More Junkmail from Bob!

Thursday, March 13, 2003
Important Stuff

Lunar Flash

On November 15, 1953, a Tulsa physician was looking at the moon through his 8" telescope in his yard near the Gilcrease Museum. 71-year-old Leon Stuart photographed what he thought was a "massive, white-hot fireball of vaporized rock rising from the center of the Moon's face." He believed he had photographed an asteroid collision with the moon, but this could not be verified. It is so unlikely that most people thought it must be a mistake of some sort, or a meteorite in the earth's atmosphere showing up on the photo.

Bonnie Buratti at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and Lane Johnson at Pomona College decided to look into the 50-year-old mystery. They found the tell-tale crater in a 1994 photograph from the Clementine spacecraft. It's in the right place, it's the right size, and it's the right color.

An event like the collision Stuart saw happens, on average, about once ever 50 years. So be sure and have a look at the moon next November 15.

Here's Dr. Stuart:

Here's the picture he took of the moon, with the fireball. It looks small.

There is more to this story. It turned out that the crater Buratti and Lane found and supposed to be Dr. Stuart's impact crater is visible on a 1919 photo from the Mount Wilson 100 inch Hooker telescope, and on a 1937 photo from the Lick Observatory's 36 inch telescope.

Buratti said, "It's kind of disappointing, but it's more important to find that out."

Charles and Jeff Take a Swim

In 1988, a guy named Charles took a lady for a helicopter ride in New Mexico. She hired him to look at real estate. Once in the air, she requested that he land at a prison Santa Fe and pick up some prisoners. He complied, mostly because she had a gun pointed at him. U.S. Customs helicopters forced down the helicopter carrying Charles, the lady, and three prisoners a little while later.

A couple of years later, Charles was flying a helicopter on a surveying trip in Las Cruces, NM. He crashed. He and the passenger weren't hurt.

Last week, Charles crashed again. He took off near some trees in Texas, a gust of wind blew the helicopter into a cedar tree, and it ended up on its side in a creek.

A guy named Jeff was with Charles last week. Jeff is the boss of

5-digit Area Codes

Some people think we should change from 10-digit phone number to 12-digits. We better hurry! We're projected to run out of number in 28 years. Maybe I'm missing something, but I see no reason to add any more than one digit any time in the next 200 years or so. One more digit will give us 9 or 10 times as many phone numbers as we have now. I don't see the number of telephones going past that level any time soon. That would be 20 or 30 numbers for each man, woman, and child in the United States.,1377,57571,00.html/

Quotes of Today:

"Some in the world don't view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace."
George Bush, President

Let's see here... a risk to peace?  Isn't Bush the one wanting a war?

"I want to make something very, very clear at this point. We do not -- we do not want individuals or families to start sealing their doors or their windows."
Tom Ridge, Homeland Security Secretary, about duct tape and plastic sheets.


The Department of Homeland Security is coming out with a big advertising campaign on TV and in newspapers on "how to prepare for and defend against a terrorist attack."

It seems to me that the Department of Homeland Security has too much money to spend. There have been zero terrorist attacks in the U.S. in the past year and a half, and I'd venture to say if there is another, it will affect a tiny percentage in the population. Spending millions of dollars on a national advertising campaign just doesn't make economic sense. (Maybe it makes political sense instead.) Shouldn't we be spending money on things much more likely to kill us, such as storms, or drunk drivers, or bee stings?

Propaganda is not cheap. They've hired several marketing and public relations firms, spending millions. I think they'll probably use this as their theme song:

For some reason they've taken duct tape out of their recommended emergency survival kit. I believe baling wire is still on the list.

Economically Speaking

Speaking of economic sense, somehow when I wasn't looking, the national budget surplus turned in to a huge budget deficit. In other words, the U.S. government is planning to spend hundreds of billions of dollars (that's two more digits than your phone number) more than they're taking in next year. I've read that it's a new record deficit, but it depends on who you ask. The scary thing is that the people who made up the budget neglected to mention any costs of a war with Iraq. Surely they wouldn't leave that out on purpose, would they? But don't worry. They're spending $300,000,000,000 more than they're taking in on taxes, so they're cutting income taxes to resolve the problem.

The economy has been plugging along with at least a little growth, but the stock market has not done so well. The Nasdaq Composite was 4 times higher at its high three years ago than it is today. Even before the "irrational exuberance" of the dotcom boom, the Nasdaq was double today's value.


I was too lazy to make a chart for the Dow Jones Average. Its curve is similar, but it lost only 36% since January 2000 compared to the Nasdaq's 75% drop. I keep thinking the market can't go much lower, and then it does.

With a budget deficit looming and a probably a war on top of that, it may be time to invest in something stable like a large communications or energy company.

The chart above is in .png format, an alternative to .gif. Unisys has a "stupid patent" (a common legal term) on the .gif file format. They have lots of lawyers that sue people over it. And I finally found someone who agrees with me about .gifs!


I was watching some news on TV and I finally figured it out. The impending war with Iraq is like a cross between the Superbowl and a reality TV series. Bush is getting really serious about the war with Iraq now. He can't get the U.N. to play with him, so he sent 500 journalists to the Middle East to join the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force. Now there is news everywhere covering "our boys over there." If I was CNN I'd be selling ads to be run during the day of the initial attack. It could be better than the Superbowl, and they didn't even have to pay for coverage rights.

Even NPR and the more liberal oriented news organizations are using the word "when" instead of "if" referring to a war with Iraq. Russia, France, Germany, and most of the rest of the world are a little confused at the rationale behind this. A guy from Saudi Arabia built an organization in Afghanistan, sent a couple dozen people to attack the United States, and in retaliation we take over Iraq.

Actually, we don't really take over Iraq. We bomb the daylights out of them, throw out the leader, and then we pay them a lot of money to fix what we broke. The U.S. Agency for International Development has recently sent a request for proposal titled "Vision for Post-Conflict Iraq" to 5 large construction companies, a $900,000,000 (or so) bid for rebuilding Iraq. Here are the rough specs to be accomplished in six months, according to the Wall Street Journal:

  1. Reopen at least half of the "economically important roads and bridges" -- about 1,500 miles of roadway -- to high-speed traffic.

  2. Repair 15% of the high-voltage electricity grid. (The plan also calls for delivering 550 emergency generators within two months.).

  3. Provide half the population -- almost 13 million people -- with access to "basic health services," including at least one fully functional hospital in every major city.

  4. Renovate several thousand schools.

  5. Supply books and other materials to 12,500 schools.

  6. Rehabilitate 5,000 houses and initiate "slum upgrading in major urban areas" to improve an additional 3,000 residences.

The RFPs went to Bechtel, Fluor, Kellogg Brown & Root, Louis Berger, and Parsons.

I think if we go through the trouble of taking them over, maybe we should keep Iraq for a while and make a profit on the deal. Sure, it would look bad, but how much worse than attacking them in the first place?

I heard more than one politician say we need to hurry up and put Iraq behind us so we can move on. I assume they were referring to Iran's nuclear centrifuges and North Korea's nuclear weapons. Is this what they call battleship diplomacy? Will the rest of the world have anything to say about that? How much worse will the U.S. economy be if Europe and Asia get together and decide to impose sanctions? It's not likely today, but it could happen in 5 or 8 years if things keep going like they have been.

North Korea is testing missiles and Bush is sending stealth aircraft to Guam. If I didn't know better I might think it was a risk to peace.


Spam is STILL getting more common. I get some satisfaction from bouncing spam back to the senders with Mailwasher, but I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't help. Most spammers don't remove bad email addresses from their lists.

I have an email address I haven't used for more than a year. The server has been bouncing every email to this address for more than a year. But today it gets 10 times more email than it did a year ago.

There are lots of spam filters available now, and some are pretty good. Usually when I send out a Junkmail I get a few messages bounced back because of my offensive subject matter. It's usually something innocuous like "spam" or "remove." Here's an example:

"The recipient(s) listed next to Destination mailbox(es) did not receive your message because the word(s) in parentheses next to the Policy heading was included in your message.

Destination mailbox(es):
Policy: web cam(web cam)"

Here's another one:

The Mitsubishi Motors of North America IT department has intercepted an e-mail from
<> to <>  with a subject line of: More Junkmail from Bob.

I guess I shouldn't buy a Mitsubishi.

The email addresses have been changed to protect the innocent. If you're not reading this, then maybe your spam filter doesn't like "web cam," "spam," or "Junkmail."

Here's a good article in the Washington Post about spam.

Some politicians are apparently getting too much spam. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison used to be on the Junkmail list. As with, this was not at her request. Last Junkmail I got this automated message from her:

Senator Hutchison requests you use the e-mail form on her website at if you wish to send a message to her.  The e-mail form will better allow her staff to manage and track the several thousand e-mail messages the Senator receives each week.  Thank you.

Office of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Now she doesn't have a public email address.

Hacking Off AOL

Hackers have been getting into AOL user accounts lately and messing around. AOL has been in this business for quite some time -- you would think they could secure user accounts by now. But the computer's security is not the problem. It's the people.

The hackers call into AOL and tell them they forgot their password and need a new one. Then they bluff their way through the verification questions. It may take a few calls before they find an AOL phone rep lax enough to give them a password without knowing the account holder's mother's maiden name, favorite pet, or birth city, but they usually get in eventually. Occasionally they get into an admin account and really go wild.,1377,57753-2,00.html

Word 2002

I ran into a bug in Microsoft Word 97 I couldn't work around, so I installed Word 2002 last week, the Office XP version of Word. It was moderately ill-behaved, wiping out all my shortcuts to Word 97 even though I told it I wanted to keep both versions on the computer.

When I started using Word 2002, the recently used files list was not in the menu. I checked in the options, and it was disabled. That was strange. I reinstalled it a time or two, and tried every setting I could find.

Eventually I found the answer on a google search.;EN-US;Q284896

If you use TweakUI or x-setup and turn off the recently used files list in the Start Menu, you also turn it off in Word, whether you want to or not. I consider that quite rude.

Using Word 2002 after 5 years on Word 97 has been interesting. One thing that strikes me as funny is how many of the bugs from Word 97 are still in Word 2002.

I'll probably go back to Word 97 when I'm finished with this project. The new version has a lot of irritants built-in to "enhance my experience," and is generally slower. I don't see much advantage to the new version.

Leslie's Alligator

A lady named Leslie was driving along the other night near Port Charlotte, Florida. She hit an alligator in the road. Being an animal lover, she pulled the 6-foot gator into the back seat of her Honda Accord and planned to get some help for it. She took it home, hosed it down, and tried unsuccessfully to call someone at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Then her neighbors told her unauthorized alligator possession is a felony in Florida. So she loaded the alligator into her Accord again and took off to turn it loose in a pond. By now the gator was recovering, and it started thrashing around in the back seat. Leslie ran off the road, hit a mailbox, and got stuck in the ditch. She walked back home, leaving the gator in the car.

She was arrested later and charged with things like driving without a license, illegal alligator possession, and resisting arrest.

And then the alligator died.

Bloomin Terrorists

The Homeland Security folks have requested that pilots report any unusual aircraft, since terrorists are everywhere now. In Bloomington, Indiana, some people reported a Cessna 182 flying around at low levels over town at odd times during the day and night.

It was the FBI. First, the FBI said it was not their plane. When they were pressed by reporters, the FBI said it was theirs after all. Two FBI agents said they were flying the plane to keep track of foreign nationals in Bloomington. The FBI supervisor Doug had a classic explanation: "We wouldn't have done it if we didn't have a reason." I think that's what someone said about Watergate 30 years ago. Doug also said, "The FBI has no information about any credible threat to the Bloomington area."

It bothers me that they lied about this from the start, and nobody cares that they were lying. Lying-and-then-'fessing-up is getting pretty common, even at high levels of government. It makes me wonder how many times the FBI or TSA or someone lies and isn't forced to 'fess up.

It seems like all you have to do to get away with something in a government job today is to imply that it's related to anti-terrorism. When the hysteria dies down, I wonder if some of these people will be held accountable for their actions. Unrestrained authority can get kind of scary.

We Proceeded On...

Check out the Lewis and Clark Journals, free online:

There's a .doc, .rtf, and text version.

Fun with Numbers

US Airways filed for bankruptcy. I think I see one of their problems. Look at the graph.

They've got a 91 percent on-time percentage, same as Delta. But they use the total number of on-time arrivals to make it look like US Airways' 91% is better.

I wonder if they use the same techniques in their financial reports and market research.

A Little Plagiarism

This isn't really plagiarism since I don't claim it. Here are a couple of notes from other people. First, Mr. Kiesling's resignation letter. He was a diplomat in Greece and resigned over the U.S. policies regarding Iraq. It's worth reading even if you disagree with it. It's really well thought out for a diplomat...

Here's a note about surviving chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons by a retired army sergeant. It seems right, but I haven't checked it out to be sure.

Pictures of Today!

The Earth at Night. I've seen several of these, but this one is higher resolution than most.


The Aircam at Day. It's Spring!


A New Mexico Thunderstorm, or possibly West Texas, about 9 years ago.


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