I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

Evidently I1 am on some sort of government watch list.

The consequences of said listing seems to be limited to merely being required to get a boarding pass at the gate when flying, rather than being able to check in online. Naturally, this ends up with me being the last person on the flight. Somewhat annoying, but at least it doesn’t involve probulation or anything.

DHS has some cutesy-name appeals process (“Traveler Redress Inquiry Program” or “TRIP“) to explicitly whitelist a falsely-flagged individual. As annoyed as I am with the existence of the DHS, the TSA, and the process, I sent off the necessary paperwork and things should be cleared up in the next few months.

I wonder what could have caused this flagging to exist. I blog under a pseudonym, and in real life am an ordinary law-abiding guy. Of course, I was in the military for a few years, own firearms, use and strongly advocate the use of strong cryptography, have formal education in physics, and am applying to graduate programs in physics outside the US. I suppose that could be suspicious, but I doubt it’d result in something as minor as slight delays at checking in at the airport.

  1. Or, more likely, someone with the same name. []

Cold Feet

I was in MA for Christmas with the in-laws.

It blizzarded1.

Evidently standard socks and Doc Marten shoes don’t count for much when it comes to insulation. Brr.

Observe my frigid wife:

Also related, wool hats are made in hilarious fashions:

In related news, my father-in-law is an Environmental Police Officer, and so gets some fun toys2 until they go off to evidence3. Lots of old Mausers and the like. Way cool.

  1. That is now a verb. []
  2. Nearly all stuff confiscated from law-breakers and the like, though some of his own things. []
  3. He works mostly from home, and takes stuff down to the station every week or so. []

On Distant Things

Voyager 1 has passed the range of solar wind (subatomic particles streaming out from the sun). After examining the data transmitted back, scientists determined that this has been the case since June.

It’s moving at 60,000 kph, and in just a few more years it’ll cross the threshold to interstellar space1 and become the first manmade object to make it into enormous emptiness between the stars. “Enormous emptiness” doesn’t come close to conveying how hugely enormous and empty the space between stars is.

According to the Wikipedia, it’s been 33 years, 3 months, and 9 days since the probe was launched, and it’s been on-mission for 31 years, 11 months, and 10 days. That’s pretty incredible, considering the technology of the day.

Its radioactive power sources have enough fuel left to power the probe (with decreasing functionality as available power decreases) until about 2025.

Although it’s merely a tiny thing hurtling through space, it pleases me that it’s been operating since before I was born, and will continue its journey — albeit out of power — long after I’m dead. I can only hope that at some point in the future, humanity will venture to the stars. I hope that when that happens, they leave Voyager to coast though the inky blackness of space as a testament to the vision of those who sent it.

  1. The heliopause. []

Some Apps Out

I’ve been submitting graduate school applications like crazy, and have submitted several.

In the past, I’ve normally waited until just before the deadline, but I’ve decided to get things out early — the application to the University of Oregon got out within a week of the opening of the application period, and the applications to schools in Sweden were out within a day of the period opening. International mail, while usually reliable, can be somewhat delayed, so my applications to schools overseas are getting sent out early to avoid any such problems.

In less then a year, I may have to change the name here to “The Swiss Rifleman”. Now there’s a thought…

Testing Spam Filtering

I’m testing out a new anti-spam plugin called Conditional CAPTCHA.

I am loath to use CAPTCHAs under normal circumstances, as they are tedious for regular users. Fortunately, this plugin uses an interesting method that should reduce false positives: if comments are marked as “not spam” by Akismet, they are handled normally without any CAPTCHAs. However, if Akismet flags a message, the user is then prompted to solve a reCAPTCHA, and the message is then dropped into the moderation queue for manual intervention.

With the 150+ spams per day making it into the spam queue, it was a challenge to go through everything and make sure there were no legitimate messages mistakenly flagged. This plugin should resolve that issue without inconveniencing legitimate users.

If you find any quirks, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Opportunity Lost

I’ve been meaning to get a Swiss K31 for some time now, and AIM Surplus had some good deals on them, but now they’re out of stock.

Drat. I trust they’ll get some more in stock eventually. I really enjoyed shooting that the last time I was at the range.

It’s a Small Step…

…from robots cleaning your living room to robots cleaning the Earth of humanity.

I’m staying at a friend’s place this week, and there’s an iRobot Scooba driving around the living room cleaning.

As amazing and futuristic as this is, it’s somewhat creepy.