I Got A Date

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Ever since I was a young girl in New Mexico, I always knew there was a big old world out there full of cities much bigger and much grander than my beloved Albuquerque.

Even as I was a small town girl and in many ways feared big cities, I was inexorably drawn to them as well. Always fascinated.

Once, The Good Man and I were talking about growing up. He in Brooklyn, me in the ‘Burque. I summed it all up this way, he grew up in New York knowing he was in the center of the world. I grew up in Albuquerque knowing I was pretty gosh darn far from it.

I’ve gotten around this big blue marble a little this year and I’ve seen some truly world class cities, but to me, New York (and to be precise, Manhattan) really is the center of the world.

And now, after a very long year with a lot of hard work, I have a little vacation coming due.

So The Good Man and I are getting on an aeroplane.

I have a date with that little ol’ island and I can hardly wait.

(Please forgive if the blogging is a little sparse this week. Just know I’m out there having fun!)









Image from Barewalls.com.



And Then I Danced With The TSA

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This weekend I arrived early at an airport to climb on my fourteenth airplane of the year so I could head home to the now all too familiar San Francisco International Airport.

In twelve of the first thirteen flights of this year, things have gone very smoothly. One was a bit rocky, but could have been much worse.

Then came flight number fourteen. I suppose it was just my turn.

I stepped up to the security line and pfft’ed at the amateurs around me. Before I even got to the steel table and the plastic bins, I had shoes off, laptop out and a determined look in my face.

As in, this is not my first rodeo.

I stood in line kibitzing with friends. I shoved my bins forward into the tube and awaited further direction. This airport was using both metal detector and backscatter and the TSA agent was alternating the line. One to metal, one to xray. One to metal, one to xray.

I was directed to xray. With a sigh, I took my spot and waited. Then I was waved into the machine and I assumed the position. Feet spread, arms up over my head with elbows bent. Fingers spread.

Did I mention this is not my first rodeo?

I waited. And waited. And thought “damn, the backscatter at SFO is a quick one. This one is taking an eternity.”

Finally the TSA agent waved me out of the machine and pointed to a rug with the outline of two feet. That’s where you stand and wait for the agent to hear from The Someone in the backroom reviewing scans and reporting back.

So I waited. And waited. The TSA agent kept saying into her radio “Do you have a scan for a female? Results of scan. Results of scan, please.”

Nothing. Seems her radio was busted. So she asked her counterpart. He called it in. Three people had already come through the backscatter and given the all clear. Seems that certain Someone didn’t have my scan.

The female TSA agent said, “ok, let’s send her back in” pointing to the backscatter machine and I nodded. I was ok with that.

The male TSA agent said, “No, she left the machine and she can’t go back in.”

What?

“I’m sorry ma’am, we’re going to have to give you a pat down,” I was informed.

I sighed, nodded and raised my arms. “Ok, let’s do it,” I said.

“You can put your arms down, I have to call for an assist.”

So I waited and waited and waited for the pat down lady to come give me a good fondle.

“Do you want a private room?”

“No.”

“I will run my hands all the way up and down your legs, between and under your breasts, in the back of your shirt, in the waistband of your pants and in some sensitive areas. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, let’s get started.”

And so the blue uniformed woman got frightfully intimate with me right there in the security area, and I let her. I felt mildly dirty but to be honest, this was not my first pat down. Turns out when you wear a flowy skirt sometimes the backscatter can’t see you so well and they pat you down anyway. It’s why I wear pants to travel these days (even though skirts are way more comfy).

“There, that wasn’t so bad was it? Now I just need to test my gloves. Wait here please.”

“Ok.”

And so I waited and waited and waited and I heard “uh oh.”

I turned to see another TSA agent say to my new girlfriend, “You got an alarm.”

“It’s these gloves again, I swear this is crazy!” she replied.

Oh those pesky, pesky gloves. Silly gloves. Naughty gloves giving off an alarm meant…

Every item in my possession had to be wiped and scanned. Everything, including the Hello Kitty popsicle mold I’d bought there at the airport (a gift for a friend’s toddler).

None gave off an alarm, but I wasn’t finished yet.

I was then invited into the private room. Was this like the champagne room at a strip club? Only I’m the dancer? I hoped to make some killer tips off of this routine.

This time not one but two female TSA agents came along for the fun. I got to keep my clothes on, but they felt me up real, real good.

Let’s just say…they were quite vigorously able to confirm that I was in fact NOT the next underwear bomber.

Ahem.

After this mauling, I was set free to move about the airport.

I reported to my friends that I needed a Silkwood shower and maybe a Cinnabon to get through the trauma.

We opted instead for a TCBY non-fat yogurt cup. Amazing what sugar can do to make you feel better about this mean old world.

To be fair, it could have been much worse. I had plenty of time before my flight and I was very cooperative with the TSA agents, which meant they were very cooperative with me.

But I just can’t get past the fact that I had to be mauled, molested and detained because their radio malfunctioned and their backscatter machinery burped and their gloves are known to set off alarms and yet they keep using them.

I was just trying to get back home.

Before this crazy ol’ year is over, I have two more planes to ride. May those trips go as smoothly as twelve of my fourteen flights thus far.

Waltzing with the TSA sure was fun, but I think I’m over it.






Image from Toonsville.



From Insanity to History

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My whole life I have been endlessly fascinated with space and space travel along with the men and women who build the history and science behind space travel.

Call it a side effect of growing up in New Mexico.

As a fairly young kid I read the book “The Right Stuff” and ate up every word. So I read it again.

Just recently, I read the book yet again and I still loved every bit of it.

I’ve always been an especially huge fan of the early pilots like Chuck Yeager who were willing (on their small military pay) to strap into experimental machines just to see what they could do.

Can you imagine how insane people thought Chuck Yeager was when he was trying to break the sound barrier in a fast plane?

And he was, just a little. But his willingness to put his life on the line meant that scientists understood what body and machine went through at the speed of sound so that they could make better machines and better safety equipment.

Despite the enormous success of the US Space program, I’ve often wished that the military and NASA didn’t give up on developing pilot controlled airplanes to facilitate space travel. They were making good progress when the space race intervened and something had to be done quickly.

Instead of highly experimental planes, it was easier to strap an astronaut to a rocket and blast off. Hell, the solid rocket booster technology that fueled the last Space Shuttle launch in 2011 dates back to the 1960’s. And it still works. More or less.

Today with the sad decline of NASA and the growth of private space development, we may be getting back to the realm of real fast piloted planes as a way to get people up into space. As we start thinking about space tourism, the thoughts of safety become more important.

Enter the latest in a long line of courageous (and a little bit crazy) men. Yesterday an Austrian gentleman named Felix Baumgartner piloted a helium balloon to some 127,000 feet over the New Mexico desert (a record for a piloted balloon flight), and then he jumped out.

You know, just to see what his experimental spacesuit would do.

It was, first and foremost, a publicity stunt for Red Bull energy drinks. But there’s more to it than that. Mr. Baumgartner was testing a new pressure suit that not only protected his body but allowed maneuverability. Traditional pressure suits used in space flight don’t allow the astronaut to move around much which means in the event of danger it is damn near impossible for astronauts to eject and to survive.

So in his fairly thin space suit, Mr Baumgartner broke the sound barrier. With his body. On the same day, October 14, that Chuck Yeager first hit Mach 1 back in 1947.

Sixty-five years ago breaking the sound barrier seemed far fetched. To break the sound barrier with little more than a space suit on seemed nigh on impossible.

And yet.

When I first heard about this proposed jump from space, I thought it was pure insanity. As time went on I became more and more fascinated by the possibility of it.

Yesterday when I saw they were live streaming the event, I was all over it.

I have to be honest, I didn’t think Mr. Baumgartner was going to survive the jump. I worried that I was spectating a man’s death.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment when he was standing there on the step of his capsule.

And then he wasn’t.

As his body tumbled and cartwheeled I was absolutely terrified. Well made airplanes have broken apart at those speeds. I thought that was it. I thought there was no way.

Then somehow he got control. His body righted itself and he was in perfect form and he was really doing this thing!

Then at just the right time his parachute deployed and he sailed down to mother earth. Feet touched ground and he took a couple steps and boop, he was home.

That crazy bastard. What an accomplishment.

And what a step forward for commercial space travel.








Image found on SFGate.com with photography credit to Red Bull Stratos.



From The Whoa Fair New Mexico Files

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Another news story to make me proud shake my head.

Oh Fair New Mexico, how I love you AND your government minions.

_______________________________________


 Homeland security official tried to take loaded gun on plane.

(CBS/AP) ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – “Have Gun – Will Travel” was a popular TV western series in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

It is not, however, a recommended way to travel today, as New Mexico Homeland Security official Anita Tallarico discovered when she tried to take a loaded gun past an Albuquerque airport security checkpoint.

Tallarico, the state’s Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, told Albuquerque Sunport police that she forgot to leave the weapon at home when TSA agents spotted it in her purse passing through a scanner.

CBS affiliate KRQE reports Tallarico says she was on her way to a funeral, was upset, and simply forgot about the gun. She was cited for unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon.

Airport police chief Marshall Katz says he’s not sure how a person of Tallarico’s position could make such a slip-up, but added that it happens frequently nationwide.

Tallarico’s gun was turned over to city police as evidence.



Source.



What Are The Odds?

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Over the course of the past six months, I have had occasion to be on twelve different airplanes.

To my utter surprise, eleven of those twelve plane rides have gone off without a hitch. No mechanical failures. Nothing more than slight delays. Only a bit of notable turbulence over the North Pacific and also over Iceland. But even that was quite tolerable.

Eleven safe, easy, trouble free hops.

And then there came ol’ number twelve.

It had to happen sometime, right?

My day started in the dark hours of a foggy Alabama morning. I rose before the sun, packed my bag and climbed into the rental car. It was time to go home.

I had worried about a lot of the day. I had to drive the 75 miles or so back into Atlanta with commute time traffic. Atlanta is one of the busiest airports in the world so I fretted over planes being on time. And then there is the morass of the security process. It had taken almost an hour to get through SFO security on the way out so who knew was ATL would be like.

Turns out all of that worry was for naught. The drive in was easy. Turning in the rental car a breeze. There was a bit of a line at security but even that was no problem.

My biggest issue was that I had allotted so much time that I was ridiculously early to the airport.

So I had some breakfast, eggs and sausage hold the grits please, and I idly shopped the stores. I sat around a while too and even that was fine.

That big ol’ jet plane arrived right on time and in due course I was called to step onboard.

My seat wasn’t the best situation, I was in that first row at the plane door which meant every person who walked by took a chunk of my long limbs with them. I’m rather fond of my knees so I found myself hugging them to me to protect their little caps from further contusions. This made me cranky.

Soon enough the flight attendant was locking that door and running through the safety briefing required for takeoff.

She said at one point, “in the event of an emergency, which totally won’t happen, there will be lights along the aisle way leading you to exits.”

I thought it a bold statement. I should have known right then…she was calling down the Baseball Gods.

You know the Baseball Gods, those mythical entities that require you don’t speak of a no-hitter while it is in progress. The fickle hands of fate that will school you if you utter things like “when we win the division…”

And the baseball gods that occasionally smite a plane of passengers when our lead flight attendant says things like “in the event of an emergency, which totally won’t happen…”

Because it happened.

We were buckled in and cleared for takeoff. We taxied down the runway and took our place in line. There was one plane ahead of us and we were next. As the plane rolled, a man in the row behind me shouted, “we need help here! Get someone, we need help!”

The man seated at the window of that row was having a rather severe seizure. To his great fortune, the man seated next to me is a neurologist and there was also an anesthesiologist on the plane. These two doctors hopped into action and assisted the man through the worst of it.

Out of respect for the gentleman who suffered the seizure, I’ll keep all the gory details to myself, but I’m not going to lie, it was scary as hell.

The pilot was called and we had to step out of line and return to the gates where a group of EMTs waited. These EMTs were top notch, and they got the man stable and they got him off the plane.

Then there was the aftermath. The paperwork. The clean up. The “what the hell do we do now?”

All of the airline staff kept saying to each other “I’m just so glad this happened on the ground and not in the air.”

Eventually the airline got it all sorted out and the lead flight attendant commanded us to sit and buckle in. It was time to go.

We taxied out again to the runway and the passengers were quiet and tense. We took off and the wheels went up and other than the lady at the window in my row having a broken tray table and the bathroom running out of toilet paper, there were no more mishaps on that flight.

The pilot must have put the spurs to it because the flight was only maybe an hour late getting to SFO, and that’s not bad. Probably helped that prior to the emergency, we were due for a really early arrival (the jet stream must have been taking a smoke break yesterday).

And so…eleven out of twelve is a 91.6% chance of a flawless flight, which are damn fine odds as far as I’m concerned. I’d place a Vegas bet on that in a heartbeat.

I think what’s actually more amazing to me is the eleven flights that went off without a hitch. I’ve always considered getting on a plane to be something of a crap shoot. A little Google search advises that the odds of winning in craps is about 50%. So yeah, 91.6% is a far better bet.

As of this moment, there are no more plane rides scheduled for the rest of the year. Knock on wood and touch a lucky rabbit’s foot and with all due deference to the Baseball Gods.

I think I’m ready to stay on the ground for a while.






Photo by Jesse Clark and used royalty free from stock.xchng