Friday, December 31, 2004

World's Worst Disasters

Dec. 28, 1908 — A magnitude-7.2 earthquake kills 123,000 people in the Messina-Reggio Calabria area of eastern Sicily and southernmost Italy.

Jan. 13, 1915 — An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 leaves 29,980 dead in Avezzano, Italy.

Dec. 16, 1920 — Gansu, China is hit with an earthquake reaching magnitude 8.6 that kills 200,000 people.

Sept. 1, 1923 — An temblor of 8.3 magnitude in Japan destroys one-third of Tokyo and most of Yokohama. More than 140,000 are killed.

May 22, 1927 — An earthquake reaching 7.9 magnitude hits near Xining, China and kills approximately 200,000.

Dec. 25, 1932 — Approximately 70,000 people are killed after an earthquake reaching 7.6 magnitude hits the Gansu region in China.

May 30, 1935 — A magnitude 7.5 temblor strikes Quetta, Pakistan, killing more than 30,000 people.

Jan. 24, 1939 — An earthquake of 8.3 magnitude in Chile kills roughly 28,000 people.

Dec. 27, 1939 — More than 32,000 die in the Erzincan province in eastern Turkey during a 7.9-magnitude quake.

Oct. 5, 1948 — An earthquake of 7.3 magnitude in Turkmenistan kills over 110,000 people.

Aug. 15, 1950 — Up to 30,000 are estimated to have been killed in an earthquake of 8.6 magnitude in Assam, India.

May 31, 1970 — An earthquake reaching a magnitude of 7.9 in Peru leaves over 60,000 dead.

Nov. 13, 1970 — A cyclone in the Ganges Delta of Bangladesh kills at least 300,000 people.

Feb. 4, 1976 — A series of earthquakes reaching a magnitude of 7.5 in Guatemala leave over 23,000 dead.

July 28, 1976 — The worst earthquake to hit China in 20th century with an estimated magnitude at between 7.8 and 8.2 leaves more than 240,000 dead in Tangshan.

Sept. 16, 1978 — An earthquake of 7.7 magnitude in Tabas, Iran kills 25,000 people.

Nov. 14-16, 1985 — Volcanic eruption of Nevada del Ruiz near Bogota, Colombia, kills approximately 25,000 people.

Dec. 7, 1988 — A 6.9-magnitude earthquake in Armenia kills nearly 25,000.

June 21, 1990 — An earthquake of 7.7 magnitude in northwest Iran destroys cities and villages in Caspian Sea area and kills at least 50,000 people.

Sept. 30, 1993 — As many as 10,000 are killed from an earthquake of 6.0 magnitude that struck the state of Maharashtra in India.

Aug. 17, 1999 — More than 17,000 are killed as a magnitude-7.4 quake hits western Turkey.

Dec. 26, 2003 — More than 26,000 killed after an earthquake of 6.5 magnitude strikes the ancient historic city of Bam in southeast Iran.

Dec. 26, 2004 — A 9.0 earthquake off the western coast of Indonesia's Sumatra island launches tsunami waves that slam shorelines in Asia and Africa, killing more than 135,000 people.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Iraq War Costs Fighter Jet

A sign that the war in Iraq has gone too far, the pentagon is planning cuts to the F/A-22 Raptor fighter jet program. There is no doubt that at about $256.8 million each, the F/A-22 is the most expensive fighter jet ever; there is also no doubt that it will put the United States Air Force twenty years ahead of the rest of the world in fighter jet technology. Initial estimates are for the program to potentially be scaled back to 160 aircraft from current program production of 277. Oddly enough, the pentagon actually admitted that the cost of the war in Iraq was a factor in cutting this program.

While it is easy to get caught up in defending the United States from terrorism, history has shown that major conflicts will continue to erupt between traditional enemies and even pit old allies against each other. The fighter to be replaced by the F/A-22 is the F-15, a fighter designed in the 1960’s that hasn’t seen a major update since the mid 1980’s. While the F-15 is a proven fighter, I’d much rather see US airspace protected by technology that has matured in the twenty-first century. Fighters like the Russian MiG-35 (in development) and the European EF-2000, are designed to be better than the F-15 in every way, and with the numbers that the EF-2000 are being produced, I don’t think that cutting the F/A-22 program is in the best interests of national security.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Andrew and Alex had a great Christmas. While Amy and I decided not to get the kids a bunch of toys, we went for DVD’s instead, the kids still made out good. Andrew still has a few gifts to open from Amy’s family, and my Aunt Joyce. I also need to swing by the bank and buy a couple of savings bonds with the little bit of money they kids received in cards. Anyone that reads regularly will know that I’m a big believer in savings bonds.

At the last minute I decided to buy Amy a few gifts. We were speaking on the phone Christmas Eve and she mentioned that while playing with Alex outside, it was really cold and she didn’t have a hat or gloves to keep warm. So, I went to the mall at 5:15 in the evening on Christmas Eve and bought her two hats, two scarves, and two pairs of gloves. JC Penny was out of gift boxes so I was forced to use the mall gift wrap, they did a nice job. While waiting for Amy’s gift to be wrapped, I went to Litman jewelers and looked around for an inexpensive necklace for Amy. I thought I had found the perfect thing, a pendant with her first initial, but as luck would have it, they didn’t have any A’s. So, I looked some more, and found a nice necklace with a butterfly pendant on it. Problem was, it was three times what I wanted to spend. As with all jewelry, nobody pays the real price, so, it ended up being only twice what I wanted to spend. Amy was quite surprised and seems to like her gifts.

I on the other hand, got my cordless drill. Amy was pretty sure my mom and Steve were going to get one for me, but I didn’t believe her. Sure enough, that is what I opened when we visited my mom’s house on Christmas morning. I have wanted one of those for a while. My mother also gave Amy the 7th heaven first season on DVD. One of the DVD box sets she wanted. My mother liked the book we got for her, Robin liked, and has already used the set of wine glasses that Amy and I picked out for her and Kirs. Steve seemed to like the flannel shirt we gave him, and my grandmother was a little confused over the big box of splenda until we told her that it was artificial sweetener. Alex and Aaron really enjoyed Aaron’s gift of toy trucks, airplanes, and motorcycles.

We dropped Andrew off at his mother’s house at noon and made our way up to Amy’s mother’s house where we opened a few more presents and ate dinner. Amy got several Friends box sets, seasons two, three, and six. She already has season on, and given the gap, is expecting four and five from her grandparents. Amy really likes Friends. Amy’s mother seemed excited about her satin hands Mary Kay product and Brian was pretty excited about his cook book. My last minute Sheetz gift cards seemed to be a good idea too. After dinner, Alex’s paternal grandparents picked him up for the rest of the weekend.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Firefox Security

I came across this MSDN Blog:

  • Installing Firefox requires downloading an unsigned binary from a random web server
  • Installing unsigned extensions is the default action in the Extensions dialog
  • There is no way to check the signature on downloaded program files
  • There is no obvious way to turn off plug-ins once they are installed
  • There is an easy way to bypass the "This might be a virus" dialog

It makes a good point about the differences in how Microsoft implements security differently than Firefox.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A visit from the Sheriff

Ok, so it was a deputy sheriff, but to the point. Amy and I were sleeping and are awakened by knocking on our front door. I heard the sound but didn’t register what it was when Amy woke me further by saying “someone is knocking on the door”. So, I went to Andy’s room to look down from his window to see who might be at the door. To my surprise, and somewhat of relief, it was a Frederick County Sheriff’s Deputy. It turns out that Alex’s father called and indicated that Amy had threatened to hurt Alex in some way. I asked the deputy if he wanted to go upstairs to check on Alex but he declined. Amy arrived at the door soon after to offer further explanation. After further discussion with the deputy, it was clear that the deputy knew that Alex’s father was just trying to stir up some trouble, but they have to check these things out.

About two hours earlier, Alex’s father had called the house to make demands for his visitation while he is in jail. Oh yes, he has violated his probation, not the first time, and is expecting to be locked up after his court date on December 20. He has this plan, to be out on work release every other weekend instead of working, will spend that time with Alex. For one, that sounds illegal to me, if not just a bad idea. We fully plan to provide appropriate visitation to Alex’s paternal grandparents, most likely one weekend per month and their birthdays. A full weekend per month is a lot more than Alex’s other grandparents get to spend with him. Also, during that time, if Alex’s grandparents wish to take Alex to see his father, legally, that is fine also. Interestingly enough, the only person we have heard from is Alex’s father, not his paternal grandparents, at this stage, they do not seem interested, or perhaps they do not know what is going on.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Google Desktop Search Vs Lookout

I have thousands of files and e-mails that contain information that I might need someday, while before I could use the search feature built into Windows and Outlook separately, they were fairly limited and really slow. If the traditional search methods couldn’t find it, I would just have to look manually. I’m not alone, and there is a clear need for some sort of indexed searching system on the desktop. Two products on the market are designed to do just that, Google’s Desktop Search, and Microsoft’s Lookout.

Google Desktop Search is out in Beta and I have been using it at home for quite a while. It has become a valuable tool for personal use. While I mostly use it to find old E-mails that are in Outlook, its complete desktop index has been helpful as well. It is extremely fast and uses very little system resources to maintain the index. Another good thing about Google is that when I do a Google search on a topic, it also gives me desktop results. Google indexes almost everything, temporary internet files, Microsoft Office and PDF files, AIM conversations, and of course, Outlook e-mail messages. Google Desktop Search is missing one thing, integration with Gmail. Since I use Gmail in the web interface only, my desktop searches don’t always produce results.

Lookout, from Microsoft is centered on Microsoft Outlook; however, it has the ability to index Microsoft Office documents and PDF files. What I really like about lookout is that it puts the search bar right into the Outlook interface, and it has a very Outlook like look and feel. I liked how it asks you during setup where to place the index, since at my office I have a limit of 25 megabytes on my Windows profile, that actually matters to me since the index is already 15 megabytes. The Microsoft Product seems a little slower than its Google competitor, but not by much. The ability to index public folders for Outlook clients connected to Microsoft Exchange is nice. Many organizations have large public folder hierarchies that are difficult to navigate and locate that one piece of information you are looking for.

Google Desktop Search is the better product, in my opinion. It is faster and can index much more information than Lookout. Google’s product is better users who are a little more computer savvy than average, although it doesn’t take a full blown IT geek to understand it. It is probably ideal for anyone that already uses Google’s website for searching. Microsoft’s product seems to fit better in an office environment, where end users vary widely in their computer skills. Since it integrates with Outlook and has the same look and feel, those who use Microsoft Office and Outlook would have a very small learning curve with Lookout. I will continue to use both for now, Lookout at the office, and Google Desktop Search at home.

Financial News of the Day

Not really. Just happened to notice on a couple of one dollar bills that I have in my wallet that the ink on the back side has bled through to the front side, it is quite noticeable, especially part of the O and E from the ONE on the back side can be seen on either side of Washington’s portrait. Since it is signed by John W Snow, I’m sure he approves of such sloppy work. In other financial news, I received a Wisconsin quarter as change today, guess what is on it, cheese, oh, and a cow, and corn. Fitting, don’t you think, although, a portrait of Brett Favre would have worked too.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Christmas Shopping Done

Amy and I went shopping on Friday night and Saturday. Can’t say too much about what we bought because our normal readers are on the gift list. The kids, however, don’t get on the internet so, we can say what we got them. We were trying to avoid buying toys, so, the kids got some DVDs, while the gifts are really for both of them, we wrapped Garfield and Alice in Wonderland for Alex, and the Shrek Collection for Andrew. We didn’t think that was quite enough, so Alex also got a musical Wiggles dancing pad and we got Andy a rugby stripped sweater with matching hat and gloves.

Top Secret Satellite

I was reading up on some space news and read about the launch a huge “test” payload into geosynchronous orbit.

Although it has no on-orbit functions, the DemoSat payload will then be carried into geosynchronous orbit and cast off about 5.8 hours after launch.

Since you can’t very well hide the launch of a rocket that large, just say that it is a test payload. The rocket (Delta 4 Heavy) itself is pretty cool, with a huge first stage and two giant boosters. I wish I could make a model of one of those.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Firefox Update

My original Firefox review:

In that review I indicated that I could not use Firefox at work because it forced the temporary internet cache into your user profile. My company is configured with roaming profiles and there is a twenty-five megabyte quota. Well, there is a solution to that problem:

To specify in which folder the cache is stored, add the following code to your perfs.js file:

// Path to Cache folder:
user_pref("browser.cache.disk.parent_directory","C:\\Path To Cache");

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Outlook 2003 Spam Filter

In the last two weeks, the outlook spam filter on my desktop has caught 50 spam messages with 0 spam messaging making it to my inbox and 0 false positives. I had one false positive when I originally set it up, a message from, I simply added it to my white list. I have it set on Low: Move the most obvious junk e-mail to the Junk E-mail folder. I have also added to my safe senders list, they send me E2K3 test questions with lots of link advertisements that got caught as spam.

It as been a pretty good experience overall. Outlook's spam filter is a scaled down version of the algorithms used in IMF. Hmm, 50 spam messages in two weeks, that is a little more than I thought I received, but with the Junk E-mail folder, you really don't notice it all that much. If only we didn't have to use roaming profiles.

My employer's e-mails were most likely classified as spam because of something peculiar in the header, several different from addresses with a different reply to address.

Received: (from mail@localhost)
by (8.11.6/8.9.3) id iAN07ZB23468;
Mon, 22 Nov 2004 19:07:35 -0500
Received: from (IDENT:root@ms02 [])
by (8.11.6/8.9.3) with ESMTP id iAMNk9X03118
for Mon, 22 Nov 2004 18:46:09 -0500

Monday, December 06, 2004

Top 4 Presidents of the 20th Century, According to Me

1. Ronald Reagan
The fortieth President of the United States led the nation to victory in the cold war. While the cold war didn’t officially end until Reagan left office, his foreign policy for the preceding eight years made it happen. Mr. Reagan also shaped the economy for the twenty-first century, bringing the economy out of the recession late 1970’s and early 1980’s during which the ranks of the middle class soared. Reagan’s biggest issue was ballooning deficits, but a debt well justified to prevent nuclear annihilation and a generation speaking Russian.

2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
The inspiration for this entry was a thread on the Frederick News Post forum. Somebody decided to knock FDR so I wrote: I think FDR had a lot to do with bringing the country out of the depression. Not that another president could not have done it, but the country was in a lot of trouble in 1933 when he took office. The economy had collapsed and there was a 25% unemployment rate. Roosevelt and the congress at the time basically invented the modern US economy. Lets not forget about that World War II thing either, Roosevelt was a fine President.

3. John F. Kennedy
JFK is another cold war hero. In October, 1962, Kennedy showed the world that the United Stats was not to be messed with. The Kennedy response to the Cuban crisis evidently persuaded Moscow of the futility of nuclear blackmail. There is also the moon speech, I don’t think man would have walked on the moon to this day without it. Yes John F. Kennedy was a great President indeed.

4. George H. W. Bush
Bush forty-one got a raw deal, eventually; taxes would have to increase to pay for cold war era spending. A small price to pay in the end, but Bush’s tax increase eroded support from his core constituently. Standing up to Saddam Hussein was a key moment in George H. W. Bush’s presidency, if the United States hadn’t intervened, Iraq would currently occupy Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and Saddam Hussein would control much of the world’s oil supply, while spending the profits on his nuclear ambitions. We can credit Bush for putting an end to that.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Mystery Credits Won

I wanted to get a screen shot the last time I did this but clicked away in excitement before I got the chance. I won 100 mystery credits.

That is something you don't see every day. Here is a hint for those on blog explosion, both times I won 100 credits, it was by clicking on banners.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Smores for Snack

Andrew didn’t have much of a dinner tonight because he was out with his mother waiting to get a prescription filled for his ear infection. I wanted to give him a snack before bed, and was looking in the cabinet for something to give him when I happened to see our bag of Hershey’s mini candy bars and the bag of mini marshmallows at the same time. I knew we had gram crackers in the pantry so I went down to grab them. I heated up the oven, put the chocolate on the gram crackers, and then put the marshmallows on top. I popped it in the oven for fifteen minutes, and out came some pretty tasty smores. The kids sure enjoyed them, along with some milk. Alex wasn’t too thrilled about the teeth brushing afterwards though, he also had to skip his standard take to bed juice because he just had a cup of milk, he wasn’t happy about that either. Andrew went to bed without a problem, he is wearing the PJ’s that Robin bought him for his birthday, they were in my mom’s closet for a while, and she just gave them to me two weeks ago.

Finally The OWA Servers are Finished

I’ve been working to deploy the new Outlook Web Access servers at work. I am the messaging architect at my company and my focus is supposed to be just the messaging portion of the install while others configure the Active Directory, server hardware & operating system, the network and firewall components needed, and even the SSL certificate from Verisign. The project started off on the wrong foot due to a delay in ordering the server hardware. That wasn’t so bad, but it took more than two weeks for the servers to be physically installed, connected to the network, and have the operating system installed. It was only four servers, why two weeks, I don’t know, it should take about a day or two. Now, you would think that an experienced web administrator would know how to get a SSL certificate installed, well, they were installed, but failed to work properly the first time. The problem was, that web administrator went on vacation right after and he was the only one with access to Verisign to manage certificates. After the web administrator returned from vacation, it was still nearly a week before the SSL certificates were installed properly. Our network group nearly came through for us, they configured the load balancer with a virtual IP for the four servers, and a DNS entry. The only thing that was missed on that end was the configuration of port 80 on the load balancer, they only passed 443. While we will require SSL, we still want port 80 so that if you type it without the https, the 403.4 error page will redirect to https://. I was albe to make a little progress while some of the things were being configured, but the bulk of the complicated stuff required the SSL certificates, which were only completed today. Needless to say, I worked my butt off to get it done today. Worked out pretty well, however, we need to do a bit more testing, hold a two week pilot for the end user community, and of course fix anything that we might find wrong during testing or pilot. Oh yeah, did I mention the deadline was December 31, 2004?