TSA reports TSA Sucks

No, really:

[E]ven more scary than that is the article notes that the TSA admits that it’s really bad at finding weapons, saying that the “failure rate” of tests is reaching 70% at some major airports and at some airports “every test gun, bomb part or knife got past screeners.” So, while scanners are looking at or touching your crotch, they’re apparently not bothering to look for guns. Comforting.

Our New Favorite Obsessive Blog

The Suits of James Bond. Face it: with the exception of the early Moore films, Britain’s favorite secret agent has been a sartorial model for the ages, and the resurgence of trim suits in the wake of Mad Men has made pretty much every bit of kit worn by Connery’s version of the superspy as current in 2010 as it was in the 60s.

Me, I’d love to have that Goldfinger suit. To start. To say nothing of the fabulous Brioni suits the Brosnan-era Bond favored.

In which Gibson predicts reality. Again.

JWZ has a great summary of the iamamiwhoiam art project. Check it out:

At the beginning of the year, these weird, short, high-production-value videos began appearing on Youtube with no explanation of what they were or who made them, straight out of Pattern Recognition. They featured a heavily distorted woman licking trees and doing other bizarre things in the woods with music that sounded like The Knife or Fever Ray. Cult following ensued. The videos got longer, revealing more of the singer and the songs.

Then in November they posted a short video saying, “We need one volunteer, call this number”!

The next six videos posted show their volunteer getting on a plane to Sweden, arriving at a hotel, and being silently fucked with by faceless weirdos, eventually getting a supporting role in their “live concert”.

He concludes:

This project is absolutely the best, weirdest thing that the internets have brought us in years.

I agree. He’s got a playlist up of the videos; if you have a bit of time, check it out.

Dept. of Stating the Obvious

Nate Silver on the Julian Assange charges:

The handling of the case has been highly irregular from the start, in ways that would seem to make clear that the motivation for bringing the charges is political.

Indeed. Go read the whole thing. A bit more:

The initial warrant in the case against Mr. Assange had been issued in August. But it was revoked the next day, due to what the lead prosecutor cited as a lack of evidence. It was only last month — just as WikiLeaks was preparing to release a set of confidential diplomatic cables –that Sweden again issued a warrant to detain him.

After turning himself in to the authorities in London, Mr. Assange was initially denied bail (although he has since been awarded it) — which is particularly unusual given that Swedish authorities have still not formally charged him with a crime, but merely want to bring him in for questioning. Most unusually still, Sweden had issued an Interpol red alert for Mr. Assange’s arrest, something they have done for only one other person this year accused of a sex crime: Jan Christer Wallenkurtz, who is suspected of multiple cases of sexual assault against children.

What’s wrong with RIM, and How Platforms Die

Nobody was caught quite as flatfooted by the iPhone as was Canadian tech darling Research in Motion, the company that brought us the Blackberry. Palm was on the ropes, and Windows Mobile has been a joke more or less since introduction — but RIM had a solid product and a committed user community that Apple has steadily eroded as they improved the iPhone platform.

The MobileOpportunity blog has a great rundown of this, complete with charts and graphs, that really is a fascinating read. One of the takeaways is that, for a firm like RIM, new subscriber growth is a major deal. You can sell all you want to the converted, but you don’t grow your market that way. You’ve got to sell to new users to do that. And RIM’s new subscriber growth is down.

As a follow-up bit of information, Gruber points out something interesting from RIM’s last earnings statement, which showed those distressing new-sub numbers:

RIM says it will no longer report subscriber growth in future quarters.

They’re in a bad spiral. I hope they can fix it, because Palm is dead and gone, and I think a happy, healthy handset ecosystem needs RIM.

Of note: One 1987 Buick. 167 miles. Not for sale.

In the middle 1980s, the fastest production car in America was, for a brief window, not some piece of European exotica; it was a Buick. The Grand National and its big brother, the GNX, were sleeper cars — they looked just like every other G-platform GM car, but packed serious heat under the hood. The GNX variant pushed nearly 300 horses (Buick sandbagged the rating at 276) and over 350 lb-ft of torque. Sixty miles an hour was less than five seconds away. Quarter mile times were similarly impressive.

Of course, being GM products, they mostly all fell apart by the mid to late nineties. Except for one, apparently: Boulevard Buick, in LA’s Signal Hill area, still has an unsold, pristine GNX on the floor; it’s got 167 miles on it, accumulated mostly going to and from the service bay for periodic maintenance.

It is not for sale.

“You think I’m licked. You all think I’m licked. Well I’m not licked. And I’m gonna stay right here and fight for this lost cause.”

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is delivering an actual, no-shit, filibuster of the tax cut compromise bill. This is interesting because for many years, the “genteel” world of the Senate has rendered the actual “keep talking forever” aspect of the filibuster unnecessary; all that was necessary was to signal the intent of the minority party (or, I suppose, a coalition) to block cloture, and they wouldn’t force the drama to actually take place.

C-SPAN has live video, which you should watch just to say you’d seen one live.

(Extra Heathen points for any non-Erin parties who can properly identify the title quote.)

Wikileaks Bombshells

The cable-leak dump from Wikileaks has been kind of short of huge disclosures, at least until today. Apparently in retaliation for his arrest and possible extradition, Assange’s organization has dropped a new cache that, honestly, you should at least scan immediately.

Holiday Reminder: Pyrex Isn’t Pyrex

If you, as I did, grew up trusting Pyrex cookware as essentially indestructible and capable of handling stove to counter to freezer all in one go, well, have I got some news for you.

Pyrex was Pyrex because of its makeup: it was, for most of our lives, borosilicate glass (and in fact came to be shorthand for borosilicate glass). Most kitchenware is soda lime glass, and it’s soda lime glass that is infamous for shattering if, say, you take a casserole out of your oven and put it directly on a stone countertop. It’s very vulnerable to thermal shock, and can even shatter with no small amount of violence when it happens.

Borosilicate glass is much, much more resistant to this sort of thing — you can literally take it from a 500 degree oven and put it directly on a wet, cold countertop with no ill effects. This is why people loved Pyrex. And this is why it’s a goddamn ridiculous, obnoxious, idiot marketer decision for someone to make Pyrex out of something other than borosilicate glass, but that’s just what “World Kitchen” did when they bought the brand name from Corning in 1998. Pyrex today is soda lime glass, not borosilicate, and Consumerist shows us what that means.

It’s a shocking breach of trust for this goofball firm to make Pyrex that, fundamentally, isn’t Pyrex, but that’s what happens when you get people who think of “branding” as more important than actual goods.

This would be hilarious if it weren’t sad

I totally get that the FBI has the shivvers about Moolim Terra and all, but they’re starting to look silly.

First, we’ve had yet another example of the FBI trumpeting success in quashing a “terror plot” that was basically engineered by the FBI in the first place. They’ve done this more than once, and they’re basically getting passes on entrapment over and over again — but the bottom line is that none of these guys would’ve actually done anything nefarious without the the FBI’s undercover goading and undercover “weapons” or “explosives” dealers.

Now, we have this story from California. The gist is that some Muslims in an Orange County mosque became distressed by the increasingly violent rhetoric of one of their new members, so they called the Feds. And subsequently discovered that the “violent” instigator was . . . a mole for the FBI.

Nice one, guys. How ’bout you try catching some actual bad guys who, you know, do bad stuff without you setting it up for them?

Close the Washington Monument

Bruce Schneier has a modest proposal:

Securing the Washington Monument from terrorism has turned out to be a surprisingly difficult job. The concrete fence around the building protects it from attacking vehicles, but there’s no visually appealing way to house the airport-level security mechanisms the National Park Service has decided are a must for visitors. It is considering several options, but I think we should close the monument entirely. Let it stand, empty and inaccessible, as a monument to our fears.

An empty Washington Monument would serve as a constant reminder to those on Capitol Hill that they are afraid of the terrorists and what they could do. They’re afraid that by speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism — or that some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the face of adversity — they will be branded as “soft on terror.” And they’re afraid that Americans would vote them out of office if another attack occurred. Perhaps they’re right, but what has happened to leaders who aren’t afraid? What has happened to “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”?

An empty Washington Monument would symbolize our lawmakers’ inability to take that kind of stand — and their inability to truly lead.

Some of them call terrorism an “existential threat” against our nation. It’s not. Even the events of 9/11, as horrific as they were, didn’t make an existential dent in our nation. Automobile-related fatalities — at 42,000 per year, more deaths each month, on average, than 9/11 — aren’t, either. It’s our reaction to terrorism that threatens our nation, not terrorism itself. The empty monument would symbolize the empty rhetoric of those leaders who preach fear and then use that fear for their own political ends.

Go read the whole thing.

Don’t mince words, Papa.

In this letter from Hemingway to Archibald MacLeish, he has a little to say about Ezra Pound:

Thanks for sending the stats of Ezra’s rantings. He is obviously crazy. I think you might prove he was crazy as far back as the latter Cantos. He deserves punishment and disgrace but what he really deserves most is ridicule. He should not be hanged and he should not be made a martyr of. He has a long history of generosity and unselfish aid to other artists and he is one of the greatest living poets. It is impossible to believe that anyone in his right mind could utter the vile, absolutely idiotic drivel he has broadcast. His friends who knew him and who watched the warpeing and twisting and decay of his mind and his judgement should defend him and explain him on that basis. It will be a completely unpopular but an absolutely necessary thing to do. I have had no correspondence with him for ten years and the last time I saw him was in 1933 when Joyce asked me to come to make it easier haveing Ezra at his house.

To Some Arrant Knaves I Know, and Those That Came After

Ten years is a long time.

If that old saw is true about how our whole bodies regenerate every 7 years, then a decade ago we were all literally different people. Same or not, we certainly lived in a different world ten years ago; for one thing, when I flew back then, I took a Swiss Army Knife on board with me, and everyone treated airport security drones with the respect they deserved and not as some crucial imaginary barrier between us and Mooslim hordes.

There’s more than that, though, obviously. While the greater Heathen cast carries many long-term members who date to the early nineties or even before, we have many tribemembers today that we hadn’t even met in November of 2000. Even better, more than a few proto-heathen didn’t even exist back then. One Heathen in particular was known to us, but it didn’t become clear until a year later how important she’d turn out to be. ;)

Today is the tenth anniversary of Miscellaneous Heathen as a weblog. For some time prior to 27 November 2000, I maintained a mailing list for amusing items collectively called “Some Arrant Knaves I Know,” a reference to Hamlet (III.1) appropriately drawn from my English major background. The title of the weblog itself was taken from a photo (by, I believe, cartoonist Tom Tomorrow) of a clearly insane protester at a location now lost to memory; said protestor’s sign, taller than the holder, listed a catalog of hellbound miscreants and concluded with our eponymous phrase.

I happily join that category, today more than ever, and thank you all for reading my yammerings for ten whole years. Here’s to ten more.

Small Comfort, but still nice

Perennial pretender Boise State lost to underdog and clear powerhouse Nevada yesterday, ending the Broncos’ perfect season and relegating them to another halfass bowl.

(For the somewhat rare Football-Heathens expecting commentary on the Iron Bowl today: I have nothing nice to say, and will therefore say nothing at all about the unremitting FAILBOMB that was Alabama’s play after midway through the second quarter. You do have to score after the first period to win, boys, and turnovers don’t help against a team like Auburn.)

(Also, memo to Aggie Nation: I’m not that sure that dancing around to celebrate wins over Baylor and a Longhorn squad that’s notching a losing season put you in the best possible light.)

What an actual security expert thinks of the TSA

Bruce Schneier is a renowned security professional; his editorial in the Times on the TSA begins thusly:

A short history of airport security: We screen for guns and bombs, so the terrorists use box cutters. We confiscate box cutters and corkscrews, so they put explosives in their sneakers. We screen footwear, so they try to use liquids. We confiscate liquids, so they put PETN bombs in their underwear. We roll out full-body scanners, even though they wouldn’t have caught the Underwear Bomber, so they put a bomb in a printer cartridge. We ban printer cartridges over 16 ounces — the level of magical thinking here is amazing — and they’re going to do something else.

This is a stupid game, and we should stop playing it.

It’s not even a fair game. It’s not that the terrorist picks an attack and we pick a defense, and we see who wins. It’s that we pick a defense, and then the terrorists look at our defense and pick an attack designed to get around it. Our security measures only work if we happen to guess the plot correctly. If we get it wrong, we’ve wasted our money. This isn’t security; it’s security theater.