Charles Allen Thomas
Here is a firsthand account of the first atomic bomb. Interesting!
Charles Thomas later became president and chairman of the board of Monsanto, and
was one of the inventors of the gas additive tetraethyl lead.
Sure, we've all done it. You go out in the morning, tore-up drunk, put on your
military ballistic vest, grab your training rifle (looks like an M-16 but shoots
pellets), and go out for a run by the local school.
A guy named William from West Virginia did this, but the police threw him
in jail. They charged him with terrorism. Whiners.
My dad's been doing this same thing lately, but without the drinking, the
ballistic vest, or the gun. We all hope he'll be arrested soon.
If you're so inclined, you can compete against Dad in the Pryor 5K,
Saturday the 29th.
I have spent dozens of years studying the movement of time, and I have come to
the conclusion that time almost always moves in one direction -- from before to
after. It's interesting to read books about going back in time, but they
generally get it wrong.
For example, the hero goes back in time to disarm a bomb that will indirectly
destroy the world at some point in the future. The hero barely makes it, with 3
seconds to spare. If it's that close, the hero could just go back in time
another hour and, with his knowledge of events, easily disarm the bomb with time
Instead of going back in time to kill a supervillain in a massive battle, it
would be much simpler for the hero to go back a little farther in time and make
sure the supervillain's parents never met.
I think xkcd got it right:
I Flunked the Turing Test.
The Turing Test is a theoretical test that can be used to determine whether the
test taker is human or computer. Captchas are essentially Turing Tests, making
sure a bot is not submitting a form on the web.
Google owns a Captcha utility called reCaptcha that is free for anyone to use.
In fact, I use it for Junkmail
Some people recently released a free system called Stiltwalker that could solve
reCaptcha's audio 99% of the time. The computer is better at proving itself
human than I am!
A few hours before Stiltwalker's new release, by coincidence, Google released a
revised reCaptcha that Stiltwalker couldn't beat. Stiltwalker is pretty
interesting in the way it works.
I think I need a Turing test for my email. Some social (and antisocial) web
sites send me fake friends, followers, and connections just to generate traffic,
which translates into advertising dollars for the web sites.
is a good, free site for photo uploads.
It's simpler than Flicker
and not as weird as
. Sometimes I use minus.com to upload photos that I don't want to make
a web page for.
For a while, I'd get an email every few days saying there was someone
"following" me on minus.com. I'm pretty sure these followers are bots, or
possibly employees. They all follow several people, have a few favorites, and
have uploaded no photos. I caught on after a few dozen times.
seems to do the same thing. I
get "contact" invitations on LinkedIn from people I never heard of. Some of them
have about 25 contacts, all with beginning with the same three or four letters.
I guess they didn't bother to scramble the contact list before they sent the
This may be someone harvesting Linkedin data, or it may be Linkedin pushing for
a boost in traffic, but there are not many humans who want to be a professional
contact with a vagrant
from Pryor, Oklahoma,
despite my impeccable résumé. Who knows? One of these days I might even upgrade
from "résumé" to "curriculum vitae".
Some other sites apparently have employees or false users whose job it is to
"ping" other users, generating an email and getting the user to login. It's
actually a pretty good idea from the site's point of view, because it gets users
to visit the site who otherwise might forget about it.
The War on Botnets
Finally! Someone in authority is going to shut down botnets. Well, it is
the U.S. government, and it is
a technological issue, so there is a fair
chance of complete failure and/or embarrassment. But they're at least going to
make an effort!
On the other hand, the U.S. and Israeli governments were definitely behind the
Stuxnet attack on Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges, according to the
New York Times
. It's an interesting story. The Stuxnet program was started
during the Bush administration and continued into the Obama administration,
which sorely disappointed those politicians who wanted to assign its success or
failure to one party or another and make a big deal out of it.
Like UAV's, it's only a matter of time before others start using this type of
technology against the U.S., Israel, Europe, and possibly the Marshall Islands.
Hopefully the U.S. won't overreact when this happens and close down all digital
Presidents Bush and Obama both asked for the proverbial "Internet
," but that might have fallen from grace after it was actually
Why would sensible people want to shut off the all internet access for the
entire U.S.? Yes, I know. They're politicians. But pretend they've got a
common sense, just for the sake of discussion.
I wonder if it might be desired as a last-ditch effort against a mass
insurrection. It's far fetched, but if you're warped like me you might be able
to imagine a scenario or two.
Suppose that some religious zealots in Pakistan (probably Methodists) decide to
steal 6 nuclear warheads, smuggle them to the U.S., and blast New York, Chicago,
Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington, and Locust Grove. This might kill half a
million people; certainly not enough to destroy the U.S.
But the overreaction of the news media, the politicians, and the government
bureaucrats could easily result in an internet flash mob of 20 million
Americans, either against the government or against the mob that's against the
government. That is too many for the police and maybe even the military to
handle without killing a lot more than the original nukes did. And that many
people could conceivably mount a successful, violent overthrow of the
This would be extremely unlikely, but the instant mass communications of the
internet does make it possible. People in the U.S. are not prone to violent
outbreaks, but that could conceivably change with some good, old fashioned mass
I believe nothing like this will ever happen, but that might be some of the
reasoning behind an internet kill switch in the U.S. It would also make an
Over the past several years, I have done more than a little whining and
complaining about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1932 (DMCA). Or maybe
it was 1998.
ViaCom is suing to have YouTube (as we know it) shut down. They also want a
billion dollars from Google. I'll remember that next time I think about going to
The DMCA, among a lot of stupid provisions, protects web sites such as YouTube,
Flickr, or Vimeo that host content uploaded by their users, from copyright
If someone uploads a copyrighted video of mine to YouTube without my
authorization, I cannot sue YouTube over it. I have to notify YouTube that
they've got my copyrighted content on their web site without my permission, and
I have to certify under penalty of perjury
that I am the owner of the
That part about the perjury is so I won't issue takedown notices for content I
don't like when I don't own it. However, it does not seem to prohibit the
from taking down videos they don't like, regardless of the copyright
holders. That might be because they make very large campaign contributions to
both Democrats and Republicans. However, they have not made major campaign
contributions to the Mugwumps
or the Pirate Party
Some companies are in the business of issuing DMCA takedown notices. They search
the internet for unauthorized content owned by their clients, then order the
pages deleted. These companies are well-known for their lack of precision. One
company, who works to protect pornography on the internet, decided to take down
a guy's personal photos of the letters of the alphabet.
More than 10,000 legitimate videos were taken down on YouTube by a Dutch company
Gamer.nl using false DMCA takedown notices. The company said it was a software
problem. Gamer.nl did not get in trouble for this.
Gamer.nl, like many others, uses takedown bots. These pick sites that may be
infringing by checking the title and (theoretically) the content of the site.
Then it is (theoretically) reviewed by a human before a takedown notice is
issued and signed by a human.
Something in this system seems to have broken down when, for example, the stream
Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic convention was blocked "due to
copyright violation" that did not exist.
And when the
stream of the Hugo Awards was blocked
"due to copyright violation" that did
And when the
stream of the Mars landing of NASA's new Curiosity spacecraft was blocked
"due to copyright violation" that did not exist.
Naturally, the companies that issued these false takedown notices were not
prosecuted. But if I issued a DMCA notice to block a speech by the First Lady, I
would likely be prosecuted, persecuted, and removed from cyberspace.
There are lots of other examples.
The primary platform of the Pirate Party in Germany is against the DMCA,
takedown notices, and most intellectual property controls. It was pretty funny
when one of their leaders issued, through her book publisher, a DMCA takedown
I find it a little odd that the RIAA will just issue a takedown notice for
pirated music posted on YouTube, but sues peer-to-peer (bittorrent) file sharers
for the same thing.
The RIAA sued single mother Jammie Thomas and won $222,000 because she
downloaded and shared 24 songs. The RIAA sued student Joel Tenenbaum and won $675,000
because he downloaded and shared 31 songs. Those amounts
certainly fit the misdeeds of these evil criminals. I don't think
they've got that much money, though, so I guess they'll both end up in debtor's
The RIAA is against all peer-to-peer file sharing, and would have it banned.
This is despite of the fact that there are thousands of companies who use
peer-to-peer file sharing to distribute software and other media legitimately.
In fact, a lot of independent musicians and filmmakers use peer-to-peer file
sharing to distribute their products. According to μTorrent, it's a huge number.
The RIAA is pushing for legislation to require payment by anyone who remembers
the tune to a copyrighted song. Additional charges will be levied against anyone
heard humming or singing.
RIAA boss Mitch said of the impending law, "You can listen to a song, no
problem. But if you remember it, that is nothing less than making an illicit
copy of the music in your brain, and you will
pay for that copy. We have
to protect our artists. The fact that I make over $2,000,000 per year off their
royalties is irrelevant."
A false positive from an email spam checker can cause you to lose email. A false
positive from an antivirus application can cause some programs to stop working.
But a false positive from an antivirus application on its own update sets new
goals in software excellence. This happened to Sophos.
This is pretty funny (to my warped mind), because they couldn't issue updates to
fix the problem. The updates were blocked by the application they were trying to
update. They apparently had to change their update application enough that it
didn't set off their own virus alarms.
Fun with Patents and Copyrights
Optional reading. This will not be covered on the exam.
Terrorists are Everywhere
Armed terrorists were supposed to be hidden in the wheel wells of a couple of
airliners at New York's JFK Airport. The airliners were directed to a remote
area, followed by a lot of police and emergency vehicles. The security people in
charge decided the pilots did not need to know why they were there or what was
Finally, the American Airlines pilot explained on the radio that if he didn't
have an explanation in 60 seconds, he was going to evacuate the plane. He got
All this took place because of a crank phone call. The typical overreaction was
nothing but security
, and is not unusual.
Some security people tend to keep information in a situation like this secret
from everybody else involved. This makes those people important, indispensible,
The pilots, of all people, should be informed about what is happening on their
plane. The pilots are responsible for the plane and are authorized and required
to take appropriate action in an emergency.
But someone on the ground figured the pilots didn't need to know what was
happening. That is, until they realized that the evacuation of a plane would be
bad publicity, and the old guy who sprained an ankle going down the slide would
To prevent terrorists from hiding in wheel wells of airplanes, the TSA is going
to junk their body scanners and spend $245 million on new ones that might work.
They are doing this to help out with the federal budget deficit.
Quote of the Day
"Unlimited is just a word. It doesn't really mean anything."
Fusion is Coming
I believe this, from Sandia Labs, is a bit more promising than
Pons and Fleischmann
. Even so, we're quite a few years from having fusion
DA's Can Be Bought
District Attorneys across the country have started a new business. They are
selling their letterhead to collection agencies, so the collection agencies can
appear legitimate, official, and threatening when they try to collect past-due
I was cusious and checked out the web site listed on this form letter,
is no phone number, address, or email address on the home page. It doesn't look
overly legitimate to me. I'd never send a check to a site like that.
A year and a half ago, the internet was supposed to come to a screeching halt
when the world ran out of IP Addresses, unless everybody made an immediate
change to IPv6. I would like to officially say, "I told you so."
The internet is still running, and there are still IPv4 addresses available.
However, there are not so many of the 16-million address blocks floating around
Most users with modern operating systems (Windows 7, for example, if you call
that modern) won't need to make any changes as IPv6 supersedes IPv4.
Developers using IP addresses (winsock applications, for example) have a few
changes to make.
I went to Walmart the other night for a bicycle tube and some motor oil. There
were lots of tubes, but none of the regular 26" x 2" tubes used by 90% of the
bikes sold by Walmart. Walmart apparently bought the same number of tubes in
each size, even though the sales of that one size is much higher than that of
Then I went to the automotive section. They had lots of motor oil, but I had to
pick and choose to get enough 5w30 for an oil change. Despite the fact that most
new cars use 5w30, Walmart was buying what looked like the same amount of oil in
every weight. So the were running out of 5w30.
Then I went to Amazon.com (online) to order a camera battery charger. I put in
the manufacturer's model number explicitly, and a bunch of chargers were
displayed. I wanted to spend the big bucks (over $20) to get a "real" charger
that wouldn't destroy my expensive "real" battery. So I picked the Panasonic
charger sold by Amazon itself and added it to my basket.
Later I noticed that the charger in my basket wasn't the right one. I tried the
search again, and saw that Amazon displayed a bunch of chargers that had nothing
to do with the model number I entered. They just throw up anything close, even
if it does not fit the search.
Amazon had some chargers claiming to be Panasonic's, but when you read the
description very closely, you could see that they weren't. Some had a picture of
the Panasonic charger, but I was disgusted by then and bought one directly from
While on Amazon, I looked at some audio books. I like to listen to audio books
when I drive because it helps drown out all those people who honk at me. I
picked out one that sounded good, noticed that it was published in 2012, so put
it in my basket.
It was a trick. The book was written more than 10 years ago, and I had already
I recently bought another audio book on Amazon, Don Quixote. It had a
publication date of 2006, but did not mention the date it was written or
translated. I'm pretty sure I remember that book being out before 2006. (It was
written in the early 1600's.)
When I started listening to it, I wondered about the language usage and
translation from Spanish. So I tried to find out when it was translated to
English, who did the translation, and when the original story was written. This
was nowhere on Amazon's site. It was not even on the audio book's packaging or
preliminary audio info. I guess they want me to believe it was written in
English in 2006. They also want me to believe it was written by Miguel de
Cervantes Saavedra and
David Case. (David Case is the narrator. He did a
good job, but he didn't help write Don Quixote.)
It seems that Amazon has been getting really lax with their descriptions and
searches. The product descriptions lack information, and what information is
there is usually obscured among stuff like "Special Offers and Promotions",
"Frequently Bought Together", "What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing
This Item?", "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought", and "Available
Warranties for This Item".
I just now tried this: I looked up 2-tb hard drives on Amazon. I picked the
first selection. In the entire 8 pages displayed, nowhere did it have the access
or transfer speed of the drive, information I consider critical. That's why I
bought my last few hard drives from
Faulty product searches on buy.com and bestbuy.com were instrumental in allowing
Amazon to expand into non-book areas. Now Amazon has fallen into the trap of
showing lots of items in a search, even when they don't match. ("I don't care
what it takes, I want our search pages full!")
When I search for "Epson R3000 Ink", some of the ink cartridges don't work with
the Epson R3000. In fact, 9 of 24 items on the first search page are not Epson
R3000 ink cartridges.
Amazon also seems to have a take a "who cares?" attitude with their product
descriptions. Maybe if they clutter up the page with enough trash,
people won't bother to look at the specifications of what they're buying.
I guess the conclusion of this rant is that Walmart and Amazon are not perfect.
If you want a bike tube, you can go to
your local bike shop
. If you want a hard drive, you can get more information
and reliable reviews at Newegg
. If you want
camera gear, try B & H Photo
. And if you
need an oil change, get someone else to do it. It's messy!
Incidentally, I thought someone at Amazon might be interested in the lack of
information on some of their products, so I posted a couple of reviews. The
reviews were deleted. Amazon does not appreciate my exceptionally fine wit.
I didn't write these, but I do consider them excellent reviews:
Fishing for Email
In 2009, some people hacked an email server at the University of East Anglia in
Norwich, England. These people must have had some time on their hands, because
they sifted through thousands of old emails and other documents looking for stuff to
embarrass the climate scientists who wrote or received the email. The purpose of
this exercise was to prove that (a) the earth is not warming, and (b) even
though the earth is warming, it has nothing to do with people.
As you might guess, out of that many emails you can take some stuff out of
context and made a few people look bad. The press was happy to latch onto this
story and blow it out of proportion. The ensuing investigations showed that
nobody falsified climate data or cheated on World of Warcraft.
Across the Atlantic, the American Tradition Institute vowed to show the Brits
how to do some proper mudslinging. They sued the University of Virginia and
demanded the all the emails written or received by a climate scientist for six
years. Unfortunately for the suers, the Virginia Supreme Court tossed the case
out, in spite of efforts by the conservative Virginia Attorney General. The
Prince William County Circuit Court has since ruled against in favor of the U.
This is actually more than a typical "stupid lawsuit". This could have set a
precedent to make every email to and from every public employee open to the
public. Those people might have had to start using the telephone again!
In other news, Conservatives Against Science (CAS) have denied that Arctic Sea
Ice is melting, and if it was, it would be due to insufficient global
I've noticed that http://reddit.com
undergone some change in the past few years. First, a lot more people use it.
Second, the quality of the comments and submissions seems inversely proportional
to the number of users. Third, there are now corporate and political spin
doctors at work there.
Reddit is an open forum, where anybody can submit and comment on links, text,
stories, questions, etc. The
alone has between 1.5 and 2.0 million subscribers. In
addition, there are more who read and comment on stories.
So it makes sense for companies to get involved and sanitize their image.
Sometimes. Other times, there's just too much current to swim against.
For example, the brilliant CEO of Verizon was quoted saying, "Unlimited is just
a word, it doesn't really mean anything," in response to questions about
unlimited data plans. This produced a strong reaction
on Reddit -- more than 2000 comments and 21,000 votes.
That's a bit much for a company like
Other times, though, a company can clean up its image without a lot of trouble.
Once I posted a very insightful remark regarding the relative intelligence of
the CEO of HBO and an orangutan, or something like that. It seems the HBO boss
said that internet delivery of movies would never be important, and I thought
that might be a tiny bit stupid.
A few days went by, which in Reddit terms is about 1000 dog years, and then
there were a bunch of replies to my remarks. Almost all the replies explained
how the HBO boss was a fine, brilliant, hard working executive who was not
involved in child abuse in July of 1995. Or something like that.
It's clear to me that someone, either employees, contractors, or friends,
decided to clean up the guy's Reddit image. Since a Reddit post is rarely read
after it's 3 days old, the effort was probably lost on everybody except me, and
in my case it didn't change my opinion on the internet delivery of movies.
There are a lot of companies that do things like this for people such as major
executives, minor politicians, and wealthy job applicants. The companies will
create (if necessary) and maintain a fine Wikipedia entry, Linkedin account, and
Facebook account. They will scan the internet daily, including Facebook and
Linkedin in addition to ordinary news and forums, for any negative comments or
information that might appear about their clients.
If the net sanitizers find any critical information, they will respond with a
barrage of comments, submissions, and other information (or misinformation, as
the case may be), designed to prove to the world that their clients are fine
individuals or companies or third world dictators.
I suppose this should not be surprising. When millions of opinions are available
to be swayed on Reddit alone, it makes sense that the conservatives, liberals,
and business execs should get online and spout their party lines.
There's nothing particularly good or bad about this. It's just an interesting
In possibly unrelated news, Slashdot and SourceForge were sold to Dice Holdings.
I suppose there's at least some chance these will be commercialized and/or
mismanaged to the point of Digg or MySpace.
Even Google, which has done an outstanding job of holding off stupid
commercialization, has added some large color ads (to get me to use Google Maps
on tablets and phones I don't own) and tricked some Android users into copying
all their phone photos to Picasa online.
Google has also disabled their search exclusion list for the past several
months, something I used to appreciate. I assume this is so they can get money
from sites that people used to exclude.
Hopefully these are just blips. Google has been instrumental in improving the
internet in recent years.
Computer hardware, especially tablets, is going to be really, really cheap soon.
Software might be another matter.
xkcd What If
This is really good. Check them all out.
Rachel at Cardholder Services
I am usually quick to recognize scams on the internet, on email, Facebook, web
sites, etc. But unfortunately, I am officially a clueless geezer when it comes
to my landline telephone.
I have been getting phone calls a few times a month from "Rachel at Cardholder
Services." It's a recording. It's been going on for years. So I went online and
lodged complaints at the federal and state do-not-call web sites.
The state site emailed a standard reply, explaining in simple terms that even a
dummy like me can understand. There is no "Rachel" (which I knew) and there is
no "Cardholder Services" (duh... I should have known!). It's a phishing scam of
the simplest sort.
If you actually wait online for a real person, something I've never tried,
they'll ask you for your credit card number and info, and then sell it to the
Elbonians or someone.
This brings up something else I had never considered before reading the article
below. Why do the Nigerian 401 scammers claim to be from Nigeria? They could
claim to be from anywhere, even Locust Grove. The answer is, they want to weed
out the vast majority of people with the small amount of intelligence required
not to get suckered in by the scam. That way they don't have to work so hard.
I seem to have missed the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. And I
understand it's some of the best comedy on TV.
Before the Republican convention in Tampa, the police (or whoever is in charge
of the county jail)
emptied the jail
to make room for the hundreds of troublemakers they
expected to arrest. (That's what happens when you let people read
on the job.)
The Tampa Sheriff wrote a threatening letter to the public, and attached a scary
picture of some of their officers.
This is a particularly nice picture. Check out the feet! Hovering feet and
furrowed eyebrows. The three officers (or actors? It's hard to tell...) were
photoshopped into the background, but someone didn't bother to fix their feet
when they merged the photos. Nice! Also suitable for Halloween
I never did hear how many people were thrown into the empty jail. Probably just
some people who shared music files.
A couple of years ago in Junkmail I mentioned that
it would be possible to track cars using traffic cameras that read license tags
Like it or not, it's here.
This will spread, mostly because it's relatively easy and cheap, and the cost
will keep decreasing for a few years. It's a little like internet eavesdropping.
It's cheap and easy, so the government will keep doing it, even if they have to
make it legal.
Some people don't like the privacy aspect of traffic cameras tracking cars,
particularly when the government shares the tracking data with large
corporations such as insurance companies.
While on the subject of traffic, I think we should attach a low power RFID
transmitter to every speed limit sign. This will transmit the current speed
limit to passing cars.
Then you can get a speed limit receiver, and can always see the current speed
limit, and set it to beep whenever the speed limit changes. Deluxe models will
beep at you when you're going x mph over the speed limit. This will prevent a
lot of inadvertent speeding.
It's cheap and easy, and the only disadvantage is that some speed traps (such as
the ones East of Claremore and near Big Cabin) won't generate as much money.
We can also reduce speeding violations using traffic cameras. First, cut the
price and point penalty of speeding tickets (and other computer-issued tickets)
to something comparable to a parking ticket, as long as you're not excessively
dangerous. Then use traffic cameras to time cars and issue speeding tickets to
the car owners.
This will allow police to focus on the police work they're trained for, rather
than on tax collection through speeding tickets. This in turn will improve
police public relations.
It will require a lot of traffic cameras, fixed and portable. Normally I
wouldn't like that, but since they're coming no matter what, we might as well
use them for something constructive.
Olivia Kate Webster
My eldest toddler Brian and his wife Katie have a kid! Olivia Webster
was born August 28, 2012.
Pictures of Today!
I took a trip to Colorado a couple of weeks ago. I also took picture or two
Bees of Pueblo
An Oklahoma Well
Swallows on the Turnpike
Old Mining Trail on Red Mountain
A Colorado Flower
Another Colorado Flower
Two Ants on Quandary Peak
Two Pryor Ants (and a bunch of aphids) on at Thistle
One Pryor Ant (and a bunch of aphids) on a Leaf
A Honeybee Accosting a Bumblebee
A Crab Spider Enjoying Lunch
The Buzzards of Perryton