The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Later this afternoon, I'll have time to read...

What I'm reading (later today)

All for now.

Want shorter lines at the airport? Think through security

Pilot Patrick Smith outlines, one more time, a number of sensible ways to shorten airport security lines while providing better security overall:

As I’ve argued for years, there are two fundamental flaws in our approach. First is the idea that every single person who flies, from infant children to elderly folks in wheelchairs, is seen as a potential terrorist of equal threat. Second, and and even more maddening, is the immense amount of time we spend rifling through people’s bags in the hunt for harmless liquids, pointy objects, and other perceived “weapons.” In a system that processes more than two million passengers every day of the week, neither of these tactics is effective or sustainable. Our approach is so flawed, and so bogged down in ridiculous, wasteful nonsense, that it can hardly move under its own weight. Yet all we hear about is how to add yet more layers of fat to the system.

Does anybody remember the comedy of errors that allowed the so-called “Underwear Bomber” to make his way onto a Detroit-bound flight out of Amsterdam? Here was a Nigerian citizen who’d spent time in Yemen, traveling on a one-way ticket, and whose own father had tried to warn American authorities about him. And here we are confiscating plastic squirt-guns and rubber swords from four year-old kids at regional airports in Utah.

The trouble isn’t that we have “too much security” per se. It’s that we have too much security in the wrong places. The solution isn’t pouring more and more money into a defective strategy. It’s changing that strategy.

Amen. Again. Because Smith isn't advocating anything new; he's been saying all this for years, as have Schneier, former TSA directors, other pilots, and on and on. What's it going to take to change our ridiculous policies?

My stack is stacking up

Too many things to read before lunchtime:

Now, back to work.

Things in my Inbox

Some articles:

Today's other tasks include cleaning my house and writing code for about four hours.

They have to be monsters

Jeff Atwood blogged yesterday about the emotional abuse people heap on others over the Internet:

I admired the way Stephanie Wittels Wachs actually engaged with the person who left that awful comment. This is a man who has two children of his own, and should be no stranger to the kind of pain involved in a child's death. And yet he felt the need to post the word "Junkie" in reply to a mother's anguish over losing her child to drug addiction.

Isn’t this what empathy is? Putting myself in someone else’s shoes with the knowledge and awareness that I, too, am human and, therefore, susceptible to this tragedy or any number of tragedies along the way?

Most would simply delete the comment, block the user, and walk away. Totally defensible. But she didn't. She takes the time and effort to attempt to understand this person who is abusing her mother, to reach them, to connect, to demonstrate the very empathy this man appears incapable of.

As one Twitter user said, "falling in love, breaking into a bank, bringing down the govt…they all look the same right now: they look like typing."

Clean your damn data!

Because no one has actually cleaned up a database of IP address geocodes, a Kansas farmer is getting blamed for all manner of bad behavior on the Internet:

As any geography nerd knows, the precise center of the United States is in northern Kansas, near the Nebraska border. Technically, the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the center spot are 39°50′N 98°35′W. In digital maps, that number is an ugly one: 39.8333333,-98.585522. So back in 2002, when MaxMind was first choosing the default point on its digital map for the center of the U.S., it decided to clean up the measurements and go with a simpler, nearby latitude and longitude: 38°N 97°W or 38.0000,-97.0000.

As a result, for the last 14 years, every time MaxMind’s database has been queried about the location of an IP address in the United States it can’t identify, it has spit out the default location of a spot two hours away from the geographic center of the country. This happens a lot: 5,000 companies rely on MaxMind’s IP mapping information, and in all, there are now over 600 million IP addresses associated with that default coordinate. If any of those IP addresses are used by a scammer, or a computer thief, or a suicidal person contacting a help line, MaxMind’s database places them at the same spot: 38.0000,-97.0000.

Which happens to be in the front yard of Joyce Taylor’s house.

And, of course, since most people don't understand (a) default data, (b) data errors, or (c) how anything at all actually works, default IP mapping by MaxMind and other companies (including Google and Facebook) has resulted in people behaving stupidly all over the U.S.

Pro tip: Never live near a major data center.

Reading list

Here we go:

It's also a nice day outside, so Parker will probably get two hours of walks in.

Newsletter widget removed

On Thursday I merged in the latest Github code from the BlogEngine.NET project and published it to Azure. I didn't realize at the time that the update contained a new widget called "newsletter" that let anyone sign up to receive a notification for each post on the blog.

By the time I got my weekly email report with its hundreds of bounces, apparently every robot from here to Vladivostok had signed up.

So annoying. Well, I now know the widget code a lot better, and I've killed the thing. I hope my bounce rate drops back to zero.

If you want to know when I post something, there's an RSS feed to which you're welcome to subscribe.