July 31, 2010

Back in training; first long run

I know. 4 miles doesn't sound like the world's longest "long" run. But consider that it's been a couple months since I've run that distance. Also consider that I managed a 13 minute per mile pace - only a little slower than my regular runs now - and I'm off to a good start for my half-marathon training.

This wasn't easy. I don't have the fitness or lung capacity like I used to. The heat didn't help, but that's my own fault. This run, in my old pair of running shoes, was much more comfortable than the last run in my new shoes. Got to get those broken in.

And still I'm put to shame by my friends, such as MichJoy, who'll biked 40 miles today and who'll run 14 miles next weekend. Or my friend the Running Laminator, who will be running 20 or more tomorrow morning.

Speaking of which, I want to get up and go shoot that run, the first long training run that NYRR sponsors for the marathon trainees... but I should've been in been two hours ago and still have hiccups... :(

I have installed Disqus comment moderation - please give it a whirl and leave a comment.

July 29, 2010

getting going again

It is so hard to get going again. After my long layoff from running in late May and mid-June, it has been hard to restart. I'd be lucky to get out once a week. The heat and humidity combo here has also been hard to stomach.

But the Staten Island Half looms and I need to get on the stick. I've got shoes to break in and miles to burn in.

Today is the third time I've been out this week. I had a pretty good run Tuesday and was hoping to recapture that today. But shin splints have been haunting me and I just took my new Brooks Adrenaline 10s out for a spin. Wow are they stiff. And I can tell I'm weak in all the areas runners are often weak in. I have such a long way to go.

As motivation, I've been watching some races recently. Actually, I've been photographing them, simultaneously exercising my investment in camera gear and and renewing my interest in racing. I want to have a good October, if not dazzling, and part of attaining that is getting excited about being part of a group event again.

I've put up some photos of the Queens Half and the NYC Triathlon on Picasa.

From NYC Triathlon July 18, 2010

From NYC Triathlon July 18, 2010

From Queens Half Marathon

From Queens Half Marathon

July 16, 2010

Tour Part II: Italy

Note: Part I of the tour, Israel, is written up in this blog post.
So in my previous email, I wrapped up with Shabbat in Jerusalem. We played two performances in Jerusalem, Saturday night and Sunday night, and things were nice and relaxed between them, including an evening I sat out on the hotel patio with Bill, Janet, and a few others and we all drank wine and did not talk about performance, dance, theatre, or anything remotely related. Very nice.

Load-out again went smoothly, though we somehow tore a very small hole in our opera drop; not where light hits it, but still, very aggravating, considering the care which Kyle and the crew take with our few softgoods. I loaded some gear into the tophat roadcase to go back to the US, as these particular roadboxes were done for the tour. We had another set waiting for us in Italy (it would take too long to get the equipment from Israel to Italy economically). Finally, about 12:30 a.m. we were all loaded out.

At this point, the day of hell began. The crew split into two groups. Kyle, Sam (sound), and Laura went to Haifa for a different Bill T Jones show, where they'd literally load in, do the show, and load out in one day. Meanwhile, Eric and I went ahead to Italy to begin work there, as the show we were doing in Venice was a special performance put together just for that festival. Eric and I had three hours at the hotel before we hopped in a cab for the airport. I napped, Eric chose not to. We hit Ben Gurion airport at 4:30 a.m. for a 7:30 flight - and we'd need almost every minute of it.

I won't go into a blow-by-blow, but the upshot is that our luggage was searched in minute detail - not only was luggage opened, but so was the toiletries kit...and the cans, bottles, sewing kit, etc inside. Literally every single separate item was examined. Twice. All of our baggage (and we were carrying some company baggage, such as costumes, to be used in Venice) was x-rayed twice, searched visually twice, and given THREE chemical sniffer tests. Some of this was due to sheer boredom on Israeli security's part, some of it due to change of shift happening in the middle of the first search, and some of it due to the red flag that the projector lenses threw up. The security people could clearly see they were lenses, but the attached motors and heavy duty pelican roadcase freaked them out I guess. For some time, Eric and I were separated from all of our belongings and parked in a secure room. We were very nearly separated from our clothing, too! I believe we were about to be strip-searched, but something or someone intervened and we were called back. The head of security for the shift (note: not airport security, no airline security - ISRAELI security) decided we could continue on, but they were confiscating the projector lenses. Though they did give Eric a claimcheck, they said he'd have to file a missing luggage report in Venice and ultimately he'd get the lenses back. It was purely coincidental that we wouldn't need the lenses until Ravenna and that Venice was a week-long stop. (Eric got the lenses back the last morning of our stay there, literally hours before we left for Ravenna).

So you'd think that would be it, that we could check in, get our boarding passes and go, right? Oh, no no. First, the airline (Aegean Air) decided that our checked luggage was over the weight limit. Turns out their weight limits are 20kg (44 lb) per bag - we'd packed 50 per bag and one or two were definitely over that anyway. Overage fees, we were prepared to pay -- we thought! Our carryons (well, mine) was also overweight - yeah, there's a goddamn weight limit on carryons, too, of 8 kg (17 lb)!! I transferred about five pounds to an already overweight checked bag and even though I was still over by a couple kilograms, the counter agent let it go. After all, the airline was already charging us 475 for the overweight checked bags. At first, we thought that was sheckels, since we were in Israel, and 475 sheckels is only about 125 dollars. But then she corrected us - 475 DOLLARS! Yeah, no mistake. Eric and I nearly had a heart attack. There was no choice but to find an ATM, withdraw money, and pay the fees. Keep in mind, we're under armed guard all throughout this.

Now, fees paid, bags checked, boarding passes in hand, we get to regular airline security screening. Here having been searched two (three) times already paid off - we were skated through that security area. But our journey was not yet over! Now, we're down to about 30 minutes before takeoff and we still have to clear customs. I went through fine, but then Eric hit a snag. Customs computers showed that Eric had arrived with three bags to check, but only two had been received by the airline. (Remember, security had our lenses and those would fly later.) This is a red flag for them and Eric was detained by the police. While being marched off, he ordered me to make the flight no matter what, since at least one of us had to be in Venice on time. Fortunately, things were straightened out quickly for Eric and he made the flight, but barely.

On to Venice.

Longer flight than I thought, but quite pleasant. Aegean Air may rape you on overage fees, but they do serve plenty of hot meals. Unfortunately, they don't shut up loud, talkative assholes partying it up in the rear of the plane. Eric and I were now both of us up beyond 24 hours and had a full work day ahead of us....

Upon landing, we were met by the festival's rep and we took a high-speed water taxi to Venice, where we then lugged approximately 200 pounds of luggage (plus our own remember) through the narrow streets and up and over bridges to get to Hotel La Fenice, a hotel known for being the place for visiting artists to stay. (And it was certainly pleasant enough, though every room was different. For instance, I was graced with a shower - Laura had only a bathtub. Shoshanna had the smallest room every, but also a whole terrace to herself. Etc. I recommend it!)

After dropping off our crap, we lugged the 200 pounds of luggage back through the streets and again split up. Eric had to go to the shipping port and get our roadboxes from the shipping container (which took most of the day) and I was on my own to find the theatre. Teatreo de Tese was WAY the hell out there in the Arsenale. So a water bus ride to Arsenale and a kilometer's walk later, I found the theatre, where the technicians were already moving trusses into place.

Teatro de Tese has the neatest truss system I've ever seen. Situated in an 800 year old building - a sail factory (the oldest factory in Venice) - the converted space was as unmangled as possible in the process of making it a theatre. There is a great deal of excellent scenic trickery designed to look like more venue that fills windows, hides cable, etc. Very nice. The trusses (there are six of them) are mounted on a rail system, with the rails bolted into the center of three halls. This allows the trusses to be moved into place at will and very, very easily. Technicians then get up and walk the tops to place circuits. Hanging, final circuiting, and focus is all done from a rolling ladder that has a small work platform at the top. My goal was to have the positions nailed down and all the lights hung and cabled before Laura arrived the next afternoon. This was ambitious. Things don't happen FAST there, but they do happen WELL. As I was dealing with lighting, Eric showed up on a boat with a crane and moved our road gear into the space and then dealt with the positioning of the extra stage sections we were having built.

It all turned out very, very well. This huge stage with a runway shooting off into another hall house left, a smaller platform for Sam (as musician) upstage left, and a separate entre-acte playing space in the hall house right that the audience would pass through to get to their seats. It was a fully fleshed out performance that INHABITED the space. It provided some technical lighting challenges, in that Laura couldn't use more than X amount of power and getting up to the lights to hang or adjust them (if they weren't directly over the stage) was accomplished with driveable personnel lifts. These yellow things were GREAT. I've seen them on construction sites here and would like to see more of them in theatre.

At this stop, we took our time and teched a lot and ran two performances. It was here that I learned how to make coffee Venetian style, which I grew addicted to. I also made sure I ate something new and different at every meal I ate. I had the most creamy lasagna - fantastic! As we used the back wall instead of cyc and translucency for this performance, our load-out was actually pretty quick. We packed up our fluorescents and mini-tens and dance floor and that was it. I have to say, I liked the entire festival crew the most at this stop. Again, there was friction and not the best spirit of cooperation between the people in charge and our two females in charge (Kyle and Laura). They kept complaining they'd get "no" answers to everything, yet if I asked or Eric asked, it would generally happen. Different approaches maybe?

From Venice to Ravenna, the entire company took a bus. LONG bus ride - three hours. We actually stayed in Marina de Ravenna, on the coast and it was a fine hotel to stay at, with little private balconies, which I took advantage of by getting some doses of Vitamin D where I don't normally get doses of Vitamin D, if you know what I mean.

The theatre, Palazzo Mauro de Andre, is a converted sports arena, which we think was for either volleyball or basketball. It is ceiling with a giant glass pyramid, similar to something at the Louvre, and this is covered in a translucent white fabric. The effect is of dazzlingly bright cloudy daytime - at all times the sun is up. The place was used for sports exactly once. Then it was converted. There's a big RAKED stage, huge hanging ugly sound baffling, and a slightly raked truss roof system. The hang itself was quick and mostly complete by the time we got there. Laura and I made a lot of adjustments to their hang before the roof truss rose, because getting to the lights was by scaffold only - a long process involving five electricians, since four of them were required to keep the damn thing from rolling off the stage! Once the roof was up, we got to work on the ground units and the booms. Their usual booms were flat steel truss pieces, held up with long triangular legs. This would prove to be unsightly and potentially dangerous for the dancers. Laura and I convinced them to cable-tie the trusses to the far side rails and then we figured out how to get our four lights onto these "booms". It was not the best looking setup ever, but it worked well enough - as long as nobody leaned on the railings (as the dancers tended to do).

Focus, of course, had to wait until 9 p.m. for it to be dark enough to work. So call that day was fairly late and we enjoyed a really long cookout dinner watching futbol with the crew until 9. The crew went to great lengths to get good reception, including drafting the services of, in sequential order, a metal cart, a wheelbarrow, and a 12' aluminum ladder. Quite enjoyable! Once we got to work that night, focus took forever, and it wasn't all the technician's fault. Laura had a timetable to work within and she went over it by two hours. Don't get me wrong - I think she's great. As a lighting supervisor, she is exacting and her standards are high, which is exactly what is needed in that position. But she was definitely futzing with details that Eric and I (from the tech table) couldn't see differences in. Still, it's her show, so it's her call. We got back to the hotel about 5 in the morning and had a 9:30 a.m. lobby call.

We rehearsed all day, including a dress-rehearsal with Laura running the light cues to absolutely zero effect, then one performance at 9 p.m., then load-out, which unfortunately took longer than any of us thought. It boiled down to the fact that we couldn't retrieve our one truss-mounted lighting unit and our two softgoods pieces until the truss roof could move - and it couldn't move until everything else was struck. Yikes. fortunately, the long wait left plenty of time for Kyle to dry out the sweaty costumes under the heat of two 2K PCs backstage. Finally, with the rain starting to come down, everything was in road cases and well-packed for the trip overseas. Last step was a very rainy loading of the shipping container which, because the theatre has no proper loading dock, involved lifting the cases on one truck's hydraulic tailgate, then manually heaving them over to the deck of the shipping container, situated 90-degrees to the first truck. As some roadboxes come in at about 600 pounds, it was quite interesting to see four or five men managing this feat. But they were used to it, I guess. Finally, as the rain turned into a wind-whipped storm worthy of Lear, Eric sealed the shipping container and twice read off all relevant seal, container, and lock numbers to Sam, who wrote it all on the shipping manifest.

And thus the tour was over. The next morning, the whole company took another three-hour bus back to the airport near Venice and Delta took us home. After a 17 hour travel day following 20 days on the road, I was at last able to cook for myself, take a shower with actual doors on it, and sleep in my own comfortable bed. Laura, Kyle, and Eric had one quick show to do in Santa Fe, leaving the day after we got back to NYC. I asked about that today and Laura expressed her thanks at how quickly things happened there - how professional the crews were and how expedient everything was. Didn't have to ask for a tech table, it was just THERE, for instance. And here I thought Israel and Italy crews did pretty good; but then I've done a lot of unsupported theatre in crappy little NYC spaces. It's all about a sense of scale, I guess.

I learned a lot on this tour and would definitely go again. As for the joint pain, it is still present, though very much dissipated and more easily managed with naproxen. Recent bloodwork shows high sedimentation rate, so I'll soon be seeing a rheumatologist. If this is what my uncle thinks this is (PMR), then it could be a couple of years before its all cleared up. At the moment, I'm able to type and am in no pain, though water bottles continue to be difficult to open.

And now, on to the the normal program of Christmas windows, dance lighting (of my own), giant multi-media international workshop performance (IMPACT), and a little wedding photography on the side.

Tour Part I: Israel

Following is what I wrote the Stagecraft list summarizing my experiences in Israel on tour. It has little to do with running or health - those notes are already in older posts on this blog.
Accompanying pictures.
I recently finished a short tour with Bill T Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company, making stops in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Venice, and Ravenna. Every single day was a full work day, with the exception of three travel days and two off days. What follows are my observations and thoughts on doing dance performance in those locations.

Let me first say that the flight to Tel Aviv was, mercifully, a direct flight. Even still, with a three-hour delay for takeoff, it was a very long travel day. We (the crew) got off the ground about 10 p.m. in JFK Friday night, and landed at Ben Gurion airport about 3:45 local time on Saturday. The cast were scheduled to arrive the next day, which was an off day for the crew. While waiting for Monday to roll around, we all took advantage of our hotel's location in the beach resort section of Tel Aviv to frolic in the Mediterranean and stuff ourselves with local restaurant food, including a great fish place the first evening and a very different sort of meal at Pie the next night, where our company took up the entire restaurant.

We loaded in at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center, which is a very large, very modern, well-equipped theatre where a lot of opera is done. This theatre had a massive standard plot they use for their own opera productions (indeed, the scenery for the next opera was loading in before we loaded out). To accommodate our plot, they simply flew their electrics out, flew empty battens in and the entire plot - including booms - was hung, circuited, and patched in about two hours. The rate of progress slowed considerably once we hit focus. I was learning the focus of the show and Laura Bickford (BTJAZ lighting supervisor) and I were learning enough of the language to communicate with electricians. So things went slowly at first, as they tend to do at focus. It doesn't help that our focus is very finicky, with razor-sharp shutter cuts on a white floor, which have to align with the next unit in the system, etc. Fortunately, color was never a question - the entire plot, save for one sidelight system and one special - is L201. Oh, that Robert Wierzel!

The units we used in Tel Aviv were a mix of the familiar Source 4s (rented specially for us, BTW) and PCs and ENT zooms. Laura had some experience with the European units, but maybe not enough - we ended up refocusing the plot and adding a few units to make up for certain problems, such as an inability to get an even wash out of the zooms and an inability to control the light coming out of the PCs, even with barndoors. These are problems we'd deal with the rest of the tour, developing strategies to make the lighting look as good as possible. (For instance, with the zooms, we had originally 4 of them to create a downstage box on the floor. However, it was unevenly lit, and I argued that in the middle of that box, we weren't getting the dancers right. So we added two more units that used to be in the plot anyway, plus refocused each zoom at a wider angle to cover as much of the box as it could - thus each unit overlapped the next quite heavily, and intensity came from multiple overlapping sources in the same area.) I also note that the zooms don't concentrate light when you make the beam angle smaller, as you might expect. Oh, they may do so to some extent, but the effect I observed was much closer to using an iris than actually gathering the light.

The booms were box truss style, on wheels, and were all Source 4, as were our high side systems. Some of the lights were ours - fluorescents used upstage and mini-tens used downstage and on the first electric. We travel with Shuko adapters, which take care of most European houses, but here we needed an additional adapter to fit the Israeli lighting pucks. The first of some tensions arose here. Madai, the hosting production manager for both Israel stops, sometimes didn't deal well with the women. So Laura's request to obtain some adapters went ignored and Madai's insistence that we modify our own adapters (which would involve cutting off molded ends) was not well received. Eventually, the rental house was able to send over enough of the needed adapters. I guess sometimes it just comes down to one little issue like that; on this stop it was adapters. Go figure.

Tel Aviv turned out to be the only stop we couldn't use our own board at - we travel with a HogPC that outputs one DMX universe. But Tel Aviv needed two universes to run the whole system, so Laura ended up dictating all the cues to the house board op who programmed their GrandMA. This was frustrating for her and I can't blame her. It also left her with little to do when showtime came so one of her more annoying habits came to light early: given time to futz, she'll futz. Endlessly. I can't tell you how many times I adjusted our fluorescents and the gels on the music stand lights just because everything else was done and Laura was not good at just relaxing while she had the chance - at least not while in the theatre.

The crew in Tel Aviv was as professional as you'd expect anywhere with the usual divisions of duties. Much of the load-in crew came via the lighting rental house, which I found interesting. The rental houses act as informal agencies for a lot of the country's crew labor. The schedule can be grueling - they don't take breaks. They work 'til lunch, take an hour for that, then work 'til dinner, take an hour for that, work 'til end of call. When someone from our crew inquired about breaks, it was meant with Madai's response that "only American babies take breaks." This turned out to be true in Italy, too.

It was during the Tel Aviv stop that I contracted some kind of problem with my joints, which came on suddenly and severely, feeling like total-body arthritis or something. I quickly ran through my supply of painkillers and it was like throwing stones at a battleship. I went hunting for more painkillers. This turns out to be difficult, as painkillers are by prescription only, though for low-level ones like ibuprofen, the pharmacist himself can print up a prescription. But pharmacies were few and far between with short hours incompatible with touring theatre schedules. Life pretty quickly became hell for me. But I did get some and by downing about 1200mg of ibuprofen every four or five hours, I remained functional.

Load-out was smooth and quick, as one would expect. Our TD, Eric Lowner, is very good during load-ins and load-outs and his professionalism made getting it all packed up and on the truck practically a breeze. It is notable that there are no basements in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. The theatre and its loading dock are actually on the second through fifth floors of the PAC. They have two vehicle lifts for getting trucks up to the loading dock.

The move to Jerusalem was by bus and I was hurting badly by then. I knew that whatever was going on with me would have to be addressed by a doctor while we were there. We had a day off scheduled, though, with the entire company going on a mini-tour of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. I learned a little bit about the country, especially the kibutzes. At one stop, the whole company went on a two-hour hike up in some mountains while I stayed behind, being in no condition to walk for two hours. At that stop I discovered the delicious Magnum Gold ice cream bar. Then we proceeded to the Dead Sea where three things of note happened: one, once in the water and floating, I was finally out of pain for the first time in a week. Two, it's nice to have a drink at the World's Lowest Bar. And three, if you think dancers are good-looking with their clothes on, you should experience the site of them all standing knee deep in the water smearing black mud all over themselves.

The next day, I managed to get through load-in at The Jerusalem Theatre (Madai's home space, it turns out). This load-in was also quite smooth, though of a somewhat lower-rent quality to some of the equipment. The biggest frustration came in that the lines from the dimmers, which were parked squarely in the middle of the wing stage right, to the electrics was up and over a flown truss stage right. Anytime this truss was moved, it moved the cables, which moved the electrics, which threw our focus off. There came a point where Laura and I parked our asses until the scenic crew could finish up with projection screens, cyc, blacks, etc because it was a useless endeavor trying to get shutter cuts before the stage right truss was locked in position. In Jerusalem, we left the crappy ENT zooms behind and used ETC zooms instead, which was a far more pleasant experience, but as with all ETC, the edges are very hard and it is hard to blend beams together. Back to massive dispersal overlap technique. We used PCs for most of the floor box systems this time and while they blend well, controlling their spill was a nightmare - the barndoors don't have the additional hinged wings on the small flaps. So we used quite a lot of our precious blacktak supply blocking off stray light. This is a technique Laura was apparently quite used to and I admit allows for trapezoidal barndoor configuration - this is the one technique that may bleed over to my own focus methods.

This particular BTJAZ show also uses Littlelites on lecterns for our narrators and singer, which in Europe must be run through a transformer. But that transformer must then be on a dimmer, for board control. And even though Laura changed the cues to bring the Littlelites up and down in 0 time, we kept frying transformers. There were no relays or non-dim modules available and as it turns out, the transformers weren't getting a full 240 volts - only 208. So this stop was frustrating in several ways. But in others, it was much more relaxed. For instance, Madai fixed us all a lunch that we had on road boxes end-to-end family style. That was pretty nice, compared with the usual habit of everyone going their own way for meals. The dressing rooms and green room were all fantastic and I was able to get laundry done during our second performance.

The load-in was interrupted, for me, by a trip to a doctor. As it turns out, I was not the only one of our company needing medical services. Our executive director sprained her ankle teaching a class. We happened to meet at the facility our tour escort, Michal, called a "pre-hospital". This is a facility for urgent care, though not outright emergencies; but unlike a clinic, you don't need an appointment. The both of us were seen very quickly and, as it turns out, by the same doctor, Dr. Fred Carroll. I had blood work and urinalysis done and the results showed a high white blood cell count. The doctor couldn't diagnose what was going on with me at the time, but gave me a prescription for a different class of antiinflammatory, Etopan. This, in combination with more ibuprofen or sodium naproxen, allowed me to at least function.

Now, this was Friday and sundown was approaching. Madai had already warned us that at 6:00, the day would end, whether or not we were where we wanted to be with focus. Contrary to popular belief, the entire country does not shut down for Shabat, but quite a few things do! There are Arabic quarters where businesses remain open for Saturday and Madai generously offered to stop by a an Arabic pharmacy and fill my prescription on Saturday, before the late call (yes, the crew did break the Sabbath a little bit, but not by much. Madai himself came in during the day Saturday but merely made sure we didn't get ourselves into trouble. Laura had managed to get 95% of focus done before 6:00 the night before, so she spent the day futzing with cues until such time as we had enough crew to touch up the remaining focus). But, yeah, the Sabbath is taken seriously in Israel and especially in Jerusalem. The streets were practically deserted.

I'll wrap up this first half of the trip by saying that I spent my Friday night in Jerusalem hobbling through the Old City, and making my way to the Western Wall. The Western Wall plaza on Friday night is....ALIVE. Singing, dancing, etc etc. Though I'm Jewish, I'm a poorly educated Jew, so I don't claim to understand most of what was going on, but I said my prayers and left. I had dinner at the hotel, a Shabbat feast led by a Rabbi, as it would turn out. My next post will detail the hellacious escape from Israel and the great stops we had in Italy.

July 14, 2010

difficult 2-miler

Intended 45 minutes of elliptical today, but screwed up: forgot shorts. Back to house - decide to run 2.

totally sucked. Humidity way too high for any evaporative cooling and I was oh so tight in IT bands and shins. Need to get my training back on track.

July 12, 2010


My exercising now comes complete with video.

Me on stationary bike at the peak of workout. Is this what other people see and hear when I cough? Christ, that's awful.

July 10, 2010

Cut and pasted rants

Running lately has not been often, but each one is going moderately well. yesterday's 2-miler went better than expected and I'm determined to do 4 tomorrow. It's time to start pre-training for the Staten Island Half; that is: get my body to being able to do 3 miles 3-4 x week easily. Also, time to get back to weights and stationary bike as cross-training. As much as I like the elliptical, Runner's magazine recommends non weight-bearing aerobic exercise as cross-training, to give the joints a break. The weights will be targeted for core strength, not mass.

So. I realized I often write some pretty good things in emails to other people or in forums. I've decided that now and then, I'll cut and paste those here; mostly for posterity, but also because I think the discussions they're culled from are quite thought-provoking. Over the next couple days, I'm going to write up my experiences touring Israel and Italy, using cut-and-pasted forum posts as a basis, but expanding them for this blog.

As a teaser to those, I here present a response I wrote to some complaining about the TSA. Enjoy.

On Jul 10, 2010, xxxx wrote:

They randomly choose people, so that the next 4 or 6 people quietly suffer the rest of the indignities, since they can see that you got it worse than them. It's job justification... "Look how hard we're working!" Next time this sort of thing happens, calmly ask them how many terrorists they have captured.
If you're really bold and can afford the time, hold up an ordinary Q-Tip and ask, in your best fake-stage-villain voice, "Did you know I could put your eye out with this? Mom said so." Your life should get more interesting, right after that.

Bullshit. Stop this. I expect better from professionals.

I'm no fan of the TSA - their workers are, as a group, lazy, undereducated, and don't care much about their job - only that they HAVE a job.

HOWEVER, without exception (in my personal observation across the country), these people do a mind-numbingly boring job with consistency, expediency, and are unfailingly polite. They do make mistakes now and then, such as missing the Leatherman I boarded my flight to SC with two weeks ago, but those are few and far between.

I can't explain the variability of "random" searches. At times, they're sticking to the script (supposed to be every 20 persons or so) and at other times (red-eye flights) are either hyper-vigilant, searching every other person, or are content to just screen for liquids and sharp objects. I've been told by the mean ones (in the holding area of the airport) that there are written procedures for everything and that's what they follow, even if it doesn't make sense to the worker on the line or the passenger. Those procedures include detailing the proportion of passengers selected for extra screening.

yyyyyy wrote:
Please do NOT crack jokes or "hold up a Q-tip" as XXX suggested. While airport screening in the United States is an ineffective joke intended to pacify worried passengers, the TSA screeners DO have authority to confiscate and detain, and mixing a wisecrack with a scolded inspector will delay your trip far worse than heavy weather at ORD or ATL.

Exactly. If you were a TSA screener, especially during busy, stressful periods and when your bosses have raised the alert level, how'd you like some smartass cracking jokes? Well, guess what? There's written procedures for these cases and you will end up in holding and you will miss your flight.

I write this to make two points:

A) If you want to change the system, do so from the top-end - get to the people who make the policies. Nothing you say or do at the airport will affect TSA policy or procedures and can only lead to further trouble for you. So keep your yap shut, put your laptop in the grey bin, and direct your hate at the idiot tourist types who show up in their pajamas and have a gallon of shampoo in their bags. But if enough citizens voiced their opinion, wrote to their congressmen, the president, the FAA, and Dep of Homeland Security; assuring them that we would accept increased risk in exchange for less invasive and more expedient measures, then those agencies would eventually listen. They do, after all, work for us, for our communal safety. ( I'd urge a boycott of airlines as a "stick" measure, but have learned that modern jetliners get better gas mileage than almost any vehicle on the road. The 767s I was on get 50+ miles per gallon!)

B) Next time you chafe at America's current form of air travel security, remember three things:
One, that security screenings existed well before 9/11, seeking to catch any explosives or other materials unsafe for air travel or obviously a weapon.
Two, hijacked aircraft were MORE prevalent before 9/11 - I remember a time when it seems like there was a hijacked aircraft every couple of months or so. Hijackings are DOWN.
And three, airport security in other countries is often far more stringent than America's. In my limited experience, it looks like most countries have followed the FAA and the TSA in establishing the basics, but often take restrictions and body/baggage searches to a much higher degree. I've already posted about my experiences with Israeli security, and Italian TSA pulled me right out of screening and all the way back to check-in because of my insulin pen needles. They wanted the gate agents written authorization to allow those on the flight -- and SHE wanted proof that I do, in fact, have a medical need for these items. She wanted a letter from my physician confirming diagnoses of diabetes and prescription of the needles. After a 10-minute Mexican standoff, she grudgingly satisfied herself that my multiple prescription labels (which I carried just in case something like this happened) were proof enough.