Hobbies: picking fights w/ the TSA

ok, so I just realized how much fun having a publishing medium can be. If my blog goes offline after this, you’ll know it’s because of this post.

One of my hobbies is picking fights w/ the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). I just have this visceral outrage at being searched and assumed guilty and punishable, all without reason. Silly me. So instead of refusing to take of my shoes (which I did for about 6 months worth of travel) I have started collecting data on the TSA.

As a note, if you refuse to take off your schoes, and do it in a polite way, procedure requires that they wand you over and swab your shoes. I have been yelled at for refusing to take off my shoes, but responded politely–TSA employees are people with jobs too. I hate the job they do and the powers they have but the people–at least during slow periods–are often nice enough. The major exception is at SFO in the Delta Terminal. Here are my notes from an encounter on a trip to visit colleges.


Harassing officer: Ruban.

American woman, screaming baby,

“They’re stupid!”

“What’s stupid, ma’m, what’s stupid? We do this for a reason. Go over there ma’m”.

5:30am November 1, 2006.

Obvious search was *not* because she was suspected or selected for any reason other than her objectionable comfort to her child. Some of the other TSA officers were telling Ruban that he had the right to not let her through. I saw her come out of the search 10 minutes later, with her baby in her arms and her husband holding her hand, so there Ruban’s inquest could not have
uncovered any objectionable materials. When I requested to know the officer’s name who ordered the search, one of the other officers said his name was “Ruban”. No further information was given.

If you have a complaint about the TSA and want to take it further, please see these resources.

1-866- GA SECURE or 1-866-427-3287

Aside from a few rather ghastly encournters with powerhungry little despots in US airports most of my encourters with TSA officials have been relatively tame. So I started collecting information on the third party agencies which check IDs of passengers before they get to the security screening gates. Based on the quick conversations I’ve had with the people who check my ID over the past year I’ve found out that the TSA requires each airline to check Identification (almost always government issued) against the name on the boarding pass that passenger is holding. There are only so many of these 3rd party companies and below are listed first the companies and then which airlines contract their ID checks out to them. I have determined that it is airline-based both based on the comments of the workers themselves and that I have seen the same companies working for the same airlines over and over again.

Prime Flight (northwest, Delta)
G2 (SFO terminal 3)
Aviation Safeguard (Southwest), not part of G2

Because most airports are terminal-based and each terminal has only a few major air carriers in it, all of the airlines in a terminal will contract to the same 3rd party company for their security needs (not just ID checks but also these employees are seen with in terminals, pushing wheelchairs or standing by during boarding).

There is an important distinction between watchmen and guards. Guards carry weapons. Watchmen report problems to their supervisors. Most of these 3rd party companies act as watchmen and do not physically interface with passengers.

The theme here whcih I have been trying not to over state is that our (American’s, Human’s) presumption of innocence is being dragged through the mud like a 1950s victim in a rape trial. Being asked to show ID to *anyone* without just cause is unacceptable. The Supreme Court disagrees with me and sees being asked to provide some kind of ID when requested is not and “unreasonable searches” nor the theft of my sunscreen on my senior trip to Laguna beach “seizure”. But on a high level than even the constitution, whcih you will find I hold in highest reguard, is my personal feeling of violation and revulsion at being prodded and poked and mettled with by a clumsy and over-zealous government agency.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

People don't like

to be meddled with.

We tell them what to do,

what to think.

Don't run, don't walk.

We're in their homes

and in their heads

and we haven't the right.

We're meddlesome.

PS: I see the previous quotation of a non-public domain work as fair use. If the owners of the copyright to Serenity and Firefly and all derivative works disagree or think that it’s use here is not in the spirit of the film, I look forward to the take-down notice.

Feeling Elephants: the title explained. Also, a selection of tech vocabulary–not for the non-geeky!

This summer I had my first non-family non-babysitting actually-being-paid-with-money kind of job. One of the things I realized is that when I am learning about something new (jbpm (java business process management), java, whatever) I spend a great deal of time getting detailed knowledge of only one aspect of it. This reminded me of the old story about the blind men and the elephant. See below for pretty shiny hyperlinks.

I wasted a good part of my day with this. It is my vocabulary list for my job, as a software developer. I found dozens of definitions for each of these so please tell me if I just described the elephant’s tail in detail but missed it’s trunk or foot. For an explanation of this metaphor see here.

For a less clinical description, see here.

These are a mix of jargon I knew and jargon I’m learning. Most people don’t care what DSL stands for, but knowing the technical definition helps a true understanding.

And now, for the tech vocab:

CVS: Concurrent Versioning System. CVS is an open source version control and collaboration system.

component: [Definition quoted from the CCA Forum] A component is a software object, meant to interact with other components, encapsulating certain functionality or a set of functionalities. A component has a clearly defined interface and conforms to a prescribed behavior common to all components within an architecture. Multiple components may be composed to build other components.

beans: A collection of Java components

ide: Integrated Development Environment.

jbpm: java business process management

server: A process that runs on a host that relays information to a client upon the client sending it a request. Servers come in many forms: application servers, web servers, database servers, and so forth. All IP-based servers can be load balanced. See Web Server.

SDR: Stanford Digital Repository

execute: To perform a data processing operation described by an instruction or a program.

sql: Structured Query Language (SQL), pronounced “sequel”, is a language that provides an interface to relational database systems. It was developed by IBM in the 1970s for use in System R. SQL is a de facto standard, as well as an ISO and ANSI standard.

CGI: common gateway interface

Perl:(Short for Practical Extraction and Report Language), is a programming language specifically designed for processing text, and because of this trait is one of the most popular languages for writing CGI scripts. note from me: this is acutally wrong. On more research I found that Perl was just a name the creator came up with and liked and then defined. go figure.

W3C: The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential as a forum for information, commerce, communication, and collective understanding.

Schema: A schema is the set of objects (tables, views, indexes, etc) belonging to an account. It is often used as another way to refer to an Oracle account. The CREATE SCHEMA statement lets one specify (in a single SQL statement) all data and privilege definitions for a new schema. One can also add definitions to the schema later using DDL statements.

XML or here: (eXtensible Markup Language) A widely used system for defining data formats. XML provides a very rich system to define complex documents and data structures such as invoices, molecular data, news feeds, glossaries, inventory descriptions, real estate properties, etc. As long as a programmer has the XML definition for a collection of data (often called a “schema”) then they can create a program to reliably process any data formatted according to those rules. Or: Extensible markup language; a markup language for documents and data structures such as invoices, molecular data, news feeds, glossaries, inventory descriptions, real estate properties, etc. As long as a programmer has the XML definition for a collection of data (often called a “schema”) then they can create a program to reliably process any data formatted according to those rules.

JMX: Java Management Extensions or JMX is a Java technology that supplies tools for managing and monitoring applications, system objects, devices (e.g. printers) and service oriented networks. An interesting detail of the API is that classes can be dynamically constructed and changed.

API or here: Application Programming Interface. In the world of software, APIs are structured abstraction layers between the gory details of an individual application, operating system or hardware item and the world outside that software or hardware. Or: A formalized set of software calls and routines that can be referenced by an application program in order to access supporting system or network services.

UI: User Interface. The user interface of a program is the part of it with which a user (person) interacts, such as a menu, button or toolbar. Mozilla’s user interface is often referred to as the Chrome.

DIP: Dissemination Information Package-the means by with information in a digital archive is conveyed to a user of the archive. The term comes from the Open Archives Information System model.

DSL: Digital Subscriber Line is a technology for bringing high-bandwidth information to homes and small businesses over ordinary copper telephone lines. A DSL line can carry both data and voice signals and the data part of the line is continuously connected.

bre: business rules engine

lisp or here: (which stands for “LISt Processing”) is a programming language oriented towards functional programming. Its prominent features include prefix-notation syntax, dynamic typing (variables are type-neutral, but values have implicit type), and the ability to treat source code as first-class objects. Or: List Processing Language — A high-level computer language invented by Professor John McCarthy in 1961 to support research into computer based logic, logical reasoning, and artificial intelligence. It was the first symbolic (as opposed to numeric) computer processing language.

LAS: Log ASCII Standard (file format)

Stub: A temporary implementaion of part of a program for debugging purposes.

jpeg2000: JPEG 2000 is a wavelet-based image compression standard. It was created by the Joint Photographic Experts Group committee with the intention of superseding their original discrete cosine transform-based JPEG standard. The usual file extension is .jp2.

pointers: In computer science, a pointer is a programming language datatype whose value is used to refer to (“points to”) another value stored elsewhere in the computer memory. Obtaining the value that a pointer refers to is called dereferencing the pointer. A pointer is a simple implementation of the general reference datatype, although it is quite different from the facility referred to as a reference in C++.

metadata: Data about other data, commonly divided into descriptive metadata such as bibliographic information, structural metadata about formats and structures, and administrative metadata, which is used to manage information.

mets: a standard for encoding descriptive, administrative, and structural metadata about objects within a digital library, expressed using XML. METS is being developed by the Digital Library Federation (DLF) and is maintained by the Library of Congress.

abstraction: In computer science, abstraction is a mechanism and practice to reduce and factor out details so that one can focus on few concepts at a time. It is by analogy with abstraction in mathematics. The mathematical technique of abstraction begins with mathematical definitions; this has the fortunate effect of finessing some of the vexing philosophical issues of abstraction.

EDI: (Electronic Data Interchange) This is a set of computer interchange standards for business documents such as invoices, bills, and purchase orders. or here. The inter-organizational, computer-to-computer exchange of structured information in a standard, machine-processable format.

mapping: A process of matching a Client to a specific Console system, so that it cannot be controlled by another Console system with unauthorized access.
or here. It is the association of data field contents from an internal computer system to the field contents in the EDI standard being used. The same mapping takes place in reverse during the receipt of an EDI document.

relational database: (1) A data structure organized so that it is perceived by its users as a collection of tables. (2) A database that is organized and accessed according to relations. T. A relational database has the flexibility to generate new tables from existing records that meet specified criteria.

domain model: “The domain model should serve as a unified, definitive source of reference when ambiguities arise in the analysis of problems or later during the implementation of reusable components, a repository of the shared knowledge for teaching and communications, and a specification to the implementer of reusable components. …

Object-oriented: Programming languages and techniques where data carries with itself the “methods” (also known as “functions”) used to handle that data. An OO programmer, for instance, can write a statement such as “object.print()” without having to be concerned about what kind of object will be involved at “run time” or what its printing method is. Object-oriented code is both more flexible and more organized, so it is far easier to write, read, and change than procedural code. …

Hibernate or here: Hibernate is an Object-relational mapping (ORM) solution for the Java language. It is free, open source software that is distributed under the LGPL. Hibernate was developed by a team of Java software developers around the world. It provides an easy to use framework for mapping an object-oriented domain model to a traditional relational database.

JMX: Java Management Extensions or JMX is a Java technology that supplies tools for managing and monitoring applications, system objects, devices (e.g. printers) and service oriented networks. An interesting detail of the API is that classes can be dynamically constructed and changed.

dtd: Document Type Definition file that specifies how elements inside an XML document should relate to each other. It provides “grammar” rules for an XML document and each of its elements. DLESE’s metadata records are XML documents.

tei: A project to represent texts in digital form, emphasizing the needs of humanities scholars. Also the DTD used by the program.

Sandbox: A network or series of networks that are not connected to other networks.

QC: Quality Control The regulatory process through which we measure actual performance, compare it with standards, and act on the difference. Also sometimes used to distinguish inspection and test activities from other quality activities (see QA: Quality Assurance).

Observer pattern
: The observer pattern is a design pattern used in computer programming to observe the state of an object in a program.

beanshellasynchronous: A type of two-way communication that occurs with a time delay, allowing participants to respond at their own convenience. Literally not synchronous, in other words, not at the same time. Example of an application of asynchronous communication is electronic bulletin board.

beanshell: BeanShell is a Java scripting language, invented by Pat Niemeyer. It runs in the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) and utilizes Java’s own syntax.

Once (a review) Posted on July 30th

I’m watching The Closer and just came back from watching Once at the Aquarius with my dad and brother. It was amazingly cute. There was a richness and depth to the character development which you almost never see in commercial theaters–though since Once will soon be showing in such theaters that is a little-bit wrong. The passion the main character showed was frightening at times. I must admit that watching the main characters walking through the Irish projects at midnight, into dark allies and around group housing gave me a sense of foreboding which was completely inappropriate to the actual plot of the movie. Every time the main female character walked down a dirty, deserted ally in nothing but humours cow-slippers and blue and black plaid pjs I found myself dreading when I knew she would be attacked or harassed. In some ways this relatively content free–or at least heavy content free–movie had a personal lesson for me. Spending so very much time surrounded by clean, affluent, mostly white and English speaking people has subconsciously biased me against rundown, poor, public-housing at night. And this is not right. Practicality is one thing, internal bias is another. Maybe it’s my youth or youthful heart but I sort of like being challenged, having my racial and economic assumptions forced in front of my face. It interesting.

We bought the very last CD at the Aquarius and I’ll probably post a review of the actual music in Once once I’ve listened to it in full. Have a fantastic night!

Inspirational Quote:

There’s no place like

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