Tom's travels

TSA screening standards leaked

Posted on: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 10:02 By: Tom Swiss

Ever wonder just what the rules were for the security theater that the TSA treats us to every time we fly? Now you can find out! Their super-secret "Screening Management Standard Operating Procedure" is published on the internet. They planned to block out the super-secret parts. But...

So the decision to publish it on the Internet is probably a questionable one. On top of that, however, is where the real idiocy shines. They chose to publish a redacted version of the document, hiding all the super-important stuff from the public. But they apparently don’t understand how redaction works in the electronic document world. See, rather than actually removing the offending text from the document they just drew a black box on top of it. Turns out that PDF documents don’t really care about the black box like that and the actual content of the document is still in the file.

Get yourself a copy of the cleared up document here (ZIPped PDF file).

why I love Osaka - Bang!

Posted on: Tue, 01/20/2009 - 23:41 By: Tom Swiss

This is why I love Osaka. I can't understand a word of what they're saying, but you don't have to. Osaka has a quirkyness all its own; I doubt you'd get this reaction in Tokyo. In a lot of American cities, of course, someone might pull out a real gun if you did this...

Ocean Beach

Posted on: Wed, 01/14/2009 - 00:57 By: Tom Swiss

Spent today in Ocean Beach - swam in the Pacific (very briefly!) for the first time. 79 degrees, though the water was cold. Still, as good a beach day as you could hope for in January in the Northern hemisphere. At the airport now, getting ready to take the red-eye back to the East Coast. Supposed to be around 15 degrees in Baltimore Friday. Damn.

Glad the airport bartender told me it's not always so nice and warm here in January - else I'd never leave!

strange auras, birthday reflections, my life as a valence electron

Posted on: Tue, 01/13/2009 - 00:08 By: Tom Swiss

I was sitting in a Baja Fresh burrito joint writing that last entry, when a young kid came up to me and started asking about my Zaurus (the little PDA that I write most of this stuff on). I ending up talking to his mother, starting innocently enough with the trouble her son (about 9 years old) sometimes got for having long hair, a topic near and dear to my heart - or scalp, perhaps. But then it was another instance where that weird aura of mine that attracts the bizarre and twisted people was shining bright...she went on about the kid's father who had just gotten out of jail, and how he was a crack addict, and she herself was an alcoholic. So that was interesting.

Had a good conference out here the past few days, good classes: Saturday cupping and auricular therapy (I volunteered to be the cupping demo dummy and now my back looks like I got amorous with a giant octopus, and I've got seeds taped to my right ear - I must have had a good time), abdominal massage yesterday, and this morning a great Thai massage class. But above and beyond that, just a great group of people sharing knowledge and a love of this craft of Asian Bodywork Therapy. I had a strong feeling of community, and I happened to stumble across an interview with John Robbins where he talked about the importance of strong community connections for healthy longevity, an important way of dealing with grief and loss in our lives. So I shared that at the closing circle today...only to find out afterward that one of the members had lost her husband to a car accident just two weeks before. Sometimes our words have far, far more resonance than we know.


Posted on: Thu, 01/08/2009 - 19:20 By: Tom Swiss

Took the Blue Line trolley all the way down to the border and walked around Tijuana for a few hours. It's a peculiar thing to walk over a national border - there's a little marker, but that's it. And there's no border control or customs check entering Mexico.

If you stayed right around the crossing, you might think that one out of five Mexican men play guitar. Apparently playing in the cafes right there is a booming business. And every store you walk by, there's a guy trying to get you to come in, hawking his wares. Silver bracelets. "Cuban" cigar (almost certainly not Cuban.) Ponchos - I guess at least these would be real ponchos and not Sears ponchos. The usual tourist crap t-shirts.

Tremendous number of dentists and pharmacies right over the border, catering to Americans who can't afford health care at home.

Walked the whole length of the Avenue de Revolucion, past where the tourist zone peters out. Down past the "Tijuana Swap Meet", where booths made out of hung tarps sell clothes and a ghetto third-world shotengai; down to a few blocks of car repair joints, where the cement is all cracked up.

San Diego; the most dangerous Olympic sport

Posted on: Wed, 01/07/2009 - 20:56 By: Tom Swiss

In San Diego...flew in this morning, an oh-my-god-it's-early flight. Managed to grab a few hours sleep between BWI and my plane change Las Vegas, otherwise I'd be unconscious by now. Took a cab to the hotel, got a good hot shower, and walked about two miles to the trolley stop (the local light rail service). Went down to the Maritime Museum, which has some interesting old ships docked in the harbor - from a mid 1800s sailing ship that took emigrees from Britain to New Zealand, to an 1950s Soviet sub. Walked around the "gaslight district", got dinner at a sushi place, now a beer at "Patrick's II", a place that bills itself "San Diego's only real blues joint." A vibe like Leadbetter's or The Cat's Eye - might hang out for the live music later if I'm not exhausted.

The bartender, talking with the patron next to me, remarks that the most dangerous sport in the 2008 Olympics was horse jumping - people going for higher or fancier jumps, only to have the horse fall over on them. Notable fact that will have to find its way into a poem or story sometime.

Obama in Japan; press declares Hillary done

Posted on: Mon, 01/07/2008 - 22:10 By: Tom Swiss

In honor of Barack Obama's victory in Iowa, a photo from my last trip to Japan. Did you know that "Obama (小浜市, Obama-shi) is a city located in Wakasa Area of Fukui Prefecture," on the main island of Honshu, Japan?

I was going to make a joke about "O'bama" being a good Irish name - well, the Universe beat me to it. Seems his great-great-great-great grandfather was "Joseph Kearney, a well-to-do shoemaker from Moneygall, County Offaly, Ireland".

I am reminded of Bill Murry's speach from Stripes:

Subscribe to Tom's travels