More Junkmail from Bob!

May 16, 2011
Important Stuff.


Berthoud Pass is a pretty popular place in Colorado to get caught in an avalanche. It seems like a few people every year unintentionally slide down the mountain there, along with tons of snow, and a few live to talk about it.

Here's a helmet video from last December of a skier that triggered an avalanche in Berthoud Pass. Warning: I think he might have said a naughty word.

Here's a forum post on the experience:

Avalanche season is just about over in Colorado, but there are extra large cornices this year, and they say there is still a risk of wet slab avalanches. Here are some nice photos by a guy who fell through a cornice a week or two ago:

I normally think of New York as a place full of tall buildings and corrupt politicians, but New York also has some nice mountains. Last February I went hiking in the Adirondacks with a small group of mentally deficient but happy climbers. Naturally I fit right in.

Mental deficiency is a requirement for (or possibly the result of) traipsing around in deep snow, climbing mountains in the subzero wilderness for days. Only two or three days, but multiple days nevertheless. But it was actually a lot of fun. I think. The memories are a little fuzzy.


There was a minor snowstorm the day we took off, somewhere around a foot of snow. I arrived (by car) before the others, so I drove out to the trailhead, after purchasing a nice $10 snow shovel from Walmart. It's about 5 miles from the highway, and the road is not always open. I made it out and back with no problem.

We finally took off walking about 9 or 10 that evening, after parking two cars 3 miles in and two more cars (including mine) at the trailhead 5 miles in. One or two of the cars had a little trouble, and my new snow shovel got a little bit of use.

After we hiked a couple of miles to our camping spot (some arbitrary point in the snow), I got to hike back to the car and swap snow shoes because mine broke. And then I hiked back to the campsite. I was a little tired.

We hiked and frolicked in the snow for three days, and then headed back to the cars. It had warmed up to the 20s on the day we hiked out. This made the snow on the road slippery. When I drove up a big hill, I couldn't make it to the top. So I backed down and tried three or four more times, unsuccessfully. Finally I backed down into the side of the road and got stuck. I am a pretty patient driver, so I gunned the accelerator a bunch and stuck it good.

There were six people digging and pushing and generally thrashing about trying to get my car to budge. My brand new snow shovel was in one of the cars a couple of miles away, so we dug with snow shoes. No luck. I think I could have jacked it pushed it off the jack sideways 17 times to get it back to the middle of the road, but that would have taken a few hours. So I decided I'd just ride back to town with the others and call AAA. I had never called them before, but they're supposed to come get you when you're stuck or broke down.

We all loaded into a new minivan and made it to the other two cars, one of which would start, and headed to town in the remaining two cars. I called AAA to get Michael Hering's car towed in and my car unstuck. They said I was on a seasonal road and they don't do seasonal roads. But they gave me the number of a towing service. I called the towing service and they agreed to come out right away.

Michael and I borrowed one of the functional cars and waited. We were outside cell phone range where our road met the highway. After a long time, we drove into cell phone range and called the towing service to see why they had not appeared. The guy said they wouldn't make it that night after all, and he'd need to come out in the morning with extra people and equipment. We should meet him at the cars. He didn't know what time. I tried to explain that we had no way to get to the cars, and needed a definite time. That didn't seem to matter.

So we headed into the diner, which was closing, and ate some food. A waitress said there was a guy who might be able to pull us out, so we called him up. Marc said he'd be by the diner to take us out there in a few minutes. He was. We headed to the cars.

Near my car, the tow truck got stuck. But he had a long cable and a winch. I hooked the cable around a tree and Marc fired up the winch. It pulled the tree down. I guess the base of the tree I put the cable around wasn't really the base, because it was on top of a few feet of snow.

Marc got an extension and I hooked it around a giant tree, and the tow truck pulled itself out. He said we'd have to get his 4wd to pull my car out. We went back, loaded Michael's car, and took it to the garage.

Marc and I went back out to my car in his 4wd truck/snow plow. We got stuck on the way to my car, but he had two shovels and we got it out in 5 or 10 minutes. He plowed the road to my car, and plowed a turnaround.

When I walked up to my car, I noticed it was making a funny clicking noise. I was worried that I had snagged some electric wires on the bottom of the car when I was digging with snow shoes earlier. Then I noticed the car door wouldn't unlock when I hit the button. Then I noticed that I only had one manual door lock, on the driver side, which wouldn't open until I dug out a bunch of snow. But I eventually got inside the car and learned that the battery was down. The alarm had been set off somehow, either by us when we left or by someone checking for dead bodies.

Luckily, Marc had jumper cables. Unluckily, they didn't work. But Marc fixed them after a few minutes, my car started, and we drove away. It was colder and the road was plowed, so I didn't have too much trouble getting out.

If you ever need to be towed in Tupper Lake, New York you should call Marc Counter at Counter's Garage. He was nice, helpful, never complained, and didn't even overcharge us.

I made it to the room sometime around 3:00 am on February 28. On March 1, they closed the road for two months.


A couple of Junkmails ago I remarked about how Righthaven is suing hundreds of people for the online posting of pictures and excerpts of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

There are millions of pictures and articles posted on the web without authorization. A few companies will ask that their "intellectual property" be removed, and then if you refuse they might sue.

Righthaven looks for photos, etc., from the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Denver Post. If they find one, they sue. No take-down request, phone call, letter, or email. Just a lawsuit. Then, after they file the lawsuit, they offer to settle for a few thousand dollars.

My response is never to spend a dime on the Las Vegas Review-Journal or Denver Post. I think that has hurt them pretty bad.

Righthaven's tactics and lawsuits are a bit flawed. When Righthaven sues, they claim to be the sole owner of the copyrighted material. They claim not to be affiliated with the Las Vegas Review-Journal or their parent company, Stephens Media. But if you read their contract with Stephens Media, you might notice a couple of flaws in this logic.

      Righthaven Contract

The contract between Stephens and Righthaven was made public a few weeks ago when Righthaven didn't bother to respond (i.e. object) to a filing making it public.

The people sued by Righthaven requested a 14 day response period after requesting that the contract be "unsealed". This may seem like an awfully long period, but apparently it is much shorter than normal for lawyers. Righthaven didn't notice this 14-day limit, so the contract was made public. Among other things, these points are in the contract:

1. Righthaven is never assigned the full copyright. They are only assigned the right to sue. Their contract explicitly prohibits Righthaven from using ("exploiting") the copyrighted material to make money except through lawsuits. This is invalid under copyright law, and it also makes some of their legal filings appear just a bit fraudulent: (a) "Righthaven is the owner of the copyright in and to the Work." (b) "Righthaven holds the exclusive right to reproduce the Work." (c) "Righthaven holds the exclusive right to prepare derivative works based upon the Work." (d) "Righthaven holds the exclusive right to distribute copies of the Work." (e) "Righthaven holds the exclusive right to publicly display the Work."

2. Stephen's Media has the right to take back the copyright from Righthaven any time they want, and to decide who does or does not get sued. This effectively makes the copyright assignment invalid, since it's not really a permanent assignment.

3. Stephen's Media gets 50% from all the lawsuits.

4. Under the agreement, "one of the owners of Righthaven must be a 'Stephens Media Affiliate'."

After the contract was unsealed, Righthaven threw a hissy fit in a written motion, using high-powered legal language such as "underhanded," "a ruse," "blatantly ignored," "brazen attempt," "fumbling attempt," "purposefully muddle," and "Defendants' complaint reeks of hypocrisy." Righthaven claimed the contract would be "disseminated widely throughout the internet" and harm its ability to sign up new clients. How odd.

The judge was apparently not impressed, saying, "There is an old adage in the law that, if the facts are on your side, you pound the facts. If the law is on your side, you pound the law. If neither the facts nor the law is on your side, you pound the table. It appears there is a lot of table pounding going on here."

The big deal about this contract being made public is that it undermines most or all of Righthaven's cases, and may put an end to their current lawsuits. I think some prosecutors should prosecute Stevens Media, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and the Denver Post for extortion.

When Righthaven demands settlement money, they threaten not only to sue for $150,000 or so in statutory damages, they also threaten to take over the domain of whoever posted the offending material. They do this to people like you and me for posting, say, a photo from a newspaper article on a web site. And they do it without warning.

A judge recently threw out the domain acquiring by Righthaven, along with their threat of legal fees.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, The Denver Post and/or Righthaven has sued dozens of people for posting this Denver Post photo of a TSA pat down on the web. Warning: These are a little crude.

      TSA Pat Down Photo


This is notable because the CEO of the company that owns the Denver Post also happens to be the President of the Associated Press.

One of these lawsuits targeted an unemployed, mentally and physically disabled blogger named Brian, demanding $6,000 he didn't have.

After a lot of bad publicity, Righthaven dropped this suit and insulted the judge, in order to get favorable treatment in the other 49 lawsuits. Brian's lawyers are asking for legal fees from Righthaven and the Denver Post owner.

Righthaven also sued the Drudge Report, who had posted the same photo. Matt Drudge, obviously a wimp, knuckled under and paid them off.

Then they sued a guy who wrote an article for Ars Technica, who explained to Righthaven that Righthaven is a bunch of ignorant crooks (I may have paraphrased that), so Righthaven dropped the case. Ars Technica has magnanimously continued to cover Righthaven news.

Other interesting Righthaven articles:

One final note of irony... The guy who ramdrodded the Righthaven deal with the Las Vegas Review Journal was named Sherman. Sherman was CEO at the time, but has since lost his job. He recently got caught posting infringing copyrighted material on his blog.

It's a little like CBS posting a video the internet, then demanding that it be taken down because it violated their own copyright.



eBook sales, for things like the Kindle, iPad, and Nook, are now the most popular book format. There are still more paper books being sold, but if you compare eBooks with the standard book formats such as hardback, trade paperback, and mass market paperback, the eBooks are now number one.


The U.S. Copyright Group is a law firm that sues people for profit. They get the "rights" to a movie, then make the movie available as a torrent, then sue everybody who downloads it for $150,000 or so. They graciously accept a settlement of $1,000 to $3,000. They even have a web site setup to take your payment.

The group normally sues people over pornographic movies, because people will often pay a few thousand dollars to avoid being publicly accused of downloading dirty movies. Their latest venture, however, is a suit against 23,000 people who supposedly downloaded the movie "The Expendables."

23,000 people now have to prove their innocence or pay up. Never mind that stuff you learned in elementary school about "innocent until proven guilty." This is civil court -- anything goes.

The U.S. Copyright group recently dropped a case against 10,000 downloaders when things were going badly.

At least one judge has figured out that an IP address does not identify a person.

In fact, there may be many people who use the same IP address, or many IP addresses not used by any people. But that doesn't seem to matter in the legalized extortion industry, where people will pay to avoid the unknown.

Homeland Security and Censorship

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security seized 82 web sites (domain names) last December. Some people didn't like this because it amounted to government censorship. Some of the sites were seized because they linked to file sharing sites, with nothing illegal on the seized site.

However, some politicians are pushing for laws that make it a felony to have a link on your web site to a site with illegal content.

So it should not be a problem linking to since you have to pay for the movie. But linking to might be a felony, in the unlikely event that any of these torrents violates copyrights.

I'm not sure how to tell which web sites have illegal material. What if I linked to the Washington Post when they published the Pentagon Papers? What if I link to the Wikileaks site? If a link itself is illegal and it's a felony to link to a site with illegal content, then will it be felony to link to or any site that links to a site that links to a site that links to a site that links to a site that links to a site that links to Google?

Homeland Security has been continuing to seize web sites, in order to make us safe and protect us against interstellar aliens. In the typical efficiency of such a streamlined organization, Homeland Security inadvertently shut down 84,000 web sites in February. But they never admitted making a mistake, which makes it OK in government circles.

Some people don't like this program ("Operation in Our Sites") because web sites are killed without a hearing, and the owners are typically not notified of the reason for the take-down for months. ...

Another problem with Homeland Security's web site takedowns, according to rabid constitutionalists who support arcane principles such as free speech, is that it allows the government to secretly kill politically embarrassing sites without recourse by the site owner.

Maybe Homeland Security was out of town during World Press Freedom Day.

Another problem with Homeland Security's web site takedown program, according to a few oversensitive whiners, is that the movie industry tells Homeland Security to take down a site that is supposedly pirating movies, and Homeland Security complies. A few individuals don't think the movie industry should order around the Department of Homeland Security.

In fact, Homeland Security puts a video made by NBC/Universal on the web sites it takes down. The video is an anti-piracy video, but it has some serious misstatements.

But you have to consider who we're dealing with here. The Department of Homeland Security is not even capable of generating a random number.

I looked for Homeland Security boss Janet's email address so I could send her this Junkmail and she could learn how to generate random numbers. But her email address is not on their web page. Hopefully she reads my email anyway.

   dim randObj as New Random

   x = randObj.Next ' gets a random number as often as you want.

Homeland Security has apparently been using this method:

Most politicians support the Department of Homeland Security no matter what they do. They'd be unpatriotic not to. But there are a couple of wayward politicians in Washington who seem capable of independent thought.


If you work for Wikileaks, you have to sign a non-disclosure agreement and promise to pay $20,000,000 if you leak any Wikileaks information. That sounds logical.

Oops. Somebody leaked the non-disclosure agreement.

Child Care

You can now get a 12-gauge taser shotgun shell. I could have used some of those on my kids a few years ago. In fact, it might not be too late...

Software Piracy

Unbeknownst to most people, some highly rude individuals occasionally make illicit copies of software. Avast Security software "calls home" and accesses the Avast server when it is installed. One copy of Avast Security was installed 774,651 times last December.

Instead of alienating customers and enriching lawyers, Avast is using it as a marketing bonanza. They are selling upgrades to 774,651 potentially paying customers.

Domestic Spying

The U.S. Government is spying illegally on the U.S. citizens. This is not a crackpot conspiracy theory. This has been reported by the U.S. Government.

I don't particularly care who spies on me, but it don't like it when organizations in the government intentionally break the law and get away with it, even when it's made public. If they want to spy on me, they should pass a law making it legal.

Phone and internet companies help out the FBI with their domestic spying. The FBI does not want to disclose which companies help, because that would hurt their business. Maybe if it were legal...

Here's an interesting article about a wiretapping whistleblower:

Patently Absurd

A company named Lodsys bought a patent for the Upgrade Button on an application. Lodsys doesn't actually produce anything, as far as I know. They are in the business of shaking down software companies who might or might not violate patents that might or might not be valid. In this go-round, Lodsys is suing small companies that develop software for the iPhone that has an Upgrade Button.

Apparently, someone at the U.S. Patent and Trademark office forget that patents are supposed to promote innovation. Instead, they issue thousands of patents on obvious ideas (not even inventions), which are then used to sue people who actually produce something. The people who get sued have never even heard of the patent, let alone copied it.

Tûranor PlanetSolar

The catamaran Tûranor (or PlanetSolar) was launched in March of last year. I guess the name started out as Tûranor, but they changed it to PlanetSolar because it's easier to remember. Last September, the boat embarked on a round-the-world trip.


The PlanetSolar is 102 feet long and 49 feet wide, with over 5000 square feet of solar panels, 93kW worth. It's powered by more than 5000 square feet of solar panels, 93kW worth, which drive two 80 hp and two 14 hp electric motors. The max speed is supposed to be 14 knots, but that sounds a little optimistic to me for an 85 ton boat. They've been doing around 4 knots on the circumnavigation, and are about halfway around the world in 33 weeks.

Cell Phones and Cancer

Cell phone radiation does not cause cancer. It's possible that there are some carcinogens used in your cell phone's the chip manufacture, so if you eat your cell phone it could conceivably cause a problem beyond indigestion. But cell phone radiation cannot cause molecular changes in DNA. It's the wrong frequency and too weak. It is physically impossible.

Here's an explanation by a real physicist, Robert Park.

All cancer agents act by disrupting chemical bonds. In a classic 2001 op-ed LBL physicist Robert Cahn explained that Einstein won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physics for showing that cell phones can't cause cancer. The threshold energy of the photoelectric effect, for which Einstein won the prize, lies at the extreme blue end of the visible spectrum in the near ultraviolet. The same near-ultraviolet rays can also cause skin cancer. Red light is too weak to cause cancer. Cell-phone radiation is 10,000 times weaker.

This explains why UV light can be bad for you. And why cell phone radiation does not cause cancer.

Here is one example:


On the left, a plastic thermometer is under a bright heat lamp. This infrared radiation warms but does not damage the thermometer. On the right, another plastic thermometer gets hit by a low intensity ultraviolet light. This radiation damages but does not warm the thermometer.

Quantum Physics

A lot of news articles, novels, and even a few humans have serious misconceptions about quantum physics. Here's a quick review:

Someday I'll have to learn more about that stuff.

Global Warming

The term "global warming" is out of fashion. People now used "global climate change," as directed by the U.S. Government. Conservatives like this because it does not imply global warming. Liberals like this because it does not alienate conservatives before they read and/or fund the research. I think name changes for political purposes are dumb. How many terms for "welfare" have there been since the song "Welfare Cadillac" came out in 1970?  That song is painful to listen to. But I digress.

For the record, the earth is warming. That is a fact. People argue what, if anything, should be done about it? Most of the ideas to prevent or slow down global warming won't have much of an effect. Two practical ways I can see to reduce the human effect on global warming significantly are (1) widespread use of nuclear power, and (2) negative global population growth. In other words, cut the number of people alive on earth, hopefully by reducing the birth rate rather than by killing off people who irritate the Department of Homeland Security. Neither of these is likely to happen, so my great grandkids will probably need air conditioners.

In the mean time, people argue for and against steps that might or might not influence global warming, but will definitely make a few people rich(er). Carbon credits, for example. The Grand River Dam Authority built a dam across Grand River in 1940, near Disney, Oklahoma. They generated electricity.

Since then, GRDA has gotten into coal power. Now the federal government wants GRDA to have carbon credits. That means they should have some trees to ingest the carbon dioxide from the coal they burn. It's not quite that simple, but that's the gist of it.

As a public trust, GRDA apparently has the power to condemn property for the public good. So they decided to condemn 10,000 to 20,000 acres in Ottawa County, Oklahoma. They want to take land away from private people, farms, etc. so they can claim the carbon credits. I think that has to be one of the stupidest uses of eminent domain I've ever heard.

The Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture, more commonly known as Crazylegs, wrote a letter to GRDA boss Kevin trying to talk some sense into him. However, Kevin is on his way out after some controversy about collecting two paychecks, and he probably doesn't care a lot what people think.


Before I got sidetracked on all this, I was going to write about a guy named Edward who wrote some global warming papers that were found to be plagiarized. This is not unheard of, but Edward excels. His papers were slanted and plagiarized, but the best part is his response. He blamed all of the plagiarism on a former student.

The Journal that published the paper is Computational Statistics and Data Analysis. The editor accepted the paper after only five days of "peer review." The editor also said there was an extensive review, but those records happened to have been destroyed in an office move.

It reaffirms one's faith in of human nature.

Police Videos

A whole lot of people have video capability on their cell phones. Plenty more have HD video on their compact cameras. They record just about any video that looks interesting. This include police doing their job.

People have been interested in police and illegal activity since the first newspaper was published back in the Mesozoic era. It's no surprise that people like to take videos and photos of police arrests, etc. But some of the police don't like people watching over their shoulder taking video. Then people with the cell phone cameras accuse the police of wanting to hide illegal behavior. And so on.

Eventually there will be so many video cameras, both in hands and on buildings, that this will be a moot issue. In the meantime, it is possible to get thrown in jail for taking a video of police, at least in a few places around the country.

It's a little like wifi. A few years ago, a guy was arrested in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma because he accessed someone's wireless internet (which was left wide open without encryption). Today, millions of iPhones and iPads automatically connect to any wireless network they come across. They violate the same law -- it's just rarely enforced now.

Pictures of Today!

An MQ-9 Reaper UAV, in Iraq

An MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAV, in Iraq

A Cold Windmill in Colorado

Moonrise over Loveland Pass, CO

On August 9, 1945, this airplane dropped a bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.

National Archives, Washington D.C.

Ballistic Missile Submarine, Kings Bay Submarine Base

General Motors Machine Gun

Airbus A319, Atlanta

Alligator, Stone Mountain, Georgia

Wood Duck, Pinkney Island, SC

Wood Bee, back yard

Birds and a BIG Alligator, Pinkney Island, SC

Scissortails, Mayes County

Aphid Eater, back yard

The End