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Sunday, September 09, 2001
Important Stuff

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In the Mood

On the radio or TV, when the local person is interviewing someone in a faraway place like Timbuktu or Muddy Boggy Depot, you occasionally hear the question, "What is the mood there in Tannu Tuva?" Actually, you rarely here that question about Tannu Tuva, but you do here it about lots of other places. The proper answer to this question is, "Well, Jack, the mood here in Tonga is one of cautious optimism with a touch of guarded anticipation."

I was thinking the other day, which in itself is a bit unusual, that it must be really hard being a reporter and asking thousands or millions of people what kind of mood they're in to determine the average mood for the city. I guess you could use the median mood if you didn't care for a mean mood. I'm not sure what kind of algorithm you would use to determine an average or median mood, though.

If I were a reporter in, say, Petropavlovsk, Siberia, I would take a shortcut on my research. I might walk down to the local bar and find the patrons watching a soccer game. Except they'd probably call it football, or the Russian equivalent. When I got on the phone to my editor in Pryor, I would say, "Well, Jack, the mood here in Petropavlovsk is one of inebriated celebration." If I felt like jazzing it up a bit I could add, "... with cautious optimism."

I was trying to figure out the mood in Pryor the other day, so I naturally went to Walmart. But when I got there, I forgot why I was there and bought some stuff I didn't need and left. That happens to me all the time. So I went down to the barber shop. Closed for vacation. Finally, I found some mood in the drive-thru window at McDonalds. McDonalds was out of the 42-ounce cups. Eureka! The mood in Pryor, Oklahoma is apologetic, yet cautiously optimistic.

Someday I'm going to discover the mood of the world.

Bathroom Check

Finally, we've got the information! Here's which stalls in which bathrooms in Random Hall at MIT are available and which are busy.

Pryor Creek Nature Trail

In case you haven't made it yet, the Pryor Creek Nature Trail is up and running. Well, it's just sitting there but you can run on it. Or walk, bike, or unicycle.


On October 17, 1989, a pretty big earthquake hit California. They even cancelled a baseball game. Some freeways were slightly damaged...


...and this driveway had some unrequested customization:


In celebration of the Loma Prieta Earthquake, NASA launched the Space Shuttle Atlantis on the following day.


It was carrying the Galileo spacecraft. When the Atlantis they got into orbit, Ellen and Shannon threw out Galileo and sent it on its way.


The Galileo spacecraft headed for Jupiter, a huge gas giant -- even bigger than Exxon. Galileo's 5-year mission was to fly around Jupiter and its moons and send back information to people on earth. Galileo wasn't really the explorer. The explorers were at NASA. Galileo was just a tool they were using, kind of like you're using a computer as a tool to read this Junkmail. Unless you printed it and are reading it on paper.

Galileo was expected to succumb to the hazards of space travel after about 5 years. The main hazard for Galileo was Jupiter's radiation. Jupiter is kind of like a small star that never got big enough to get some really good fusion going. Jupiter is very radioactive, though. I'm not sure what causes this. It must be either global warming or lactose intolerance.

Today Galileo is going strong, almost 12 years after its launch. NASA has recently mapped out its final mission. Galileo is going to fly around Jupiter, getting closer to the moons than before, and then about 2 years from now it will fly directly into Jupiter in a for some final "close-up" measurements.

Here's a picture of Jupiter's moon Io that Galileo took.


I should clarify that this was taken by Galileo the spacecraft rather than Galileo the man, although Galileo the man did happen to discover Io in 1610. He named the moon after the common term for computer Input/Output. He also had a good handle on planetary orbits, at least for a while.

Here's a good picture of Europa:


And another moon, Callisto:


More Info:

Model Satellite?

In Junior High a lot of students build model rockets for class projects. In college, some students build satellites. Here's the latest from the US Naval Academy and a satellite made from Radio Shack parts.


If you happen to live in the Tulsa area, and if you happen to listen to the NPR station KWGS, you might have noticed that they are now giving the wind speed with the weather forecast. I would like to take full credit for this. However, I most likely had nothing to do with it. But here is a letter I wrote them a few weeks ago:

600 S. College
Tulsa, OK 74104

Dear KWGS:

This morning I was laying in bed debating whether to get up after your radio station came on my alarm radio, when you announced that there would be no rain for the next several days. This was followed by a clap of thunder outside my window. Excellent humor -- keep up the good work.

But that's not the reason I'm writing. I am happy that you started giving your weather forecast, even though you won't look out the window first. The problem is that you have not been giving the forecast wind speed.

I realize that radio time is at a premium, and nothing in this world is free, so I would like to be the sponsor for the wind speed on KWGS. I have enclosed some money for this. Well, I actually haven't enclosed it yet, but I will as soon as I print this and hunt down an envelope. You will be providing a great public service when you make the forecast windspeed available. The wind speed is vital to people everywhere who boat, bike, blade, fly, and especially to those who frolic in the woods.

I realize how grateful you must be for this gracious act of philanthropy. I also realize you may be wondering where you can insert the windspeed into your broadcast.

There is a guy who talks with more misplaced pauses than Ann Taylor and sounds like someone slowed down his tape by about 30%. He generally starts out with "Support for NPR,, comes from,,, ...", but I usually get bored after that pause and either hit snooze (in bed) or 102.3 (in my car) at that point. If you would compress his diatribe into about 2.3 seconds you'd more than enough time wind speed announcement and he'd be a lot easier to listen to. In fact, if you replace his drivel with the wind speed I'll double my $7 donation.



I might add that I'm pretty sure the guy who talks slow with misplaced pauses moonlights for the Tulsa Airport's ATIS recording.

Mars or Bust

Not all dotcom'ers are broke. Elon Musk founded a couple of companies. was sold for $300,000,000 or so. His other company merged with Paypal. What is he doing with the money? Well, he and some others are funding the Mars Society, a non-profit organization that's promoting space travel to Mars. I think that's a good idea. Maybe they'll even manage to get some politicians on board.

Merge Sorts

Way back about 100 internet years ago in 1999, Yahoo and Excite were competing internet "portals." Yahoo still is today, losing money in the process. What happened to Excite? Someone bought them.

@home seems like a really dumb name for a company to me. Apparently someone there thought they could improve on it, so they spent $6,000,000,000 in stock for Excite and called the result excite@home. That's a little better, in my opinion. Unfortunately, @home was doing pretty poorly and the purchase of Excite didn't help. AT&T was the biggest shareholder of @home. With the three management organizations butting heads, they seemed to spend lots of time on strategic meetings, reports, turf battles, and the like, while ignoring the business of business.

Now excite@home is in big financial trouble. Their stock has gone from $55 to 39 cents in the past couple of years. They have big debts it looks like they won't be able to pay, and they're losing money with no end in sight. (By comparison, Yahoo's stock has gone down only 90% in that time period.)

The excite@home story is really interesting. It shows some major league bungling. I was very impressed. Here's one article on the company:

In another questionable but larger deal, HP is trying to buy Compaq. People don't like that idea, though. After it was announced, the companies' stocks went down 20% and 15%, and HP's bond ratings were lowered. It seems like a bad thing for the companies to me. It apparently seems like a bad thing for the companies to a lot of the shareholders. I'm not sure why they want to merge. Maybe HP's boss, Carly, just wants to buy someone. Last year she tried to buy Pricewaterhouse Coopers, but the deal fell through when HP's stock fell. That seemed like a really strange combination to me.

SSSCA -- Even Longer than DCMA

Some people in congress are trying to pass a law that makes the Digital Millennium Copyright Act look like child's play. If passed, it will make it illegal to sell a computer without built-in, government approved, copy protection for music and videos. It will magically transform a lot of other innocent stuff into felonies. It's got a lot of other stupid stuff too. Hopefully some people in Washington have enough sense to kill it in its infancy. And hopefully, the film and recording lobbyists won't have enough money to buy the bill's passage.,1283,46655,00.html

Meanwhile, some computer security people were threatened under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act enough to close down their web sites.,4586,5096701,00.html

Here's one site:

Here's another, complete with a reasonably good diatribe:


The new judge in the Microsoft case said Microsoft won't be split up. In the 1999-2000 election season, Microsoft made $4,700,000 or so in donations to politicians, political parties, and political action committees. This is a lot more than they've ever done before -- three times more than the past 3 elections combined. Surely that judge's decision is a coincidence, isn't it?

You can see here where Microsoft spent their political dollars:

Pictures of Today

Action on the Pryor Creek Nature Trail.


A hiker in Colorado.


A pond in Colorado.


This is a big file -- 1.4 meg. It's an mpeg movie from Don Farr of a jet breaking the sound barrier at low altitude.

(&) 1932, all rights conferred. Any unauthorized viewing of this fine piece of work on a computer not containing government approved security equipment under the SSSCA is not only mandatory but also highly encouraged. Duplication, distribution, and retribution of this Junkmail without prior written permission from King George III is quite all right.

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