I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me

Evidently I (( Or, more likely, someone with the same name. )) 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.

Cold Feet

I was in MA for Christmas with the in-laws.
It blizzarded (( That is now a verb. )).
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 toys ((Nearly all stuff confiscated from law-breakers and the like, though some of his own things.)) until they go off to evidence ((He works mostly from home, and takes stuff down to the station every week or so.)). Lots of old Mausers and the like. Way cool.

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 space ((The heliopause.)) 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.

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.

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.

Someone’s planning a party…

NPR reports the following excitement in California:

The news from AP that California Gov.?Arnold Schwarzenegger “has declared a state of emergency in San Diego County following the discovery of what police called a virtual bomb factory in an Escondido-area home,” led us to some startling reports about what’s been uncovered there.
Local authorities, reports FoxNews.com, say they may have discovered “the largest quantity of homemade explosives found in one location in the history of the United States.”

Someone’s planning a party. A hell of an exciting party.
It’s so much stuff that the bomb squad is planning to burn the house down in place (presumably with some sort of protective material around it to capture any projectiles emitted from the house), rather than risk moving the unstable chemicals out of the house.
When they do, I hope they put up streaming video. Should be fun.


Note to self: get someone else to proofread the letters and statements I’m sending to graduate schools.
Somehow I managed to mash together the username for one’s departmental email address and the domain for the main, non-departmental email service from the university (resulting in a syntactically-correct but non-existent) in a cover letter.
I didn’t catch it in my own proofreading, as my brain mentally divided the email into the username and domain parts, and didn’t notice the mismatch. Now I have to write an email to the graduate school apologizing for any confusion and sending them the correct address.