Joel Watts: Not a Time Lord

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by Tim Widowfield

[I edited this post on Friday, July 5. See the Addendum at the bottom of the page.  –taw]

Well, it was fun while it lasted. I was really rooting for the Time-Lord option for Joel, but Samphire has proved, to my satisfaction at least, that Joel did not jump into his TARDIS and return to Wednesday, June 26.

It’s about time

First, let me explain to the Windows users out there how the Macintosh Menu Bar and Dock behave. In Microsoft Windows, each application has its own menu bar. That is, each window usually has its own bar that contains the standard menu items:  File, Edit, View . . . Help. Nonstandard apps like Chrome may break that convention.  Each software vendor has the ability to change these user interface characteristics. It’s a free-for-all. Or perhaps a “mess” is a better description.

It isn’t like that on the Mac. The menu bar “belongs” to the operating system. So when each application (e.g., Firefox, Finder, Microsoft Word, etc.) comes to the foreground, its “File-Edit-etc.” menu is anchored to the same place. Apple touts this behavior as a convention that enhances ease of use.

The Dock on the Macintosh is similar to the Windows Taskbar, but with key differences — one of which is the way minimized windows zoom down to the Dock. They remain in a minimized state, visible as a small icon. As with the Windows Taskbar, you can move the Dock to either the side of the desktop, but I think most users keep it on the bottom of the screen.

Date & Time Preference Panel
Screenshot 1: Date & Time Preference Panel on My MacBook

“Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman

One feature the latest versions of Windows and OS X have in common is the ability to synchronize time with a trusted network host. In the old days, we used to synchronize our servers with “tick” and “tock”: two Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers run by the U.S. Navy. But nowadays, most people in America either use the NTP servers run by NIST or the vendor-operated NTP servers like time.windows.com or time.apple.com.

And that brings us back to the question of time. As you can see from the screenshot of my Macintosh (see Screenshot 1), which shows the Date & Time Preference Panel, I’m letting Apple’s time server act as the trusted date and time reference for my system. You can see that the main application running in the foreground is System Preferences. If I minimize the Date & Time window, it’ll get sucked down into the Dock.

Screenshot 1: Minimized Date & Time Preference Panel
Screenshot 2: Minimized Date & Time Preference Panel

The System Preferences application is still considered to be “in the foreground.” (Incidentally, that’s why we still see the words “System Preferences” next to the Apple icon in Joel’s desktop screen capture.) However, the Date & Time panel is tucked away until I need it again.

In Screenshot 2, you can see that the minimized icon for the Date & Time Preference Panel is actually a snapshot of exactly what it looked like before I minimized it. And you can tell that it belongs to the System Preferences application, because of the tiny “gears” image pasted in the icon’s lower right-hand corner.

So now that we have all that background knowledge out of the way, let’s take a look at the new evidence that Samphire has just now brought to light.

Watts up, Dock?

Samphire wrote:

I went to Watt’s own full screenshot displayed on his webpage and found that down at the bottom right of his screenshot the minimised icon of the Date & Time icon could be seen (it’s pretty distinctive even when minimised) sitting on the Dock.

Let’s take a closer look for ourselves.  Here’s Joel’s desktop image again — cropped and enlarged:

Joel's Desktop: Lower Right
Exhibit A:  Joel’s Desktop, Enlarged. Check Out the Icon Next to the Trash

The icon in question is the one just to the left of the trash icon and to the right of a minimized Outlook email message window (see the yellow “O”). Are we really looking at the minimized Date & Time Preferences Panel? Well, we can compare it to an image of my own desktop, where we know for sure what the icon is:

My MacBook's Dock -- Enlarged and Cropped
Exhibit B:  My MacBook’s Dock — Enlarged and Cropped (Higher Resolution)

My screen capture has a higher resolution, so you can tell very clearly that it’s the Date & Time icon. What happens if I blur the image a bit in order to simulate a lower-resolution capture?

My MacBook's Dock: Blurred
Exhibit C:  My MacBook’s Dock: Blurred

Now let’s look at all three icons, side by side.

Caught Red-Handed
Caught Red-Handed

Not only can we see that Joel did in fact have the Date & Time Preference Panel open, but we can also see that there is a blue dot where the calendar day is highlighted. Mine is in the upper right of the calendar (July 4), while his is at the bottom in the center (June 26).

I know what you did last . . . Wednesday?

The reason Joel had the Date & Time panel open was to change the date back to June 26 and forge the email. He opted to minimize the panel rather than close it completely, because he knew he was going to change the date right back after he was done creating his lie. And now, by the way, we know another reason why Joel turned off his Wi-Fi networking. First, he needed to be sure that Outlook wouldn’t try to synch up with Gmail. But he also wanted to make certain that his Mac didn’t try to go out to the NTP server and correct his system’s date and time — not before he had finished his dirty deed.

This is very bad behavior. Joel needs to come clean and repent publicly, not for shutting down Vridar — no, believe it or not I don’t think he ever truly intended to snuff us out — but for lying to everyone, and then covering his lies with more lies. I believe his conscience will continue to bother him until he admits what he did and asks for forgiveness.


Addendum: Experimenting with Outlook on the Mac

I don’t use Outlook anymore. I figure if nobody is holding a gun to my head, then why should I? However, I do own a license for a copy of the latest version of Outlook for the Macintosh. Overnight, I had some nagging questions about Joel’s original screenshot and why things looked the way they did. So today I started playing around with Outlook while disconnected from the Internet.  After just a few minutes of tinkering, here’s what I came up with.

Outlook Sent Folder Experiment
Outlook Sent Folder Experiment

First of all, I was confused about row background colors in Joel’s screen capture. Now I see what’s going on.  If the Subject line is the same, then Outlook highlights all matching emails with a pale blue background. It’s a way of telling you, “These messages probably belong to the same thread.” In the image above, you can see that “Test 1” occurs twice. The highlighted message appears in gray (because I’m focused on the message pane and not the email list), and the presumably related message (addressed to fart@knocker.com) shows up with a blue background.

Conclusion: Joel has three messages with a Subject line of “Joel.” One is selected. The other two are “related.” Note: I’ve been using email since the heyday of CompuServe, and I have never written an email with “Tim” as the subject line. But perhaps that’s just me.

Second, and more importantly, you’ll notice that I had set my calendar back to July 2. How can you tell?  Because Outlook always assumes that the previous calendar day is “Yesterday.” You can see that I was creating drafts and dragging them into the Sent Items folder. I can assure you that not a single message was created before noon on the 5th. All I had to do was change the date, double click on the message, and re-save it. And even though the column header says “Date Sent,” I swear to you that no mail was ever really sent. (I’ve never set up any accounts for sending or receiving.) The date that appears under Date Sent is simply the last time it was saved.

To reiterate, here’s how easy it is.

  1. Disconnect from the network.
  2. Stop synchronizing your time with time.apple.com.
  3. Change the date.
  4. Open a message in your sent mail.
  5. Edit that message with a new addressee and/or a new subject line.
  6. Save it.

That’s why Joel’s system date and supposed sent date (of the forged email to Neil) are exactly the same. He saved it and immediately captured the screen image.

By the way, the only possible way to show July 5 and July 2 as “Today” and July 1 as “Yesterday” is to tamper with the system clock. Finally, there is absolutely no credible scenario in which these steps could happen by accident.

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Tim Widowfield

Tim is a retired vagabond who lives with his wife and multiple cats in a 20-year-old motor home. To read more about Tim, see our About page.

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30 thoughts on “Joel Watts: Not a Time Lord”

  1. If he thought you and the people who frequent this site were human beings – peers – then I suspect he might think of apologizing to you guys privately. But once it became established that you were a subhuman species of ‘Biblioblogger’ (cf. the Biblioblog Top 50 list) any harm that is done to your person is effectively ‘fair game.’ You should get a copy of
    Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation by Amnon Linder. It is very interesting to see how groups who resisted the orthodox were treated in the late Imperial period. It’s very similar to the way he and his cohorts in the Biblioblog community view you and the question of who is responsible for the fate of Vridar.

    What started off as bad for let’s say a Samaritan just got worse and worse over time as Christianity consolidated its hold over society. It got to the point that because they didn’t agree on theological issues, non-orthodox believers (= the infidels) were assumed to be wrong in just about any legal situation.

    One doesn’t even have to go that far back in history. A friend of mine made a lot of money working in Saudi Arabia a while back. I asked him why he gave up working there. He told me that as an infidel he had again absolutely no legal rights. If for instance a Saudi was driving a car and hit my friend crossing the street at a crosswalk obeying the rules of the road, he told me that the attitude of Saudi society would say it was my friends fault for the accident – not the driver. Why? Because he was an outsider, a non-Saudi, and if he wasn’t in the country at that time the driver wouldn’t have had an accident.

    I suspect that Joel and most of the Biblioblog community view the question of who it to blame for this incident much in the same way. Notice though that very view have actually blogged about this. As a subhuman variety of ‘Bibliobloggers’ they aren’t obliged to comment on what happened – even though many were more than willing to offer up an opinion when they thought that Joel was absolutely innocent in the matter. Remember that?

    Now that the waters have become muddied and it is plain that he had ‘some’ involvement in your demise, they are just going to ignore ‘the situation’ and hope you and it just go away. If you keep blogging about it, they will accuse you of making ‘too big a deal’ about it. After all, you are a conspiracy theorists and conspiracy theorists have it ‘in their nature’ to get ‘carried away’ with things.

  2. Now there was about this time Joel, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of men as receive Historicity with pleasure. He draweth over to him many of the theologians and medievalists. He was the Time Lord. And when Neil and Tim, at the suggestion of the careful men amongst us, condemned his Creative Commons finagling and System Settings skuldrugery, those that loved him did not forsake him. For his reputation appeared undamaged in the eyes of those who would bestow his PhD; as the divine academics foretold his orthodoxy excellent. And the tribe of Theologians, so named for their special pleading with the historical method, are not extinct at this day.

  3. I.am.too.a.timelord.

    You got me, I guess, unless this is a conspiracy within a conspiracy like Huller first suggested. Of course, if I have an gmail screengrab, I guess that would solve absolutely nothing. The thing about mythicists is that they don’t take kindly to evidences…

    As I have stated on other blogs, my big mistake was seeing it go as far as shutting the ENTIRE site down. My apologies. That was not my intention or my actual request. I believed, in good faith (all rights reserved and the cc, which we clearly have a disagreement over), I had the right to remove my content from Neil’s blog. This has happened before, not with Neil’s blog, when someone was stealing entire posts. I actually catalogued this on the blog some time ago.

    Unfortunately, when Neil disobeyed Lord WordPress, which I pray to daily if not hourly and have been known to sacrifice various companions (Dr. Who reference), he had his own blog shut down.

    Now, gents, I really enjoy this posts, I do, and I urge you to take this comment as fuel for the fire. Burn.down.the.internet.

    As you are now on WordPress.org, i would equally urge you to use the jetpack comments (wish I could convert, but I am still a but superstitious) and find the All-in-One SEO plugin. This latter plugin helps with, well, SEO — search engine optimization. I have a few more if you want the tips. Anyway, best of luck and cannot wait to see what happens ‘next well’ as Steve Carr is hinting at.

    1. WATTS
      The thing about mythicists is that they don’t take kindly to evidences

      In other words, Watts posted a screenshot of him holding a smoking gun, and then claimed there was a conspiracy to get him to take a self-portrait of him holding a smoking gun.

      Sorry, Joel, but if you are so dumb as to leave open the Change System Date/Time app, and then take a screenshot!

      Did watching all those episodes of America’s Dumbest Criminals teach you nothing?

      Forgers often make one small mistake.

      But they rarely take a screenshot of it and then post it on their own blog!

      It is just so funny!

    2. The thing about mythicists is that they don’t take kindly to evidences…

      -The thing about theologians is that they make terrible forgers.

      Of course, if I have an gmail screengrab, I guess that would solve absolutely nothing.

      -Exactly. Which is why you don’t post one.

      Unfortunately, when Neil disobeyed Lord WordPress, which I pray to daily if not hourly and have been known to sacrifice various companions (Dr. Who reference), he had his own blog shut down.

      -Thank you for recognizing the validity of my cartoon.

      1. Pithom, I thought the cartoon was hilarious, actually, and I laughed. But, I wish you would have used the Word (logos) as something. Press could be confused as the winepress (where God stomps on the grapes of wrath).

        when i first started blogging, i thought ‘word’ in wordpress meant something overtly religious. boy howdy was I wrong!

      1. (dang it. pick a better name, man. this is too difficult to spell!)

        Pithom, you’re assuming I forged an email (which has nothing really to do with DMCA)… I mean, there may be a screengrab laying around of my gmail account (not the suddenlink one. that one is used sparingly). I guess the better question is… why don’t I release a screen grab of the gmail account IF i actually have one?

        maybe I’ll release it next week, or not. but, for now, it’s the weekend and I am going to take some naps and do yardwork…

        1. WATTS
          Pithom, you’re assuming I forged an email …

          Well, let me see.

          Your screenshot shows emails from 27/06/2013, and your Mac is displaying the slogan ‘Yesterday’ for emails from 25/06/2013.

          Now a Mac can subtract 1 from the date to work out when yesterday was. They are clever things, computers.

          So reversing that process, if I add 1 to that date, I can see that the Mac thought 26/06/2013 was ‘Today’, when you did your screenshot.

          This means that you must have changed the system date after 27/06/2013 back to 26/06/2013.

          By the way, on America’s Dumbest Criminals, when the thief hands over the ransom note, written on an envelope with his name and address on it, even America’s Dumbest Criminal doesn’t then go back and explain that he has moved since then.

          But please keep going with your denials. You are making a legend out of yourself.

        2. Joel, we don’t need a screen cap. There’s a way we can prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

          Let me explain. Any time you send email to Gmail you generate a globally unique identifier (a “GUID”) that becomes your message ID. You can use this identifier to track the message.

          Here’s what you do. In Gmail, look for the menu item that says “Show Original.” When you click on that, a new tab appears and shows you the raw text of your message. As it happens, I wrote an email to Neil on the 27th where I asked him, “What the hell is going on with WordPress?”

          Here is the message ID from that email:

           Message-ID: <CAAsa-oeKPVxGRxXzUs4ADg3r7iarCXC_d6ExDr1_iF86ZGnvfA@mail.gmail.com> 

          Go ahead and post your message ID from the email you claim you sent to Neil. We can use it to validate when and if it was sent, and we can settle the issue once and for all.

              1. Yes, I was wondering how “to track and trace the message”; e.g., to confirm that CAMz7UL2KU=8fzfp8mrXMxh8y7r5eAS_9JfkAcVMU+qB1qwMPoQ@mail.gmail.com really was sent on “Tue, 2 Jul 2013 20:54:33 -0400”.

            1. Incidentally, it appears from discussions I’ve seen on forensic sites that the GUID is a SHA-1 hash (or perhaps a combination of hashes). So it would be nearly impossible to forge, but rather easy (for Google) to validate.

            2. Pithom asked: “Yes, I was wondering how ‘to track and trace the message’. . .”

              The method by which Gmail generates the Message-ID is not publicly known. There are some common guidelines:


              Presumably, Google’s method is to take the current date/time, some other character strings, plus some random text and then convert it into a one-way hash. In other words, you won’t be able to reverse the process (“put the toothpaste back in the tube”). However, since it’s globally unique, Google can trace it and validate it.

        3. Pithom, you’re assuming I forged an email

          -This is like saying “you’re assuming Earth is billions of years old”.

          which has nothing really to do with DMCA

          -Well, Automattic does suggest contacting a blogger directly before sending in a complaint. You obviously didn’t do that, otherwise, you wouldn’t have forged an email after the fact.

          I guess the better question is… why don’t I release a screen grab of the gmail account IF i actually have one?

          -So, you’re not going to answer my supposedly worse question. Too bad, those interested in the controversy, you’re going to have to wait for a tedious analysis of the Outlook Sent Items scrollbar and an analysis of Joel’s reasons for forging his email to Neil before you can find out the timing of when Joel forged his email to Neil. It was obviously after WP took down Neil’s post, and it may have been when Joel realized Neil’s blog was taken down by WP.

          You’re not releasing “a screen grab of the gmail account” because it’s already obvious you forged your email to Neil.

          maybe I’ll release it next week, or not. but, for now, it’s the weekend and I am going to take some naps and do yardwork…

          -Good luck! Hope you’ll learn some good Photoshopping skills!

        4. “it’s the weekend and I am going to take some naps and do yardwork…”

          Joel, instead of taking a nap, you should go clothes shopping for new pants. All the ones you have now are on fire.

    3. Joel: “Of course, if I have an gmail screengrab, I guess that would solve absolutely nothing. The thing about mythicists is that they don’t take kindly to evidences…”

      Please, please, please post this screengrab. When somebody wants to dig, I believe in handing them the a shovel.

      I’m reminded of what Ocsar Wilde wrote: “The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for.” (I confess that the first time I heard this line was in Riley: Ace of Spies.)

  4. The thing about mythicists is that they don’t take kindly to evidences…
    No, the thing about mythicists is that they don’t take kindly to forged and/or planted evidences. We don’t care much for academic, historical biblical scholars who pretend to not see those forged and planted evidences for what they are either.

  5. Oh, Watts! A tangled wwweb he weaves when first he practices to deceive.

    I would have thought that someone accused of deceit, lying and fraudulent behaviour would treat the matter of his lost reputation with some gravity and hasten to prove himself innocent of all such charges – if he is indeed innocent.

    Joel, this is not a matter which will go away of its own accord. While you spend your weekend excavating your yard remind yourself of the First Law of Holes.

    Doubtless, we all believe that you had no original intention of having Neil’s blog taken down permanently but your subsequent dishonesty and flippant attitude has revealed your true character. Unresolved, your behaviour will not be forgotten or go publicly unremarked in the years to come.

    However, if you decided to come clean and ask Neil’s forgiveness for your dishonest behaviour I am sure that he will be as gracious in his mercy as any forgiving god could be. But I suggest you seek it urgently before his mood darkens even further once the Ashes Tests start next week.

  6. Neil and Tim,

    I hope this frightening incident compels you to start backing up all of your content on an external drive on at least a monthly basis. To think that six years of invaluable intellectual content could disappear in a flash because one delusional Holy Inquisitor was irritated by well-deserved criticism …

    1. Having worked in IT for over 20 years, I know well the importance of backing up your data. However, what is not well known (and often not sufficiently prepared for) is the importance of knowing how to restore data. Every database administrator you meet can tell you by heart his plan for routine backups. But how many of them have ever had to restore a destroyed system from a backup? Could they get it right the first time?

      What really made things difficult for me during the recent debacle is the naive backup process that WordPress uses. For example, when you backup your site, you don’t get your images; instead you get URL references to your images on the original server. So when I tried to restore our media archive, the restore process dutifully tried every link to every image. Each attempt failed, of course, because the old Vridar was dead.

      I think I also mentioned before that WordPress categories are exported with no reference to their hierarchy. That forced me to do a ton of manual labor to get them back to their normal state. I suppose for my own good, I should become an amateur WordPress developer, although the world of LAMP just never really interested me that much.

      1. “However, what is not well known (and often not sufficiently prepared for) is the importance of knowing how to restore data.”

        Tim makes a crucially important point that needs to put in large print, bold and underlined!

        Knowing in advance what hurdles one will encounter in trying to restore certain data may well help one decide between alternative means of backing up the data in the first place. Not all backup plans are created equal. A critical step in a responsible backup plan is a test run to check that the plan actually works.

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