More Junkmail from Bob!

June 13, 2011
Important Stuff.

Battle in the Pacific

Fiji has 3,500 soldiers and nine patrol boats. Tonga has 500 soldiers, three patrol boats, a twin-engine airplane, a barge, and a royal yacht. They both claim ownership of two of unpopulated reefs in the Pacific Ocean -- the same two.

I am wondering why in the world Australia gave them boats with 20mm cannons. But I suppose people in Australia must wonder why the U.S. gives a bunch of countries F16's and helicopter gunships.

Raw Faith

A guy named George built a boat with his three sons. He quit his job, sold his house, and went to work on the Raw Faith full time. George was not a sailor, and not a boat builder. The boat is a little bigger than most -- it's a 118-foot three masted ship patterned after a 14th century galleon. Or it might have been an 88-foot boat, depending on who you ask.


George's plan was to use the boat to take disabled children sailing.

The Raw Faith floated, sailed, and looked pretty cool (in my warped opinion). It also looked none too sturdy. More than one person opined that it was not seaworthy, including the Coast Guard, which categorized it as a "derelict." I think that's also the category the Coast Guard uses for me.


Here's a 2002 article about the project:

By the time the boat was finished, George had divorced his wife, and his three sons decided to move on to other things rather than live on the boat. Even so, George went on to start "Raw Faith Sailing Adventures," despite a few bumps in the road.

In 2004, the boat lost its rudder and had to be towed to port by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard "grounded" the boat until some changes were made.

George made the changes. Then in 2006, the Raw Faith lost all three masts in strong winds and had to be towed in again by the Coast Guard.

In 2010 George brought the Raw Faith to Salem, Massachusetts at the invitation of the National Park Service to portray a ghost ship for Halloween. After his permit ran out and he was asked to leave the harbor, George was arrested for disturbing the peace and trespassing, according to Salem Harbor Master Sgt. Peter Gifford. Gifford said charges were dropped against McKay when he agreed to leave the port of Salem. There must be a pretty good story behind this.

George left Salem on December 4 for Bermuda. Three days later, the Raw Faith got into 25-30 knot winds in 10-15 foot seas and was disabled. This is rough, but we've managed to get through weather like this in the Minnow.

Two Coast Guard cutters arrived and determined that the hull of the Raw Faith was buckling. They took the crew of two off the boat, which sank the next day in 6,000 feet of water.


Maybe we'll take the Minnow to Bermuda this week.

It's possible to build a raft and sail it clear across the Atlantic.


The images in a lot of ads have been altered, or photoshopped. Photoshopping usually improves a photo, espectially when a big company pays big bucks for it. But sometimes they bungle the job.

Check out this perfect girl, for example. Girls are apparently supposed to look good with large, smiling mouths. This poor Coke girl, with the ironic caption "Perfection," had her mouth stretched imperfectly to her right, but not to her left.


It's not a major problem, I just thought it was pretty funny with the caption "Perfection." You can find some major problems on this web site:

Center of Data

A bit is a zero or a one in computer parlance. You can represent one character, such as "q" or "f" with seven or eight bits. Each bit in a computer's memory requires some electricity, either to assign it a value of zero or one, or to read its value. It even takes a little electricity to maintain a value in normal computer memory.

The more bits you have, the more electricity is required. Then, with a computer, you have to worry about things like hard drives, to save more bits than the computer's memory will hold. A processor is nice, which will allow you to write programs to set the bits in some meaningful fashion. Memory and processors require other chips to do things like move bits around from one part of the computer to another, and supply power to the CPU, memory, and other chips.

You also might want some way to move a bit from one computer to another, whether the other is nearby (local), far away (internet), or really far away (interstellar).

Imagine a setup where you have a whole bunch of bits, maybe 60,000,000,000,000,000. You could pack these bits into some computers, maybe 16 gigabytes each. You could pack all these computers into big boxes, or shipping containers, maybe 1,000 or more per box. Then you could stick about 45 of these big boxes into a bigger building. If you tied them together with 60 miles of power cable and 96 miles of network cable, you just might end up with a data center like this:


This is Google's data center outside Pryor. It's not finished yet, and won't be running until late this year. It probably doesn't even have the computers installed yet. I just guessed on most of these numbers, so I could be off by a lot. But it might be in the neighborhood for a typical data center.

It would take somewhere around 10 megawatts to power all that mess. That's a lot of electricity -- around one percent of the GRDA coal fire plant's output, but still a lot less than a large foundry or smelter.

It's really strange to think about 10 megawatts of electricity being used to do nothing but move around a bunch of zeros and ones. Actually, 15% or so of the power is used for cooling, lights, mechanical bulls, and other necessary data center equipment. Most if it runs the computers and communications equipment. I'm not sure how much power it takes to send a bit through an optic fiber cable, but they send a lot of them -- billions and billions every second.

Google has several data centers. They use them for the search business and related projects like AdSense and Analytics, but also for applications like Google Docs, YouTube, Picasa, and commercial and retail cloud computing.

Amazon has a few data centers. In addition to their retail business, Amazon has a big cloud computing and storage business called Amazon Web Services. In fact, when you go to, you are accessing data scattered around Amazon's data center in Virginia. Amazon also has some various and sundry sites, like and Cloud Drive.

Facebook has a few data centers. They've had to increase their capacity as a result of normal growth, and they had a big bump when people started storing photos on their Facebook pages. Facebook has opened their Oregon data center to the public (mostly). It's supposed to be really efficient in its electricity use.

Even small companies like Microsoft have some data centers.

Google designs and builds their own servers. They use Linux, but only install the parts of Linux that they need. Each server is just a mother board with some attached items like a hard drive, battery, etc.

With tens of thousands of servers in a building, it would make no sense to have a keyboard and monitor for each. Instead, there are a few computers that allow humans and software to monitor the servers.

When tens of thousands of servers are running, there are likely to be failures every day. When one fails, it would be quite rude, say, if a financial transaction mysteriously changed from $100 to $100,000, or a personal email was sent to half a million people instead of the one it was addressed to. Google and the other data centers have redundancy built in so failures are expected and tolerated. For backup, all data errors that slip by are blamed on Microsoft Windows.

When a hard drive fails it is removed from service, reformatted, overwritten, and tested. If it fails verification, it is shredded.

One thing in common about all these data centers is that the companies don't say how many servers there are. There may be some competitive secrets involved. And I suppose if someone publicized having 45,000 dual CPU's and associated RAM, hard drive, etc. in a single building, it might attract a couple of recreational methamphetamine users who would try to break into the data center, load $100 million in computer equipment into a 1983 Dodge Caravan, and sell it at the local pawn shop.

A data center is one place that would not be worth burgling. In addition to tight security, 24-hour personnel, instant communications with police, and constantly monitored video surveillance, the computer equipment (CPU, memory, hard drives, routers) has lot numbers and/or serial numbers and would be easy to track. It would be more profitable and personally rewarding to rustle the cattle across the road. Well, maybe not that personally rewarding, but the criminal penalty is not as bad as embedding a YouTube video may soon be.

Fourier Transforms

The Fourier transform is a technique of converting waves into their frequency components. For example, you can take a sound wave and display the frequencies making up that sound. If you had a nice single tone like a tuning fork, the Fourier transform of that sound would have a nice peak at the frequency of that sound.

Fourier transforms are used for a lot of things. One application is to compare two sound files and see if they're the same music. This is a lot faster than listening to the two files. The original sound wave of the two files may look something like this:


The top two lines are the same music as the bottom two, the top one a .wav and the bottom one .mp3. I can't tell they're identical music by looking at the audio waves in the files.

A Fourier transform can be done on any section of the music to find what frequencies (notes) are used in that section. If you do that on several sections of the file, you can probably tell whether the files match.

There are about 178,367 other applications for Fourier transforms, including non-sonic frequencies, and I don't understand most of them. Here is a good explanation about how a Fourier transform works:

Learn it. Use it. Or not.


Elon Musk was born in South Africa in 1971. He moved to Canada, went to college in the U.S., and 1995 started a software company with his brother called Zip2. In 1999, AltaVista bought Zip2 for over $300 million.

In 1999, Elon co-founded an internet company that eventually became Paypal. When eBay bought Paypal for $1.5 billion (in stock), Elon's share was worth $175 million. In 2002, Elon started Space Exploration Technologies, SpaceX.

SpaceX has built and launched some rockets into space. Last December, they launched their Dragon space capsule into orbit and recovered it, kind of like NASA used to do on manned missions before the Space Shuttle. The Dragon capsule carried a top secret cargo for the test mission.

A wheel of cheese.

The U.S. plans for the Dragon space module to dock with the International Space Station later this year, but Russia doesn't like the idea. Russia says it has not been fully tested. Russia also makes billions of dollars carrying U.S. people and cargo to the space station and back.

National Anthems

The Turkey has a national anthem, like most countries.

Unlike most countries, a group from Germany claims it owns the rights to Turkey's national anthem, and has sent Turkey a bill. So Turkey is passing a law to ensure its national anthem is free.,1518,733515,00.html;jse...

Ireland owns the copyright to its own national anthem, but it expires next year so we'll all be able to sing along without paying royalties.

Digital Insecurity

Someone copied personal information on a million and a half customers from Citigroup's computers.

Someone copied personal information on 77 million customers from Sony's computers in April. In May, someone copied information on 25 million more Sony customers. Sony shut down its Play Station Network for more than three weeks. Three people in Spain were arrested in connection to the security breach.

The New Zealand Labour party suffered a security breach, and blamed the National Party.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had some trouble when its boss was arrested for sexual assault and attempted rape in New York. The IMF then had a security breach, but they're not giving many details.

Someone stole and/or copied RSA's SecurID authentication technology code in March. SecurID is a security system that uses electronic keys or tokens to guarantee security for defense contractors and other secretive types.


A few weeks later, someone borrowed some "secure" information from defense contractors Lockheed Martin, L3, and Northrop Grumman, who use RSA's SecurID for security. Then RSA offered to replace their customers' SecurID tokens.

In Mesa County, Colorado, there was a security breach that was self-inflicted. An employee copied a text file to a folder open to the internet. The file had the personal information of victims, suspects, and, most importantly, informants in current sheriff's department investigations. Oops.

Here are a few more examples of Data Insecurity this year:

Want to get in on the fun? You, too, can become a computer criminal!

National Academies Press

All .pdf versions of books published by National Academies Press, about 4,000 books in all, are now available for free download. I like that.

Here's one that RSA, Sony, Citigroup, and the other companies in the previous section need:

Homeland Domain

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has a policy of seizing internet domains (web sites) they suspect are guilty of copyright and trademark violations. They do this without a hearing. They do this without prior notice or warning. They don't offer the web site owner the opportunity to reclaim the domain, at least not in a reasonable amount if time. The owners are not even notified of the seizure, let alone the reason for it.

Some people, unpatriotic communists, no doubt, have a problem with this. They say that Homeland Security is pulling down innocent web sites. Sure, they accidentally seized 84,000 web sites and put up a child pornography notice in their place. Anybody could make a mistake like that. And they released the web sites and took down the child pornography notice only three days later. (They had apparently seized a DNS server rather than the targeted site.)

Someone came out with an extension for Firefox that allows seized domains to be easily replaced online. Homeland Security is trying to get people not to use the extension.

Homeland Security recently seized a Spanish domain ( that was twice found to be legal by Spanish courts. It's a Spanish site operated by a Spanish company, and its only connection to the U.S. is that it has a .org domain. The site has no copyrighted material, but it links to torrents which link to copyrighted material.

Oddly enough, the Spanish government did not appreciate this.

Most of the domains seized by Homeland Security, including Rojadirecta, come back online in a matter of hours or days. For example, you can now get to the Rojadirecta site at,, or

Some people have the unmitigated gall to claim the Department of Homeland Security is operating outside the U.S. Constitution, and that they have no business messing with the internet in the first place. But they obviously have not heard:  We are at war! NOBODY should question the Department of Homeland Security.

The Department of Homeland Security has corrected all these naysayers, explaining what a great success the program of domain seizures has been, and is encouraging other countries to join in.

TSA Budget

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to reduce the budget of the TSA by $270 million, or 4%. I bet it ends up as a budget increase of over 10%, although I would prefer budget cut of at least 50%.

Police Videos

Last Junkmail I mentioned that people are taking videos of police in action. Some police officers don't like this. Some privacy fans don't like laws against videoing police.

I thought this story was interesting. Someone took a video with his cell phone of a police shooting in Miami. After the shooting, the police came after the guy taking the video. He managed to put the memory card from his phone is his mouth when he was arrested with his girlfriend. The video is now on YouTube with a bunch of hits.

I don't know whether the police were correct in the shooting, but they didn't look very good when they took the guy's cell phone. Then the police publicity people made some pretty dumb statements. It's almost like they are denying everything that is in the video. To their credit, the guy and his girlfriend have not filed a complaint, and the police have not pressed charges against them.

1,093 Angstroms?

A miss is as good as a half mile. The Associated Press released an article a week or two ago saying the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is almost 11 football fields long. That's 3/4 of a mile! The longest ship in the world is not even a quarter mile long. The Carl Vinson is really about 3 football fields long, 1,093 feet. Think about landing a jet on that! The runway at Claremore International is almost five times that long.

Pacific Ocean, June 3, 2011

Arabian Gulf, April 4, 2011, an E-2C Hawkeye approaches the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson

Pacific Ocean, May 19, 2011, a C-2A Greyhound lands on the USS Carl Vinson

The Old Man and the Salt

Archaeologists found someone thousands of years old in an Iranian salt mine. Iran decided to leave him (and any others) there indefinitely. They have recovered five other people from the mine before (dated between 540 B.C. and 640 A.D.), but decided they don't have the resources to do it now. That may be a negotiating ploy, though, so they can get a better deal with some Germans.

People found some worms in some South African mines, over 4,000 feet underground. They're the deepest living land animals ever found.

A lady in Birmingham, Alabama named Sarah found some underground pyramids in Egypt using infrared satellite data:

Scrap Scrap

Some people just live in a different world than I do.

Actually, my family claims I live in a different world than everybody else. But I like it that way.

Distressing Law

If you put a distressing picture on the internet, such as Flickr or Facebook, you can go to jail in Tennessee. For example, I find this photo distressing:

Next time I visit Tennessee, since I'm the one who posted the distressing image, I'll expect to get a few months free room and board in a fine state facility.

More Joplin tornado photos:

Missouri Bombs

What do you do when you get a package with the wrong name on it? If it's an Arabic sounding name, you take it to the police station, where several police cars, a fire truck, and the Mid-Missouri Bomb Squad can give it to the proper recipient. Or not.

Pictures of Today!



Wood Bee Face

Two Aviators



Young Lady Bugs

A Tiny Fly

A Dragon Fly Eating a May Fly

May Fly

Tree Frogs?

Toad Bug

False Katydid
P1180007.jpg P1180010.jpg

Mean Spider
P1180085a.jpg P1180102.jpg

To me, this looks more like a mushroom cloud than an hourglass.