More Junkmail from Bob!

Thursday, August 4, 2005
Important Stuff.

It's been a while since the last Junk Mail, but your reprieve is over! Among other things, I spent almost month on a sailboat crossing the Atlantic, which should have given me plenty of time to write lots of Junk. But I squandered the time on other stuff. My brother Mike, Serge Bigotto, my baby daughter Melinda, Mike's middle kid Kenny, and I went. Here is an informal journal of the trip, complete with pictures. (Mike lied about the pirates.)

The Shuttle is Up!


Halley VI

The Brunt Ice Shelf is in Antarctica. Technically, I suppose, it must be off the coast of Antarctica because it's floating on the ocean, more or less permanently. The Brunt Ice Shelf is to the east of Palmer Peninsula (that part of Antarctica that sticks up toward Argentina), across Weddell Sea.


The U.K. has a research station on the Brunt Ice Shelf called Halley V. It is currently at about Latitude 75°35' S, Longitude 26°39' W. Halley I was built in 1956 or 1957. It was crushed under snow accumulation. So were Halley II, III, and IV. Halley V was built above ground and is in use today. It was commissioned in 1992, and can handle 65 people in the summer and 15 over winter.


One of the problems of building a research station on an ice shelf is that the ice shelf moves into ocean and breaks up into icebergs, like a glacier. It's bad form for a country to forget about its researchers and let them float off into the Southern Ocean. Britain has been particularly sensitive about this since Ernie Shackleton's 1914 expedition on the Endurance:

Several books have been written about this -- it is an amazing story.

Here's a web site by a guy at the Halley V station:

Halley V is nearing the end of the line. I'm not sure whether it's close to falling off into the ocean, or just old and worn out. At any rate, the design for Halley VI has been selected. It's a building on skis. The skis can be lowered to allow the building to be dragged by a bulldozer. Construction will begin in January 2007, and it should be completed in December 2008.

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      Centralmoduleiso      Sectionsciencemodule      Sectionstandardmodule


The new GOES-N satellite is supposed to launch "real soon now," after a traditional delay or two. GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. I see why they use the initials.

GOES 10 and GOES 12 are currently in use in the eastern (105°W) and west (135°W) U.S. GOES 11 is parked in storage mode in case GOES 10 or 12 break down. GOES-N, which will become GOES 13 when it reaches orbit, will be parked in orbit for a while before it is used. That means there's no big rush to launch it and they want to make sure everything is working right before it leaves town.

Here is a picture of the 7,000 lb GOES-N being lowered into its rocket.


More information:

The GOES satellites are primarily weather satellites. They also look at the sun for space weather, and listen for emergency signals from ELT (aircraft), EPIRB (boats), and PLB (people) emergency transmitters.

The War on Luggage

An American Airlines airliner was flying along over Florida a few days ago. Or maybe they were over the Atlantic, because they were on the way to San Juan. Someone found a crumpled note with chewing gum in it. It had the word "bomb" repeated a few times, along with "meet the parents." Nothing else.

The note went to a flight attendant and then to the captain. The gum went with the note. The plane turned around and landed back at Fort Lauderdale. Bags were checked, passengers were checked, tray tables and seatbacks were checked. No bombs. No stray parents. Luckily for the passengers, the bags on the plane were neither blown up nor hosed down. The FBI is investigating.

MSN Messenger Worm

The Kirvo worm that spreads via MSN Messenger. You get a message with a link from someone in your friends list, then click on the link, and the worm is installed on your computer.

TSA Broke Privacy Laws

But few people care, and nobody will be charged with a crime. I think if they can break the privacy laws, I should be able to drive 85 without getting a ticket.,1848,68292,00.html


Congress has extended daylight savings time.

Here is one of my favorite quotes:  "According to some senators, farmers complained that a two-month extension could adversely affect livestock." The cows don't know what time it is!!!

The time change has caused the infamous Y2.005K problem, threatening society as we know it. Computers, fancy watches, handheld GPS's, and possibly sledgehammers will have to be reprogrammed to account for the new time changes. And since I'll see the sun more, it will cause the earth to heat up and contribute to global warming.

Witch Hunts

U.S. Congressman Joe from Texas is investigating researchers because he doesn't like the science.

A lot of other researchers don't like the threat of congressional investigations if they produce results contrary to the current political climate. It reminds me of Galileo. He was jailed and forced to renounce his outrageous claim that the Earth revolved around the Sun. I think science should be science, and if it's wrong, it will eventually be proven wrong. Unless you live in Washington where facts are fleeting, nebulous concepts.

Arctic sea ice was at a record low level in June. This is a fact.

But I think global warming is over-hyped. For example, I don't think half of Florida will be flooded in this century. But there is definitely less ice today than there was in 1950. I'm not sure why, but I suspect people are a contributing factor. But there were ice ages and thaws before the industrial revolution, so it's likely there are natural causes too. Why aren't people natural, anyway?,,SB112164614315887932,00.html
      (subscription required)

Where is the Arctic Sea Ice now? You can find out here, just in case you're planning a boat trip across the Northwest Passage:

Microsoft Owns Smiley?

Microsoft has filed for a patent for "emoticons," those funny faces you can use while chatting. Some people, including me, think this is ridiculous.,39020645,39210396,00.htm

The European Parliament threw out the new software patent law last month. I'm happy about that.,1367,68099,00.html

Can Spam

Spamming has been illegal in the U.S. since January 1, 2004. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has been too busy with other things to stop many spammers. In Russia there are no laws against spamming. They just kill the spammers.


Watermarks are marks on paper that show up when you hold the paper up to a light. They were originally made using a water saturated stamp or roll on the paper when the paper was made.

Now there are digital watermarks. Some digital images have hidden or partially hidden watermarks. For example, go to and bring up a satellite map. Then look closely and you'll see the Google trademark message. I bet they didn't have that before they went public.

Now there are unique watermarks on color laser printers, so law enforcement officers and divorce lawyers can prove where a laser printed document came from. They're pretty much invisible to the naked eye. Some privacy fans are not thrilled about this advancement in technology.

Guantanamo Prosecutors Quit

Two military prosecutors at Guantanamo Bay requested reassignment last year because they said the other prosecutors were "ignoring torture allegations, failing to protect exculpatory evidence and withholding information from superiors." One of them (John) said the conduct "may constitute dereliction of duty, false official statements or other criminal conduct."

A court ruling stopped the Guantanamo military prosecutions in November. That ruling was overturned by a three-judge panel. John G. Roberts was one of the three judges. John G. Roberts was then nominated by the President for the U.S. Supreme Court. They hope to resume Guantanamo prosecutions next month. I think those people should be prosecuted or released. It's a bad idea to jail people without charging them with a crime.

This is the better story, but it requires a subscription (or you can read it in the paper Wall Street Journal, August 1, 2005; Page B1).,,SB112285649242201078,00.html

Here's a free, condensed version:

Mexico is Scary

According to CNN and Jose Antonio Ortega, Mexico has passed Colombia and Brazil this year in reported kidnappings.

There were 194 reported kidnappings in Mexico in the first six months of this year. About 5 times that many went unreported, according to some articles which have to be true because they were on the internet.

In Nuevo Laredo, the Mexican town across the border from Laredo, TX, 30 U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in the past year. 18 police officers have been killed this year. A new Nuevo Laredo police chief, Alejandro Dominguez, was sworn in last June. He was killed a few hours later. The next police chief, Chief Omar Pimente, survived a drive-by shooting on his first day of the job last month. One of his bodyguards didn't.

      science daily article

      science daily article

Last month, 44 kidnapping victims were freed when 200 Mexican federal agents raided three houses in Nuevo Laredo.

The U.S. extended a travel warning to Mexico because of violence along the border.

A group of Mexican Mercenaries is offering $50,000 bounties for the assassination of U.S. law-enforcement officers, according to the Washington Times.

Here are some other articles:

      science daily article

The Planets

Gustav Holst's suite "The Planets" was first performed publicly in 1920. It had seven movements, skipping Earth:

   1. Mars, the Bringer of War
   2. Venus, the Bringer of Peace
   3. Mercury, the Winged Messenger
   4. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
   5. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
   6. Uranus, the Magician
   7. Neptune, the Mystic

Ten years later, a guy named Clyde in Arizona found Pluto. Gustav lived for another four years, but he didn't write another movement for Pluto.

Last January, three people (Mike, Chad, and David) discovered planet number ten. It's about 97 astronomical units (AU) from the sun. The earth is one AU from the sun. Pluto's orbit ranges from 30 to 49 AU from the sun. The new planet is bigger than Pluto, maybe about 1.5 times larger. It is the farthest known object from the sun in the solar system.

They found the new planet looking at images from the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory near San Diego. The images were taken on Halloween, 2003. They discovered the planet in January, and since then they've been studying the planet to determine its size, location, and orbit. They've submitted the planet's new name to the International Astronomical Union, but they're not telling what it is until it's approved.

Ground-based telescopes are getting better and better. This image taken last spring from the new Gemini South Telescope in Chile...

      HCG87-GMOS-S       (high resolution) close in quality to a similar image from the Hubble Space Telescope in 1999.


The Gemini South Telescope is similar to the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii. It is 8 meters in diameter, which gives it more than 40 times the area of the Samuel Oschin Telescope at Mount Palomar.


Where is Enceladus? A small town in southern Louisiana? No, it's one of Saturn's moons.

      PIA06254      (high resolution)

Enceladus was discovered in 1789, about a year after the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It is bright white -- the brightest object flying around the solar system (not counting the sun).

I had never heard of Enceladus, but Cassini flew by a few weeks ago and found some surprising things. The south pole of the moon is warmer than expected, by about 15 degrees C.

The large fractures in Enceladus (a few hundred meters across) are 20-25 degrees C warmer than the surrounding area.

This probably allows some water to evaporate and form the cloud of water vapor over the South Pole detected by Cassini. Also probably, tidal forces from Saturn and two nearby moons stress Enceladus enough to heat up its innards. "Innards" is a technical astrophysicistical term.


Here's an ice lake in a Martian crater, photographed by the European Space Agency's Mars Express. It looks good for ice skating.

NASA is planning to launch the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on August 10th from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The MRO will fly around Mars for a couple of years gathering pictures and other science data. Then it will serve as a communications platform for the Phoenix Mars Scout lander in 2007 and the Mars Science Laboratory in 2009.

The Mars Telecommunications Orbiter launch is planned for 2009. I guess that will make the MRO communications platform obsolete.

The MRO weighs about 4800 lbs. The thrusters make up about half that weight. The MRO has 20 gigabytes of flash memory and a 133mhz RAD750 computer. The RAD750 is a radiation hardened version of a PowerPC. It has a 10-foot diameter antenna...


... and some big solar panels:

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The MRO will be launched on an Atlas V rocket. How do you get an Atlas V to Cape Canaveral? On a Russian airplane, of course. Here's the booster and the second stage:

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Here's the final assembly, or close to it:


More info:

Fatal Distraction

Things are not going so well in Iraq. About 800 people per month are now getting blown up, shot, or otherwise killed by insurgents.

Around 60 American military people are being killed in Iraq each month.

Weapons of mass destruction have not yet been found, which, as I recall, was the purpose of the war. Off in Afghanistan, more people have been shooting at Americans lately. Osama "you-can-run-but-you-can't-hide" Bin Laden is still hiding.

The White House budget allocated $37 billion in 2006 and $13 billion in 2007 for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Either they're lying, or they're planning to cut back 50% to 70% next year (depending on whose numbers you use for the current spending levels).

Secretary of Defense Donald said he plans to start pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq this spring. He was careful not to say how many, though. In fact, he has met his promise to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq before. They just happened to be replaced with more people. I wonder if he'll call it "Iraqization."

Speaking of SecDef Donald... What do you do when someone writes and unflattering report about you? Classify it Secret and get it away from the public!

But the Global War on Terror is over! It is now officially the "Struggle Against Violent Extremism." I think they are now talking about tornadoes now instead of horror movies. Those flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz are terrifying.

The news people are really upset about this development. CNN news boss Susan said, "We are in the business of scaring people, and a Global War is ideal for that. This is going to kill our business!" OK, OK, she didn't really say that. But it would have been funny if she did. (President Bush hasn't caught on. He's still been using the old terminology about the War on Terror over the past couple of days.  They can't get him to pronounce "nuclear" correctly, either.)

It was almost as funny listening to the NPR lady interview someone in London after the dud bombs went off. She said, disappointedly, "Do you have any hint that there could have been more than one person injured? More than a single casualty?" I'm not joking! (I quoted from memory, so the wording may be a little off, but not by much!)

It has been ironic to read the BBC news recently, which has had far less hype on those bombing attempts than CNN or Fox.

The news folks also seemed disappointed when nobody was killed in the Air France flight that ran off the runway in Toronto. Let that be a lesson to you... do NOT land an airplane in a thunderstorm! It also didn't work in Little Rock...

...or Dallas:

If fact, it's not unusual for people to kill themselves by flying into thunderstorms. Here are a few from 2004 and 2005. Some of these planes might have crashed for reasons other than weather, but they all seem to have found themselves in or around thunderstorms just before they crashed.

Festus, MO

Huntsville, AL

Downing, MO

Atlanta, GA

Sylvester, GA

Dunkirk, NY

Great Bend, KS

Vermontville, MI

Oxford, CT

Molalla, OR

Oakland, TN

Pyote, TX

Arlington, AL

Here's a picture I took in Denver:


It could be worse. Here's a U-2 taking off to fly over hurricane Dennis, on July 6.


It's also a bad idea to land an airliner into a herd of cattle. Air France tried that last month in Nigeria. 196 people were unharmed, but 6 cows are dead. Early reports had 7 cows dead, but that was just hysteria.

Also, you should keep your luggage tied down, or at least "secured," in an airplane. Especially in an F-16.

The really dangerous things are not very newsworthy. About 1200 people per month are killed in the U.S. in traffic accidents when the driver or pedestrian or bicyclist is drunk.

It's a little tricky. An alcohol-related accident, according to the government, is when someone has a blood alcohol content of .01 percent. It takes .08 to be drunk in most (45) states. Last year there were 16,694 fatalities in accidents with drivers (or pedestrians or bicyclists) with a blood alcohol content over .01 percent in the U.S., and 14,409 fatalities with drivers (or pedestrians or bicyclists) with over .08 percent blood alcohol content.

So, in 2004 there were about 1200 deaths per month in the U.S. in accidents involving drunk drivers, walkers, and pedalers. That's more than are being killed by Iraqi insurgents. That's also about 1/3 of all traffic fatalities.

But last year, about 500,000 people died from cancer. If you're 25 now, you have a 1 in 10 chance of dying from cancer in the next 50 years.

Maybe we should spend some of that leftover war money on cancer research.

Government as Usual

Washington Post Headline: "Bush Backs Intelligent Design." Unfortunately, the story has nothing to do with managing the government. The good news is that Congress and the President are taking a month vacation. Maybe we could get them to take off for a year or two...

Accuweather and Rick

On April 12, 2005, U.S. Senator Rick Santorum received at $2,000 donation from Accuweather boss Joel Meyers. The donation was actually made to Rick's political action committee, if that matters. Two days later, Rick introduced a law that would prohibit the National Weather Service from providing weather to ordinary people like me. It seems that Rick wants me to subscribe to Accuweather and pay for this information that I currently get free.

The way I understand it, Rick's bill would shut down the National Weather Service weather radio and some very useful web sites. For example, I use this site for aviation weather (in addition to the standard briefing) almost every time I fly:

I use this site for marine weather:

I just ran across this site for weather forecasts. I like it because they don't edit out things like wind speed and expected precipitation amounts. And there are no ads.

Rick wants to close these down. Rick has received $11,000 from Accuweather boss Joel and his brother Barry since 2003. That is a coincidence. Rick really wants to shut down these weather services in order to provide better government service. Rick categorically denied ever doing anything wrong in his life, and said "Heck, I get $2.3 million in corporate donations. Why would I care about a measly $11,000?"

The bill probably won't pass as it is, but there's a fair chance they'll sneak it into law sometime, attached to a larger bill as an amendment.

Windy Weather

There's another really interesting NOAA web site that you should view right away before Congress and Accuweather decide it's unhealthy and immoral. You can see maps of the wind speeds as hurricanes meander along the ocean and onto land.

Hurricane Dennis, just before it hits the Gulf Coast at 16:30 UTC on July 10:

Hurricane Emily as it's crossing onto the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico at 11:30 UTC on July 20:

Here's a map of the maximum sustained wind speeds of Hurricane Dennis as it crossed into Florida.

Here's where to get all that data:

Gang Arrests

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested 582 street gang members in 27 states in the past couple of weeks. 76 faced criminal charges, and 506 were arrested on "administrative immigration charges."


700,007 people went to the EAA fly-in at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Since I don't like crowds, I went too, along with Sean, Graham, Matthew, Melinda, Jeff, and Leann. Here are some pictures:

Barbara Green

My sister Barb died a couple of weeks ago from cancer. She was 53.


Pictures of Today

The trail to Canigou, in the French Pyrenees. I took a hike after we sailed to Europe.

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A bunch of flowers in Peekaboo Gulch, CO:

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      (Well, lichens are kind of like flowers.)

Mountain goats at 13,000 feet, in Peekaboo Gulch.


A view from Henschel Lake, Peekaboo Gulch.


Red Mountain is also in Peekaboo Gulch.

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Cathy is doing field work for her Geology Master's Thesis there this summer. The water that comes down off Red Mountain is pretty acidic -- pH of 2.7 to 3.5. That dissolves a lot of unhealthy metals from the rocks and causes problems downstream. There has been some mining in the area, but the bad water seems to be at least partly natural. She's been playing in the mountains trying to figure all that out.

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Here's a picture of Melinda looking down the valley. "Things are larger than they appear." Can you find the car? Can you find Cathy, by the creek?


Under the waterfall.



      pict3223      img_4472

A Denver thunderstorm.


Here are Ruth, my baby sister Tricia, and Paula heading down Quandary Peak. Tricia didn't even get sick... until we got to the convenience store in Breckenridge.


Here is a railroad bridge across the Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio, near Louisville, KY. Lewis and Clark stopped here in 1803. The steamboat New Orleans stopped here 8 years later, shortly before it encountered the New Madrid Earthquake (


(c) 1789, no rights reserved. Any unauthorized duplication or distribution of this fine collection of tripe is OK with me. Copy the heck out of it! If you'd like hi-res copies of any of the photos I took, let me know and I'll be happy to send them to you.

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