More Junkmail from Bob!

Wednesday, September 13, 2000
Important Stuff.

Skid Marks

Firestone tires are killers, according to the some lawyers. It's headline news. 78 people (more or less) were killed in accidents resulting from the tread separating from the tires in the past few years. This is big news because people can get new tires and file lawsuits against Ford and Firestone. The real news isn't the people who were killed. Otherwise, we'd be hearing about the 200 or so people who were killed over Labor Day weekend in alcohol-related accidents. That's 200 people dead in 3 days from driving and drinking, compared to 78 over 5 years from faulty tires. Here are the '98 stats:

Drunk driving just isn't very exciting. However, this was. It was done by a sober driver named John with a slight steering malfunction. Fiberglass poles are NICE!


DeCSS Shirts

In a Junkmail from last January I mentioned the lawsuits against DeCSS writers, posters, and linkers, and the fact that t-shirts containing the "evil" source code were available at through an organization called copyleft. Guess what! The Motion Picture Association of America has now sued copyleft for selling t-shirts! I think that's pretty funny. You can still get your shirt here:

I see where they've moved the shirts to their front page now.

Armed Robots

In Thailand, a guy named Suraksa built five robots. These are unique in the fact that they're painted like lady bugs. They are also unique in the fact that they're designed to shoot people. They are security robots complete with heat-seeking guns. They can be programmed to shoot automatically or to wait on a "fire" order from the internet. That would be a pretty inviting hacker target.


Western Union is known as the safe way to send money. It seems they are an inviting target for hackers too. Someone broke into their system last week and copied some credit card numbers. Western Union emailed 15,700 of their customers who have recently transferred money through the web site and told them to cancel their credit cards. I'd say someone in charge of security goofed bigtime.

Their site is still down as I write this, with this fine message:

"Our Web site is temporarily out of service.
We apologize for any inconvenience.
To find the nearest agent location click below to use the online agent locator."

Buy a Piece of the Church

A Methodist church in Kansas is joining the IPO gold rush and selling stock! Well, they're selling "units" in a real estate venture. They plan to get a big new church out of the deal. They plan for investors to get a deduction and, I assume, to make money on an associated industrial park. At $250,000 an acre the land seems a little pricey. Here's the prospectus.

I noticed that the church's web site has a copyright notice at the bottom. Now THAT'S surprising. You would think a church or any other religious organization would be happy for people to copy and disseminate their information.

Self-Regulation at its Finest

Acting very surprised, the Federal Trade Commission figured out today that the MPAA, apparently in their zeal to shut down DeCSS, has been marketing violent movies to children. I guess they don't listen to the radio or watch television at the FTC.

In a similarly surprising discovery, politicians were found to have been taking donations in return for political favors, in violation of laws passed by the same politicians.

The MPAA agreed a few years ago to a self-regulating policy of rating and not advertising violent films to youngsters. Today an MPAA spokesman said of the policy, "Aw... we were just joking. That would be censorship, you know."

Going Digital?

Digital cameras are going to be getting better in the near future. A couple of weeks ago, Kodak announced a 4096x4096 resolution digital camera. They announced the chip for it last May. This is about double the resolution of 35mm film. Today, a company called Foveon announced a chip that produces similar resolutions, and their chip is supposed to be cheap.

The digital pictures from my Canon S-10 camera are already better than those from my 35mm point and shoot, and the S-10 almost obsolete at a year old. I think in a few years there won't be many people using film. I also think in a few years there won't be many people using VHS tapes.

Check the DNA of that T-Shirt?

At the Olympics this summer in Australia, there are a lot of souvenirs. The Olympics people make a lot of money on those souvenirs, and they would like to keep most of that money for themselves. So they try to get people to sell (and buy) only the official souvenirs. They copyright and trademark everything they can, but there are still counterfeiters.

The solution? DNA. They recruited an "unnamed Australian Athlete" and took some blood. They took part of the DNA, duplicated it, and mixed it in the ink for official Olympics merchandise labels. Then they threw in some fake DNA for good measure. Now the Olympics people can scan the merchandise sold by vendors to make sure they're getting a piece of the action. Click here for details.

About 25 Chinese athletes are skipping the Olympics this year because of the impending drug tests. Some other countries had athletes who opted out or were thrown out because of the strict drug testing. Some said it was an invasion of privacy. Some said it's a good deal. Some said, "Does caffeine count?

English Help

If you are like so many of us, there are lots of letters you'd like to write but don't take the time to. Here are a couple of writing aids.

Write like a professional! This web site generates random phrases using the latest business management lingo. It's all too general to mean anything specific, which makes it possible to use these phrases in almost any situation, from getting a traffic ticket to dealing with a telephone solicitor. (Warning -- this page has a semi-naughty word.)

How many times have you thought about writing a letter of complaint about someone or some company, but never got around to it? Here's the answer!

Pictures of Today!

My baby daughter Melinda (she's 14) spotted this monster spider on a parking lot in Claremore:


It's about 8 feet in diameter. Or was that 8 centimeters?

Here's an airplane vertical stabilizer that is partially riveted. I hope those rivets hold.


This week NASA announced the discovery of a new class of black holes, an intermediate sized black hole. ( Here's a hi-res image of one:


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