Bob's Junkmail (important stuff.)

Bob’s Junkmail, #194

Google Earth Flightsim

Google Earth now has a flight simulator. Just press Ctrl-Alt-A. I just tried it on the Sept. 12 version and it worked.


Elsewhere in Google, they are planning video ads in search results. That should help Microsoft’s Live Search.


Arctic Ice

This year the summer Arctic ice coverage was 38% below average, and 24% below the record set in 2005. That is a big change. I was surprised.



There is talk about the Northwest Passage opening up so boats can cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific (or vice versa) over the top of Canada and Alaska. But it’s already been done.

Amundsen transited the Northwest Passage on a trip from 1903 to 1906, before he went to the South Pole. About 25 sailboats have done it since, along with lots of icebreakers and submarines.

A couple of weeks ago a guy named Sebastian made it from Alaska to Greenland on a 7.5 meter catamaran called Babouche.


It was the first crossing of the Northwest Passage without an engine in a single season. The 4500 mile trip took 3 months and 21 days. The Babouche sails on water or on ice.


Some Mountains

I’ve been out wandering up some mountains lately. Some were kind of scary, some really interesting. Here are some pictures.

Capitol Peak, Colorado, was scary! Here is Capitol Peak from Capitol Lake, and vice versa:


Challenger Point and Kit Carson Peak, Colorado – 12 miles and 6300 vertical feet. I was tired.


I lost my small camera on Snowmass Mountain. Twice.


My baby daughter Melinda and I hiked up Mount St. Helens, Washington. That was really, really neat. Here is Melinda on the rim:


Dawn Launch

The Dawn Spacecraft was launched Thursday. It will head out to the asteroid belt past Mars and visit a couple of large asteroids Vera and Ceres. They are a few hundred miles in diameter. In fact, Ceres is considered a dwarf planet because it has enough gravity to make itself round, is not a satellite of another planet, and has some other planet-like attributes such as alien spacecraft capable of near-light-speed travel.


Launch Video:



Today, Vesta is about 220 million miles from Earth. Earth is about 93 million miles from the Sun. The Dawn spacecraft is taking an orbital path toward Vesta, swinging by Mars for a gravity boost in 2009. It will travel 1.8 billion miles for its arrival at Vesta in 2011. After about 9 months orbiting Vesta (125 miles away at its closest), Dawn will take off toward Ceres. It will arrive in orbit around Ceres in 2015.

One of the really interesting things about the Dawn spacecraft is its ion propulsion engine. It carries about 937 lbs of xenon for fuel. After a normal launch on a Delta-II rocket, the Dawn’s ion propulsion engine will take over for 8 years or so. 937 lbs of fuel is not a lot to last for 8 years. It will use less than half a pound per day. That’s slightly less fuel consumption than the Delta II.

The ion propulsion engine works a little like a neon lamp. Xenon is ionized using electricity. But instead of being held in a glass tube for a sign, the ionized xenon is sent out a steerable nozzle, producing thrust. The xenon exits the nozzle at about 10 times the speed of traditional chemical rocket exhaust. It produces around a third of an ounce (9.3 grams) of thrust at its maximum. This isn’t much for a one-ton spacecraft.

The electricity comes from a 65-foot solar array. There are three nozzles, even though only one is used at a time. This is to handle the nozzle erosion from all those xenon ions whizzing by.

The spacecraft also carries 100 lbs of hydrazine fuel, which will generate a lot more thrust than the ion engines. I guess this must be for orbital insertion and deletion. (Deletion is what they call it, right?)


The cost of the Dawn mission, including operations but excluding the Delta II rocket, is $357 million. That’s over a thousand times less than the amount spent on "the war on terrorism" in 2006. I think I’d rather have several hundred space exploration missions every year instead of the Iraq war.



Voyager I and Voyager II were launched 30 years go. They are still transmitting data back to earth at the amazing rate of 32 bits per second. It takes about half a day for the radio signals to travel the 7-10 billion miles back to earth, and the same for instructions from earth to reach the spacecraft. The Voyagers are expected to last until at least 2020.




Voyagers get their electric power from three radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). Some radioactive material decays and gives off heat, which is converted into electricity using something similar to solar cells. Each Voyager is now producing a little over 300 watts. This will decline over the years as the radioactive material gives out.



Voyagers have gone past several planets and moons over the past 30 years. They have transmitted, in technical terms, "a whole mess" of photos and data to earth. All at 32 bits per second.


Here’s one of Jupiter. The color is based on different wavelengths.


Software Downloads

You can download free software on the internet at http://download.com and http://sourceforge.net. They’re pretty decent sites.

You can also download free software a lot of other places that push excellence awards and virus-free certification. But a lot of those places are pretty flaky. They make money from clicks and ads, and some of them give everybody a software award, complete with virus-free certification.

One guy wrote a program that did nothing. The description of the program said it did nothing. He submitted it to some download sites and promptly received some software excellence awards. I thought that was pretty funny. But I’m easily amused.


The War on Terrorism

New Haven Connecticut was almost wiped off the map in a massive explosion after members of a running club left some flour on the ground to mark a running route on an IKEA parking lot, a bank, and the city’s Long Wharf area. Or maybe they people of New Haven were almost exterminated in a bio-weapons attack, I’m not sure. The IKEA store was closed until it could be decontaminated from the flour.


Pudding is absolutely not allowed on airlines. Knives and shoes are still open to debate.


In the U.K., the war on terrorism is over. The U.K. was declared the victor in a unanimous decision. Actually, the British have ordered their cabinet ministers to use another term.


The U.S. was going to stop using the term a couple of years ago, but it’s one of the few multi-word phrases Bush is good at saying, so he’s kept with it.


Open Government

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is certainly a group that should have no secrets, right? Wrong. A decree went out from Nicole, the NHTSA boss, that prohibited all employees from speaking to the press (except "off the record" comments) without special authorization from her. This includes the employees in the NHTSA communications office. I guess things must be pretty slow in the communications office.

A guy from the New York Times named Christopher wanted to write an article on something to do with traffic safety. But he was informed that nobody could speak to him "on the record." Christopher could talk to Nicole about his article, but he wanted a traffic safety expert and Nicole was a lawyer. So he passed. Then Christopher decided to talk to Nicole about the strange communications policy. She was no longer available to speak to him.

It is really stupid, in my opinion, for the government to hire all kinds of experts to do all kinds of safety research, and then prohibit people from getting access to the information without having it filtered through a spin-doctor. It’s almost like having a general’s report edited by politicians at the White House.

I think Nicole should go back to her old job, where she was "responsible for oversight of congressional affairs, coordinating all legislative and nonlegislative relationships between the D.O.T. and Congress." It seems like it would be tough for her to do much damage there.



Got a KeeLoq? Feeling insecure? Maybe you should. KeeLoq makes the remote door-unlocker for cars sold by Chrysler, Daewoo, Fiat, GM, Honda, Toyota, Volvo, VW, Jaguar, and a few others. They’ve been cracked. Here’s how.




The Freedom of Information Act has been around since 1966.


This year the White House has announced (or at least filed in a court) that the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to anyone in the White House Office of Administration. When asked about this major change in the law’s interpretation, a White House spokeshuman responded, "Of course it doesn’t apply to us. It was signed by Lyndon Johnson!"


Local News

In Adair (9 miles from Pryor), a guy was kidnapped for $350.


The entire 45th Infantry Brigade of the Oklahoma National Guard, 2,400 troops, is going to Iraq next year. It’s the largest mobilization of the brigade since the Korean War.

NASA Archives

NASA has 50 years worth of photos, videos, and films. A lot of it is available online. They do a pretty good job of that. But a lot of it is in paper or film format and has never been digitized. Now there’s going to be a NASA Internet Archive. I think that should be fun to look through. Yeah, yeah, I’m easily amused.


Comcast Invisible Limits

Comcast cuts off their internet customers who go over the bandwidth limit. However, Comcast refuses to tell anybody what their bandwidth limit is. Maybe they vary the limit depending on the traffic in the area. It seems to me like a poor way to treat your customers… "Surprise! You’re over the limit, and no more internet for 12 months!"


One thing that was really funny about this article was that there was a Comcast ad next to it. Here’s a copy of the ad, in case they changed it:


Update:  Comcast has now published bandwidth limits. But they still won’t tell you how many bits, bytes, or nibbles they are.


Abu Ghraib

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal is over! The only officer to be court martialed received only a reprimand, and that was for discussing the investigation after he was ordered not to.


Windows Genuine Advantage

The Windows Genuine Advantage turned out to be a significant disadvantage for about 12,000 users last month, when Microsoft incorrectly told them they had a bootleg copy of Windows, and sometimes shutting them down. Microsoft said it was a human error, dashing the popular assumption that sunspots were responsible.



A student in China is suing Microsoft over Windows Genuine Advantage, saying it invades his privacy by sending private information to Microsoft, rather than just checking to see that his Windows XP is a legitimate copy.


NY Dog Shocking

In the late 1800’s, Thomas Edison’s employees electrocuted dogs in Manhattan to show how dangerous AC could be. Edison wanted to us to use DC instead.


Last Month, Con Edison was at it again. A dog was hit with 100 volts as it crossed a manhole cover in New York. Thomas wasn’t around, but I assume it’s the same publicity campaign. The dog lived.


Talus Monkey

Talus Money is the internet name of a popular climber who died on Humboldt Peak, Colorado last May. He was sliding down in the snow and hit some rocks. He died from hypothermia after rescuers arrived 28 hours later.


His climbing partner went for help after getting him into two sleeping bags. Here is her trip report, up to the accident.


Here is a report and photos from one of the rescuers.


His climbing partner finished all the 14,000-foot mountains in Colorado when she climbed Capitol Peak last month.


Political Officers

People used to make fun of the Soviet Union’s ubiquitous political officers, whose job it was to make sure various government organizations followed the party line.

Now in the U.S., we have "regulatory policy officers" whose job is the same. Every regulatory agency is now required to have each of its regulations approved by the regulatory policy officer, a political appointee, before it goes into affect.

The Union of Concerned Scientists doesn’t like politics interfering with what they say should be scientific work. I think some oversight is good, but the "regulator policy officer" policy could be a bit extreme.



Where in the world does it lightning? I though the plains states and Colorado would have a lot, probably because that’s usually where I see it. But Florida, Cuba, Central Africa, Kashmir, and Southern Bolivia have a lot more lightning strikes.


Here’s an interesting article about Colorado lightning:



Last month Monster.com was in the news after some people extracted 1.3 million or so names and associated information from their database of job applicants. Most of the news stories were not overly accurate when it came to the details of what happened.

Someone (or some people) wrote a program to access monster.com’s employer site. The program would do a job search and download information from "applicants," and upload the data to a couple of servers in Ukraine.

They used some legit but stolen usernames and passwords to access monster.com as potential employers. Then they spammed a bunch of people and got the program installed on a botnet. It ran long enough and on enough computers to accumulate over a million records. The records did not contain any credit card or social security numbers.

Someone from Symantec ran across a new trojan, either from a submittal or from an email. When they analyzed it, they saw it log onto monster.com, then forward the data to a couple of servers. So Symantec got onto the servers (they didn’t specify how) and noticed that there were names, addresses, emails, etc. of 1.6 million people there. I suspect they have all the information from the resumes.

Symantec told monster.com what was going on, and 5 days later monster.com told the world. The people behind the trojan are using the records for phishing and other scamming.



Cyber Wars

Chinese attacks the U.S., New Zealand, and France. The U.S. attacks China. Russia attacks Estonia.

Could it happen? It did, complete with coverups! Cyber wars are my kind of warfare — you hardly ever get killed.




Where is the largest and most expensive U.S. Embassy? Iraq. Why? Maybe its because there’s so much federal money available to be spent in Iraq. It’s sure not because of need.


State Secrets

Two U.S. customers sued a Belgian banking cooperative called Swift for secretly supplying millions of private financial records to the U.S. government. The White House says the lawsuit "threatens to disrupt the operations of a vital national security program and to reveal highly classified information."

From the article:  "The ‘state secrets’ privilege, allowing the government to shut down public litigation on national security grounds, was once a rarely used tool. But the Bush administration has turned to it dozens of times in terrorism-related cases in seeking to end public discussion of everything from an FBI whistle-blower’s claims to the abduction of a German terrorism suspect."


The states of Missouri, Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont are investigating AT&T, trying to find out how much personal data AT&T has been giving to the federal government. The White House claimed "state secrets!" But a judge in California named Vaughn referred the state secrets argument to the federal appeals court. In the mean time, the investigations can go forward. AT&T and other communications companies are asking for immunity, since they were working for the government.




This month a federal judge from New York named Victor decided that the National Security Letters provision of the Patriot Act is unconstitutional. The appeals court supports this position.


This week a federal judge from Oregon named Ann ruled two parts of the Patriot Act unconstitutional.



The government says they need to eavesdrop to keep me safe.


The U.S. also has 20-30 uncataloged spy satellites flying around the earth in low orbit. France has some too, but the U.S. tells where they’re at. Now the French have a radar system that can detect the U.S. satellites, so they’re going to either get the U.S. to stop disclosing the data on the French spy satellites, or the French will publish data on the U.S. satellites.

France discussed the findings with the U.S. The U.S. said, "If we have not published it in our catalog, then it does not exist." The French said, "So I guess we have been tracking objects that do not exist. I can tell you that some of these non-existent objects have solar arrays."


Southwest Fashion Police

Southwest Airlines recently escorted a girl named Kyla off a plane for not wearing enough clothes. They let her get back on after a lecture on how to dress properly. She had a short dress on, but I thought it wasn’t too unusual. Here’s what she wore:


I thought this was really funny, because I can remember the old Southwest Airlines ads about hostesses in hot pants.



Stock Spam

I’ve mentioned before how the stock spammers work — they buy into a company, then hype the stock with spam, then sell. It is very illegal. And the SEC is cracking down. Four people were sentenced to prison a few weeks ago.


But I still get a lot of stock spam. I guess maybe the SEC hasn’t caught them all. It should be pretty simple. Just see who makes money off the stock in a spam email, then track them to the spam. It seems to me that people who invest based on that kind of spam deserve to lose their money. Something about Darwin.

Open Office

I’ve tried Open Office a few times over the years, and it’s been slower than MS Office 97, and incompatible with some of my stuff. Not long ago I tried out the new version, and it’s a lot better. It’s about as fast as Office 97, and it works with the spreadsheets and documents that it didn’t before.

I realize that there are some innovators who think they need something newer than Office 97. Here’s a review comparing Open Office to Microsoft Office 2007. It looks to me like they’re both usable, and they have similar features.


It’s not worth it for me to change from Office 97 at the moment, but when it stops working there’s a good chance I’ll go with Open Office.



The Zephyr is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that flew for 59 hours, a world record. It runs off solar power, charging batteries during the day. It has a wingspan of 18 meters. The previous record of over 30 hours was set by the Global Hawk.



Some guys flew a model plane across the Atlantic in 2002. It went for 38 hours and 53 minutes. Maybe they don’t consider it a UAV, but I they should. I’m pretty sure there was nobody on the plane.



At the University of Kansas, where Gill is, they are developing a UAV to fly over the Greenland icecap to do mapping with ground penetrating radar. That would be a fun project.


Just One More Rule

U.S. Customs now wants a list of everybody aboard a private plane departing the U.S., 60 minutes before it leaves the airport. That’s so they can stop the flight if they don’t want you leaving. They told me in school that’s what makes the United States free and different from the Communist countries — we’re free to leave any time we want. Maybe we’re not so free any more.

I can understand them wanting a list of non-U.S. citizens, who are required to check out of the country. I don’t like U.S. citizens having to get government approval in order to leave the U.S. The more probable problem for me is forgetting to do it or doing it wrong, and getting in trouble.

When you fly out of the U.S., there is plenty to worry about without having to give Customs names, passport numbers, birthdays, etc., an hour before you leave the airport. Sometimes I don’t even have a phone available, let alone a computer.

This is a proposed rule at the moment, but it will probably go into effect. I feel safe!


Web Blocks

Some top security people in the EU are planning to block web sites with information on making bombs. I don’t think they are censoring books, though. Some people worry where they will draw the line — for example, will a gunpowder formula (75% potassium nitrate, 15% carbon, 10% sulfur) be banned? Other people think that information on making bombs has no place in the general public.


I wonder if they’ll approve of http://alkider.com.

$20 Million X-Prize

Need $20,000,000 for a summer vacation? All you have to do is land a craft on the moon that travels 500 meters and transmits video back to earth. You don’t have to worry about audio. You can also make an extra $5 million by performing bonus tasks such as traveling 5000 meters.

Second place prize (for the second successful mission) is $5 million. The prize is funded by Google. I recommend downloading rocket engine plans before the EU blocks the sites.


Software Upgrades

I was in Best Buy the other day buying the best of something. The girl checking me out was getting frustrated. They had a new software version, she said. I asked if it was slower. It was.

A lot of the software I use works pretty well. When a new version comes out, I am as likely as not to keep the old version after testing the new one. Office, for example. Or Jeppesen Flightstar. Or Visual Basic. Or a dozen others.

Excel 2007 has a slight math bug. Or I guess it would be a severe bug if you were working in dollars. 850*77.1 shows 100,000 instead of 65,535. Lots of calculations around 65,535 (which happens to be 2^16-1) end up wrong. The good version, Excel 97, works properly. I assume they’ll fix this "real soon now."

There is an ongoing problem with the new Microsoft Office validation. You can’t get add-ons if you have an as-of-yet unvalidated copy of a different Microsoft product on your computer.


I recently got a message on MSN Messenger saying it wouldn’t work any more, and I had to download a new version. So I did, reluctantly. The new version seems to work about the same, except it downloads video ads from the internet and plays them. So I drag it so the ads are below the bottom of the screen. I didn’t want an "upgrade." I was forced to get one, or stop using the software. Now the software does things I don’t like, and I don’t want to do the things the software wants me to. Progress is wonderful!

Some companies still have beneficial updates. Google, Garmin, and GenoPro, for example. Maybe it’s a letter G thing. Or maybe I am an old curmudgeon who doesn’t like change.


Here is a good article on homeopathy and science.


Today’s Stupid Software Patent

In their infinite wisdom, the US Patent and Trademark Office has awarded a patent to Premier International Associates for "A plurality of works can be collected together in a list for purposes of establishing a play or a presentation sequence. The list can be visually displayed and edited."

An intuitively obvious concept, this seems to cover playlists used by every computer video and audio player developed since 1933, as well as a host of other list functions on a host of software applications.

In the great American tradition, Premier International Associates is now suing almost everybody on the planet – Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba, Viacom, Real, Napster, Samsung, LG, Motorola, Nokia, and Sandisk, to name a few.

Kudos to the USPTO!


Alan Greenspan

I think people should listen to this guy.



MediaDefender is a company that sells recording and movie companies protection against illicit bittorrent copying. It doesn’t work overly well, but they get paid anyway.

A couple of weeks ago, Jay Mairs at MediaDefender lost control of his gmail account, and all his email ended up circulating around the internet. There is a lot of stuff embarrassing to MediaDefenders there.



Let this be a lesson… Protect your password, and logout when you’re done.

Here is the copied email:


Excellence in Security

The story of Wayne, San Diego Airport Security, and a trip to South Africa that didn’t happen.


Samueli Institute

The Samueli Institute is selling a new book on reinventing the patient experience in hospitals. They do alternative medicine, Yoga, and bioenergy.


I think that’s all fine. However, I’m not too sure about the $2,000,000 they got in the House defense-spending bill for "research." I am sure that the Samuelis made a sizeable campaign contribution to U.S. Representative Peter Visclosky from Indiana, who in turn inserted the $2 million earmark into the spending bill. I’d say Peter can be bought.

Bomb Shirt?


A 19-year-old MIT student from Hawaii named Star Simpson was arrested at the Boston Airport for wearing a shirt that lit up. Everybody panicked and called it a fake bomb. That was just about as smart as shutting down the city because of some Aqua Teen Hunger Force robots, a.k.a. infernal machines. I used to have a car that was an infernal machine.

Here’s the real story:


The scary part is the way she was portrayed. The news reports said she had a fake bomb, and made her out to be some kind of radical, lucky to be alive.

In fact, she was wearing a home-made circuit board that caused the lettering on her sweatshirt to light up. She was wearing it for Career Day at MIT. It was about as much like a bomb as my toothbrush is. She wasn’t even in the secure part of the airport. She was waiting on a friend to arrive. She never was close to an airplane, and was not headed in that direction.

But the MSNBC headline said, " Woman carried fake bomb into airport."

Even the Wall Street Journal, once above that sort of hysteria, reported "An MIT student was arrested at Boston’s Logan Airport after being spotted with a fake bomb strapped to her chest." But then, Rupert Murdoch owns them now. He must have heard that I wasn’t going to resubscribe, because he’s planning to make the online WSJ free.


The fact is, it was not a fake bomb. It didn’t look like a bomb. Anybody who made a bomb would not have made anything similar. And it was absolutely not strapped to her chest. Someone just flat lied about that.

Here’s the "bomb." It consisted of a breadboard, a 9-volt battery, and some LEDs. Nothing threatening whatsoever.


Some people in charge went off the deep end, and the press jumped on the bandwagon. That is a very scary situation.


Arsenic and Meteorites

A Meteorite landed in Peru, and some people around it got sick. This caused all kinds of speculation, from alien viruses to Peruvian Scud missiles. In fact, the hot meteorite landed in some water contaminated with Arsenic, and some people around it breathed in the arsenic fumes.


Video Professor

Video Professor has been selling training videos since the ViaGrafix days, mostly by infomercial. There are some web sites are around with unflattering reviews and experiences with Video Professor. So Video Professor is suing 100 anonymous critics. What a dummy!




In beautiful Paris, Texas, a blogger or ten have been criticizing the local hospital. The hospital responded last June by suing ten John Does. Next week the judge plans to order the Dallas ISP to disclose the identities of the bloggers (or their families) based on their IP address.


The infamous blog:


Customer Loyalty

AT&T has a novel attitude about customer loyalty. If you’re not loyal, you’re not a customer. According to their new Terms of Service agreement, if they think you damage their name or reputation, they terminate your internet service.

AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service "for conduct that AT&T believes… tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries."

Nice! They don’t even need evidence — they just gotta believe.


Allofmp3.com and Amazon

Allofmp3.com is out of business, at least for a while. Here’s the message on their site: "The service will be resumed in the foreseeable future. We are doing our best at the moment to ensure that all our users can use their accounts, top up balance and order music."

However, Amazon.com is now offering mp3 downloads, with no DRM, copy protection, or cholesterol. I downloaded a copy of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. It works!



E-2, EA-6, and EA-18


The E2-C Hawkeye is a kind of like an AWACS for aircraft carriers. The new E2-Cs have 8 bladed props that look very nice. They changed over from the four-bladed props when they couldn’t get parts any more. The first E2 (an E2-A) was delivered in 1964.


The EA-6 is an electronic warfare plane that was first delivered in 1971. I think "electronic warfare" means communications and radar jamming rather than World of Warcraft. It must be pretty complicated to jam the enemy’s radios and radars without hurting those on your own side.


Now they’ve upgraded and repackaged the electronics, and moved them to the F-18 airframe. The result is the EA-18G, which will replace the EA-6B. The first production EA-18G was delivered to the Navy this week. The names E-2C, EA-CB, and EA-18G will be on the exam.




Windows and Vista

It seems that someone other than me is reluctant to change from XP to Vista. Microsoft is allowing computer makers to sell Windows XP through June 30, 2008. The cutoff date had been January 31.



Federal ID

Privacy fans have long been against any form of national ID card, some considering it a manifestation of Nazi Germany. "But now we’re at war!"

In a few years, passports or federally approved Real ID driver’s licenses will be required for travel and government related activities. This would have appalled a lot of people even 5 years ago, but now the concept has been bantered about for so long that most people are used to it.

Real ID is a federal standard for ID cards such as driver’s licenses. I think it’s not such a big deal. The data requirements are not much different than they are now. Two of the major changes will be that a Real ID driver’s license will machine readable, and any state and the federal government will be able to access Real ID data from every state. I think that’s pretty much the way it is now.

But some people worry that once this is implemented, the next step will be to add more private data to the Real ID records, trampling our constitutional rights of privacy and paranoia.

On Monday and Tuesday this week there was a conference in Washington about Real ID compliance.


Attendees were state bureaucrats, learning how to implement Real ID on a state level. One session description said "every State DMV needs to find a way to educate their public so that they can ensure the legislature changes necessary to become Real ID compliant."


Some people at NASA JPL in Pasadena are not happy about new federal ID requirements. They’ve sued the government for requiring extensive new background checks for everybody from janitors to visiting professors.

The background checks are required for the new "Smart Badges" mandated by the Department of Homeland Security. The Smart Badges are necessary for access to buildings and computers, and are being required of millions of federal workers and contractors nationwide. That’s a lot of people.


Some other people (or maybe some of the same) are not happy about the video cameras showing up all over the world. In a few years they will be networked well enough so people and vehicles can be tracked by video cameras on streets and highways. Some of that is working already.



Real-time tracking will be hard, but backward tracking will be easy. When I rob a bank, they’ll be able to look at video records and track the path that I took from my house to the bank. I’ll have to make sure to visit Mike and borrow his car before I head to the bank.

SCO Chapter 11

Last Junkmail I mentioned the fall of SCO. Since then, they’ve declared bankruptcy. Maybe they didn’t have a business model after all, other than suing people.


Fun with Water

Step 1. Take two glasses of water and put them next to each other.
Step 2. Put a 15,000 volt electric charge between.
Result: A water bridge.


Fun with Eyes


Ship Defense

The Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) is a missile used to shoot down medium range nuclear ballistic missiles. They work most of the time against single-warhead missiles. The impressive part is that they are launched from ships — cruisers and destroyers.

This SM-3 was launched from the USS Lake Erie last April:

The SM-3 shot down this ballistic missile 100 miles high and 250 miles downrange from it’s launch site in Kauai, Hawaii:

The Phalanx is a machine gun (or gatling gun) that fires a burst of 100 rounds in about 1.3 seconds. It is used to shoot down incoming cruise missiles and close-in aircraft and boats. It uses radar, infrared, and visible tracking. It uses its radar to track its own bullets and make aiming corrections.

This Phalanx was fired last May on the amphibious transport USS Juneau:

The bullets are 20mm in diameter (a little under .8 inches). They’re made of an armor piercing jacket outside a tungsten interior, called a penetrator. The muzzle velocity is 3650 feet per second, about 5 times the speed of sound.


The Sea Sparrow missile is a surface version of the radar guided Sparrow missile used on airplanes. It is used to shoot airplanes and boats up to 30 miles away, and travels close to four times the speed of sound – faster than most rifle bullets.

This launch was from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln last month.


210 kph

130 mph on a mountain bike!


Pictures of Today!

Exit Glacier, Alaska, 2004:

Tracks in the Alaskan wilderness, 2001:

Cars were still on the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis last month. (Coast Guard photo)

A close-up view on a tall mountain, Capitol Peak, Colorado:

And that is that.


Monday, October 1, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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