Saturday, December 30, 2006

George Bush Stole my Toothpaste

I don’t travel by airplane often anymore. For me, the last remaining trace of romance in air travel faded away when I found myself and those around me dutifully removing our shoes prior to our turns at public flogging by the crack intelligence squads known as the TSA. But this week I found myself in need of the services of one of the few remaining solvent air carriers in order to travel from my home in Kansas City to Chicago for a series of meetings scheduled at the very last minute.

Now, while I was aware of the latest so called intelligence breakthrough that exposed the alleged plot to blow up aircraft by physically impossible means, I was not aware that the mere difference between a three ounce tube of toothpaste and the 3.5 ounce variety could mean life or death for me and those other sorry souls flying with me. Heck I wasn’t even aware that the absence of a zip lock bag to surround a three ounce tube had the potential to wipe out a plane mid-air but, like I said, I don’t fly that often anymore.

Well, anyway, without this critical knowledge stored away in my little brain, I found myself hurrying through airport security in Kansas City this past Wednesday in order to go and stand in line for my trip to Chicago on Southwest Airlines. Being that my overnight accommodations were to be at the Drake Hotel (known for its overabundance of complimentary toiletries) I packed light: an extra pair of trousers, shirt, underwear, an electric razor, deodorant, hair gel, a toothbrush, and a 3.5 ounce tube of toothpaste.

As I awaited my turn to walk through the metal detector, I was startled back to life by the sound a rather severe middle aged woman with a swagger that only comes with a government job calling out for the owner of “this bag.” “This bag”, of course, was mine. After proudly proclaiming my ownership of said bag I was advised of the dire need to “get inside”. A flash of panic shot through my mind as I remembered that this particular bag usually accompanies me when I travel by car and, of course, lots of thing that travel unmolested by automobile can land a guy in a cell next to Jose Padilla if passed through an airport security line. To my near-immediate relief, I remembered emptying the bag of it contents (two paperclips and an unidentifiable key) prior to packing for this journey.

I leisurely put on my shoes and collected my briefcase, tablet PC, and jacket and sauntered over to Madame Gestapo and her inspection table. Before I could so much as set down my belongings on the floor, Madame G. told me that “under no uncertain circumstances” was I to touch the bag. I told her I wouldn’t dream of it. After taking a quick perusal through the main compartment, Madame G. discovered the mother load. There, in a discreet side pocket, lain the objects of her quest, her raison d’ĂȘtre. She looked at my Old Spice deodorant stick and silently contemplated for a moment. She placed it on the table. Next came the hair gel in the manufacturer’s bottle of about six ounces capacity. There was perhaps an ounce remaining. That, unfortunately, didn’t make it to the table. I guess it’s not the quantity of contraband one carries but, rather, the vessel in which it is carried. I’m sure an explosives expert could explain to me why this mattered but the TSA bomb guy appeared to be away at lunch.
One for two at this point. I’m silently contemplating the cheerful face from housekeeping at the Drake who brings me my replacement hair gel at about half the price of a night’s stay when I’m brought back to the present by Madame G’s final discovery: I’m transporting a nearly unused 3.5 ounce tube of Crest when the rules clearly state that passengers on domestic or international flights entering or exiting the United States of America may have in their possession no more than three ounces. I supposed that the remaining half ounce, when combined with approximately one half ton of ammonium nitrate and 30 gallons of number two heating oil could make a pretty darn effective bomb (assuming I was able to also get a magnesium primer and a propane torch aboard the aircraft).

Resigned to the fact that I had broken the rules and that I was being let off easy with the simple confiscation of my toiletries, I shrugged my shoulders and looked down at the floor like a schoolboy caught with a spitball ready for launch. I gathered up my possessions and made my way to the next line. As I looked around I realized that everyone else had that same defeated look, that look of being defeated by an enemy of overpowering strength. Sure, I was fairly confident that no one was going to overtake my flight today and crash it into the Sears Tower. But I also knew with at least the same level of confidence that nothing that occurs as a result of airport security has anything to do with that fact.

Friday, December 8, 2006


I just started playing around with swivel this week. For the uninitiated, swivel is to data what youtube is to video. Its still in preview mode so the number of users and the volume of data is limited.

What swivel allows you to do is upload data into an account for your own use and for the use of other swivel users. Data can be graphed and compared and the results stored away for others to observe.

Say your not satisfied with apples to oranges comparisons. You can compare apples to American Girl purchases in rural Georgia (okay I made that up). As more users emerge and as more data is uploaded the possibilities are endless. Of course the possibilities for statistical abuse are just as vast...

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Fidel's little brother

So Fidel's brother Raul wants to open a dialog with the U.S. While no less anti-capitalist than his brother, Raul has shown a more pragmatic side than Fidel when it comes to economic realities in the western hemisphere.

The real question is who in the U.S. will stand in the way of progress on trade and tourism issues with Cuba? My guess is the sugar lobby and the ethanol (corn) lobby. Sugar has enjoyed protection from economic reality for years and will do anything necessary to protect the American consumer from the evil red sugar. The ethanol guys have an even bigger horse in the race as the science behind ethanol favors sugar as a feedstock as it apparently converts to more ethanol per pound of input and it apparently does this with less energy inputs as well.

With this in mind I think we can count on a furthering of the embargo for the foreseeable future.

The united food and commercial workers are looking out for me

This past weekend I broke down and replaced a battery in my pickup truck. I would have done it a month or so back when it first started acting up but the best price I could find was in excess of $169 and there are two of them under the hood and Dodge recommends replacing both at the same time. For some odd reason I thought of Walmart and decided to give them a try. $62.97 each and 850 cold cranking amps instead of the 750 of the OEM replacement at the dealer and the auto shops near home.

Of course the Walmart critics will all tell me that I got the worst end of that transaction somehow. And they should know. After all, they are only looking out for my best interests when they slam Walmart. Right??

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gingrich on the First Amendment

In today's Manchester Union Leader there is an article about New Gingrich's speech before some 400 state and local power brokers wherein he calls for a reexamination of freedom of speech in light of the continuing terrorist threat that he sees.

Gingrich, speaking at a Manchester awards banquet, said a "different set of rules" may be needed to reduce terrorists' ability to use the Internet and free speech to recruit and get out their message.

"We need to get ahead of the curve before we actually lose a city, which I think could happen in the next decade," said Gingrich, a Republican who helped engineer the GOP's takeover of Congress in 1994.

My question is this: suppose we win the so called war on terror, what will we have left to show for it?