Choosing to undress and be scanned

Today, going through TSA security I did the opposite of my previous choices over the past 5+ years. I chose to the line with the full body scanner. The TSA appears to be doing a test at DCA of randomly selecting people to get a free pass thru the Pre line. In the TSA Pre line, you keep on your shoes and belt, keep you laptop in your bag and go through the normal metal detector. It is close to a pre-9/11 experience.

Why did I choose the more intrusive path, especially when I would often opt out of the full body scanner?

The other line was shorter. There was NO line to have my boarding pass checked and nobody waiting to go through the x-ray scanners. I could get behind 15-20 people waiting to go through the “easier” line (which is also meant to be faster) or I could undress and be scanned as fast as I could get my shoes and belt off. Since this is a drill I’m experienced at, I opted to hop the line to the more intense check. A smart move since I was through the whole process before I would have even said good morning to the boarding pass checking agent.

I think the random algorithm that TSA HQ programmed could use an update on “average time per line” to better balance the load. Unfortunately, I probably messed up their metrics since their numbers will think I went through the TSA pre line.

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You need a backup plan, just not paper

Now that US Airways offers paperless travel, we need to revisit my long standing advice. You need a backup plan for your electronic ticket.

When everyone first tries out the paperless ticket on their mobile device, they have a paper copy in their pocket just in case. Of course, Murphy Law doesn’t come into effect until you don’t have that backup. So do you need to print a paper copy every time? Of course not, but you should have a backup. Here are the two that matter most:

  • You can just leave some extra time. If you have a problem, you can always go back to the Kiosk or ticket counter and print out a paper boarding pass. If you use this one, you probably didn’t need the paperless boarding pass anyways and are just doing it to try something new.
  • The real backup plan is to access your boarding pass online, have the boarding pass on your mobile device, and take a screen shot into your photo album. You can now bring it up at anytime you need it. To do this on an iPhone, you press both the power button at the top and the home button on the front at the same time and snap you are done.

Why would you need this backup? Two examples that actually happened to me. They both are caused by how Safari works on the iPhone. Similar things may happen on other phones, but I don’t know. When you switch applications, like reading your email in the security line, it may need to free up memory and drop the saved version of the page. When you access it again — when you are about to get to the TSA agent checking IDs — Safari will reload the page and you will be all set. Except if…

…the network isn’t available right then. Would never happen on AT&T at a busy airport, right? Happened to me last week at PHL.

…you are inside the 30 minute time window for getting boarding passes. I don’t think this will happen again, but in the early days with Continental, this did happen to me. As I got out of the cab 35 minutes before my flight, I had a boarding pass on my screen. At 25 minutes before my flight the page tried to refresh and it said. It wouldn’t do it within 30 minutes. A fast sprint to the ticket counter and a sprint back got me on my flight, but it wasn’t pretty.

Oh, and remember, you need it to get on your plane also, so your plan to “have it on the screen and not check my email or anything” may get you through security, but I guarantee Murphy will have your phone ring right before they start boarding your Zone.

Remember…just snap a screen shot and you’ll have a backup. Safe Travels.

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Top 10 things I learned about Read and React this year

I coached two basketball teams this year, an 8 and under recreation team and a 6th grade boys CYO team. This is the 6th year I’ve coach youth and my 3rd year with the Read and React Offense, but the first where I went “all in.” Here are the top 10 things I learned this year.

10. The new layer order is great. When I first started 3 years ago, layer 1 was circle movement. I spent way too much time then on circle movement. It was too hard for the (then) 4th graders who had never played basketball. It also gave everyone too few touches. Having pass and cut as layer 1 is terrific. Even the 6 year olds this year were able to pick this up.

9. Buy the spots. Spacing and position are so important generally, but absolutely with R&R. Invest the money and get the floor spots. They work great.

8. Clean the spots. We practice in school gyms that don’t always get swept or cleaned before we practice (or the teams before us muck it up). You should have a damp cloth (not too wet) to make sure the bottom of the spots and the floor are generally dirt free. You will know if they are dirty…the kids will start to slide on them like bananas in a Hanna Barbara cartoon.

7. Patience. This probably isn’t really a R&R one, but we needed to be patient and not force the ball. This was especially true against zones. When we made multiple passes instead of trying to hit the first cutter (or any cutter that was running a gauntlet if three players) we did fine.

6. Follow the yellow brick road. I was having a hard time getting the boys to get the ball up the center of the court on the press break. I took all of the “baseline drive” spots and lined them up the middle. They are yellow, which let me simply shout “How do we get to Oz?”… “Follow the yellow brick road!”. It helped.

5. Less is OK for the Young. The 6th grade team faced a lot of zone. While we talked about “hook and look” and “hunt the gaps” the defense wasn’t so sophisticated this year that just playing and moving the ball around eventually got us good looks.

4. Fundamentals thru R&R. This year I finally learned to practice and drill the basic fundamentals using drills that apply to the R&R layers. For example, we never do layup lines, we always use a pass and cut to get to layups, especially in pre game warm-ups. Watching the “Practice DVD” was my “ah-ha moment.” We also don’t run lines (often), we just work on our transition with a ton of pass and cutting…they even get winded faster.

3. Go deep on Pass and Cut. I decided to go deeper on pass and cut instead of adding a lot more layers. It paid off in their grasping what was going on. For both teams, I had a dozen people comment (and compliment) the team on the amount of passing they did. Things like “your team really passes a lot, how do you get them to do that?” and “what drills to you use to teach pass and cut, they do it so naturally.”  This was very satisfying for me.

2. Spacing and position. The biggest difference between when we played ok and really well was our spacing and position. If we moved aggressively to the right spots (in particular being 3 feet outside the arc) we did fine. When we stood on the 3 point line, or even inside it, we turned the ball over… A lot. The reason: it takes away the read line, which means no back cuts and more importantly, most any pass to the now closely guarded teammate is easily picked off by anyone faster than a slug.

1. It does work at all ages. The 8u boys got it. The 6th graders get it. I think I should teach it to the men’s adult league team I play on. The latter might work if we actually practiced instead of just playing pickup games when we get together.

Final comment: In the four total years I’ve coached 8 and under (including three 6 year olds this year) doing the very basics of Read and React (like pass and cut) and centering as many drills around the movements and reactions made it easy and fun for me as a coach. No “plays” to try to get them to remember, no complicated anything. The two “plays” I did add amounted to me having a code word (like BLUE) to tell the boy with the ball where he should pass it. I was simply telling him what to do and everyone else got an extra second to begin their reaction (as I told the whole world “the Read”).

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Word of the day: vicissitude

vi·cis·si·tude [vi-sis-i-tood, -tyood]
-noun
1. a change or variation occurring in the course of something.
2. interchange or alternation, as of states or things.
3. vicissitudes, successive, alternating, or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune; ups and downs: They remained friends through the vicissitudes of 40 years.
4. regular change or succession of one state or thing to another.
5. change; mutation; mutability.

I heard the word used in reference to economic theory. While it is a mouthful, this variation or cycle notion comes up so much, it should be used more.

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Pinewood Derby Fabrication

It is that time of year again.  Pinewood Derby. Every year the boys decide what their car will be.  The theme is important.  In the first years we just started cutting and then he would look at the shape as it evolved and decide.  The first year we just hacked at the wood and all of the “theme” came at paint time.  Since then we have picked a theme, tried to cut it right and then finish with style at paint time.

This year was going to be about speed, no real theme, Son #2 just wanted the fastest car.  That was the plan.  Plans change.  While at SeaWorld in San Diego, he saw Shamu and decided he wanted a theme.  Shamu, the killer whale.

Shamu in pinewood

Getting a block of wood to turn into an Orca seemed daunting, but we took a run at it.  Will traced a picture onto a template and transferred the template to the block of wood.  We usually just hack at the wood with a compound mitre saw and a RotoZip, both let the boys do it, but with my hand involved guiding.  For this curvy whale, we borrowed a table scroll saw.  It worked great, and its slow cutting speed meant the 3rd grader could actually do most of the cutting solo (while I shot video).

The curves were in, but we needed a dorsal fin.  While we could have cut some wood, I decided to try something I bought a few months ago… ShapeLock.  It worked great.  Heat up some water, drop the plastic beads in until they are clear then I simply pressed it into shape.  I used a circular glass spoon rest we have and shaped the backside with a knife.  The bonus came by embedding a bend paperclip so it had a pin at the bottom to stick it into the wood Orca.

A little paint job and he is ready to race.

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“Plus” to control the flow

Email addresses have strict requirements on what are valid characters.  Of course, there are some useful non-alphanumeric ones in this list.  You will often see a period in the middle as a separator, for example tim.joransen@mailinator.com (which is the same as /dev/null).

GMail has a nice feature where you can take your username and add “+xyzzy” and you will still get the note.  With this extra information, you can apply filters, rules, etc.  When I signup for sites that I’m not sure won’t just turn into a SPAM source, I add “+siteabbreviation” so if I get too many postings, I can learn the source.

I used to do the same thing in the physical postal world.  I would add a second address line that was a mail stop.  Something like “MS: 341A.”  I had a list of these I kept.  It let me track who was sharing or selling my contact info and has occasionally been interesting.

But there is a problem.  Not every web developer out there knows what the valid characters are for email addresses.  They write code that doesn’t allow this.  When it happens at registration, I get annoyed, but then move on (usually using an email account I use less).

Today I’m annoyed and the problem will persist.  Papa John’s let me sign up with the “name+papajohns@gmail.com” but their email unsubscribe system doesn’t let it work.  It won’t match the unsubscribe link to my email address.  My solution? Train my mail server/client that Papa Johns email is SPAM.  Not ideal, but I have choice in my pizza provider and this is a big deal for me.

Note: this is about SMTP addresses, other mail systems had/have different notations, but since SMTP is how email flows on the Internet, that is all that really matters.  You can read more on Wikipedia’s email address entry.

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Road Trip Ahead

The boys and I are going on a road trip.  The wife is in Italy for two weeks, so we’ll travel to Wrigley Field for a game on July 4th.  Then make our way to Cooperstown at the end of the week, with a few minor league games in between.  Hopefully the weather cooperates, otherwise we will improvise.

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Reading top to bottom

After tweeting that I really want all of my “readers” (mail, rss, twitter, etc) to allow me to sort items with the newest on the bottom, a friend asked “why.”

The answer is that I read from the top down. Since tweets and other items tend to build on each other, you want to read the oldest first, then build up to the most recent. Given this “I’ll read them all in order” approach, my eyes can just flow straight down if the oldest is at the top and the most recent is at the bottom.

Otherwise my eyes have to read the bottom item (moving a small amount down) then jump up tho the next item and read a little down, then jump up. I keep doing this for a long time.

EyePatternTopToBottomReading-small.jpg

Newest at the bottom solves this problem.

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Recovering Hard Drive Space… sync logs

My hard drive was getting close to filling up and I couldn’t think why. I have an external Drobo (2nd gen) that I store my photos and iTunes library on, so the main disk shouldn’t have anything crazy on it.

When I realized my home directory had almost 200GB, I had to figure it out. 3 minutes later, I found that ~/Library/Application Support/SyncServices/Local/save.isyncplayback was close to 180GB…bingo, there is it.

A quick Google and some link following had me to the Apple Forum topic: Save.isyncplayback folder eating my hard drive in no time. A few months ago, I had been trying to figure out a Plaxo/iCal sync oddness and must have turned on verbose debugging. Turned it off and cleared the history… I’m a happy camper again with plenty of disk space.

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Stimulus vs Pork

The part here that makes a lot of sense to me is ‘if there is any debate, drop it.’ I would be interested in seeing how big a stimulus bill would if we only included those things that had a super majority of support.

Make it a simple process. Take every line item, have everyone fill out a yes/no check list. Anything that gets enough checks stays in, everything else leaves the initial bill and get a chance at round 2 in a month.

Why Democracies Fail…: “What won’t work is strong arming conservatives in the name of faux compromise with legislation filled with broken window spending, pork barrel projects and political grand standing. If it’s such an urgency, we should be cutting every debatable program to get something out the door. If the majority party were really interested in bi-partisanship instead of earning a political win, this would have been done already. “

(Via alexrudloff.com.)

A neighbor I respect a lot says that a big part of the financial crisis is that nobody (especially the banks and financial firms, but even other potential players in the mix) are not doing anything because they don’t want to act until they know what the government will do. Why write off or sell your bad assets for $1 if the gov’t might pay $3 (or even $10). In this view, definitive action is needed, but people would have to believe it would be stuck to (which kinda nullifies my “second round” in the first part here).

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