More Junkmail from Bob!

Tuesday, July 18, 2000
Important Stuff.

We're Number One!

Who's the number one internet company, as far as web traffic goes? I heard today on the radio that it's AOL. I read today that it's Microsoft. And I read today that it's Yahoo. Who's telling the truth? All of them, I guess. It just depends on how you count. Who can you trust? I'd say you can trust the figures from these companies about as much as you can trust the U.S. government's budget estimates. Anyway you look at it, there are a LOT of people using internet services from these companies.

Top Level Domains

There have been a few cases where people have sold internet domain names and made hundreds of thousands of dollars at it. Imagine, for example, how many companies would pay for the name If you check, you'll see that of the good names have already been registered. Newer dotcom companies are using compound names like You can check for available domain names at

On Sunday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted to allow domain suffixes in addition to the traditional .com, .net, .org, .edu, and .gov. These are called "top level domains," or TLDs. There are also 2-letter country designators like .fr or .au, but I think a revolution might be required to get a new country designator.

In August ICANN (no relation to Carl) will be accepting applications for new TLDs. Some of the likely candidates are .news, .shop, and .bob. There are a few problems to be worked out, however, such has how to keep someone from registering or excite.something and extorting huge sums from the established dot-coms.

I'm glad I don't have to organize that mess. I think there will be thousands of people trying to get rich quick in one way or another using the new TLDs, so I'll let them have at it.

I expect there will soon be infomercials on "How to Get Rich Registering Domain Names from Your Own Home." This could even replace the sentimental favorite "Becoming a Credit Card Millionaire." If you've missed these gems, get up (or stay up) about 4:00 am and check out the tube. It's pretty entertaining. OK, OK, it might be mildly entertaining for about 5 minutes.

Vacation Spots for 2000!

Next week there will be an airplane festival in Wisconsin. Thousands of airplanes will bring their owners to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for a week of heat, crowds, and flying. Check out

If it's not hot enough for you in Wisconsin, you might want to hold out for the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock dry lake, about 110 miles northeast of Reno, NV. As near as I can tell, this is somewhere between Woodstock and Oktoberfest in the desert. It lasts a week before and including Labor Day. For details, see:

You can also hang around for another week for Blackrock XII, the high-powered model rocket launch on September 9,10,11. They have an FAA waver to 50,000' (MSL). Here's where to register your rocket:

Here's what Black Rock looked like last time I was there (1991). I think we missed most of the activity:

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Set your VCR Time. Or don't.

For years, I just figured that the people who could not set the time on their VCRs either didn't care enough to try or were so technically inept that they could catch a microwave on fire cooking a potato. (My sister Barb DID this not long ago -- and torched the microwave!)

But it turned out it to be a dastardly conspiracy against the parents and grandparents of America, perpetrated by none other than the Fox Broadcasting Corporation with a little help from PBS station KTEH in San Jose.

About 5 years ago VCRs started coming with a neat feature that automatically set their clocks to a signal that comes from TV stations. At first, Public Broadcasting stations were the only U.S. TV signals to carry the time stamp.

About a year ago, Fox started transmitting time stamps. Being west-coast bigots, Fox decided the entire country should operating on Pacific Time and sent that time-stamp out all over the country. This caused problems for millions of VCRs. Fox has fessed up and fixed the problem by turning off their time stamp. KTEH also fessed up and fixed the problem by setting their clock, which was 24 minutes off.

I think I'll just look at my watch.

De Beers Monopoly?

De Beers said last week that it can no longer control the worldwide diamond market, so they're abandoning their monopoly. De Beers has been supporting global diamond prices for years by being always willing to buy rough diamonds. I've read about them being involved in some questionable activities such as forceful takeover attempts and lots of bribery of small governments. I suspect that De Beers will continue business as usual as long as they can. They make a lot of money at it.

Recently, Winspear Diamonds discovered a promising diamond area in northwestern Canada, and is seeking government approval for Canada's only underground diamond mine. De Beers decided they'd take over Winspear, but Winspear is fighting it. I'm not sure how last week's announcement figures into this.

De Beers is a German company, but they do business all over the world. They advertise a lot on TV, convincing people that diamonds are good for jewelry and better for women. In fact, they even had the symphonic background music written especially for their advertising to depict class and sophistication.

Since the 1980's, De Beers control of the diamond market has gone from 90% to 63%. I guess it's tough to deal with these young upstarts who have no respect for old money. People may be wondering, if you can't tell a real diamond from a fake, what difference does it make? Or even worse, what if someone agrees with the common children's perception that a diamond looks about as good as a piece of glass?

As far as I'm concerned, I would rather have a diamond on a drill bit than on my finger. I think most females in the world would disagree. Is this a natural phenomenon or one instilled by the diamond cartel? I guess we should ask Celera to check the genes.

It's been HOT. Sunday it was 102F in Adair, Oklahoma. Here's how the cows were keeping cool:


.... and here's how Melinda, Amy, and Leann beat the heat:


Of course they're not backwards!

The Pictures of Today

Looking off the approach end of the Catalina Island runway, this is 1600 feet up and a little more than a mile from the ocean.

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When I was copying these pictures just now, I accidentally grabbed one of the Maroon Bells. Here's the bonus photo:


And finally, the center of our galaxy. I didn't take this one:


Last week, NASA noticed that there were a couple of people snooping around its Jet Propulsion Laboratory web sites, doing things they shouldn't be doing. Specifically, they were trying to break into the system using a recently published security hole in wu-ftp software.

The NASA people tracked them down, got their Excite at Home user IDs, and informed Excite about it. Excite swiftly took no action. So NASA blocked all Excite users from their JPL web sites for a day or two, until Excite was so inundated with complaints that they shut off the offenders' accounts. Then NASA unblocked Excite and they lived happily ever after.

Here's NASA's JPL site. It's pretty good.

I occasionally get some email about something that sounds a little bit outrageous. When I check up on it, it usually turns out to be untrue. Here's a list of some internet hoaxes that have been zipping around at speeds approaching that of light:

I think this is pretty interesting. You can fit most of these into three categories:

1. Scary. This can be either a little scary, such as charging for email, or a very scary, such as having your kidneys stolen.

2. Money Making. These are variations on the chain letter theme, like "Microsoft will send every name on this email $.25 for each copy that passes through its MSN server. I got a check for $325,426,358,854,357.37 last week. No joke!"

3. Helpful. "If you forward this email to 50 people, this cute little girl who has no legs will be able to walk again."

Maybe I should organize a contest to see who can write the most successful (i.e. widely distributed) email hoax. I might even be willing to put up a bag of McDonalds Chocolaty Chip Cookies as the prize. I think I'll check on the legality of this. It could be fun! There would have to be some rules to make sure people don't get hurt (as much as I dislike and ignore rules), but there's potential...

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