The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

One size doesn't fit all in airline security

Salon's "Ask the Pilot" last week argued that the U.S. should not look at El Al as the best example (for us) of how to run airline security:

Why can't we, or why don't we, have a system like theirs?
Unfortunately, that's a bit like asking why America's streets can't be as clean as Singapore's. Mostly it's a case of scale. The United States has dozens of mega-terminals, and hundreds more of varying sizes; the nation's top 25 airports each process more than 20 million people a year. Tel Aviv is Israel's sole major airport, handling 9 million passengers annually—about the same as Raleigh-Durham, N.C. The ability to focus on this single, consolidated portal makes the job comparatively simple. There are aspects worth borrowing, for sure, but it's naive to think Israeli protocols can, in whole, be fitted to a nation that is 50 times more populous, and immeasurably more diverse and decentralized.

Ugh. It's summer

It looks like Chicago may miss 32°C (90°F) ever so slightly. It's 31.7°C (89°F) officially right now. It's supposed to cool down on Sunday. I hope so, because I'm melting already.

Update, 4:05p (21:05 UTC): We hit 32°C. But it's not the hottest day of 2006: that was May 28th, when Chicago hit 33.3°C (92°F).

The most painful cut of all

I'm not sure what to make of an MSNBC report about a circumcision trial, except tasteless jokes:

Groups opposed to circumcision are watching the case of an 8-year-old suburban Chicago boy whose divorced parents are fighting in court over whether he should have the procedure.
The child’s mother wants him circumcised to prevent recurring, painful inflammation she says he’s experienced during the past year. But the father says the boy is healthy and circumcision, which removes the foreskin of the penis, is an unnecessary medical procedure that could cause him long-term physical and psychological harm.
The couple’s 2003 divorce decree gave the father the right to offer input on medical decisions.

So, for the moment, this is a parental-rights issue, whose specific subject is what Alfred Hitchcock would characterize as the MacGuffin. But then one gets to this line:

David Llewellyn, an Atlanta attorney who specializes in circumcision cases, is helping the father’s attorneys without a fee.

He—excuse me—specializes in circumcision cases? This is a legal specialty? I must have missed that class at Loyola, no doubt because it's a Jesuit school. Perhaps if I'd gone to Yeshiva, I'd have taken that course. Actually, if I'd gone to yeshiva, I would definitely have taken that course, come to think of it.

Anyway, I suppose to most people circumcision is no laughing matter, but I'm (technically) Jewish, which I think gives me license. You can stop reading now if you get squeamish, because here come my two favorite jokes on the topic:

  1. I decided not to practice Judaism when I was very young. The first mitzvah was fine, but the second one...
  2. Why are we Jews so frugal? Because we're 10% off at birth.

I think now I'll quit while I'm behind.

Biennial Flight Review

I'm a private pilot. Every two years, I'm required to go through a flight review with a flight instructor that, except for the absence of an FAA check airman, mirrors almost exactly what I had to do to get my certificate. So I've been studying the plane's manual and the regulations, and this morning I got a formal weather briefing and started planning the flight. It's a big deal: my last BFR was in June 2004, so at the end of this month, I'm not allowed to fly as pilot in command of any aircraft until I take another BFR. (Imagine if we had to take a full driving test every two years, how much safer the roads would be.)

Right now at Pal-Waukee Municipal Airport, winds are calm, visibility is unlimited, there are a few little clouds at 1,700 m (5,500 ft), and it's 20°C (66°F). The weather is, in short, absolutely perfect for flying[1].

Only, the plane is broken—apparently someone had a good landing, rather than an excellent one—so they're replacing the tires and inspecting the airframe.

I could cry.

Oh well. It's always better to be down here, wishing you were up there, than the reverse.

Here's the aviation meterological report (METAR), which you can plug into the new METAR decoder at 2006-06-14 13:53 KPWK 141353Z 00000KT 10SM FEW055 20/11 A3013 RMK AO2 SLP200 T02000106

Net neutrality in the Senate

Yesterday I sent Illinois Senator Dick Durbin an email asking him to support S.2917, the "net neutrality" act currently working its way through the Senate. His office responded quickly, but I have no idea from reading it what his position is. Can anyone help?

Thank you for contacting me about network neutrality. I appreciate having your thoughts on this issue.
Net neutrality is a principle holding that Internet access providers should not be permitted to engage in favoritism when configuring their networks and delivering Internet content. Such favoritism could occur if a provider transmitted its own offerings at faster speeds than those of its competitors or if a provider charged digital content and application companies a fee for equally fast delivery.
This issue has gained attention recently as several telecommunications company executives have made statements raising concerns that delivery may be impaired for content providers unwilling to pay additional fees for fast transmission. Many of these executives later clarified that they have no intention of degrading or blocking other traffic, particularly if it might prompt customers to switch to other providers, but merely wish to offer video delivery to their own customer base at a premium service level unavailable to non-paying competitors. Some in the industry have favorably compared additional network performance tiers to airlines selling coach and business class tickets or package delivery companies offering ground and air service. Other observers have expressed concern about the impact of such steps on consumers.
Legislation on network neutrality has been offered, building on an earlier, non-binding set of network neutrality principles adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in late 2005. Most prominent among these bills is the Internet Non-Discrimination Act of 2005, S. 2360, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. This bill would prohibit network operators from generally impairing, or discriminating between, any network traffic, in terms of bandwidth allocation, accessibility, or pricing. It also would require access providers to permit consumers to connect devices to the provider's network, as long as such actions do not harm the provider's network, while still permitting providers to take defensive measures against network threats. Consumers would be able to bring complaints to the FCC for action and request that a federal court review FCC decisions.
Opponents of network neutrality argue that a regime prohibiting "bit discrimination" would deny network operators the opportunity to differentiate their services from other providers, thereby stifling the incentive to create innovative content for their customers. They also argue that network operators may face greater difficulties in raising the funding necessary for planned infrastructure upgrades if the improved network speeds would benefit their competitors as much as themselves.
Proponents of network neutrality -- including major Internet content providers, hardware and software companies, and consumer groups -- point to the money that operators already receive from end user and content provider access fees, the technological innovation that network neutrality may encourage, and the lack of high-speed Internet access marketplace competition that leaves much of the country with little opportunity to switch providers if their current provider were to engage in bit discrimination against the services or applications preferred by consumers.
S. 2360 has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee. I will keep your thoughts in mind in case this legislation reaches the Senate floor.
Thank you again for your message. Please keep in touch.
Richard J. Durbin

I think he may be for it...I certainly hope so. Note that our junior senator, Barack Obama, is a co-sponsor of the bill, and he and Durbin are in the same party.

Why is Durbin being so cagey?

Mixing metaphors with a Cuisinart

Today's Chicago Tribune story on sodium in our diets begins with just about the stupidest lede I have read in a long time:

Sodium, one of the planet's oldest substances, may be the American diet's newest enemy.

I imagined it continuing:

Only sodium, of all 90 naturally-occuring chemical elements, has expressed any hostility toward the American diet. In separate news conferences, spokespeople for hydrogen and helium, the planet's two oldest substances, stressed that they are essentially inert and take no position on the American diet, while statements put out by oxygen, carbon, and iron reaffirmed those substances' long friendships with the American diet. Arsenic and mercury declined to comment.
As most of the Periodic Table rushed to distance themselves from sodium's manifesto, two—argon and sulfur—voiced objections to sodium's seniority claim, suggesting that sodium arrived on the planet through the post-solidification accretion of solar material and was therefore not part of the original complement of substances that first formed Earth.
At press time, sodium had neither responded to these criticisms nor retracted its declaration of war.
The American diet could not be reached for comment.

But, alas, the article merely went on to remind readers that sodium in large quantities is bad for us, and that sodium is the principal ingredient by mass in table salt.

Dangerous information revealed on MSNBC

Anne will hate that I know this now:

Coffee may counteract alcohol's poisonous effects on the liver and help prevent cirrhosis, researchers say.
In a study of more than 125,000 people, one cup of coffee per day cut the risk of alcoholic cirrhosis by 20 percent. Four cups per day reduced the risk by 80 percent. The coffee effect held true for women and men of various ethnic backgrounds.

Not that I was ever a candidate for cirrhosis, of course. But it's nice to know that both vices work together to keep one happy and healthy.