Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The jack booted thugs of TSA...

Today I was traveling from my new hometown, Las Vegas, to San Antonio.

Anyone that knows me understands that I find the TSA to be a bunch of clowns. There are a number of reasons for this, the least of which is that they just can't seem to be consistent, and they just can't seem to get things right.

First, I just renewed my license in the State of Utah. It expires on my birthday (the 30th of this month) and I was not sure I'd have time to get a new Nevada license before it expired. When you renew (or loose)  your license in Utah, you get a temporary paper license that is good for 6 months. They mail you the permanent license a month or two down the road.

About 6 months ago I lost my license and had a temporary paper license for almost 3 months before I got my good license. During that time, I traveled all over the place including really sensitive airports like Washington, D.C., Orlando and L.A. I used my paper license (which has my picture on it) at every TSA checkpoint without a problem.

Today, I walked up to the agent/officer/whatever who was checking drivers licenses with my temporary license in hand. The jack booted thug in uniform (sorry, it just irritates me) looks at my temporary license and says "Sir, I can't take this".

Mouth agape, I ask the obvious question, "Why not?"

"Because it's paper", she replied.

"Yes, but it's a government issued ID. It has my photo on it." I said.

"Sorry. Our SOP says it can't be paper.", she replies.

Now, what do the TSA guidelines say about ID requirements? This is the main tag line:

“Adult passengers (18 and over) are required to show a U.S. federal or state-issued photo ID in order to be allowed to go through the checkpoint and onto their flight.” (see Now, this web site goes on to list, as an acceptable form of ID the following:

* Drivers Licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)

So to me, this clearly implies that my temporary drivers license, with a photograph, is acceptable based on the requirements states on the web site.

I engaged the agent further and asked for a supervisor. To me, this is a major issue. First, it's clearly an inconsistency issue within the TSA. In my mind, they have gone loco, deciding to enforce one set of rules in one place and a second set of rules in a second place.

Second, what happens to the normal traveler who is carrying a temporary, state issued, drivers license and they don't have an alternate form of ID? The TSA web-site says:

"We understand passengers occasionally arrive at the airport without an ID, due to lost items or inadvertently leaving them at home. Not having an ID, does not necessarily mean a passenger won’t be allowed to fly. If passengers are willing to provide additional information, we have other means of substantiating someone’s identity, like using publicly available databases."

So it seems they will give us a hard time but if we can provide some other means of identification that they might, if they are feeling giving, let us get on our plane and fly. Of course, who knows what kinds of humiliation we will need to go through (pat downs, etc) in the process.

So the bottom line is that our friends at the TSA need to get their act together. They need to start doing their jobs and stop hassling the normal traveling public and concentrate on finding the bad guys. It's all a sham anyway. While I agree that the introduction of security measures such as metal detectors in the 70's went a long way to stop hijackings, I think it has done little to prevent terror except to terrorize and inconvenience the innocent citizen.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Some people are idiots - or - How not to give constructive feedback....

As most of you know, I write books. I've written a lot of books and I enjoy it and I enjoy hearing from people who have read my books. Knowing I'm not perfect, I don't mind legitimate criticism as I think it can make me a better writer. Still, once in a while, I get an email from an idiot. I sometimes find them funny, sometimes irritating and sometimes stupid. Here is a perfect case in point for an email I got today:

From: nick
To:my email address
Sent: Wednesday, September 7, 2011 10:25 PM
Subject: Your book

Is so poorly written it is a joke

Well, now this is a concise statement and full of facts and information that will help me do better in the future. My reply was as follows:

From: Robert Freeman []
Sent: Thursday, September 08, 2011 8:32 AM
To: nick
Subject: Re: Your book

Care to tell me which book you are talking about there Nick? I've got some 13 of them published. Your feedback is very concise and well written here ... and meaningful and helpful.

Now, Nick's reply is again so helpful. I'm impressed with his incredible skills with the keyboard. Here is his reply.

From: nick
To: 'Robert Freeman'
Sent: Thursday, September 8, 2011 9:40 AM
Subject: RE: Your book

im not getting paid for this email
you are for the book
oracel 9i 
Does anyone in the world understand this reply? Now, I know that I should just let it go at this point. Replying to this guy is just not a good use of my time. Still, it's kind of fun so I did:
From: Robert Freeman []
Sent: Thursday, September 08, 2011 11:51 AM
To: nick
Subject: Re: Your book

I'm assuming you mean Oracle (not Oracel as you have spelled it). I have no idea what you mean "you are for the book", this makes no sense in English, which is clearly not your first language. Given that you have a hard time crafting sentences in English, I'm at a loss at how you feel you are qualified to judge the writing in the book. If you are referencing the content in some place, then I wish you would be more specific.

I would think you are talking about the book Oracle 9i New Features. If you could give me a specific example of poor writing instead of this subjective crap, I'd be thankful. Also I'm curious what you have contributed to the community in the way of white papers or books that makes you qualified to offer any kind of opinion. Normally I am thankful for comments that are objective in nature and make sense. This is quite the opposite and you need not bother replying unless you have something concrete and objective in nature to say.


Nick thoughtful reply is seen here....  I'm done with the bozo at this point. 
yes Oracle 9i New Features 
and its not spelling error its TYPING  error 
but i bet you dont even know what or why a dvorak keyboard is.
"im not getting paid for this email   you are for the book"
Nick, if you are reading my blog, take a basic English class. Then, once you learn English (and how to read) then I's suggest you spend time doing things to contribute to the community. Then I'd suggest you write a white paper or two, and then see if you can get a book written. If you can, after spending great amounts of time for very little money, I challenge you to write me again and THIS TIME write an email with some substance. For now, I'm done and I find you to be a very silly person. 
For those of you who are interested... You can get my Oracle RMAN book here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Flying the airlines.... a few thoughts on things that I don't understand or that irritate me...

So I fly a lot. All over the United States, and, less frequently, internationally. I've met many Oracle types over the years in my travels, and I know that many professionals spend a lot of time on airplanes. Over time, I've come to find certain things annoying. I know there are far greater problems in the world than those annoyances associated with airline travel.... but since I'm on an airplane at 37,000 feet I thought I'd share some of my thoughts here.

1. Some flights have personal TV's on them which I love. I love the moving map, the information about the flight in real-time and so on. Here is what I find is weird. When you sign-onto the personal entertainment device (PED) it asks you your language. Of course I always select English. What irritates me is when the flight status is displayed then in English AND Spanish. I didn't ask for Spanish, why are you giving me Spanish. Is there some weird language where the word English somehow means Spanish? Why do I have to sit and try to interpret a language I don't speak and I selected one that I do speak? Also, I hate that the screen cycles through metric and English measurements. If I select English, default to miles and feet... or give me a choice. I hate seeing the conversions back and forth and back and forth.

2. Seat belts. It seems to be a universal message to certain travelers that when the seat belt sign comes on, that it's time to go to the bathroom. I don't get this. Go when the sign is OFF. Now you ask why I care....after all they are the ones taking the risk.... if the airplane hits a good bit of unexpected clear air turbulence (CAT) and I've experienced some really major CAT in my life, your body is going to come plowing into mine if you are up and about. A 200 pound human body makes one heck of a projectile. So for crying out loud, SIT DOWN when the seat belt sign is on.

3. Kids.... Now I fully realize that mothers can't make crying babies stop crying. It is sometimes painful to listen too, but it does not irritate me. I understand it. However when kids become old enough, and that there really is not an excuse for bad behavior, then it drives me crazy when parents will not discipline them and  hold them accountable. Just now, I have a child behind me that has been screaming, making all sorts of noise and kicking the backs of chairs. His parents are here, and had no concept how annoying this kid was being to his fellow passengers. It was amazing, once I turned around and said something, how that made the difference. I'm not sure why people are more willing to take these things than just turn around and kindly let the parents know that the child is being annoying.

4. Reclined seats.... I like to recline my seat, and most travelers do. The problem is, at least on many flights that I'm on, when someone reclines the seat, I can't use my laptop because there is no room. I mean, what good is the wireless on the plane if I can't use my laptop. This is a total design fubar in my mind.

5. Electricity.... How many business people are flying? How many laptops do you see on planes? How is it that both at the airport and on the airplane that getting power is sometimes impossible. Now to be fair, Delta has put up charging stations in many of it's hubs, but there are few of them and they are often heavily used. Other airlines have done this too, but the problem still exists in large part and needs to be addressed.

OK... those are my gripes for now. What frustrated you at the airport or on the airplane?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Selling my baby.... N7598U

So I'm selling my baby, N7598U. I'm not getting out of the flying business, I love it way to much, but I'd like a bigger airplane and I'm moving to Las Vegas and other like factors have led me to decide to sell it. This blog entry is so I can point potential buyers to pictures and other information on the airplane.

The airplane is a 1976 Cessna 150M (N7509U)  and I'm asking 20k for it. 1976 is the year before they started making the Cessna 152 in place of the Cessna 150. The airplane is hangared at U42 in the Salt Lake City area, and has been hangared continually since I purchased it 5 years ago or so. I'm also offering a couple of extras including a hand held Lowrance GPS (color with elevation awareness) and a mobile TCAS box. For those interested in the SLC area, I also have a hangar that we can transfer over the lease on. That's a big deal since the hangar list at U42 has about a 2 year waiting period at this time.

I don't have the exact hours associated with the engine and the airframe in front of me. I'll update this blog post once I get these numbers.  I know the engine has hours in the low 100's. The airframe is probably around 7,000 hours or so if I remember correctly.

UPDATE: Hours are as follows: TTAF (Total Time Air Frame) 7674.1.     TTE (Total Time Engine) unknown.   TSMOH (Time Since Major Overhaul) 109.5. So the TSMOH is actually less than the 110 hours I was thinking. 

So, what does she look like? Well, here are some pictures of N7598U. Forgive the less than perfect quality of the pictures. They were taken from my cell phone which usually takes better pictures .... I think the light wasn't that good for some of these.

Here are some pictures of the flight deck.... Lots of people ask about it. Note that we have one NAV/COM, a LORAN receiver (I can not vouch for it's functionality), ADF and transponder. This is a fully functional basic IFR platform and all the required inspections/tests for it to fly IFR are current including the static system (done last year so it has a year to go). I've had this plane in IMC several times and trust it with my life. The 150 does not have an alternate static system. There is a jack that you can plug your iPod into if you like.

The airplane has just come out of annual with no major squaks, and all AD's are complied with. So this baby is good for a year of flying.

So, nothing is perfect and this airplane has some visual squaks that keep it from ever being a contestant in the pretty plane of the year award. All of these issues are totally cosmetic, and I was working on fixing them a little at a time.... but there is still some work to go.

So what needs fixing?

  • Interior plastic really should be replaced at some point. It's cracking in some places.
  • The pilots window latch works, but not great. The window stays shut but it just does not quite latch the way it is supposed to. This is pretty typical of older Cessna's that I've seen.
  • The airplane needs a paint job. I had it inspected for interior rust when I bought it and no rust was found. I had the interior sprayed with rust killer to prevent any possible future issues. She has been kept in a dry climate for the last 5 years, so rust related issues are highly unlikely. 
  • The front cowling is probably the ugliest part of the airplane. I was looking to just replace it, which surprisingly isn't that expensive when compared to other airplane related items. It's totally airworthy, but the paint is pretty bad and it just looks like it needs to be replaced.
  • The passenger door has a hole of some sort in it that is patched. I have no idea how the hole got there (I'm sure it's buried in the logs somewhere, I've just never gone looking for it. This is just a blemish, and is patched, and has no impacts on the airworthiness of the airplane.
  • The elevators show what appears to be some hail damage. It's very minor and again, how no impacts on airworthiness. I really have not noticed hail damage anywhere else.
Here are some pictures of the "Squaks"

I have fixed a few things. First of all, as you can see from the total time on the engine, it was recently replaced with a newly overhauled engine. The compressions are quite good on this new engine (high 60's and into the 70's). Also I've invested a bunch of money in airworthiness issues like replacing all the pulleys and cables, new brakes, tires, etc.... All of this is logged of course. Also the seats are in very good condition and look almost new. Here are some other pictures of the airplane....

Bet you didn't know that the 150M could go vertical did you!?!?!?!? :D

So that is the airplane in words and pictures. Thanks for taking time to look at it. I've been all over the US in this little airplane and she is a wonderful flying platform.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Funny but true story....

So, I'm in the middle of moving from Salt Lake to Las Vegas. Right now I'm working on packing up the office. While packing up on of my bookshelves I had to laugh. There in my hands was a 3.5 inch floppy disk. What was so funny you ask? Not one of the laptops I have today will take a 3.5 inch floppy.

Hope there wasn't anything important on it!

Friday, September 02, 2011

This needs to be dealt with...

Does this bother you as much as it bothers me? This is the problem when people go spilling secrets. It puts lives at risk, even if names are not specifically divulged. In this case, thousands of classified State Department cables have been spilled out onto the public sphere, unredacted, and containing names of people who are involved in various aspects of government, including the names of whistle blowers.

For me, it's a bit of a conflict. I'm all for freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Still I think these freedoms require some self-discipline and I think there have to be some clear limits when it comes to certain things. Clearly national security is an issue that needs to be considered when we talk about freedom of speech. I often struggle with this balance for a lot of reasons, one of which is simply that I have this zeal to know what's going on and to understand the secrets and mysteries of our world.

However this is a world that is not safe, and there are people who would think nothing about destroying us in an instant. As a result of an imperfect world, the need for secrecy leads to imperfect solutions. If every citizen could be trusted to maintain secrecy, then I'd say every citizen should have access to all information. Of course, that is a bit of a dream world, isn't it?

If there are American's involved in this, I think that treason isn't too big of a word to use here. I think we tend to shy away from this word sometimes, but in some cases I think it's a valid description of what has been done. Clearly though, the big players are not Americans.

What to do about non-Americans in these cases? My thoughts are probably going to be controversial but I'm thinking that we need a concept of "foreign treason". I think we need to look seriously at the actions within some very narrow scopes, and consider that treason (or something like unto it) can be committed by a non-citizen. If a non-citizen commits an act that is so adverse to the people of the United States that there needs to be a means to bring this person to justice. As far as I'm concerned, the cases for such acts need to meet some very narrow requirements, such as putting citizens personally at risk through direct actions on the part of the person being charged. Really, this is not far from laws relating to spying. At any rate, I think that we provide a method to try these people (even in in absentia) and then provide a means by which to extract punishment. In fact, in this case, I'm not sure I'd be opposed to the use of intelligence agencies to bring these people to justice.

Anyway.... that's just a brain dump on my feelings about this.
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