More Junkmail from Bob!

Thursday, September 05, 2002
Important Stuff.

How to Start a War

The FBI has broad new surveillance powers, and a lot of people are complaining about it. They say that some government employees are not competent enough to do good electronic eavesdropping. I never thought too much about it until the night before last, when I heard some strange noises on my Play Station. Then, out of nowhere, President Dubbya and his beer-drinking cousin Zeb appeared on my TV screen, wiping out Grand Theft Auto III. They were at the First Ranch in Texas, sitting out on the porch drinking beer and talking.

Dubbya:  Want another beer?

Cousin Zeb:  Sure!

Dubbya: You know, Zeb, what we need is a war.

Zeb:  But you said we're AT war, didn't you? I keep hearing that.

Dubbya:  Yeah, but people keep forgetting. I have to announce old stuff like it was new just to keep my war in the news. What I want now is a real war. Where one country shoots at another country. Afghanistan was close, but there's not much action there anymore except for a few bandits and poppy farmers. I wonder what people have against those flower farmers, anyway.

Zeb:  You want to start a real, live shooting war? Cool!

Dubbya:  The problem is, I need a country to attack. I need someplace where things are unfair. Someplace where they treat their own people bad. And would help a little if the place is a danger to the U.S.

Zeb:  Who cares about how they treat their own people? Isn't it good enough to protect the U.S.?

Dubbya:  Zeb, you don't know squat about politics. The purpose of a war is to get the ole approval ratings up, and the best wars for that are wars where you liberate oppressed people.

Zeb:  Like Vietnam?

Dubbya:  Yes. I mean No! There were jungles in Vietnam. Jungles are bad.

Zeb:  What about Columbia? They kidnap thousands of people every year there, including some Americans. Last year 3700 people were kidnapped in Columbia. A whole lot more than that were murdered for a variety of things. There are two or three rebel groups plus a bunch of drug cartels that do awful things to people, and the drugs they sell into the U.S. kill thousands of Americans. That's a whole lot more than those dumb hijackers did last year. You could attack Columbia, cut off the drugs, and cut the prison population as a result.

Dubbya:  Hmm... Invading Columbia might not be a bad idea. I never did like the Tigers, and that darn Gephardt is from Missouri. I'll get Cheney on it.

Zeb:  Wait a minute! You can't invade a U.S. town! I was talking about the Columbia in South America.

Dubbya:  Don't they have jungles in South America? No jungles, dadgummit! I need an oppressed people. One with cute kids for TV.

Zeb:  That's tough. Kids of oppressed people are usually dirty and hungry, and they cry a lot. Maybe more than my kids. Hey, I know! The Congo, or Rwanda, or Liberia. There are lots of good wars in Africa we could get into, and we'd save hundreds of thousands of lives.

Dubbya:  It's not about saving lives, you bonehead. It's about politics and approval ratings. And those places have jungles too, don't they? No jungle fighting, and that's final! What do you think about Cuba? They're evil commies.

Zeb:  Cuba? Fidel is a pretty mean guy, but he doesn't kill anywhere near as many people as the FARC do in Columbia.

Dubbya:  FARC? That's my favorite web site!

Zeb:  That's f-a-r-c, not f-a-r-k. Anyway, the Cubans are short on freedom, but their health and education is better than any other country in South America. I think we ought to turn the U.S. tourists loose on them. U.S. disposable income can turn a communist into a capitalist overnight.

Dubbya:  But Dad always hated Fidel. He's evil, you know.

Zeb:  Yeah, yeah. You say every football team outside Texas is evil, too. But Fidel is old. I don't think he'll be causing the U.S. problems, especially since Russia doesn't pay him any more.

Dubbya:  Hey! Speaking of Dad, what about Iraq? That was one easy war. I bet we could do that again.

Zeb:  Iraq would be a good country to have a war with, but I don't see them invading Kuwait or anybody else in the near future. We tromped them pretty soundly, remember? What can you use to justify a war?

Dubbya:  They're evil! Evil, I tell you!

Zeb:  They have football in Iraq?  OK, OK, Hussein is a tyrant, I'll agree. But you've got to have a reason to start a war.

Dubbya:  Well, here are some reasons. Besides the obvious increase in my approval ratings, Iraq has no jungles. The Iraqi army is easy to beat. Dad hates Iraq. It'll make the price of oil go up and help my stock portfolio...

Zeb:  No, No, I mean the public reasons.

Dubbya:  Oh. Idunno. Can't we use the same reasons Dad used? Except that Kuwait part, of course.

Zeb:  Um... I think Kuwait was THE reason your dad attacked Iraq.

Dubbya:  It seems like I remember some things like Hussein gassing a town, and wiping out some Kurds, and murdering his brother-in-law. He's oppressive! Won't that justify a war?

Zeb:  What's wrong with murdering your brother-in-law? But the other reasons just might fly. That was years ago, but if you make some up press releases and bury the date down in about the fourth paragraph, nobody will notice. Most people just read the headlines anyway. You know, just like you've been announcing the terrorist arrests.

Dubbya:  Yeah... If we hurry we can push this through Congress during the September 11 patriotic frenzy. We'll call anybody who doesn't agree with us an un-American traitor.

Zeb:  Yep. Want another beer?

... and then, all of a sudden, I was back in Grand Theft Auto III.


I've been getting a lot more spam (bulk email) lately. But then, I've been known to send out a bit of Junkmail myself. I consider my Junkmail to be quite honorable, however, because I'm not asking you for any money. OK, maybe not honorable, but legitimate. OK, OK, this is not even legitimate. But it's fun.

Anyway, it seems I'm not alone. There's about 4 times more spam floating around the internet today than there was a year ago.

There's a new kind of spam out: Panhandling. I haven't actually seen it since I bounce all my spam. People send out a jillion emails with a hard luck story, and a few people feel sorry for them and send some money. You don't have to have a very high response rate if you send out 2 million emails.,1284,54929,00.html

How to you stop getting spam? One of the suggestions at the bottom of this Junkmail is a pretty good method -- get a new email address. I keep a spare email address or two that I use whenever I have to give an email address to some organization I'm not sure of. One of them,, gets about 50 junk emails a day and nothing else. I've finally stopped checking it. I guess that mailbox must be full by now.

I also use Mailwasher. It lets you preview the email titles, and automatically flags the ones it things are spam. Then you can bounce them with a message saying that you don't exist.

There are several other similar programs you can download.

Several states have passed anti-spam laws, and the U.S. Congress has been making noises about a new federal law for several months. I suspect since Congress is largely computer illiterate they'll probably pass a law making it illegal to check email or something stupid like that. Kind of like Greece, where they passed a law against computer gambling and inadvertently made it illegal to play computer games at internet cafes. Oops.

Press Delete to Continue...

A lot of people have asked me lately about deleting files. If you delete a file, is it really gone from your computer?

There are two reasons you might care about this. First, if you are a criminal you may worry that the FBI or police or someone may seize your computer and find some incriminating evidence on it. I'm pretty sure this is why my mom asked about it. Second, if your hard drive is full, you may want to know how to really erase something from it and make room for more.

In the DOS days of computing, when you erased something it was really gone, at least as far as normal computer usage goes. Then some people figured out that when you erased it, the data was still on the hard drive, but file was just marked as deleted in the hard drive directory. The deleted files hung around until they happened to be overwritten by a new file. Then came the unerase command, that let you unerase any files not overwritten.

With Windows 95, and with one of the Apples, if I recall, the recycle bin or waste basket came into use. With Windows, when you erase a file, it goes into the recycle bin. If you accidentally erase a file, you copy it back from the recycle bin. You might occasionally empty the recycle bin to actually remove the files from the hard drive.

There's an option in the recycle bin that causes the files to be deleted immediately when you say so instead of just being moved to the recycle bin. That's what I use. So when I accidentally erase a file, I know it. To set yours up that way, right click on the recycle bin, select properties, and select that option.

There's something similar in most email programs. If you want to delete an email you get, you can delete it. But it probably just gets moved to a "deleted" folder. It either stays there until you manually erase it. I realize "manually erase" is not really a precise term when you're talking about altering magnetic charge of a microscopic spot on a piece of metal spinning around at 120 times per second or so, but you know what I mean.

Essentially, if you get an email erased from your deleted folder in your email program or your recycle bin in your Windows desktop, you've freed the space on your hard drive.

Back to the criminals. If you are a terrorist, politician, high level executive, or any other type of career criminal, you may be interested in how to REALLY erase something from your hard drive. Remember the DOS days when a file was just marked as deleted, but the data was really there? That's the way Windows works too. So when the Police, SEC, or PETA come to search your computer, they can find these erased files. Sometimes they can only recover pieces of the files, but this may be enough to find hard evidence that you cheated at Everquest or possibly even clicked on one of those strange spam links.

The really serious law enforcement people such as the FBI, CIA, and RIAA have the resources to go one step farther. Even if a file has been overwritten, they can still decipher it if they spend the time on it. Remember, it's all zeros and ones. But a magnetic charge is not discrete. A magnetic one on the hard drive can be .999 or 1.0012. If a 1 is overwritten with a zero, a shadow of the zero may be left behind. For example, a .998 might mean that it's a one now, but it was a zero before it was overwritten. This is an oversimplification, but in essence, with a lot of trouble it's sometimes possible not only to uncover an erased file, but to uncover an erased and overwritten file.

If you're crooked enough or paranoid enough that you need an unrecoverable erase command on your computer, you can download several programs to do that. Here's one:

It overwrites a file you erase several times with certain patterns, making it impossible to recover. It's bulletproof. That is, if you trust the person who wrote the program...

I don't use one of these. Even if the FBI is allowed to eavesdrop on me, copy my data, or read my email, they most likely wouldn't have time. And if they did, they'd just get bored. There is just too much data in the world today to examine everybody's personal life.

Yahoo Email Viruses

In addition to spam email, I still get a lot of email viruses. Most of these come in response to Junkmail. Outlook 98 is pretty good at excluding these viruses. I got a new laptop with Windows XP on it, which I don't like, and my Outlook 98 won't load on it. So I was using Outlook Express. When I got some email viruses, I was pretty surprised. Outlook Express won't exclude "dangerous" email attachments. I guess that gives you an incentive to buy Microsoft Office or Netscape or Eudora. Norton Antivirus did a good job of catching viruses in Outlook Express.

Yahoo got smart with their email. They automatically disable email viruses that pass through their server. However, in the process they were inadvertently mangling some legitimate email messages. For example, it was converting "medieval" to "medireview", and "evaluate" to "reviewuate." I think they've got it fixed now, after some embarrassing publicity.

Hanging Bits

In West Palm Beach, Florida, they spent about $14,000,000 on some voting machines that were guaranteed to be simple enough even for Floridites to use. They had some test elections to check out the machines. However, they couldn't take apart the machines to make sure they counted the votes correctly. It would void the warranty. The manufacturer said, "They're self-auditing. Trust me." I think they got that term from Enron.

Globally Speaking

Glaciers are melting, according to some people. Greenpeace sent out a bunch of pictures showing a glacier today, and the same glacier in 1918. It's in Svalbard, a Norwegian island about 700 miles from the North Pole.

The problem is, the glacier in the picture melted in the 1920's, long before global warming was supposed to be around.;?xml=/news/2002/08/17/wglac17.xml

Several glaciers in Alaska have receded in recent years. But some are advancing, such as the Bering Glacier, the largest glacier in North America.

In Antarctica, sea ice has increased over the past 20 years.

The point? I'm not sure how bad global warming is, but neither are the experts. I suspect people are causing some warming of the earth. I also suspect that when an ice age comes or goes, it's a lot bigger change than anything we'll see in our lifetimes.

Midget Sub

A Japanese midget sub was found in Pearl Harbor a couple of weeks ago. It was sunk by a battleship on December 7, 1941, a couple of hours before Pearl Harbor was attacked.

The Hunt

Some commanders in the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command say that Bin Laden is dead, and we are wasting the highly trained Special Forces by putting them to work hunting for someone in Afghanistan who's likely dead.

But if we keep hunting for Bin Laden, we can all stay scared. That makes us more likely to accept the "heightened security measures" without question.

Not only are the Texas Teamsters supporting a Republican for governor for the first time in recent history, they used non-union labor to build their new union hall. Why? Because union labor cost too much. Interesting.

Pictures of Today!

The Pelican Nebula, IC 5070:

From Colorado, last weekend.
A Friendly Fox
Down the Mountain, near Breckenridge
Up the Mountain, near Mount Lincoln
Mount Bross

More pictures from Colorado (optional -- you will not be graded over this):

(@) 2002, no rights deserved. You can copy this fine piece of junk till your heart's content.

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I'm Bob Webster I reside at Have a good day!