Friday, December 31, 2010

"Michaela" Replies

"Michaela" replied to my sarcastic flame. I've got to give her credit for being professional in that respect (although not professional enough to know what a NEXUS card is until I clued her in).

She wrote they already have briefed their TSO's on TWIC, and will soon brief them on NEXUS.

She closed with "together we can only get better".

Insert vitriol-laced rejoinder here.......

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The TSA Continues To Suck

I admit, the TSA collected a few brownie points with me this year. After John Pistole vowed to communicate the elite status of TWIC and NEXUS cardholders down the line to his employees, after TSA brought in the backscatter scanners (not perfect but definitely a step in the right direction), and after the screeners at Kahului Airport all of a sudden started to recognize my Nexus card, they kinda had me a little less pissed off at them.

Then came 12/8/2010.

I had an EARLY flight (0600) that day from SLC to DFW. Alarm went off. Left my digs around 3:45. Got to SLC airport almost two hours in advance, like a good sheeple. Breezed through the car rental return. Nobody in line at American Airlines First Class Check-In, breezed through that too. Got to TSA around 4:25 was locked. They don't even open until 4:30.


By the time TSA opened, about 10 baristas and miscellaneous janitors were in the service line, and the one TSA agent checking IDs of course sent them all through before any (paying) passengers. I stood there. Finally the TSA chick waved at me, I stepped forward, and . . . . she wouldn't accept my Nexus card. Had no farking idea what a Nexus card was - despite the fact that it's clearly listed on TSA's own check-in information page. Despite the fact that her boss's boss's boss's boss's boss wants all TSA agents to know what the fark it is. Despite the fact that it's 4:45 AM and we're in Salt Lake City.

After unzipping my rollaboard, taking out my travel documents, showing her my passport with a grumble, zipping everything back up, shuffling through the barefoot kabuki dance, putting my belt back on, and shuffling down to my gate, I had about 45 minutes to kill and a good nerd-rage going. So I whipped out my phone, browsed to the FEEDBACK section of the TSA web site, and punched out a brief flame:

Just came thru TSA chkpt @ SLC Wed Dec 8 @ 4:35 AM. the agent would not accept my NEXUS card as ID, had never heard of NEXUS, had no idea what it was.

It is EXTREMELY frustrating that your employees CONTINUE TO WALLOW IN ABJECT IGNORANCE. Mr Pistole announced almost a year ago he was launching an education campaign to inform ALL TSA airport agents that the NEXUS pass is a legal form of ID and is, in fact, a much higher level of secure ID than a passport. recognition has improved, but this continued incompetence is simply unacceptable.



This morning, 3 weeks later, I actually got a canned reply from TSA:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding identification (ID) requirements at the security screening checkpoint. Specifically, you felt that the ID you presented should have been accepted...........

We regret you found your screening experiences unsatisfactory............

We are unable to determine why the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) did not accept the ID you presented at the screening checkpoint.

Yeah, Sherlock. I regret it too. I'm shocked you couldn't figure out why your mouth-breathing village idiot doesn't read TSA's own web site.

Furthermore, we have forwarded a copy of your email to the Customer Service Manager at SLC airport for review. The Customer Service Manager is responsible for ensuring that the TSO workforce adheres to TSA principles for professional and courteous customer service.

A few hours later, I was dumbstruck to receive a personal e-mail from a real person who is, apparently, a Customer Service Manager for TSA at SLC. Let's call her Michaela. Michaela wrote that she also had never heard of a Nexus card, but would be most interested to hear back from me exactly what it is.

WTF? You know, I've watched my share of episodes of Miami Vice, of Miami CSI, of SVU, and I never have seen, nor heard of, a law enforcement officer asking a suspect to explain the law to her.

I wrote back. First I asked her if she was kidding. Then I sent her a few links - one to Pistole's blog post on the TSA web site, in which he promised to educate all TSA agents nationwide about TSA/DHS's own Trusted Traveler programs. Another link to the TSA web site, which clearly lists the following as acceptable forms of ID:

DHS "Trusted Traveler" cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)

I sent Michaela a link to a thread on containing posts from lots of people, like me, flaming the TSA for not knowing anything about their own "Trusted Traveler" programs.

Then, after building up a good head of steam, I brought on my fastball, right down the center of the plate:

"So.....let me summarize. I have voluntarily submitted to DHS my retinal scan, and my fingerprints. I have been voluntarily investigated by DHS twice, they have approved me for their most elite travel status programs twice. I have invested significant time and a little bit of money filling out forms, applying to DHS for these trusted traveler programs, and going to interviews. I have been interviewed and verified by DHS agents at Honolulu and Edmonton Airports. I traveled outside of the US nine times in 2010; each time I returned, my Nexus or Global Entry biometrics allowed me to pass through Customs with nothing more than a cursory glance from a United States Customs agent. And YOUR DHS-employed TSA AGENT would NOT accept my DHS-ISSUED NEXUS ID FOR IDENTIFICATION at SLC for a DOMESTIC FLIGHT?????????????????????? She wants to see A DRIVER'S LICENSE, one of the most easily-forged pieces of ID on the planet? A drivers license issued by a STATE (not The Feds), a document half the teenagers in America buy counterfeited on the internet SO THEY CAN PURCHASE BEER?

Can you please tell me why I am explaining this to a DHS supervisor?


Hey, readers, it's the holidays.

I've got some time on my hands.


Captain Obvious

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thoughts on Christmas

I. Lakers got their asses kicked by the Miami Heat on Christmas Day. At LA. 96-80, but it wasn't even that close. Love it. The only thing better than watching the Lakers lose is watching them lose at home, in a Nationally-televised game, in a manner so crushing and embarrassing that their horrid "fans" (worst in the NBA) head for the exits with 5 minutes to go without even bothering to boo their own team (as they typically do)

Thank you, Santa.

To me, the coolest celebrity in LA is Charlize Theron, not because of her infinite gorgeousness but, rather, because she's a Clippers fan. I don't see anybody else from Hollywood watching my favorite NBA team, The Clippers, who are a very exiting team but have one of the worst records in the NBA. All the rest want to be seen at Lakers games.

II. I've had about 100,000 miles in my United (aka "Untied") FF account for 5 or 6 years now, but I rarely fly United. Didn't really want to lose the miles, so I got a United Mastercard and once a year I charge a Slurpee or something on the card so that United can't take back my miles. This year I checked my account and I noticed United has a pretty good miles-for-goods shopping web site. I looked around for a while and spent about 25,000 on a new toy, an Olympus Sp-800UZ digital camera.

Why that one?

1. 30x zoom. My current digital camera only has maybe 4x zoom, which is frequently inadequate because usually I'm stuck up in a timing tower or batcave somewhere, and I take a lot of photos at full zoom. In addition, I work in a lot of really huge venues (Kitzbuhel, for example) where 4x zoom just doesn't cut it. One of the coolest things about the downhill course at Kitzbuhel is the finish area is one of the best natural amphitheatres in sports. There are 4 or 5 places to die within sight of the 80,000-odd fans in the finish area.

2. It was out of the question to buy anything made by Nikon, since their Ashton Kutcher adverts are SO fucking annoying.

Well, sports fans.....when they say this thing zooms, they mean IT ZOOMS. WOW.

No Zoom:
About 25% Zoom:
About 75%

Max zoom:
The camera is the size of about 3 hockey pucks because the lens is so big, so it's not one of those cigarette-pack form factors you can stick in your coat and forget about it.

But I like.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Restoring Sanity To Airport Security?

To anybody who flies more than 4 times a year, I highly recommend Patrick Smith's column Ask The Pilot on

This new IATA plan Smith describes sounds great to me. As the owner of not one but two biometric passports (retinal scan for Nexus and fingerprints for Global Entry), I think the IATA plan is just peachy. But the key question, of course, is the one Smith asks in the article's subtitle:

Will the TSA bullies go for it?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two Biggest Whores in Modern Society

I'm currently thinking the two biggest whores in US society are currently most organized religions ("tithe me a piece of your income and we'll allow you to feel good about yourself") and the current leadership of the Republican Party ("we don't care what's good for the US, we only care about what's good for The Republican Party").

If you want proof about the Republicans, simply watch Fox News for 5 minutes, read anything Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, or John Boehner have ever said in their entire political lives, or even check out C-SPAN (the total moral bankruptcy of the Republican leadership is so obvious that even a complete idiot doesn't need Sean Hannity or Glen Beck to explain it to him/her). For proof about the Catholic / Scientologist / whatever Church, well.....

Friday, December 10, 2010

Let It Not Be Said That the United States Has Nothing Useful To Export.....

Hooters. Tokyo.


I would pay significant money to see the faces of these girls when my gaijin friend The Big Guy walks in.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Fucking Frogs, chapter 9,456,213,709,101

Of course, the Frogs' own failure to recognize a design flaw in a pattern of many dozen similar tire blowouts was not recognized in this verdict. Instead, they single out an hourly-wage welder (who is NOT French) as the predominantly guilty party.

link <-link

'Metzner swiftly said the US airline [Continental] would appeal the verdict, slamming a ruling that "only protects French interests".


Absurd, xenophobic, typical Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Remember That Old Expression "Up To Your Ass In Alligators"?

After a day at IDS in JAX discussing AKI stuff, I took Tomas to The Alligator Farm in St Augustine. I was, almost literally, up to my ass in alligators.

Tomas is one of those rare European characters who actually enjoys & appreciates US kitsch, US culture, and American humour. He loved The Alligator Farm. A typical Euro (especially a frog) would have sniffed something snarky like "well, WE have The Louvre and the Vienna Opera House". Afterwards we watched the return of LeBron to Cleveland (Heat vs Cavaliers) on an 80-inch TV at my friend's house. THAT's an American day of leisure: The Alligator farm, an NBA game, and a couple of big meals.

Hadn't been to the IDS mothership in about 10 years. Saw all kinds of familiar shady characters: Slaw, Benjy, Dingo, Leroy, Marco (why doesn't Marco have a nickname?), Croc, Mitch, Boris, Gars. Unfortunately, several of the shadiest of the shady were out of town - Cockroach, The Big Guy, and SpongeMarkSquareHands. Also had dinner w/Leroy and Dommie Sue at Slider's in Neptune Beach, which was really fun (tasty too).