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Monday, December 02, 2002
Important Stuff

Breaking the Ice

Here's a good picture of an icebreaker.


It's the Healy, the largest and newest U.S. icebreaker. This picture was taken by John Gagon, of the Army's Cold Region Environmental Lab. The Healy is a big boat. Actually, it's a Coast Guard Cutter. It's 420 feet long, and will go through 4.5 foot ice at 3 knots. It can go through 8-foot ice by backing up and ramming it. I think that would be fun. It's got 30,000 horsepower, diesel-electric powered.


The Healy has a crew of around 100 people, plus 35 or so scientists. Last Spring and Summer, the Healy wandered around the Arctic doing scientific research.

After a stop on the way home in Hawaii, they got back to the home port in Seattle last month.

Last year the Healy made it to the North Pole. It was the first U.S. ship to go there unassisted.

Here's a good picture of the Healy and its crew.


Russia has 8 nuclear icebreakers. They're bigger and more powerful than the Healy, but older.

In 1998, 3 Russian icebreakers (2 nuclear and one diesel) and a double hulled tanker made an "Arctic Demonstration and Exploratory Voyage." Here are some pictures from that trip.

Details on Arcdev:

Now the Russian icebreakers have a new job -- tourism.

For a mere $16,000, you too can take the nuclear icebreaker Yamal to the North Pole!

In 1994 I went to Antarctica on the Russian ship Professor Molchanov. The same company is operating that ship now, too. I flew to Spitzbergen a few years ago and saw it there.

Big Waves

Here are a couple of good videos -- boats and big waves. They're both in Alaska, one in Prince William Sound and the other near Kodiak Island. One capsizes and the other is inundated by a giant wave.

Get a Piece of Napster

Napster used to be used by millions of people to swap music. This was considered bad form by the people who made money from music sales, because they didn't get a cut. It's kind of like swapping cassette tapes or CDRs that you've recorded.

Now Napster is history. The RIAA and the lawyers have finally finished it off. But you can get your own Napster remains just in time for Christmas! The auction is December 11, in San Jose.

Kazaa and other peer-to-peer networks seem to have taken the place of Napster.

The Recording Industry is hot on their tails.

Ranting and Raving Again

I was in the Frisco, Colorado bus station last week and noticed that they have bus service to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. All you need for a trip from Breckenridge to Whitehorse is 4 days and $181.

Last Saturday a Greyhound bus was driving along in New Jersey. Some people on the bus were complaining to the driver because they thought he was lost. He finally got tired of it and said he was taking them to the Taliban. Someone called 911 on a cell phone. 18 police cars surrounded the bus, everybody was ordered off the bus at gunpoint, and the driver was arrested. It's so ridiculous you'd think it came from a cheap movie.

Not to be outdone, the Brits blew up a tummy toner last weekend just in case it turned out to be a bomb. You just can't be too careful. After all, terrorists are everywhere!


The Greyhound bus driver was charged with "creating a false public alarm."  Normally this charge wouldn't stick, but the U.S. government has been doing some creative governing lately.

According to the Washington Post, the Bush administrating is creating a "parallel legal system" for both U.S. citizens and non-citizens. Under this system people can be charged, questioned, punished, and detained if there are terrorist-related charges or suspicions. Under this system, constitutional legal guarantees are missing. When asked about constitutional rights, Dubbya replied "Constitution? For crying out loud, it's 200 years old! We can't have our hands tied by the constitution in this day and time!"  Or something like that.

Some people are getting pretty excited about some of the new laws and policies. Eugene, Oregon was the 15th city in the country to vote down the USA Patriot Act.

The others are

        1. Ann Arbor, MI
        2. Denver, CO
        3. Amherst, MA.
        4. Leverett, MA
        5. North Hampton, MA
        6. Cambridge, MA
        7. Carrboro, NC
        8. Boulder, CO
        9. Madison, WI
        10. Berkeley, CA
        11. Alachua County, FL
        12. Takoma Park, MD
        13. Santa Fe, NM
        14. Santa Cruz, CA

All this doesn't have any legal authority, but it's notable that this kind of thing is happening. Here's the organization behind the movement.

Other people (and maybe some of the same) are against the Homeland Security act.,1283,56600,00.html

The Justice Department has been having trouble with pesky journalists digging up information and printing critical articles. There's a law called the Freedom of Information Act that lets people get information from government organizations. U.S. Attorney General John told federal employees "When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions." I guess that law doesn't need enforcing.

And, to take it one step farther, the U.S. government is working on some big electronic surveillance systems and a master database of information on everybody. For example, they will save all my credit card charges, phone logs, doctor visits, public library records, internet communications, turnpike and other travel records, checks, bills, purchases, and a lot of things I can't think of now. Then, if they ever want to investigate me, all the information will be there in a central database.

Here's official description of the Total Information Awareness System.

It should be no problem for me because the government says all this centralized information will be secure and will never be abused.,1283,56620,00.html

Here's a more detailed description.

It could be worse. The pentagon was planning to require positive biometric identification for everybody who uses the internet, and this unique biological identifier would be passed along with IP addresses. Without the bio-ID, you'd be locked out of the internet. They decided this would be politically and technologically unfeasible for now.

Genisys is an interesting anti-terrorist computer project. It will produce ultra-large, all-source information repositories. It will take information from the Total Information Awareness System and other sources, and let people make general queries.

Another interesting project is the Human ID at a Distance project. By 2004 they plan to have a system in place to identify people from 500 feet away. They'll use face and movement information. I would guess that eye identification will be used also.

Digital video cameras are getting a lot better. It should be possible before long to have your eye read and recognized from a few feet away, kind of like long distance fingerprints. I would guess that in several years a camera over a door can identify you as you enter and leave Walmart, for example. This could be used for security or customized ads based on previous purchases. That has the potential to be pretty embarrassing.

Today they're using digital video cameras to patrol the Canada/US border. This is used primarily to keep Canadian hockey players out of Montana, but it could also be used for terrorist control.

International Microwave Corporation installed $200 million worth of cameras along the border, I think about a year ago, to help out the Border Patrol. Unfortunately, the cameras don't work most of the time.

Rebecca Reyes is the vice president of government contracts for IMC. Her dad, Silvester Reyes, is a Congressman from Texas who sits on the House Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees. But that's just a coincidence. He said "I have never exerted any influence concerning IMC contracts. My enemies at INS may be trying to smear my name."

I'm guessing that Freedom of Information requests might go unanswered from Silvester.

Bad Links?

I read in the news a lot about how someone is "linked to Al Queda." However, they never say how the person or group is linked. Are they linked by a common religion? Maybe they all like to blow stuff up? A link is a pretty nebulous concept. If I were a skeptic, I might even wonder whether these links are material to the situation. Surely someone wouldn't throw around those terms just to make me think that Al Queda is a big threat, would they?

I read the other day that the CIA said a recently recorded message from Osama Bin Laden was a real. Last week the Dalle Molle Institute for Perceptual Artificial Intelligence in Switzerland said that it was impossible to be sure, but the odds were that the Bin Laden tape was a fake. They analyzed a couple of hours of Bin Laden tapes and did a computer comparison.


I would guess the tape is fake. And I'm just guessing, because I haven't even heard it and wouldn't recognize the guy if I did.

Looking into Los Alamos

Glenn and Steven were hired to investigate fraud and corruption at Los Alamos National Laboratory. I think this is the same place that had trouble with spies and missing laptop hard drives. Glenn and Steve discovered a lot of problems. I guess they found too much, because they were fired today. They are not "suitable fits for the requirements of their positions."  Maybe I'm only getting one side of the story here, but this sounds like something you'd expect to happen in Russia.,1283,56596,00.html

Pictures of Today -- Comdex

Comdex was the week before last in Las Vegas. We exhibited there for the 18th year, although the company names have changed occasionally. Keeping with tradition, we stayed in the Motel 6 luxury condominiums. We moved there when they built New York New York on top of the Rodeway Inn.

On the first day of Comdex I left my laptop in the room, under some clothes, and someone stole it. I was pretty irritated since it was apparent that whoever took it had a key to the room, and since the rooms had electronic keys that change with each check-in, it had to be an employee. I called the motel office and the Motel 6 national office. They weren't too worried about it. So I went downtown to the police station and filed a police report. I was sure it wouldn't do any good.

About a week later, a detective from Las Vegas called my house. They found my computer when they were executing a search warrant for a murder investigation. The next day, someone tried to cash some checks from a checkbook that was in the computer. They also ended up in "police custody." Next time we might not stay at Motel 6.

Comdex was a lot smaller this year in terms of exhibitors and attendance. But there were over 100,000 people there, so it's still pretty big.

I drove out and back, and took a few pictures along the way. I took the long route.

Mike and I helped out in a neighboring booth. Somehow, those monkey pictures came up behind us.


Here's our booth.


Here is a whole bunch of other pictures.

Comdex 2002

On the way out I found this truck.
I think it must have been terrorists.
Maybe they were going here?
Cactus, near Mexico Southwest of Tucson.
Cactus, near Mexico Southwest of Tucson.
Cactus, near Mexico Southwest of Tucson.
Organ Pipe National Monument
Imperial Sand Dunes, California
I had to stop driving when I got here.
This is after Comdex, on the way home. This is a big coal seam in Utah. There's a mine and a power plant nearby.
Near Moab, Utah
I couldn't climb past this boulder.
This is the opposite direction.
A Dragon
These are petrified sand dunes in the foreground.
Near Grand Junction, Colorado
New Snow

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