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Friday, July 25, 2008

I Hate the TSA

TSAWell, to start easing back into blogging after my vacation, I'll start off with a short little rant, that actually is relevant to trip I just took. In short, I really, really dislike the TSA. (I know the title of this post says that I hate the TSA, but that's a little stronger feeling that I actually have. However, "I Really, Really Dislike the TSA" just doesn't have the same ring to it as a headline.) I have written a bit about this before, but that article was more about the restrictions on general aviation.

It's not that the TSA did anything uniquely annoying during this trip. It's just that every time I have to go through the security checkpoints and jump through hoops that do practically nothing to actually increase security, I get just a little more pissed off. This trip, I was so busy unpacking the laptop, loading up all our bags onto the belt (we had more carry-ons this time now that the airlines are charging for checked luggage), and taking off my shoes, that I forget to empty out my pockets and take off my belt. That's probably enough metal that it would have set off the metal detector even back in the good old days, but when you're already irritated with an organization, it makes you that much more irritated. Plus, thanks to actually doing good on my diet the past few weeks, taking off my belt meant holding my pants up the whole time. I started grumbling once I got through the checkpoint and was getting dressed again, when my wife told me to just be quiet so that we could enjoy our vacation.

I recall hearing a joke one time, and I can't remember where I first heard it now, but this blog has a similar joke in the comments.

First the terrorsits tried to sneak bomb onto a plane using their shoes, so they made us take off our shoes.

Then the terrorists tried to use liquid explosives, so they made us give up our drinks and toothpaste.

The day they realize that a terrorist could try to smuggle a bomb up his ass is the day I quit flying.

But when you stop to think, how much indignity are we willing to take in the name of safety (assuming, of course, that the TSA is increasing safety, which I'll get to in a minute)? We already have to go barefoot through the metal detectors, and take off our belts and hold up our pants. If you take a carry on, you see the inspectors rifling through all your personal belongings. A few years ago when my wife, my daughter and I flew up north to visit the rest of my family for Christmas, presents already wrapped, the TSA didn't just take them out of the wrapping paper - they unpacked everything completely, down to removing the toys from the plastic and twist ties that held them in place (I guess I could be thanking them, since everyone knows what a pain it can be to get toys out of their packaging sometimes).

To point out just one more pet peeve - why can't people that aren't flying wait with you at the gate anymore, or come meet you at the gate when you arrive? I know the current policy does nothing to keep out anybody determined enough to sneak in. The fact that all it takes is a computer printout of your itinerary or tickets to get it, means that anybody with a computer and any type of ingenuity can print out counterfeit tickets or itineraries. They probably wouldn't work to get them on the plane, but they'd certainly get the people into the gate area. Perhaps the point is to reduce the number of people in the gate area, to make observation and surveillance easier. I still don't like it.

Okay, you get it - I think the TSA's annoying. But have they actually done anything to increase security? In anticipation of anybody that's going to say that we haven't had a terrorist attack since 9/11, therefore the TSA must be working, I have a tiger repelling rock I'd like to sell you. I've had this rock for years, and haven't seen a tiger the entire time, so it must work, right?. (Realizing that Simpsons episode was from way back in 1996, it's eerie how well it predicted the country's reaction to 9/11 - do anything, even if there's no evidence it works, just so it seems like we're doing something.)

I've got a little experience "smuggling" things past the TSA myself. As I mentioned in the essay I linked to up top, I've forgotten about one of my pocket knives a few times. It's a small little knife that looks like a key, and goes on my key ring. The blade's only about 2", but that's exactly the type of thing the TSA was supposed to be keeping off planes. And I managed to get by security with it once during the highest threat level. (The knife actually has some sentimental value to me, so I've since taken it off my key ring, just to make sure I don't ever forget about it when flying and find that one TSA agent who notices it.)

What about more serious threats, besides pocket knives that probably aren't going to be worth much of anything, anymore? Well, there's this case where, "Investigators with bomb-making components in their luggage and on their person were able to pass through security checkpoints at 19 U.S. airports without detection." And what about the student who smuggled bleach, matches, box cutters, and clay that resembled plasic explosives, onto multiple airplanes, told the TSA about it, and some of the items still weren't found for over a month.

Or, just read these articles, from the column, Ask the Pilot on Salon.com. It's written by an airline pilot, Patrick Smith, who doesn't like the TSA all that much, either. He describes all types of silly regulations the TSA follows, including not letting him get through security because he was carrying the exact same knife that the airline gives out to passengers aboard the plane, not to mention that most airport personnel who aren't seen by passengers have very lax security regulations. He also has a good article on the N.Y. Times site.

I understand that we probably do need security. I just don't like seeing an organization that does very little good. At best, it's a minor convenience. At worst, it's a false sense of security, and a waste of resources that could be better applied elsewhere.

Monday, July 21, 2008

And Now Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

IntermissionJust two weeks ago, I made an aopolgy for not keeping up with my post per week goal on this blog, and even made a promise to make two posts that week to make up for it. Well, I only got out one real post that week, and didn't post anything at all last week. And here's the reason - I was on vacation in Florida last week. With a few important projects I had to wrap up before I left, I worked through my lunch breaks so I didn't have time to write any more posts here at work. And with packing and doing a few projects around the house, I didn't have time to write at home, either. I had been planning on trying out my new phone to make an entry while on vacation, but when you're making sandcastles on the beach with your daughter, or splashing around in the ocean, or sipping a beer on the deck while watching the waves break on shore by the light of the full moon, that post per week goal just doesn't seem so important.

Anyway, I'm back now. For the next couple days, I'll be pretty busy catching up, but some time this week I'll be back to writing blog entries.

P.S. I should have a new page on my main website for the Florida trip once I have a chance to go through the pictures.

P.P.S. Doing a Google image search for "intermission" yields some pretty surprising results (NSFW).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Another Surprise at the Bookstore

I wrote an entry a while ago, about finding some religious inserts in Lyra's Oxford, a short book written by Phillip Pullman as a kind of mini sequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy, as well as a few other children's books. Just recently, on the advice of several people (including Eric of the New Minority blog), I finally decided to purchase The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins' book on religion. (I'm already most of the way through it, and hope to put up a review some time within the next couple months. In short, I agree with most, though not all, of what Dawkins has written.) Just about the time I was halfway through the book, a little card fell out into my lap:

Living Waters IQ Test - Front of Card
Living Waters IQ Test - Back of Card

The card was printed by the same organization, Living Waters Ministries, headed by the same person, Ray Comfort, as the cards I found in Lyra's Oxford and the other books I mentioned in that entry (man, that took some restraint on my part not to use a different noun to describe Comfort). Given Dawkins' subject material, I wasn't nearly as surprised this time as when I found the inserts in the children's books, and this insert isn't nearly as disengenious. Still, it seems we have a misguided busybody at our local bookstore. Plus, it's always a bit unpleasant to be reminded of the inventor of the argumentum ad bananum.

Monday, July 7, 2008


I have a goal of posting an entry on this blog at least once per week. I missed last week, for which I apologize. We had an issue at work where I spent my lunch breaks working, and didn't much feel like working on this website once I got home. Then, with the 4th of July, and a few get togethers I had to go to, I didn't have time to blog over the weekend. Anyway, I'll try make up for it with at least two entries this week.

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