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The State of the Clean Air in America

Contributed by Alex Shrugged

Little by little a good idea is turned into something oppressive and wrong, but right now, cleaning up the air is a good idea. Non-smoking sections are provided in restaurants, but smoking is still allowed in bars except in San Louis Obispo, but who goes there to drink? Smoking is completely banned on cross-country flights since the common air system makes a non-smoking section a joke. Laws in California have long since placed controls on automobile emissions, and it has made a big difference. California has also instituted a Zero Emissions Vehicle initiative that requires 2% of all vehicles sold to produce no emissions at all. (OK, Fine. The car manufacturers can produce Zero Emission Vehicles, but the batteries must be replaced in a year and a half, so who is going to buy them?)[1] And now the Federal government has expanded the Clean Air Act to address acid rain and disease-causing pollutants. The government summary of this law is vague, but they will fine polluters, run a pollution-credit-trading market, and require a radical reduction in pollution from manufacturers. In problem areas like Los Angeles, trash-burning in home incinerators is outlawed. This is all for the good, but we know it won't stop there. [2] [3] [4] [5]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
As a child I lived in the Los Angeles area. The smog was thick and acidic. When I would come home from elementary school I would lay down. My lungs were burning. My eyes were red. It would take about a half hour to recover. This was normal. The smog is trapped up next to the mountains, and builds up until the rain washes it away. Since the LA area is a desert, rain is an infrequent event. Something had to be done, and many of the initial measures seemed to help, but as the requirements have become more onerous, mechanical devices to reduce smog are not as efficient as computer modifications to the engine. The computer modifications must be helping because I notice the air is better, but I also know that computers can be programmed to realize when an emissions check is being run. They can automatically tweak the engine parameters to produce the best results for the test, and then reset the parameters for the best driving. When your graphics card does this, it is called slick marketing strategy. When your car does it, it is called LYING! VW was recently fined for doing this, but they are not the only ones. They are simply the ones who were caught.

Pale Blue Dot

Contributed by Southpaw Ben

Less than a pixel. Among bands of sunlight, one can just barely make out a tiny dot against the black, streaked backdrop. This is the last picture of Earth taken by the Voyager 1 space probe, done at the behest of famed astronomer and author, Carl Sagan. Taken on February 14th, they were transmitted to Earth between March and May. Carl Sagan was quoted as saying about the picture "every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives" on that dot. [6]

My Take by Southpaw Ben
This is a picture to look at and think about when your life is crazy and nothing seems to be going right, and you're completely overwhelmed with life. It helps put everything in perspective. You are but a minuscule piece of dust on a piece of dust in the grand scheme of things. But at the same time, you also should be working to make this dot better. Like Jack always says, make that dash matter. While this dot seems to be almost nothing, at the same time it is everything.

The Secret Service Crackdown on Internet Crime

Contributed by Alex Shrugged

The first page of the World Wide Web is written this year, so why is the Secret Service breaking down the doors of Steve Jackson Games in Austin, Texas? This is a BOARD GAME company! It does role-playing games... you know... with dice.... on a tabletop. But in the raid, the Secret Service finds a hacker's guide as part of the board game GURPS Cyberpunk. It is not a real hacker's guide just as "the martian" from My Favorite Martian is not really from Mars. Raids across several cities result in the confiscation of computers, the take down of computer bulletin boards (an early form of text talk forum) and several arrests. The Secret Service suspects an employee of Steve Jackson Games of using his personal computer to steal credit card numbers. (He wrote the fictional hacker's guide for the board game, but that is not sufficient reason to raid the business where he works.) THREE YEARS LATER after a lot of shouting and hand-waving, the court will reprimand the Secret Service for sloppy work on their warrants. ("LYING" is such an ugly word. How about OUT OF THEIR MINDS?) Steve Jackson Games will be awarded $50,000 in damages and $250,000 in attorney fees. That's over half a million in 2015 dollars. It takes a lot of money for innocent people to stay out of prison these days. [7] [8] [9] [10]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Steve Jackson Games was also accused of trying to bring down the 9-11 phone system. The media seemed to be throwing anything they could at the company, and the 9-1-1 system had recently gone down due to a software bug in the AT&T system. I suppose blaming hackers was easier than blaming themselves. For a better idea of what the Internet was like in those early days, (and it was nothing like it is today) I suggest reading the excellent book, "The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Espionage" by Clifford Stoll published in 1989. Those were real spies that Cliff was tracking, but Cliff had a difficult time finding a government agency to take responsibility when he found that spies had totally penetrated the Mitre Corporation. In any case, Steve Jackson Games is still in business and has a good following.[11] [12] [13]

Notable Births

  • Emma Watson: (Hermione in the Harry Potter series) [14]
  • Kristen Stewart: (Bella in Twilight) [15]
  • Jennifer Lawrence: (Katnis in Hunger Games and the only person born in the 1990s to win an Academy Award for acting) [16]

This Year in Film

  • Ghost : (Some of the sexiest pottery-making I've ever seen. Also Whoppie Goldberg is not very convincing, but everyone else is.--alexshrugged). [17]
  • Home Alone: Macaulay Culkin plays a bratty kid left home alone at Xmas time. (Initially I didn't like this film but it grew on me... like a fungus.--alexshrugged). [17]
  • Total Recall : Motion capture is first used with CGI. (That's when an actor is filmed with those bright yellow dots, so that the computer can match up the computer graphics with the actor's motions.) [17]
  • And...: Pretty Woman, Edward Scissorhands, Kindergarten Cop, and The Hunt for Red October. [17]

This Year in TV

  • Nightline airs Madonna's controversial music video "Justify My Love: (Musically, it is not very interesting. Visually, it approaches soft porn, and not very interesting.--alexshrugged). [18]
  • Law & Order: Thus begin the spinoffs such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Law & Order: Criminal Intent... (And my personal favorite: Law & Order: Suicide by TV.--alexshrugged) [18]
  • Beverly Hills, 90210: (Rated the best show of all time by AOL TV which is probably why AOL TV no longer exists.--alexshrugged)
  • -- In Comedy: Northern Exposure, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air starring a young Will Smith. [18]

This Year in Music

This Year in Video Games

  • Let the Nintendo World Championships begin!: It begins in Dallas, Texas and goes on a 29 city tour of the USA. The custom game cartridge used then is considered the most valuable today for the Nintendo. [20]
  • Final Fantasy is released: This begins a long series of role-playing games. [20]
  • Super Mario World is released: Introducing the Yoshi character. [20]

In Other News

  • Iraq invades Kuwait: This will lead to the Gulf War early next year. [21]
  • Boris Yeltsin becomes president of the new Russian Federation: In the midst of a gentle transition to a market economy, the old guard tried to regain control in a coup, and the whole Soviet Union came crashing down when the Army refused to go along with the coup. [21]
  • The destruction of the Berlin Wall begins... officially, that is: German reunification is near. [22] [21]

Natural Disasters

  • 88 confirmed tornadoes sweep through Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, killing 12: 37 tornadoes hit Indiana alone. [21]
  • An F5 tornado hits Plainfield, Illinois, killing 29 people: That is the Chicago metropolitan area. [21]
  • A 7.4 magnitude earthquake in Iran kills 35,000–50,000: It also injures 60,000–105,000. [21]
  • A 7.7 magnitude earthquake in the Philippines kills 1,600: See the Luzon earthquake. [21]


  • The first T1 fiber optic connection is made between CERN and Cornell University: This allows faster Internet connections between North America and Europe. [23] [21]
  • Microsoft releases Windows 3.0: Wait for 3.1. Despite it's flaws Microsoft has captured the majority of the market. [21]
  • The Hubble Space Telescope is launched: Operating tests will reveal a flawed mirror. It will require a space walk to make repairs.[24] [21]
  • The first portable digital camera is sold in the USA: (Documented, that is.) Dycam Model 1 has a 376 x 240 pixel resolution and a retail price of $895. You must keep the batteries charged or you will lose all your pictures. No display. The camera beeps at you. (Without a manual you are hosed.--alexshrugged) [25] [26] [27]
  • 9-1-1 emergency service goes down for 9 hours: The AT&T software bug affects Atlanta, St. Louis, and Detroit. [21]

The USSR Is Going Bye-bye

  • Soviet President Gorbachev proposes a restructuring of the Soviet government: . [21]
  • Gorbachev is granted special powers to transition the USSR to a market economy. [21]
  • Gorbachev wins the Nobel Peace Prize lessening international tensions and reforming the Soviet Union: . [21]
  • Poland withdraws from the Warsaw Pact: . [21]
  • East and West Germany agree reunification and a merge of their economies: . [21]

Gulf War

  • President Bush orders U.S. combat forces to Saudi Arabia: It seems likely Iraq will attempt to invade Saudi Arabia next. [21]
  • The UN Security Council authorizes the use of force: See United Nations Security Council Resolution 678: (I'm not sure why the USA should care what the UN thinks of anything.--alexshrugged) . [21]

Other US Invasions

  • Nicaragua Daniel Ortega announces a cease-fire with the US-backed Contras: . [21]

Everything Else

  • A UK Poll Tax triggers a riot: 471 are injured. 341 are arrested. See Poll Tax Riots. [21]
  • Nelson Mandela is released from prison in South Africa: 27 years behind bars. (He is the only communist I respect.--alexshrugged) [21]
  • Joanne Rowling gets the idea for the Harry Potter novels: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone will be published in 1997. [28] [21]
  • The anti-Palestinian Rabbi Meir Kahane is shot dead at a New York City hotel: (The assassin is caught and if his notes had been translated from the Arabic they would have led to the PLOT TO BLOW UP THE WORLD TRADE CENTER IN 1993!--alexshrugged). [21] [29]
  • Jean-Bertrand Aristide is elected President of Haiti: This ends 3 decades of a military dictatorship. [21]
  • Smoking is banned on all cross-country US flights: . [30] [21]
  • Smoking in bars is banned in San Luis Obispo, California: This the first of many such bans. [31] [21]
  • An expanded Americans with Disabilities Act is signed into law: It is supposed to protect disabled Americans from discrimination. [21]
  • The Clean Air Act is signed into law: It focuses on urban pollution. [21]
  • Exxon is indicted on 5 criminal charges for the Valdez oil spill: Captain Joseph Hazelwood is accused of negligence. [21]
  • Reporter Lisa Olson is sexually harassed when entering the New England Patriots locker room: (Apparently, violent, wet men in towels tend to be less than gentlemen in locker-rooms.--alexshrugged) [21]
  • Smith & Wesson introduces the .40 S&W cartridge: . [21]
  • Robert Mapplethorpe's homoerotic photo art is declared indecent: (The photos are well done, but the subject matter would be considered indecent if women were placed in the same... uh... position.--alexshrugged) [21]
  • Junk bond financier Michael Milken pleads guilty to fraud: He gets 10 years. (FYI, Alex Shrugged as a tenuous relationship with Milken, meaning I know someone who knows him.--alexshrugged) [21]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1990, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Alex Shrugged notes: The original Chevy Volt was a very good electric car, but its batteries lost their ability to recharge after a short time, and had to be replaced. It was so expensive, it wasn't worth buying it.
  2. EPA Administrator Reilly Hails Signing of New Clean Air Act - (press release) - US EPA. archive.epa.gov (OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT SITE) (2016). Retrieved on 24 April 2017. “These sorely needed benefits will, of course, not be achieved for free. Significant costs are involved, and these costs highlight the importance of the innovative, market-based features the President proposed, and which the Congress accepted in the final bill signed today. These features assure that the bill's benefits will be achieved at the lowest possible cost to the nation. They include the acid rain allowance trading program, which fosters least-cost pollution reductions; the clean-fuel credit trading and emissions trading programs, which allow refiners and automakers to meet requirements at least cost; fees on smog-causing emissions which promote efficiency and pollution prevention; and incentives for early reductions which will accelerate the achievement of environmental benefits. It was the attractiveness of these innovative features that helped the President break the clean air logjam, and it is these features that will allow us to achieve the environmental goals of this bill in a way the country can live with economically.”
  3. 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment Summary - Overview of the Clean Air Act and Air Pollution - US EPA. epa.gov (OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT SITE) (1990). Retrieved on 24 April 2017. “Specifically the new law: encourages the use of market-based principles and other innovative approaches, like performance-based standards and emission banking and trading; provides a framework from which alternative clean fuels will be used by setting standards in the fleet and California pilot program that can be met by the most cost-effective combination of fuels and technology; promotes the use of clean low sulfur coal and natural gas, as well as innovative technologies to clean high sulfur coal through the acid rain program; reduces enough energy waste and creates enough of a market for clean fuels derived from grain and natural gas to cut dependency on oil imports by one million barrels/day; promotes energy conservation through an acid rain program that gives utilities flexibility to obtain needed emission reductions through programs that encourage customers to conserve energy.”
  4. Summary of the Clean Air Act - Laws & Regulations - US EPA. epa.gov (OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT SITE) (2017). Retrieved on 24 April 2017. “Section 112 of the Clean Air Act addresses emissions of hazardous air pollutants. Prior to 1990, CAA established a risk-based program under which only a few standards were developed. The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments revised Section 112 to first require issuance of technology-based standards for major sources and certain area sources. 'Major sources' are defined as a stationary source or group of stationary sources that emit or have the potential to emit 10 tons per year or more of a hazardous air pollutant or 25 tons per year or more of a combination of hazardous air pollutants. An 'area source' is any stationary source that is not a major source.”
  5. Zero-Emission Vehicle Legal and Regulatory Activities. California Air Resources Board (OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT SITE) (2017). Retrieved on 24 April 2017. “1990 California embarked on a plan to reduce vehicle emissions to zero through the introduction of the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Program. At that time, the Board required that in 1998, 2% of the vehicles that large manufacturers produced for sale in California had to be ZEVs, increasing to 5% in 2001 and 10% in 2003.”
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blue_Dot
  7. EFF: Legal Cases. w2.eff.org (8 October 1994). Retrieved on 24 April 2017. “When announcing the news of Operation Sundevil, Secret Service spokespersons lauded its scope--150 USSS agents in addition to local law enforcement support, 13 cities, 28 search warrants, 23,000 seized computer disks--they had no reason to suspect that their then-perceived 'success' would quickly turn into a major embarrassment of comic proportions (see CuD 1.09 for Sundevil news). A few eventual arrests--some of which were not Sundevil dependant--were the only demonstrable outcome. Even these were tarnished by USSS and others' hyperbole and similar excesses: The ludicrous claim that this 'group' was responsible for what one newspaper reported as 'up to $50 million' in fraud costs, the questionable use of an informant, the seemingly indiscriminate manner in which equipment was seized, the lack of subsequent information to convince a skeptical community that the raids' excesses were warranted--soon had Sundevil operatives on the defensive. Some of those responsible for Sundevil, such as USDA Bill Cook and USSS special agent Tim Foley, were successfully sued in civil court for their excesses in raiding Steve Jackson Games a few months earlier. One high-profile state prosecutor closely associated with Sundevil often cautioned critics to 'wait until all the facts come out,' presumably because the operation and those who planned it would be vindicated.”
  8. Loyd Blankenship - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 24 April 2017. “Blankenship was hired by Steve Jackson Games in 1989. He authored the cyberpunk role-playing sourcebook GURPS Cyberpunk, the manuscript of which was seized in a 1990 raid of Steve Jackson Games headquarters by the U.S. Secret Service. The raid resulted in the subsequent legal case Steve Jackson Games, Inc. v. United States Secret Service.”
  9. Steve Jackson Games, Inc. v. United States Secret Service - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 24 April 2017. “The case came to trial in 1993. Steve Jackson Games (SJGames) was represented by the Austin firm of George, Donaldson & Ford. The lead counsel was Pete Kennedy. SJGames won two out of the three counts and was awarded $50,000 in damages and $250,000 in attorney's fees. The third count dealing with interception of e-mail was overturned in October 1994 by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The judge also reprimanded the Secret Service, calling their warrant preparation 'sloppy', suggesting that they needed 'better education' regarding relevant statutes, and finding that they had no basis to suspect SJGames of any wrongdoing.”
  10. My Favorite Martian - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 24 April 2017. “The show starred Ray Walston as Uncle Martin (the Martian) and Bill Bixby as Tim O'Hara.”
  11. THE TOP TEN MEDIA ERRORS ABOUT THE SJ GAMES RAID. sjgames.com (October 12, 1994). Retrieved on 24 April 2017. “3. There was a hacker threat to sabotage the 911 system. No there wasn't. This story has been cynically spread by phone company employees (who know better) and by Secret Service spokesmen (who probably believe it, because they still don't understand any of this). They're using this story to panic the media, to try to justify the illegal things they've done and the huge amount of money they've spent. What happened was this: A student got access to a phone company computer and copied a text file - not a program. This file was nothing but administrative information, and was publicly available elsewhere. Bell South tried to value it at $79,000, but in court they admitted that they sold copies for under $20. There was no way this file could be used to hurt the 911 system, even if anybody had wanted to. To say otherwise shows an incredible ignorance of the facts. It's as though a banker claimed 'This criminal made an illegal copy of the list of our Board of Directors. He can use that to break into our vault.'”
  12. Mitre Corporation - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 24 April 2017. “During the 1980s, the German hacker Markus Hess used an unsecured Mitre Tymnet connection as an entry point for intrusions into U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and NASA computer networks.”
  13. Stoll, Clifford. Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy through the Maze of Computer Espionage, The. Doubleday. ISBN 0385249462. 
  14. Emma Watson - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 13 April 2017. “Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson (born 15 April 1990) is a British actress, model, and activist. Born in Paris and brought up in Oxfordshire, Watson attended the Dragon School and trained as an actress at the Oxford branch of Stagecoach Theatre Arts. She rose to prominence after landing her first professional acting role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series, having acted only in school plays previously. Watson appeared in all eight Harry Potter films from 2001 to 2011, earning worldwide fame, critical accolades, and around $60 million.”
  15. Kristen Stewart - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 13 April 2017. “She received widespread recognition in 2008 for playing Bella Swan in The Twilight Saga film series (2008–12), which grossed over $3.3 billion worldwide.”
  16. Jennifer Lawrence - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 13 April 2017. “Lawrence's fame continued to grow with her starring role as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games film series (2012–2015), which established her as the highest-grossing action heroine of all time.”
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 1990 in film - Wikipedia (1990). Retrieved on 27 January 2017.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 1990 in television - Wikipedia (1990).
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 1990 in music - Wikipedia (1990). Retrieved on 30 January 2017.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 1990 in music - Wikipedia (1990).
  21. 21.00 21.01 21.02 21.03 21.04 21.05 21.06 21.07 21.08 21.09 21.10 21.11 21.12 21.13 21.14 21.15 21.16 21.17 21.18 21.19 21.20 21.21 21.22 21.23 21.24 21.25 21.26 21.27 21.28 21.29 21.30 21.31 21.32 1990 - Wikipedia.
  22. Ãrla Ryan. In Photos: 25 years ago today the Berlin Wall fell. TheJournal.ie.
  23. U-M Computing News.
  24. STS-31. Mission Archives. NASA (2006-10-14). Retrieved on 2013-01-17.
  25. Digital cameras, the next wave. (Electronic Imaging Issue; includes related articles) - HighBeam Business: Arrive Prepared. Photo District News (June 1, 1991). Retrieved on 21 April 2017. “Another kind of digital camera relies on the unit's internal memory chips to capture and store low-resolution 'gray scale' black-and-white pictures. Dycam of Chatsworth, California, shipped the first of these, its Model 1, last November. Positioned as an 'image capture peripheral,' it creates electronic photographs for use in popular computer graphics, word processing and desktop publishing software. These pictures are low resolution, but the Model 1 is highly affordable--under $1,000--and it stores up to 32 images on internal RAM chips.”
  26. History of the camera - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 21 April 2017. “The first commercially available portable digital camera in the United States was the Dycam Model 1, first shipped in November 1990.”
  27. History of the digital camera and digital imaging. Digital Camera Museum (2017). Retrieved on 21 April 2017. “Announced as a pocket-size-camera it would take pictures of 376x240 pixel resolution and stored them in it's 1MB flash memory. People nowadays often complain about low resolution of old digital cameras, how grainy and tiny the picture was.”
  28. The Harry Potter Timeline. The-Leaky-Cauldron (2007-12-02).
  29. 1993 World Trade Center bombing - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 23 April 2017. “El Sayyid Nosair, one of the blind sheikh's men, was arrested in 1991 for the murder of Rabbi Meir Kahane. According to prosecutors, 'the Red' Mahmud Abouhalima, also convicted in the bombing, told Wadih el Hage to buy the .357 caliber revolver used by Nosair in the Kahane shooting. In the initial court case in NYS Criminal Court Nosair was acquitted of murder but convicted of gun charges (in a related and follow-up case in Federal Court, he was convicted). Dozens of Arabic bomb-making manuals and documents related to terrorist plots were found in Nosair's New Jersey apartment, with manuals from Army Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, secret memos linked to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and 1,440 rounds of ammunition. (Lance 2004 26)”
  30. Case Against Smoker on Airline Ends in Mistrial. Los Angeles Times.
  31. Eugene Register-Guard – Google News Archive Search. google.com.

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