- Nailed it! These images show Comet 9P/Tempel just before
impact and just after impact.
The comet brightened by about 2 magnitudes, well less than the 4 to 5
magnitudes I'd hoped for, but very close to the 2 to 3 magnitude flare
I'd predicted. We were clouded out, of course, but even if we hadn't
been the comet set just before impact. Alas, the forecasts say we'll be
clouded out this evening as well, so we won't get to see the comet
until at least tomorrow evening.
Barbara and I took some time off for the holiday weekend. Friday
afternoon, we headed up to the Wake Forest University Lodge at Fancy
Gap, Virginia on an observing field trip. The forecasts were all pretty
pessimistic, but we figured it was worth a shot. No miracle occurred,
alas, so we just sat around with several friends who'd also made the
trip and talked until late. We only had the Lodge reserved for Thursday
and Friday nights, so Saturday morning we turned around and drove home.
One disturbing event occurred. Our friend Mary Chervenak is a
Marathoner in the original sense. She runs 7 to
14 miles every morning. She got up early Saturday morning to
run. Running on the back road that leads to the lodge, she was
confronted by a pack of dogs that blocked her way and showed their
fangs at her. She backed off and headed back to the lodge, and the dogs
let the matter drop. Still, if she goes running again up there, Paul
and I will accompany her in a vehicle. I told Paul he could drive and
It's raining now, and Barbara is out doing yard work. She had a load of
mulch delivered Friday, and she's out spreading it. Duncan and
Malcolm are helping, Duncan by supervising and Malcolm by eating
- The face of evil.
The Canadians are releasing Karla Homolka today, although she has
served only 12 years in prison. Homolka and her then-husband, Paul
Bernardo, shook the complacency of Canadians, who until then thought
serial killers were exclusively a US phenomenon. Homolka is, if
anything, worse than the worst US serial killers. They at least
generally killed strangers. Homolka raped and killed her own
15-year-old sister, among other teenage girls. The CNN/AP
article is surprisingly explicit:
after prosecutors made the so-called "deal with the devil,"
Bernardo's attorneys handed over homemade videotapes by the couple. One
indicated Homolka had offered up Tammy as a Christmas gift to Bernardo
in 1990; it showed Homolka performing oral sex on her unconscious
sister after slipping sleeping pills in her alcohol. Tammy died choking
on her own vomit."
So now Homolka is to be released. She fears for her personal safety.
Well, duh. Her lawyers are in court today, trying to convince the judge
to ban the media from reporting her whereabouts once she is released. I
don't know about Canadian law, but in the US people have a right to
know when a violent, predatory sex offender is released into their
community. It seems to me that Canadians should also have the right to
know that such a monster is now in their midst.
believe some people wish to do the public a favor by killing me,"
Homolka said in an affidavit accompanying the request for a media ban.
"The thought of being relentlessly pursued, hunted down and followed
when I won't have any protection makes me fear for my life."'
And isn't that a shame? If I had the opportunity to do so and thought I
could get away with it, I'd kill her myself. And, although Canadians
are known as a peaceful people, I hope that at least one Canadian is
presented with and takes advantage of the opportunity to rid the world
of a monster.
- O'Reilly tells me that the review copies of Astronomy Hacks went out last week,
so if you're one of the lucky winners you should be receiving your copy
in the next few days, if you haven't already.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: An end to innovation
Date: Sat, 02 Jul 2005 22:05:09 -0500
From: Chris Christensen
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Robert: Found this on /.
Huebner claims that innovation peaked over a century ago. Do you
that a decrease in innovation might be the result of ip restraints?
I don't agree with his premise, his assumptions, his methods, or his
conclusion. He reminds me of the guy back in about 1890 who wanted to
shut down the patent office because he thought everything worth
inventing had already been invented. Look at what has been invented
since his supposed peak, and you'll find that nearly everything that
matters postdates it. Radio and television, aircraft, nuclear power,
antibiotics, pesticides, plastics, space flight, computers, the
Internet, etc., etc. And everything that devolves from them.
A warning from John Ricketsen:
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Sophisticated Spoof
Date: Mon, 04 Jul 2005 01:54:57 -0700
From: J H RICKETSON
To: <list suppressed>
This morning (03/05) ~0800 I had occasion to log into my bank, NetBank.
Punched their bookmark - and Surprise! A page with the Comcast (my BB
ISP) logo came up, instructing me to shut off all firewalls, AV apps,
Ad Killers, Anti-Spam apps, etc. and press the DOWNLOAD button to begin
downloading the upgrade.
Whoa! Wait just a minute, Charlie. This does NOT sound right! I
immediately killed the page, and got on the pipe to Comcast. After a
brief wait and conversation I was bumped up to a Level 3 Techie, who
stepped me through a modem and computer shutdown & reboot, while he
did some things at Comcast's end.
Problem solved. No more "Comcast" messages. Still can't log in to the
secure areas of my bank - but that's likely because of damage control
& repair at the bank's end.
POINT: Be VERY careful out there. This is one - of the very few - That
Panda AV & Firewall, Anti-Spam, etc. didn't catch before it had an
opportunity to do damage. And Panda is, IMO, the best of breed. The
Goblins are getting VERY sophisticated.
- Mary Chervenak came through, as I knew she would, with
pictures of her drawers. Here's the first one, with more to follow over
the coming days:
Knowing Mary, I wonder if the labels on the drawers were there before she decided to take the
- I've gotten several emails from readers who mention this
article about the parent company of Plextor threatening an
open-source software developer. I have no idea what is going on. I have
twice mailed my contacts at Plextor and its PR agency, once several
weeks ago when the story first broke and again yesterday, but haven't
received a response.
Frankly, none of this makes any sense to me. Plextor is not known for
being hostile to OSS, and I don't understand why they'd be upset with
the OSS developer for his actions, let alone threaten a law suit. I'm
taking a wait-and-see approach here. One of the comments with the
article raises some important points:
we absolutely sure this is for real?
After all, it was only an e-mail (and we all know how easy they are to
spoof), the promised snail mail never arrived, the e-mail has copious
typos, factual errors, bad grammar and dodgy legal reasoning, the
projects havn't bothered trying to reply to Plexor so obviously haven't
had the e-mail verified, the treatened dealine has passed and not a
peep has been heard when normally the vultures would be descending by
now, and Newsforge has been unable to get a comment out of Plexor.
Wouldn't be the first time someone's run a spoof legal threat."
Which pretty much sums up my thinking about this. It may well be that
Plextor's legal advisors have told them not to make any comment pending
Here, as promised, is an image of Mary Chervenak's Light-colored socks
- This just in. The EU
Parliament dealt Microsoft and the other IPigs a massive defeat,
rejecting software patents by a vote of 648 to 14. Hooray for the EU
I wish the US congress would follow the EU lead and overhaul our
patent laws to eliminate software patents--not to mention slashing
copyright and patent terms to just a few years--but that's hardly
likely to happen when so many of our senators and representatives
have been bought and paid for by Microsoft and the other IPigs.
Make no mistake. All of the efforts to pass software patent laws are
backed by Microsoft and aimed at OSS in general and Linux in
particular, pure and simple. Microsoft realizes that it can't compete
with OSS on a level playing field, so it is doing everything possible
to make sure that playing field is anything but level. The same is true
of Microsoft's efforts to change the patent laws from first-to-invent
to first-to-file. Such a change would favor Microsoft and other large
corporations, who can afford patent attorneys, patent searches, and
patent filing fees. It would harm individuals and small businesses,
including Linux developers, who would see their inventions stolen from
them and patented by Microsoft.
People laughed at me a few years ago when I said that I expected
Microsoft's next move would be to make Linux illegal, but that is
indeed what has transpired. It's fortunate that the EU lawmakers saw
the man behind the curtain.
- We're under a tornado watch and a flood watch through late
afternoon today. The remnants of Cindy are supposed to come through the
area this afternoon. We've been told to expect anything up to 3+ inches
of rain today and tonight.
Barbara pointed this out to me in the paper this morning:
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: EU software patent vote
Date: Wed, 6 Jul 2005 21:41:38 -0000 (UTC)
From: Bo Leuf
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
> It's fortunate that the EU lawmakers saw the man behind the
Strictly speaking, the EU parliament (EUP) is not the law-making body.
It is the European Commission (EC) and its appointed commissioners who
decide on legislation for the EU. The electoral EUP has been overrun
more than once by the EC, and the EUP votes are at best advisory only.
The reject vote here was so massively against, however, and the debate
so fierce, that evidently the EC decided not to press the issue. It has
already been roundly criticized for its rewrites of the original
proposal and its disregard for previous EUP opinion and bill revisions.
The EC could still have passed the legislation but would then run the
risk of non-compliance by member states, which would then further
undermine an already shakey union.
That said, we are pleased on this side of the pond.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: daynote: EU patents
Date: Wed, 06 Jul 2005 22:11:18 -0800
From: Jan Swijsen
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
[quote]...It's fortunate that the EU law-makers saw the man behind the
I don't think that EU law-makers are any better than their US
colleagues. Most don't really understand what's going on here. But the
EU situation is a bit different from the US.
The European Commission (EC) is a kind of government composed and
appointed by the member-governments. They are the law-makers. The
European Parliament (EP), mostly directly elected, doesn't really make
the laws and until recently has never played a strong role. In
February the EP voted -not overwhelmingly- against the proposed law.
And the EC arrogantly shrugged ignored the EP vote. This pissed off
most of the EP members.
So todays vote is partially against the patent stuff and mostly just
against the EC-arrogance.
Still a vote to be applauded.
True, and I understand that the lopsided vote occurred because
Microsoft and the other IPigs threw their weight in that direction
because the proposed law didn't give them as much as they wanted.
Still, it's good that US-style software patents were so soundly
bastards are at it again, this time in London, where they've
slaughtered more than three dozen innocent people and injured many
more. I think I speak for all Americans when I offer our profound
sympathies to our British friends.
I hope that Britain will have the balls to do what the US should have
done on 9/12 and should do now: expel all foreign Islamics, including
diplomats, and institute a close watch on Islamic citizens. Give
foreign Islamics one week to depart, and treat any who remain as
outlaws in the original wolfshead sense--anyone is free to kill them
without fear of legal consequences.
That Britain and the US have not already expelled these foul
creatures is the result of a misguided fear that doing so would be
perceived as religious persecution. In fact, Islam is not and never has
been a religion, other than by self-proclamation. Islam is a
totalitarian political system with the trappings of a religion. It
should be treated as we would treat any totalitarian political
system that attacks us. We should destroy it. When will people realize
that we are at war with Islam? Not Osama bin Laden, not Islamic
terrorists, not Al Queda, not even Saudi Arabia, but Islam itself.
I just posted the following rant on the Xandros Forums:
I am utterly fed
up with any version of Xandros
3 that uses the SP2 updates and the 2.6.11 kernel, including X3BE. I am
convinced that there is something seriously borked with the SP2
updates, the 2.6.11 kernel, or both.
I had zero problems with X3 Deluxe, and I have
had nothing but
problems since I've installed the later versions on our production
systems. The problems have manifested on every system I've installed
these later X3 versions on, all of which are recent Intel-based system
with completely standard hardware--Intel motherboards, Seagate hard
drives, Plextor optical drives, and so on. There's nothing odd about
any of the connected hardware, and the number and severity of the
problems I've encountered lead me to believe that the problem is
Most of the problems have to do with XFM,
although I've also
experienced optical drives that go missing for no apparent reason,
applications that simply close abruptly, and so on. This on systems
that are fully updated on XN and have zero non-Xandros software
I have been using Xandros all day long every day
for more than a
year. X2.0 and X2.5 were rock solid, and X3Deluxe seemed the same until
I installed the SP2 update and the 2.6.11 kernel. Everything since then
has been a disaster. Reading these fora, I see that I am by no means
alone, although many people seem to be having no problems. I can't
understand that, because the problems I'm having manifest on every
system I've installed the recent versions on, which is quite a few.
At this point, I'm thinking about spending the
time necessary to
revert to X3Deluxe, although I resent having to do so. But the later
versions of X3 are costing me a lot of time every day that I can't
afford to be wasting. Even Windows would be better than what I have
now. Or I may just bag Xandros entirely and convert to MEPIS or
Kubuntu. Just about anything would be better than this mess I have now.
People sometimes accuse me of being biased against Windows and in favor
of Linux. Well, I calls 'em as I sees 'em, and right now I'm extremely
unhappy with Xandros.
- The remnants of Cindy blew through here yesterday afternoon
and evening. We were under a tornado watch from morning until
afternoon, and a tornado warning in mid-afternoon. There were several
funnel clouds spotted in the immediate vicinity, including one only
five or eight miles from our house, but none touched down. We'd gotten
about 2" of rain by dinner time.
In late afternoon, Paul called me to tell me that Mary had made it
back safely from her business trip to Cary, NC. She arrived home around
4:00 or 4:30 to find that they'd lost power and there was a small tree
down in their driveway. We'd earlier agreed to meet for dinner last
night, but earlier in the afternoon I'd told Paul that Barbara and I
would probably stay at home instead. By late afternoon, though, the
worst of it seemed to have passed, and Paul called back to say that
since they were without power he and Mary planned to go out for dinner
anyway. I called Barbara, who'd had a terrible day at work, and she
said she'd prefer to go out, despite the continuing heavy rains
We had dinner at a Mexican place nearby, and I told Barbara, Paul, and
Mary about a disturbing experience I'd had. Wednesday night, Barbara
went back to bed around 9:00, just after we'd walked the dogs. Around
10:00 or 10:30, I was reading a mystery novel, and decided to check the
CNN and Fox web sites for news about the London transport bombings. I
though it was odd that neither one of them was reporting anything about
the bombings of the underground and bus system, but eventually I went
back to the bedroom and eventually got to sleep.
Thursday morning, I checked again, and of course news of the bombings
was all over the web. It wasn't until I noticed that the sites were
reporting that the bombings had occured at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. our time
Thursday morning that it hit me. I'd "remembered" something several
hours before it happened. That really weirded me out.
As a scientist, I don't believe in premonitions. I don't understand
much about time, even after reading Hawkings' book, but I think I
understand that time runs forward, not backward, which would violate
entropy. After thinking it through last night, I think Paul's
explanation is probably the correct one. I'd read a lot of news
articles earlier in the week about the competition for the 2012
Olympics, and I must have read an article somewhere that mentioned the
danger of terrorist attacks on the London transport system. I somehow
internalized that as something that had happened rather than something
that might happen.
I'll keep this experience in mind as a data point, because scientists
are loathe to discard any data, no matter how far outside expectations
it may be. But I believe there's always a rational explanation for
premonitions, deju vu, and so on. If someone remembers the internal
layout of a house he thinks he'd never been in previously, for example,
that tells me that he probably knew that house when he was very young
and his family subsequently moved away from the area. Someone who
believes he's reincarnated and has memories to prove it probably read
about those "memories" in a book years ago, and eventually forgot about
reading the book. One way or another, there's a rational explanation,
although it's always harder to track that down than to believe in
Ron Morse posted a good response on the messageboard to my rant about
The Xandros problem is in SP-2.
had the same disappearing drive problem that Robert reported with his
optical, except mine is a hard drive. The problem manifests on Deluxe 3
post SP-2 under both 2.6.9 and 2.6.11 and under both single and SMP
versions of each release.
I'll bet that Robert's
problem optical is a P-ATA drive with Xandros installed to a S-ATA hard
SP-2 is, alas, shit on a
reverted to Xandros 3 Deluxe but not installed SP-2 and enjoy a machine
works perfectly (well, Firefox was a little strange for a minute or two
earlier today but seems to have settled down).
I now regard
anything offered from XN with deep suspicion. Most things that are not
broken do not get updated and the ones that do are examined closely
before installing (apt-get works a lot better than XN in this mode
because it will do "test" runs that don't actually change the system
state so you can see exactly what is getting installed.)
am back to a working machine but the special functionality that led me
to pay for Xandros in the first instance is unreliable and cannot be
BTW...reverting the machine
was pretty easy...boot
off the distribution install CD and tell the menu to replace the
existing Xandros installation. The existing /home/user directory
preserved (/home/user.old) and most of the settings that don't
automagically get carried over can just be copied back over their
analogs on the new install. Took about an hour from start to fininsh
and a big part of that was reinstalling k3b from source which is easy
but takes a long time.
The real spur gear in the
on this one is that I reported this to support, who until now have been
very responsive and helpful. So far I have not heard a single
beyond the automated response. That is unacceptable.
You're correct about the optical drive problem. It's on a system with
two S-ATA hard drives and a P-ATA Plextor PX-708 DVD burner.
Today, I'm going to "backgrade" my main system from Xandros 3 Deluxe
with SP2 and the 2.6.11 kernel to Xandros 3 Deluxe with no patches.
Barbara is leaving early tomorrow morning on a day-trip with our friend
Bonnie Richardson to attend the Highland Games. While she's gone, I'll
backgrade her system from Xandros 3 Business Edition to X3 Deluxe with
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All