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August 17, 2004

John Gilmore, GAM

Recently, the feds and the airlines have begun testing a program whereby "pre-screened" frequent flyers now have the privilege of using a special security line at certain airports. This involves the traveler going in to a TSA location and having their iris scanned and their fingerprints taken, and a background check performed, and who knows-what-other-invasions-of-privacy. People are willing to do this, presumably, because they've decided that giving up freedom is worth saving a little time and hassle. Hey, having been among the most frequent flyers in the world before, I know that saving ten minutes every time I go through the airport can add up to a good half day worth of time over a year. Saving 30... well, you get the picture.

Here's the problem with this whole situation. I don't trust anybody with that information. Not you, not the TSA, not the airlines, and not the government. To put it most simply, trust is supposed to be a two-way street. You trust them, and they trust you. Well, clearly, the government and the corporations do not trust you. Why should you trust them? Sure, you say, they trust me. It's just that they have to be vigilant against certain unsavory elements, so they have to trust and verify. Fine. Again, how do we as citizens and consumers implement the verification aspect of that? The answer is that in many cases, we cannot. There is an imbalance of power, and you better believe that where there is an imbalance, there exists an opportunity for corruption, or at the very least, abuse.

The other part I don't understand about this program is the necessity to even collect the biometrics in the first place. At many airports currently, some airlines have special security lines set aside for their frequent flyers anyway. All you have to do is show your frequent flyer card and your boarding pass and voila! you're in the short line. No, it doesn't guarantee that you don't get randomly picked for secondary screening, but to be honest, I've only ever been randomly picked for that two or three times since 2001, and it wasn't that big a deal. So what's up with this new program?

As far as I can tell, you're getting almost nothing in return for giving up a lot of privacy. Basically, what I'm saying is, if you want to talk about frequent flyer privileges, you should be able to get those with your frequent flyer card and nothing more. This is the way it is at some airports already. This is the way it should stay. Collecting this information is a totally unnecessary step toward the 1984 police state that our "freedom" is supposed to free us from.

This brings me to the next level of the argument, which is laid out in this Wired article about John Gilmore. John is pretty much just a regular guy who happened to make a ton of money by being there when Sun was taking off in the 80's. Today, he's in the news because he doesn't think Americans should have to present their papers to travel within their own country. Remember when the Soviets were doing this during the Cold War and our politicians were all up in arms about how repressive that society was? Well, welcome to the Union of American Socialist States, my friend. Because making you present ID to get on a flight is right outta that era.

I personally submit to this invasion because I am forced to make the unfortunate choice between freedom and friendship/family/work. It shouldn't be this way, but if I choose not to submit to this, then I can't fly to play with friends, or fly to a business meeting, or fly to visit my family in far away places. So I have to thank John Gilmore for making the sacrifices for freedom that I choose not to. As much as the soldiers who sacrifice for our freedom in the jungles, hedges, and deserts of foreign lands, John Gilmore and people like him make sacrifices for our freedom.

We need to celebrate these heroes as much as the firefighters, police officers, and soldiers we celebrate, because each of them keeps our society's liberties safe in their own way.

PGP Signed Entry

Soreness, Yes

I am so sore. And this friggin' blister isn't helping, neither are the strawberries.

This feels so good and so horribly painfully bad at the same time. I love it. I hate it. Argh!

PGP Signed Entry

August 16, 2004


Played some decent beach volleyball yesterday for the first time since I left California. I wouldn't say I played great, but it felt great to be back out there in the sand. Perfect day for it too. It's great to live in a place where you can go to the beach and pick up a game with total strangers and just have fun playing.

Today, I played keeper in an officiated soccer game for the first time in more than seven years. It was tough. Our side was short-handed with only eight players, and we paid the price, losing 5-0. I'd say there was one actual, good shot on goal that as my high standards put it, they actually "earned." Three of the other goals were mistakes on my part (not hanging on to the ball mostly, but also being out of position), and one of them was a PK. I did make some decent saves, but it was still frustrating in that we never got our offense on. Kind of reminded me of sophomore and junior years at IMSA, when I would be back there under a withering attack for 80% of the game. Gets tiring.

In all, I'd say the weekend's endeavors proved that this old body can still take it, at least on a recreational level. The goal now is to build on this and get myself back into a stride. Both on the sand and the turf, I felt very, very hesitant initially. Just plain haven't done it in a long time, you know, and it takes a while for it to come back. By the second game on the sand, things were starting click and I was starting to remember some strategy and I got looser, but I still made some mistakes (at least we won that game). Likewise, by the second half, I felt a lot better about facing down an opponent on a breakaway into the penalty box. During the first half, a part of me couldn't believe I wasn't more aggresive, and finally it started coming back as I got more comfortable.

It's going to take some practice and some persistence, but I can't begin to tell you how good it feels right now. I'm gonna be sore tomorrow, but I don't even care.

PGP Signed Entry

August 3, 2004

A Pause

This morning, my anti-lock brakes prevented a crash. It probably wouldn't have caused major injury, but it would have been rather less than pleasant. So I wanted to take a moment and thank all the great mechanical, electrical, and industrial engineers who made everything out of a hundredth of a second this morning.

Thinking about things during that pause, I happened to reflect upon the life of Andrea Culumber, a fellow engineer who died this month six years ago in a car crash. My enduring memory of my friend and colleague is that of her unquenchable zest for life. Whatever she did, she did all out... and she did it all.

I remember one of the people at the wake spoke of the weeks before her unfortunate and untimely passing. She had filled every waking moment of those weeks with activity: camping, hiking, boogie boarding, traveling, and of course contributing to her team at work. The week she died, she had been in Vegas celebrating with family. It made her passing slightly more bearable knowing that she had gotten more out of her brief years than so many others did in three or four times the time.

And it served as inspiration. In her own small way, her passing helped me appreciate life more, and got me to overcome hesitation and doubt... carpe diem. Or Carpe Noctum, as the case may be. These last few weeks, I've been so engaged with life that it's been hard keeping up with things like sleep and rest. I've gotten back into volleyball after a long respite, started golfing again (as badly as I stunk three years ago when I gave that nonsense up). I have been hiking every week at least once, been playing poque with friends every week, go to at least one new restaurant every week with friends, and have been brushing up on my vignt-et-un. I've been reading voraciously on various topics, from classical music conductors to gambling. I've been trying to find the time to start writing a new story, which has been brewing in my head for a while... just need to schedule in some time every day between everything else... in any case, you get the idea. I've been busy, and it feels great. It's been wonderful, but this morning made me pause a bit and remember how sudden, indeed random life can be. It was a lesson hard learned, but I still remember it. I only need to think of one person to bring it all back.

Thanks, Andrea. You still live in the hearts of all those you touched.

PGP Signed Entry