Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Airport Security: What TSA Really Means

TSA doesn't mean Transportation Security Agency.  It means Travel Sucks for Americans.

My wife and I travel fairly often.  Okay, not weekly, like so many others, but we fly to Denver several times a year, to Reno, to San Francisco, Hawaii or other vacaton spot and even to Istanbul now and then.  And I get why air travel needs enhanced security, but does anyone really think TSA officials are saving us from anything?

(Editor's Note: Do not paint everyone with a broad brush.)  Okay, Ed., fair enough.  Some TSA workers are pretty good and probably useful.  There's that really cute old TSA guy at PDX who tells you where to go and reminds you that you have to show your picture ID and boarding pass.  And he seems to zero in on people who don't travel often and Very Old People who seem mystified, kindly telling them the same thing even though he's done it 42,000 times that day.  Last Thursday, a woman tried letting everyone know that the line for the D-E Gate was shorter than the A-B gate.  And on the whole, PDX security people are consistent.

But that's not true in the rest of the world. TSA may have rules, but every airport either makes up its own or only uses the ones they can read in one sitting.  My daughter who travels back and forth to Istanbul opined that the smaller the town, the more Barney Fife-like the TSA workers are.  She made this observation after being detained several hours with four Persians a few years ago, the Portland TSA guy asking over and over what she knew of the Istanbul bombing.  And I recall the Eugene people to demonstrate IQ levels which would describe the daily afternoon temperature.

But a recent trip to Denver upended this hypothesis.

We have a carryon which contains my shaving kit and a bag of my wife's cosmetics and personal care items.  This bag has gone through TSA check after TSA check after TSA check with no problem.  Reno.  San Francisco.  Denver (last summer). Portland.  But apparently, the Denver International crew recently drank a new kind of Kool Aid.

It didn't help that the Denver Airport's security has to be among the worst ever.  It's a busy airport, but has a security facility geared to half the passenger traffic actually there.  Arrive an hour early?  At Denver, plan two, and don't forget you have to ride a train to your departure gate. Now, though, TSA-Denver has decided to body scan everyone.  Okay, (un)fair enough. But then, my wife failed scanner walk-through because she'd forgotten to remove her sandals, whose soles aren't thick enough to hide a quarter, let alone a vial of Semtex.  Body scan, patdown, and since I was with her, body scan and patdown for me as well.

We were almost free, but then Captain America spotted the carryon bag.  Slight, stiff crewcut, clenched lips, the kind of guy who wears mirror sunglasses in a movie theater, his last job had to have been part-time security at a half-empty strip mall, but he saw his Chance at Glory and seized our bag.  Commanding us to follow, he took us to a nearby table and proceeded to remove each item as though it were an organ being transplanted and laid them on the table. Next, he re-arranged them by size and examined each one to be sure each was within the regulation 3.5 fl. oz.

He looked at me and said, "Sir. Do. You. Know. That. These. Items. Are to be. Packed. In a clear. Ziploc."

Look sideways and cough, please.
I asked if the rules had been changed lately.  Liquids are supposed to be visible, and we'd never been stopped for this before.  He interrupted and said, "Sir. These. Are. The. Rules. I'm just telling you. The. Rules."  When I said we had never, ever had this experience, he again interrupted and said, "Sir.  These. Are. The. Rules."  Then he walked off, making sure we sent the carryon bag through the scanner again.  Our flight was already boarding when we arrived at the gate.

Again, I appreciate the need for enhanced airport security.  I know Al Quaida terrorists are out there and want to kill Americans and take all our stuff, and I know the TSA is there to defend us.

I just hope the terrorists are half as scared as I am.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Rocky Mountain Morning

When you're near Boulder, Colorado, you can't wait to see this when you awaken in the morning.  They're the Flatirons on the east slope of the Green Mountain in the Rockies.  They almost seem to be alive in the changing light from dawn to dusk, no matter the season.

Inside my sons' apartment, though, the view is blocked .  Of course, the fall outside their window is extraordinary.  It's a water color pastiche of blue spruce splashed among the red and gold erupting from the maples and ashes, and the air is crystalline against a Renaissance blue sky. But this was my view:

Meet Monk.  Monk is a honey badger when it comes to appreciating fall or Flatiron views. Fifty-some degrees in Portland, OR, and raining? Monk doesn't give a shit.  Can't see the Flatirons? Ditto.

What he does seem to want is to be fed, walked or both.  Nevermind that he just finished breakfast and returned from his morning walk an hour or so ago.  He seems to believe there's a very good chance I won't remember, and if not a very good chance, then a chance, and if not a chance, then a very small chance.  Whatever.  His life is spent sleeping and then awaiting the Next Fun Thing.

If you take in a dog from out of the cold, Samuel Clemens said, and make him warm and feed him, he will be your friend for life.  And this is the chief difference between Dog and Man.

Humans don't have the constancy that dogs have.  The first year of human life is spent eating and sleeping in three- or four-hour intervals, after which they stop looking like Winston Churchill and start turning into unique persons.  But dogs?

They start out as enthusiastic puppies and pretty much stay that way, unless their owners screw them up.  They're grateful for meals, even though it's the same food every time.  Their forgiveness is instantaneous if you get cross.  They're always thrilled to see you, no matter if you've been gone for ten minutes or ten days. Always there. Always the same in their nuance of differences.

And in this, it occurs to me, Monk may be more like the Flatirons than I originally thought.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A New Personality Assessment Test

Following up on yesterday: The world needs a personal-psychological assessment test that’s really useful.  A previous post talked about one I failed—DISC—and we all know about the Myers-Briggs assessment test.  Myers-Briggs uses Jungian psychological type preferences of Extroversion (E), Sensing (S), Thinking (T), Judgment (J), as well as Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Perception (P).

Well, if those tests are so great, why are so many people still working in the wrong profession?  Falling in love with the wrong person?  Believing the wrong politician?  Time is proving those tests to be chimeras.

I say we need a test that works, so I devised one based on the Kubler-Ross Stages of grieving, when coping with death—often one’s own.  The stages are Denial (D), Anger (A), Bargaining (B), Depression (P) and Acceptance (C).

Denial (D)—You’ve seen them—Skinheads in O.J. Simpson shirts.  Parents who say their 37-year-old is thinking about law school.  Business owners telling bankers about their figures.  Bankers listening to store owners talking about their figures.  People who are strong in D are able to face reality in the eye and never see it.

Anger (A)—People strong in A are quick problem solvers.  They tend to sport bumper stickers that say, “Don’t like my driving? Call 1-800-EAT SHIT.  With their televisions set to the Fox News channel, they are hard chargers, see the world in black and white and brook no quarter.  The phrase, “often wrong but seldom uncertain” applies to them.

Bargaining (B)—B folks won’t take No for an answer, but they won’t take Yes, either.  Their drawers are full of unused grocery store coupons.  They always offer Groupon half the deal price, because you never know.  People high in B are challenged to accept certainty.

Depression (P)—If you’ve ever seen Rodin’s statue “The Thinker,” you’ve seen a representation of someone with high P.  Unlike Ds, Ps not only see reality, they see it in an infinite number of prisms, anyone of which can awaken them in the middle of the night and cause despair.  They seldom finish projects, because the path to completion takes so many twists and turns. If you’re high in P, you probably think “The Sorceror’s Apprentice” is a documentary.

Acceptance (C)—If someone high in C is called into her boss’ office, falsely accused of embezzlement and fired, she will immediately touch up her resume and look for another job.  C people tend to want to get on with things and not look back.

Those are the categories.  The next step is to put them into some kind of order (CP, DB, etc.) to make the test useful.  This is totally open source, so I’m interested in others’ ideas.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Failed the Real Estate Test

A couple of days ago, I took the test, the one you apparently need to pass to successfully sell real estate.  I've had my real estate broker's license for several years, but it turned out that the state-required licensing test apparently wasn't the one I would really need to pass.

According to columnist Bernice Ross in a recent Inman News column, I need to pass the DISC test.  It's a psychological assessment test based on D for Dominance, I for Influencing, S for Steadiness and C for Compliance.

"D" people are the hard-charging, get it done yesterday type.  Often wrong, but seldom uncertain, to them, it's better to ask for foregiveness later than permission in the first place.

I pretty much fail at D.  As a middle sibling, I always seek consensus and collaboration before leaping into the breech

"I"-type people are trusting, optimistic and engaging.  They love to talk and tend not to get things done, unless they also have a high D score.

I think I might get a C- on I on a good day.  I'm sometimes all of that trusting-optimistic-engaging stuff, but sometime never, so that part averages out.  The only one I pretty much trust all the time is my dog, Pippin, and she doesn't totally trust me all the time.  But I'm bad a getting things done and my D is low, so I get downgraded here. 

Steadiness got my hopes up.  I'm a Capricorn and we're steady as as ocean liners.  "S" people live very regular patterns, like eating shredded wheat with bananas for every weekday breakfast at 7 a.m.  They don't like getting out of their comfort zones and they don't like sudden change.

B+, even an A- here.  I HATE cold calling and won't do it, for example.  Very S, no?  I do have broad daily patterns I like to keep to, but that's mostly so I won't forget what I'm supposed to be doing more than it is an attachment to pattern.  Still, my wife would tell you my daily rhythms are set in stone, and to that I say I like dinner's leftovers for breakfast and not shredded wheat.

"C" people are detail-oriented.  They're cautious and like to get it right the first time. That's me--I hate failing, mostly because I cringe when someone points out my failings. Engineers and CPAs have high C.

Hmm.  Maybe a B-, here.I am definitely not detail-oriented, but I'm pretty careful and cautious.  I could never be a CPA, because I'd make too many arithmetic errors.

When you're all done with the test, you get to average together your I's and D's and C's and all that, and then lay out what you are.  I sort of visualized this part as a truncated Scrabble game describing your life.  Anyway:  You can be a DS, a CI, or maybe a DCSI or whatever.

Anyway, to be a successful real estate broker, you need to have high D and I scores.  Think, um, George Bush II or Ronald Reagan.  Bill Clinton. Michele Bachmann. Or imagine any insirational speaker you've heard (or get stuck with at PBS fundraising--Suze Orman, anyone?).

And when it's all done, here's what you get to be, if only you PASS THE TEST:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Spare Change You Can Believe In

Half the country wants it to rain $20 bills.  The other half thinks maybe a faith-based economic program shutting down everything from the FAA to the Post Office will turn things around.

The Plucky Observer interviewed former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan for his opinion:

You've gotta love Obama's defenders talking about "leading from behind."  Outside of a possible hemorrhoid cure, that sounds pretty oxymoronic.

Waiting for the Obama administration to offer up a huge economic plan is like waiting for Charlie Brown to kick the football Lucy tees up.  True, they saved the world financial system, kept the American auto industry afloat, managed to pass a universal health care bill of sorts, get Osama bin Laden, wind down the war in Iraq, and what-not.  But that was then and this is now.

Every responsible economist from either side of the political debate (except the ones with degrees from Oral Roberts) is calling for a big spending stimulus. Will Obama do it in his big economic growth speech before a joint session of Congress Thursday?

Probably not.  That's too out front.  But then, Charlie Brown might really kick that football, too.  Right.  The Prez will probably meekly suggest a tax credit to businesses for hiring someone, so they can hire someone they don't need, take the tax credit and lay the person off again.

Now, that's change you can believe in.

The speech will precede opening night of professional football, where someone will really kick a football someone else tees up.  Is that a good sign?