Airport Mall Cops Attempt to Screen Passenger POST-FLIGHT

Christ, these goons are ridiculous.

The short version is that Minneapolis man has, for some reason (and there’s no reason to assume it’s a valid reason), been placed on the “extra scrutiny” list by the TSA — but they somehow managed to forget to give him the third degree before boarding. So, obviously, the logical thing to do is screen him after the flight.

Um, right.

Fortunately, the passenger simply refused to comply and walked away, since the TSA has no power to detain you. (They did threaten to call the Denver police and have him arrested, which is remarkable in and of itself, and entirely aside from the fact that it’s a completely empty threat.) And, of course, the DHS and TSA won’t actually discuss why this man is on the extra scrutiny list, even with the man himself, so there’s no way to resolve the situation.

Dept of Whiskey Dishonesty

We’ve been watching the bourbon boom for a while now, and enjoying it very much. The sudden growth of the market, though, has led to some very shady practices. Chief among them is the creation of “Potemkin” distilleries that exist only on shelves. What I mean by this is a whiskey brand that doesn’t actually make any of its own whiskey — they just buy juice from elsewhere and apply marketing. (This is distinct from distilleries like Yellow Rose that are using sourced whiskey (e.g., their rye) to secure brand identity and shelf space as they ramp up their production of actually no-shit distilled-in-Texas bourbon. YR isn’t too honest about the provenance of the rye, but they’re doing it in service of a properly labeled product, at least.)

Chuck Cowdery explores one such example from right here in Texas: the “1835 Bourbon” you may have seen around that, unbelievably, asserts right on the label that it’s made in Texas. It is not.

I’ve had it. It’s pretty good whiskey, and only a little overpriced for the quality. But it’s not by any stretch from Texas; it’s absolutely sourced juice from Indiana or Kentucky. The fact that the bottle doesn’t include a distillation site is the only piece of actual honesty on the label.

Moreover, it’s got no age statement, and omits the “straight” portion of the appellation, which is a confusing set of markers if you know how to read a whiskey bottle.

The lack of an age statement means, by law, the whiskey must be at least four years old. But the absence of “straight” usually means the produce is less than TWO years old, or fails to meet other rules regarding the term (additives, etc.).

Hey Chief Heathen! How about those new iPhones?

You know what i know at this point. It’s been 2 years; I’ll probably get one, but it’s not clear yet which. I’ll definitely get the 128GB model either way.

By the by, if you’re curious about how the sizes actually stack up, Ars Technica has this handy PDF template you can print out that’ll give you a sense for their sizes.

I was surprised to learn this, but despite all the chatter about how huge the 6 Plus is supposed to be, it turns out it’s about the size of two standard checkbooks stacked on top of each other (3×6 inches).

  • The iPhone 6 Plus is 6.22 x 3.06.
  • The regular iPhone 6 is 5.44 x 2.64.
  • An iPhone 5 is 4.87 x 2.31.

So, what do watch people think of the Apple Watch?

Glad you asked.

This analysis is really astute and spot on, I think. Some bits:

The overall level of design in the Apple Watch simply blows away anything – digital or analog – in the watch space at $350. There is nothing that comes close to the fluidity, attention to detail, or simple build quality found on the Apple Watch in this price bracket. The Sistem51, for example, is a very cool, inexpensive mechanical watch. But it feels like it costs $150 (for the record, I bought one and adore it). Then, for closer to the price of the Apple Watch, you could own this, which is, well, downright horrific in just about every conceivable metric. Seiko does offer some nice things at $349 or less, but again, they feel like they cost exactly what they do. The Apple Watch feels like a lot of thought went into it, and no doubt it did. It feels expensive.

[...]

The Apple Watch, in its own way, really pays great homage to traditional watchmaking and the environment in which horology was developed. We have to remember that the first timekeeping devices, things like sundials, were dictated by the sun and the stars, as is time to this day. The fact that Apple chose to develop two faces dedicated to the cosmos shows they are, at the very least, aware of the origins and importance of the earliest timekeeping machines, and the governing body of all time and space – the universe. (Sidenote: this “Astronomy” face will make it super easy to set the moonphase on your perpetual calendar. #watchnerdalert)

[...]

Apple paid great attention to detail with this new wrist-bound peripheral, and it shows the Swiss that it is possible to have great design at low costs. That is the most exciting thing about the Apple Watch for me – it will push the Swiss to take the sub-$1,000 mechanical watch category more seriously.

Now, do I want one? Only maybe. I’d have to see one first. But I suspect later iterations will be even more interesting, so it does seem likely that, eventually, I’ll pick one up even if it’s not in 2015.

Dept. of Hilarious Compliance

I can’t decide which of these stories is more awesome:

  • In this one, we learn of a mysterious casino in Las Vegas only open one day every two years. Why? Because of a quirk in casino licensing law, the license is tied to a location and remains valid as long as it’s in business one day in the previous two years. The new owners of one site tore down the old building, and haven’t gotten around to building a new one, but they keep the license good by bringing in a trailer full of slots at least every two years and opening THAT as their casino.

  • This one is even funnier. In Indiana, apparently, joints that sell booze by the drink must also have food service available at all times. The linked menu for the Bank Street Brewhouse in New Albany includes such delights as canned soup and microwaved hot dogs with no condiments, both at $10.

Doing the right thing has a time limit.

Sometimes, outcry produces the right outcome, but it only really happens BECAUSE of outcry.

When this happens, it’s not an example of moral leadership or even moral fiber. It’s the logical equivalent of expressing regret that you got caught, not that you did something wrong in the first place. And that’s exactly where the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens are today.

Sure, Ray Rice has been fired after TMZ (no link) released video that there is no way the NFL hadn’t already seen. Sure, the NFL has finally suspended Rice “indefinitely,” which probably means for at LEAST a year, or however long it takes for people to forget.

But they knew all the facts well before TMZ forced their hand with the video. Their actions now are because they couldn’t get away with the wrist slap anymore, not because they’re strong moral people.

Nobody gets pissed off like Olbermann, and so for this I’ll just direct you to his incendiary rant. (Doesn’t it sort of seem like “incendiary rant” is a term Keith just fucking OWNS now?)

As far as the NCAA is concerned, Reggie Bush was a bigger problem than Sandusky

That’s the inevitable takeaway from the NCAA’s announcement yesterday that Penn State is off probation.

USC got popped with a 2 year bowl ban and lost 30 scholarships after Reggie Bush took money as a student. Penn State’s ended up with the same bowl ban, but a loss of only 20 scholarships.

Fuck. That.

What IS it about football that makes people lose their goddamn minds?

A Dee-luxe Apartment in the Sky

Gulf carrier Etihad has a new class of service on some long haul flights: Residence. There’s one per A380. It’s a 125 square foot, three-room suite usable by one or two guests. Yes, it includes its own bathroom.

Residence on Abu Dhabi to London costs a cool $21,000 each way, but that’s a pretty short flight by comparison. For a real long haul — say, London to Sydney via Abu Dhabi — you’re looking at forty grand each way.

Click through. There’s video.

Dept. of Amusing Stats

Just a bit ago, my brother called to find out the amount we’d paid for taxes on our farm property this year. I didn’t know offhand, so I went to my bank to find out. Not recalling when I’d written that check, but knowing I probably wrote very few checks this year, I just asked it to give me a list of all the checks I’d written in 2014.

There were three. One to the AC guy, one to the tax guy, and one to the State of Mississippi.

(Where’s my IRS check, you wonder? Well, turns out, back in April I couldn’t find my checks, so Mrs. Heathen wrote that one.)

Sorta makes me wonder how my former employer is doing, but not really enough to check — though the fact that they don’t even have a site of their own is sort of telling.

I smell a lawsuit

The Air Force has, apparently, reinstated a regulation requiring personnel to swear an oath to God as part of re-enlistment.

Nonbeliever Air Force personnel are, needless to say, not terribly pleased by this. I’d love to know whose idea this was.

I love @SavedYouAClick

But apparently some whiney folks addicted to clickbaity headlines are all butthurt about the account “stealing experiences” in the wake of its tweet regarding the supposedly “big” story Vox ran this week supposedly containing David Chase’s final word on whether Tony Soprano lived or died in the finale. (Really? Seven years later?) The tweet?

No. RT @voxdotcom: Did Tony die at the end of The Sopranos? David Chase finally reveals the answer— Saved You A Click (@SavedYouAClick) August 27, 2014

The money quote is at the end of the Observer article is delightful:

“I’m one person with a Twitter account,” [@SavedYouAClick account owner] Mr. Beckman said. “It’s indicative of a much bigger problem. If I can disrupt your content distribution strategy from my iPhone, then maybe something is wrong with your content distribution strategy.”

Books of 2014, #14: Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King

Herein King succumbs to the decades-old temptation to answer the question “Whatever happened to Danny Torrence after the end of The Shining?”

Danny, as most everyone knows, escaped the Overlook Hotel with the help of Scatman Crothers and Olive Oyl, but as the book and film end (slightly differently) young Danny is still a child — and a child with some nontrivial baggage, too. He’s watched his father descend into madness and try to kill them before dying himself in a doomed and haunted hotel, and that’s completely aside from the other complicating factor: the Shining itself, which is what old Dick Hallorann called Danny’s special abilities. He’d seen that before, you see, which established way back then that Danny wasn’t alone in this gift.

So it’s a good question: what DOES happen to Danny? Doctor Sleep answers that for us, and I wish it were a better answer. By this I don’t mean that King dooms his hero — and disclosing that he doesn’t isn’t much of a spoiler, I don’t believe — but that the story detailing Danny’s later life isn’t as good as I wanted it to be. Everybody wants theirs to be Godfather II, but sometimes you end up with Godfather III instead.

The Stephen King who wrote The Shining is a very different man than the grandfatherly giant of American letters who penned Doctor Sleep, and it shows. The central horror of the earlier novel (as distinct from the Kubrick film) isn’t Jack Nicholson going nuts; it’s being inside the elder Torrence’s head as he loses his grip on reality, sobriety, and his own soul thanks to the evil and supernatural influences of the Overlook. Jack Torrence is a man with a drinking problem, and a man with other untreated issues (rage, impulse control, a chip on his shoulder), but not an irredeemable man, and certainly not a killer or true villain. On paper — as opposed to celluloid — Jack is as much a victim of the Overlook as anyone else; moreso, since he dies there while Dick, Wendy, and Danny escape. What I said in December stands, still: “The horror of the film is being trapped in a haunted hotel with a lunatic. The horror of the book is becoming the lunatic.”

This horror, we might guess, stems from the by-now well documented issues that King himself has had with alcohol and substance abuse, and his own horrors regarding mistreating his family and those around him. Jack takes the job at the Overlook precisely to put himself in a place where he CANNOT DRINK, remember; there’s no booze stored there during the offseason. Despite months of sobriety, he’s still trying to protect himself. And yet, despite these best intentions, the Overlook still claims him.

In Doctor Sleep, it’s no surprise to discover that Danny has inherited his father’s demons, but for a more tactical reason: the booze keeps the Shine away. Booze, a subtextual villain of The Shining, is out in front as a character in Sleep; when we meet Danny, he’s on his way to his own personal bottom well before he encounters the real bad guys of the story. That the arc also describes his recovery — complete with AA scenes and sponsors — is therefore not surprising.

But this isn’t the weak part of the story; King does this well, and like most of his stories he does a fine job of putting you in Danny’s skin as he wrestles with his alcoholism and the demands placed on him by the Shining. The weak part is the “by the numbers” tribe of King-baddies (“the True Knot”) haphazardly linked into the growing metastasizing continuity of the Greater King Universe. Yes, they’re awful. Yes, they torture and eat children. Yadda yadda yadda. It’s a little by the numbers, and I wanted more here. The earlier book’s strength stems from the fear that you could become the villain, under the right circumstances; here’s they’re just a supernatural Other to be battled and defeated, which is fundamentally less interesting than Danny’s own struggle with sobriety and the sort of “real life” he’s been avoiding for, at this point, decades.

The other weakness, and it’s one I’ve dinged King for previously, is length. You’d think they were paying him by the pound. I have no issue with a long story, but I want there to be enough story to justify the page count, and here (as with 11/22/63, though this is a much better book) there just isn’t. I mean, you rip through it quickly — King remains almost compulsively readable — but the story is thin when stretched out this far.

(By way of footnote, King also ends up repeating something that clanged loudly in the Kennedy book: (Highlight with mouse to read)Of course, when our hero succeeds in saving Kennedy, he returns home to an awful distopia because something something butterfly effect — a story trope that has been done absolutely TO DEATH in SF already, and which King should’ve stayed away from instead of telegraphing for hundreds of pages. Here, what ultimately helps Danny take down the bad guys — metahumans who feed on children who Shine — is the fucking measles. Herbie Wells called, Steve; he wants his deus ex machina back.)

More Dana Gould on Robin Williams

From this Rolling Stone piece, which you should read all of:

This is another lesson you need to learn if you desire to go beyond just coping, if actual happiness is one of your goals. In fact, not long ago, I was sitting in the kitchen of a fellow comedian where I saw a sign that brought that point home. It sat atop his cabinets, and read, “Forget What You Want, Look At What You Have.” I remember thinking that this man, who had a career like no one could ever hope to dream of, stand-up success, sitcom success, movie stardom, he’d even won an Oscar, and yet, he was humble, gracious, sincere, caring. He knew where happiness lay. He, who had so much, still knew what was important and what was not. “This guy,” I thought, “he’s really got it together.”

I miss him.

Chips in immunity?

Cops generally operate with impunity because they’re almost never indicted, and even if civil actiosn ensue they’re insulated by qualified immunity, but one court has ruled that overly aggressive and reckless tactics invalidate that protection.

Check it out:

A U.S. federal appeals court has ruled that Connecticut police cannot claim immunity to quash lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages from a botched 2008 raid by a SWAT team that severely injured a homeowner and killed his friend.

The decision by the U.S. 2nd Court of Appeals in New York clears the way for a judge to decide whether five suburban Connecticut police departments violated the constitutional rights of homeowner Ronald Terebesi by using excessive force.

On May 18, 2008, a heavily armed SWAT – or special weapons and tactics – team unit knocked down Terebesi’s door, threw stun flash grenades into his Easton home and fatally shot 33-year-old Gonzalo Guizan of Norfolk as the two men watched television.

There’s more. Click through. As I’ve said a thousand times, shit like this won’t quit happening until there’s real accountability. This is a step in the right direction.

Hearing the smackdown with your own ears is delicious. Indulge yourself.

Bigots are losing their fight against same-sex marriage in nearly every court they visit, so that part isn’t news. What’s fun is that in this case, in the 7th Circuit, the jurist is Richard Posner, a brilliant man (and Reagan appointee), and there’s audio you can listen to of him dismantling the attempts by Wisconsin and Indiana to defend their anti-SSM measures.

Enjoy.

Cops lie? UNPOSSIBLE.

Thank God for dash cams:

Two cops from Bloomfield, NJ’s police department have been indicted, and another plead guilty after a suppressed dashcam video showed them beating a man who was facing years in prison for “resisting arrest” (the DA dropped his charges right away).

The video — shot from a second police car that crossed the highway median and rammed the victim’s vehicle — shows the cops screaming “stop resisting” and “stop going for my gun” while the victim, Marcus Jeter, held his hands in the air and one cop aimed a pistol and another aimed a shotgun at him. The Bloomfield PD’s internal investigations department found no evidence of any wrongdoing by the cops.

How many times does this happen without dashcam footage? How many people are in jail because of it?

Dear Internet Explorer: You’re not even trying, are you?

I just needed to share a customer VPN landing page URL with a co-worker.

I have that link saved in my favorites bar, so I flipped over and did a right-click, chose copy, and then hit paste in the chat window.

And I got this:

/tmp/VMwareDnD/5141f9ae/New Client VPN.url

Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot. Under what fucking circumstances, Microsoft, would that EVER be something I wanted to share or copy? Any why would you decide NOT to have that action capture the underlying URL for the link?

I checked behavior in my other browsers; doing the right-click, copy thing with Safari and with Chrome yields the URL of the bookmark in question. Not so with Redmond, where apparently testing and polish remain utterly alien concepts.

I want to go back to the TSA scanner story for a minute

First, I neglected to point out something, well, Gibsonian:

In addition to their physical attacks, the researchers also experimented with more inventive digital ones. They found that they could infect the scanner with malware—most practically for an attacker by picking the lock on the scanner’s cabinet and physically installing the malware on the PC inside. Once installed, that malware could be programmed to selectively replace the scan of any passenger with a fake image if he or she wore a piece of clothing with a certain symbol or QR code…

A similar approach is used in Gibson’s Zero History, wherein special T-shirts are printed up that, when seen by London’s security cameras, cause the wearer to be erased from the footage.

Second, note this: the security researchers had a very hard time finding machines to test with, because “security.” Security through obscurity is a terrible idea, and never does very well, but the entire process makes it clear that effectively NO adversarial testing has been done with these machines at all. That’s impossibly stupid, and further proof their acquisition was little more than a boondoggle. If you’re going to put in a security system, it makes sense to have someone who knows something about security probe it for weaknesses. That clearly was not done here despite the enormous costs of the machines.

This Just In: Cops Gonna Cop

Former LA PD: “If y’all would just do what we tell you, we wouldn’t have to beat you, tase you, and shoot you! Easy!”

Obviously, this approach is rife with problems, as has been amply pointed out elsewhere, but the whole pissy little article reminds us of nothing so much as this:

That’s funny and all, but the attitude embodied by this shitstain from LA is clearly the one that governs policing at this level. They operate with impunity, secure in the knowledge that they will never be called to account for their actions. Why else would the cops in Ferguson be removing their badges and nameplates — with the tacit approval of their superiors?

Look. Lots of things suck. But here’s some good things.

Sure, it’s about Robin Williams, but the stories keep coming in.

First is David Letterman’s tribute is touching and wonderful, just as we’d expect. David remembers being a young performer with Williams at places like the Comedy Store, and in particular how even very early on, Robin reached out to help those around him. Case in point: he got then-unknown Letterman a guest shot on Mork & Mindy.

Dana Gould, another gifted comedy writer and standup performer, had this remembrance to share about a time when Williams was especially kind and perceptive:

Two years ago, I was performing at The Punchline in San Francisco, and Robin came to the show with our mutual friend, Dan Spencer.

This particular batch of material was the first time I had touched upon my then still-fresh divorce wounds, and big chunks of it were pretty dark. The next day, I got a text from a number I didn’t recognize. Whoever it was had obviously been to the show and knew my number, so I figured they would reveal themselves at some point and save me the embarrassment of asking who they were.

The Mystery Texter asked how I was REALLY doing. “You can’t fool me. Some of those ‘jokes’ aren’t ‘jokes.” By now I knew that whoever this was had been through what I was enduring, as no one else would know to ask, “What time of day is the hardest?”

He wanted to know how my kids were handling it, all the while assuring me that the storm, as bleak as it was, would one day pass and that I was not, as I was then convinced, a terrible father for visiting a broken home upon my children.

I am not rewriting this story in retrospect to make it dramatic. I did not know who I was texting with. Finally, my phone blipped, and I saw, in a little green square, “Okay, pal. You got my number. Call me. I’ve been there. You’re going to be okay. – Robin.”

That is what you call a human being.

It is terrible that he’s gone. It is wonderful and touching to hear these stories, though, about simple human kindnesses.

Dept. of Petty Goons

I mean, how else do you describe the guy who, single-handedly, approves or denies your beer label?

[He] has rejected a beer label for the King of Hearts, which had a playing card image on it, because the heart implied that the beer would have a health benefit.

He rejected a beer label featuring a painting called The Conversion of Paula By Saint Jerome because its name, St. Paula’s Liquid Wisdom, contained a medical claim—that the beer would grant wisdom.

He rejected a beer called Pickled Santa because Santa’s eyes were too “googly” on the label, and labels cannot advertise the physical effects of alcohol. (A less googly-eyed Santa was later approved.)

He rejected a beer called Bad Elf because it featured an “Elf Warning,” suggesting that elves not operate toy-making machinery while drinking the ale. The label was not approved on the grounds that the warning was confusing to consumers.

He rejected a Danish beer label that featured a hamburger, which was turned down because the image implied there was a meat additive in the beer.

He rejected a beer that was marketed as an “India Dark Ale,” a takeoff on the IPA, because it implied the beer was made in India (even though the label had a line with the words “Product of Denmark”).

He rejected an “Adnams Broadside” beer, which touted itself as a “heart-warming ale,” because this supposedly involved a medical claim.

Dept. of Extraordinary Films

Last night, Mrs Heathen and I went to see Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s awesome, high-wire act of a film, with some friends of ours. You probably know by now that he started shooting the story of Mason in 2002, when Mason (and the obviously unknown Ellar Coltrane who plays him) was six years old. The shooting continued, a few weeks every year, until 2013, which allowed Mason, his sister (played by Linklater’s own daughter), and his parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) to age onscreen honestly and genuinely. Watching Mason grow and mature from scene is amazing and thrilling, but is balanced by the changes we see in Arquette (34 in 2002; 46 today) and Hawk (32 to 42) as they shift into middle age.

Stunts like this on film (or stage) can be interesting from a technical perspective, but fail when measured by more conventional means. That doesn’t happen here. What Linklater has done is absolutely amazing: it’s an astounding feat of logistics and focus over time, obviously, but also a film of stunning beauty, honesty, and grace. Of course, “real” aging on screen has been done in other ways, including within Linklater’s own filmography. The comparisons to Apted’s “Up” series are inevitable, and the film itself nods to another pop culture phenomenon with similar themes — but in all those examples, we’ve been obliged to wait out the clock in real time. Here, Mason literally grows up right in front of us in less than three hours, with no special effects or other trickery. It’s an incredible and unprecedented thing elevated even further by being, at its core, a great coming of age story (except it’s not just Mason’s; it’s the coming of age of his family, too).

The Guardian’s review is worth your time. Watch the videos. Then see this film. We may see it again, even.

(Oh, amusing note: Ellar Coltrane was born right about the time I moved to Houston in 1994.)

What’s more dangerous: Cops or Terrorists?

For an American, the answer is simple and obvious: You are EIGHT TIMES more likely to be killed by a law enforcement officer than by a terrorist.

The stats CATO cites are from here, and are themselves issued by the National Safety Council, the National Center for Health Statistics, the Census Bureau, and mortality data from the CDC.

The point of the original post was to point out how fantastically rare acts of terror are, and to helpfully keep people from making stupid choices based on their fear of a very unlikely event.

That doesn’t take away from the stark reality, though, that Officer Friendly is, statistically speaking, much more likely to kill you than Al Qaeda.

Note that these stats are for all Americans, and do not reflect the new rules that apparently allow cops, or people who wish they were cops, to kill unarmed black men with impunity.

HOWTO: Blow Your Kid’s Mind

Give them a secret treasure room:

When we bought our house two years ago The Boy was not quite 2 years old. The room that was to be his had a storage room attached to it. Our roof pitch is really steep next to his room, so it forms a triangular room 7 feet by 12 feet. The door is about 2 feet by 4 feet.

The storage room, aka “The Secret Room” had an old linoleum floor, a light with a switch, some wood paneling and some exposed insulation. At the time it was certainly not fit for the kids to use. And we didn’t figure a 2-year-old needed an extra room, but we agreed it would make an awesome surprise for The Boy at some point. So the dresser was parked in front of the door and The Boy had no idea for over two years!

Click through; they outfit it for him while he’s at school, and then surprise him with a secret hideout connected to his own room.