Monday, January 17, 2011

New Home for Crusty

Crusty Logic has moved:

As I mentioned several weeks ago, my son made my Christmas by giving Crusty Logic a much nicer home. Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Coming up

I hope everyone had an enjoyable New Years and is recovering well from the holidays.

This is an exciting week for me. My son surprised me with a Christmas present of an awesome new website for Crusty Logic. Something I’ve wanted for some time. One feature he included is an about page which is forcing me to actually document what Crusty Logic is all about. A very good and long overdue exercise, but also one that is surprisingly challenging. I hope to have that and a few other things completed and a move to the new site by this Friday!

Next priority is to get results of the TSA survey up. One quickie. There appears to be an interesting and fairly significant difference in the level of concern over TSA issues expressed by respondents from TripAdvisor compared to all other respondents. TripAdvisor respondents, overall and within frequent flyer bands, indicate far less concern about issues of radiation, groping pat-downs, someone seeing them nude, or of TSA potentially violating our Constitution or privacy rights. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see this difference when comparing people who fly a lot versus those who fly very little, but I was rather surprised to find a noticeable difference like this within a band, for instance, those who fly between 20 and 25 roundtrips per year.

See you Friday!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Note: Survey results hopefully early next week.

Warning: the following article may be uncomfortable reading for some.

Donna D’ Errico was famous as a ‘Baywatch Babe’ and for posing nude in Playboy. My wife will be glad to know that I haven’t seen her pics from Playboy, though based on articles last week by people who have, she had nothing left to hide. She also recently said that, after going through the latest and greatest of Barack and Janet’s TSA routine, she felt violated.

Some wonder how someone who’s posed for Playboy can feel violated by someone seeing them nude otherwise. This isn’t a lot unlike a prostitute being raped by a client or woman raped by her husband – it’s a matter of consent. D’Errico choosing to pose for playboy when she’s 25 doesn’t mean that she’ll be comfortable or not be violated when she is forced to pose nude when she’s 35 nor does her choice to have done so at one point in one situation in her life mean that she’s willing later or in another situation.

That D’Errico was apparently singled out for a nude-o-scope scan by TSA agents wasn’t surprising. There have been dozens of such reports in the past few weeks. There have also been numerous reports that women, more specifically, young, attractive women, have been ‘randomly’ chosen for the nude-o-scope at a much higher rate than others. This too is not surprising, though I’ve yet to see anything to substantiate it as fact.

Let’s take a look at a few things. Starting with men.

Men in the U.S. spend about $9 billion per year purchasing porn, $24 billion on prostitutes, and $2 billion in strip clubs. That averages to about $520 for every man every year. (This spending gets concentrated in to the middle years with a peak average of about $1,190 at age 42.)

But wait, there’s more. An estimated 95% of men look at porn at least occasionally, and that $9 billion they spend only accounts for about a tenth of it – most of it is free. Over 80% of men will make at least one visit to a prostitute in their life, and 50% will make at least 37 visits. And there are almost no demographic differences in these numbers. They’re the same regardless of wealth, career, religion, or lack thereof.

This all gets to the heart of two critical differences in men and women sexually. For men, the physical and emotional are pretty much completely separate. Physical enjoyment requires no emotional connection, thus why porn and prostitutes do it for men, but not for women. Second, men are extremely visually stimulated and have a huge desire for variety. Every time some guy with a hot wife gets caught with a hooker the women on The View get all worked up - not understanding how Elizabeth Hurley wasn’t good enough for Hugh Grant or Christie Brinkley wasn’t good enough for Peter whatever-his-name-is.

Your Lutheran or Baptist or whatever pastor, rabbi, imam, or priest, more likely than not, looks at porn and visits prostitutes. Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, and the few thousand other pastors, priests, rabbis’, and imams who’ve been arrested in prostitution stings in the past few years aren’t the only ones - they just got caught (and note that less than one-tenth of one percent of those involved in prostitution are ever arrested).

And it is never really satiated. There is no ‘getting used to it.’ No matter how much porn they view or how many times they visit prostitutes.

This is not to excuse any of this, but simply to help us all understand the average man. I don’t know why God made men this way, but it may well be one of my first questions for him if I get the chance.

Note: If your husband being monogamous is important to you, and he is, consider yourself extremely blessed. He’s a one-in-twenty rarity and achieving something that King David, Solomon, Abraham, Jacob, and most men in the Bible failed to achieve.

Now, put all of that on a shelf for safe keeping and let’s take a brief look at those who would become TSA screeners.


The qualification to work as a TSA screener, the folks who grope us, view our nude images, and are apparently responsible for our safety in the air, is a GED or equivalent. The job pays about $14.80 per hour, or about $31,000 per year.

I’m going to go out on a fairly solid limb and say that, on average, people with GED’s who earn $31,000 per year have less self control or self discipline than those who complete university or medical school or who earn higher wages. I know this because lack of self discipline is perhaps the number one reason people do not graduate from high school or university or earn higher wages. It’s most often not lack of intelligence or lack of opportunity or lack of good teachers or lack of anything else – it’s lack of discipline.

ADD moment: Interestingly, the leaders of many drug gangs actually have a fair amount of self discipline – the exact same self discipline that would allow them to be a good leader in a legal enterprise. Dealing drugs is simply a much easier industry to get in to. You can have a lot of self discipline and still lack morals or ethics.

The pay and qualifications for TSA screener and mall cop are very similar. A number of TSA agents actually are former mall cops, and vice-versa. Many TSA screeners and mall cops are also wanna-be real cops, but do not possess the self discipline to get the associates degree or go through the training or pass the tests to become a real cop.

This said, there are exceptions to every average. There are people with GED’s who have become successful CEO’s or great leaders and there are terrific, very disciplined people, teachers a great example, who earn lower than average (or deserved) wages. I know that there are also TSA agents who possess a great deal of self discipline and this is simply the only job available to them at the moment – we’re talking averages here, not ubiquity.

On the flip side, big prop’s to those who do choose to get a GED or work as a TSA agent rather than live off of welfare. Getting a GED and working a job are both credible and good things. But, just because someone gets a GED or works for TSA doesn’t mean that we should turn over our genitals to them or entrust them with nude images of our bodies, anymore than you should me or a politician or a barista.

Now, stick all of that up on the shelf for a bit.


Consider for a moment, TSA agents who’ve recently made the news; two busted for possession of child porn and one in Atlanta for rape, just an hour after he left work. Or, one of their bosses at DHS busted for soliciting kids online for sex. (Or the number who’ve been busted for stealing from travelers luggage.)

Unfortunately these issues aren’t unique to TSA agents. Cops, judges, dentists, politicians, priests, and others get busted for child porn, rape, and theft as well.

Cops are, by every measure I’ve found, the most corrupt, supposedly non-criminal, organization in existence. There’s a popular saying “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The number of cops prosecuted for murder, assault, theft, and other offenses is staggering.

Remember those prostitutes we talked about earlier and the difference in consenting to something or not? Prostitutes have sex with cops more than men of any other career – and not exactly by the sex worker’s willing consent. When a prostitute willingly has sex with someone for $300, that’s free choice, a bad choice perhaps, but still free. When a cop uses his badge to threaten arrest if she doesn’t give him a freebie – that’s not consent, it’s rape. Two recent studies, one by Freakonomics’ author Steven Leavitt, have indicated that a prostitute is more likely to be extorted by a cop for free sex than be arrested by one.

There are two important intertwined issues here. First, people who become cops, on average, posses greater self discipline than people who become TSA screeners. Even so, these cops are, by and large, a group who have an extremely difficult time remaining free of corruption and of restraining themselves to not take advantage of their authority for their own benefit. (And in reality, many of us might find difficulty restraining ourselves in similar situations.)

Second, consider the difference in a cop demanding a freebie from a prostitute in lieu of arrest and a TSA agent selecting Donna D’Errico to be forced to pose for a nude image for his buddy in the back room lest she not be allowed on a plane. Or the difference in that cop demanding a freebie from a prostitute and a cute 14-year-old girl being forced to provide a nude image of herself to a mall cop before proceeding.

When you read our U.S. Constitution something that will, hopefully, stand out to you is how much of it is devoted to restraint of authority. The writers of our Constitution understood the issue of corruption. They understood that extremely few people, if any, can withstand the temptations of authority and power.

Fortunately, we have also seen a number of laws enacted and court decisions made that clarify these constitutional restraints on authority or provide further restraint. Requiring Miranda warnings to those under arrest is one example, clarifying when a cop may search someone, their car, or house, is another.

We are all human. We are all limited in our ability to restrain ourselves. It is critical that we have and enforce laws and cultural norms that severely limit what people in power over us can do. Unfettered authority is far more dangerous to us than terrorists.

Add human frailty to that collection of stuff on the shelf and let’s quickly discuss those backscatter images.


“It’s same gender folk viewing my porn-o-scope images, isn’t it?”

The TSA originally said that it would always be same gender and published this widely. Before they even began the actual roll-out of the machines they changed the policy, but didn’t publish that very widely. Realistically, there is about an 80% chance that the person viewing your and everyone’s image is male. The vast majority of TSA employees are male, and in order to provide same-gender gropes, what females they have must be available at the checkpoint, not hidden in a back room.

“And, those images aren’t very realistic, are they? Like, you can’t really see anything, right?”

The TSA has purchased two types of machines; MMW (Millimeter Wave) and Backscatter x-ray. MMW machines use low frequency waves that are very likely less harmful than the radiation of the backscatter x-ray machines and that also produce an image that is less photo-realistic. The images produced by backscatter x-ray are photo-realistic.

The TSA folks ain’t dumb. The only images they have released and thus the only images ever shown, are from the MMW machines. They have refused to release ANY images from the backscatter machines.

Recently a backscatter image of a woman did began circulation. Other than the image being black and white, no imagination was necessary - from toes to labia to nipples to eyes. The image turned out to be a fake. Someone had apparently taken a color image of a completely nude young woman, made it black and white, and made a negative.

What was telling though is that it took the TSA 4 business days to analyze it and determine that it was not from one of their own machines. And this determination was not because the image was photo-realistic, or showed the girl’s genitals clearly and detailed - the reasons you would expect if their machines don’t do so. No, the determination came only after an independent website found the original image and talked about how the fakery had been done in Photoshop.

A judge once said “I know porn when I see it.” This image, that for at least four days the TSA thought could be from their same machines that they use to make images of you and me, would easily qualify as porn for many people in the U.S. It left nothing more to the imagination than Dona D’Ericco’s photo’s in Playboy. Most media refused to run it and instead just described it.

If this image were of an underage girl I don’t think it would be any different than the black and white photo’s by Sally Mann and Jock Sturgis that people protested against as child porn at Barnes and Noble a decade or so ago. The difference being that Mann’s and Sturgis’ subjects were naturists who were OK with their images and willingly, and along with their parents, gave their consent. Our courts were correct in saying that Mann’s and Sturgis’ works were not illegal, however, I think few of us would want our own children to appear nude in them. Or appear nude for some guy in the back room.


Now, let’s start putting everything together; male libido, average TSA hire, human frailty in the face of temptations and opportunity, and photo-realistic nude images of cute young boys, girls, and celebrities.

A man who is homosexual or bi-sexual is very unlikely to be able to restrain himself when groping another guy whom he finds attractive. He’s going to get off a bit, pause a bit longer than necessary, explore a bit more, grab with a bit firmer grip. Simple reality. No different than that the average heterosexual male would find it difficult to restrain himself if told to pat-down or grope a cute 16-year-old girl.

Or, take a guy who, if average, will spend about $500 this year on porn, prostitutes, and strip clubs, put him in a job where he and his buddies are paid to select people at random to take a nude photo of, give him unbridled authority to force this on people, and what do you think will happen?

Remember, male libido is an equal opportunity tormentor, it doesn’t discriminate based on career, income, or much of anything else. Self discipline isn’t though. Multiply any issues you think this might raise by these guys perhaps having a bit less self-discipline than average.

Many people who support the new TSA procedures say that doctors see people nude all of the time. Doctors I’ve talked to have also said that this sometimes takes an extreme level of self-discipline. Just consider how many hundreds of doctors have been convicted of inappropriate sexual stuff with their patients. I know of at least one ob-gyn who will not see patients under the age of 30, which does severely limit his income, because he is concerned about his ability to control himself. Now, just think about how much discipline it takes to get a medical degree, the consequences of losing their license for inappropriate sexual contact, and how often these extremely disciplined men still succumb to sexual temptation.

It takes considerably more discipline to become a doctor than to become a chiropractor. Based on a quick review of disciplinary actions, a chiropractor is much more likely to be disciplined for inappropriate sexual actions than a doctor. It takes more discipline to become a chiropractor than to become a TSA screener. What can we expect then of TSA screeners?

Might a TSA screener also think they have a much better chance of avoiding being caught by their victims than a doctor or chiropractor? What is the likelyhood that the former’s victims will suspect something compared to the latter’s who likely experienced some form of physical violation? And might a TSA screener have much less to risk compared to a doctor or chiropractor losing their license?

Is it at all reasonable to assume that these men viewing hundreds of nude images of us at the airport aren’t sexually excited in some way. That some guy isn’t going to find a way to sneak some images home? Maybe use his cell phone camera to make a copy of your naked self for his own enjoyment or to share with a few close friends – on the Internet.

Having women viewing these images would likely be better, but they wouldn’t be immune from temptation either. Just how much would Perez Hilton or TMZ pay for a photo-realistic nude image of Taylor Swift, Abigail Breslin, Chelsea Clinton, or John Kerry’s daughters that he’s so publically proclaimed available? How much would a porn site pay for nude pictures of your un-famous daughter? I can see the web banner now “Girls of the TSA!” or perhaps websites with airport specific pages “Girls of LAX”. I’m sure that the financial payout will be more than enough to overcome any potential punishment.

We couldn’t keep our most sensitive data from Wikileaks, and you think your nude images will remain secure?

One more time; male libido, average TSA hire, human frailty in the face of temptations and opportunity, and photo-realistic nude images of cute young boys, girls, and celebrities.

* A number of people raised similar concerns about women in the military. These concerns were largely shoved aside with responses that ‘military personnel are professionals.’ As of Jun 2010 approximately 37% of women in the military have reported being sexually assaulted or raped (93,000 just between 2002 and Jun 2010). The military’s psychological health organizations estimate that only about 20% of sexual assaults or rapes are ever even reported.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

TSA and East Germany and Socialism and Freedom

Thursday night I had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance who grew up in West Berlin and now lives in Munich. For over a decade he was head of product direction for Porsche, a car company in Stuttgart. But that wasn’t the most fascinating part of our discussion (though some comments on their all electric strategy were extremely interesting).

What fascinated me was a comment he made about how much crime had risen in West Berlin after the Berlin Wall came down and East Germany was freed from it’s socialist masters.

Remember that after WWII Germany was divided into the democratic and free West Germany and the Socialist and not so free East Germany. Berlin, located in what was now East Germany, was also divided into a democratic and free West Berlin and a Socialist and not so free East Berlin. West Berlin was effectively a democratically free island in the middle of a Socialist country.

People who lived in East Germany, except for those in West Berlin, were not allowed to leave the country without difficult-to-get permission from the government. This was, according to the East German government, for the safety of the people and to prevent the infiltration of fascists who might hinder the will of the German people in establishing the socialist government they desired. It was not until 1989, just 21 years ago, that the wall came down and East Germans were given their liberty.

Stefan said that when they wanted to travel out of their West Berlin island they had three options. The easiest was to fly, but that was expensive in the 60’s and 70’s when he was growing up there. There were two to four train lines, depending on when you counted, but this left you reliant on trains since car rental at that time was difficult. There were also three motorway routes they could take in their car between West Berlin and ‘the rest of the free world’. These routes had been part of ongoing negotiations since the end of WWII and the treaties that divided Germany between, effectively, itself (the three occupation zones of the U.S., U.K, and France - what became independent West Germany and West Berlin) and Russia (Socialist controlled East Germany and East Berlin).

Since these motorways went through East Germany there were a number of restrictions. Before travelling they had to obtain a travel permit from the East German government specifying which route they wanted to use and when they desired to do so. “The Germans would never give you the dates you requested, it was always off by one or two.” Once they left West Berlin they had to drive straight to the border within the time allotted on their permit. They were not allowed to leave the motorway for any reason nor have any contact with any East Germans.

On each end of their East German journey they were subjected to a search by East German authorities. All of their luggage was put on big tables, emptied, and searched, their car was searched, and each person received the official East German personal search (pat-down and feel-up).

“Because of the hassles and because my mother and sisters hated getting patted down, we didn’t leave West Berlin very often.”

Thinking about our recent TSA issues, I asked the gender of the pat-downs and he said that they were always same gender “but that didn’t matter, the ladies said they weren’t whores and didn’t want to be treated like whores.”

On the other hand, they all felt a great freedom once they passed “into the west.” “We’d drive from country to country with only quick passport checks at the borders.” He said that they would often drive around just to experience the freedom of crossing borders so effortlessly (this was before the EU so all European border crossings involved at least passport checks), experiencing all of the different cultures and food, and to buy things that were just too expensive in West Berlin.

He said that his sister who lives in Frankfurt won’t travel to the U.S. now because the new TSA procedures remind her too much of those East German border crossings.

And the rise in crime he’d mentioned?

Because West Berlin was such an island there was just about zero crime. If you committed a crime, there was nowhere to go and hide. You simply couldn’t commit a crime without getting caught. After the West/East divides came down the crime rates soared and for a while were higher than the rest of Europe (though they’re now lower than the European average).

But Stefan said that though crime was up, they were free. And remember, he lived in free West Berlin. No more travel permissions. No more pat-downs at border crossings. For he and his family there was no contest between old and new. They’d take the massively higher crime to have their freedom. There’s no way, he said, that they’d trade those freedoms they’d gained for lower crime or more safety.

When does the scale tip for us? When have we given up so much to the Department of Homeland Security and their TSA that whatever it is they do or do not provide isn’t worth it? At what point does our government impinge on our life, liberty, and happiness more than terrorists or others who might threaten us?

Friday, December 3, 2010

"If you don't like it, don't fly."

The affectionate words of DHS chief Janet Napolitano.


Side Note: I plan to post some more in-depth survey analysis on Monday.

A trip must often be at least 2 or 3 hours faster by plane for me to choose air over rail. The new TSA procedures have raised that number dramatically.

I measure that time door to door, not just flight time vs train time. So, while an actual flight might be 2 hours and the train 6 hours, the flight will also involve about an hour more time at the airport pre-departure and perhaps 30 minutes more time after arrival so that’s an extra 1.5 hours that a plane trip will require. Train stations are also usually closer to my destinations than airports which can make another 30 minutes or so difference.

1) The actual difference in time, door to door, is then 4 by air vs 6.5 by rail, so 2.5 hours.

Even so, would I really be willing to give up that extra 2.5 hours?

2) Less wasted time. With plane travel there is a ton of wasted time and interruptions, waiting in lines at check-in, waiting in lines and going through security, more waiting at the gate and waiting to get on-board, no laptop use until about 10-15 minutes after departure, laptops put away 10 – 30 minutes before landing, more time wasted deplaning, getting luggage, etc. And that’s first class. It’s worse for coach. With a train trip I walk straight to my seat, and can immediately get to work on my laptop or relax and read my Kindle, even in 2nd class.

3) Trains are much less of a hassle. I can get to a train station 10 or 15 minutes before departure and comfortably walk directly to my seat on the train. I don’t have to deal with checking in, TSA security hassles, waiting at the gate, boarding processes, fighting for overhead bin space, getting hit by rude passengers carrying too much carry-on stuff, etc.

4) Trains are more relaxing. This is a by-product of the hassle issues above. When I sit down in my seat on a train I’m fairly relaxed and able to be productive or just relax and read. I don’t have to worry about when I can or can’t use my laptop or Kindle, I can get a drink any time I want. By the time I’m in my seat on a plane I’m often a bit wound up and worn out and unless I stopped at Starbucks on my way, I have to wait a bit for anything to eat or drink (and while my airline takes American Express, they don’t make cappuccino’s)

5) More comfortable. ALL seats on a train are larger and more comfortable. It is easier to get to the aisle from a window seat on a train and easier to get up and walk around anytime you desire.

6) Many train seats include a fairly large table area.

7) Air quality on trains is massively better than the recirculated air on planes. Besides being healthier overall, I generally feel much better after an 8 hour train ride than an 8 hour plane ride.

8) Trains are reliable. They don’t suffer nearly as many delays as air travel. Well, at least the trains in Europe don’t. This, by the way, is not something I fault airlines or TSA or anyone for, it’s simply the nature of air travel vs staying on terra firma.

9) A four hour journey on a train isn’t terribly unlike settling down in a café for four hours. The food and drink aren’t usually as good, but the scenery is better and ever changing.

For me anyway, train travel wins big.

I will note that most of my travel is in Europe where train travel is a bit easier than it is in the U.S. Rail along the U.S. East coast is pretty good though, and often a better alternative to air. At least until Barack and Janet decide that if they can’t cop a feel or get a pic of my junk at the airport, that they’ll setup at Penn Station.

Even without their help making me safer on the train, I still have a greater chance of being killed by a terrorist in Times Square, on a U.S. military base, or at an Oregon Christmas Tree lighting, than on a train (and next we’ll talk about how much easier Barack and Janet find focusing on non threatening low hanging fruit than real terrorists).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dutch Parents vs U.S. Law Enforcement

In the U.S. we spend about $60 billion annually on our drug war, about $213 per capita. That’s $213 each year for each and every person. If you’re a family of four, about $1,000 of your money goes to the drug war each year*.

The Netherlands spends a bit over $400 million, or about $24.00 per person. You did read that correctly – we spend about 10 times as much per person as The Netherlands.

In the U.S. we put the burden on Law Enforcement to stop people from using drugs (thus, our much higher cost), The Netherlands puts that burden on parents.

It’d be one thing if The Netherlands achieved the same results as we do. But they don’t. They blow us out of the water. Twice as many teens in the U.S. smoke pot as teens in The Netherlands. And the same goes for other drugs and all age groups.

Which system produces the better results?

As well, there are a number of by-products, or consequences, of these two approaches. One is that while the U.S. system teaches people to avoid law enforcement, the Dutch system relies on and teaches personal responsibility.

Which system likely benefits society the most?

Smoking pot is stupid. Continually spending money on our continually failed wars on prohibition is?

* Now, lest you think that you don’t pay much in taxes so therefore don’t bear much of this burden, think again. Everything you purchase has a higher price because of the taxes that the retailer, manufacturer, and distributors pay and because of the higher wages that they pay to overcome their employees tax burden. Trust me, you pay your $213 every year. And we haven’t even addressed the estimated $32 billion in tax revenue we’re missing.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NOOD's impact & very quick survey results

Before we go on, if you haven't already Click here to take survey

All media and the TSA are reporting zero problems at TSA checkpoints today with lines much shorter than normal. NOOD, National Opt-Out Day, must be a failure.

Not. A few key points. By all appearances the number of people flying today seems at an all time pre-Thanksgiving low. Until actual stats come in this is purely anecdotal, but it seems a lot of people have stayed away from air travel because of TSA. I'll also note that Amtrak is busier than ever with many media outlets reporting a lot of traveler stating that they're choosing alternatives to their normal air travel because of TSA.

Second point - TSA are not using the full-body scanners. Reports from across the nation are that the scanners are either not being used at all or only very sporadically. Clearly TSA got a message this past week.

OK, some very quick survey results starting with the race to see what forum generates the most responses.

Tripadvisor: 490
Flyertalk: 28
Thirtythousandfeet: 2 2
Crusty Logic: 5*
No Response: 187

* I assume that a major portion of the No Responses are actually Crusty Logic folk since I didn't add this question until 5 days after the survey went up - so I'll give myself a nominal second place :-)

Brief top responses:

91.2% US
2.2% Canada, OZ, Switzerland.
Plus respondents from 18 other countries

53% male
41% female
3% homosexual male

14 Domestic R/T
3 Int'l R/T
28 trips through TSA per year
22% have been through full-body
73% have opted out

55% of travel is business, 45% is leisure

Impact on future travel:
35% eliminating future air travel until TSA changes
12% reduce air travel by 80%
10% reduce by 60%
23% reduce by 40%

68% of those who've been through new TSA procedures multiple times say that it gets more difficult emotionally with each time, 31% say it stays the same.

A very quick calc of the stats indicates that 73% of respondents fly at least 4 round-trips per year thus at least nominal frequent flyers (I should have included a question on silver/gold/plat status - oh well).

Note: That 35% eliminating future travel seems rather high. Other numbers are not out of reality.

More later

Survey Update

I had a couple of requests for custom versions of the TSA survey so people could see what their forum members opinions are. I've added a question to the bottom of page 1 for people to select how they found out about the survey. If you'd like your group/forum added please let me know.

I'll try to get either updates stats posted later tonight or in the morning and hopefully will get the online dynamic stats and charts setup tomorrow.

Monday, November 22, 2010

When TSA Starts Running Obamacare

In TSA And What We Can Look Forward To For Healthcare I wrote about an experience I had with a horrible mess caused by TSA in Chicago O'Hare last spring and imagined them running healthcare. Let's think about this again in light of what we've seen recently. Imagine Janet Napolitano and John Pistole (Head of TSA) or other similar government bureaucrats managing your healthcare. Think about what this government agency thinks it can require of you just so you can board a plane. Now think how much further they'd likely go 'for your health'.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Backscatter Full-Body Scanners Dangerous?

Dr Manny Alvarez, an ob-gyn, put up an article on today stating that there is no danger in the backscatter x-ray scanners. This is not something he can say even remotely conclusively. The fact is that we DO NOT KNOW what the potential harm from these machines is. Ionizing radiation with Backscatter is very different from standard medical x-rays. There is currently NO public testing information available on these machines, let alone peer reviewed studies. There have been a number of concerns raised by radiologists and others that have not be addressed.

Of further concern is that TSA will not allow either it's own employees or airline passengers to wear a Dosimeter around the machines.

These machines may be just as safe as TSA says they are (if so, why not allow the Dosimeters?). But they may be far more dangerous. We simply do not know at this time so going through one (or working beside one as many TSA employees do) is fairly risky at this point.

Opt-Outs are popular

Yesterday it was announced that airline pilots are special and will soon be able to opt-out of humiliating nude-o-scopes or gropings at TSA checkpoints (congrats to them btw). They join members of congress and many other government employees who are special enough to opt-out of this administrations policies. Will flight attendants be next? Oh, and apparently Muslim women may be able to opt-out of the groping - they can grope themselves and then have their hands tested for explosives residue (details of this policy aren't clear).

Obamacare was supposed to be the great equalizer. Everyone on the same plan. Yet McDonald's and a large number of unions have been given permission to opt-out of Obamacare. By some estimates as much as 21% of the U.S. population has been given an opt-out for Obamacare. If it's so great, why are all these opt-outs needed?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

TSA Survey

OK, finally got the survey up. It's rough, but should do the job. When I get time I'll set up a results page in the survey engine, but until then I'll post aggregate results here.

Click here to take survey

2010.11.20 Results - Sorry it's taken me so long post these. Very briefly, 41% male, 59% female, 88% US citizens, Avg age = 43. Avg 22 trips through TSA per year. Feelings about someone seeing you or spouse nude = very bothered. Seeing daughter nude = between very bothered and terrified. Feelings about grouping; you = very bothered, spouse between very bothered and terrified, daughter = terrified (understandably). Concerns about radiation between No Concern and Very Bothered (somewhat surprising its this low). More on responses for actual TSA experiences later along with updates to the above.

Several people suggested a question on how much of people's travel is leisure vs business and if the new TSA will impact future travel. Great ideas. Both added.

Varying Modesty and TSA's Impact On Teens

What may seem fine in the world of John Pistole, Janet Napolitano, and Barack Obama, may not be so fine in the world of you or me.

Modesty is an interesting thing. Generally most males don’t give a rip who sees them nude, women tend to lean a bit more towards the reticent side. But there are people of both genders who run the gamut from absolute terrifying fear to overly outgoing exhibitionists. Are those on the terrifying fear end supposed to stop flying?

How about people who have been raped or sexually assaulted and for whom either of the new options could be prohibitively traumatic? Are these people just not supposed to ever fly again? What did they do to deserve this?

There is also an interesting inter-personal thing with couples. Many men are more protective of their wives and girlfriends bodies than their wives and girlfriends are. For many couples going through Barack and Janet’s Kabuki Theatre, the guy will be far more bothered than his girl over some other guy seeing her nude or someone groping her vagina and boobs in public.

I wonder too about the impact on teen girls. Will a 14-year-old girl who has gone through Janet’s new TSA a number of times on family trips get so de-sensitized to others touching her or seeing her nude, so routinely, that a sexting request for a picture or some guys roaming whatever will seem more normal than perhaps it should? “Fifty guys at the airport have seen me nude, what’s the harm in one more?” Teen guys may be salivating at the gift TSA is giving them*.

Put these last two issues together and what do you get? A boyfriend convincing your daughter that other guys have seen her body, but he hasn't. And he's her boyfriend, so why them and not him? Same for getting to feel her up.

What could possibly be the unintended consequences of these new policies?

* I realize that many teen girls are already pretty quick to send a guy a pic of herself nude or let guys do whatever with her body. Many, and perhaps most, aren't so quick though. This is about the latter.

Will Muslims Be Screened Only By Other Muslims ?

CAIR has filed a complaint against TSA that the new procedures violate Islamic teachings. Yesterday rumors started floating around Washington that Barack and Janet were working on a solution. Will the solution be that passengers who opt out of the full body radiation experiment and porn show be allowed to request a pat-down, in private, by someone not just of their own gender, but also of their own religion? Any problems with this?

Full Body Scans Provide NO Additional Safety !!

For anyone who has missed it in all of the articles floating around. Full-Body Scans and Enhanced Pat-Downs provide NO additional security or safety. They will detect a few things that the old system didn't but they will not detect some things that the old system did. And BOTH systems miss a myriad of things.

We've got 38 holes in airline security for terrorists to exploit. The old system plugged 5, the new system plugs a different 5, both still leave 33. And for this people want to take the risk of additional radiation and some horny perp getting off on looking at their wife or daughter nude?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It Doesn’t Get Any Better

Many things get easier each time we do them. The more I tie my shoes, the easier it gets. Same with a bow tie when I used to wear one. The more I use my camera the easier it gets (though my pictures don’t necessarily improve). Even going through airport security has gotten easier over time. Each new addition by TSA, laptops, shoes, liquids, was a pain the first time, but got better by the second and simply became part of the new normal.

Getting groped or displaying your nude body for a stranger doesn't though. Most of the people I’ve talked to who have made several trips through Barack and Janet's New Kabuki Theatre for Pedophiles have said that it doesn’t get better, and several have said it actually gets worse.

One woman said that the first time was unnerving, the next three or four were tolerable, and she said she thought she was normalizing it. The last two though, have left her feeling traumatized. One guy said that he was part of the no-big-deal crowd and happily went through the NoS without much thought, until the sixth time, when he said he was rather bothered by the thought of it and that being bothered has increased with each successive trip.

Another person said that her 8-year-old daughter was concerned the first time, bothered more the second, and now refuses to go on a trip with her mom next week.

And these are all seasoned travelers.

I’ll put a survey up tomorrow morning to see what others experiences have been.

Barack and Janet’s Kabuki Theatre for Pedophiles

A follow-up to last Wednesday's post.

For about a decade now we’ve all been participants in Kabuki Theatre every time we fly a commercial flight in the U.S. Security experts overwhelming agree that most of what the TSA does at their checkpoints has nothing to do with actual security. It just makes the flying public feel better.

Going through TSA has become increasingly irritating. Wait for someone to check my ID, wait at the x-ray belt, grab 3 bins, take out my laptop and put it in one, put my jacket, liquids, and other stuff in a bin, take off my shoes, put my shoes in a bin, wait in socks to go through the metal detector, keep an eye on my stuff so nobody grabs any of it, put everything back together after being cleared through. It’s a pain. It’s irritating. But whatever.

My wife has an artificial hip thanks to a running accident several years ago so she gets to go through a pat-down - every flight. Royal PITA! Some months ago she was in a foot cast so they said they had to take her back to the back for a special x-ray. Thirty-eight minutes and six x-rays later she finally emerged. I can certainly understand their wanting to take every precaution with her, she’s a cute blonde Swede.

Until very recently we put up with it, mostly with good humor. It’s a pain. It’s irritating. It takes a bit more time. Whatever. Putting up with all of it for a bit of theatre wasn’t really a big deal (though I did my fair share of complaining).

What Obama, Janet Napolitano, and TSA are doing now, with Nude-o-Scopes and enhanced groin grope pat-downs, for nothing more than theatre, is a big deal.

Let’s weigh the two sides, increased security vs. invasion of privacy and danger to health, and see what we come up with.

Increased Security ?

The Nude-o-Scope (NoS) will be able to detect some things that the walk-thru metal detectors (WTMD) are not able to. On the other hand, they cannot detect other things. Of nine probable risks, a WTMD can detect five, leaving us vulnerable to four while a NoS can detect, well, five, leaving us vulnerable to four. Two of the five a NoS can detect are at least different than what a WTMD can detect.

For example, the Nude-o-Scope cannot detect many powders such as the PETN used by the Christmas Day Underwear Bomber last year. This coming Christmas one of his friends can go to Detroit airport and have a very good chance of waltzing right through Janet’s latest and greatest security with the exact same powder in the exact same place as Abdulmultallib.

Box-cutters will now be easier to get onboard. A NoS sees through to your skin, but not through it. Wrap your favorite weapon in some leather, apply KY liberally, insert in rectum. Barack and Janet’s Nude-o-Scope won’t see a thing, nor would a pervert groping your (or John Tyner’s) junk. With a bit of will-power I’d bet you could get a gun through easier today than any time in the past few years. Or, like Abdullah Hassan Tali al-Asiri, just stick a bomb up there and make life easier.

And this is just the front door. What about the back door, side door, and windows? There are a number of other ways a determined terrorist can get stuff past security.

Do you feel safer now that the TSA are groping people's genitals, looking at us nude, and performing a radiation experiment on us?

Invasion of Privacy and Danger to Health ?

So what will all of this so improved security cost us?

The Nude-o-Scopes cost about $200k each to purchase and $40k each to install. They require more TSA personnel to operate and will incur an estimated $11k per year in maintenance. Your tax dollars at work. And this is the least of the issues with Barack and Janet’s Kabuki Theatre.

Radiation may be a greater threat than Islamic terrorists. Even TSA's own experts have stated "we could see maybe 10 extra cases of cancer per year." Other experts have put the potential risk much higher. We simply don’t know the risks. They may be as minimal as the TSA states, they may be much greater. Supporters of NoS’s say that the radiation from a NoS is the equivalent of about 2 minutes of solar radiation at flight altitude. One problem with this comparison is that we’re talking about very different wavelengths, which makes a huge difference. Also, if that were true, why is the TSA working to exempt pilots and flight attendants from NoS scans due to radiation concerns? Further, in a hospital you have a very highly educated radiologist and other knowledgeable folks overseeing x-ray machines, who’s doing this for the backscatter machine you go through at the airport?

Our privacy of modesty is gone. What is the guy in the back room seeing when you step into the NoS? (And yes, it is likely to be a guy, as TSA have stated that this will not be gender specific and the vast majority of TSA employees are male.) The TSA has refused to release any image from the new backscatter NoS (the only images they have released are from a millimeter-wave machine which produces a much different image). The only known image, by artist John Wild, is much lower resolution than the machines are advertised to be capable of. Suffice it to say, the guy looking at the image of your wife is seeing a pretty detailed image of her - nude.

Virtual Shave. Doing a Google search on backscatter I ran across a comment on a sex board that said “the best feature [of the body scanners] is that they virtually shave her bush.” Not a clue who this person is, if it’s pure speculation, or he’s a TSA employee who actually knows. But I wouldn’t want my 16-year-old daughter getting a virtual shave, down there, for some minimum wage guy in a back room. Perhaps we’d all feel better if they had Catholic Priests doing the viewing.

What’s Next? Not long after walk-thru metal detectors were deployed in airports we saw them popping up in courthouses, stadiums, high schools, malls, and elsewhere. Will this happen with Nude-o-Scopes? Who will be looking at those images? Given the amount of stuff shoplifted every year I’d be amazed if we don’t see them turning up in the exits from some stores within a couple of years. More radiation? More people seeing us nude?

What do you think? Are the costs of Barack and Janet’s new show worth it for all of the extra security? You know what, if these new measures provided a big increase in security, I’d probably roll with them. But they provide no extra security. Personally I’m not a big fan of incurring a bunch of costs for nothing. Even if there are no better alternatives, why make these changes if they’re not going to do anything?

However, is there a better alternative? Something that very likely would have stopped the shoe bomber, Christmas day bomber, and even 9/11? Who is the one nation that is a bigger target for terrorists than the U.S.?

Israel’s El Al airline has not even had a close call since September of 1970. Not that there haven’t been attempts. They’ve had far more attempts than have U.S. airlines.

More later.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thankfully, Republicans Lost The Senate!

The Teaparty has gotten a lot of gruff from the Republican establishment (and the media) that it’s the Teaparty’s fault that Republicans didn’t get a majority in the Senate. Much of this centering around Teaparty candidates Christine O’Donell and Sharron Angle.

O’Donell quickly proved problematic. Mike Castle, her Republican primary opponent, would very likely have won this seat for the Republicans. Likewise, Sue Lowden, who Sharron Angle defeated in their Republican primary would likely have won that seat for the Republicans. Unlike O’ Donell though, Angle was considered a solid and credible candidate.

But something far, far, far, more important than winning the Senate happened. The Republican establishment was given a message that the people electing them are not happy - with them. They’ve become way too soft and irresponsible when it comes to the size and influence of government.

Did they get the message?

It doesn’t appear so. Yesterday there were a number of events in Washington for the freshman class of lawmakers. Rather than working with the Teaparty to resolve overlap issues, the establishment Republicans appear to have chosen a more antagonistic approach. To be fair, the reaction of the Teaparty Patriots group to this was rather immature and ignorant causing some supporters to understandably distance themselves.

However, what the establishment Republicans are completely missing is that the Teaparty isn’t just some run-amok special interest group (or group of groups). This amorphous group called The Teaparty represents the people, AND, the will of the people. Ignoring this thing, as nebulous as it may be, is stupider than choosing Nancy Pelosi as a leader again.

The Republican establishment needs to get the message. They need to realize that the people who elect them want a very substantially smaller and less intrusive government. They want representatives in office who will deliver. If they don’t get the message this time, they’ll likely get a much stronger version next time that will include a lot of incumbents losing their seats and a huge loss in the house.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Three Mouse Trainers

Well, dreams do come true. Sort of.

In the past few days I’ve seen three mouse trainers. People who, after being blocked by a truck in the left lane not moving over when he should, eventually pulled in front of the truck and slowed enough to train the mouse driving it. In all three cases the mouse eventually pulled to the right and the trainer moved on down the road.

The funniest was a guy driving a Smart. If you’re not familiar with them, Smart’s are very small, especially compared to a semi truck. I really wish I could have taken a picture of this huge semi truck on the tail of this tiny little Smart who was training him on road etiquette. I’m pretty sure the mouse driving the truck was well aware of what was going on, when the Smart flashed his headlights at him several times the trucker looked in his rearview mirror. The mouse could easily have moved to the right to let the Smart pass safely by.

Disclaimer: I do not recommend becoming a mouse trainer unless; you know you will not be breaking the law in doing so, and, not creating a danger for yourself or others.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Next Hoop ?

While we’re on Islam and Security…

With the latest round of airport security screening changes I can imagine a bunch of Muslims sitting around smoking hooka and falling over laughing at how much control they’ve gained over us. They do something, we jump.

Every time they initiate some terrorist action, failed or successful, our feckless Homeland Security and TSA react, effectively causing all of us to react.

Put explosives in a shoe, now we all have to take our shoes off every time we go through security. Put some stuff in liquids, now we’re limited to no liquids larger than 3 oz and yet one more hassle of taking them out of our bag and putting them in a little clear plastic bag (and no longer can we bring home a bottle of 17 year Auchentoshan in our carry-on).

One stuffed some explosives in his underwear so now our wives and 14-year-old daughters are getting a choice of having a nude image taken for some strange guy in another room to gaze at, or they get an ‘enhanced pat-down’ that includes the TSA employee groping her breasts and genitals (enough to make sure that nothing tiny is hidden anywhere within)*. Sadly, both of these are easily bypassed as the full-body scanner only sees through to the surface of skin so many things hidden inside a body cavity (anus or vagina) can’t be seen nor can something hidden in folds of fat. And, while Superman couldn’t see through lead, full-body scanners apparently can’t see well through some leather (EG, animal skin) so an explosive, gun, or other device could presumably be hidden with some well-done leatherwork. Cows may have just become more sacred to Muslims than Hindus.

Last week they put some explosives in printer cartridges so now printer cartridges are being restricted. And TSA thinks this is the only thing they can hide something in?

Where will restrictions on the freedom we’ve enjoyed for so long end? We’ve already seen airport like screening popping up in government buildings. Will we start to see these same security screenings taking place on subways? Trains? Buses? When rumors swirled that the Mall of America was a target of Muslims their security people began serious discussions about screening for everyone entering it.

“I just want to buy some underwear.”

“I know ma’am, but we need to inspect the underwear you’re wearing to make sure you don’t have a bomb in them.”

And those guys sitting around smoking hooka continue to laugh and dream up the next hoop.

* The image on the original full-body scanners wasn’t very revealing. The image on the newer backscatter machines currently being rolled out are apparently nearly indistinguishable from a black and white photo of someone standing fully nude. Interestingly, while TSA released copies of what the original millimeter-wave images looked like, they have so far refused to do the same for backscatter images. A low-resolution image from an older backscatter machine is here. A better and higher resolution version of this could be your wife or daughter!

Protected By A Veil

France, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, and other countries have recently made news for bans on women wearing Burqas.

CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, has fought against requirements that women not wear Burqas, Veils, and similar head coverings in drivers license, ID card, and passport photos.

Here's one good reason why veils are a bad idea:

Friday, November 5, 2010

What if… We Could Train Truckers Like We Train Mice?

Have you ever been driving down the highway, moved to the left lane to get around a slower car, and suddenly, BAM! It ain’t happening. There’s a truck in the way. And he ain’t budging.

You flash your headlights and… Nothing. No effort to move over so you (and the cars that are now piling up behind you) can get by. You can see a half mile or more of completely clear freeway in front of this guy, but you can’t get to it.

Sunday night I was dreaming about mice… and a trucker who’d blocked me earlier in the day.

If you put a mouse in a maze, he’ll wind his way through until he finds the cheese at the end. The first time he doesn’t even know the cheese is there, but by the second or third time he’s learned a bit, and he works hard to get it as quickly as possible.

He continues to learn with each attempt. He learns which paths are dead-ends that slow him down and begins to avoid them. Interestingly, if, on the last straightaway, just in front of the cheese, you put an electrical shock, he’ll remember it, and find an alternative route. Even though he can see the cheese sitting there, and can’t see the electricity, he remembers the shock, and goes around to the back. Smart little critters.

What if, I dreamed… We legislate that every trucker have an electrode in their seat, with universal remotes for them sold at local Target stores? If a trucker doesn’t move over after you flash your headlights, you press the ‘Mild Reminder’ button, and ‘zzzt’, he gets a slight bit of excitement.

Still hasn’t moved over? You can opt for the ‘Moderate Persuasion’ button. This one was fun because I could see him in his rear-view mirror. He jumped a little. Oh the temptation…

Thus endeth the buttons on the remote. But not my dream. If you’re geeky enough to know what Virtual Easter Eggs are, then you’ll have already googled your third alternative. While holding down the power button on your remote, press the ‘Mild Reminder’ twice, and then press ‘Moderate Persuasion’ once. You’ll likely see the truck swerve right and left a bit, but he’s gotten the message, and he doesn’t want to find out if there’s a fourth option.

This could work even if you’re driving a Smart, Mini-Cooper, or Harley. Talk about power to the little guy!

Alas, even my dreams must eventually lean a bit more Libertarian (as enjoyable as the thought of those very un-Libertarian electrodes was).

What if… Every time a trucker needlessly blocked someone, the blocked driver eventually made their way safely in front of the trucker and slowed his left lane blocking self down a bit? Just enough to cause him to have to downshift four or five gears and then upshift back through those same gears to get back up to speed. Would this be enough of a PITA for him to eventually learn that blocking the left lane can be a bit of a dead-end?

If only this weren’t a dream.

After I woke up I thought about my dreams.

What if…, thought I, we didn’t have to treat truckers like mice?


Prologue: Since my dream, that every time I see a truck, I imagine a mouse driving it. Hah!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Almost Legal

Election day is always exciting for me, even when my candidates or ballot measures lose. It’s democracy in action like nowhere else on earth. Even though I very strongly disagree with his policy positions, it was still kind of exciting to see Barrack Obama elected in 2008 - we elected our first black president and we saw the power of citizens.


California’s Prop 19, to fully legalize marijuana, didn’t pass. Latest results have it at 46.5% Yes to 53.6% No. Much of the news media are touting this as much more of a defeat than it really is though.

Think back perhaps 10 or 20 years. Would there have even been 20% support for such a measure? My guess is that pot will be decriminalized in California within 4 years. The war on it has simply proven too costly for too little benefit.

For the pro-legalization crowd there may even be a very substantial silver lining in this defeat. If this had passed it would have made California the only place in all of North America where pot could be legally purchased. Similar to what happened in The Netherlands, potheads would have flocked to California to experience smoking pot legally.

It’s one thing for the local populace to smoke it legally, it’s another to have an influx of potheads*.

There will very likely be several additional states joining California with legalization propositions on their ballots in 2012 and 2014. My guess is that California will still be the first, but a handful of others will follow two and four years later.

Just having a proposition like this on the ballot in all of these states will send a message to law enforcement and the judiciary that criminalizing pot is far from universally supported. Having 45% of the citizenry say so in an election sends an even stronger message. This, together with states legalizing medical marijuana, will ease enforcement efforts in these states, and thus, help reduce pot tourism to California.

* Potheads are generally not a problematic bunch. Just compare the crowds in a pot selling coffeeshop in Amsterdam to those in a bar, there or in the U.S. I’ll take the potheads any day.

Amsterdam is, even with their high pot and prostitution tourism, mostly U.S. folk, united in saying that they do not want to again criminalize these vices. They do not want the problems we have with prohibitions. However, as I discussed here, some of the border cities, such as Maastricht, are limiting sales to citizens only.

Monday, November 1, 2010

ObamaCare and Innovation

A couple of days ago I got to tour the 3M Innovation Center. The products this company makes are truly amazing, both in the technologies involved and in the sheer number of different products. The average person in the world (yes, the entire world) interacts with 31 different 3M products each day of their lives! Do you have a cell phone with a display? 3M product. You see over 21 roadsigns each day that use 3M reflection technology. EVERY semi truck trailer in the U.S. with those red/white blocks along the bottom is 3M technology. Your car uses 3M adhesives as do most planes in the air. If you have fillings, crowns, or braces in your mouth they are very likely made by 3M. If you watched the Chilean mine rescue you saw a number of 3M products from the face masks to the coatings on the Oakley sunglasses they were wearing.

Yes, this company goes way beyond post-it notes and Scotchguard.

For the computer geeks (others can skip this paragraph) who want to measure their overclocking in multiples instead of percents, there’s a new chip cooler using 3M’s Flourinert liquid*. They can produce this liquid with just about any boiling point so the cooler is much simpler, much less expensive, smaller, and does a better job of cooling than any existing liquid cooling solution. Basically there’s a liquid container bonded to the chip, a small radiator in the top of the case with a cooling fan, and one tube connecting the two. The Flourinert boils, vabor bubbles up the tube to the radiator, cools, and falls back down the same tube as liquid. They were running an Intel Core i7 980 at 13Ghz with this little rig. It was fun to watch how much the bubbles increased as the CPU worked harder and got hotter.

One product they’re hoping to have FDA approval for later this year is a new micro-needle technology. It’s basically a half-inch round transdermal patch with anywhere from 50 to 1,500 extremely tiny needles (try 50μm in diameter for small!). The needle tips are pre-coated during manufacturing with the vaccine or other medicine. When the patch is applied to your skin these microscopic needles go just below the surface to what is known as the stratum corneum**, the meds dissolve, are absorbed by your capillaries, and conveyed throughout your body.

There are a number of benefits over syringes such as reduced chance of infections and other complications, higher efficacy (eg, more likely to get meds to where they need to go), and use of solid meds rather than liquid so they’ll last longer and not require refrigeration. Since micro-needles generally require less than 1/10th as much med, vaccine supplies cover about ten times as many people which will help eliminate problems such as we’ve recently seen with the scarcity of H1N1 vaccines.

This is all in addition to MUCH LESS PAIN for recipients. I hate getting shots. I’m very much looking forward to these things!

One really huge advantage to micro needles is cost savings. With a typical syringe injection only about 1/16th of the meds injected actually make it to your blood where it does any good, micro-needles deliver over 90%. This can reduce a $30 vaccine to $3. Because the solid meds are more stable and don’t require refrigeration there is also less waste (an estimated 15% of injectable meds are thrown out each year). And if they can be easily and safely self-administered there are potential savings in doctors office visits.

Now, let’s get down to brass tacks. 3M invested years and hundreds of millions of dollars developing this technology – for one reason – profits. They know, that if they are successful, privately run medical clinics will beat a path to their door. This product represents a lot of cost savings to the clinics as well as a benefit to attract new customers.

Without the profit potential, companies like 3M will not take the risks and make the investments to develop new technologies like this. Competition among medical clinics, drives competition in medical products, that drives 3M to do what it does.

If the U.S. medical care system were like the NIH in the UK, 3M and other companies would not invest in such risky new technologies. There is simply not enough of a payoff.

So, the next time you get a shot, think about it. They are injecting about 16 times as much med in you as needed. Overall this shot is costing about 10 times as much as it will when micro-needles are available. Under Obamacare there will be many fewer technology advances and products such as micro-needles will likely never be developed.

The more government involvement - the less competition. The less competition – the less innovation. And personally, I really like innovation that takes away real pain – like SHOTS!

* Flourinert has been around for about 40 years. It’s none electrical conducting so you can drop entire circuit boards in it. In fact one of it’s first uses was to help cool a Cray Supercomputer (and these always had clear plexi-glass side panels and bubblers in the bottom, purely for effect – very cool).

** Lightly scratch yourself with your fingernail. You may have reached as deep as the stratum corneum.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happiness: Union vs. Non-Union

Are union bus mechanics happier than non-union?

Well, it turns out I’ve got a couple of friends who are bus mechanics to fill me in.

We have 7 bus companies serving our metro area. Two have union mechanics; our public government run transit system, and a private company. Five are private non-union shops.

One friend works for the public transit system. The other worked there for about 15 years but now works for one of the non-union shops. He’s been a bus mechanic for almost 3 decades and knows mechanics at all of the bus companies, thus knows of what he speaks.

Between these two I’ve developed what I think is a fairly accurate, though anecdotal, picture of things. Both are also in agreement on their assessments’. The upshot… Mechanics at the five non-union shops are much happier than those at either of the two union shops.

Mechanics in the union shops spend considerable time focused on, and complaining about, pay, benefits, and work rules. Those in the non-union shops rarely complain about these issues (or apparently any issues).

Mechanics in the union shops have an adversarial relationship with management, non-union mechanics have a friendly, common-good-for-the-company, relationship.

Mechanics in the non-union shops earn slightly lower base pay* (but better benefits) and yet are happier and work harder**.

Both said that working in a non-union shop is much more enjoyable - with happier fellow employees, friendly relationships with management, and a straightforward work environment not grunged up with union rules, meetings, and pressure.


A similar comparison can possibly be made with airline flight attendants. I’ve long thought that Delta’s flight attendants seemed much happier and friendlier than Northwest’s. Guess which is union?

Based on discussions on, Delta’s non-union FA’s make more money (overall and per hour) than their unionized NWA counterparts, but also lack union job protections such as work rules or the hours they can be required to work. It is also much easier to get fired by Delta than NWA though there is no indication that Delta is any more likely to fire FA’s than NWA. These discussions also reveal the happiness quotient - with Delta the clear winner. It’ll be interesting to see the outcome of their current unionization vote.


Money never makes us happy, but someone telling us that we should be unhappy certainly seems to work.

* Not including union dues that union mechanics are ‘required’ to pay. The non-union mechanic said that his company is also rolling out a profit sharing plan in 2011 that, based on past performance, will more than make up for any pay differences.

** The working harder (or smarter?) is anecdotal as well as statistical. Anecdotal based simply on their experience and, in the case of one of them, being told by fellow union members to work slower. Statistical in some very quick comparisons on how long certain jobs take with the union shop taking almost 50% longer for several common jobs than the non-union shops. Also, though there is little published data, union busses seem to generally be out of service for maintenance a greater part of every year. This could also be due to other factors such as age or harder use so more analysis would be necessary.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sanctified Darkness ?

Interesting discussion at a church recently. They had rented a large front projection screen (22’ x34’) for a production and were given the option of purchasing it fairly cheaply.

The idea of keeping it permanently as a backdrop on their stage/platform and projecting on to it during worship was very appealing. One potential drawback however was that in order for any projections on it to be seen they’d need to very significantly lower the stage lighting level, otherwise the lighting would wash out any projected images.

Turned out there was no drawback to this at all. Just 2 benefits they thought of.

Benefit the first. Having the worship band nearly dark takes everyone’s attention off of the band and puts it on worship – where it belongs. Even the band members said that this has improved their own worship since they feel less like performers on a stage.

Benefit the second. Takes guys minds off the gals. Several years ago in a couple of surveys of Christian men I asked how often they were distracted by attractive women on stage, such as singers, and how often they had mentally undressed them. If I remember correctly 81% said that they had been distracted ‘often’ and 64% said that they had mentally undressed a woman on stage ‘multiple times per month’.

After determining that there were only benefits to the screen and lower lighting level they purchased the screen and have been using it successfully for some time now.

I wish I had surveyed this church prior to this change and could do it again now to see how it looks statistically. Anecdotally though, from a few brief conversations, it’s worked terrifically on both benefits.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

American Toughs

For exercise I ride my bike. The two wheels with pedals variety. My knees won’t let me play football or run anymore so cycling (and skiing in the winter) is my primary exercise. And it’s a very enjoyable one. I ride about 140 miles per week and average 19 – 21 mph*. Not bad for an old guy.

I also wear the funny tight black shorts and pro team jersey that are, for better or worse, a practical necessity. The need for the shorts is rather obvious. There are three reasons for the jersey; a loose jersey flapping in the wind not only becomes an annoyance, but actually irritates my skin after a while, I need the lower back pockets for mid-ride food and sometimes an extra water bottle, and the sharp lines, letters, and bright contrasting colors of the pro-team jerseys are much more prominent to drivers than solid color, striped, or similar jerseys**.

Maybe 3 or 4 times a year someone will yell some snide comment out their window along the lines of “you look like such a dink in that outfit.” Well, duh. Like I don’t already know that. Do they think I have no fashion sense at all?

It’s interesting to me who makes these comments. It’s always some large ‘tough’ guy, usually driving a large pickup or SUV. Most are in their 30’s or 40’s.

I usually just ignore them, but a handful of times I’ve looked at them quizzically and asked “and your point?” which always leaves them sputtering for a bit while they try to figure out what their point is. On two occasions I’ve been invited to pull over so they can “show me their point by beating my face in.” “And that will prove what?” shut one up. The other required me to add “that you can beat up an old skinny guy?”***

We may have learned everything we needed in kindergarten, but apparently some people think they’re still there.

So, what is their point? Why do they feel the need to say something? Do they think that they’re helping me in some way? Does it make them feel better?

A couple of psychologist friends told me that comments like these are rooted in these guys having some kind of inferiority complex. Really? Because I have a nicer bike than they do? My cycling jersey looks better than their Brett Favre jersey? They’re jealous of my new svelte figure? Problems in bed so they’re taking it out on me?

How come women never make comments like this? Or people driving Lexus’s, Porsche’s, or Mercedes?

Not all big ‘tough’ guys driving trucks are this mature. Most people driving pickups are actually quite courteous and always move over a ways when they pass. Many will even wave me through at intersections so that I don’t have to stop (a royal PITA with clip-in pedals).

I have a number of friends who look the part of the guys who have the inferiority complexes. They’re rather big, pot-bellied, maybe a bit Neanderthal looking (and proud of it), and drive pickups. They’re also among the nicest people I know. They’re mostly trades workers who are quick to offer their skill, muscle, and expertise. And these guys have no inferiority complex. Nor any reason to have one. A couple have even taken up cycling. Lycra shorts and all.

BTW, though I’m skinny now, I still drive a big, decade old, V-8, SUV.

* For the exercise types reading this; I'm currently riding a Scott Addict with HED Ardennes wheels and a Garmin 705. I typically ride about 25 – 40 mile loops 3 to 5 days per week and average between 190 and 203 watts with a peak this summer of 880 watts in a sprint. My average heartrate for these is 152 and I usually see a max of around 175 on each ride. My highest heartrate this year was 182.

** Being seen by drivers is extremely high on my survival list and experimentation with a number of jersey’s has indicated that the pro team jersey’s appear much more visible based on the number of cars that pass way too close in different jersey’s. Even within the pro team jersey’s we’ve found that the ‘Saxo Bank Swiss’ and ‘Aqua Sappone’ jersey’s are the best. A psychologist friend told me that the large lettering itself actually probably helps a lot since it triggers thought processes in the drivers brain whereas solid colors, stripes, and other designs do not.

*** I’m not very thrilled with the old part, but I’m quite proud of the skinny part. I used to be more like these guys. It took considerable discipline to change my diet and exercise to lose the weight and keep it off.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Unions are so beneficial.

I have an interesting friend. His grandfather ran what is today a Fortune 100 company. His father was very successful as well. My friend went to university for business and accounting and was himself fairly successful in his business endeavors. In his late 30’s he tired of the corporate world and went to work for a non-profit that ran a number of organizations including homeless shelters, facilities and programs for underprivileged youth, and a very successful program to help single mothers obtain life and job skills.

He’s always loved engines and working on cars and trucks though. A couple of years ago he decided to take a well deserved break from the non-profit and find a job as a truck mechanic. He enrolled in a local tech school to get his mechanics certificate and began his job search. Now you have to imagine this. A 50-something guy with a masters degree and 3 decades of successful experience in upper management schlepping around trying to find a job as a truck mechanic. One other thing, he owns homes, very nice ones, in Arizona, Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Switzerland, and London. He wasn’t looking because he needs the money.

As an entry to becoming a bus mechanic he drove busses for a short bit. A few days ago though, he celebrated one year as a bus mechanic. And he’s happier than ever, especially when he solves some strange problem on one of their hybrid busses.

HOWEVER, that’s all background.

He works in a union shop. Where once he represented his company in union contract negotiations, today he’s himself a union member. This has given him a very interesting perspective.

His first real encounter was when other mechanics would tell him to slow down and not work so fast. That’s not in his repertoire. His boss was soon assigning him three busses per night while others, all senior to him, got one. He couldn’t have been happier.

He and I have both worked as mechanics in non-union shops and he now has experience in two union shops. He said that there’s a clear difference. The non-union folks, though all are working because they need the money, enjoy what they’re doing. They enjoy solving problems or making a car or truck run better. They’re happy that they can have a job doing something that they enjoy. Across the board though the union mechanics have replaced that enjoyment with angst. Their world is ‘us against the company.’

Similarly, the union guys have lost all sense of accomplishment. After 3 years they reach seniority. There’s nothing to attain nor nothing at risk. Their jobs are ‘union protected’ so they would have to try hard to get fired. And, no matter how hard they work, they’ll gain nothing more. Fixing one bus per night or three makes no difference to them so why work three times as hard? They come, they do their mediocre thing, they go home. And never go home with any sense of having accomplished anything.

When I worked as a mechanic I started on ‘straight time’ which meant I was paid an hourly wage, just like the union guys, and did what I was told. The difference is that I could be fired, and didn’t want to be, and I wanted to impress the boss so that I could start working ‘flat rate’ Flat rate is when you’re paid per job. For instance, replacing a water pump on a 1972 Volvo was rated as 45 minutes. Replacing a cylinder head was 3:15 (three hours, fifteen minutes). I think my rate was $20 per hour so I’d get $15 for the water pump and $65 for the cylinder head, regardless of how long it took me.

My first water pump took about 2 hours - not very profitable. After a few months though I was doing most jobs pretty close to time and soon I was coming in a bit under.

Screwing up wasn’t a good option. If I didn’t do a water pump correctly, I had to fix it, for no additional pay. I was far more careful after my first such experience.

Also, while I was paid $20/hour, my employer actually charged my time out at about $40/hour. This covered costs for the building, utilities, and stuff. More importantly, it was where profit came from. The more money I made, the more my employer made. Mechanics not billing enough time (or who screwed up and made customers unhappy) weren’t making money for our employer and didn’t keep their jobs very long.

My pay was a very direct reflection on how well I did my job. I was incented to work well and work hard. Most days I went home with a great sense of accomplishment, either because I’d made a bit extra money from working harder, or had solved some strange problem, or both. Every employee also shared in the profits (and we were very profitable) so every 3 months we’d get a profit sharing bonus. Every one of us made sure to keep our customers happy and coming back.

Back to the union guys. They work for a company that is subsidized by taxpayers – you and I. The fares they charge only cover about 30% of their expenses. Think about my friend who repairs three buses in the time the other 14 mechanics repair one each. Might it cost us taxpayers less to run this bus system if all of the mechanics did three buses per night? The savings wouldn’t be just that they’d need one-third the personnel (and one-third the benefits AND one-third the pension expense), but they’d only need one-third the facilities, utilities, training, insurance, and other costs of running the maintenance operation.

Interestingly this isn’t our only bus system. We have six other bus companies, all privately owned, serving the same area. All six have nicer and cleaner buses than our public bus system. Three charge the same fare and yet run profitable enterprises. The other three charge higher fares but also provide a much higher level of service. Guess what? None of their mechanics (or other employees) are union. Their mechanics also earn more money than the union mechanics and based on anecdotal experience, are much happier.


BTW, I'm generally a supporter of public transport.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Proud Papa

It’s been a busy and hectic and amazingly awesome few weeks. My son got married.

I got to realize the dream of every father. To be able to look at my son and feel extremely and hugely proud of the man he’s become.

He’s doing well at university, has been elected head of his university’s broadcast arm, and has a good job offer for after he graduates next spring.

But that’s all just surface (though still very wonderful!)

He persuaded a terrific Christian woman to marry him. Knowing and seeing the love that he has for her makes me proud. That may seem like a strange thing to be proud of, but I am very proud of that in him. His love for her is not a selfish love. It’s a love for who she is and for her love of God. It’s a love that prefers her over himself. It’s the love that Paul talks about when he says that Christ loves us as a husband loves his wife.

Now we’re getting below the surface.

Almost any dolt can find someone to marry them. My new daughter isn’t just someone. That she choose to marry my son (and that her parents agreed) says a lot about him. And it’s the qualities that she sees in him and that I’ve seen develop in him throughout his life that has me bursting.

His Leadership – This is something that extremely few posses, that I don’t think is important for everyone to develop, and that I didn’t necessarily expect in him nor would have been disappointed had he not developed these. Leadership is a rather strange beast. There is often a fine line between leading and serving. A good leader does both and knows when each is needed. He’s learning these (and will continue to throughout his life) along with when direction is critical and when to leave people to do their own thing and contribute in their way. He’s learning what goofs are important to deal with and which to let slide. He’s learning what attributes are most important in people you hire (like character and integrity!).

His Family Leadership – OK, I sort of lied when I said that leadership isn’t important for everyone. Leadership in the home is important for all husbands and fathers. And wives and mothers. Like public leadership, it’s a balancing act of leading and serving, of knowing what’s important to deal with and what’s not. It’s accepting our own failures as the imperfect people we are and knowing what to realistically expect of others. And most important, looking to God to guide us as we guide our families. Seeing him develop in to the husband that God wants him to be is truly joyful.

His Character – A big huge bundle of really important stuff! He has a strong work ethic. He’s compassionate and caring. He has a good sense of humor (and is learning to laugh at his own humanness – like referring to his new wife as his husband in a toast at his reception). He’s developing a good sense of when to be serious and when it’s not so important. He’s learning more and more to appreciate and respect the good in others, to not judge others, but also to choose his friends and close associates carefully. He’s always been fairly even keeled, but he’s gaining a better realization that on the other side of every valley is a hill or mountain (and that hills and mountains don’t last forever) and that eventually there is light at the end of every tunnel and that over time things work out and that a positive attitude goes a long way towards overall happiness.

His Integrity - Truthfulness and honesty and accuracy are important to him. As they should be to all of us. ‘nuff said.

His Faith – Above all else, he is continually deepening his relationship with Christ. Just like all of us he still occasionally has his struggles and doubts, but he’s learning to take these in stride.

So I get to bask for a bit in being a very proud papa. For the man my son has become and for my new daughter - the woman he chose and who agreed to marry him.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Death of Internal Combustion Engines ?

This morning I heard an interview on the radio with an executive of Ford Motor Co. Interestingly, the bulk of the interview turned in to him defending the internal combustion engine. At least 3 times he said "it's not dead yet, it has a lot of life left in it." Well, it certainly has some, but based on this interview, "a lot" might be a stretch. Nissan won't be able to make Leaf's fast enough to meet demand for at least 3 years. There appears similar clambering for Mercedes' electric Smart, Tesla's S, Mitsubishi's MiEV, and electric vehicles announced from BMW, Porsche, Toyota, and others. Even Chevy is seeing demand for it's Volt.

It'll be interesting to see what percent of new cars sold in 10 years are internal combustion vs electric.