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Sunday, January 16, 2005 Important Stuff

Cahokia Mounds

Where is the most sophisticated prehistoric Indian settlement north of Mexico? No, they didn't have casinos back then. A few miles east of St. Louis is Cahokia Mounds, where 15,000 to 25,000 people lived about 1000 years ago. They built over 100 mounds. But by 1300, the people were gone. Actually, the people who were alive in 1050 had died long before 1300, but for some reason their descendants were gone by about 1300.,2704,65170,00.html

C-130 Landing

I'm not sure about the details, but apparently this C-130 made a night landing at an airfield in northern Iraq that was undergoing some construction. Part of the pavement in the middle of the runway was missing, apparently ready to be re-paved. The C-130 was destroyed, and some of its passengers were supposed to have been injured. Here's the only official report I could find:

Here are the photos:

      c-130-2       c-130-3       c-130-4

      c-130-5       c-130-6

CIA Gulfstream

Last November, the Sunday Times of London had an article about the CIA using a Gulfstream V to transport prisoners to foreign countries for torture and interrogation.,,2089-1357699,00.html

The CIA calls the practice Extraordinary Rendition.

The Times article mentions the Gulfstream's registration number or "tail number" as being N379P.  Shortly after the article came out (or maybe before), the tail number N379P disappeared. Normally when a plane stops using a tail number, the number remains in the FAA database as "deregistered." This one was just plain gone by December 3.

However, in 2002, Gulfstream V serial number 581 was listed as owned by Premiere Executive Transport Services Inc., tail number N379P.

By December 3, 2-3 weeks after the Times article, the plane's registration and owner had changed. The tail number became N8068V, and the owner was Bayard Foreign Marketing.


Today, the tail number is different yet again: N44982, but the owner is still listed as Bayard Foreign Marketing.

Who is Premiere Executive Transport? They share the same address as the Massachusetts law firm that incorporated them in 1994. Crowell Aviation Technologies also has the same address. Crowell Aviation and Premiere Executive Transport are two of only nine companies who are authorized to land aircraft at military bases worldwide. I'm sure that is just a coincidence.

Bayard Foreign Marketing bought the plane from Premiere Executive Transport. Who are they? Leonard Thomas Bayard signed the LLC papers. However, he doesn't seem to exist. He has no residence address, no telephone number, no Social Security number, no credit history, and no automobile or property ownership records. But he supposedly had the money to buy a Gulfstream V. In truth, he probably doesn't exist, except as a CIA legend.

According to The Oregonian, a retired CIA officer said the Gulfstream V had been operated by the Joint Special Operations Command, an interagency unit that organizes counter-terrorist operations in conjunction with the CIA and military special forces.

Strange things are going on around here!

Brain Drugs

Athletes have been in trouble a lot lately for taking performance enhancing drugs. Some drugs do enhance physical performance, either short term or long term. As with most drugs, there are side effects, and as with many drugs, there is abuse.

Lots of drugs work on the brain, from painkillers to alcohol to marijuana to LSD. Now there are drugs being developed to enhance mental performance. In fact, there are at least three drugs on the market now that improve some aspects of mental performance: Modafinil, methylphenidate (Ritalin), and donepezil. These
aren't marketed for mental performance, but some people take them for that anyway.

In the near future we can expect new drugs to improve memory, awareness, and other mental functions. I think it will be scary -- those kinds of drugs could force me into reality.

I expect there will be side effects and a certain amount of abuse involved with these drugs too. It seems odd to think that in 5 or 10 years people will be able to take a pill and think better, or concentrate better, or remember better.


About 20 years ago, Burt Rutan designed the Voyager to fly around the world, non-stop and unrefueled. In December 1986, Burt's brother Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager flew the Voyager around the world. They took off on the 14th from Edwards Air Force Base and returned 9 days later. It was the first non-stop and unrefueled flight around the world.

Here's Voyager on its return on December 23, 1986:


Today the plane is in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.


In 1982 Burt Rutan founded Scaled Composites. Since then, they've made lots of cool airplanes:

Among the more recent Rutan projects is Space Ship One, the first private relaunchable space vehicle.

Here's a copy of an interview with Burt Rutan last month:

Scaled Composites has a giant new milling machine -- 5 axis, 50' x 20'. That would be fun to play with.

Another Scaled Composite project is the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer. It's designed for the first solo flight around the world, non-stop and unrefueled.

Global Flyer Project Engineer Jon Karkow flew the plane for the first time last March, and the plane has been flown a few times since then. They originally planned the round-the-world attempt this month, but they have three more test flights and some "adjustments" to make before they go. They're planning to fly from Salina, Kansas.

Mars Flood

Here's a good picture of Mars. The ripples from the lower left to the upper right of the image are probably from major flooding a long time ago. The photo was taken by the Mars Global Surveyor in December 2003.


U.K. Infrared Telescope

Mauna Kea is a mountain in Hawaii. In fact, at an elevation of 13,796 feet, it's the tallest mountain in Hawaii. There are a couple of telescopes on top of the mountain.

The James Clark Maxwell Telescope detects "light" in the submillimeter wavelengths -- somewhere between infrared and radio waves. Energy at those wavelengths comes more from clouds of dust and gas found between stars.

        Photo by Nik Szymanek

The U.K. Infrared Telescope is an infrared telescope, as the name implies. It's been around for a few years, observing stars, galaxies, and other various and sundry heat sources flying around the universe. There are several instruments used on the UKIRT, such as the Mid-Infrared Echelle Spectrograph (Michelle) and the UKIRT Imager Spectrometer (UIST). Last month a new wide-field camera began operation at the UKIRT. This will make it a lot faster for them to survey the sky.

Here's a view on Mauna Kea from UKIRT to the southwest:

Here's a view on Mauna Kea from UKIRT up:


The Spitzer space telescope was launched in August 2003 and started observations in about December.

The Spitzer is also an infrared telescope, but it has a much narrower field of view (and, I think, a lot more sensitivity). The Spitzer telescope will not be able to scan the entire sky during its lifetime. The wide field camera on the UKIRT should be able to survey most of the sky in about seven years.

Elsewhere in the sky, a guy named Philip and some others may have discovered the 3 largest stars ever discovered. More precisely, they may have discovered that 3 previously discovered stars are the largest known stars.

The three supergiants are KW Sagitarii, V354 Cephei, and KY Cygni is 5,200. I think a supergiant is like a giant red giant. The stars are over 1000 times larger in diameter than the sun. They discovered these stars using existing observation data after studying 74 giant stars.,2697,66232,00.html

In addition to the new largest stars, there is now a new largest roller coaster. Next time you're lost in Jackson, New Jersey, try out the 500-foot high Kingda Ka roller coaster. It should be easy to spot.

Greenland is Melting?

Not exactly. The ice along the coast of Greenland has been getting thinner, but ice inland is getting thicker in many places.


I think a key point was made by Greenland researcher Bill, when he said, "The 10 to 12 years that we have been conducting these studies is very short in glaciological terms. These are features that change over decades and centuries. You have to be cautious when talking about these short term changes, but we are seeing steady trends." I suspect the sky is not falling.

The Mother of All CPU Charts

From 1978 to 2005. This is interesting.


The Pentagon plans to cut its order of F-22's from 276 to 180, costing Northrop, Boeing, and Lockheed a lot in potential profits. Those companies lobbying and probably making campaign contributions even as you read this.

Here are 3 new F-22s that just arrived at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida a few days ago.


Here's an F-22 in formation with some F-15's, which are to be replaced by the F-22.


Here's a new F-22 on January 8 that just arrived at Langley AFB.


Submarine Crash

Last week the USS San Francisco ran aground underwater about 350 miles south of Guam in the East Marianas Basin. CNN said they hit an underwater mountain going 35 mph. The navy didn't say how fast they were going or how deep they were. One person was killed and 24 were injured in the accident.

Here's a photo of the San Francisco last June in Guam:


Verizon Email Blocking

When I sent out a Junkmail a few months ago, every email sent to a Verizon address bounced. I sent them using Hotmail and they all went through. The next time I had no problem. Now, Verizon is blocking a lot of British IP addresses. I guess if they block all IP addresses in the world, they could stop 100% of the spam.,1272,66226,00.html

Paid Propoganda

The U.S. government paid news commentator Armstrong Williams $241,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind act. A lot of people are a bit upset about this because it's against the law and because it seems dangerously close to government-controlled news media. The White House, in defense of their actions, said "So what?"

Airplane Lasers

There has been a big bruhaha about lasers being shined into airplanes. Pilots report being temporarily blinded by lasers across the country. Under the Patriot Act, it is a felony to shine a laser at an airplane. Technically, it's a felony to shine a laser into the cockpit of an airplane, but it would be hard to shine a laser on a plane from the ground and miss the cockpit.

What is the government response? They're going to shine lasers into the cockpits of airplanes. The TSA (whose middle name is Safety) and NORAD are planning a visual warning system that includes shining a laser into the cockpit of an errant airplane. That makes a LOT of sense. If some dummy strays into the giant Washington DC restricted airspace, where millions of supposedly important people hang out, they'll blind the pilot. That's what I call Safety. Got a disoriented pilot? Blind 'em!

They'll be testing this fine policy beginning January 20. By coincidence, that's Inauguration Day. General aviation aircraft who stray within 23 miles or so of Washington can expect an eyeful.

Human Rights Watch

According to Human Rights Watch, the U.S. is causing the erosion of global human rights. They might be right.


The Mars Rovers are still running around Mars. Opportunity discovered a rock that looks kind of like a meteorite. Here's a picture of it taken last Thursday:



I've been well behaved lately and haven't mentioned much about Iraq in Junkmail. OK, maybe I haven't been well behaved, but I haven't been offending people by offering my unsolicited opinions on the war in Iraq. So now I will! Feel free to skip to the next section. Most people I know disagree with me on this.

I think the war in Iraq was unnecessary. I said that before it started. That does not mean that I'm criticizing the people working in Iraq. In the military, your job is to follow orders. If the President orders a war, the military does it. Bad things happen when a country's military does not obey the head of state. The vast majority of the U.S. military people are following orders and doing an excellent job. Even if they would disagree with the Iraq policy, they have to put their personal opinions aside and do their job.

But now, with 20-20 hindsight, let's look at what we have now in Iraq and what we would have had without the war.

Before 2002, Iraq was being reined in, more or less, by the U.S. and UN Large areas of the country were no-fly zones, where nobody in Iraq was allowed to fly aircraft. The U.S. and UN patrolled the areas with fighters. Iraq occasionally fired missiles at the patrolling planes. The U.S. usually replied with a missile attack on the anti-aircraft or other military sites. Trade with Iraq was restricted by a UN embargo. Some countries were cheating on this.

In 2001 and 2002, Iraq had no significant chemical weapons. Iraq had no biological weapons. Iraq had no nuclear weapons. Iraq had no significant UAV program. Iraq gave the run-around to UN weapons inspectors, making it seem like they had something to hide. Probably they were hiding some research programs on nuclear and other weapons. Iraq was not as close to developing nuclear weapons as North Korea, Pakistan, or Iran.

Before 2002, Iraq had little to do with international terrorism. Iraq did not significantly support Bin Laden or Al Kider. All in all, Iraq posed little threat to the U.S., although the U.S. government didn't see it that way (at least not publicly).

If we had not attacked Iraq, where would we be today? Probably about the same. Iraq would be taking occasional pot-shots at U.S. planes, and the U.S. would retaliate. Iraq would be trying to get the UN to lift sanctions. Russia, China, and some European countries would be trying to make money trading with Iraq. The U.S. and Britain would be fighting this movement in the UN Iraq's people would still be under the repressive rule of Saddam Hussein or his successors.

Where are we today? 1,363 U.S. military personnel are dead. 5,449 have been seriously wounded. Somewhere around $150,000,000,000 has been spent in Iraq, contributing to the largest U.S. budget deficit in history. If we had not attacked Iraq, I don't see any way that Iraq or Saddam Hussein could have done that much damage to the U.S.

Bush said this week that the election proved that the American people support the war in Iraq.

I don't approve it. But for some reason, they haven't asked my opinion. The election only proved that more U.S. voters chose Bush over Kerry. If I recall, there were a few more issues being discussed than the war in Iraq. And even if the majority of the U.S. citizens think the war in Iraq was a good idea, I still disagree.

Some people think it's unpatriotic to criticize the war in Iraq. I think it's unpatriotic NOT to question the government, and to criticize if you feel the urge. After all, the U.S. is supposed to have the government "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

Incidentally, that phrase is used so much that a lot of people think it's in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. It's actually a quote by Lincoln, from his Gettysburg Address.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who died here that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have hallowed it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863

Virtual Case Closed

The FBI has spend $170 million over the past five years developing a software application called Virtual Case File. Last week they cancelled the project because it doesn't work. The FBI is evaluating some off-the-shelf applications that will do the job instead. I'm not sure why they didn't think of that 5 years and $170,000,000 ago.

FBI Director Robert said, "It's no problem. $40 million of that was spent on hardware we can use elsewhere, so we only really blew $130,000,000."

Mount Etna

Here's a satellite photo of Mount Etna blowing off steam (and other stuff) on January 8.


"A light plume of ash and steam rose from Mount Etna on January 8, 2005, when the Terra MODIS instrument captured this image. Located on the island of Sicily, not far from the southern tip of the Italian peninsula, Etna holds one of the world's longest records of documented eruptions. The volcano rises to 3,350 meters (10,991 feet) and is Europe's largest volcano. Mount Etna's last major eruption was in 2001, though additional small eruptions have been recorded since then. According to local news reports, the most recent eruption did not threaten local communities and seemed to end on January 8. Ash has not been visible in subsequent imagery."

Some Interesting Military Photos

Pictures of Today!

The heat shield from the Mars Explorer Rover Opportunity:


Sand Dunes National Park by satellite:

      SandDunes_oct_14_1999_lrg     Hi-res version

The ocean, from our boat going from Cayman Islands to Florida. Isn't the horizon supposed to be straight?


A pelican in the Dry Tortugas:


Fort Jefferson:


I took my baby sister Tricia snow shoeing over Christmas. She got a little noisy.

      pict0320      pict0323

Ten Mile Range, Colorado.


Red Mountain, Chaffee County, Colorado


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