Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dodging a [very slow moving] Bullet

I'm sure this will get the Fed's pounding on the door.  So I'm asking now for all my "Fed" friends to give me the heads up so I can at least put on a stylish outfit so I'm photo ready when I'm dragged to Guantanamo.

Anyway, I recently returned from a trip to Florida.  I don't normally go to Florida but I had to.  Clearly I flew.  The train takes about 27 hours and driving isn't much quicker.  So, as I said, I flew.

If you've been reading my randomly timed posts you know my feelings on flying.  More specifically, you know my feelings about airline security or the complete lack thereof in this country.

Back to my story.

The flight down was out of JFK.  Jet Blue.  No full [waste of time] body [pointless] scanners that couldn't find a bomb in an ass crack if it was labeled. I knew this ahead of time so I barely thought about it.  The flight home however was a mystery.

Fast forward.. the trip was fine, the weather was lovely, not much pool time didn't even break out the bikini.  Next time.  There I am going through the hugely disorganized line called security. I've been trying for days now to come up with a witty interpretation of what TSA really stands for but "Bungling Group of Untrained Idiots That Got Fired From 7-11" doesn't fit. None-the-less... there I am in line.

It takes about three minutes once I am in view of the F[WoT]B[P]S's for me to figure out the "random selection" process. Each line feeds one of those carry on luggage x-ray conveyor belt machines.  Between every two lines stands a metal detector and a scanner.  The process is simple; it takes 3 seconds to go through a metal detector and 3 minutes to go through a scanner.  Whenever the scanner is free the next person gets picked to go through.  Very scientific and random.  It's fool proof! No Terrorist could ever get past it.

Thank Jebus I'm not a terrorist.  (Seriously, Thanks Rachel.  I don't know what I would do without that expression.)

I said it took me three minutes to figure it out.  In another minute I had done the math and determined I had about an 80% chance of being tapped for the scanner.

I'll cut to the end.  I didn't go through the scanner. Nor did I ask to be fondled and groped by a government pervert.

Here's how I did it.  Here's how I dodged the scanner I was "randomly selected" for.  It required a quarter...

Just as I stepped away from the x-ray conveyor belt I paused and patted my pocket as if I had a sudden thought; "My Pocket! What if there is something in there! Goodness!" I paused again and slowly reached into my pocket to pull out the quarter. I placed it quickly into my bin and turned back to the TSA officer.  Sure enough, they simply took the next person from the other line to go through the scanner.

Yup.  I feel safe.

Now there is no guarantee that every airport in the country uses the same fool proof brilliant plan to catch terrorists, but I'm willing to bet I can get past all of them.  Has anyone else realized that TSA has never in  it's history (that I could find) caught or stopped a single terrorist?  The FBI, CIA and Secret Service all have and they don't use scanners.  They use intelligence and research.  Interesting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Inconvenient Dream...

Yeah, I pirated that title.  Sue me.

First, let me reassure you that this isn't going to be another long winded rant trying to convince everyone of the reality of Global Warming.

Second, let me remind you all that I have tendency to get caught up in my issues so I really can't swear by the accuracy of the first statement.

For many years now I have dreamt of retiring in the Caribbean, or Central America (or even a few places in South America).  Bottom line, someplace warm with a beach culture that doesn't involve a certain mouse or old Republicans.  Yes, that means Florida is pretty much out of the picture.  But something has me starting to rethink that dream.

Al Gore.

Yes, that's right; global warming has me worried about my plans for the future.

I used to blissfully imagine my self spending my golden years sipping cocktails as I watch the sun set over the ocean.  And by "golden years" I mean my late 40's on forward.  I'm not waiting until I'm sixty five and can't pull off a bikini anymore.  God bless any woman who can, but I'm predicting I won't be one of them.  There will have been too many sunset cocktails by then.

But that is a dream of the past.  Now, when I close my eyes and let my thoughts wander towards my future I see myself clinging to the top of a palm tree as I watch my island paradise slowly disappear beneath the rising tide of global warming. Of course I still look fabulous in my bikini, but that is small conciliation.

Do I worry too much?

Before you answer, how can you be sure...?

I've seen the movie, read reports and seen the art exhibit.  They all say I should pretty much abandon my dream. On the other side of the argument we have those that just deny it's happening and say the dear lord will take care of it.

Of course nature does have a way of taking care of itself, but does it have a way of taking care of us? Or is this the way it will be taking care of us?

Either way, my dream is sunk.  Even if the waters don't rise for another 40 years, I'll be worried about it for the next 35.  Is that anyway to enjoy retirement?

So, now I'm thinking maybe it's time to start dreaming about the mountains of Costa Rica.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Freedom!!! as long as I agree with what you are doing

Let's be clear, Terry Jones is an asshole.

That's not my opinion, that's a fact.  As sure as water is wet, wine is from God (beer is from man)*, as certain as the knowledge that the sun will rise tomorrow; Terry Jones is an asshole.

And yet, he is not a lone voice in this ignorant nation of ours.

Here's another fact; Muslims aren't evil.

And another; Muslims were killed on 9/11. And I don't mean the terrorists you stupid back woods ignoramus! They were in the towers, working like everyone else that day. Around 70 Muslims were killed when those crazy extremist religious freaks flew the planes into the towers. Peaceful, happy, capitalist, democratic Muslims (including several pregnant women) were among those killed that day.

Go ahead, look it up.  I'll wait....

The difference!? Their families were visited by FBI and Homeland (in)Security idiots who questioned them about the backgrounds of their lost family members.

But Muslims are trying to take over the world, spreading their doctrine! They tr to enforce their beliefs and democracy and Christianity... Oh no, wait... that would be the USA, or the Catholic church or Christian missionaries...  That's right, Muslims actually value life over world domination. 

In the Muslim faith, all life is sacred.

So fine, let them have their corner of the world.  The USA is a Christian (and Jewish, and Buddhist and Islamic and so on and so on...) Nation.  I'll grant you that Christian religions make up the largest group of religious people in America,  Know what the second largest is? Well, if you are going to combine all of the various Christians together; Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Mormon, Church of God [as opposed to all those Church's not of God] to make #1, then you have to combine all the unaffiliated and agnostic and atheist and you get #2.

That's right! One Nation under God is made up of 37% undecided.

What do we think our Founding Fathers would have thought of that? I imagine they would have been quite disappointed that there were so many damn religious folks in their beloved Nation. Less than 10% of them were active church going folks, but they would have fought to their deaths to defend the rights of others to practice any faith they wanted.  Oh, that's right.  They did. A lot of them did.

And, if you haven't heard it by now you haven't been paying attention but here's what George Washington had to say about hatred and discrimination in his nation:

"Government which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance, but generously affording to All liberty of conscience and immunities of Citizenship, deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language, equal parts of the great governmental machine."

Translated into modern English:

"Any asshole that throws their religious beliefs in my or any other person's face and says that my or anyones' beliefs are wrong can just kiss my ass get the hell out of my country because we just won't stand for that crap here."

Yes. I do speak old English.  It is a loose translation but I'm quite certain that if George were alive today he would accept my translation though his own might be less colorful.

I can guarantee that he would have called Terry Jones an asshole.  OR perhaps he would have called him a thieving blockhead not worth a tinker's damn.

I don't give a damn what your religious beliefs are, but you have a right to them whatever they are. Believe me, my family tests that conviction of mine every day. All I ask is that you grant me the same consideration. Leave me alone. Leave Muslims alone (unless you know one, them go hug them). Go build your own damn church/temple/mosque/altar/whatever and let me build mine.

*Martin Luther, founder of Lutheranism 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Can a Car Incite Violence?

"Red one!" Pow! 
"Black one!" Pow!

Just not one for me, thanks.

I understand that Americans love their violence, just look at the top video games and movies of recent years.  Heck, go back 20 years and look at Rambo. (yes, it's been that long)  Americans love violence. And while I do like the occassional action flick I am not drawn specifically to the violence.

That is why I simply can't consider buying a VolksWagen.

You can chuckle if you must, but I have wanted either a new Bug (in lime green) or the Jetta Sport Wagen TDI. I'd run it on Bio-Diesel!  But those dreams are dead now.  VolksWagens cause random acts of senseless violence, and the company is actually promoting that violence.

I'm sure you've seen the commercials. In one a viscious woman is constantly popping up and punching the good natured but obviously annoyed sales man. In another it's one old man beating on another who just wants to enjoy his afternoon on a park bench.  Honestly, I just want to take that evil woman and that cantankerous old coot and stick them in a small room with a VW merry-go-round so they can beat each other to death!

I wouldn't want to watch them, that would just be too much violence... I just like to think about it.

What really bothers me is that someone actually came up with the idea for these commercials and had the nerve to pitch it to the VW people.  
Marketing guy: "So we get some really nice looking people and have other people pummel them whenever they see a VW."
VW guy: "Von't dat make de people think dat our cars are painful?" (stereotyped accent added for cheap humor)
Marketing guy: "No, it will make them think your cars are violent!"
VW guy: "Oh, dat eez much betta!"

OK, maybe it wasn't exactly like that. I'm sure the actual sales pitch took a lot longer and involved a power point presentation and several pints of beer.

Everyone knows about violence and the good old USA! And it is an American thing, this love of vilence. When my partner first saw one of these commercials I had to explain their history to her. She's from Greece, from way before Greece's current troubles... Anyway, she didn't believe me. In fact, she still doesn't really believe me. The idea that the 70's were all about peace and love and punching someone whenever you saw a cute little VW Bug baffles her for some reason. Welcome to America.

So now I'm thinking about a Toyota, or a Honda or maybe even a Ford. Of course what I'd really like is a Tesla. Can anyone loan me $100,000? My credit is good, honest!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Strange Note On Cultures

As some of you know, I just came back from a vacation in Costa Rica.

It was wonderful, thanks for asking.

While I was there I made many interesting observations about the people and culture of Costa Rica.  One such observation, well less of an observation and more of it was hard not to notice came while I was driving along "the New Highway".  As an aside, Costa Ricans don't always bother with street signs so often street names and by extension directions are based more on descriptions than actual official names.

For example:
"From the gas station, head in the direction of the airport.  Turn right at the 2nd Coca-Cola sign.  Follow the road to the end and you will see what looks like a house with a deck.  That is the restaurant."

It was a great restaurant but it took us two tries to find it.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was driving along the new highway. Speeding along the new highway to be precise when a car on the other side of the highway flashed their high-beams at me.  Reflexes from twenty years ago took over and I quickly tapped my brakes.  Sure enough, there was a speed trap just over the next hill.

As I said, that was a twenty year old reflex.  In truth, it's older than that but I haven't used it in about twenty years.  Americans don't seem to warn each other about speed traps any more.  This started me wondering why.

OK, if you do a lot of driving on the interstates in the North-East you will notice that you frequently can't see the traffic on the other side of the freeway (although since most of them are toll roads I guess they aren't "free"ways.)  But even when you can, I never see people flashing their headlights anymore.

This is a good time to note that several studies have been done about happiness.  They all find Costa Ricans to be the happiest people on the planet. Check out World Database of Happiness or happy planet index.  The USA scores much lower on the lists.

While I am known for my wild assertions, I am not about to equate speed trap warnings with a nation's happiness factor.  I am, however, going to take a moment to ponder the relationship between not flashing and our own nation's low score on the happy index.

I think you have to start with a look at our past, our glory days if you will. There's no need to go all the way back to colonial days, or the industrial revolution.  There were some great times back then, but who remembers them?  I'll just throw out the 1920's, the '50's and even the 70's.  And I say it right now, I don't want to hear about the depression, the war or any shootings.  I'm talking about the feel of the decade.  They were periods of dancing, of partying, of free love and cheap booze.  But it was more than that.  We idolized flappers, James Dean and anyone who stood up to "the Man".  We loved our rebels.

Rebels.  Wether you were a woman who threw out your corset (though personally I prefer a shapely figure) and cut your hair short, or made bathtub gin, or challenged the law with little more than blue jeans and a pack of smokes, or ran around naked on LSD.  You were a rebel (note I did not say maverick nor will I ever).  You embraced the free spirited sense of adventure and, well... freedom.  Real freedom, not the bull shit freedom that we name monuments after as we take away your civil rights today.

Remember freedom?

Remember adventure?

Remember James Dean?

Sweet Jebus on a stick, if JD weren't dead he'd kill himself if he saw what became of his America.

It is time to take back our country!  It is time for us to rise up and revolt against full body scanners, chain store "coffee houses" (could you actually see 60's beatniks hanging out at Starbuck's?!?), Wallmart, carpool lanes and corporate drones.  Yes, this is a general sort of rebellion.

You can start by flashing your hi-beams the next time you drive past a speed trap.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I'm not paid to think.

Consider it Mission Accomplished.

I am mid-vacation at the moment, so travel is on my mind.  Air travel, to be specific.  The New York Times ran an article a while back about an eight year old boy named Michael who is on a terrorist watch list of sorts.  Well, not the full blown "Do Not Fly" list, but on a list all the same.  Well, his name isn't actually on the list, but someone else's name is and it happens to be the same as his name.

What does this mean?  This means that every time he flies with his family, this little buy must endure a full body pat down, extra screening, a barrage of questions...  The first time he was patted down he was 2 years old.

You ca read the story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/nyregion/14watchlist.html

I can understand how this can happen.  His name is on a list, so the system should catch it every time he flies.  His age isn't on his ticket. (but his gender is, and I still have no idea why! See "Terrorists stopped by asking their names! " 8/18/09).  So he should get flagged to be checked at the airport.  Once this little boy is standing in front of a TSA officer, that should be the end of it.  

Apparently we are trusting the security of our skies to people who aren't capable of thinking for themselves.  Everyone of those TSA officers over the last six years has looked at that little boy and turned off the part of their brain responsible for the thought process.  His name is on the list, so he is a terrorist.

Does anyone really feel safer knowing that our entire Homeland Security Plan is based on blind faith of a list of names?  This is all sounding very much like the case of Harry Buttle and Harry Tuttle, only we don't seem to have the gallant Sam Lowry trying to fix the situation.  

If you haven't seen Brazil, you should stop reading right now and go watch it.  Spoiler Alert: It doesn't end well for Sam or Harry, and I don't think this is going to end well for us either.

Instead of a crack team of bright, altruistic, patriotic defenders of our front line, we appear to have a crew of minimum wage employees who might just have well chosen a career that involves saying "Would you like to super-size that?" instead of "Did you pack your bag yourself?"  Honestly, I thought I heard one of them get confused the other day and offer a traveler french fries with their carry-on.