 2015


Full Circle

Gary Hall was an Olympic swimmer for the U.S. in the 1970's. Now he owns and operates some swimming camps. Here's a pretty interesting article from his newsletter:

      http://theraceclub.com/aqua-notes/full-circle-life/

I decided to look up his medical career, out of curiosity. He became and ophthalmologist (that word is hard to spell!) in Phoenix, but apparently bungled surgeries on several patients and was forced to give it up.

      http://archive.azcentral.com/news/articles/2009/03/01/2...


Dorsa and Borna

Dorsa Derakhshani, at 19 years of age, is the number two female Iranian chess player. Her fifteen-year-old brother Borna isn't bad either, ranked number 8 Iran.

dorsa_small.jpg

The brother and sister played in a big chess tournament in Gibraltar earlier this year. They didn't win, but they did get in trouble. Borna was banned from the Iranian Chess team because he played an Israeli guy named Alexander in the tournament. Iranian players are required to forfeit rather than play an Israeli, even at the age of 15. Alexander beat Borna.

Dorsa was also banned from the Iranian team because she played without her hijab, a head scarf required for women in Iran. Dorsa lives in Spain. She doesn't normally wear a hijab when out of the country and not representing Iran. Iran apparently decided to punish her after her brother played the Alexander.

Dorsa explained about wearing a hijab, "Well, whenever I’m in the country I respect the rules fully and wear it. Also whenever federation was sending me to tournaments which I was representing Iran and I was using government money, I respected them and wore head scarf. World Junior 2015 (which I became sixth) and World Youth Chess Championship 2015 were the last tournaments I did. Logically, when I’m not living in Iran and I travel with my money, my wardrobe should not be anyone’s business!"

      https://www.chess.com/news/view/ousted-iranian-player-m...

Hikaru Nakamura from the U.S. won the chess festival for the third time, earning £23,000. Ju Wenjun won the women's prize and took home £15,000.


Fake News

A few days ago, President Trump made the eloquent observation, "You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible."

This was odd, because the former Prime Minister replied in a tweet, "Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound." The next day, the Swedish Foreign Ministry requested an explanation from the U.S. State Department.

It's also odd because the President used mixed tense in his first sentence, something you wouldn't expect from a person who says, "It’s in my blood. I’m smart. Great marks. Like really smart."

Fox News followed up, using a fake Swedish national security advisor to make fake claims about terrorists in Sweden.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/27/world/europe/fox-new...


Divisions

The approval rating of a new President isn't normally very interesting. President Trump is setting record lows, but that's not surprising because he says so much stupid stuff. What is interesting about Presidential approval ratings is the increasing divide between the parties.

There has been a fairly steady and significant increase in the difference of Presidential approval ratings between the political parties ever since Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson. Near the end of his first 100 days, Lyndon Johnson had an 84 percent Democrat approval rating, and a 63 percent Republican approval rating, a difference on 21 percent. That split has steadily increased to 78 percent with President Trump.

approval.png

I would guess this polarization is largely due to the way people get their news. A growing number of people get most or all their news from strongly biased news sources that have limited accuracy and accountability.

      https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/02/28/us/polit...


Out of Office

We've all seen the email message explaining that someone is "Out of the office" or "Away from my mail". In fact, I've seen thousands of these since the dawn of Junkmail in 1999. Last month, IBM was awarded a patent on this trivial, ubiquitous service. Someone at the USPTO must be brain-dead to have awarded this patent.

      https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/03/effs-stupid...

      https://www.google.com/patents/US9547842

IBM, to their credit and after the publicity broke, has said they will "dedicate the patent to the public."


Supernova 1987a

30 years ago, on the night of February 23, 1987, an astronomer in Australia named Ian noticed a star in the sky. The odd thing was that the star had not been there the night before. It turned out to be a Supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of Milky Way's satellite galaxies.

sn1987a_rings_feb2017.jpg

170,000 years earlier, a star about 20 times more massive than the Sun burned out and collapsed, causing a large explosion. By large, I mean that within a few seconds it released 10 billion times the energy that the sun gives off in an entire year.

Supernova 1987a was not as impressive as the one Johannes Kepler ran across in 1604, but it was the first in the modern era of space telescopes and digital detectors.

      http://www.blastr.com/2017-2-27/30-years-after-star-ble...


Trust me

Nobody reads the Bible more than me.
I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth.
Nobody can do it like me.
Nobody's stronger than me.
Nobody loves the Bible more than I do.
There's nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.
Nobody builds walls better than me.
Nobody's better to people with disabilities than me.
Nobody's fighting for the veterans like I'm fighting for the veterans.
There's nobody that's done so much for equality as I have.
There's nobody more pro-Israel than I am.
There's nobody more conservative than I am
There's nobody that respects women more than I do.
Nobody would be tougher on ISIS than Donald Trump.
Nobody's ever had crowds like Trump has had.
Nobody understands the horror of nuclear better than me.
Nobody even understands it but me, it's called devaluation.
The sale of the uranium that nobody knows what it means, I know what it means.
Nobody knows more about trade than me.
Nobody has better toys than I do.
Nobody knows the game better than I do.
Nobody's, in the history of this country, has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump.
I know the H1B. I know the H2B. Nobody knows it better than me.
Nobody knows politicians better than I do.
Nobody knows more about taxes than I do.
Nobody knows more about debt than I do.
Nobody knows the system better than me.
I understand social media. I understand the power of Twitter. I understand the power of Facebook maybe better than almost anybody, based on my results, right?
Nobody knows more about debt. I'm like the king. I love debt
I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world. Nobody knows more about taxes.
Nobody knows more about taxes than I do -- and income than I do.
Nobody knows banking better than I do.
I understand money better than anybody.
Nobody knows jobs like I do! Don’t let them sell you out!
I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me.
I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of the computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on.
I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism, the least racist person.
There is nobody that feels stronger about the intelligence community and the CIA than Donald Trump. There’s nobody."
You know what uranium is, right? It’s this thing called nuclear weapons. And other things. Like lots of things are done with uranium. Including some bad things.
About the CIA, "I love you, I respect you, there's nobody I respect more."
Nobody will dare question our military might again.
And I love the First Amendment; nobody loves it better than me. Nobody.
I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.
It’s in my blood. I’m smart. Great marks. Like really smart
In terms of achievement, I think I’d give myself an A. Because I think I’ve done great things.
About tax returns: “I don’t mind releasing. I’m under a routine audit. And it’ll be released. And as soon as the audit’s finished, it will be released.”
This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.


Bury the Data

Unsurprisingly, President Trump has cut funding for science research in NOAA, NASA, the DOE, and the Department of Agriculture. OK, I'll admit I was surprised to see USDA research attacked. Maybe food independence is not as important as it once was.

      http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/1/14767090/government-sc...

Even the NOAA, which provides the most accurate and effective weather data and forecasting in the world, is on the chopping block.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/...

In order to make America great again, we'll give our competitive advantage in weather, earth science, and aeronautics to China, Europe, and eventually India and Brazil.

The Trump administration's plans to sharply reduce climate and environmental research has not surprised many people. But their efforts to go farther and delete existing research data has surprised and moderately outraged some prominent researchers. Why delete valuable data when the work has already been done? How can they do this? After all, it's public information.

It's easy. The Trump administration cuts off funding for data storage and backups in scientific areas where the facts do not conform to the party line.

Before the money runs out, there is a large effort afoot to copy the research data to servers out of reach of the Trump administration, many times into Canada and other countries. Of course there is a brain drain that follows the data, but that's OK. We don't need intellectual elitists in this country.

      https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603402/climate-data-...

Another effort to preserve data was undertaken last fall -- the intelligence gathered on Russian efforts to influence the U.S. Presidential elections.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/01/us/politics/obama-tr...

In an unrelated data release, 16 years worth of space weather data from GPS satellites was released to the public at the end of January. The public release of the GPS data was processed under the terms of a White House Executive Order signed in October 2016, and involved years of collaborative work between the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Security Council. I think it's pretty cool.

      https://thestack.com/big-data/2017/01/31/16-years-of-gp...


Uber Driving

Uber has a pretty good business plan. I like the idea of getting a ride from a non-cab company. I haven't had an Uber ride yet, but I can count the taxi trips I remember taking over the past few years on two fingers. I usually drive myself, or at least transport myself one way or another.

While I like the Uber service, the company has been consistently acquiring a reputation for sleaze. They put phantom Uber cars in their phone apps. They've caught some flack for widespread sexual harassment and discrimination. The Boss of Uber, a guy named Travis, joined President Trump's Economic Advisory Council in December, but resigned in February under pressure from Uber employees after Trump's issued his controversial immigration orders. More than 200,000 Uber customers deleted their accounts over Travis's ties to Donald Trump, reinforcing the tenet that businesses are better off staying politically neutral.

I have been an Uber driver now for more than a year. While I have never driven an Uber customer, I am an official Uber driver. I signed up to see how it all worked. I thought I'd give an Uber ride once just for the experience, but Uber doesn't service the thriving metropolis of Pryor, OK. I'm usually busy, distracted, or have a carload of stuff when I'm in my driving area of Tulsa. I am disappointed to report that I have not been sexually harassed a single time.

Uber refused to get a permit to test its self-driving cars in California. But they went ahead and began testing. They had to stop after a week and are moving to Arizona. It's not a big deal in itself, but it makes me wonder why they didn't just get a permit for California. It looks like they couldn't meet the requirements for some reason.

It's possible that the permit application required financial information that Uber was reluctant to disclose. Uber lost around $3 billion dollars last year, losing about 60 cents per dollar they received in ride fares. On the other hand, it could have been just a temper tantrum. Uber announced an about-face this week, saying they will apply for a permit to test the self-driving cars.

Uber did catch some flack during their week of San Francisco tests. One of their cars running a red light was recorded by a taxi. Uber responded saying the car was under human control and was not part of the self driving test. There's a bit of controversy over that. An Uber employee told the New York Times that the car was under autonomous control when it ran the red light, and provided documentation showing six cases of Uber self driving cars running red lights during the one-week test period in San Francisco. The fact that the cars red-light sensing was off is not that big a deal. The fact that the company seems to be lying about it is.

In other Uber news, the company used fake apps to avoid giving rides to regulators in cities where Uber service was questionably legal. For some reason, this was considered dishonest, unethical, and not nice by the regulators and maybe even a few humans.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/technology/uber-grey...

In addition, Google (actually Alphabet subsidiary Waymo) has sued Uber and their subsidiary Otto for stealing designs for lidar sensors for self-driving cars. It seems that a guy named Tony copied 14,000 or so design files and testing documentation (9.7 gigabytes worth) from Google's company Waymo six weeks before he left to become the head of Uber's company Otto.

This was not a simple process. He installed specialized software onto his company laptop for the purpose. He copied the files to an external drive, and then wiped and reformatted his company laptop. Here's the story from Google/Alphabet/Waymo's point of view:

      https://medium.com/waymo/a-note-on-our-lawsuit-against-...


Typographical Errors

Zerocoin is an anonymous cryptocurrency built on top of bitcoin. There was a typo in the source code that left one extra character where it shouldn't be. This allowed someone to steal about $500,000 in zerocoins.

      https://fossbytes.com/zerocoins-source-code-typo-hacker...

Last week, Amazon Web Services had a major outage, affecting millions of web sites, apps, and other cloud services. It lasted a few hours. What does it take to create this sort of havoc? A typographical error in the right place will do it, this one in Powershell.

      https://aws.amazon.com/message/41926/

While this may not have been a strictly typographical error, it's funny enough to include here. In November, the U.K.'s National Health Service accidentally sent a test email to all 850,000 account holders, instead of a small area for which it was intended. A lot of those people replied with reply-all, generating almost 500 million emails in 75 minutes. Somehow, this slowed down the system.

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/01/31/nhs_reply_all_...


Freedom of Some Press

President Trump barred the New York Times, CNN, and the Los Angeles times from the scheduled White House press briefing a couple of weeks ago. This has never been done under any administration in the considerable history of the New York Times.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/us/politics/white-ho...

President Trump is also in the process of killing off completely the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (and in the process, PBS) and the National Endowment for the Arts.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/donald-...

It looks like we'll be getting our all news from Breitbart before long.

Instead, maybe we should make a single, national news agency. We could insure they publish only factual news, and we wouldn't have to worry about all the fuss about "enemy of the people", "fake news", or immoral news stories. We could call it Tass, a venerable name in public information.


Pictures of Today!

Here are some photos from New Zealand last month. You can see pictures here.

P1320478.jpg
The uplift from last year's earthquake near Kaikoura lifted these rocks out of the ocean.

P1320457.jpg
Earthquake damage

P1320470a.jpg
Kiwi?

P1320493.jpg
Or else.

P1320514.jpg
Scoping out a river crossing in the Coast to Coast run.

P1320541.jpg
Outstanding playground equipment!

P1320562.jpg
Mass transport

P1320566.jpg
New Zealand is very careful about invasive species.

P1320607.jpg
One good tern deserves another.

P1320608.jpg P1320610.jpg

P1320653a.jpg
A happy penguin

P1320724.jpg


The End.