Junk Mail from Bob!

Saturday, October 16, 1999

Congratulations (or condolences) on getting the 10th Junk Mail! There are 9 others like it, as you might have deduced. You can see them all at junkmail. (I can't imagine why you'd want to, though.) If you would like to harass anyone you know and have this sent to them, you can sign them up at that web site also.

Someone actually replied to last week's junk mail, and I happened to read over it. I was surprised at all the misspellings and other errors. I don't intend to improve on this because that would mean I'd just have to proofread. So, if you run across some incorrect grammar and can't figure out what I meant to say, just assume that it was a joke and laugh. You could email me to compain, but I wouldn't pay much attention to it.

I'm sending this out in html format instead of text like the previous ones. Let me know if it looks bad.

Y2K UpdateThe President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion attributed today's earthquake in the Southwest U.S. to the country's lack of Y2K readiness. Separately, Attorney General Janet Reno promised, "We will find perpetrators of this earthquake and we will punish them to the fullest extent of the law. This is pure and simple terrorism, and this country will not tolerate it."Janet Reno did not take Geology in college.

There were minor injuries and traffic problems as a result of the earthquake. More severe traffic problems are expected Monday morning as lawyers line up at courthouses across the Southwest to file earthquake-related lawsuits against anyone with enough money to sue.

President Clinton and Vice-President Gore argued today about who gets the earthquake photo-op. In a shouting match that could be heard by the passers-by on Pennsylvania Avenue, Gore was heard saying, "I hear Karachi's nice this time of year. Why don't you take Hillary there and vacation for a couple of years."

The President eventually won the argument saying, "You granola-head! You can have the next hurricane, since Irene's a dud so far, but I've got to get some good press or Hillary's going to kick my rear. And good press for me is sure not going to happen anywhere near Washington or New York. I'm headed to Ludlow, if I can find those darned Marines. What state's Ludlow in, anyway? Is there really a desert down there?"

In other Y2K news, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who has the esteemed title of "Vice-chairman of the United States Senate's Special Committee On The Year 2000 Technology Problem," (really! I did notmake this up!) moved to ground all air carriers who did not fill out a Y2K survey from the FAA. What's wrong with that? Well, like most surveys, this one is voluntary. In fact, it says "voluntary" on the survey form.

When informed of this, instead of admitting that he's stupid, the "honorable" Mr. Dodd amended a law to ground any air carriers who did not fill out and return the voluntary survey by November 1. As of October 4, 1,368 companies had not filled out the mandatory voluntary survey. To teach them all a lesson, Mr. Dodd published their names in the Congressional Record. No major airlines were on the list, but here are some of the lucky winners: Lockheed Martin Services Inc., Douglas Aircraft Company, Petroleum Helicopters Inc., Raytheon Aircraft Services, the Confederate Air Force, and Northrop Grumman Aviation Inc. I intend to do more business with these companies! For a complete list, see FAA Bad Boys

The vast majority of these are really small companies with under 10 employees and 3 planes or less. I'm sure they really need a Y2K plan.

Four years ago an American Airlines plane flew through some severe turbulence that lasted about 30 seconds. I would like to quote AVWeb here: "Setting new lows for both unreasonable lawsuits and unconscionable jury awards, 13 American Airlines passengers who suffered approximately 30 seconds' worth of severe turbulence during a 1995 flight were awarded $2.22 million last week."

Why did they get that much? Because they were afraid they might die! "The jury agreed with their unique legal position that fear of death resulting from the incident was so damaging it deserved a large award usually given to those with physical injuries." Maybe the fact that the rich and famous were on this flight had something to do with it. Steven Spielberg's sister and nieces walked away with half a million for their 30-second bumpy ride.

That is really stupid, incidentally. Turbulence happens all the time. I just checked, and in the last 2 hours there was a pilot report of severe turbulence in Florida and a report of extreme turbulence in Colorado. (Extreme is even worse than the severe turbulence these people got paid for.) This is the rule rather than the exception. Severe turbulence happens to someone in the U.S. almost every day. Check it out -- go to pireps reports under ADDS Weather Page.

This has a map with all the reports of turbulence (and other things) in the country for the last couple of hours. Unfortunately, when the lawyers figure this out they'll be using it to file more bumpy ride lawsuits. Why? Because they can win!

Fourteen years ago today Intel introduced the 80386, the first 32-bit microprocessor CPU. It had a clock speed of 33 mhz, a bit slower than today's Pentium III.

Mike, Shannon Wallace, and I met Jerry Sandoval on Fisherman's Wharf Tuesday night. The name of the place is overrated -- we didn't get a single bite! On the way back, we had to stop for a bit in Colorado. Here are some pictures. I really like the one of the Maroon Bells. It's the official "Picture of Today".

The Summer before last, Mike and I decided to buy an airplane. We decided on a Piper Malibu. "Our" dealer in Kansas City said they were out and couldn't get any for several months. They were also really bad about lying, or at least about making unintentionally false statements, and were less than friendly. So I went to the only dealer I could find who had a new Malibu in stock. It was Texas Piper, in Austin. They were really nice and seemed very competent. I test drove one. Then I said I wanted to buy it. I had a check and was ready to write it for the new plane. But... they wouldn't sell it to me because I live in Oklahoma. I realize that U of T people don't like OU people, but I explained that I went to oSu. I offered to buy it through our office in Dallas. I offered to buy it through the Piper dealer in Kansas. But they just would not take my money. Pretty smart business, huh?

We had been waffling between a Socata TBM-700 and a Piper Malibu anyway. We had decided to take the "small" step up from our Bonanza to the Malibu. The TBM-700 is bigger, faster, and goes higher than the Malibu. It also has a turbine engine. The New Piper Corporation changed our mind back to the TBM-700. Socata appreciates it.

I went down to see Socata in Florida. I took a TBM-700 test drive. After I convinced them that I was really serious about buying one, I wrote them a check. (I think maybe my attire didn't match their normal airplane buyer's image. VERY surprising.) Nicolas Chabbert asked me what color and paint scheme I wanted. That's not too important to me, since l don't remember colors very well. I considered having it painted like a barber pole, but thought that might hurt the resale value. So I said, "Just like that one," referring to the demo plane I had just flown. He said that I'd probably want to think about the interior colors and layout, and I could call him back in a few days for that. I said, "Just like that one" again. (I'm a tough customer.)

They built our plane. About the same time they delivered our plane, they delivered the demo plane to Philippe Kahn, the guy who started Borland Software. Here are the two planes.

Someone who works at Boeing (at Renton Washington, so it wasn't Matt) was smashing some crates the other day so the wood could be recycled. Inside three of the crates were brand new 737 rudders. They got smashed. They cost about half a million dollars. Oops! Maybe the Spielbergs can help out with that since they have an extra half million.

Speaking of smashed Boeings, 3 weeks ago an Australian guy landed a little long in Bangkok. His 747 ran off the runway into a golf course. Nobody was hurt, but the plane received "substantial" damage:

Qantas 1

Qantas 2

The earthquake in California this morning was near Joshua Tree National Park. This earthquake was successfully predicted two days ago by the USGS who said there would be a big earthquake in California sometime in the next 30 years.

The USGS does have some interesting data on this. At 7:22 am (local time) there was a 3.0 earthquake 31 miles north of Joshua Tree near the surface. A 3.0 earthquake wave amplitude is .011 mm at 10 km from the epicenter. It is usually felt only by people near the epicenter. I'm not sure what the significance is of this one being near the surface.

At 7:41 pm there was another one in about the same place, also near the surface, about 8 times stronger (3.8 on the Richter scale). About 7 hours later at 2:46 there was a 7.0 earthquake, also in about the same place, except it was 6 km deep, followed by a 5.3 about 5 minutes later and 15 miles away. A 7.0 earthquake wave amplitude is about 4 inches 10 km from the epicenter.

Here's a copy of today's earthquakes in that area. There are a bunch of small ones and a couple of moderate ones after the big one: Earthqake 10-16-99.

The strongest earthquake in the U.S. this century was the "Good Friday earthquake" in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1964. A leftover Tsunami from this earthquake smashed the Exxon Valdez into Bligh Reef on March 23, 1989, spilling 11 million gallons of oil. Or maybe that was an alcohol wave...
The Good Friday earthquake registered 8.4 on the Richter scale, 14 times stronger than the one in California this morning. I think we should call it "8.4 Richters" instead of saying it "registered 8.4 on the Richter scale." After all, this computer is 400 megahertz. It doesn't "register 400,000,000 on the Hertz scale." The only stronger earthquake in this Century was in Chile in 1960. It was 8.6 Richters.

A couple of weeks ago the University of Southern California announced a machine that can recognize spoken words better than humans can. This is a first. Something else that is interesting in this is that the speech recognition system uses a neural network.

Neural networks have been researched for a lot of years, but as far as I know they haven't been good enough for much useful application. They work by having artificial neurons interconnected with other artificial neurons, kind of like the brain works. Instead of being programmed per se, the neural nets "learn" much like other artificial intelligent systems learn.

This neural network has only 11 "neurons" and 30 connections. How does this compare to my brain? Idunno, but a normal, unwarped brain has about 10 or 100 billion neurons. Each of these has 80,000 or so connections to other neurons. That's just a hair more complex than the USC neural network.

One thing about this neural network that is different from its predecessors is that the neurons consider timing between pulses instead of just the pulses themselves. This is not considered cheating because that's the way the neurons in the brain works. It gets by with fewer neurons because of this.

What did this system really do, and what does it mean? It recognized a few words spoken by independent speakers. They added background noise to mask the words. The computer could recognize the words beyond the level that people could, and far beyond the level that other speech recognition systems have been able to.

This was a pretty big step in the speech recognition business. When speech recognition has gone far enough I'll be able to talk to my computer instead of typing, just like Star Trek! There are several speech recognition systems available now for PCs, but they have some limitations. You have to "teach" the system your own pronunciations, they don't handle background noise very well, and you can't talk like I normally do and have it understood. The day is coming when people will be talking to their computers more than typing.

Other applications for this is listening for submarines underwater and eavesdropping. This project was funded by the Office of Naval Research, the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Centers for Research Resources, and the National Institute of Mental Health. Ever heard of the middle two? I wonder what types of projects they fund.

One other notable item on this publicly funded project: The University of Southern California has applied for a patent on this, so I cannot use the technology I have already paid for without paying them a royalty. That's nice.

This edition of junk mail is protected from assimilation under the Sherman Antitrust Act. Unauthorized copying and distribution outside the solar system would be really cool. If you would like to stop receiving this wonderful piece of factual fiction, please email $10,000 to me with "Maroon" in the subject line.