Fifteen miles east of Prudhoe Bay is BP's Liberty drilling rig. I flew around it last summer and took these pictures:
You can see the sea ice in the background of the third picture.
The Liberty rig is the most powerful drilling rig in the world, with 105,000 ft-lbs of torque, compared to 30,000-45,000
ft-lbs in other North Slope rigs. It was built by Parker Drilling. It will drill about six wells, 2 miles down and 6 or
8 miles horizontally under the ocean floor, the longest extended reach wells ever attempted anywhere. Drilling fluid
pressures inside the well will be 7,500 psi, compared to 3,500-4,500 psi in a typical Prudhoe Bay well.
By drilling horizontally, they rig can remain on dry ground, although the dry ground it is on is an artificial gravel
They plan to start drilling next year, with full production of 40,000 barrels per day in 2013. The field is supposed to
contain 100 million barrels of oil.
Fugro Earth Data
I was at Fairbanks last summer and met some people doing aerial mapping in a modified Lear Jet. Later on that day, I
noticed this at a motel:
I'm not sure, but I would guess that they're from the same company. This rocket-looking thing is from Fugro Earth Data.
They hang it down underneath a helicopter, and it maps the ground using camera, radar, microwave, or whatever they need.
The radar mapping is pretty neat because it can see down through clouds and thick vegetation.
The result of this and companies like it is that we can have recent, detailed maps of the entire earth.
I read a book recently about the war in Afghanistan, set in the early 1980's. The Soviet Union was fighting instead of
the U.S. Accurate maps of rural Afghanistan were pretty much non-existent. Communications were spotty and, in many
areas, non-existent. Roads in rural areas were few and far between.
Today, I can get on Google Earth and see just about any village in Afghanistan. Most people in Afghanistan, including
many in villages, have cell phone service. Satphones are available for communications elsewhere. Today, I can look at a
GPS to see precisely where I am in Afghanistan (or anywhere else on earth.) Even this wasn't possible (for civilians)
Project West Ford
The 1964 Summer Olympics were held in Tokyo, Japan. These showcased Japan's emergence as a modern nation, almost 20
years after World War II, and as world leader in technology and manufacturing.
Earlier in 1964, NASA launched the Syncom 3 satellite, the world's first geostationary communications satellite.
Television feeds of the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo were sent to the U.S. through Syncom 3.
In the late 1950's, the U.S. military decided it didn't want its long range communications to rely on undersea
communications cables, which could be cut by the Soviets, or bouncing radio signals off the ionosphere, which is a
little unreliable. They came up with Project West Ford, which would create an artificial ionosphere for radio
Project West Ford would launch 480 million copper needles, about .7 inches long and .001 inches in diameter into orbit.
With hundreds of millions of these scattered around in orbit, they would reliably reflect radio waves for long-range
On October, 1961, NASA launched the needles. The needles didn't disperse properly, so they tried again on May, 1963.
This time it worked. About 19 kilograms of the needles made it to orbit 2,300 miles high, making a layer about 9 tall
high and 18 miles thick around the earth.
The communications worked pretty well at first, and then degraded about a month later as the needles spread out, as
expected. The project was cancelled before any more needles were launched. Communication satellites worked better than
the orbital layer of copper needles, and there was some international resistance to trashing space with a bunch of
The needles were only supposed to be in space for about three years before they fell to earth, because the low weight
per surface area allowed the solar wind to degrade their orbits. However, some of the needles ended up in clusters which
are still in orbit, 47 years later.
Border Laptop Searches
The U.S. Government can search your laptop and other electronic devices at the border, even when they don't suspect you
of doing anything wrong. Since 2008, they have searched over 6,500 computers, phones, etc. If you won't give them your
password, they'll keep your laptop for a while.
This policy started under Bush in 2008, and was continued with Obama. The ACLU is suing the government over this policy.
I might agree with them this time.
In the U.K., you can go to jail if you keep your password secret:
Even the FBI cannot reasonably break some common hard drive encryption.
In 1972 NASA launched Pioneer 10. It headed out of the solar system, and in 1988 it passed Pluto's orbit. It is now 9 or
10 billion miles from the sun, somewhere around 10 AU's. An AU is the distance from the earth to the sun.
After 38 years of travel, Pioneer 10 is .037 percent (one 2710th) of the way to the nearest star.
Some people noticed that Pioneer 10 is showing weak acceleration toward earth. The amount of acceleration is tiny -- one
ten billionth of earth's gravitational acceleration. It might be caused by uneven heat radiation by Pioneer 10, or,
according to a recent research paper, it could be caused by an undiscovered force of physics.
The anomalous acceleration on Pioneer has been observed for more than 10 years, so this is new research on old data.
Believe it or not, a few companies are raking in billions of dollars from the U.S. government in Afghanistan, and the
way much of that money is spent is not being accounted for.
It's a good thing people are honest, or there could be some fraudulent practices going on.
Things have been improving since 2007, but they might have a little more work to do in the accountability area.
A Girl on a Whaleship
This site has the journal of 6-year-old girl who went on a 3-year whaling voyage in 1868, and some other interesting
stuff about whaling back then.
HDCP Master Key
New DVDs have their content encrypted using HDCP. If you build a DVD player or write an application that plays Blueray
discs, you need to incorporate an HDCP product key into your player. You get that from Intel or some electronics
organization that pays homage to the MPAA. Before they give you your HDCP product key, they make sure your player is
incapable copying the DVD data or sending the original stream to another device.
When someone steals your HDCP product key and posts it on the internet, they add your HDCP key to a revocation list that
is included with all new DVDs and Blueray discs. Every player has to check and make sure its key is not on the
revocation list before it plays something, so when that key is added to the list, theoretically all players using that
key will stop working on new content.
This system has been cracked a few times in the past, but now some people have gotten of the master HDCP key, which
allows them to generate HDCP product keys at will. This will make it possible for anybody to write unrestricted software
to read DVD and Blue-ray. In other words, people have probably already written programs to save HDCP movies and music to
the hard drive, using the bootleg keys.
This is not an earthshaking development, but I think it's kind of interesting anyway.
Here's the key. Don't break the law with it.
Righthaven, Review-Journal, xkcd, and Knuth
The newspaper Las Vegas Review-Journal has made a deal with a suing company called Righthaven. The newspaper assigns the
copyrights of its articles to Righthaven. Righthaven then searches for copies of the newspaper's articles online. Then
Righthaven sues for a lot
of money, before even contacting the web site or asking them to remove the offending
material. Righthaven and/or the Review-Journal have sued 151 people since March.
I will have to remember to buy the Las Vegas Sun instead of the Review-Journal next time I'm in Las Vegas.
Last June Righthaven sued a realtor who had these eight sentences on his blog. They came from a thirty sentence April 30
article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
A pilot program from Fannie Mae could help level the playing field between cash-laden investors and owner-occupants
bidding on low-priced foreclosure homes in Las Vegas, the president of a real estate organization said Thursday.
Fannie Mae is extending the "First Look" grace period in Nevada from 15 days to 30 days effective Monday. That gives
buyers who plan to make the home their primary residence first shot at purchasing a foreclosure within 30 days of its
Typically, these buyers are up against multiple cash offers -- anywhere from five to 20 -- on homes priced below
$150,000, said Noah Herrera, president of Nevada Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.
At least 50 percent of foreclosure sales in Las Vegas are cash-only transactions, he said.
"We're seeing investors come back in droves, all the real estate seminars in Las Vegas," Herrera said. "We've got
literally thousands and thousands of prequalified buyers right now sitting on the sidelines. If you're the bank, what
are you going to look at -- a cash offer that is very close or financed?"
The Judge dismissed the case because the material in question was considered "fair use" under U.S. copyright law,
because the blog entry contained facts and not the author's commentary, the readers were directed to the full article,
and it contained only the first eight sentences of the thirty-sentence article.
It is unfortunate that so many people have paid the extortion money to Righthaven to settle lawsuits like this.
I like the way http://xkcd.com
does it. Xkcd is growing faster than the Review-Journal.
"You are welcome to reprint occasional comics pretty much anywhere (presentations, papers, blogs with ads, etc)," he
writes. "If you're not outright merchandizing, you're probably fine. Just be sure to attribute the comic to xkcd.com."
Randall Munroe writes (draws?) xkcd. He was invited to speak at Google in Mountain View in 2007. Ellen, who was his
contact, invited Donald Knuth to attend, and surprise Monroe with the first question in the Q&A. He did!
Here's a video of Donald Knuth when he was an undergrad at Case Institute of Technology, about 1959.
When he was there, he took a math class. The teacher gave out a problem at the beginning of the semester and said if
anybody could solve it, they would get an A in the class. Everybody knew it was impossible, so nobody looked at it. One
afternoon Knuth missed the bus to go to an out-of-town football game. With nothing to do, he took a look at the math
problem. He solved it that evening. After he presented the answer, he never went back to that math class. He took enough
graduate courses as an undergraduate that he was awarded and MS when he got his BS. This was apparently after a slow
start. He said he had to give up ping pong the second semester of his freshman year because his grades were suffering.
The government eavesdrops on our phone and internet communications.
Video cameras are everywhere, recording us on the streets, stores, and, occasionally, even hotel rooms.
But if you try it and video places like Customs lines, airport security, or even a police stop (which is being recorded
on video by the police), you could end up in jail. If you do feel the need to video the police, here are some
The U.S. government has decided that privacy doesn't exist in public places, and they can stick a GPS tracking device on
anybody's car without a warrant. Some people don't like this. I don't mind, as long as I get to keep the GPS tracker.
But I'd be tempted to put it on a freight train or a ship if I found one.
In a noble effort to shore up AMD's market share in the CPU business, Intel has decided to give customers what they
don't want. Intel's new CPUs will be crippled, running slower than normal. Then you pay Intel an extra $50 and they'll
give you a code that "unlocks" your CPU to make it fast, by switching on the hyperthreading and some of the cache that
was disabled. It's kind of like a reverse rebate.
It's a marketing strategy called "giving customers what they don't want." Microsoft, Yahoo, and several other search
companies tried this. Instead of the fast, streamlined, extensive search provided by Google, these companies insisted,
until recently, in cluttering up their search results with a bunch of extra stuff, offering poor search speed, and
omitting the less popular web sites from their search engines.
For example, searching for "xpda junkmail" gets 60,000 hits with Google, but only 2,600 hits with Bing and Yahoo. People
don't want the unimportant sites most of the time, but occasionally the unimportant sites are very important to people.
That is enough to get them to use Google.
Another good example of offering what the customer does not want is the site digg.com
. It's a news aggregation site -- you can go there and read the popular news articles in a number of areas such as
technology, politics, etc. Digg recently redesigned their site, apparently with little or no user input. Afterward,
there was a huge user backlash and a massive traffic decline at Digg, followed by a new CEO and layoffs of about 1/3 of
What brought this on this change? People were submitting so many trash links to Digg, the good links on the site became
lost in the noise. These trash links were submitted by site owners who used Digg to spam their own sites and generate
traffic. Digg didn't do anything to stop the practice.
Their growth declined or stopped, and they decided they needed to redesign their site. Never mind that the customers
just wanted good links. I used to go to Digg when I returned from parts unknown, out of touch with earth for a while,
and wanted to read the news for the past few weeks. Now that's impossible -- it's full of trash links.
The funny thing about this was that much of the Digg traffic went to http://reddit.com
which is a really ugly site with good links -- something the customers do want.
The London Times recently started charging people to read their paper online. They announced that 100,000 people have
paid for the online subscription. But their traffic is only 13% of what it was.
Bell, California is a town of about 36,000 people in Los Angeles County. The city manager, who earned a paltry $1.5
million, was charged with 53 counts of misappropriation of public funds, falsification of documents and conflict of
interest. Seven others were charged with crimes, and a bunch more got away with things like outrageous salaries and
For example, when the benefits package is added, the Assistant City Manager's annual pay was $845,960 and the Police
Chief's was $770,046. They must have a lot of tax revenue in Bell.
Bank of America
A notice on Bank of America's web site: "We want you to know investment products provided by Banc of America Investment
Services, Inc. Are Not FDIC Insured, May Lose Value, Are Not Bank Guaranteed. Bank of America. Higher Standards."
All this is normal information, now required to be advertised. It just struck me as funny next to the higher standards
File Sharing and Other Abuse
In France, they passed a law fining or banning entire households from the internet if they get caught sharing music
files illegally three times. But the law did not require ISPs to identify users based on IP addresses. So they changed
the law and required ISPs to send warning letters to file sharers.
Now, some people have come up with a VPN (virtual private network) that lets file sharers pass through alternative IP
addresses outside France, making it essentially impossible for the music companies to identify them.
Last Junkmail I mentioned a DoS attack on MPAA web and other sites. The DoS attack eventually shutting down the ACS:Law
site for a while, too. ACS:Law is a company that sues file sharers in the U.K. The company's only registers solicitor is
Andrew Crossley. He has been been found guilty twice of conduct unbefitting a solicitor and is (or has) been summoned to
his third disciplinary tribunal.
After the DoS attack, Crossley said, "It was only down for a few hours. I have far more concern over the fact of my
train turning up 10 minutes late or having to queue for a coffee than them wasting my time with this sort of rubbish."
When the site came back online, a 350 mb backup of the site was visible to anyone. This backup, which included all their
email and spreadsheets listing
Shortly after the site came back online, someone hacked into the ACS:Law computer, downloaded all the emails on the
system, and posted them online. They also posted a list of people that ACS:Law accused of illegal file sharing.
Crossley and ACS:Law is also known for blackmailing people who download pornography on the internet.
The RIAA sued 18,000 people over 5 years. Professional suing companie such as ACS:Law and U.S. Copyright Group have
filed 24,000 lawsuits against file sharers and/or IP addresses in the first nine months of this year alone. In addition
to music and movies, the companies are suing over pornography. This is because nobody seems to care whether downloaders
get sued for downloading pornography, and the people beings sued are likely to settle rather than appear in court.
In other abuse of Intellectual Property Laws, we'll look at a company called Webvention. Webvention buys patents on
obvious web site techniques, then threatens companies with lawsuits unless they pay a one-time $80,000 royalty. One good
example is the rollover image. That's an image on a web site that changes with the mouse rolls over it.
I just did a Google search on "rollover image" and got more than 5,000,000 hits, explaining dozens of ways to do it.
Rollover images are simple, trivial, and obvious. While I have not looked at the patent, I would be willing to bet $0.25
that there was prior art before the patent application.
If you decide to invest in gold, don't take tips from Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, or Fred Thompson.
On 5 September 1990 the U.S. Destroyer Acadia departed San Diego for the first war-time deployment of male-female crew
on a U.S. Navy combat vessel. The Acadia returned to San Diego in 1991. 36 women on the ship had received medical
transfers for pregnancy.
Here's the Acadia in 1982 (top):
The Acadia was decommissioned in 1994, and was sunk September 20, 2010 in military exercises off the coast of Guam.
The Battle of Baghdad
Somewhere between 80,000 and 1,000,000 people were killed in the Battle of Baghdad. It happened 752 years ago. The
Mongols beat the Moslims. Eight years later, the Moslems (the Egyptian Mamluk dynasty) took Baghdad back from the
Stupid Pilot Tricks
Five years ago a guy took off at Teterboro, New Jersey in a jet that was overweight and out of balance. Rather, he tried
to take off. He ended up ramming a warehouse. The company's pilots routinely falsified their weight-and-balance forms.
On October 21, 75-year-old Senator Jim Inhofe landed his twin-engine Cessna at Port Isabel, Texas. But the runway he
landed on was closed, with big yellow X's, a truck and other vehicles, and construction workers on it. A few days later,
he took off from the same airport. He used a taxiway.
You are supposed to check notices called Notams before you land at an airport, to make sure things like this don't
happen. If I landed on that runway, I probably would have lost my pilot license already. But I'm not a politician.
Inhofe says he won't guarantee he'll be more vigilant about checking Notams, and that people who fly a lot just don't do
it. He said it would be impractical for him to do so on the many flights he makes to small airports in Oklahoma each
year. That is wrong, dangerous, illegal, and, worst of all, sets a poor example for other pilots.
Terrorists are Everywhere!
Charleston, West Virginia was almost blown off the map in September when a guy dropped his phone through a storm drain
and went down through a manhole cover to retreive it. The police shutdown city streets and evacuated two buildings.
Oil Spill Fraud
Surprisingly, some people are filing fraudulent claims to get money from BP over the oil spill.
Soviet Submarine K-129
In 1968, a Soviet Golf II class ballistic missile submarine, K-129, sank in 16,000 feet of water about 600 miles north
of Midway Atoll in the Pacific.
Soviet Golf II Submarine
The U.S. knew where it was, using it's SOSUS underwater listening stations, but the Soviets did not. The CIA built a
ship to recover the Soviet sub, but the submarine broke apart in the process. It was an interesting situation, because
the Soviets were searching for the submarine while the U.S. was trying to raise it.
The details are still classified, but people seem to think that a couple of nuclear torpedoes were recovered with the
bow section of the submarine.
Some books have been written about this, putting forth a variety of theories on "what really happened," but it looks to
me like the submarine sank on its own.
The state of California gives out credit cards (or debit cards) to some welfare recipients, or finincial aid, or
whatever the acceptable term is now. Poor people can then use these cards at the grocery store, Walmart, or Las Vegas
$69 million in California welfare money has been spent out of state with these cards in recent years, including $11.8
million in Las Vegas. California politicians said not to worry, it's less than one percent of the $10.8 billion in
welfare spent during that period.
you have to click on if you want to get to the site, they say
You shall defend, indemnify and hold harmless Intuit and its officers, directors, shareholders, and employees, from
and against all claims and expenses, including but not limited to attorneys fees, in whole or in part arising out of
or attributable to any breach of this Agreement by you.
That means if I post one of Melinda's photos on their forum without her permission, and Melinda sues Intuit because of
that, then I have to pay for all of Intuit's legal fees. There is no limit to the amount I have to pay. All because I
terms in order for them to be valid, according to recent court decisions.
Please review and ignore this valuable piece of information.
The demand for incandescent light bulbs in the U.S. is half what it was five years ago, according to General Electric.
Fluorescent bulbs have been taking their place, along with increasing numbers of LED light bulbs.
Over the next few months, GE's 40-watt equivalent led bulb and Philips' 60-watt equivalent bulb will become popular over
the next few months, even though they'll cost about $40 or $50 apiece. They will last 25 times longer than regular light
bulbs and use about 75% less electricity.
In the next few years there will be a lot more options in size, color, and packaging, and the prices will drop.
Here's an interesting article on today's music business trends.
Two free applications that look pretty good:
Clonezilla allows you copy one hard drive to another, such as your c: drive to larger hard drive. In other words, you
can get a bigger hard drive without reinstalling Windows.
DVD Styler does DVD authoring. You can use it to make a player playable DVD with menus and etc.
A new type of snailfish has been discovered. You'll need four and a half miles of fishing like to catch it, though. It
lives at a depth of 23,000 feet. The snailfish was found by a team lead by Alan Jamieson of the University of
I like this blog. But then, I might be a little warped.
German newsreels from World War II are interesting.
Oklahoma Politics from an Oregonianite:
Here is my baby sister's stuff:
Last Saturday about 650 singers, from an opera company to high school choruses, infiltrated shoppers Macy's in
Philadelphia. At 12:00 noon, they all sang Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, accompanied by a pipe organ.
Sometime in the next couple of months, our family (3 generations or so) and any strays we can recruit will sing Handel's
Messiah, start to finish, solos in unison. This is an annual event, although "event" might be too strong a word. It's
pretty informal. Let me know if you want in on it.
I took a picture of a spider a few weeks ago.
I also took a picture of a couple of grasshoppers, a red legged grasshopper and a Carolina grasshopper.
Actually, there were three grasshoppers. That second one was mating with a third. Maybe that's why there are so many
These grasshoppers look pretty cool up close, and grasshoppers are fairly easy to take pictures of. It takes more
patience than I usually have to take pictures of most animals. Even butterflies don't cooperate with me most of the time
when I come at them with a camera. But grasshoppers are particularly dumb or brave, and they let me take their picture.
So I got the idea of taking a picture of all the types of grasshoppers. I realize there are a couple of Googol
grasshoppers that come through occasionally, but I didn't think there were too many varieties. I asked Google. I learned
that there are over 11,000 (or 20,000, depending on who you ask) species of grasshoppers, 548 in North America, and
about 400 species of grasshoppers in the rangeland of the western U.S. Grasshoppers just exceeded my patience as a
photographer. Maybe I should go with walking sticks.
Some people in western India found some amber in a coal mine. In about 350 lbs of amber, they found 700 dead bugs. These
bugs, or arthropods, happened to be 50-52 million years old.
Fourteen orders and more than 55 families and 100 species of arthropods have been discovered in the amber so far. The
amber can be dissolved using organic solvents, leaving the bug. The bugs are stable enough to then be observed under a
These photos were taken by David Grimaldi of the University of Bonn.
50 million years ago, India had not yet slammed up into Asia. It was still an island, but it was close to Asia, with
small islands in between. The bugs discovered in the amber show that there was not much "biological insularity" in India
before it merged with Asia. In other words, the bugs were already going back and forth between India and Asia.
Here are some pictures and other information on the project:
Cell Phone Cancer
Robert Park, a real live physicist, pointed out this week, "The physics has been clear since Einstein was awarded the
1920 Nobel Prize in Physics. All known cancer agents create mutant strands of DNA. Photons with wavelengths longer than
ultraviolet (which begins at the blue end of the visible spectrum) can’t create mutant strands of DNA, and hence do not
lead to cancer."
Cell phone radiation, therefore, cannot cause brain cancer. But my cell phone irritates my brain when it rings. That's
why I don't keep it with me.
McDonalds, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, Borders, and a lot of other high-traffic stores have free wireless internet. I
think that is very nice of them, and I use it occasionally.
A lot of other people use free wifi at public locations, too. People use it to get online to sites such as Facebook,
Flickr, Amazon, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, and WordPress. A few people use the wifi at these locations to login to other
people's accounts, using Firesheep. Well, maybe more than a few. There have been more than half a million downloads of
Firesheep since the Firefox extension was released a few days ago.
With Firesheep, you can walk into a crowded Starbucks, display on a Firefox sidebar everybody (including photos, in many
cases) on the wifi network who logs into Facebook, Flickr, Amazon, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, and WordPress. If you double
click on someone, you're automatically on that site logged into their account.
Here's a story of a guy in New York who tried to warn the others in a Starbucks about their insecurity.
Firesheep doesn't use any new vulnerabilities in wifi security. This has always been possible. It just didn't come in an
application that's so easy to use.
Here's how to protect yourself from things like Firesheep:
It is usually enough if you use https instead of http in your link, such as
. This does work for most sites, but maybe not for Facebook and a few others. When Facebook
compares your login to a cookie on your computer, it does it unencrypted.
A lot of small sites don't have ssl (https://) because it costs money to get a certificate. Other
sites, such as xpda.com, don't need it so much because there's no login involved.
Fireshepherd is a Firefox extension that overflows Firesheep with junk network packets, but it can be circumvented.
Here's where to get Firesheep. Do not break the law with it.
Actually, the law might be a little gray in this area. When Firesheep violates your security, it does not access your
computer, which would be illegal. It only accesses the web site. It does not log into the website using your username,
which would be illegal. It just convinces the web site that it is you, and that you are already logged in. It does
eavesdrop on your wifi connection, which is illegal but commonly done even by people outside the U.S. government.
There are bound to be some other legal and illegal technicalities here, and I imagine they'll arrest a person or two for
using Firesheep. But with half a million users, they're better off fixing the web site and network vulnerabilities. The
source code of Firesheep is public, so they cannot shut it down at the source.
You don't need to worry about this at home unless you have an unsecured wireless network, and then only when someone
else is close enough to listen in. You should use encryption on your home wireless network unless you don't mind
FAA Aeronautical Charts
The FAA Aeronautical charts can all be downloaded free now from the FAA's site:
Pictures of Today!
I took some pictures of some animals (and bugs, which are also animals) in Oklahoma, Florida, and in between.
Click here to see them.
9/28/2010 1:10 PM
I took this through a telescope.
John Deere / Nipak / Kaiser, disassembled fertilizer plant.
I have been taking pictures of this log at Maroon Lake for a lot of years.
A slightly used helicopter in Mississippi.
10/19/2010 12:45 PM