FEDERAL BYTES

NOAA Goes H'wood

What do Hollywood and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have in common? Well, tornadoes, for one thing.

The premise of the hit movie "Twister" is based on a program undertaken by NOAA's Severe Storms Lab in the mid-1980s. The lab rigged a 55-gallon drum with instruments and sensors and nicknamed it "Toto" (it's called "Dorothy" in the movie), secured it to the back of a pickup truck and drove it into the path of a tornado to measure what goes on inside a twister. Although the lab got a reading from the experiment, the project was canned because of the possibility of Toto landing on someone's house a few miles down the road.

Now NOAA relies on many components to study and predict tornadoes, including the next-generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites and new dual-polar Doppler radars.

Performance Panic

New procurement policies that emphasize vendor past performance apparently have companies spinning theories that the government has been keeping secret files on them.

During a recent speech by Office of Federal Procurement Policy honcho Steven Kelman, a vendor asked if it was true that there is a database on past performance somewhere "in Indiana."

"The Indiana repository is located next to the hangar where all the black helicopters are kept," Kelman cracked in reply, jabbing at a favorite right-wing conspiracy theory that the U.N. is scheming to take over the country.

But maybe Kelman wouldn't laugh if he could read the code generated by the flickering on his computer monitor.

Just kidding. Really.

Java Jive

If your name has the letters J-A-V-A in it, hang on to your hat. Sun Microsystems Inc. is investigating the ownership of the word "Java."

An unsuspecting company called JAVANCO received a letter from Sun's lawyers asking it to "promptly change its name from JAVANCO to a name that does not include any JAVA trademark."

Rick Kendall of JAVANCO described the letter as "a little much. We were here a long time before they were. I told them I would be glad to relinquish my name for a fee of 500,000 dollars," he said. Sun apparently hasn't taken him up on his offer.

A Sun lawyer called last week to say the company is "not investigating ownership [of the Java name]; we own it."

Advice for Technophobes

Evidently the technically enabled at the Defense Department are losing patience with some of their colleagues.

At a recent DOD conference, nearly every speaker provided a World Wide Web address where audience members could get more information on the topic at hand. Most speakers also provided a phone number.

One speaker, after providing the requisite Internet address, stumbled. "And for those of you who don't have Internet access" - a long pause - "buy a computer and get into the 20th century."

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