More Junkmail from Bob!

November 16, 2018
Important Stuff.

Guns at Quik Trip

Quik Trip has employed armed off-duty police officers and security guards at some of their stores for some time. Now they are hiring regular employees who can work at the convenience stores while armed. For some reason, that does not make me feel safe. ...

If Quik Trip insists on guns, I hope they get something practical, like this:


Ocean Warming and Intergalactic Climate Change

Some oceanography researchers at UCSD’s Scripps Institution and Princeton University published a paper last month explaining, among other things, that oceans have been heating up faster than previously thought as a result of climate change -- 60 percent more than stated by the IPCC. ...

Except they were wrong. The number is really somewhere between 10 and 70 percent. Why the discrepancy? A math error calculating the statistical accuracy. ...

The authors handled the error well, and have already submitted a change to the journal Nature. One of the co-authors explained, "When we were confronted with his insight it became immediately clear there was an issue there. We’re grateful to have it be pointed out quickly so that we could correct it quickly."

It was very refreshing to see someone admitting to a mistake. "We really muffed the error margins." ...

Snow and Sea Ice

My baby daughter and some others published a paper in this month's "Nature Climate Change" about the interactions of snow and sea ice. No corrections have been necessary. This is because the others knew what they were doing.


Chinese Fords

Chinese auto company Zotye is planning to sell cars in the United States beginning in 2020. They'll probably start with luxury SUVs and move into electric vehicles. Ford and Zotye already have a joint venture to sell electric cars in China. ...


SpaceX has launched 18 rockets so far this year, reaching last year's total. They'll probably launch about four more. Even Kazakhstan, where Sputnik was launched, is using SpaceX.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) is the only company in the world with more launches than SpaceX in 2018.

So far in 2018, the U.S. has launched 29 rockets compared to China's 31.

New Zealand is now a space faring country. Rocket Lab has launched its first commercial payload into orbit. ...

Last March, the FCC authorized SpaceX to launch 4,425 satellites for broadband internet. These will be in lower orbit than current satellites used for internet, making faster ping rates (latency) and a more responsive internet connection. They will orbit at an altitude of around 700 or 800 miles.

SpaceX launched two prototypes of these satellites in February, and they were pronounced "good enough for gaming" in May.

Thursday, SpaceX received authorization to launch another 7,518 satellites at even lower orbits, around 210 miles elevation.

SpaceX expects to launch at more than 6,000 of the broadband satellites over the next six years.


The New York Times published an in-depth article about Facebook, based on interviews with more than 50 people. I am appalled that Facebook is not looking out for my best interests!  They hired a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit protesters by linking them to George Soros, and lobbied a Jewish civil rights group to label criticism of Facebook as anti-Semitic. And there is a lot of etc. Oddly, the Facebook bosses seem more concerned with public perception than company ethics. ...

After the New York Times article came out, Facebook wasted no time in dumping the Republican opposition research firm "Definers".

Facebook also announced that they killed more than a billion fake accounts and removed millions of posts and photos between April and September.

You're probably asking yourself (a) Why were there billions of false accounts and millions of evil posts and photos on Facebook in the first place, and (b) Why did they wait for the New York Times article before they disclosed the removal?

The answer is simple. They made a whole lot of money from those fake accounts. Advertisers on Facebook, generally pay per click and per view for their ads. If there's a fake account run by a non-human bot, it views and clicks ads in order to look real. All those non-human clicks and views still generate ad billing for Facebook.

Facebook also makes a lot of money from the fake photos and posts. When a controversial post is shared or debated, people use Facebook, see ads, and some inevitably click ads. When the numbers involved end with 6 or 9 zeros, there is a huge amount of money at stake.

The follow up question is (c) Where do all the fake accounts and content come from? The short answer is Russia. The Russian government is behind a significant part of the fake divisive political content. Russian hackers are often the source of Facebook spam and scams. There are plenty of others involved, but the Russians are the major players, which is the answer to (d) Why doesn't the Trump administration do anything to stop this sort of thing? ... ...

President Trump, Mentally Stable Genius

In case you've been asleep for a while, there was an election last week. The Republicans gained a couple of seats in the Senate, and the Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives. There are now about 23 Democrat governors and 25 Republican, after the Democrats gained 6 or 7.

President Trump was not happy with these results. He claimed election fraud several times. Among other things, he said "The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes. When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on." ...

President Trump went to Paris last week. He was scheduled to honor the American World War I dead at a cemetery 56 miles from his room in Paris. But it was raining, so he didn't go.

The President claimed near-zero visibility and the White House press secretary backed this up and said it was a two and a half hour drive each way. I might be able to bicycle that far in 2.5 hours, but Google says it only takes 1 hour and 12 minutes to drive, and that's without sirens and flashing lights.


The president caught a lot of flak for skipping the ceremony for U.S. war dead, especially because the other world leaders attended. ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

The next day President Trump laid blame on the Secret Service, which is particularly strange because they always have plans to handle any weather.

There's even a fake story flying around the internet saying six people were arrested in a plot to attack Trump at the cemetery. In fact, there were six people arrested in various parts of France in a plot to attack the French president, and the arrests occurred four days before President Trump arrived in Paris.

President Trump didn't waste his time Saturday morning. He got in some valuable tweet and TV time, and kept at it.

President trump claimed widespread election fraud, without one whit of evidence. He said that the California wildfires were caused by poor forest management, even though almost all the forest land in California is owned and managed by the federal government. And so forth. ...

Earlier this year, President Trump made the ridiculous claim that the reason for a forest fire was water that could be used to fight fires was being diverted into the ocean. The truth is that there was always more than enough water to fight the fires. I wonder if he realizes that river water ends up in the ocean.

The day after the no-show at the American cemetery last week, President Trump opted not to walk with other world leaders through the Arc de Triomphe. Russian President Putin was the only other non-participant.

After returning from Paris, President Trump provided above-average entertainment for the press corps, with temper tantrums, lackluster public appearances and non-appearances.

President Trump repeated the lie that you have to have an ID to buy cereal, but you don't need an ID in order to vote for a president, a senator, a governor, or a congressman.

He might not travel in the same circles I do, but I haven't been asked for an ID in a grocery store, convenience store, or Walmart in years, except when traveling outside the U.S. The White House press secretary dutifully perpetuated the lie by explaining that the president really meant liquor when he said cereal. I did not make this up.

I hesitated to put the link above to CNN, because CNN's javascript alienates many browsers with adblockers. But since CNN sued the White House over the banishment of a reporter and won, I thought I'd make an exception. President Trump has had words with several reporters lately.

Before the elections, President Trump warned us about the band of Muslim terrorists, drug dealers, rapists (lots of rapists), and other criminals, in a caravan, headed from Central America toward the United States border with Mexico. He bravely ordered the deployment of 5,000, then 10,000, then 12,500 troops to the border. There are currently around 5,800 troops at the border, and the number is not expected to increase. ... ...

"Criminals" from the "caravan" are arriving in Tijuana in donated busses. About 80 formed an orderly line early Thursday morning to make an appointment for asylum interviews in the United States.

Mexico has offered the immigrants refuge, asylum, and work visas. Mexico issued 2,697 temporary visas to individuals and families so they can apply for more permanent status, and 533 migrants had requested a voluntary return to their countries. It does not quite sound like a band of criminals and terrorists intent on storming the border.

Since the election (as of Nov 15), President Trump has not mentioned the caravan in a tweet, and only used the word "border" once. He was scheduled to visit the troops on the border this week, but he cancelled. It wasn't even raining. He sent the Secretary of Defense in his place. There are rumors flying around the White House that say the Secretary of Defense will be fired soon, along with the White House Chief of Staff and Secretary of Homeland Security.

On another defense-related topic, President Trump's claim that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat was a lie then and is a lie now.


Presidential Medal of Freedom

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural, or other significant public or private endeavors." It is the highest civilian award of the United States, along with the Congressional Gold Medal.

At least, it was until last week. President Trump has named the wife of a Republican megadonor as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. ... ...

In an odd coincidence, he announced this three days after the election.

Other recipients were Senator Orrin Hatch, Justice Alan Page, Elvis Presley, Babe Ruth, Antonin Scalia, and Roger Staubach.

New York Times Photos

The New York Times has about 5 or 7 million photos, on paper, in cabinets. They hired Google to digitize the photos and to use machine learning to categorize the photos automatically. They won't be released to the public domain, but it will still be pretty nice to have them digitized so they can be used easily. That sounds like a really fun project. ...


Flickr is a photo sharing service you can use to upload photos and organize them into albums, categories, etc. It was founded in 2004, bought by Yahoo in 2005, bought by Verizon (along with Yahoo) in 2017, and sold by Verizon to Smugmug (without Yahoo) in 2018.

In 2013, Flickr announced 1 terabyte of free storage for photos. This week, Flickr (Smugmug) announced that there will be free storage for 1,000 photos. This is a drop by a factor of around 150. In other words, if you happen to have a terabyte of photos on your free Flickr account, you'll have to delete more than 99 percent of them.    

I would guess that not too many people have 160,000 photos on Flickr, but there are a lot who have more than 1,000. If you do, you can pay Flickr a monthly fee or they will cheerfully delete your extra photos on February 5 (with an exception for Creative Commons photos uploaded before November 1 -- a weird exception). Luckily, I'm safe with 57 photos.


This is unquestionably a large reduction in service, but it's free so they can do what they want. I like the way they have announced this change:

"Free accounts will soon be limited to 1,000 photos or videos. Flickr isn't Flickr without the contributions and participation of our free members, and we remain committed to a vibrant, free offering."

They remain committed, but their commitment is about 0.006 of what it used to be.

The moral of this story is that when you save something on someone's free cloud service, there is no guarantee you'll be able to keep it there. If you don't pay attention to the new TOS, you may wake up one day and notice that most or all of your files are missing, and may never be recovered.

The Mathematics of Weight Loss

Where have all the flowers pounds gone?

Remote Destruction of Evidence

If your iPhone is stolen, you can wipe the data remotely. If the police seize your iPhone, that might be a bad idea. Some people consider that evidence tampering, or obstructing an investigation, or stupid.


A game I can keep up with.

Amazon HQ2.5

Amazon executed a nationwide search for its new headquarters. After months of negotiating with dozens of cities around the country, Amazon settled on Long Island City, NY and Crystal City, Virginia.

In other news, Jeff Bezos owns three homes. The average distance to the company's three "headquarters" is 6.4 miles. That's really a coincidence! ...

Admiral Kuznetsov

Last Junkmail I mentioned the drydock crashing into Russia's only aircraft carrier, the Kuznetsov.

Russian officials said it's not economical to repair.

The United States aircraft carriers are not without their own problems. 15 sailors on the Ronald Reagan were disciplined, court-martialed, or are awaiting charges in connection with LSD abuse. 14 of them worked in the nuclear reactor department. Of all the places to enjoy recreational hallucinogens, the nuclear reactor of an aircraft carrier might not be the best choice. ...

      The Reagan

They may have no more aircraft carriers, but Russia has more than 30 icebreakers, of which 4 are nuclear powered. The U.S. Coastguard has two.

      The Healey

      The Polar Star

Matthew Whitaker

Matthew Whitaker has owned a day-care center, a concrete supply business, and a trailer manufacturer. He led a taxpayer-subsidized affordable housing project in Des Moines, but he walked away from the stalled project after the city threatened him with a lawsuit.

In 2004, Matthew cited a personal-injury case and a dispute involving a dry-cleaning business as some of his most consequential legal work. After five years as a U.S. Attorney in southern Iowa, he started a modest legal practice and a short-lived lobbying and consulting firm.

Matthew served on the board of World Patent Marketing, in a somewhat active position. He wrote threatening letters to victims of the scam company that has bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars. The company was shut down by the FTC last May for fraud.

Last week President Trump forced U.S. Attorney General Sessions to resign. He named Matthew Whitaker as a temporary replacement for Sessions, even though the Deputy Attorney General is normally next in the line of succession. Coincidentally, this all happened the day after the elections.

One White House official acknowledged that Whitaker, who had been Sessions’s chief of staff, received little vetting. I should certainly hope so, with that kind of record!

President Trump, October 11, 2018: "I can tell you Matt Whitaker’s a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker."

President Trump, November 9, 2018: "I don’t know Matt Whitaker."

Among many other "novel" ideas, Matthew Whitaker said that states have the right to nullify federal law. Never mind that this is contrary to the U.S. Constitution. Maybe the U.S. Constitution doesn't apply to people who live in states?

The apparent reason Matthew Whitaker was appointed by President Trump is to stop the Mueller Investigation from investigating Trump. Matthew has criticized and recommended shutting down the Mueller Investigation quite often.

Several Republicans in congress are asking the President to hurry up and nominate a "real", permanent Attorney General because Matthew Whitaker is making them all look really stupid. (I might have paraphrased that.) ...

Musical Creativity

Anybody can create fake news. It takes someone special to create a fake rock concert tour, complete with a fake recording label, fake management company, and fake video production company. I was impressed!

Fun at Ryan's House

This story is just too weird. Here's the intro:

"A man who appeared drunk and was staying at Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s house impersonated the secretary and then called U.S. Park Police officers to respond to a confrontation in his Washington, D.C., neighborhood Monday night...

"The Interior Department blamed the incident on suspicious people who interrupted a home barbecue by lurking outside Zinke's home and yelling profanities about President Donald Trump -- which neighbors said did not happen. But a government ethics expert said it raised new questions about whether the secretary was using government resources for personal purposes." ... ...

Interior Secretary Zinke is probably the most corrupt person on President Trump's cabinet, and may not keep his job much longer, although some claim Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is vying for that title. ... ...

In my opinion, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has a firm hold on the number two spot of dishonesty and corruption.

Pictures of Today!

A garter snake, or possibly a king cobra

The Mexico, in Oakland

DSC03624.jpg DSC03625.jpg DSC03626.jpg DSC03631.jpg
West of Hobbs, New Mexico


This Old House

Caterpillar, Pryor, Oklahoma

Ospreys, Everglades, Florida

The End.