Bob's Junkmail Number 22!

Saturday, January 8, 2000

Reported on NPR:  The internet website name "" sold over the weekend for $10 million. The sale was made on the online auction site E-Bay which accepted 13 offers by the end of the bidding.

The truth: The $10,000,000 bid, the second $10,000,000 bid, the $2,000,000 bid, and all the bids in the $1,000,000 range were fakes. The bids were made by people who thought the guy should keep the name because it was historical. It was just harassment.

On the other hand, the pre-Christmas Learn2 cap auction was legitimate. Lucky bidder Mike Webster was able to purchase the genuine Learn2 denim cap for the low, low price of $153.19! The sale was made on the online auction site E-Bay which accepted 50 offers by the end of the bidding. Here's a picture of the proud new owner of the Learn2 Cap consummating the deal with purveyor of fine caps Jamie Don Dotson:


Mike and I have a couple of toddlers (Brian and Ken) who have taken up snowboarding. Not to be outdone, we rented a couple of snowboards the week after Christmas. Naturally we didn't need lessons since we can both ski. There's only one board so it has to be simpler than skiing on two skis, right? Here's a copy of some email Mike sent after his first day snowboarding:

"Bob and I snowboarded today. In the first 2 minutes I hurt my lower back. In the next 30 minutes I hurt my upper back. Did I quit? NO!!!

"I found nerve endings in places in my body that I did not know existed. Now, my mid-back muscles are in a total knot, my butt hurts (left buttock, right buttock, and center area), my shoulder hurts, my thumb hurts, my lower back hardly works, my scalp was frozen (my cute little son, Kenny), both of my knees are sore (bruised), my right wrist barely moves, I have several bruises in unusual locations, and one of my upper stomach muscles is strained. I need to sh_t, but I'm afraid that some of my guts might fall out. There's more, but now my brain hurts."

He wimped out and didn't snowboard the second day for some reason. Brian and Kenny didn't do as much complaining.

A guy named Ly Tong rented a Cessna 172 a few days ago and dropped a bunch of anti-Castro propaganda leaflets on Havana. He's lucky he didn't get shot down. He was intercepted and escorted out of Cuban airspace by a couple of fighters.

Eight years ago, Mr. Tong hijacked a Vietnam Airlines jet and dropped 50,000 anti-government leaflets over the capital of Vietnam, then parachuted to the ground. He was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was released after 6. I guess this time he knew better than to parachute out over Havana, but he's still in trouble with the FAA.

On Tuesday OSHA decided that people who work at home are entitled to a safe work environment. This means that a company whose employees are allowed to work on their home computers for a few days are required to make sure the homes are safe and comply with the thousands of OSHA regulations. This means if you work at home, your company will have to inspect your home to make sure you have proper warning signs, handrails, and yellow striped tape all over the place.

This is really stupid. I heard this on the radio and assumed that it must be some low-level bureaucrat who overstepped his limits. I was wrong. It was someone at the peak of the Peter Principle. It was the head of OSHA, Charles Jeffress, who said, "If an employer is allowing it to happen, it is covered." And this was not just something he dreamed up one day out of the blue. OSHA spent more than two years formulating its written response on the work-at-home issue, and dropped the bomb on Tuesday. Apparently they forgot to ask anybody in the real world.

Ms. Alexis Herman, Labor Secretary and Jeffress's boss, said that OSHA's letter caused "widespread confusion and unintended consequences for others. Therefore OSHA is withdrawing the letter today." She also said that it was not a mistake. Hmm....

Bill Clinton invited Alexis Herman over for drinks while Hillary was in New York campaigning for the Senate. Al Gore said, "Now, is OSHA close to Asia?"

Oops!  I forgot to give the answer to "Name this fish" last century. But there are some people who say that although it's a new millennium it's not a new century. I disagree. I contend that if the 2nd digit from the right changes it's a new decade. If the 3rd digit from the right changes, it's a new century. If the 4th digit from the right changes, it's a new millennium. These sticklers are completely ignoring the fact that they're about 5 years off anyway. Jesus was born in about 5 BC. Time-travel?  Anyway, back to the fish:


It's the Antarctic Ice Fish. There were several guesses, but nobody got it right.

As you probably have figured out, they live in Antarctica. This means they live in cold water. Since they live in salt water, it water can get below the freezing point of fresh water. This presents a few problems for the poor Antarctic ice fish. For one, at that temperature water tends to freeze and crystallize in blood. If this happened to the ice fish it would be somewhat fatal, AND it would hurt. The ice fish blood has antifreeze in it to keep this from happening -- glycopeptides.

Another problem is that hemoglobin doesn't work very well at that temperature. The ice fish have solved this by forgetting hemoglobin altogether. They have no hemoglobin in their blood and no micoglobin in their muscles. This makes the ice fish blood clear, not red. Oxygen is transported in the blood plasma. It's about 90% less efficient than warm hemoglobin-type blood, but they compensate for this by having large veins, a large heart, and swimming slow.

Yet another problem is with enzymes. Enzymes don't work very well when they're too warm or too cold. Scientists have recently discovered that the Antarctic ice fish's lactate dehydrogenase enzyme (LDH) is a little different from those of other fish. The molecule is more flexible so it can work in the cold. On the other hand, the ice fish's LDH doesn't work in warm water. This is OK because the ice fish dies in water that's a few degrees above freezing anyway. And so you won't be so skeptical of my unnamed scientists, I'll name them:  Peter A. Fields and George N. Somero of Stanford University, California. This was published 2 or 3 years ago in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The pictures of today are from Yosemite. John Muir climbed this Cathedral Peak a long time ago. (There are several peaks with that name.) It's supposed to be the first technical climb ever done in Yosemite. Before I knew about that I climbed about 1/3 of the way up the steep part before I chickened out. Now I need to go back with a rope and a climbing partner to climb it.



Here's the Merced River in Yosemite Valley:


And here is some cold grass on the Merced River:


I read a novel by Arthur C. Clarke recently about some newly discovered science that could be used for weapons. The argument was made that since it's science, it should not be ignored. I could be used or controlled, but not buried. Scientific discoveries can't be hidden from the world for very long -- the world will rediscover them. This applies to computers, cloning, gene-splicing, and nuclear energy. We should learn about it regardless of whether or how we use it. It's not a good idea to bury our collective heads in the sand when it comes to science. They tried that during the Middle Ages and it didn't work very well.

The first nuclear explosion was on 7-16-45 in New Mexico. Here's a blurry picture of it:


Here are some other nuclear explosion pictures I got from the Nevada Test Site site.

DISCLAIMER: I expect that some people who read this might have a severe aversion to nuclear explosions. In fact, most probably have an aversion to nuclear explosions when they occur nearby. I think these pictures are interesting, though. I also think it's a bad idea to use them on people. (The nuclear explosions, not the pictures.) If these pictures offend you, look anyway so you can understand better. It is really amazing that you can get explosions this big from just a few pounds of Plutonium or Deuterium.


More seriously, there are some Junkmail recipients who have had relatives exposed to radiation at Bikini and at the Marshall Islands, and there are some Junkmail recipients in Japan. Please don't take offense; I'm not pushing nuclear weapons.

They haven't done any atmospheric nuclear tests in the U.S. since 1962, but they still do missile tests in Nevada and at the White Sands Missile Test Range in New Mexico. I went to White Sands National Monument a few years ago with Mike. It's a really neat place, with lots of sand. It's white sand, as a matter of fact:


The day Mike and I were there we started walking and kept walking and kept walking until we found ourselves a few miles out of White Sands National Monument and a few miles into the White Sands Missile Test Range. The border had a row of widely spaced poles with painted tips and no wires, but there were no signs. So we pressed on. We spotted some kind of installation in the distance:


By this time we were tired and curious. We figured we'd see how close we could get to this installation without getting caught. We assumed if someone ran us off, they'd probably give us a ride somewhere closer to our car, helping out on the tired situation. I did stop taking pictures when we got closer because I thought they might get a little cranky about that.

We walked up to this place and saw some trucks and cars going in and out, but nobody came out to check on us. We walked up to the main building, and then out to some roads and structures. No guards, no machine guns, not even any surveillance cameras that we could see. There were several buildings on wheels, a network of roads, and some things that looked like launch pads. The main building had a big round room with picture windows, probably so they could see the launches better.

Our feelings were getting a kind of hurt because they didn't come hassle us, so we sat down in view of the big windows and ate and drank some water.  Finally we reached the conclusion that Uncle Sam wouldn't give us a ride, so we headed back under our own power. We ran across lots of titanium-looking missile fragments on the way, and after 827 miles or so of walking we ran across a threatening sign that said we weren't supposed to be where we had been. Oops.

White Sands has lots of sands and dunes and covers a huge area, but I have never seen sand dunes as big as those at Great Sand Dunes National Monument in Colorado. I'd recommend going there -- it's a fun place to play.


From NASA:

"On Jan. 2, the Sea Viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS) observed a thick layer of haze over southern People's Republic of China, including the cities of Chengdu, Congqing, Wuhan, and the archaeologically important city of Xi'an. Researchers are unclear as to the source of the haze, but it is thick enough to obscure most of the natural colors reflected from the ground beneath."

Here's the satellite image:


They should get on the ground and take a look. Here's a picture I took in Dalian, China in January, 1993:


That's pollution, not fog or bad film. It made it tough to breathe. I think it comes from people burning coal for heat. London had a big problem with that in the 1800's.

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