Christmas wrap-up and orange alert, 2009

Well, it’s been quite a holiday here in the ancestral homeland–everyone got here safely for the holiday celebrations, but it looks like our ride home next week will be a little more complicated, thanks to the latest wannbe-Jihadi’s attempt on an American airliner.  Thanks a lot, a$$hole!  We still have to take our frakkin’ shoes off every time we go through airport security eight years after “shoe bomber” a$$hole Richard Reid tried to set his chucks alight.  I wonder what new meaningless ritual inconvenience awaits us now?  Let me guess:  no more pixie sticks and juice boxes allowed in our carry-on bags, because this a$$hole tried to mix a powder with a liquid.  (Does Homeland Security know about the explosive properties of Pop Rocks?  Because I don’t want to fly if anyone is carrying Pop Rocks.) 

On a happier note:  here are a few images from our Christmas here in the Northwest Territory:

sugartentThe sugar cookie house was a sugar cookie tent this year, due to austerity measures.  (The gingerbread cookies’ house is in foreclosure, and it seemed easier to move them into a tent instead of try to bake and assemble a car for them to live in.)  I resisted putting a “Bushobamaville” flag up next to it, a la “Hooverville” encampments from the Depression.


atomicglassHere’s one of a set of seven (?) very atomic-era glasses I found for Mister Doctor, so that he might enjoy an occasional nip of bourbon.  The local antique mall here is a gold mine–it’s the same place I found all of those dolls last summer.  A few years back I found the two-volume translation of Lafitau’s Customs of the American Indians, edited and translated by William Fenton and Elizabeth Moore for about $70.  (Most of you won’t be impressed, but those of you who write seventeenth and eighteenth century Native American history will know what a score that was.  It’s one of a numbered edition published by the Champlain Society–only a few hundred were published, and I’ve never seen them outside of a university library.)  

dollcreepydollinMIYou never know what might turn up there:  I was expressly forbidden again to buy the creepy doll head there on this trip, because a member of the family finds it “too scary.”  Whatever.  (I can’t believe no one else has snapped her up!)

turdpolishOh, and thanks to a marathon of Mythbusters on the teevee last night, I learned that one can in fact buff a turd.  Who knew?  (Hint:  it doesn’t involve any polish!)

0 thoughts on “Christmas wrap-up and orange alert, 2009

  1. I’m going to try to blow up my next plane by mixing a credit card with a cell phone. Because it appears that it’s what the would-be destructor decides to use (rather than the physics of atomic and molecular matter) that counts more in devising the subsequent “ban” regime.

    Have a safe trip back west. That much-hyped Midwest “blizzard” didn’t bring much except coal[d] to us here in the dank Northeast.


  2. Thank heavens! I wasn’t the only one who, upon hearing about the attempted bombing, thought, “oh, great! What sort of massive inconvenience are we going to have to go through now?” Next time I’m at the airport, I want to dump all of the contents of my luggage onto the conveyor belt, strip down to my undies, and send myself through the X-ray machine. You know that’s coming.


  3. Here’s news, via TalkLeft, of some of the new security measures implemented today:

    “Among other steps being imposed, passengers on international flights coming to the United States will apparently have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps. Overseas passengers will be restricted to only one carry-on item aboard the plane, and domestic passengers will probably face longer security lines.”

    Thanks a lot, a$$hole!


  4. Yes, I’m really looking forward to the last hour glued to my seat with nothing to do. Not clear if books are allowed. Maybe investigate the explosive properties of People magazine?

    The other new lovely thing is double searching, at the security checkpoint and the gate. GRRRR.

    The one good thing about this is that if you’re flying to the US from elsewhere, the overhead bins will be much emptier. At least airlines don’t charge for baggage on international flights.


  5. We will have to fly naked with no luggage; luggage will all have to be shipped ahead of time. UPS and FedEx stocks will skyrocket. Airline safety and stockmarket boost all at once! Re: Coke and Mentos… we did it at the company picnic a few years back. It was actually quite impressive!!!! Thanks for the pix, Historiann!


  6. In Tel Aviv they have a different system altogether. They always stop my wife because she has a different last name; they give her a very thorough verbal examination.

    The main problem in airports is not the simplistic approach, but the long lines they have no idea how to manage.

    How about handing over TSA to Blue Cross/Blue shaft? They’ll charge you for the check and send 20% of the passengers home.


  7. Koshembos–going the Israeli way means speaking languages other than English–and “we” don’t do that here in the U.S.A.! That level of linguistic expertise is totally un-American, don’tchaknow.

    Glad you all appreciate the glasses. They’re a great size, too–somewhere in-between a highball glass and a shot glass, so the perfect size for drinking brown liquids neat.

    If you all think bored passengers are bad news–think bored babies, toddlers, and children! (Although, if this new rule means no lap babies, that’s a favor to the other passengers. I’ve sat next to far too many people sneaking gigantic, squirming babies who were the size of 3- and 4-year olds. . .)


  8. Historiann Then when the airline gets the 4 year old off mother’s lap and into the seat in front of you, perhaps a seat sensor- like those for car air bags – would prevent the small miscreant from placing the seat into a reclining position until he weighed over,say, 120 pounds. I say he because that is the usual gender. There are some nice TSA folks. This year in DIA a matronly agent repeatedly scanned my passport with the purple laser. Finally she asked ” just what kind of doctor are you?” I envisioned a full- body search. ” Baby doctor,” I whispered. “Well………….doctor, thank you for caring for our children. Have a safe flight!!”


  9. Without any personal items on one’s lap! OMFG – this reminds me of that really brutal period following one of the a$$hole scares in which none of us could bring liquids of any kind on international flights, leaving us all to the dehydration mercy of airlines. Is TSA hoping that they can make airline travel SO MISERABLE that no one will board a plane again? (Terrorist problem solved!) I”m getting close. Between the airline “cost saving” measures (like shelling out $7 for a blanket and $25 for checking a bag) and security, the whole thing is becoming nightmarish.


  10. Perpetua: agreed, entirely. The whole thing is making Greyhound look like a reasonable option, at least for travel within one’s time zone. It feels like we’re riding the dog already–why not just do it?

    Grandoc–yes, this isn’t the decision of the individual screeners. I feel for them, having to say the same thing over and over to people all day long, without much appreciation. It must be difficult–even moreso now with new rules to have to tell people.


  11. Agreed, perpetua. I took a flight out of Heathrow a week or so after that round of regulations was imposed, although by the time I flew, the most draconian of the measures had been dropped. But still, no water, no liquids of any kind, it was hell on earth. And of course, the flight attendants couldn’t come fast enough with the liquids. We all have limits and I’m fast approaching mine. (And yes, Historiann, I thought about the children and it pissed me off even more.) The airlines need to put their feet down, especially if business starts to suffer even more.


  12. Yes, I am headed out to AHA in a week or 10 days and am looking forward to more “security theater…”

    When the domestic travel experience resembles entering an Eastern Bloc country circa 1987 (perpetually annoyed and high handed security staff, long lines, and surly service from the airlines) I am left wondering… who won the Cold War again? The only thing missing is a visa requirement for entering California from the Midwest.


  13. Oh, and I agree about the children, Historiann. I know that buying extra tickets may make plane travel prohibitively expensive for some families, but after one trip with a “lap baby” (and a tiny one at that), I said NO MORE. Nobody should have to sit next to a parent + squirming, angry toddler. My little one travels in style, strapped down in his own cowmooflage seat — although an hour with no “personal items” in his hands might be the death of everyone on that plane. (And don’t even get me started on how international carriers CHARGE for the “privilege” of having a lap child – sometimes as much as $300-$400 per child.)

    Honestly, I would travel by train almost everywhere even if it cost more than flying if there was anything approximating decent train service in this country. (meaning if I could actually get from Point A to Point B)


  14. What gets me about it is the literalness of it all on the part of the TSA. A guy tries to explode his shoes, so now we all take off our shoes. What if he had lit his pants? The fellow in Detroit sets something off in his lap, so now they report no items will be allowed on your laps. Balancing something on your shoulder is apparently o.k. If somebody tried something with a portable chess set, there would go the chess sets, but a travel-sized electric train would probably pass muster. So why, then, if the latest perp attempted to take the plane down while sitting in his seat, will no one be allowed to move in the aisles during the last hour of an international flight? I would think they would require everyone to get up and move about the cabin.


  15. Ha! Indyanna gets the best line of the day:

    “What gets me about it is the literalness of it all on the part of the TSA. A guy tries to explode his shoes, so now we all take off our shoes. What if he had lit his pants?”

    Don’t get those explosives geniuses at Al Qaeda any ideas, man! (Kudos to Matt, too, for the expression “security theater.” Right on.)


  16. Indianna, you are on to something. Not only is the literal mindedness of the TSA puzzling, its clearly wrong headed. To thwart the terrorists, they need to institute “opposite day” on random flights and at random checkpoints.

    For example, if the terrorists were smuggling things in their pants, nobody should be allowed to pass through the checkpoint unless they are wearing a dress or skirt (that goes for all genders, including trans). If you do not have a dress, the TSA will provide one making every effort to supply something tasteful and seasonally appropriate. That would stop people from smuggling things in hir pants.

    Or, since the terrorists attacked while sitting down in the last hour of the flight, the airlines should not keep people seated. Instead, in the spirit of opposite day, they should institute a game of musical chairs in the last hour of the flight.

    All of these measures, and others associated with opposite day, would keep the terrorists guessing and off balance. It would also afford the traveling public some level of amusement and relive us of the tedium of literal-minded security measures.


  17. I heard they just repealed the “can’t go to the lav during the last hour” ruling. If that ill guy on the followup flight to Detroit yesterday had just barfed in the lap of the passenger next to him, you would have had two infractions in the same row. The way this “sow confusion among your enemies” strategy is unfolding, I think I’d bet on its creators over the side that is left to rely on mere Predator drones…


  18. Back in November 2001 I was flying with my family, and a security agent made a joke with my (then) teenaged son about his big fat sneakers. I laughed, and said, I thought they weren’t supposed to make jokes while passengers were going through security – I had heard that restriction announced at a prior airport. The agent said when they made him stop joking, he would quit. About one month later Richard Reid tried to explode his shoes.

    The literalness of the reactive restrictions reminds me of that old folk tale about Lazy Jack, who repeatedly messes up his tasks because he applies his mother’s advice for the previous infraction (see on common version at


  19. I cannot believe a closet mythbusters fan such as yourself would miss the Coke/Poprocks experiment. BUSTED. Apparently we have nothing to fear from poprocks when flying, assuming of course we are flying in a dead pig’s stomach.


  20. “Bloggers Subpoenaed,” says a little piece buried inside the Times today (12/31): “The [TSA] is going after bloggers who wrote about a directive to increase security after the thwarted bombing of a jet last week…” The body of the piece seems to suggest that the targets are a few who had same-day knowledge of a confidential screening directive, but still… The continuing literalness of the tactical response (they’re now going “full-body” on screening passengers from Amsterdam to Detroit) combined with the scatter-brained freneticism of the bureaucratic response to leakage is pretty weird. Looks like we’re going to have to award the bottom of the sixth inning to the other side.


  21. Yeah–this should only be a problem on that ol’ Schipol to Metro route! That’s the ticket.

    You asked upthread, Indyanna, what would have happened if the shoe bomber were the pants bomber–I guess that’s your answer, now that we have an underpants bomber.


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