Daily Archives: November 16, 2010

Backscattering and Groping

Been asked for my opinion on the new and egregiously invasive TSA scans. Well, I think two separate things.

One: On a personal level, I don’t really give a crap about whether the full-body backscatter thingamajig makes me look like a naked mannequin and some poor bastard TSA person might have a glimpse at my virtual backscattered junk. One reason for this is that I’m pretty confident my own fake-nude snapshot will get deleted as soon as it’s called up; even with my recent loss of 20 pounds, I don’t exactly have a body that calls for the “save” button, and I’m not nearly famous enough for such a picture to be of interest on the IntarWeebs. And even if I were, you know what? Like I care. Let’s recall that I purposely put this picture of myself on the Internets:

not to mention this one:

So it’s not as if I’m brimming over with concern about looking bad. I’m not going to volunteer a picture of my naked, increasingly middle-aged  body — I think too much of you for that — but on the other hand if some pervert at the TSA were to upload it and it were identifiably me, I wouldn’t lose a whole lot of sleep over it either. Yes, I would say, that is a very naked, plastic-y, gray version of my own shapely self. You enjoy that.

Likewise, I’m not going to particularly care about close body search by the unfortunate TSA apparatchik who will will have to run his hand up to my groin area. I don’t flatter myself that the fellow will get that much enjoyment out of it, and while I don’t thrill to the idea of being groped in an airport for security purposes, the actual physical act doesn’t bother me much, either. Basically I would have to keep myself from smirking as Boom-chika-bow-ow went through my head as I was being patted down, but really, that’s pretty much it. So, yes. Not nearly outraged enough about either on a personal level to have either stop me from getting on a flight.

Two: My complete personal indifference is entirely separate from the larger philosophical question of whether these additional invasive steps are actually necessary, or whether I, as an average-looking middle-aged white man with apparently a high tolerance for official invasions of my personal space, am likely to have the same backscatter/TSA body grope experience as, say, a young woman or a swarthy-looking fellow with a beard. I suspect rather strongly that in both cases the answer is no, and both of these in themselves are perfectly sufficient reasons for other people to be annoyed and to protest and to engage in civil disobedience regarding these things. Although speaking selfishly I hope that if they do, that they are behind me in the security line. Because, hey, the reason I am at the airport is to catch my plane.

My understanding is that there is a movement underfoot to have 11/24 as “opt-out day,” in which people intend to refuse the body scan at airports on one of the busiest flying days of the year, thus likely slowing down the flying experience even more one what is likely to be an aggravating flying day for just about everyone. As noted, philosophically I have little disagreement with the protest; on a practical level I’m happy that the only travel I have planned for the Thanksgiving holiday is going down the road to the in-laws. Protests are often like that.

As an aside, one thing I occasionally see people asking why the US (and Canada) can’t run  airports more like Israel does. I don’t pretend to know enough to give a genuinely sufficient answer to this, but I will hypothesize that one reason may be that the Israeli way is possibly not scalable from a small, militarized country of seven and a half million to a large and largely civilian country with 40 times the population. Israel has 11 airports (two international and nine domestic); the US has 376 which have regularly scheduled airline service. This isn’t to suggest the US couldn’t do its airport security better or less invasively. Just that I don’t know if we could do it like Israel.

METAtropolis: Cascadia is Out

For those of you who enjoyed METAtropolis – and enough of you did that it became the first audiobook nominated for a Hugo — I’m delighted to inform you that today its sequel METAtropolis Cascadia is out and available for your listening pleasure. M:C not only reunites four of the five original authors of METAtropolis (Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Jay Lake and Karl Schroeder) but adds two additional fabulous authors to the mix: Mary Robinette Kowal and Ken Scholes. Each contributes a story focused on the area and themes originally covered by Jay Lake in his METAtropolis story “In the Forests of the Night.”

But wait, there’s more! Each of the stories in M:C is narrated by an actor who performed in the Star Trek universe: Rene Auberjonois, Kate Mulgrew, Wil Wheaton, Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes and LeVar Burton, all of whom do a spectacular job reading the words of the authors (you can see the voice talent discuss their work on the project here).

Basically METAtropolis: Cascadia is a big ol’ ball of geek joy. I think you’re going to enjoy the heck out of it. I know I have. I hope you’ll give it a listen.