More Junkmail from Bob!

November 3, 2018
Important Stuff.

Earth Biogenome Project

The Earth BioGenome Project plans to sequence, catalog, and characterize the genomes of all of Earth's complex organisms over the next ten years. By complex, I mean eukaryotes, or life made of cells that have a nucleus. This includes higher forms of life such as plants, animals, and fungus, and excludes lower life forms such as bacteria and virus.

I think this is a great idea. It will cost about $4.7 billion, funded by governments and institutions around the world. As of November 1, 17 institutions have each committed to the common goal of completing the 1.5 million genomes.

2018 Election Results

Zdeněk Hřib, the 37-year-old leader of the Czech Pirate Party, was elected mayor of Prague on November 1. ...


The CIA Was Compromised by Iran and China

The CIA used web sites to communicate with spies and informants around the world. Iran and China ran across one or two or a few of the sites, and then used Google searches to detect the rest, worldwide. They may have been working together or independently. Russia got in on the action, but too late to do much damage. ...

Problems were reported, but whistleblowers were punished and informants were executed. ...

This was a big deal.

In other news, Iran has been enjoying a virus attack on its infrastructure and strategic networks over the past few days. ...

Facebook Hacked

Russian hackers are selling private messages and other personal information in Facebook accounts, for 10 cents per account. They claim to have details from 120 million accounts. They posted information from 81,000 accounts as a sample, including private messages. At least the messages used to be private.

I'll sell my Facebook private messages for 2 cents.

It's the Law.

On November 1, some new laws take effect in Oklahoma. Among them:

1. People can buy lottery tickets using debit cards (instead of cash only). This is good because we won't have to stand in line so long behind lottery ticket purchasers in convenience stores (assuming they can remember their PIN.)

2. Private adoption agencies can refuse service to those people they believe are not up to their religious standards, and the agencies cannot be sued for it.

3. People in church can legally shoot intruders if they do it to prevent a forcible felony. This may be considered contrary to the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, but it does goes along with President Trump's vision of a Great American, and his opinion that the synagogue where 11 people were shot and killed should have had an armed guard. The policy does fall short of the law in Pryor, OK, where it's legal to shoot kids on the street in the back if they ring your doorbell and then run away. (The prosecuting attorney, who had already reduced charges, said after the trial that he understood why the jury ruled the way they did. Maybe he'll get some campaign contributions from the NRA.) ...

4. There are 12 new theme license plates for Oklahoma, including a Pittsburg State University license plate. (Pittsburg State University is in Kansas.)

5. "I Can Only Imagine" is now the Oklahoma state inspirational song. I just listened to it and was not inspired. I would have preferred the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth. I was very inspired when Leonard Bernstein conducted the Berlin Celebration Concert in 1989, but I guess they wanted someone from Oklahoma. I can't believe they didn't pick Peregrino. Here they are in an old church:

6. You can now drive in the left lane in town. In case you weren't paying attention, it's been illegal to cruise in the left lane on Oklahoma highways for some time, although they usually don't enforce it unless you're holding up traffic.

7. The red-tailed hawk is now the Oklahoma state raptor. Here's a picture I took of the Oklahoma state raptor being chased by the Oklahoma state bird. In Kansas.


There are also some normal laws, and possibly some good ones. It's hard for me to tell most of the time. ...

On the subject of laws, during the Supreme Court battle and theater performance when nobody was paying attention, President Trump signed a 1200-page FAA reauthorization bill that provides some potential passenger rights and requires the FAA to set up an "Office of Spaceports".

Russian Competence

Russia has a strong submarine force, 61 submarines in all, but I would be afraid to go for a ride on one. I don't think they have a stellar safety record.

Russia has only 1 aircraft carrier, compared to 20 in the U.S. navy. That carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, was in dry dock a few days ago undergoing some major maintenance, when the dry dock sank.

Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov

The official story is that there was a power outage due to ice on power lines that caused the dry dock's pumps to fail while the Kuznetsov was being floated out of the dock. The dry dock sank, and one of its two cranes crashed into the ship and left a 16-foot hole in its hull. ...

Russia began construction on a sister ship of the Kuznetsov in the 1980's, but it was eventually sold to China as a floating casino. China decided to convert it into China's first aircraft carrier, and the Liaoning was declared combat ready in 2016. China has since built a second aircraft carrier that is currently undergoing sea trials. It is expected to be commissioned next year.

In other news, a Russian rocket that was carrying a couple of people to the space station failed. One of the side-mounted boosters failed to separate properly, triggering an abort. The two guys on the rocket ended up on earth, a little battered but healthy. The Russian abort system worked. They're planning to try again on December 3, with humans on board.

Expedition 57 launch, carrying Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin across Russia for a few seconds, October 11, 2018 ...

We shouldn't criticize. At the moment, Russia is the only country capable of transporting people to and from the Space Station. SpaceX and Boeing are planning to fly people to the space station in June and August of next year. No word on whether they'll have a ride home. ...

Lock Insecurity

Some people wrote an app to open a $99 Tapplock digital padlock in two seconds. It opens the lock in two seconds, that is. It probably took 45 seconds or longer to write the app. ...

Someone else figured out how to access their server and access ALL the Tapplock locks. (This person didn't have a lock to work with.) Tapplock made just about every major design mistake possible. I could be exaggerating, but they are definitely pretty bad. ...

The locks are also susceptible to screwdrivers. ...

In fairness, the locks are made in Canada where people are supposed to be nice enough not break into locks.

Political Corruption

Former Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt was arguably the most corrupt cabinet-level politician in Washington during his short tenure as the head of the EPA. He resigned in July, the 7th cabinet-level official to leave the Trump Administration.

That left Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Energy Secretary Rick Perry to vie for the top spot in political corruption.

As a target of no fewer than 18 investigations, it looks like Ryan Zinke will be the winner. ... ...

Of course, the level of corruption in the president's cabinet seem minor when you look at the corruption of President Trump himself. ... ...

Don't Worry, It's Not Loaded

On October 11, some F16s at Belgium's Florennes Air Base were being serviced before a training mission. One of the people working on an F16 inadvertently shot a 20mm cannon, at about 100 rounds per second, into another F16 on the ground. The plane that was shot was destroyed, understandably, and the other plane was damaged when it was hit by flying F16 parts. Oops.

      f16Belgium.jpg ...

Global Warming at the EPA

President Trump has called global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese government, and the Trump administration has diligently removed most global warming and climate change information from the EPA web site. ...

Fortunately, some EPA workers have a sense of responsibility and left a pre-Trump snap shot of the web site online. It should be there until the president finds out about it.


Where Are All the People?

This is really cool -- the distribution of people in the world.

Windows 10 Update

The Windows 10 update was released on October 10. Then it was pulled, because it had the tendency to occasionally erase all the documents on a computer. Some hard-line computerists took issue with this after their documents folder was mysteriously cleared. Microsoft fixed this bug and made a few unsuccessful trial releases. Now the October release is happening in November. Incidentally, Windows 10 updates are not optional. ...

Something is very wrong at Microsoft.

Setting the Record Straight

President Trump is a liar. He has lied to the American People more than 1,000 times in October, more than 6,000 times since he became president. This is unprecedented, and an embarrassment to the United States.

I understand when people disagree with one another's politics, but I do not understand when people disagree with the truth.

1. "I'll soon sign into the law the largest legislative effort in history to address the opioid crisis where just this year we got $6 billion from Congress — thanks to [Sen.] Rob Portman [R-Ohio] and a lot of others — thank you, Rob — but Rob and so many others helped. Very little Democrat support." (October 24, 2018)

President Trump lied. The vote was overwhelmingly bipartisan: 98 to 1 (with one Republican voting against it) in the Senate, and 393 to 8 in the House.

Meanwhile, on November 2 the FDA approved a new opioid drug ten times stronger than fentanyl. It makes you wonder where these people get their supporting statistics for FDA approval.

2. "We’re going to be putting in a 10 percent tax cut for middle-income families. It’s going to be put in next week, 10 percent tax cut. Kevin Brady is working on it. We’ve been working on it for a few months, a 10 percent brand-new — and that is in addition to the big tax cuts that you’ve already gotten. But this one is for middle income. This is — no business. Business is now good. They’re coming back. The jobs are coming back. The plants and factories are coming back like never before. They’re all coming back. This is for middle-income people, all middle-income people, a big tax, 10 percent. We’ll be putting it in next week." (October 22, 2018)

President Trump lied. There was no such bill, and Congress is (and was) out of session.

3. The economy is the best economy in the history of our country. President Trump has repeated this lie more than 40 times, yet the truth refuses to be altered. The economy was better in the 1940s, 1960s, 1980s, and the 1990s, based on growth, jobs, wages, inflation, and debt.

4. Economic growth will pay for the tax cuts. This line has also been repeated almost ad infinitum, and it's still not true. The Office of Management and Budget has reported that the federal budget deficit will exceed a trillion dollars next year, higher than it's been since the recession that started in 2008-09.

5. "I remember when we had the attack in Manhattan, we opened the stock exchange the next day. People were shocked." (Oct. 27, 2018)

President trump lied. The New York Stock Exchange was closed from September 11 to September 17, 2001, its longest shutdown since 1933. Nasdaq and most stock exchanges around the world closed. Why would he make up something so insignificant yet easily proven to be a lie?

6. The "caravan" in Mexico is full of mid-eastern terrorists and is going to be captured by the U.S. military. There are so many lies and so much misinformation involved in this that I won't waste my time covering it all here. You can get the details from: ... ... ... ... ...

7. "Democrats want to give illegal immigrants the right to vote." (October 20, 2018)

President Trump lied. No Democratic Party leaders have called for the federal law to be overturned to allow legal or illegal noncitizens to vote in federal elections.

8. "Democrats don’t want to spend any money on the military. You know, the beautiful thing about military — number one, you need it." (October 1, 2018)

President Trump lied. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 was overwhelmingly supported by Democrats in the House (131 to 59) and the Senate (38 to 7).

9. "As we speak, the Democrat Party is openly encouraging millions of illegal aliens to break our laws, violate our borders, and overwhelm our nation. That’s what’s happening. The Democrats have launched an assault on the sovereignty of our country, the security of our nation, and the safety of every single American." (October 22, 2018)

President Trump lied. The Democratic Party is openly encouraging illegal immigrants to overwhelm our nation and assault the safety of ever single American? Does President Trump really think I'm stupid enough to believe this?

10. "I don’t think we like sanctuary cities up here. By the way, a lot of people in California don’t want them, either. They’re rioting now. They want to get out of their sanctuary cities. You know, there’s a big turn being made, folks. A lot of these sanctuary cities you’ve been hearing about in California and other places, but California, they want to get out, they’re demanding they be released from sanctuary cities." (October 22, 2018)

President Trump lied. There has been no rioting in any city in California, sanctuary or otherwise.

11. President Trump tweeted a video. The video opens with courtroom footage of a smiling Luis Bracamontes. Superimposed are the words, "Illegal immigrant, Luis Bracamontes, killed our people! As Bracamontes boasts about killing the two officers and saying he would kill more if he could, new text says, "Democrats let him into our country."

It's yet another lie. Bracamontes's most recent entry into the U.S. was during the Bush administration, and nobody intentionally let him stay. Most of his time spent in the U.S. has been during Republican administrations.

12. Saudi Arabia has ordered $450 billion, "$110 billion of which is a military order," producing "over a million jobs." (October 20, 2018)>President Trump lied. The $110 billion military order is definitely under $15 billion and probably a little over $2 billion. The $450 billion? This was apparently a complete fabrication, as were the 1 million jobs.

13. "Congresswoman Maxine Waters was called the most Corrupt Member of Congress! If Dems win, she would be put in charge of our Country's finances." (November 3, 2018)

President Trump lied. If Democrats win the House, Waters would be the chairman of the Financial Services Committee, which is in charge of Wall Street and banking oversight. The country's finances are more or less handled by the Budget Committee, which sets a spending blueprint. Authorizing committees such as Energy and Commerce set spending priorities. Ways and Means raises revenue and sets tax rates. Appropriations spends the money. I don't know whether Waters is corrupt, but that's what the President heard on Fox News.

Chinese Espionage that Wasn't

On the subject of truth and untruths...

Last month Bloomberg published a couple of articles about how China had used the companies Elemental Technologies and Supermicro to install spy chips on the motherboards going to large data centers, including those of Apple and Amazon. The articles were fairly in-depth.

Unfortunately, they were flat wrong.

First, the articles fail a sanity check. If someone wants to spy using motherboards going to data centers, there are much easier, effective, and reliable methods than designing a custom chip that is compatible with another custom chip and getting it installed onto a motherboard. For example, if you have access to the motherboard, you can install a hook or application outside the operating system in the BMC

Second, nobody (except possibly Bloomberg) can find any of these chips. If Bloomberg does have these chips, they won't let anybody analyze them.

Third, U.S. Homeland Security and British GCHQ have said the article is untrue.

Fourth, one of the Bloomberg reporters wrote a highly questionable article about the Heartbleed worm in 2014. ...

After a thorough investigation, Apple and Amazon asked Bloomberg to retract the article, something Apple has never done before. Bloomberg refused. Apple disinvited Bloomberg reporters from an iPad event, and Amazon pulled it's Bloomberg advertising (although Amazon didn't say why). ...

iPhones and Helium

iPhones and Apple watches may malfunction when you expose them to helium. That seemed really weird to me, but there may be some logic to it.

The smart devices use microelectromechanical systems such as accelerometers and gyroscopes. These need a little space for operation, and are housed in tiny airtight compartments on a chip. The compartments are kept in a near vacuum or filled with a gas of known properties.

Helium is a small molecule. In addition to being a small atom, its molecular form (if you call it that) is also its atomic form -- He1. This is a lot smaller than other air molecules.

As a result, Helium can pass through many solid membranes easier than other gases. Apparently it can get inside and affect the function of some microelectromechanical systems. Some people are guessing this to be the cause of Apple device failures around a new MRI machine, when it leaked a bunch of liquid helium during installation. Maybe I'll test my iPhone for helium exposure. ...

Bicycle tires are similar but different. Competition road bike tubes are made of relatively thin rubber, and have to be aired up regularly. I pump up my tires every time I ride (unless I forget).

There is an attachment that allows you to air up your tire with a CO2 cartridge. This is handy to carry on the bike for flat tire repair, since it's smaller than a pump.

After you put CO2 into a bike tire, that tire loses pressure faster than a tire with atmospheric air. This seemed backwards to me, because the CO2 molecule is larger than O2 or N2, which make up most of our air.

It turns out that the reason the CO2 leaks out faster is because carbon dioxide is soluble in rubber, while O2 and N2 are not. This piece of information is highly important and almost certainly useless.

Hurricane Michael

Here is an interesting map from NOAA with aerial images of the area Hurricane Michael hit. Zoom and pan.

Apple Maps

Apple Maps is getting better -- eventually. So far, Apple Maps is now more detailed than Google Maps in about 3 percent of the U.S. ...

Pictures of Today!

Windmill blades at Garden City, Kansas

Coastal Carpet Python, in Australia

Australian bat.

Australian bats are big!

Carrier, OK

Carriers, coming from Mexico


On the edge

A young bullfrog in the garden

A treehopper, on the back porch
(Ceresa palmeri)

Treehoppers in New Mexico.
(Stictopelta marmorata)

A chalcid wasp, on the back porch
(Conura igneoides)

The End