More Junkmail from Bob!

Wednesday, September 18, 2002
Important Stuff.

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The Pryor Open

The 2002 Pryor Open Tennis Tournament is on October 12 and 13, sponsored by the Rotary Club. Be there!

New Clear

I read in the paper where Dubbya said, "The safety of the world is at stake!" I was doubtful. Then I heard Dubbya on the radio. In the span of one minute, he said "nukular" 8 times. Maybe he's right after all. When the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in the world cannot even pronounce "nuclear," we may have a problem.

I decided I need to quit carrying on about this terrorism stuff, but I couldn't stand it. I have to do a little ranting and raving today. Feel free to skip to the next section if you're as tired of the ubiquitous terrorists as I am. The standard disclaimer applies:  Most people I know are reasonably intelligent and sensible, and therefore they rarely agree with me. That's OK.

A lady at Shoney's in Georgia thought she heard some terrorists discussing some diabolical deeds last Thursday, so she called the Georgia State Patrol. The police caught up with the terrorists, who turned out to be U.S. citizens, in Florida. They closed an interstate for 16 hours or so. The news people said explosives were detected, they blew up a backpack, opened a suspicious package with a water cannon, and the "suspected terrorists" were being "extremely uncooperative."

Later on, the new news stories changed, saying these three medical students were on their way to Miami, and were joking around in Shoney's and caused a misunderstanding.

Even later, the news stories said Eunice, the lady in Shoney's, either misunderstood them or made up everything.

I read the "revised" news Saturday morning, and it was such an about-face from Friday's "the terrorists are coming!" stories that I figured I'd put a couple of them side-by-side for comparison in today's Junkmail. The funniest part about it all is that the Friday versions of the stories were gone! I could read just about any news article I wanted from Friday except this one.

I'll admit I may be crazy, delusional, and even hypothermic, but I promise that I really heard on NPR and read on and about the three terrorists from Georgia that blew by the toll gate in Florida and were nabbed just in time to prevent a major bombing in Miami. This was Friday. By Saturday, the old stories were gone and replaced with some toned down "we goofed, but we did an outstanding job at it" stories.

I was beginning to wonder if I was dreaming, when I finally found someone else who thought it was all pretty ridiculous -- Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald. (I hadn't realized that anybody but Dave Barry worked there.)

Glenn pointed out some blatantly incorrect "facts" from TV news reports:

1. Several stations reported that a woman in Georgia told police three Middle Easterners were coming to Miami to blow something up. (That's not what she said.)

2. Several also said cops spotted the men after they roared past a tollbooth on I-75. (One car rolled by at a normal rate of speed; the other stopped and paid the tolls for both.)

3. The cops used explosives to detonate a suspicious knapsack found in one car. (They didn't.) Channel 7 reported that explosive ''triggers'' were found in one of the cars. (There were no ''triggers'' or anything else to do with explosives.)

4. Channel 7 also reported that cops were searching for a third car. (They weren't.)

He didn't let CNN off the hook either: "The worst parody of journalism Friday was actually on CNN, where the high-paid-low-rated anchor Paula Zahn speculated, without a jot or tittle of evidence, that the three men were coming to Florida to blow up the Turkey Point nuclear reactor. Now you know why CNN promotes her sex appeal rather than her news judgment."

Here's one of my favorite quotes, from the Washington Post: "'If this was a hoax, they will be charged,' Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter said angrily after an all-day search of the men's two cars turned up no sign of explosives." By gum, if Eunice says you're guilty, then you're guilty -- evidence or no!

I didn't realize I could go to jail for saying the wrong thing in Shoney's. Those bums must have revoked the First Amendment when I wasn't paying attention. But it's no big deal since I normally use drive-thrus.

Now, the hospital in Miami where the three "terrorists" are supposed to study says they're not welcome any more.

Ross University is where the three people were going to college, on the island of Dominica. That's a former British colony in the Caribbean that became independent in the late 1970's, not the Dominican Republic. Ross graduates a lot of international students in medicine. It's not the most prestigious med school in North America.

Saturday morning I also read about some terrorists near Boston being arrested. Some of these people did associate with some real terrorists. For example, they trained at terrorist camps in Afghanistan. But I would be willing to bet that most of them will be released.

These people have been under investigation for 6 or 9 or 12 months, depending on which news story you believe. When asked about the timing of the arrests, a high-level spokeshuman from the FBI said, "We absolutely did not time these arrests to take attention away from the Florida fiasco. We planned these arrests months ago to happen a few days after the September 11 celebrations when Dubbya is pushing hard for an attack on Iraq." After all, a war is like an election -- the value of a good publicity campaign can never be underestimated.

Speaking of elections, Janet Reno lost a primary in Florida. She said the voting machines cheated her. To their credit, the election people in Florida said that this time they'd follow the rules they had in place before the election, and refused to do a recount. I sure hope that in the next presidential election the Supreme Court will pick a President who can at least pronounce the word "nuclear."

Another terrorist attack was narrowly averted Thursday when a plane heading from Las Vegas to New York was escorted by military jets to Philadelphia instead. Why? A sick woman stood up to go the restroom when she wasn't supposed to.  Whew... another close call.

I am a little fuzzy on this reasoning. Do the powers that be send all the planes potentially infested with terrorists to Philadelphia because they figure Philly is not worth saving?

OK, I'm done with my war on hysteria. For now.

Orange Barrels in Every Microwave

The recording industry is trying to force Verizon to disclose personal information on some customers that the RIAA says are copying copyrighted music. Verizon said no, you need to go through the courts. The RIAA said yes, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act says you have to and we don't even need a judge or probable cause. Yahoo and some other big Internet companies are siding with Verizon.

U.S. Congress seems happy to prosecute college students for swapping music, which has been done ever since the invention of the tape recorder. The RIAA wants every piece of digital hardware or software in the world to include their copy-protection scheme, apparently to make sure I don't play an unauthorized copy of Orange Barrels on my Microwave.

Someone else besides me doesn't think much of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A $1,000,000 anonymous donation was made to Duke University to fund "advocacy and research aimed at curtailing the recent expansion of copyright law."

In the meantime, people in Taiwan are selling pirated U.S. software for almost nothing. You can find virtually any U.S. commercial software on these web sites, including DesignCAD. It costs 100 to 200 Taiwanese dollars -- 3 to 6 US dollars -- for a CD containing several titles. A full version of DesignCAD, for example, lists for $399 in the U.S.

I sent this list and a few other URLs to the FBI, but they just said, "Your message will be evaluated and given appropriate consideration."  I doubt if they have time to mess with a mere millions of dollars in software theft.

You'll need to load the Chinese Language Support on your computer in order to read these. And it would help if you know some Kanji characters.

There was new law being pushed for that was intended to combat this kind of thing:  the Anticounterfeiting Amendments of 2002. However, Senator Joseph Biden got some changes made to the law that would theoretically send an awful lot of college kids to prison for 5 years.

At least one of the main backers of the bill backed out.

There are already laws against software piracy and music piracy. I think Congress should take a long recess and let law the enforcement people enforce the laws. A 7-year congressional recess should be about right.

Ghost Planets

There have been quite a few planets recently discovered flying around stars other than the sun. It turns out that some of these planets may not be. It looks like some are just optical illusions.

A new telescope is coming... to the South Pole!  The 8-meter diameter telescope will be used to study dark energy, galaxy clusters, and some other things I don't understand very well.

Another new telescope is coming... Hubble's successor. In about 2010 the James Web Space Telescope will be launched, complete more modern sensors and a 20-foot primary mirror. Hubble's is 8-foot.

Norwegian Linux

A couple of months ago the government of Norway said it won't renew its contract with Microsoft, in order to make it easier for other software companies to compete for public agency business.,1367,53898,00.html

I use the Opera web browser, in addition to Internet Explorer. Opera is from Olso, Norway. That company was happy about their government's decision. Here's where you can download Opera:

It's pretty good and has some advantages over IE, but there are a few web pages it doesn't work on. But there is one web site that works with Opera and not IE 5.5, at least not on my machine. It's the Oklahoma's no-call site, a state government site.

Oklahoma is implementing a "no-call" list. You can get on the web and add your name to a "no-call" list. Telemarketers will be required to remove those people from their calling lists. You can add yourself at this web site:!OpenPage

It will be implemented around the first of the year. I think any telemarketers who call you after that can be fined if you're on the no-call list. Politicians are exempt, of course.

Pay Your Bills

I've heard of people reporting their car stolen, only to learn that it was repossessed because they hadn't been making their car payments. But a cruise ship?

Wireless Nets

Wireless networks are nice, but it's a good to use a password if it's your private network.

Hopefully, the rest of the world will follow the example of the Welsh Development Agency and give make free high-speed wireless internet available everywhere. I realize someone would have to pay for this, but maybe we could siphon some of the money that would otherwise be wasted on government pork-barrel projects.

Maybe I'll try it out in a week or two.

Some Starbucks are offering wireless internet access for $2.50 for 15 minutes. A guy named Michael thought it should be free. So he set up a wireless network on the bumper of his car so that anybody near his car can get free wireless internet service. Then he parked his car out front of a Starbucks that charged for internet access. A couple of people got through on his car. I guess it's more of a symbolic gesture.

Tracking Cars

Northern California is joining New York and Houston in using turnpike passes to electronically track cars on highways. They're mounting sensors on highway signs every few miles and collecting data on which car goes where. Some privacy advocates are getting pretty excited about it.

I think it's kind of ironic, considering the "don't trust anyone over 30" mentality of the Bay Area  just a "couple" of years ago.

Employment Opportunity

Need a job? Want a challenge? Worldcom's got an opening!

Popups, Cookies, Flash, and Spam

There are lots of popup ads around the internet, and they seem to be multiplying. Or possibly cloning.,1367,54903,00.html

I've mentioned this a few times in the past, but a lot of people ask me how to get rid of those pop-up ads that interfere with otherwise important web browsing.

There are several programs available that will disable popup internet ads. Two of the most popular are Popup Stopper and Popup Killer.

These automatically disable a new instead of Internet Explorer. I use Popup Stopper. The disadvantage is that if I want a new window or if a legitimate link wants to open a new browser window, I have to hold the shift key down to temporarily overwrite Popup Stopper.

The Opera browser has an option internally to disable popup menus. That works a little better.

Something else I do to make my web browsing experience "less rewarding," according to Microsoft, is to disable Flash animations. I have rarely seen Flash animations on any web site that were not advertisements, and those ads were getting on my nerves. Even though I disabled sound and animation in Internet Explorer, the stupid Flash ads kept coming on. So I went to the source of the problem. I erased the Flash program, which I had never asked for, from my Windows directory. I erased everything in the c:\windows\system\macromed\flash directory and that stopped those dumb ads.

On some sites, however, whenever a page comes up it asks if I want to install Macromedia Flash. Every time. So I have to answer "no". Yahoo used to have this problem, but they fixed it. If it's a site you care about, you can have them fix their ads so it doesn't keep asking you this question. This is a Macromedia tactic to make sure their Flash program gets loaded everywhere.

In the Opera browser, the options to disable sound and animations also works for Flash animations. There are a few web sites that don't work correctly under Opera, though, so it's not perfect.

I also use Cookie Pal to block internet advertisers from putting cookies on my computer. Yeah, I realize it makes no difference to the world as we know it, but it gives me some perverse sense of pleasure killing cookies from Doubleclick and their colleagues. I think it was free when I installed it, but it costs $15 now after a trial period.

Another thing is spam. There's a lot of it around, and it's growing. I've mentioned this a few times before, but I still get asked about it: I use Mailwasher to automatically bounce Junkmail. It works pretty good.

There are some lists of known spammers, and this automatically marks emails from them for bouncing. But like lists of known terrorists, a few of the spammers on the list aren't real spammers. Here's an article about a guy who was accidentally stuck on a spam list. I thought it was a funny article because, for some odd reason, I've been stuck on a spam list before.

Destroyed by a Destroyer

Last Junkmail I mentioned the midget sub they found sunk in Pearl Harbor. It was by the Destroyer Ward, not a Battleship. Oops.

Pictures of Today!

Mount Lincoln, Colorado, weekend before last.


The aspen trees were turning...


A garden spider on the back porch.

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