More Junkmail from Bob!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Important Stuff.

Martian Landscapes

Warning:  These are big pictures.


"NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit used its navigation camera to take the images combined into this 360-degree view of the rover's surroundings on Spirit's 409th martian day, or sol (Feb. 26, 2005). Spirit had driven 2 meters (7 feet) on this sol to get in position on "Cumberland Ridge" for looking into "Tennessee Valley" to the east. This location is catalogued as Spirit's Site 108. Rover-wheel tracks from climbing the ridge are visible on the right. The summit of "Husband Hill" is at the center, to the south. This view is presented in a cylindrical projection with geometric and brightness seam correction."

"NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera to take the images combined into this view of the rover's surroundings on Opportunity's 387th martian day, or sol (Feb. 24, 2005). Opportunity had driven about 73 meters (240 feet) and reached the eastern edge of a small crater dubbed "Naturaliste," seen in the right foreground. This view is presented in a cylindrical projection with geometric and brightness seam correction."

Matrix Leaks

The Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange is a database system called "Matrix" to find terrorists hiding in public and private computer records across the country. A guy named Hank and his company, Seisint, developed the giant database of criminal, traffic, commercial, court, real estate, and other records. The price? Only $12,000,000 or so. That seems a little steep for a database system, but you get what you pay for, right?

Some people have been a little worried that Matrix would infringe on their constitutional right of privacy, constitutional right to pursue of happiness, and the constitutional right of high-speed internet.

It's possible that the privacy worries might have been legitimate. Last summer Hank and the other owners sold Seisint to LexisNexis, which is owned by the Reed Elsevier Group in the U.K., for $775 million.

Earlier this month, LexisNexis announced that hackers have copied a bunch of information from their Matrix database. Whoops!,1848,66842,00.html

You might expect that sort of thing from the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles...

Bush Science

President GW Bush is still unable or unwilling to pronounce the word "nuclear," although he has made a successful transition from "soshicurity" to "social security" when he speaks slowly. I think if he'd learn to say "nuclear" then countries like Iran, Pakistan, India, and North Korea might understand what he's asking for.

The Bush administration seems to treat science as precisely as they treat the word "nuclear." If you don't like some science, then declare it to be false.

This seems to be a consistent policy, and not just an occasional problem. In this week's example, the EPA came out with new limits for mercury emissions from power plants. The EPA said they couldn't make the limits any more stringent because it would cost too much. However, a Harvard University study paid for by the EPA, co-authored by an EPA scientist and peer-reviewed by two other EPA scientists had reached the opposite conclusion.

I don't know much about mercury emissions, and I don't know whether the rules should be tightened, but it worries me when politicians ignore scientific fact.

The White House strongly denounced anti-science claims, saying "We have nothing against scientific research, provided it supports this administration's policies, and provided the words are easy to pronounce.",1759,1766651,00.asp

With a shaky reputation on science, some people are questioning government policy on oil drilling in Alaska:

But it looks like the drilling will go ahead, reducing foreign oil imports by 3%, 20 years from now.

The U.S. is losing scientific research to other countries. In biology, U.S. government limits on stem cell research and cloning has given the U.K. and Japan significant advantages in those areas. Nuclear power development is at a virtual standstill in the U.S.

Last year, foreign applications to U.S. graduate engineering programs dropped 36%. That is a LOT in one year. Part of the reason is that potential foreign students don't know whether they'll be able to get student visas. A common occurrence is for foreign students to visit home and be unable to return in time for classes because their visa is not approved in time.

Who cares? Maybe we should. 20% of U.S. scientists and engineers are foreign born. More than half of U.S. engineering and math PhD degrees go to foreign nationals. Throw them out, and we lose a lot of research.



Here's a short article that explains quantum computing. It still hasn't sunk into my thick skull. It's a little bit like the theory of relativity -- it's just not very intuitive.

Speed Traps

In Victoria, Australia they're using cameras to catch speeders. But they've added a new "feature" -- they time cars between cameras, which may be miles apart, and fine them if they get from one camera to the next too quickly.


The U.S. may not be far behind. Jeffrey, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, announced an anti-speeding campaign last week.


The smallest star! (so far...)

Black Brant

NASA launched a Black Brant XII rocket a couple of weeks ago in Alaska to study the Aurora.

It crashed.

Here's one that made it:


The rocket launched from the Poker Flat Research Range. It's interesting because this is the only scientific rocket launching facility owned by a university -- University of Alaska. They launch NASA and other rockets, usually scientific, sub-orbital launches.


Indian Casinos

Want a Casino? Start a tribe and buy a politician!

Some of this may sounds familiar. There was a strangely similar occurrence about a year ago.

DARPA Grand Challenge

Need a quick $2,000,000? Build an autonomous vehicle to cover DARPA's race course. Nobody finished last year. There are 37 entrants so far for 2005

Visual Basic

When Microsoft came out with it's .net development environment, it replaced Visual Basic 6 with Visual Basic .net. The is not compatible with VB6, and it lacks some features of VB6. However, is more compatible with the other .net programming languages and has some new features.

Being the computer dinosaur I am, I decided to stick with VB6. First, VB6 lets me modify code while running in debug mode. Second, I don't want to convert a bunch of projects over to Third, limits communications between forms and modules. Fourth, I don't like Microsoft pressuring me into doing things "their way." At least not until the rest of the world has passed me by. Fifth, compiles a lot slower.

I was pretty surprised to read about some other VB6 holdouts last week. They got a little irate when Microsoft declared the end to free VB6 support last week.

Microsoft Visual Basic 2005, coming "real soon now," will have some of the VB6 features not found in the original

Who knows, maybe I'll change to VB 2005. Or maybe Fortran 95.


There are pirates on the high seas! Pirates froze 14 fishermen off the coast of Bangladesh last fall:

The Malacca Strait, between Malaysia and Indonesia, is a very popular place for pirates. 37 pirate attacks were reported there last year, but the attacks fell off after the Tsunami.

A few days ago, 35 pirates took over a methane tanker. These pirates used rocket launchers rather than swords. They kidnapped the captain and the engineer and left the ship.

A few days later, some pirates attacked a Japanese tug and construction barge. They kidnapped the captain, engineer, and three seamen.

Some people are worried that terrorists may get involved.

While the Malacca Strait is the most popular place for commercial piracy, the best place to meet pirates in a private boat is in the Gulf of Aden, between Sudan and Yemen.

Here is some information on some recent pirate attacks on private boats:

Computer Pirates

Got a virus or a trojan? You may be part of a bot net. Spammers and other nefarious computer pirates accumulate zombie computers (or, more accurately, their addresses) by spreading viruses and trojans. Infected computers are "sold" to people who use them to send spam, mount DoS attacks, collect passwords and financial information, and other recreational computing activities.

A 44-year-old guy named David in Louisiana sent some emails that changed the phone number in WebTV Dialup information to 911. That way, whenever people tried to connect to WebTV, they dialed 911. Since they generally couldn't hear the 911 operators on their modems, they learned about it in person from the police. This happened two or three years ago, and generated about 10 emergency responses. Last week David was sentenced to six months in jail. That doesn't seem like a speedy trial to me.

Got Spyware? You can't use Spyware Assassin any more. The FTC shut them down because it displayed false warnings (to get people to buy) and didn't remove any spyware.

I don't see the big problem. It sounds almost like a Microsoft product to me.

Garden Tank

Jane and Emanuel live in New Zealand, south of Hamilton. Emanuel was gardening the other day and hit some metal in the ground with his roto-tiller. So he dug. And he dug. The metal was big. Emanuel's friend came over to help. They dug for days, and eventually uncovered a World War II bren-gun carrier.,2106,3218017a10,00.html

I think that would be pretty neat. However, Jane and Emanuel were promptly declared terrorists by the U.S. and the CIA will be "rendering" them to Tannu Tuva for interrogation.

More on renditions:


On March 8, Mount St. Helens blew off some steam. And ash. About 40,000 feet high.

The lava dome near the top of the mountain has grown about 500 feet since last October. Here is a satellite photo from one year ago...


... and one from March 9:


Death Valley

While we're doing "before and after," here's Death Valley last year and this year. Death Valley has had more rain this year that it has in a long time. People have even been kayaking in Lake Manley.

Terrorists are Everywhere!

Last week, some people at the Pentagon and at an office complex a few miles away thought they found some anthrax. That's normally not such a big deal, since anthrax lives in the soil. However, you can collect a lot of anthrax and use it to kill people. So the security people took action.

The Defense Department recommended that 700 people begin antibiotic treatment, and the U.S. Postal Service began medicating 200 people. Mail service to the federal government was shut down. Deliveries of mail, food, and office supplies to the Pentagon were stopped.

At the Pentagon, 263 people submitted swab samples to emergency medical personnel. I'm not sure what they swabbed, though. At Baileys Crossroads complex, 4 miles from the Pentagon, 800 workers were locked up in three buildings for six hours.

Dozens more samples were taken and tested for anthrax, but they couldn't find any live anthrax bacteria. It was a false alarm. Probably some anthrax came in from a nearby farm or a secret biological weapons development facility, but not enough to hurt anybody.

The U.S. Congress and Homeland Security were infuriated at being left out of the action, and requested an extension of the hysteria to allow the House and Senate equal television coverage.

In New Jersey a couple of weeks ago, two state police helicopters flew over a nuclear power plant. They were almost shot down. The security people at the plant were getting ready to shoot at the helicopters when they noticed they were police helicopters.

I would like to take this opportunity to bring up 4 points of interest:

1. It is not illegal to fly over a nuclear power plant.
2. Even if it was illegal, it would not rate a death penalty.
3. Even if it was punishable by death, arrest and conviction would be required first.
4. If a helicopter or light plane did crash into a nuclear power plant, it would do little more than scratch the concrete.

Has everybody gone nuts?!!!!!  People were criticizing the security people at the power plant because they didn't shoot down the helicopters.

There are regulations about flying over nuclear plants. Pilots are advised to avoid the airspace above and near the plants.


This does not mean you cannot fly there. It means that you may be questioned after you do. It certainly does not entitle people to shoot at you if you fly too close to a nuclear plant. Besides, if you wanted to blow up a nuclear power plant, you'd probably need a lot more explosives than you can carry in a light plane.

But just for sport, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has signed a memorandum of understanding with the North American Aerospace Defense Command laying out the protocols for NORAD to shoot down "potentially threatening" aircraft. Potentially threatening? I guess every aircraft in the sky would be potentially threatening. I would rather they limit their pot shots to aircraft that are actually threatening. But then, who am I to question the wisdom of politicians?

On an unrelated topic, here's a pretty picture I took in Florida last month:


Wolfowitz and World Bank

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul was one of the main backers for a war with Iraq. He is also a very eloquent speaker. Here's a nice quote:

"I think a real test of whether a country is a democracy is how it treats its minorities. And actually it's one of the things that impress me about Turkish history -- the way Turkey treats its own minorities."
July 14, 2002, on CNN Turkey.

"I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq."
July 21, 2003, Mosul, Iraq

"There's a lot of money to pay for this. It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon."
March 27, 2003, Congressional Testimony, on the reconstruction of Iraq

Now Paul is destined to be the President of the World Bank. The World Bank and the people it funds are little worried about this. I haven't heard any complaints from the Pentagon, however.

The World Bank is a U.N. organization that is not really a typical bank. It loans and gives money to developing countries and other charitable groups. For example, the World Bank gives or loans a lot of money to China.

In turn, the Chinese government loans money to the U.S. government at a higher interest rate. China is the second largest holder of U.S. treasury securities, behind Japan. With a record budget deficit, the U.S. government needs quite a few "holders of treasury securities."

Coincidentally, the U.S. had the second highest trade deficit in history last January. Also, coincidentally, the largest deficit with a single country was China, $15.3 billion, the third biggest imbalance on record, and up 7 percent from December.

Did I mention that international value of the dollar is declining? I think that must be another coincidence, just like the increase of the price of oil.

      World Bank 1

      World Bank 2

A Real Bank Robbery (almost).

Some people tried to steal £220 million ($423 million) from the London offices of the Sumitomo Mitsui bank. That's too much to carry in a getaway car, so they tried to wire it to Israel. They hacked into the bank's computer last October and installed key logging software. Unfortunately for the thieves, the British National Hi-Tech Crime Unit discovered the plot and had been tracking their activities ever since.

Sue a Spammer

A guy from Oklahoma City named Mark has been fighting and suing spammers.

One spammer,, decided to fight back and sued Mark for a paltry $3.8 million.

I wonder why the U.S. Government won't enforce the federal anti-spam law.

Icelandic Literature

Read up on old Iceland! These links haven't worked for me yet, but if they do it should be pretty interesting.

Tax Bill

The biggest tax evader in history owes the IRS about $200,000,000. Walter was arrested at the Washington Dulles airport last month. He was denied bail.


NASA is planning to cut 20% from its aviation research. I'm not sure why or whether it's a good idea. I would prefer that NASA get a lot more money for its projects, but for some reason, those people in Congress didn't ask my opinion.

Imax Censorship

Some Imax theaters have cancelled showing the films "Cosmic Voyage," which depicts the universe in dimensions running from the scale of subatomic particles to clusters of galaxies; "Galapagos," about the islands where Darwin theorized about evolution; and "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," an underwater epic about the bizarre creatures that flourish in the hot, sulfurous emanations from vents in the ocean floor.

Why? Those films are blasphemous!

I wonder what they'll do about the 9,237 gunshots fired per night on prime time TV, not to mention all the naughty words on South Park. (New episode Wednesday.)

Iraqi Oil

This person has the unmitigated gall to suggest the Iraq War was waged because of oil.

Everybody knows there's no oil in Iraq. That's why the Pentagon paid Halliburton $27,500,000 million to ship $82,100 worth of cooking and heating fuel to Iraq.

A Fish Story,0,7835898.column


Secretary of State Condoleezza said the U.S. has concerns that Venezuela government may interfere in the internal affairs of its neighbors. When I heard that on the radio, I thought it was really, really funny. But then, I may be a little warped.

Pictures of Today!

An explosive exploder in Iraq, 2/27/05:


A navy patrol boat near Kuwait, March 05:


A Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) near Kuwait, March 05:


A Seahawk training over the Pacific, operating from the USS Kitty Hawk, March 05:


Here are some pictures I took hiking (cross country skiing) in Colorado last week. I liked them, so there are a bunch...

      img_3957      img_3957

This is our cabin. The sign is at the fork of a county road, but with all the snow you can't see where the roads are.

      img_3962      img_3964

The cabin:

      img_3974      img_3993      img_3991

Other pictures from the hike:

      img_3988      img_3997      img_4002

      img_4004      img_4012      img_4013

      img_4023      img_4030      img_4033

      img_4035      img_4042      img_4045

      img_4047      img_4058      img_4048

      img_4052      img_4053      img_4057

Other Mountain Pictures:

      pict0967      pict1004

      pict1020      pict1022

An avalanche:

      pict1006      pict1007

It's Spring!

      pict1063      pict1065

(e) 2005, no rights deserved. Any duplication or distribution of this material without prior written permission is encouraged. Copy the heck out of this fine tripe!

If you'd like to sign up for Junkmail or if you'd like to peruse the archives, go to

If you'd like to stop getting this neurotic collection of Junk, please choose any or all of the following fun-filled options:

1. Change your email address and don't tell me what it is.
2. Give up the internet.
3. Ban all email from your computer.
4. Send me an email with "Kangerlussuaq" as the subject.

I'm Bob Webster from Earth. I can usually be found at
Have a nice day!