More Junkmail from Bob!

December 3, 2020
Important Stuff.


On November 13, a big rock named 2020-VT4, between 15 and 35 feet in diameter, flew over the Pacific Ocean. Nobody saw it coming, and nobody knew it had been there until it was gone. In fairness, it was more than 200 miles up -- higher than the space station. Since it didn't hit the earth or burn up in the atmosphere, this rock is an asteroid rather than a meteor or meteorite.

The asteroid was not even discovered until it was on its way away from the earth. They ran across it in the data from Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii the following day. The size estimate is fuzzy because its size is estimated by its brightness, and without knowing its surface composition it's not a very precise estimate.


Mauna Loa, March 2008. It snows in Hawaii!

After tracking the asteroid for just a few days, people who know a lot more than I do determined its orbit, and calculated its past and future fly-bys.

When 2020-VT4 (pronounced "George") flew over the Pacific, it was 0.0000451 astronomical units from the earth. (One AU is the average distance from the earth to the sun, about 92,956,000 miles.) But 0.0000451 AU is a little under 4,192 miles, not 230! Then it dawned on me that it was 4,192 miles from the center of the earth, and around 229 miles from the surface of the earth. Maybe those people really do know what they're talking about.

The asteroid flew inside the orbits of most satellites, including Geostationary communications satellites (22,236 miles), GPS satellites (~12,500 miles), Iridium satphone satellites (485 miles), the Hubble space telescope (370 miles), and the SpaceX Starlink satellites (~341 miles). It was the closest an asteroid is known to have come to the earth without impacting, but there must have been a lot that were closer that we never knew about.

The Threnody

Threnody is a word I didn't know. It's a "song of lamentation for the dead."

Maureen Dowd is an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times. She's won a Pulitzer Prize, has written best-selling books, and is pretty strongly against Trump. He brother Kevin, a Trump supporter like the rest of her family, wrote Maureen's Thanksgiving Day column in the New York Times: the Threnody for Donald Trump.

I don't agree with him, and a lot of what he says is not true. But it sounds reasonable, and I can see why someone who doesn't question its veracity could vote for Trump. (Incidentally, I am not a Trump fan, mainly because of his dishonesty, corruption, and ugly makeup.)

Oklahoma is Number One!

Oklahoma is the number one medical marijuana market in the country, on a per capita basis. Almost 10 percent of Oklahomans have a medical marijuana card. By comparison, only 5 percent of second place New Mexico's population have marijuana cards.

Medical marijuana sales in Oklahoma have surpassed $1 billion since 2018. That might be because it's not a lot different from recreational marijuana in other states. There are no medical conditions required for a medical marijuana card, and they're freely available for $60 with a 5-minute consultation. (Is $60 freely?)

It's also cheap and easy to get a permit to grow or sell medical marijuana in Oklahoma. People have come from all over the country to join the fun and become "marijuana millionaires." An Oklahoma dispensary license costs only $2,500, there is no limit to the number of marijuana businesses, and it's illegal for cities to ban them.

Oklahoma currently has almost 2,000 dispensaries and 6,000 grow operations. There are about 9 marijuana dispensaries in Oklahoma for every McDonalds.

Marijuana on Main Street, Pryor, Oklahoma

Towns near the Texas border have a booming marijuana business, for some odd reason. Ardmore has 36 licensed dispensaries, and Wilson, with a population of 1,695, has 32 dispensaries. Just 6 years ago, the Oklahoma Attorney General (a guy named Scott who later did a stellar job as EPA boss) sued Colorado for allowing marijuana to be sold in Colorado. He complained that people were bringing Colorado marijuana into Oklahoma, wreaking all manor of moral and financial havoc.

A couple of years before that, in the 1960's and 1970's, it was those hippies from California who were corrupting the fine Oklahoma youth with marijuana. It appears that those Oklahoma hippies, now in their 60's and 70's, still want a joint. Do people still say "joint"?


The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite launched November 21. It will use a radar altimeter to measure the sea level all over the earth, extending the data collected since 1992 on four previous satellites.

Michael Freilich was director of NASA's Earth Science Division and a world leader in advancing ocean observations from space. He retired in 2019, and died from pancreatic cancer last August.



DuckDuckGo reminds me of what you're supposed to do when an errant asteroid heads your way, or of a civil defense film from 1951. It's actually an internet search engine, a little like Google or Microsoft Bing.

I've been using DuckDuckGo for a couple of weeks, and it's improved a lot since the last time I tried it. Apparently some other people agree. Over the past year, DuckDuckGo's search requests have increased more than 65 percent.

DuckDuckGo uses Bing's search engine, but they also have their own crawler to generate search indexes, and they access a few other specialized search engines. They use Apple Maps, without ads.

This car is recording 360 degree street views for Apple Maps. I waved.

My biggest problem with Bing is that it misses a lot of results that I find useful in Google.

Google has good searches, but they keep cluttering up my results with ads, images, videos, etc. They also tailor their search results based on my search and browsing history. Google has access to over half the web's search history through their "Google Analytics", a free service people and companies use to log traffic (and more) on their web sites.

I think DuckDuckGo's search is better than Bing, and pretty close to Google. Occasionally there will be some useful hits in DuckDuckGo that are omitted from Google search results, but usually Google has at least as many results and sometimes Google's are more current.

DuckDuckGo's big claim is privacy. They don't tailor your results based on what they think you want to see, which is important to me, and they say they don't save your browsing history or make it available for marketing, which I don't care much about. I block most analytics in my ad blocker.

Three reasons I like DuckDuckGo:
  1. I can turn off the ads. This means search results come up faster and I don't get tricked into reading an ad masquerading as a search result.
  2. It's uncluttered. There are not a bunch of images, videos, and shopping options displayed in the results unless I ask for it. This makes it faster to load and faster for me to scan the results.
  3. I can use "bangs" in searches. It's a dumb name, but an excellent feature. It means I can use just about any other site's search by appending !xxx. For example, if I want to see Google's search results for "Euthochtha galeator", I can search DuckDuckGo for "Euthochtha galeator !g", adding "!g" for Google. Or, "!w" for Wikipedia, "!inat" for, "!bugguide" for, "!gbif" for, "!scholar" for Google Scholar, etc. For quick weather, search "74361 !noaa". There are thousands of these, and they're usually intuitive enough that you don't have to look them up.

Moon Rocks

China launched a rocket to the moon on November 23. The spacecraft is in orbit around the moon, and a lander made a soft landing on the moon. That's the preferred type of landing for most aircraft and spacecraft. It will pick up some rocks and bring them back to Earth. Here is China's video about the landing.

Who Was that Masked Voter?


Three facts:
  1. Trump supporters are less likely to wear masks than people who don't support Trump. (Side note: Of the 8 U.S. Senators who have caught Covid-19, 8 are Republicans.)
  2. People who wear masks are less likely to die from Covid-19 than people who don't (despite one statistically insignificant study).
  3. A quarter of a million people in the U.S. have died from Covid-19.
I think I found some of Donald Trump's missing voters!

Kill Targets

On November 20, The U.S. Justice Department argued in court that the government has the power to kill its citizens without judicial oversight when state secrets are involved. That raised some eyebrows.

I suppose a person can see where this sort of attitude comes from. On Monday, a Trump campaign lawyer named Joe said that Chris Krebs, the former head of U.S. cybersecurity, should be shot for going against the president's conspiracy theories and declaring that the 2020 elections were secure. He said in a public interview, "Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity. That guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot."

Chris Krebs, along with Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Assistant Director Bob Kolasky, U.S. Election Assistance Commission Chair Benjamin Hovland, National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) President Maggie Toulouse Oliver, National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) President Lori Augino, and Escambia County (Florida) Supervisor of Elections David Stafford – and the members of the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Council (SCC) – Chair Brian Hancock (Unisyn Voting Solutions), Vice Chair Sam Derheimer (Hart InterCivic), Chris Wlaschin (Election Systems & Software), Ericka Haas (Electronic Registration Information Center), and Maria Bianchi (Democracy Works) released the following statement:

The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double checking the entire election process prior to finalizing the result.

When states have close elections, many will recount ballots. All of the states with close results in the 2020 presidential race have paper records of each vote, allowing the ability to go back and count each ballot if necessary. This is an added benefit for security and resilience. This process allows for the identification and correction of any mistakes or errors. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.

Other security measures like pre-election testing, state certification of voting equipment, and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) certification of voting equipment help to build additional confidence in the voting systems used in 2020.

While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too. When you have questions, turn to elections officials as trusted voices as they administer elections.

Donald Trump ordered Chris Krebs fired after this statement was released, but Trump has still not come up with one iota of evidence of the widespread voter fraud he rants about daily.

I'm a little naive, but I don't see how Krebs telling the absolute truth merits the death penalty. I think he should get a medal.

Pictures of Today

Canyonlands, Utah

Canyonlands, Utah

Luna Moth

Two-Striped Planthopper

Crab Spider


Hidden Spider

Banded Tussock Moth caterpillar

Another Banded Tussock Moth caterpillar

Sumo Mite, on a mossy tree. It's about 3 mm long.

Copyright (~) 1920, no rights deserved. This fine piece of prose is not worth protecting.
Copy the heck out of it!