More Junkmail from Bob!

November 23, 2014
Important Stuff.

Health Food!

The White House has announced the appointment of a new pastry chef. Because the pastry chef is unquestionably more important (and more effective) than most cabinet level positions, Congress is asking the Supreme Court to step in and require Senate approval for Susan, the new pastry chef. Or maybe I just made that up.


I noticed that the White House web site seems particularly slow. Maybe they need net neutrality.

Brain Food

"Abilify" is an antipsychotic/antidepressant drug that I had never heard of until I read some recent articles. (But I suppose I have never heard of most prescription drugs on the market today.) People in the U.S. are currently spending around $7,200,000,000 per year on the drug, more than any other prescription medicine. Bristol-Myers, the drug's maker, gets $2.3 billion of this. They'll get a lot less after 2015 when the patent runs out.

The Militarization of Police

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been pushing local police forces to use military equipment, training, and federally centralized communications and intelligence (assuming there is such a thing as intelligence at the federal level). Through government grants, they provide small police departments with armored personnel carriers, automatic weapons, cell phone intercepting stations, surveillance equipment, etc.

071410-armored-540.JPG    Cobb-County-APC.jpg

Some people say this is good because it helps protect us against terrorists, child pornographers, drug dealers, and telephone solicitors. Some people say this is bad because it's done to make sure the federal government can crack down on any person or any group, such as political dissidents, programmers, or other deviants.

I think it's partly good because some police departments can get some useful stuff, but it's mostly bad because it's a direct result of Homeland Security having too much money and spending it to expand their empire, power, and control over humans.

Both Republicans and Democrats support the militarization of police departments, so it won't end any time soon. The Oklahoma Pirate Party is opposed, however, so there is hope. ... ... ...

Some police forces are bypassing all this federal grant money and seizing their own.

TOR Routed

The FBI announced that it seized more than 400 "dark market" sites on the internet, operating under the Tor Network.

It seems the FBI was fudging the numbers a bit.

There's quite a bit if speculation on how the FBI managed to find the offending sites on the supposedly anonymous Tor network. Probably they set up their own Tor servers and used them for man-in-the-middle access, after mounting a DoS attack to force Tor traffic through the FBI Tor servers. ...

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony appeared on the U.S. Dollar coin 1979-1981 and again in 1999. In 1872, Susan voted in the Presidential election. She was arrested a few days later. It was 58 more years before women in all 48 states were allowed to vote for President.

Now the Susan B. Anthony dollar is going the way of money in general. Two thirds of all retail transactions are now done with plastic; more if you include online transactions. I even use a credit card for Diet Cokes in convenience stores and health food in drive-thrus. It's faster.


Light Emitting Diodes

LEDs are the better bulb. I think the government should not have pressed people into compact fluorescents. They should have waited on LEDs.

You can get an LED 60-watt equivalent bulb at Walmart now for about 4 times more than a regular bulb. The LED bulb lasts 10 times longer and uses 80 percent less electricity. I like the 10 times longer part, because I hate changing light bulbs.

I hate changing fluorescent ballasts even more than I hate changing light bulbs. Now you can get 4-foot LED replacement bulbs on Amazon and trash the ballasts. It does take a little re-wiring, though.

An LED light fixture is more efficient, and cheaper (I think) than LED bulbs, in the long run. An LED replacement bulb has its own power supply. An LED light fixture has one power supply for all the LEDs.

Global Warming

The earth is getting warmer. That's not an estimate. It's a fact. The average temperature has risen around 1.5°F since 1880. Each of the past three decades has been successively warmer than any decade since 1850.

There's quite a bit of variability in the data. With judicious selection of starting and endpoints, people grab data and claim the earth is warming or cooling more than it really is. It's particularly common for politicians and their lobbyists to use statistically invalid data selection and pretend that the science to conforms to their party line.

There is a new report out by the IPCC which has qualified data and conclusions. It is probably the most accurate place to get data on climate change.

Its conclusions are qualified by likelihood and confidence. This is because no matter what you say concerning climate change, there will be someone who claims you're wrong.

In addition, there are standard terms for evidence (limited, medium, or robust) and agreement (low, medium, or high) which make up the level of confidence (very low, low, medium, high, or very high). All probabilities in the report are high or very high confidence unless otherwise stated.

This makes it handy if you want to make biased, inaccurate statements to hype or deny global warming. Just look for statements with low levels of confidence and minimal likelihood.

virtually certain: >=99% probability
extremely likely: >=95%
very likely: >=90%
likely: >=66%
more likely than not: >50%
unlikely: <=33%
extremely unlikely <=5%
exceptionally unlikely: <=1%

Here is one notable statement, 99% probability with very high confidence:

"Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century."

In other words, people are causing significant global warming. I used to have serious doubts about this, but there has been a lot of research since then, and "facts is facts."

I could carry on for a long time on various ineffective ways to counter global warming, but I'll spare you. Two effective ways to counter global warming today are:

(1) Widespread use of nuclear (primarily) and solar power to generate electricity, together with the widespread use of electric cars and trucks.
(2) Zero (or negative) population growth. If you double the earth's population, you double the energy use.
(3) Rely on our progeny to develop new technology that solves the problem.

(You have to pick which two are effective.)

Most people aren't willing or able to take these drastic measures and enforce them all over the world. There's more fun, profit, and campaign contributions to be had with cap and trade on greenhouse gas emissions, anyway.

Over the next 150 years, assuming some country on earth continues science education and research, there will likely be some major technological breakthroughs in energy production that will resolve most of the global warming problems. Just look how much technological progress has been made in the past 150 years.

Facts about the ocean:

Over the period 1901 to 2010, global mean sea level rose by 7.5 inches. The rate of sea-level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia.

Rates of sea-level rise over broad regions can be several times larger or smaller than the global mean sea-level rise for periods of several decades, due to fluctuations in ocean circulation. Since 1993, the regional rates for the Western Pacific are up to three times larger than the global mean, while those for much of the Eastern Pacific are near zero or negative.

Since the beginning of the industrial era, oceanic uptake of CO2 has resulted in acidification of the ocean; the pH of ocean surface water has decreased by 0.1, corresponding to a 26% increase in acidity, measured as hydrogen ion concentration.

There is a lot of stuff in this report about social risks and policy that I don't care too much about, but the hard data is there, too. It's a lot more interesting. It's worth reading.


Dear Amazon

Dear Amazon,

When I went to to buy a DSL modem, I was met with a stupid pop-up ad and couldn't see what I was reading. Now I will buy my DSL modem from Newegg because I do not want to support your pop-up ads.

Your customers don't want pop-up ads. That's why they are disabled in most browsers. Still, you apparently feel the need to circumvent this preference using jquery or something similar. Whenever I see one of your pop-up ads, I will take my business elsewhere.


Windows 7

Windows 8 was a big flop. At last count, Windows 8 was almost even with Windows XP in market share, with about 1/3 as many users as Windows 7. But Microsoft has a new boss who seems concerned with users, and Windows 10 (they're skipping 9) should be out next year as a big improvement. Meanwhile, Windows 7 is no longer being preinstalled on new computers. You're forced to "downgrade" to Windows 7, or wait till next year if you don't want Windows 8 on your new computer.


Firefox came out with a new user interface around version 22, to mimic Chrome. Some people didn't see the need to change the UI, so they created a fork in the open-source Firefox project and came out with the Pale Moon browser. It uses the previous Firefox UI, and also adds some performance benefits. They continue to add the other Firefox updates. I've been using it for a few months and like it better than Chrome or Firefox.

On the subject of browsing and open source forks, I discovered a few months ago that Adblock Plus slowed the loading of a page with lots of images significantly (about 20x). Adblock Edge, a similar application, does not. Adblock Edge also does not have the "acceptable ads" feature found in Adblock Plus.

Incidentally, if you subscribe to the popular Adblock filter list "Easylist" Adblock Plus or Adblock Edge, you should know that it has a bunch of advertising sites white listed. You can disable these, but they are re-enabled if you ever update the filter list.

And stop changing UIs for no good reason!

Think Tanks

Think tanks are a place for retired politicians to collect money by putting their names on papers written by smart people. Most think tanks only put out papers with a certain political bias, such as liberal, conservative, green, or telcomm. Since this is allegedly research, it's not considered bad manners or even illegal for foreign governments to pay think tanks to produce papers conforming to their messages.

For example, the government of Qatar gave the Brookings Institute $14.8 million to fund a Brookings affiliate in Qatar and a project on U.S. relations with the Islamic world.

It's almost like a SuperPAC!

Fun with Patents ...

Online Reputation

The city of Seattle recently paid $17,500 to boost the online reputations of one of its city officials named Jorge.

Unsurprisingly, word got out and this backfired in a big way. There is a whole generation of internet users who are intimately familiar with the Streisand Effect but have never heard of Funny Girl or A Star is Born.

Now Seattle wants a refund from the company that was nice enough to take their money,

Customer Service

Need to activate Windows? Good luck! I recently had to replace a server, and Windows wouldn't activate online for some unknown reason. I did get the message, "You can also contact Microsoft by phone to help resolve this problem."

So I called Microsoft, and wandered about the company on the phone talking to lots of nice Microsoft Employees. This was rather odd, because I did not need anything special. I just needed to use the copy of Windows I had bought a few weeks before. They eventually sent me to an online chat.

Please wait for an agent to respond. You are currently '2' in the queue.
Privacy Statement
You are now chatting with 'Carmela'.
Carmela: Hi, Bob! Thank you for contacting Microsoft Service Chat!
bob: Hi
Carmela: Please be informed that this chat service is designed to assist you with site navigation, technical support case submission, and customer service questions.
Carmela: If you need technical support, I can provide you with your support options or help you submit your case to the appropriate support professional who can work with you to resolve your issue.
Carmela: How may I help you today?
bob: I have been on the phone more than 30 minutes. Did they give you any information?
bob: They referred me here.
Carmela: My apologies but phone support is a different department.
Carmela: May I know which Microsoft software you need assistance with right now?
bob: Windows Server 2008 R2 will not activate.
bob: I entered that into the web site. Did you get that information?
Carmela: No. My apologies.
Carmela: May I know the product key, please?
bob: We had a new server with Windows 2008 R2. It installed and actived, then there was a hardware failure around 3 weeks later, so we had to replace the server. Now Windows will not activate. The product key, which I have already given and had verified on the phone, is 6gcmp p7887 bg9xg rgmqk jjtbb.
Carmela: Thank you.
Carmela: May I know the product ID as well? You may view the product ID from system properties.
bob: I don't see the product ID anywhere.
bob: OS Name Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard Version 6.1.7601 Service Pack 1 Build 7601
Carmela: I see. That is fine. Anyhow, I checked the product key and this seems valid. Do you have another product key aside from this, Bob?
bob: Yes, but I prefer not to use it because I may need it later. This was has only been activated for about 3 weeks.
Carmela: I understand the inconvenience this may have caused you. Since I am not technically trained and my resources are limited, I will still try to check my resources and see if I can find any related information. However, if I am unable to find any relevant answer, I will discuss further support options.
bob: Does that mean you want me to pay you money?
bob: I have already paid for my copy of Windows Server 2008.
bob: All I need is the product to be activated. Why would I have to pay extra for that?
Carmela: Thanks for waiting. I exhausted my resources already but I cannot pull up any related articles to your issue.  However, I would encourage you to post this to our forum and wait for a response from our technician. Our forums site is monitored by our certified Microsoft technicians 24x7. Please refer to the link below for the forum site.
Carmela: Technet Forums
Carmela: For technical cases, you may also submit the case online. Please refer to the link below.
bob: That will not help. I need someone to activate this copy of Windows.
Carmela: You may use a support contract. A support contract is created as a result of having a subscription like MSDN, TechNet, Software Assurance, or purchasing a block of support incidents.  
Carmela: If you do not have a Support Contract then you may pay for the support.  Pay per incident support is $259 during business hours and $515 for after hours support. All charges include possible state taxes and chargeable upon resolution of the ticket.
Carmela: Activation and Licensing issues are normally not charged, though credit card details will be taken if you don't have a support contract and it will be the technician's discretion to close the ticket as non- decrement against whatever payment method used.
Carmela: You've been to the Windows activation team, right?
bob: Yes, and they sent me to you. Did they do that in error? Who can activate my copy of Windows?
bob: Do you really believe I should pay hundreds of dollars to get my copy of Windows activated?
Carmela: The activation should be able to assist you on that however, if the issue needs technical assistance, you will be directed to setup a case instead so that a technician can assist you on this.
Carmela: If you haven't tried using the other product key code, I would suggest that you use it. It might work.
bob: I do not need technical assistance. Have you read anything I've been typing?
bob: I only need Windows to be activated.
bob: Who can activate this copy of windows?
Carmela: Please contact our Windows Activation team at 1-888-571-2048 with support 24x7.
bob: OK, thank you.

...and I ended up where I started. It's like getting killed in a video game.

The Kee Bird

A B-29 crashed on the Greenland Ice Cap in 1947. Some people tried to fly it out in the 1990s, but it caught on fire. Now it's owned by polar bears.

Terrorists are Everywhere!

...or are they?

69 Words you Can't Use at GM

General Motors lawyers have decided lawsuits would be easier to handle if employees wouldn't use words like "deathtrap" in ordinary day-to-day communications. Those emails can come back to haunt them in the courtroom. So they come up with 69 words you can't use at GM.

always, annihilate, apocalyptic, asphyxiating, bad, Band-Aid, big time, brakes like an “X” car, cataclysmic, catastrophic, Challenger, chaotic, Cobain, condemns, Corvair-like, crippling, critical, dangerous, deathtrap, debilitating, decapitating, defect, defective, detonate, disemboweling, enfeebling, evil, eviscerated, explode, failed, flawed, genocide, ghastly, grenadelike, grisly, gruesome, Hindenburg, Hobbling, Horrific, impaling, inferno, Kevorkianesque, lacerating, life-threatening, maiming, malicious, mangling, maniacal, mutilating, never, potentially-disfiguring, powder keg, problem, rolling sarcophagus (tomb or coffin), safety, safety related, serious, spontaneous combustion, startling, suffocating, suicidal, terrifying, Titanic, unstable, widow-maker, words or phrases with a biblical connotation, you’re toast

I'm am appalled that they can no longer use "rolling sarcophagus".


Amazon Web Services (AWS) is huge. They provide virtual servers and bandwidth on the internet. You can go to AWS, set up a (virtual) server, run it for a month, and then kill it. You'll only be charged for the month. Or you can leave it running indefinitely. Or you can run a 26,000 core supercomputer for a week.

You access a virtual server through Remote Desktop or something similar, and it behaves like a physical computer. It's cheaper than building your own hardware.

People from me (xpda) to Netflix are using AWS for their web servers. AWS dwarfs Microsoft and Google in the hosting world of cloud computing. They have somewhere around 3 or 5 million servers online today.

One thing that makes AWS better than its competitors is not its size. It's the usability. They have listened to their users and made AWS support user needs.

If I want a new instance that runs, for example, Windows Server, IIS, and SQL Server, I can get it in less than 5 minutes. The same goes for dozens of other configurations. I can easily configure security and firewalls. All this is done online, automatically, with published pricing options.

If I want to run a mail server, I'll need reverse DNS pointers and a few other items. AWS provides this. Last time I checked, other host services required some request and approval process for this. In addition to the delay involved, it's not acceptable for most organizations to learn whether they'll be able to operate a mail server until after they've committed to the service. There are lots of things like this AWS has done to make the system more attractive.

Online competence on a scale this large is rare. It's nice to see it.

Virus Scanning

Antivirus software is becoming less and less important, for two reasons. First, operating systems are becoming more secure. Second, more and more malware is being developed that can sneak by antivirus software.

I use Microsoft Security Essentials (usually), and I keep backups. I haven't acquired a virus for a few years, that I know of. It's possible I've had some undetected malware on one or two computers for a couple of years, but I've been too lazy to get to the bottom of some odd behavior. My computer's, that is.

Pictures of Today -- An Airplane Ride

It all started when Jeff Greenwald and I were talking about a year ago about taking a ride in the Aircam.


We ended up agreeing on a flight from Claremore, where the plane lives, to Oakland, where Jeff lives. He would fly out Oklahoma on an airliner and I'd give him a ride home in the Aircam. So we did, last summer. It was fun!


Utah - Arches

Utah - Canyonlands



California - Death Valley

California - Mammoth to Oakland

Josh Newman happened to be wandering around Oakland when we arrived, and he flew with me up to Seattle where he lives with his wife who happens to be my daughter.
California - Oakland to Truckee

California - Truckee to Susanville

California - Susanville to Crescent City

Crescent City, CA to The Dalles, OR

Mount St. Helens

Mount Adams

The Cascades, Mount Stuart to Everett

Hike to Hidden Lake Lookout

Hike to Mason Lake

A week or two later Josh, Melinda, Cathy, and I headed back to Oklahoma, two in the car and two in the plane. (For some reason, they wouldn't let me ride in the car.) Josh and Melinda only made it as far as Colorado, but the Aircam got back to Oklahoma in one piece.
Mount Rainier

Mount St. Helens, 2nd pass

The Dalles to Lakeview, Oregon

Lakeview, Oregon to Tonopah, Nevada

Tonopah to Mesquite, Nevada

Mesquite, Nevada to Blythe, California

Blythe, California to Tucson, Arizona

Davis-Monthan AFB "Boneyard", Tucson

Tucson, Arizona to Pecos, Texas

Oil Wells, etc. from Pecos Texas to Oklahoma

Pecos, Texas to Claremore, Oklahoma