Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

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One day a father, on his way home from work suddenly remembers that it’s his daughter’s birthday. He stops at a toy store and goes in and asks the sales person, “How much for one of those Barbie’s in the display window?”

The salesperson answers, “Which one do you mean?” “We have, work out Barbie for $9.95, shopping Barbie for $9.95, beach Barbie for $9.95, disco Barbie for $9.95, astronaut Barbie for $9.95, skater Barbie for $9.95, and divorced Barbie for $269.95”.

The amazed father asks: “Why is the Divorced Barbie $269.95 and the others are only $9.95?”
The slightly bored salesgirl rolls her eyes, sighs, and answers:

”Sir, Divorced Barbie comes with: Ken’s truck, Ken’s house, Ken’s fishing boat, Ken’s furniture, Ken’s dog, Ken’s computer, one of Ken’s friends, and a key chain made from Ken’s testicles.

Friday Funny

One of a series


This is from Right Wing Watch:

“Well, if the Koran as the state book could get through Tennessee,” he said, “our nation is a lot worse off than I ever thought, even though after we’ve had Barack Obama for seven years and I know he’s done everything he can to promote Islam in this country, but we’re not at that point yet because the American people are not following him.”

Yes, I have that right. “The American people are not following him.” The American people who elected Barack Obama in 2008 and then elected him again by a greater margin in 2012. The American people are not following him where?

The person making these observations is Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. It’s the same Tony Perkins who said this, again from Right Wing Watch:

He later compared the supposed problems with evolution to the purported flaws in climate science: “I remember a few years ago, it might have been Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, made a reference to a hurricane or a storm being an act of God — it’s interesting that’s how we refer to some of these things in our insurance policies — they were ridiculed, saying ‘how dumb can you be?’ Well, there’s more to back that up than to say what’s happening in our environment, our climate, is because of people driving Suburbans or coal-fired power plants.”

Now that’s funny.

Your Friend The Handgun

Nothing new here, folks. Just keep on moving.

You never know when you’re going to need one. For example, suppose you’re driving down Highway 175 in Wisconsin, and you’ve got your kid in the back seat. What are you going to do if an ISIS terrorist yanks open the passenger side door and gets in, threating to kill you and the kid. Remember, this is a terrorist who got into this country because Islamic President Barack Obama instructed the CIA to look the other way when these guys cross the bridge into Texas at Laredo.

Well, if your’e prepared, you have already taken care of such an eventuality. You have your trusty handgun with you, safely out of the way in the back seat so the kid can keep and eye on it and flip it to you the instant the ISIS terrorist makes a play to get into the car.

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office says witness accounts indicate a child in the back seat of a vehicle in the southbound lanes of Highway 175 on Tuesday morning, April 26th, got hold of a gun and discharged the firearm. That sent a single bullet into the driver’s back.

Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene around 10:30 a.m. They found a 26-year-old woman had suffered a gunshot wound. She was did not have a pulse and was not breathing.

Deputies began CPR until the Milwaukee Fire Department arrived on the scene. However, the woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

Remember, the United States Constitution gives you the inalienable right to have this weapon for your protection, or even on a whim. So, how’s that working out?

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I have to admit, this one came to me with such a bad reputation, and I owned it for close to ten years without viewing it. Yesterday I ran it through from beginning to end and discovered not such a bad movie. It still retains the Bad Movie Wednesday, however.

It’s The Mothman Prophecies, featuring Richard Gere, no slouch of a box office attraction. At the conclusion of two hours viewing I also recognize the exceptional direction and camera work. It’s a first class production. Not so much the story.

And it’s the story that drags on me. The centerpiece is the Mothman myth dating back 50 years ago from Point Pleasant, West Virginia. At the North Texas Skeptics we had so much fun with Mothman when this came out that Prasad Golla and I did a cartoon, poking a little fun.


So much for the humor. Back to the movie. These images are screen shots from the DVD. I’m getting details from Wikipedia.

John Klein is a reporter for The Washington Post, and he and his lovely wife Mary (Debra Messing) are buying a new house. They love it, and each other.


They never get home. Mary is driving, and a horrible vision of something flashes in front of her, and she crashes the car. Not bad, but Mary is taken to the emergency room and is ultimately diagnosed with a brain tumor. She dies. That leaves John alone, to collect her belongings, which include some drawings she made while in the hospital.


Two years later John sets off on a trip to Richmond, Virginia, driving alone at night. Suddenly his car stalls on a lonely stretch of road, and he finds himself in Pleasant Point, West Virginia, all the way over at the Ohio state line.

Seeking assistance, John comes to the door of Gordon Smallwood (Will Patton), who shoves a shotgun in his face and calls the cops. The cop is Officer Connie Mills (Laura Linney), and things de-escalate. John gets to know Gordon on better terms and Connie on much better terms.


At this point the story devolves into the Mothman prophecies, with visions, cryptic voices on the phone, consultations with a researcher into the paranormal, and a prophecy of disaster on the Ohio River.

Eventually everything comes together with John stalled in traffic on the Silver Bridge across the Ohio at Point Pleasant, also Connie in her patrol car. The bridge was not designed to take the load of all those cars, and a single point failure brings the center span down into the river.


John rescues Connie from her submerged car, and that’s the end of the movie.

The Mothman myth and the bridge collapse are based on events in 1966 and 1967, culminating in the collapse of the Silver Bridge on 15 December 1967. The true story is a tale of engineering and maintenance gone awry, and it goes like this.

The original bridge employed link chain suspension and was constructed in 1928, when automobiles were much lighter. Also, the link chain feature meant that the failure of a single link would bring down the entire bridge. A post mortem of the disaster found that link, contrary to what a message on the screen at the end of the movie announces. There was a link that had incurred a on-tenth-inch defect, which defect produced stress concentration sufficient to cause the link to fail under the rush hour load. Remaining links quickly failed as the load of the bridge shifted to them, and the entire center span came down very quickly. Forty-six people died. The movie mentions 36. Why is not clear.

Mothman is another matter, although local legend connects Mothman sightings in 1966 and 1967 to the bridge collapse, real life does not reveal any prophecies. A 1975 book by John Keel gave title and basis for the movie.

In all, here are some significant performances and excellent production work thrown onto a bit of popular nonsense.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series


This is not my original. I pulled from a book I’ve had for about 60 years. See the diagram above, also from the book. Here’s the Quiz Question:

SUPPOSE a train travels in a finite time from station A to station B along a straight section of track. The journey need not be of uniform speed or acceleration. The train may act in any manner, speeding up, slowing down, coming to a halt, or even backing up for a while, before reaching B. But the exact motion of the train is supposed to be known in advance; that is, the function s = f{t) is given, where s is the distance of the train from station A, and t is the time, measured from the instant of departure. On the floor of one of the cars a rod is pivoted so that it may move without friction either forward or backward until it touches the floor. (If it does touch the floor, we assume that it remains on the floor henceforth; this will be the case if the rod does not bounce.) We ask if it is possible to place the rod in such a position that if it is released at the instant when the train starts and allowed to move solely under the influence of gravity and the motion of the train, it will not fall to the floor during the entire journey from A to B.

Also answer why. Provide your answer as a comment below.

Update and hint

This is a famous math problem. It’s called the Lever of Mahomet, and I took it from a volume of The World of Mathematics. You have to come up with the answer without looking it up. Here’s the hint. Think continuous functions and what that implies.

Update and answer

As promised, I’m posting the answer today. There have been some comment, on and off line. It’s time to call the play.

This is one of those rare times when your intuition was spot on. You should listen to the inner voice more often. It goes like this:

  1. Look at the diagram. If you place the bar too far to the left, it will fall to the floor on that side no matter what movements are made by the car.
  2. Similarly for the right.
  3. Since the movement of the car is a continuous function of time, there must be a point between these two extremes where the bar will still be off the floor when the car reaches B. After that, the bar can fall to the floor.

You can find a discussion of the problem on page 2389 of The World of Mathematics. Richard Courant and Herbert Robbins were the original authors. They provide a comprehensive analysis.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I was looking through my library of movie recordings, because I needed another Bad Movie of the Week. This one is Bloody Birthday, and the title gives it away. It has got to be a bad movie, a slasher flick, nonetheless, from 1981. Gratuitous sex and violence, to be sure. Details are from Wikipedia.

This features Susan Strasberg as school teacher Viola Davis. José Ferrer plays the doctor in both the plot’s two time periods.

The opening scene features a solar eclipse, which is significant. It’s 9 June 1970 in Meadowvale, California, which helps to demonstrate this is pure fiction. There is no Meadowvale, California, and there was no solar eclipse on that day. Three babies are born at the same time in Meadowvale during the eclipse. This has consequences ten years later, beginning on 1 June 1980.

Two teenagers are doing some heavy necking in a parked car, and they take their lust into an open grave in the cemetery. Just when things start to get interesting, there is a noise. The boy steps outside to investigate. Whango! Somebody conks him with a shovel. Alarmed, the girl sits upright. Sprong! Somebody loops a jumping rope around her neck, and that’s all for her. This movie is getting off to a slasher start.


Of course, it’s the three children, two boys and a girl, born on that fateful day in June ten years previous. They are the Little Rascals on steroids, right out of Village of the Damned. They always celebrate their birthdays at one big party. Hence the title.

The little girl, Debbie Brody (Elizabeth Hoy) has engineered a peephole in a closet wall, enabling spying on her teenage sister Beverly (Julie Brown) while she is getting dressed. She charges the little boys 25 cents a peek.


Time for somebody else to die. This time it’s Debbie’s father, Sheriff James Brody (Bert Kramer). She sweetly lures him outside in the back yard to show him the jump rope used as a murder weapon. Young Steven Seton (Andy Freeman) finishes him off with a baseball bat. The kids say it was an accident. He fell on the stairs.


It’s the unsavory teacher’s turn next. Curtis Taylor (Billy Jayne), using a pistol stolen from the late Sheriff, ambushes her in the school kitchen.


Meanwhile brother and sister Timmy (K.C. Martel) and Joyce Russell (Lori Lethin) have been observing with interest all the people turning up dead in the week leading up to the big birthday party. Joyce gets suspicious, and the murderous kids try to rub her out with a runaway car in a nearby junkyard.


That fails, and there is an interlude that has Joyce explaining to Timmy why Debbie’s horoscope is so fraught with evil. The Earth, moon, sun, and Saturn were aligned when she was born. She will have no compassion and no remorse.


The killing goes on as Curtis comes upon two additional teenage lovers, going full carnal in the back of a van. His trusty sixgun takes care of that.


It’s time for Debbie’s big sister to take the fall. Debbie lines up an arrow with the peephole and suckers inquisitive Beverly into taking a look.


Finally the children of the damned stretch their luck too far. Their plan to gun down Timmy and Joyce fails from gross incompetence, and the boys are captured. The jig is, as they say, up. Little Debbie escapes and is spirited away by her mother.


A new life is planned by the widow Brody. They plan to live the remainder of their lives on the run with assumed names. Debbie is cool with that, and as they prepare to leave a cheap motel she murders a trucker by removing the jack that had been holding up the truck he was working under. Sweet child.


No need to explain why this is a bad movie. Some cheap thrills and an implausible plot spell it all.

Strasberg did not go on to greater things after this movie. The only other of her films I saw (didn’t see Picnic) was Rollercoaster, previously reviewed. I just reviewed Ferrer in Brannigan. He was Captain Alfred Dreyfus in I Accuse!, which he also directed. He obtained an Academy Award nod for his portrayal of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge and a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor as Navy Attorney Lt. Barney Greenwald in The Caine Mutiny. The year after this came out Martel had another kid role in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. That may have been his only other movie. Two years later Billy Jayne had a role in Cujo, but not much else worth mentioning. Sweet Elizabeth Hoy was in The Blues Brothers the year before, and not much else after. She was Young Susan the same year as this in Hospital Massacre, another slasher. This appears to be Andy Freeman’s only serious (??) work.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

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A Virginia State trooper pulled a car over on I-64 about 2 miles south of the Virginia/ West Virginia State line. When the trooper asked the driver why he was speeding, the driver said he was a juggler and was on his way to do a show at the Shrine Circus. He didn’t want to be late.

The trooper told the driver he was fascinated by juggling and said if the driver would do a little juggling for him then he wouldn’t give him a ticket. He told the trooper he had sent his equipment ahead and didn’t have anything to juggle. The trooper said he had some flares in the trunk and asked if he could juggle them.

The juggler said he could, so the trooper got 5 flares, lit them and handed them to him. While the man was juggling, a car pulled in behind the patrol car. A drunken good old boy traveling from Tennessee got out, watched the performance, then went over to the patrol car, opened the rear door and got in.

The trooper observed him and went over to the patrol car, opened the door asking the drunk what he thought he was doing. The drunk replied, “You might as well take my ass to jail, cause there ain’t no way I can pass that test.”

Friday Funny

One of a series


From YouTube

From Newslo, again. Their stuff is so funny:

“Pastor Charles Worley of Maiden, N.C.’s Providence Road Baptist Church recently told his congregation that lesbians and “queers” should be rounded up, placed in camps with electrified fencing and left to die.

Wait. I haven’t got to the funny part yet. In the middle of an interview he answered a call on his cell phone:

“Hey Chris, how are you doing? How’s everything in New Jersey?” the pastor inquired, leading Newslo’s interviewer to the obvious conclusion that the person on the other side of the line was, in fact, the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. “Say, how’s that women’s Viagra pill deal working out? Uh-huh? That good? And any news on the anti-lesbian vaccine? Great, great. Listen, Chris, I just got a killer idea – have you ever thought about an anti-gay vaccine? I know, sounds epic, right? Look, set the wheels in motion and I’ve got the market and guinea pigs already set up on my end, don’t worry about it. Keep me posted. Talk later.”

Now, that’ funny.

The Comical Conservative

Updated to correct an error in wording that reversed the meaning of a paragraph.

Don’t get too excited about the title. I’m reusing it to maintain continuity. This is going to be about the Comical Environmentalist.

Sometime back I reposted a Rick McKee cartoon from Facebook and used that as a starting point for a discussion about anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Here’s the cartoon:


I have referred to this cartoon in multiple posts. After the most recent post Rick posted a lengthy comment, and I initiated an email dialog with him. And I agree with him on one point. From his comment:

So, I have a question for you: Can you not see how a reasonable person, having been bombarded with all of this contradictory, false and alarmist information for all these years, could be skeptical of anything to do with the topic of climate change, which, in fact, was the point of the cartoon?

And my answer is yes, I can see how environmental activists are sometimes their own worst enemy. You can have a noble cause. You can have a just cause. Your cause can be right. That is, it can be factually correct. And all of that can be undone by extremism in the name of conviction.

In a previous post I took the cartoon to task for oversimplifying a complex issue. A problem with the cartoon is it makes use of—as required by the cartoon medium—hyperbole and shallow presentation. I figure it’s no good to find fault without remedy. And I propose to provide remedy by doing better. I can do the cartoon one better. I can provide substance and detail. Where to start?

Let’s start with something Rick mentioned:

Ecologist Kenneth Watt stated, “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

All right, I tried to run that one down. The references I found could not confirm that Watt actually spoke those words. Neither did he say anything like that:

Best Answer:  I’m not sure. Each and every single website I see, as you found too, merely gives the quote and no link to the transcript of the speech, or any further context besides “He once said in a speech at Swarthmore…” Of course, we all know how easily stories are taken and repeated without any sort of analysis at their validity.

I had graphed temperature data from NASA’s GISS, NOAA, and HadCRUT3v together a little while ago. I’m not sure what data Watt presumedly [sic] looked at, but there was no discernible trend during the “twenty years” he allegedly referred to. Temperatures actually began their descent in 1940, and leveled out after 1945 until they began to rise again in the seventies. Why would he claim that that trend would produce 4˚C cooling in 20 years? And 11 in 30?…

Nobody’s saying Kenneth Watt never said it. It appears to be completely apocryphal, with no contemporaneous account of such a speech. The Wikipedia entry for Earth Day includes the quote, but there is no associated link. However, it is the kind of thing Watt might have said, taking into account some of his other proclamations:

Watt also stated, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil.”

Neither does that one have a home, and readers are invited to help me find a link.

A problem with Internet research is the fluidity of the information. Often the provenance of sources is incomplete, and this is particularly true of sources that date from before the time everything started getting put on the Internet. More particularly, this applies to sources from deep history. An example, one of the references Rick cites, is this:

The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot…. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, he declared, all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone… Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared. Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds. – Washington Post 11/2/1922

Yes, we’ve seen this one before, and it was on this blog:

Second, Tom neglected to put the Post article into perspective. The article is based on an item in Monthly Weather Review, a publication of the American Meteorological Society. Here is the original article from the AMS:

And readers can go to the previous post and read the full context. It’s a context that is typically left out when enthusiasm gets the better of rigorous scholarship. The full context shows this was not some alarmist prediction from 1922 but was a report on a local climate anomaly observed in the vicinity of “Spitzbergen and Bear islands under the leadership of Dr. Adolf Hoel, lecturer on geology at the University of Christiania.”

What a serious writer will do is obtain access to contemporaneous sources—newspaper clippings, journal reports, correspondence.

Especially, newspaper reports are beyond value—they are next to impossible to forge. Somebody can print up a fake news clipping, but it can be exposed by matching it with any number of other copies of the same issue. Also of worth is the time value of a clipping. A news item published immediately after an event has credibility over something that finds print days, weeks, or years later. Additionally, corroboration can be obtained by comparing clippings from separate publications.

Journalistic sources published on the Internet are equally valuable, provided they are contemporaneous. Although Internet publications can be altered by a few keystrokes, the reputation of the source will preclude attempts at fraud. Absence of fraud is in no small part due to the thousands of readers who keep tabs on Internet news and place pages into archival storage.

The case of the 1922 Washington Post item is an example of obvious fraud. What happened is somebody scanned the clipping, did not follow up and obtain the complete context, and then posted the item on the Internet (or somewhere else) to highlight an argument against AGW. Subsequent users forwarded the fraudulent story without realizing the fraud, or caring. This is often the case when a story tells somebody what they want to believe. And it’s done by both sides of any divisive issue.

Rick McKee responded to my previous post with 124 years of Failed Climate and Environmental Predictions. I count 92 separate references in Rick’s comment, including the one relating to the 1922 Washington Post item.

Some others of the 92 are worth mentioning. I have made slight edits to Rick’s list, adding item numbers and such, and have produced a PDF. Readers can refer to the enumerated list, which I have posted on-line.

Take number 1:

Is our climate changing? The succession of temperate summers and open winters through several years, culminating last winter in the almost total failure of the ice crop throughout the valley of the Hudson, makes the question pertinent. The older inhabitants tell us that the Winters are not as cold now as when they were young, and we have all observed a marked diminution of the average cold even in this last decade. – New York Times June 23, 1890

What’s this all about? It appears to be a news report about weather changes of interest. If you’re like me, you’re going to have difficulty reconciling this with “124 years of Failed Climate and Environmental Predictions.”

Items 2 and 3 appear to discuss a coming ice age. Here is number 2:

The question is again being discussed whether recent and long-continued observations do not point to the advent of a second glacial period, when the countries now basking in the fostering warmth of a tropical sun will ultimately give way to the perennial frost and snow of the polar regions – New York Times – February 24, 1895

The word “failed” has no apparent relationship with these two items. These are newspaper articles discussing the projected repeat of the previous ice age. Although AGW may turn out to forestall the next ice age, nobody 100 years ago was thinking about this. For your viewing, here is a chart of historical global temperatures relating to previous ice ages:

Here’s number 5:

Scientist says Arctic ice will wipe out Canada, Professor Gregory of Yale University stated that “another world ice-epoch is due.” He was the American representative to the Pan-Pacific Science Congress and warned that North America would disappear as far south as the Great Lakes, and huge parts of Asia and Europe would be “wiped out.” – Chicago Tribune August 9, 1923

“North America would disappear as far south as the Great Lakes.” Yes. Just as in the previous ice age.

Number 8:

“Gaffers who claim that winters were harder when they were boys are quite right…weather men have no doubt that the world at least for the time being is growing warmer.” – Time Magazine Jan. 2 1939

As with a number of the others, it’s difficult to see how this is an argument for or against the current science related to AGW.

Here are numbers 76 and 77:

“Globally, 2002 is likely to be warmer than 2001 – it may even break the record set in 1998. – Daily Mirror August 2, 2002

Next year(2003)may be warmest recorded: Global temperatures in 2003 are expected to exceed those in 1998 – the hottest year to date – Telegraph UK- December 30, 2002


Would you believe these two predictions turned out to be pure bullshit. Actually not. They were only partially bullshit. An analysis of the top ten warmest years on record include 2002 and 2003. Both were warmer than 2001, which means the first prediction was true. But 2002 and 2003 tied for hottest years on record, meaning 2003 average temperatures were the same, not greater than, 2002. It might be interesting for readers to go to the NOAA site and check out the numbers.

Number 78 is a problem for climate scientists as well:

(The) extra energy, together with a weak El Nino, is expected to make 2005 warmer than 2003 and 2004 and perhaps even warmer than 1998 – Reuters February 11, 2005

Oops! Check with the NOAA page. 2005 turned out to be warmer than 1998, 2003, and 2004.

And I’m getting tired of playing this game. While I suspect there are some other clinkers among the 92, I’m going to spot Rick this, and agree that many of his references are accurate and pertinent. That allows me to avoid having to diagnose each of the 92 and to get back to the topic of this post. Sidestepping matters of AGW, here are some major fubars related to environmental issues:

By 1985 enough millions will have died to reduce the earth’s population to some acceptable level, like 1.5 billion people. – Paul Ehrlich

Yeah, you have to wonder what Ehrlich was thinking, if he was thinking, at all. It is comments like this and others that should have cost Ehrlich dearly in the marketplace of ideas. To give you an idea of how little effect this kind of silliness can have, I subsequently heard reference to “respected scientist Paul Ehrlich.”

Here are some additional silly comments by people who should know better:

“[Inaction will cause]… by the turn of the century [2000], an ecological catastrophe which will witness devastation as complete, as irreversible as any nuclear holocaust.” Mustafa Tolba, 1982, former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program

“We’ve got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?” Lee Iacocca, CEO/Chairman, Chrysler Corporation, 1979-1992

It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it. Dan Quayle

Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let’s not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources. Ronald Reagan

Rick McKee is right. We should be skeptical of what gets pushed into the nightly news or posted on the Internet.

In real science, as in real life, it’s not what what people say that matters, it’s what is that matters. In the end, facts trump opinion. People may, if they choose, post “124 years of Failed Climate and Environmental Predictions,” but that does not make an argument. What makes an argument is a statement of fact.  I’m going to restate something from previous posts:

I have been following the topic of AGW for over 20 years, and a recurrent observation is that people opposed to the science rely on quotes and opinions, some from real scientists, and not so much on the basic science. What any opponent to the science needs to do to refute AGW is to demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not absorb infra red radiation.
  • Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are not increasing dramatically.
  • Increases in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are not due to human activities.
  • There are natural sources to the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that supersede the human contribution.

I have put this out before, and nobody has come back at me on it. Keep reading.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This one is significant, because there is a funny story that goes with it. Skip on if you’re not interested. It came about this way. in 1998 I got my first DVD player. Previously I played some movies on a computer DVD drive, but that sucked big time. Purchased this movie and put it in the player. WTF? I couldn’t figure it out. My friend Greg is a tech weenie, and he was by about that time, so I asked his advice. There’s nothing wrong with the player. That’s the DVD top menu. They made it that way. So I played the movie, and everything was all right after that.


It’s Godzilla, from 1998 out of Sony Pictures and starring Matthew Broderick as scientist Dr. Niko “Nick” Tatopoulos. Name like “Godzilla?” You know this is going to be a lizard flick. Going to have roots in nuclear tests. Roll the stock nuclear test footage.

Iguanas on South Pacific islands are about to have their lives forever altered. People come. They bring bulldozers, knocking down palm trees and building block houses. They are up to no good.


Here it comes. The titles scroll, showing massive atomic bomb blasts in the peaceful lagoons of the South Pacific. Trouble is coming our way.


And here is the trouble. It’s the stock plot outline. Aboard a Japanese fish processing ship in the Pacific the radar operator is eating noodles and watching television. We know he’s Japanese, because he’s watching sumo wrestling, and nobody else watches that stuff. Then he sees. It’s death, coming their way. Everybody dies, except for a single survivor.


Cut to Dr. Nick. His life is about to change forever. He’s at the Chernobyl disaster site collecting earth worms. They call him “The Worm Guy.” He works in the rain. The rain makes the ground wet. That encourages earth worms to come to the surface. He provides additional motivation by inserting electrodes into the soil and hooking them up to his truck battery. Hey! I’ve done that before. I can empathize. He’s singing “Singing in the Rain.” Somehow I can never hear that tune without thinking of Stanley Kubrick.

From out of the stormy sky a helicopter descends, bringing Russians with guns and a representative from the United States State Department. Nick’s worm days are over.


Nick’s value is he’s been researching animal mutation caused by nuclear radiation. This looks like something right up his doctoral thesis. Obviously nobody else will do, because Nick is the only scientist recruited in the hunt for Godzilla, which helps thin out the plot, at the same time subtracting much realism.

They take Nick to a site on an island in the Panamanian Golfo de San Miguel to show him the evidence. Evidence? What evidence? Where is the evidence? You’re standing in it. Holy shit, that is one big footprint.


It does not take long. Godzilla drags three fishing boats under off the American eastern coast and then heads for New York. Why? Because all big lizards head straight for New York. Of course the first to spot the critter is an old man fishing off a pier in the East River. He hooks a big one. Then it’s “Run for your life, Joe.”


Rampage in the canyons of Manhattan. The United States military takes charge, doing what it does best, blowing up buildings. Here an errant strike by two Maverick missiles has taken the top section off the Chrysler Building.


Shown from the beginning, Nick carries someone in his heart from college eight years before. He also carries photos of her, and we finally get to see her as Audrey Timmonds (Maria Pitillo), an aspiring reporter for a TV station. She wants to rise in the corporation, but her boss allows she will rise in the ranks after she has risen from his bed. She decides to go around the chain of command. She seeks out Nick. The flame is rekindled. She swipes his top secret video tapes and airs them on TV. The flame flickers.


Dismissed from the project for this lapse of protocol, Nick is scooped up by a contingent of French intelligence operatives. Their mission is to absolve the embarrassment French nuclear tests have caused with the advent of Godzilla. They disguise as American troops and penetrate security surrounding the operation, with Nick’s help. To aid in their disguise, the French chew gum, just like American soldiers. Their leader, Philippe Roaché (Jean Reno) fools the sentry by talking like Elvis Presley.


The monster continues to rampage.


Nick has figured out the monster has laid eggs, and he works with the French to locate them in the basement of Madison Square Garden (also Pennsylvania Station). Too late. Maybe a hundred of the eggs hatch, and the monsters chase the French (eating four), Nick, and now sweet Audry and TV cameraman Victor “Animal” Palotti (Hank Azaria). Getting on TV through the MSG control booth, Nick advises the military to nuke the place. They have six minutes to clear the building before F/A-18 attack planes obliterate the place.


But Godzilla is still alive. In a stolen Yellow Cab, the heroes lure the monster onto the Brooklyn Bridge, where the fighters can annihilate it.


The Frenchie departs, never to be seen again. Nick and Audry are headed for some snuggle bunnies. Meanwhile, another egg hatches, and a vicious little lizard emerges.

There is not much wrong with the plot. It’s the well-honed lizard movie with a dinosaur attacking a major city, and a fearless scientist saving the world and winning the woman. Technical failures abound.

  • This production is all about special effects. Not much more. The monster sequences stretched the art of the time. With all of that, do you think it might be possible for the producers to concoct some realistic monster footprints. Look at the image. That does not look like the print of a large animal’s, dinosaur or otherwise, foot in soft ground. It better resembles something created by a movie production crew working with picks and shovels, or even a giant plaster casting.
  • Audry steals Nick’s “top secret” video tapes. Really? Secretary of State Clinton notwithstanding, under no circumstances would something marked “Top Secret” be left lying about in the back of somebody’s van. See the related post.
  • To liven things up, the producers have attack helicopters weaving between buildings firing wildly at the creature threshing about in the city. They are hitting everything but the lizard. Fun to watch, but difficult to swallow.
  • That curse of the running chain of unlikely outcomes strikes again. Hair-breadth escapes follow one on the other. No, script writers. A believable plot is allowed a single hole-in-one at most. After that you are into comic book territory.

About two Maverick missiles decapitating the Chrysler Building. Don’t believe it. The irony is this was three years before 19 men with a prayer book brought real destruction of a similar scale. Who needed Godzilla?

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

This week’s Quiz Question is a math problem.

Give your self one minute to work this one. You aren’t allowed to use a calculator or a computer. Do all your work with pencil (or ink pen if your are confident) and paper. Is the following number evenly divisible by 6? That is to say, is the number a product of 6 and some integer?

4.23 × 10239442671 + 4

Submit your answer as a comment below. And just to show you’re not guessing, explain why.

Update and answer

Mike provided the correct answer, I think. The number is not divisible by 6. It takes about 5 seconds to work this one. Take a look.

  • It’s a long number, starting with 423 followed by a bunch of zeros and ending in 4.
  • So it’s even, and it’s divisible by 6 if it’s divisible by 3.
  • Compute the digital root: 4 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 13. 1 + 3 = 4. The digital root is not divisible by 3.
  • The number is not divisible by 3. The number is not divisible by 6.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Watching this I could not help thinking of the title, Borderline. That just about describes it. It’s from 1950 by Universal International. It’s one of those crime drama comedies where a bunch of people get killed, and everybody has a good laugh. Here’s how it starts.

Los Angeles Police Department Officer Madeleine Haley (Claire Trevor) is eager to get in on a caper to crack a ring that’s smuggling dope from Mexico. Sound familiar. Yes, nothing much has changed in 65 years, except the gangsters. Madeleine goes undercover as Gladys LaRue, a cheap floozy because… because dope smuggler Pete Ritchie (Raymond Burr) likes ’em that way.


At a Mexican nightclub, Madeleine (AKA Gladys) sings and dances in the chorus, and also tries to catch the eye of Pete, who is all business. A nightclub singer is belting out a song with a refrain that includes “borderline.” Hint: that’s the name of the movie.


Gladys does get the attention of Pete’s errand boy and gets him drunk, enabling her to penetrate Pete’s private digs. With the sidekick out drunk, Madeleine whips out her spy camera and begins photographing evidence.

Enter Pete. Enter Madeleine from the back bedroom, turning her charm on Pete. Enter rival gangster Johnny Macklin (Fred MacMurray) and his sidekick, here to put the squeeze on Pete. A threat of torture and the errand boy gives up the location of the drug shipment. There is s shootout. Johnny’s sidekick gets killed. Madeleine fires her pistol inside her purse and takes out Pete’s gun hand. Macklin, AKA Federal Agent Johnny McEvoy, and Madeleine exit post haste.


Madeleine comes to in a warehouse, where Johnny has gathered the drug shipment. That is, after bopping Madeleine on the jaw, which scene never appears in the movie. This one has problems with continuity.

Adventures begin, with Johnny, Madeleine, and Johnny’s driver heading across country for the United States Border at Tijuana. Adventures multiply. Pete and his gang pursue and catch up with them along the road. There is yet another shootout. More get killed, including Johnny’s driver and one of Pete’s henchmen.


The chase turns comical, with neither Johnny nor Madeleine knowing the other is fuzz. A hired airplane is forced to land on a Mexican beach, where Johnny and Madeleine spend a cozy night together. A bond is forming.


The bond is almost broken at the U.S. border. By now Pete has been arrested by the Mexican Federales, and Johnny offers Madeleine up for arrest by the border agents. Madeleine’s LAPD boss is there and straightens things out. There are still sore feelings between the two, but they continue the plan to bust the American ringleader, Harvey Gumbin (Roy Roberts).


All comes to a head when Johnny goes to Gumbin’s headquarters and gets caught up in the police assault.


There is shooting and tear gas, and Johnny and Gumbin engage in fisticuffs. Johnny wins the bout, barely, and gets big smacks from Madeleine. Things are looking up for the feisty pair.


Yes, the plot is totally absurd. It’s a love comedy with gangsters and people speaking Spanish and English and trading shots and getting killed. There is 19th century Mexico commingling with 20th century Mexico with comical Mexicans and dead serious Mexicans.

The modern viewer is acquainted with the real world of drug smuggling and will find it ridiculous that a top line gangster like Johnny Macklin is going to mule a few pounds of smack across the border. This is low-grade entertainment, but it is fun to watch the interplay between Johnny and Madeleine, falling for each other, all the while thinking the other is some sort of a scumbag.

The year before this came out Claire Trevor earned an Academy Award for her role as boozing floozy Gaye Dawn in Key Largo. She was to earn another nomination for The High and the Mighty four years later. MacMurray shot to fame in 1944 in Double Indemnity. He is best known to later audiences as an unmarried father in My Three Sons, which ran for 380 episodes from 1960 to 1972. Raymond Burr was to continue his wicked ways, murdering his wife four years later in Rear Window. Some time after that He went straight, defending (most times) innocent clients as Perry Mason from 1957 to 1966 and hunting down crooks as San Francisco Police consultant  Robert T. Ironside in the Ironside series, which ran from 1967 to 1975.

Security Mania

Home security has been a hobby of mine since I retired. Allow me to refer you to a previous post. An item I found particularly useful was this:

I was much impressed with the concept and decided to expand my system, but on the cheap. A more affordable option is the CDS-930L that doesn’t have tilt and rotate control, lacks some of the other features, and has less image quality. At $30 each from Amazon (free shipping and no sales tax), these are a real bargain.


As mentioned, I have two of these, and may add more. When I enable the feature each one sends an email to me when it detects motion—such as when a burglar walks into the field of view. The email carries six attachments: three images captured just prior to detecting motion plus the follow three. See the previous link.

Another feature is FTP capability. FTP is the Internet File Transfer Protocol, and it works like this. If a computer on the Internet is running an FTP server, and the computer receives a datagram designating port 21, then the FTP server is activated and handles the message. The message will initiate a dialog between the computer and the sender. The dialog will likely comprise one or more of the following:

  • Host computer requests a user ID.
  • Host computer requests a password.
  • Host computer verifies the user ID and the password, and continues the dialog.
  • Host computer executes any number of FTP commands from the sender—receive a file, save the file in a directory specified by the sender, delete a file, transmit a file from the host to the sender. And so on.

Computer guys already know this stuff.

Besides the ability to send images by email, the CDS-930L can send a stream of images to a specified FTP server, as often as one each second. Since the CDS-930L doesn’t have file storage, this is the only way to capture an image stream with one of these. A problem is, you need an FTP server somewhere on the Internet. One way I suppose you can get access to one is to subscribe to a cloud storage service, but that costs money, and I was looking for a way to do this on the cheap.

Cheap is a relative term, and for me this translated into a computer I have sitting on the shelf not doing anything. Many months ago I purchased a refurbished Dell Latitude E6400, and then I drove to Best Buy and obtained a 1 TB drive for it. I installed the new drive and then installed Ubuntu Linux on it. And that brings up the tech exercise of today—how to set up an FTP server on Ubuntu Linux.

I wisely elected not to build my own server, which would be possible. I have had for 20 years the excellent book by W. Richard Stevens (now deceased) titled UNIX Network Programming. The book explains how to construct all manner of network software, and there’s more. The code is available on the Internet. You don’t have to write it. Just copy, modify, compile.

Talk about cheap. There’s an even cheaper way. Ubuntu Linux (and other flavors, besides) comes with an FTP server. All you have to do is to activate it, and you’re on-line. Not being a Ubuntu professional, what I did was go to the Internet for help. Particularly, I went to a page on Here are the instructions, modified by me:

How to setup FTP server on ubuntu 14.04 ( VSFTPD )

There are 3 popular FTP server packages available PureFTPD, VsFTPD and ProFTPD. Here I’ve used VsFTPD which is lightweight and less Vulnerability.

Step 1 » Update repositories .
$ sudo apt-get update

You execute the apt-get update command, preceded by “sudo,” or super user do. This executes the command as though you were a super user, which you must be to do this kind of stuff on Linux (or UNIX).

Step 2 » Install VsFTPD package using the below command.
$ sudo apt-get install vsftpd

You only need to do this if your installation of Ubuntu does not already have vsftpd. It turned out mine already had it, and when I attempted to install it I was told it was already installed, and nothing was done in response to the command. You can check to see whether you already have vstfpd by checking the /etc directory. See the following.

Step 3 » After installation open /etc/vsftpd.conf file and make changes as follows.
Uncomment the below lines (line no:29 and 33).
» Uncomment the below line (line no: 120 ) to prevent access to the other folders outside the Home directory.
chroot_local_user=YESand add the following line at the end.
allow_writeable_chroot=YES» Add the following lines to enable passive mode.

Step 4 » Restart vsftpd service using the below command.
$ sudo service vsftpd restart

There are some additional steps. See the Krizna page to see more. I did not need to do any of this, as explained below.

I next had to open up my Linksys router to determine the IP address of my E6400. It turned out to be, an address that needs to remain stable if this whole business is going to work. I pulled up a DOS window on my Dell Studio 17 and initiated the following dialogue:

$ ftp
Connected to
220 (vsFTPd 3.0.2)
User ( john
331 Please specify the password.
230 Login successful.

See, my E6400 was already set up with a user name and password, and that’s all FTP needed. I quit out of that, because this was only to confirm the FTP server was running and that I could access it. The next task was to set up a CDS-930L to send images by FTP.

I know the IP addresses of my two CDS-930Ls, and I entered one in a browser window to get to the camera’s control panel:


Here I have:

  • Set the host address to
  • Set the port number to 21
  • Entered my user ID (john)
  • Entered my password for the E6400
  • Specified the images from this camera are to go to the /TVRoom sub directory
  • Set passive mode
  • Selected Always so it will run forever
  • Specified one frame every two seconds
  • Selected Date/Time Suffix so no images will be overwritten
  • Told it to create a new sub folder for every hour.
  • Checked the box to enable this operation
  • Clicked the Save Setting button to get the operation started

There is another button below you can click to test operation. It will send a text message to the FTP server, and you can go to the server to see if the message arrived, or you can go to the camera STATUS pane to see if the FTP test passed.

Setting up the FTP server requires editing the configuration file, as shown above. You will need super user privilege to do this. What I did was use super user privilege to allow anybody (me) to change the file. I used the vi editor to edit the configuration file. If you are not familiar with vi, then you will need to use a friendly text editor on your Linux box. Note the following two lines added to the configuration file:


This specifies the range of ports the FTP server will use. Allowing 101 ports will allow as many as 101 connections at a time. I am only using one for each camera, plus one for remote management of the image database from my Dell Studio system.

To show what can be done, here is a dialog to retrieve an image from the database. The commands were executed from my Dell Studio:

user@Laptop64 /cygdrive/c/DVD/D-Link/images
$ ftp
Connected to
220 (vsFTPd 3.0.2)
User ( john
331 Please specify the password.
230 Login successful.
ftp> cd TVRoom
250 Directory successfully changed.
ftp> dir
200 PORT command successful. Consider using PASV.
150 Here comes the directory listing.
drwxr-xr-x 20 1000 1000 4096 Apr 15 23:59 20160415
drwxr-xr-x 12 1000 1000 4096 Apr 16 10:00 20160416
226 Directory send OK.
ftp: 132 bytes received in 0.00Seconds 132.00Kbytes/sec.
ftp> cd 20160416
250 Directory successfully changed.
ftp> dir
200 PORT command successful. Consider using PASV.
150 Here comes the directory listing.
drwxr-xr-x 2 1000 1000 114688 Apr 16 01:59 0000
drwxr-xr-x 2 1000 1000 110592 Apr 16 02:59 0100
drwxr-xr-x 2 1000 1000 110592 Apr 16 03:59 0200
drwxr-xr-x 2 1000 1000 118784 Apr 16 04:59 0300
drwxr-xr-x 2 1000 1000 122880 Apr 16 05:59 0400
drwxr-xr-x 2 1000 1000 110592 Apr 16 06:59 0500
drwxr-xr-x 2 1000 1000 110592 Apr 16 07:59 0600
drwxr-xr-x 2 1000 1000 118784 Apr 16 08:59 0700
drwxr-xr-x 2 1000 1000 110592 Apr 16 09:59 0800
drwxr-xr-x 2 1000 1000 69632 Apr 16 10:32 0900
226 Directory send OK.
ftp: 620 bytes received in 0.00Seconds 620.00Kbytes/sec.
ftp> cd 0900
250 Directory successfully changed.
ftp> dir
200 PORT command successful. Consider using PASV.
150 Here comes the directory listing.
-rw-r–r– 1 1000 1000 30663 Apr 16 10:00 DCS-930LB2016041609000101.jpg

I logged on and navigated down to the TV room directory. I listed the directory contents and saw that since I set thing up yesterday the CDS-930L had created two new sub directories, one for 15 April and one for 16 April, as instructed through the FTP setup page above. I next navigated down to today’s subdirectory and had a look around. Sub directories had been created for hours 0 through 0900. Good. Everything is running as hoped for. I navigated to the 0900 page and listed the images. And it listed several pages of images. I’m only showing one. FTP finished up and said it was through sending the directory.

226 Directory send OK.
ftp: 85956 bytes received in 0.15Seconds 569.25Kbytes/sec.
ftp> bin
200 Switching to Binary mode.
ftp> get DCS-930LB2016041609000101.jpg
200 PORT command successful. Consider using PASV.
150 Opening BINARY mode data connection for DCS-930LB2016041609000101.jpg (30663 bytes).
226 Transfer complete.
ftp: 30663 bytes received in 0.09Seconds 356.55Kbytes/sec.
ftp> quit
221 Goodbye.

As you can see, I ensured the FTP was in binary mode, because images are not text files. Then I commanded get (an image). And here is the image. It’s deadly dull. My TV room on a dark and stormy Saturday morning. Nothing to see here, folks. Keep on moving.


With a TByte drive I figure I can go on vacation for a month or more and collect an image every two seconds from each of two cameras and have room to spare. If I get notification from one of the cameras that somebody is prowling around my house I can, when I get home, get all the appropriate images from the computer drive and take them down to the police station. Provided nobody steals the computer. And that’s the deal. The computer needs to be in an inconspicuous place so it will still be there.

This only covers security against burglary. The setup can be used for other purposes. In our neighborhood we have a single street leading in and out. We have a sign at the entrance announcing video surveillance is operating. The problem is, we don’t actually have any video surveillance. This would be a cheap way to implement neighborhood surveillance. Just point a camera out a window and let it run all the time. Something bad happens, and the police need to be called, we check the video record to see who was driving on the streets.

Feedback is welcome. Add a comment or send me an email.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

Not yet

Not yet

A bigshot business man had to spend a couple of days in the hospital. He was a royal pain to the nurses because he bossed them around just like he did his employees. None of the hospital staff wanted to have anything to do with him. The head nurse was the only one who could stand up to him.

She came into his room and announced, “I have to take your temperature.”

After complaining for several minutes, he finally settled down, crossed his arms and opened his mouth. “No, I’m sorry,” the nurse stated, “but for this reading, I can’t use an oral thermometer.”

This started another round of complaining, but eventually he rolled over and bared his behind.

After feeling the nurse insert the thermometer, he heard her announce, “I have to get something. Now you stay just like that until I get back!”

She left the door to his room open on her way out. He curses under his breath as he hears people walking past his door, laughing.

After a half hour, the man’s doctor comes into the room.

“What’s going on here?” asked the doctor.

Angrily, the man answers, “What’s the matter, Doc? Haven’t you ever seen someone having their temperature taken?”

After a pause, the doctor confesses, “Not with a carnation.”

Prime Suspect

That’s the title of episode five,  season one. It starts out looking like a kidnapping, but it turns into a high stakes caper involving some totally ruthless people and some classic math. I caught this on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia and IMDB. It’s NUMB3RS, and it’s ultimately about math.


Ethan (Neil Patrick Harrisand Becky (Susan Egan) Burdick are hosting a birthday party for their daughter Emily (Emma Prescott). As the party is winding down things turn sour when the clown tosses Emily into his van and drives off. The FBI will get involved.


Don Eppes (Rob Morrow) is the agent in charge of the case. His brother Charlie (David Krumholtz), is a math prof at a local college, who comes in to help the FBI where math is involved.


I’m not going to detail the plot. However, there is some Skeptical Analysis involved.

It’s a kidnapping for ransom, but for an unusual ransom. Ethan Burdick is a math genius who is working on a resolution of the Riemann Hypothesis, named after Bernhard Riemann who first posed it in 1859. Ethan is supposed to have a solution to the (then) 150-year-old problem. It’s the solution the crooks are after. They will trade the child for the answer.

Despite the clown makeup, Agent Terry Lake (Sabrina Lloyd) recognizes the clown as a criminal recently sprung from stir. Bad news, the family has been warned not to deal with the police, so the FBI has to go it alone.


Except that Charlie meets with Ethan, and the two of them go over Ethan’s resolution of Riemann. Charlie’s observation is heart-wrenching. Ethan is on the wrong track. He has no resolution for the Riemann Hypothesis. He has nothing to give the crooks.


Charlie and the agents also discover what the crooks are after. They will use the resolution of the Riemann Hypothesis to crack the encryption key used by the Federal Reserve. They will obtain the Prime Interest Rate hours in advance of its release and will bet heavily on related investments. And win.


What Charlie, Ethan, and the FBI do is to work with the Federal Reserve and concoct a fake key leading to a fake page. Ethan will give the crooks the method, the crooks will compute the key and use the key to access the fake page. The feds will be watching all this activity and will pinpoint the location of the cracking operation. They plan to move in before the crooks can scram.

Not known, but suspected, is that once the crooks have the Prime Rate, they won’t need Emily any longer nor the math prof working with them.

The trap is sprung, the feds move in like gangbusters, one of the miscreant’s takes a load to the chest from an agent, and Emily is snatched from the arms of the ring leader in exchange for his life.


Except that this is not exactly what the Riemann Hypothesis is about. Follow the link above and read all about it. In short, Riemann proposed to be able to identify limits to the population of prime numbers within a bounded domain. What does that have to do with cracking the key to the Federal Reserve server? Glad you asked:

An essential requirement of a public key system is that your everyday Edward Snowden should not be able to take E and derive D from it. The method described by RSA involves using pairs of very large prime numbers. Call a pair of these numbers p and q. Then

p x q = n.

The number n is not prime. It has only two factors, p and q. Now suppose each of p and q are 100 decimal digits long (or more). Then the length of n is 200 (or more). The RSA method uses p and q (and n) to produce e and d. Read the RSA paper, page 6. This involves some nice math, which I will not elaborate on here.

A user R can publish n and e, keeping d (and p and q) private. Somebody wanting to send R a message uses n and e to encrypt the message. R uses n and d to decrypt the message. Knowing n it is still very difficult to compute d, even if you know e. Computing d is tantamount to factoring n (into p and q). It is well known that the factoring problem is hard. Factoring n is only a bit less difficult than doing a search for p (or q), but it is not easy enough to make it feasible with present day computational facilities.

And there is more interesting stuff. You can go to my previous post and read up on it. The essential point is this. For a public key system, the person owning the key makes public his key for encryption. However, the decryption key, which the owner holds private, is required for reading the encrypted message. People use his encryption key to code messages, and they send messages to the key owner. He is the only one with the decryption key, and he is the only one who can read messages encrypted with his key.

The deal is this. The public key is a large integer, maybe hundreds of digits long. It’s a composite, the product of two prime numbers. If you can factor the encryption key and obtain the two prime factors, then you can compute the decryption key and read all the secret mail sent to the owner.

This is not to say the Fed uses this method, but if they did, they might do the following:

  1. Determine the new Prime Rate, a few days in advance. And keep it a secret.
  2. Pput the Prime Rate information on a secure server. A secret key would be required to access the server and read the new Prime Rate.
  3. The public key system is not used for sending lengthy messages. It’s only practical for sending short strings, such as the key to the Fed server.
  4. The gatekeeper of the Fed server would use the public keys of various parties (hopefully only Fed employees) to send them the pass code for the Prime Rate page.

Now, the crooks count on having one of the public keys in question. These keys really are public. If they can factor one of these public keys they can possibly eavesdrop on a communication link and obtain the encrypted pass code. The crooks compute the associated private key and read the pass code. Then they use the pass code to read the (unpublished) Prime Rate and get ready to make a lot of money in just a few hours.

Anyhow, that’s how it might work. Except that Riemann’s Hypothesis does not seem to be a key to factoring large prime numbers. For one thing, it’s a hypothesis. They conclusion is stated in the hypothesis. Everybody already knows what the conclusion is. The big deal about the Riemann Hypothesis is to prove that it’s true.

As a side note, the Riemann zeta function was an object of Alan Turing’s interest in constructing a computing machine. A good book about this episode is by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma. The link is to my review of the book. A first rate movie, The Imitation Game, is based on the book, and a review is scheduled to be out next month.

For those who like to dabble in the arcane field of cryptology, you might be interested in reading a piece on The One Time-Pad and also The Codebreakers.

Friday Funny

A new series

This is funny:

BOISE – Idaho lawmakers ratcheted up the abortion debate Thursday, as one state representative said he believes rape and incest are unlikely to result in pregnancy, and a party-line vote backed one of two bills championed this year by anti-abortion groups.

The bill in question would require women seeking abortions to be given a list of providers of free ultrasounds, and to be told they have a right to such a procedure and to hear a fetal heart monitor.

Backers said they believe such actions would make women more likely to decide against abortion. The measure makes no exception for victims of rape or incest.

During the hearing Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, said, “Now, I’m of the understanding that in many cases of rape it does not involve any pregnancy because of the trauma of the incident. That may be true with incest a little bit.”

What’s really funny is the “with incest a little bit.” I particularly appreciate the “little bit” part. That was the touch that gives this one its shine.

Regarding rape not resulting in pregnancy. What? Representative Nielsen is saying rape “does not involve any pregnancy because of the trauma of the incident.” If I get this straight, then this Idaho politician is saying that if somebody knocks him over the head with a billy club and takes his money, he’s not going to miss the money because of the associated trauma.

That is also funny.

Your Friend The Handgun

More of the same

Another tale of how owning a handgun can add spice to your life. Otherwise known as, “How’s that working out?” Let’s take the case of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith. From Yahoo Sports:

Smith was scheduled to earn $10.15 million in cash compensation in 2013, including a $1 million roster bonus on the 15th day of the league year, a $9 million base salary and a $150,000 workout bonus. Smith was scheduled to count $14.502 million against the cap. In the renegotiated deal, Smith’s $1 million roster bonus and $150,000 workout bonus remain, but his salary has been reduced to $3 million, a $6 million pay cut that lowers his cap number to $8.502 million for the upcoming season.

Of course, Mr. Smith has been out of work since being cut from the New England Patriots two years ago. So, let’s talk about someone else. Let’s talk about Cardell Hayes, because Mr. Smith is now dead, apparently killed by Mr. Hayes. It happened this way.

It was your typical Saturday night in the New Orleans French Quarter, a night out for both, some fine dining, maybe some drinks, a few handguns. Then out on the streets of New Orleans. Mr. Smith’s Mercedes Benz bumps Mr. Hayes’s Hummer. Then drives off. Mr. Hayes follows, and bumps Mr. Smith’s Mercedes. A few seconds later Mr. Smith is dead. Shot eight times by Mr. Hayes, including seven times in the back. Mrs. Smith is recovering in a hospital with multiple gunshot wounds.

Besides the handgun Mr. Hayes used on Mr. Smith, he had yet another one he left in his car. Mr. Smith, likewise had a handgun, which he left in his car before stepping out and into eternity. To be sure I am going to be told that Mr. Smith was an idiot for getting out of his car and leaving his handgun behind. Will somebody please tell me things would have turned out better if both men had brought their guns to a fistfight?

Mr. Hayes, not your Sunday go to meeting choir boy to begin with, is now facing a life term for second degree murder. You have to wonder if this is what he had in mind when he decided to purchase that handgun.

The Math Solution

I watched this the first couple of seasons when it came out in 2005, before I became averse to TV drama shows. I’m reviewing this episode because of something in the plot that piqued my interest. It’s NUMB3RS, by Nicolas Falacci and Cheryl Heuton, and it’s about math genius Charlie Eppes (David Krumholtz) and his brother Don (Rob Morrow), who is an FBI agent working in Los Angeles. Charlie, who is a math prof, helps his brother solve crimes by the application of arcane math principles. This is about the second episode of season one.

The plot revolves around tracking a bank robbery gang, and the opening shots show some statistics. Here, 16 banks were robbed, two robbers, average take is $2700, and no weapons employed. These two are called the Charm School Gang, because they are so polite. They even open the door for other customers when entering the bank, and they smile throughout the operation.


Charlie has applied some statistical analyses and has determined an underlying pattern to the sequence of crimes. He has predicted the robbers will strike on a particular day at one of two banks in L.A. The title sequence overlays security video shots from the robberies with math symbols.


The FBI is waiting on the appropriate day, and the robbers strike one of the two banks. Agents rush in to make the arrest, but there is a dramatic turn. Unknown before, the robbers have always had a backup of four well armed henchmen, who never made an appearance before, because they never needed to. In a hail of gunfire an agent is killed, along with one of the bandits. The others make their escape.


The failure of the FBI operation and the death of the agent sends Charlie into a deep funk, and he takes himself off the case, immersing himself at his home in the solution of one of the so-called NP-complete math problems. It’s a class of problems still defying resolution.


The crooks pull off another robbery, this time killing a bank manager. Charlie’s friend on campus, physics professor Larry Fleinhardt (Peter MacNicol) reminds Charlie of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. It applies to sub atomic particles (and even to atomic particles), and it makes us aware that measurement, observation, of an entity requires some interaction with it, thus affecting the thing being observed. This is critically true of sub atomic particles, but Charlie is reminded that macro objects, such as bank robbers, are also affected when they are observed, particularly when they are made aware they have been observed, such as the FBI presence at the previous robbery.

And Charlie has more. This is a world-class operation, armed to the hilt, military coordination, with six skilled operators involved. For an average of $2700 a whack? Something is wrong. Charlie figures out with it is. They are not robbing banks. They are using the robberies as a cover for another crime. The crooks are stealing bank transaction data. While everybody else is preoccupied with the heist, somebody is slipping over to one of their computer terminals.

The robbers are after bigger stakes. They are tracking the schedule for the delivery for destruction of millions of dollars in unfit currency by the Federal Reserve Bank. They are going to hold up the cash transfer.

Don and the FBI team prepare to intercept the heist. Charlie is there. He reminds Don of the Heisenberg Uncertainty. The gang is likely aware the feds are on to the scheme. Don tells Charlie to not worry. They are well prepared for the Heisenberg Principle.


Sure enough. The bandits intercept the shipment. Sure enough, they get the drop on the FBI agents.


But Don and the other agents are one step ahead. They know the bandits know, and they have anticipated the getaway plan, killing one of the bandits and capturing the others. Here Don says hello to the ring leader as he attempts, unsuccessfully, to start the getaway car.


And here is my Skeptical Analysis—it’s something I picked up on in my working life. Since I never had a real career, just a succession of jobs, I ended up working with a wide range of technologies. My first patent involved the Federal Reserve Bank. They wanted a machine that would automatically put a strap around a bundle of 100 bills. In the course of this project, I visited the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas and got a look at their operation. And I saw what they do with unfit currency. They do not, as the TV plot would have it, take bundles of currency to a secret location for destruction. They destroy it right on the spot.

In the basement of the Dallas branch were hand carts loaded with tremendous stacks of currency. Particularly, there were some carts loaded with unfit currency. You could tell. Each bundle of 100 had been drilled through, leaving two 1/2-inch diameter holes in each bill. These bills were worthless. Further destruction of the bills was rendered by a hammer mill, and the chaff was sold off for planters mulch and such.

The project I worked on went a step further. It eliminated the need to drill the two holes. My company sold the Federal Reserve a system that accepted stacks of bills into a feed hopper and peeled them off at high speed, feeding them into a document transport. As each bill passed down the length of the machine various readers detected counterfeit, which was routed to a special bin. Other stations recorded denomination, serial number, and such. Another station detected unfit currency. Unfit currency went all the way to the end of the machine, about ten feet, and entered a high-speed shredder.

And that’s what I found screwy about this plot. The writers could have patched this up a bit and made it true to life. But then, this is fiction, and it’s OK to give the imagination free rein.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I saw this first at the Palace Theater on the town square in Granbury, Texas. It came out in 1950 from Universal International and stars James Stewart as Lin McAdam, a cowpoke on the prowl. It’s Winchester 73, and it’s about the rifle. Images are screen shots from Turner Classic Movies. Details are from Wikipedia.

I’m not going to recap the plot. It’s pretty much straight-line with no twists and quirks. One man is hunting another to kill him. In the middle comes the story of a Winchester 73 rifle that changes hands multiple times, each time with somebody’s dying. The opening shot shows the piece in question.

Please note the date. It’s significant. Just days prior George Armstrong Custer and his entire company of soldiers were wiped out by Sioux Indians at The Battle of Little Bighorn. Repeating rifles, such as the one pictured, figured prominently.


For some reason not explained in the movie, there is to be a shoot-off for the rifle in the store window. Who organized it and how the competition is managed is not brought out in the plot. However, two pokes, McAdam and his sidekick  ‘High-Spade’ Frankie Wilson (Millard Mitchell) ride into Dodge City, Kansas. The first thing they notice is Town Marshal Wyatt Earp (Will Geer) giving saloon girl Lola Manners (Shelley Winters) the heave-ho. She needs to leave town before respectable folk arrive for the celebraton. McAdam intercedes briefly and then sees her on her way.


McAdam enters the shooting competition, likewise Dutch Henry Brown (Stephen McNally), the hombre McAdam and High-Spade are pursuing. The two top guns go head to head for the prize rifle, each shooting perfect scores, until McAdam clinches it with a miracle shot. He takes the prize, but not for long. Dutch and his outlaw partner waylay McAdam, rough him up, and take the rifle. The pursuit for the rifle begins.


Shady gun dealer Joe Lamont (John McIntire) wins it from Dutch in a poker game. Then Lamont loses it to the chief of a plains tribe he is negotiating a sale with. That’s Rock Hudson as Young Bull, about to take the rifle and Lamont’s scalp.


Young Bull doesn’t keep the Winchester for long. Shortly his freshly-armed band takes on an Army calvary troop, where McAdam, High-Spade, and Lola have taken shelter. That’s Tony Curtis as Trooper Doan, contemplating the upcoming Indian attack.


When Young Bull gets killed in the exchange of fire, the Winchester gets picked up from the battlefield by the soldiers, and it passes to Lola’s boyfriend, Steve Miller (Charles Drake). Later comes Waco Johnnie Dean (Dan Duryea) to kill Steve Miller and to take the weapon.


Waco Johnnie meets up with Dutch for a planned armed robbery, and Dutch “persuades” Johnnie to hand over the object of his affections.

McAdam foils the robbery, thanks to help from Lola, who takes a bullet in the arm in the process. McAdam hunts Dutch (who is actually McAdam’s brother) down out in the boondocks and finishes him off in a stereotypical western shootout, with Dutch falling over the cliff in heroic fashion. McAdam heads back to town with the Winchester and hooks up with sweet Lola. And it’s all over.


A lot confuses me about this movie:

  • There’s a shoot-off for the prize. Entrants are handed matched rifles to use. Really? You’re going into competition with a rifle you’ve never fired before? And McAdam and Dutch shoot perfect scores with tight groupings? It’s amazing to me.
  • The soldiers bed down for the night, anticipating the Indians will attack in the morning. That’s because Indians are superstitious and won’t fight at night. Bull shit. If Indians didn’t fight at night, it was for the same reasons the soldiers didn’t fight at night. It’s hard to see at night.
  • McAdam explains to the Army sergeant that the Indians will attack in two waves, depending on the soldiers being in the process of reloading their single-shot rifles after the first volley. That also begs credulity. During the time of the plains Indian wars the tribes were notorious for being disorganized fighters. Crazy Horse had a devil of a time keeping his warriors from taking the fight to the enemy individually.
  • The armed robbery is scheduled for Tascosa, Texas. Please look at a map. That’s just west of present day Amarillo. The movie shows the landscape decked with saguaro cacti. It’s a species that does not exist outside the Sonora Desert, two states to the west.
  • Two sharpshooters have it out in precipitous terrain. Either can hit a dollar coin at 100 yards. Yet Dutch exposes himself to McAdam, presenting a perfect target. To be generous, he may have at this point in the plot become suicidal.

This was six years before Rock Hudson went the big time with Elizabeth Taylor in Giant. The studio couldn’t find anybody, say Jay Silverheels, to play chief Young Bull? Hudson did play it right, however. No pidgin English for a tribal chief. This was a year after I first saw Tony Curtis in City Across the River and three years before he starred in Houdini. Nine years later Shelly Winters won an Academy Award for The Diary of Anne Frank. It’s impossible for me to watch one of the post-war films featuring  James Stewart without realizing I was seeing a man who had stared death in the face on a daily basis as a bomber pilot over Europe.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Fifth of a series


We haven’t had one of these in a while. So, what’s new?

A Real Climate Scientist Demolishes Bill Nye’s Global Warming Alarmism

All right, this one is a bit old—from last year even. That aside, I want to thank whoever posted this on Facebook for me to pick up. The truth be known, Facebook is a prime source of story ideas for this blog.

And this is refreshing. For once I’m not having to explain some fact-deprived meme from The Comical Conservative. This time we have Dr. Roy Spencer, an actual climate researcher, weighing in. And he has much to say about the evidence. Actually, he doesn’t. At least in the YouTube clip he doesn’t. Additionally, the item posted by Austin Peterson on The Libertarian Republic presents little in the way of evidence, either for or against the case for anthropogenic global warming (AGW). But Spencer is a real scientists working in the field, and it is worth knowing what he had to say in the interview.

Global warming alarmist talking heads like Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Al Gore are constantly paraded around as experts on climate.

I hope not. Because none of the three do research related to climate, and nobody would seriously refer to them as experts. What they happen to be are public defenders of the science behind AGW—speakers, if you like. In fact, you can discount Vice President Al Gore right off the bat, because his expertise is politics, and his training in serious science is close to vacant.

On the other hand, Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson have taken some college courses—Tyson more so—in physics, and the science of physics lies at the base of the study of AGW. In full disclosure, I have had college courses in physics, including four in the critical field of thermodynamics, and it is from this background that I come to agree with the argument for AGW.

To be sure, Dr. Roy Spencer has had these courses, and beyond that he has degrees in atmospheric science, including a Ph.D. in  meteorology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The Wikipedia entry for Roy Spencer lists a number of peer-reviewed papers critical of AGW, such as this one:

In 2007, Spencer and others published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters regarding negative cloud feedback in the tropics that potentially supports Richard Lindzen‘s Iris hypothesis, which proposes that as the tropical atmosphere warms, cirrus clouds decrease, allowing infrared heat to escape from the atmosphere to outer space. Spencer stated, “To give an idea of how strong this enhanced cooling mechanism is, if it was operating on global warming, it would reduce estimates of future warming by over 75 percent. […] Right now, all climate models predict that clouds will amplify warming. I’m betting that if the climate models’ ‘clouds’ were made to behave the way we see these clouds behave in nature, it would substantially reduce the amount of climate change the models predict for the coming decades.

This paper is available on-line from the American Geophysical Union, and I have retained a copy for your viewing:

Spencer’s objections to AGW, based on publication topics, appear to be related to the effects of clouds on solar energy loss. Some of his publications have received major push-back from other scientists. Of note is a recent work published in 2011 with William Braswell:

In 2011, Spencer and Braswell published a paper in Remote Sensing concluding that more energy is radiated back to space and released earlier than previously thought. Spencer stated, “The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show. There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans.”

The paper was criticized by numerous climate scientists. Kerry Emanuel of MIT, said this work was cautious and limited mostly to pointing out problems with forecasting heat feedback.

The editor-in-chief of Remote Sensing, Wolfgang Wagner, later resigned over publication of Spencer and Braswell (2011), stating, “From a purely formal point of view, there were no errors with the review process. […] the problem I see with the paper by Spencer and Braswell is not that it declared a minority view …but that it essentially ignored the scientific arguments of its opponents. This latter point was missed in the review process, explaining why I perceive this paper to be fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal.”[22] Wagner added he, “would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements”.

Spencer responded that Wagner’s assertion was wholly inaccurate, “But the paper WAS precisely addressing the scientific arguments made by our opponents, and showing why they are wrong! That was the paper’s starting point! We dealt with specifics, numbers, calculations…while our critics only use generalities and talking points. There is no contest, as far as I can see, in this debate. If you have some physics or radiative transfer background, read the evidence we present, the paper we were responding to, and decide for yourself.”

Andrew Dessler later published a paper opposing the claims of Spencer and Braswell (2011) in Geophysical Research Letters. He stated, among other things:

First, [they] analyzed 14 models, but they plotted only six models and the particular observational data set that provided maximum support for their hypothesis. Plotting all of the models and all of the data provide a much different conclusion.

At the very least, Spencer’s methods indicate a lack of scientific rigor. I went into this with the possibility of finding an additional factor, that factor being denial of AGW is strongly linked with political alignment and to a lesser degree with religiosity. Spencer’s Wikipedia contains two notes pointing toward religious influence:

Spencer is a signatory to An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, which states that “We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history.”.[32] He believes that most climate change is natural in origin, the result of long-term changes in the Earth’s albedo and that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have caused some warming, but that its warming influence is small compared to natural, internal, chaotic fluctuations in global average cloud cover. This view contradicts the scientific consensus that “most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities”.


In TCS Daily, Spencer wrote, “Twenty years ago, as a PhD scientist, I intensely studied the evolution versus intelligent design controversy for about two years. And finally, despite my previous acceptance of evolutionary theory as ‘fact,’ I came to the realization that intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism. In the scientific community, I am not alone. There are many fine books out there on the subject. Curiously, most of the books are written by scientists who lost faith in evolution as adults, after they learned how to apply the analytical tools they were taught in college.” In the book The Evolution Crisis, Spencer wrote, “I finally became convinced that the theory of creation actually had a much better scientific basis than the theory of evolution, for the creation model was actually better able to explain the physical and biological complexity in the world. […] Science has startled us with its many discoveries and advances, but it has hit a brick wall in its attempt to rid itself of the need for a creator and designer.”

Climatologist Patrick Michaels has defended Spencer, arguing that his religious beliefs have nothing to do with his climate change research.

Dr. Michaels holds a “Ph.D. in ecological climatology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison” and is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank whose agenda includes opposition to AGW. He is correct in arguing that Spencer’s religious beliefs have nothing to do with whether he is correct in his conclusions. Most likely, there are many researchers supporting AGW who are also deeply religious.

What bears on religion and science is the matter of demonstrable science as opposed to personal opinion. Spencer has published his research, some of it valid, some not so much. Base on his research and that of others he voices the opinion that AGW is without merit. It’s here the value of his opinion comes into play.

When a person says in one breath that AGW is invalid science, and in the next breath he expresses belief in a mythical person who created the universe in six days and has power over our daily lives, then you can begin to doubt his conclusions regarding AGW. My observation from many years is that if a person’s thinking is horribly screwed up in one part of his brain, it’s time to closely examine everything else he says.

The Age of Embarrassment is still upon us, and there will be more on this. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.