More Junkmail from Bob!
Monday, October 28, 2002
Mars Global Surveyor
The Mars Global Surveyor is still flying around Mars. It has taken over 100,000 pictures of Mars and transmitted them to Earth. Here are a couple of really good images of some gullies on the edge of two craters. It looks like this was caused by liquid water, or possibly Diet Pepsi, a long time ago.
extra hi-resolution (3 to 7 megabytes):
Here is some information and some more images from Mars:
I've remarked in a few Junkmails about how some Nigerians have had mail, then fax, and now email scams that offer me (and lots of others) the promise of a few million illicit dollars. All I have to do is send them some banking information and they'll wire transfer $10 million to $40 million into my account. I get to keep 10 or 25 percent of it for my trouble.
The first rule of scams is: If it was this easy to make a lot of money, there would be so many people doing it already that the easy money would be gone. Corollary: Why was I selected for this? If you're having trouble following me on this, then you might want to check out Women Helping Women. It sounds like a good cause...
The amazing part about the Nigerian scams is that they're still around, and they're everywhere. What's amazing about that? If the Nigerian crooks weren't finding lots of innocent suckers willing to give up lots of cash, the scams would disappear. It's a little like drug dealers. If there's a lot of money to be made at doing something, then some people will do it even if it's liable to kill them.
It looks like there are finally enough people in the U.S. getting suckered by the Nigerian scams to interest some politicians. So far Dubbya has not called them Evil, but I think he's getting close.
Speaking of Dubbya, I'd like to digress for a bit. Someone emailed me and chastised me for talking down the President. I voted for the guy so that gives me the right AND the responsibility to criticize him at every opportunity. Someone even had the audacity to call me a liberal, and someone else called me a Yankee! I can't remember what caused that uproar of three irate emails, but I thought it was pretty funny. Oops, I digressed again. Back to Dubbya.
Here's an interesting Dubbya quote: "I'm worried about it. A lot of people are worried about it. We've got a lot of moms worried about it, fathers worried about it. We've got to do something about it, and we are."
That quote has little substance, but it's better than a lot of Bush's quotes. A writer named Dana at the Washington Post has been keeping track of some of Dubbya's "facts." He seems to stretch the truth in order to sway public opinion. I guess he thinks that nobody will notice his "mistakes."
1. "President Bush, speaking to the nation this month about the need to challenge Saddam Hussein, warned that Iraq has a growing fleet of unmanned aircraft that could be used 'for missions targeting the United States.'" The truth is that any of Iraq's unmanned aircraft couldn't come close to the U.S.
2. "Last month, asked if there were new and conclusive evidence of Hussein's nuclear weapons capabilities, Bush cited a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency saying the Iraqis were 'six months away from developing a weapon.'" The International Atomic Energy Agency never said anything like that. Furthermore, nobody has any evidence that Iraq is anywhere near being able to build a nuclear bomb.
3. "Last week, the President said objections by a labor union to having customs officials wear radiation detectors has the potential to delay the policy 'for a long period of time.'" The union let it slide and the some customs people are already wearing radiation detectors.
All these were important parts of Bush's communications. They can hardly be considered slips of the tongue. But they're all wrong. Here are the details:
The scary part is that not many people seem to care when Dubbya doesn't tell the truth. I'm not sure whether this is because most people figure he's lying whenever his mouth is moving, or people just don't think he's saying anything worth listening to. Surely nobody believes all that, do they? Why does the press (or at least most of the press) let him slide on so many fallacies? Maybe the press is busy hyping terrorism?
In the New York Times, October 14, William Safire said that the Beltway sniper "may be a terrorist affiliated with Al Qaeda or otherwise inspired by Osama bin Laden." He didn't give any facts supporting this conclusion.
Not to be outdone, in the New York Post, Oct 17, Steve Dunleavy explained in his column why the sniper must be a terrorist, and promised that "when the shooter is caught, if he is not a foreigner, I will bare my derriere in Macy's window." I won't be going to Macy's soon.
CNN got into the act on the 17th when Aaron Brown used iron-clad logic, "There's no reason to believe it's Al Qaeda, but no reason not to."
OK, here's one more by Bush. This one is not technically a lie, but it's so ridiculous I couldn't leave it out. Bush was quoted by the Washington Post on September 26, in one of his attempts to link Saddam Hussein with Al Qaeda. "They're both risks. They're both dangerous. The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror. They're both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive." I wonder who's next after Iraq.
Back when I voted for him, I thought Dubbya would be a little more fiscally responsible than Albert A. Gore or Alfred E. Neuman. But somehow in the past year, the government has gone from a $127,000,000,000 budget surplus to a $159,000,000,000 budget deficit. That's a big change -- the biggest dollar change in U.S. history.
Freedom of the Press
Reporters without Borders has published the first Worldwide Press Freedom Index. They surveyed 139 countries about freedom of the press. Coincidentally, the countries were ranked by the amount of press freedom they have. The U.S. was ranked 17, behind most of Western Europe, primarily because some reporters get arrested when they refuse to disclose their sources. The irony is that this is usually the result of a civil lawsuit rather than the government complaining about what was written. This seems to be a reasonably well-done survey.
I occasionally get fired up and start ranting and raving about Microsoft's EULA (End User License Agreement) and how it requires people to allow Microsoft (and companies designated by Microsoft) full access to their computers in order to install upgrades and/or disable illegal software. Some banks have figured out that it's illegal to allow uncertified outside people to have access to their financial computer systems. I think this is causing some headaches at Microsoft.
Last week I talked about some stock stuff. I mentioned AOL and their questionable revenue figures. I didn't mention another interesting phenomenon that occurs in the stock market from time to time: The restatement of financial results.
AOL reported better financials than they should have over the past couple of years. Last Thursday AOL announced that they would be restating their financial results for the past eight quarters. What's the effect of this? Nothing, as far as the current financials are concerned. But since they will lower their previous sales and profit, it makes the current trend look more favorable.
For example, suppose a company reported profits of $6 million in 1999 and $8 million in 2000. The company sends out a press release that said its profits increased by 33 percent.
Suppose that 10 months later, when it's not as pertinent to investors, the company restates its 2000 profits to $6 million. The stock prices would probably drop a little, but nothing earth shattering. Then, 2 months later, it has a profit from the most recent year of $8 million. Now the company sends out another press release saying that its profits grew by 33 percent. Buried at the bottom of the press release, it says something about a restatement of earnings. The company gets to report the same growth twice.
Restatement of financials is a pretty serious thing, though. It usually means somebody high up in the company really messed up. A good percentage of the time it results in shareholder lawsuits. But then, so does a substantial decrease in stock price.
How can a company retroactively change its financial results? It's easy. They just say, "Oops, we goofed." Then they print up new financial statements. This is regulated by the SEC, so there is some rhyme or reason to it. But when a company restates its financials there is a loss of credibility. Here's a Business Week article about that and AOL.
In 1997 there were 92 financial restatements by publicly traded companies. In 2001, there were 225. Between 1997 and 2001, about 10% of all companies listed on the stock market had at least one restatement of financials. The stock prices of these companies fell an average of about 10% after they announced the earnings restatements. So when I read the financials on a company, there's about a 10% chance they're wrong. The funny thing is, they rarely restate old financials to improve the old results.
In October so far, Bristol-Meyers, AOL, Tyco, Newmont, Hanover Compressor (the 4th time this year), Swiss Life, Interpublic, Atlas Air Worldwide, Liberate Technologies, Cutter & Buck, and Neoforma announced that they would restate earlier financial results.
Ebay has been making some small rock bands mad lately. If I make my own music CDR and put it up for sale on Ebay, Ebay will remove it. Ebay says it's so the music won't be pirated and so they won't be prosecuted under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (remember that dumb law?). Some of the small bands say the RIAA is pressuring Ebay to stifle competition. I say it's a pretty dumb policy, but it might be necessary to avoid violating an even dumber law.
Berman's Hacking Bill
U.S. Representative Howard was trying to pushing a bill through Congress that would allow people's whose music is being traded on Kazaa and similar networks to hack into the trader's computers and put a stop to it. According to his bill, they would not even need proof. Now Howard's decided that it wasn't such a good idea after all.
When and if music swapping is ever stopped or slowed substantially, listen.com may have a good thing going. They let you burn your own CD at 99 cents per song. They have about 75,000 titles to choose from.
I went to weather.com yesterday to check some weather forecast. I decided I need to start going elsewhere for my weather. First, when I go to their site, I get a "security warning" message because an advertisement is trying to load Macromedia Flash. Then Popup Stopper beeps because they're trying to load a popup ad. And then they stuck a Microsoft butterfly on my cursor! Luckily it only lasts as long as the web site.
New York got mad about the Microsoft butterfly too. Microsoft stuck thousands of them all over the sidewalks, traffic signals, stop signs, and other places too numerous to mention.
(If you go to this link, notice the MSN butterfly banner ad.)
At first Microsoft said, "We have permit for everything!" Actually, Colleen at Microsoft's ad agency said that. Microsoft just said, "Oops. Sorry about that. And thanks for all the free publicity." Colleen wouldn't say where her permits came from, however. With $300,000,000 to spend promoting their new version of MSN, what's a few hundred thousand bucks in corporate graffiti?
Anyway, I decided I needed a different weather site. I went to google and searched "weather". The second entry was this: "Sorry, the page you requested was not found on weather.com. It is possible you typed the address incorrectly, or that the page no longer exists. As an option, enter a location to get your local weather forecast or visit any of the pages listed below." This is not a dead google link. It's a page on the weather.com site. According to Google, the second most popular weather page on the internet is a page-not-found page in weather.com. That's funny!
I guess I'll have to go with Weather Underground. It's a lot faster, but I wouldn't recommend it without Popup Stopper.
A Picture in Every Home
Some politicians have finally figure out how to use the internet. Unfortunately, some of them still have a problem distinguishing between government web sites and campaign web sites. In California, for example, the governor was feeling a little vain one day. So he required every one of about 100 state web sites to carry his picture on the front page.
Visit the State Energy Commission
or the Department of Motor Vehicles
or any other State of California site, and you get to see Governor Gray's smiling face, along with a link to the main State of California site.
About 10 years ago some people found an airplane under some ice. It was a World War II P-38 that crash-landed in Greenland in 1942. 6 P-38's and two B-17's crash landed on the ice when they ran short of fuel. The people in the planes were all safely rescued.
Here's the plane when they found it under 268 feet of ice:
Here's the plane (or maybe another one in the same squadron) in 1942:
On Saturday, the plane flew again -- the first time in 60 years.
Here's a book about it:
Pictures of Today!
When I'm governor, I'll require every state web site to display this picture of me:
Fall has fell. Here are some Fall clouds...
... some Fall sumac...
... and some Fall birds. I think these must be passenger pigeons. They were along I-35 near Tonkawa, OK a couple of weeks ago.
Here are some pictures from Iceland, 3-4 weeks ago.
These pictures were taken near Nuuk, the capital of Greenland.
from the inside.
The airport is just off
the wing tip.
(q) 1942, no rites conserved. If you'd like to copy with fine piece of prose without prior written consent, go right ahead. You can even do it without prior oral consent.
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