Thursday, April 17, 2014

If Everyone is Special...

A few years back, the TSA started implementing Precheck security lanes. These lanes were designed for frequent fliers with a long-term travel history and later expanded to include those who have underground background checks to enroll in the Global Entry program. And for a while it worked great.

Those of us who qualified for Pre-Check could expect much shorter security lines with experienced fellow travelers who knew what they were doing. And we didn’t have to take our shoes off or our laptops or liquids out of our bags. By streamlining and improving a process that can be one of the more frustrating parts of flying, it significantly improved the overall travel experience for those who were part of it. After years of moving in the wrong direction, there was finally step in the right direction to make flying somewhat less of a hassle. Three cheers for Pre-Check!

Recently however, I began to notice that the lines for Pre-Check were getting longer and longer to the point where the “regular” security lanes had shorter lines. And more and more of those waiting in line with me didn’t fit the profile or an experienced or trusted traveler. What had happened to something that was actually working well?

An article in today’s WSJ provides an explanation. Trouble Selling Fliers on the Fast Airport Security Lines:

The Transportation Security Administration is aggressively trying to encourage more people to sign up for TSA Precheck. But the effort has run into traveler confusion and aggravation.

Trying to hook new enrollees, TSA has been funneling regular travelers into Precheck lanes for a sample of swifter security. Some of the newbies get confused, however, and end up clogging the expedited lanes, angering Precheck veterans. And some regular travelers are getting the free perk so often they conclude they are already in the program and don't need to enroll.

"It used to be great, but recently the Precheck lines have been the slowest of all the lines," said Fred Van Bennekom, who teaches operations management at Northeastern University and has timed TSA lines out of curiosity. "Sometimes there's almost no one in regular lines and we're all backed up at Precheck."

If everyone is Precheck than no one is Precheck. We ran into the confusion and clogging issue last week when returning from Miami. TSA agents were sending non-Precheck folks through the Precheck lane and eventhought an agent was standing right there carefully explaining exactly how Precheck works, they struggled to understand and actually took longer going through the “fast” lane than they otherwise would have had they gone through normal security. This despite the fact that Precheck is actually all about having to DO LESS to get through. The agent who was trying to herd them through was visibly frustrated and even though our delay was minimal it was still annoying. We are not alone.

The influx of people to Precheck annoys some program veterans. Ann Fries says she sometimes finds 20 people in the Precheck line at Tampa, Fla., her home airport. Many get befuddled when told they don't have to take off their shoes and can leave liquids and laptops in bags. They ask why, slowing the line. Then they ask how they ended up in that lane.

We went from people who knew what they were doing to people in line who don't know what they are doing," said Ms. Fries, who signed up for Global Entry to get Precheck when it first started.

Precheck is still faster for her than regular screening at big airports like Los Angeles and Newark, which often have long lines at security screening, but Ms. Fries, an artistic director for a film festival, figures the Precheck changes have added 10 minutes to her average screening time during the past six to eight months. "It's still a billion times better than the regular lines, but it makes the benefit less of a benefit," she said.

Mr. Pistole said he has heard the complaints about Precheck lanes getting clogged, and TSA has already decided to stop moving travelers 75 years of age and older into Precheck service, unless they are enrolled, because they sometimes can take 10 minutes to move through. As Precheck enrollment grows, the "managed inclusion" effort will be phased out, he said.

I guess we should be thankful that there are some limits to the scope of those the TSA wants to go through Precheck.

Here’s a crazy idea to consider. How about we make almost all the security lanes Precheck and then only filter those who have a higher risk profile into “enhanced” security lanes? It would eliminate the benefits (increasingly diminished as they may be) that regular travelers get from Precheck, but it would make the experience of flying better for the vast majority of people who pose no real security risk.

Nah. Makes too much sense.

That's Entertainment

From the Star Tribune’s review of the Jungle Theater’s presentation of “Detroit”:
Howdy neighbor, welcome to hell — the smoldering ash heap of an American economy that once fed dreams, nourished families and created the greatest civilization on Earth. That America was a real place, with pretty neighborhoods and trees in the yard and friends who trusted one another. In Lisa D’Amour’s incendiary and brilliant play “Detroit,” fierce gods of fate rain down destruction on that remembered Eden.

Joel Sass’ staging of “Detroit” at the Jungle Theater pushes D’Amour’s script to the frayed edges of mythology.  His production team has created a fearless and swirling incantation that does what great theater should do: Grab you, scare you, haunt you and demand that you pay attention.

It’s true.  At least that’s the reason I’m going to see Stillwater Junior High School’s presentation of "Annie" this weekend.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rise and Shine

Good article in today’s WSJ on The NHL's Unsung Star: The Anthem Singer:

In other sports, the singing of the national anthem is a formality. Fans stand and remove their caps. Then they sit and the game begins.

Hockey is different. In the NHL, 26 of the 30 teams employ regular anthem singers who give emotional performances night after night. Many are celebrities with cultlike followings.

Minnesota Wild anthem singer James Bohn says his status has helped him escape speeding tickets. When 33-year veteran New York Rangers singer John Amirante takes a night off, the fans chant, "We want John!" Singing the anthem for the Detroit Red Wings since 1990 has won Karen Newman stints as a backup singer for Michiganders Kid Rock and Bob Seger.

The Washington Capitals jokingly placed singer Bob McDonald on the injured-reserve list one season when his duties as an Army sergeant drew him away. In Philadelphia, before Lauren Hart begins to sing, fans shout, "I love you, Lauren!"

In addition to their familiarity, another reason NHL anthem singers are popular is their adherence to tradition:

The flamboyant national anthems sometimes heard at basketball and football games don't go over well in the NHL. In hockey, anthem singers perform the tune as written, note for note. Loud is good. Pop-inspired flash isn't.

"I don't want people to say, 'Wasn't that a lovely rendition of our anthem?'" Bohn, the Minnesota Wild singer, said. "I'd rather have them say, 'Yeah, let's play some hockey!"

Hart got the same message from her broadcaster father, Gene Hart, moments before singing her first anthem for the Flyers as a teenager: "Keep it straight … just sing the song," the Hall of Fame broadcaster told his daughter.

"I don't like it when they embellish," said right winger Jamal Mayers, who recently retired from the league after 15 years. "I see that all the time in football and basketball where they do their own little riffs and I'm like, you can audition for 'The Voice' another time; this is the national anthem."

Exactly. And there’s nothing better to get you pumped up for a hockey game than a classic rendering of said anthem (even better when you get both the Canadian and American versions). Especially if said game is a Stanley Cup playoff contest.

The quest to hoist the hallowed Cup this year starts tonight which makes this a wonderful time of year (even if it is snowing in mid-April). To make your NHL playoff experience even better (yes, it is possible) you can join the Fraters league in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoff Bracket Challenge.

All you have to do is pick winners in round one, round two, the conference finals, and the Stanley Cup finals. Easy, right? You can’t win if you don’t play so get your picks in today before the puck drops tonight.


This classic, cinematic portrayal best dramatizes the solemn, patriotic devotion by hockey enthusiasts for our national anthem:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

We Ignored The News Today, Oh Boy

CNN has officially become a joke.  Granted, I rarely intentionally watch the network that is, at best, a shameless cheerleader for the Obama administration.  I do, however, have their broadcast foisted upon me while working out at my local health club every other day or so (yes, people, I am becoming more health conscious in my old age).

For the last five weeks, the talking heads on this "news" network have breathlessly covered every single aspect of the Malaysian airplane that crashed into the Indian Ocean despite the fact that very few facts have been revealed.  They've spoken to every available expert. They've covered every single conspiracy theory.  They've replayed the timeline ad infinitum with sparkly graphics and ridiculous telestrator gymnastics. They've covered the history of the "black box" in a segment I've seen replayed at least three times. They've used the term "Breaking News" so many times that the meaning of the term has been forever bastardized.

Here is just a short list of current news stories that CNN is ignoring so they can provide the American people with hard hitting speculation and meaningless expert testimony:

Armed men seize police stations in eastern Ukraine

Kathleen Sebelius' resignation as HHS Secretary

TSA officials under investigation for illegal weapons distribution scheme

7.6 mag quake strike Soloman Islands

Standoff at Nevada ranch drags on

Syria rebels, government report poison gas attack

NCAA Frozen Four: Minnesota, Union title game shaping up as one for the ages

Now, I don't know if the American people are really that wrapped up in "The Mystery of Flight 370". Personal experience tells me that they are not. My suspicion is that CNN is unable to come up with any stories that bolster support for the increasingly unpopular Obama administration so they choose to fill airtime with mindless drivel about an unfortunate incident which we may never be able to explain.

Say what you want about Fox News, but at least they attempt to hold true to the definition of the word "news".

Oh, yeah...and Go Gophers!!!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

HWX: Quiet Riot with Sen. Marco Rubio

It was a special midweek edition of the Hinderaker Ward Experience, with John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reconvening to discuss the vital issues of our time.  These include:
  • An April blizzard in Minnesota and other developments in global warming
  • John's continuing fight to establish the truth behind allegations of coordinated attacks by the Washington Post and Senate Democrats
  • The Supreme court decision in McCutcheon vs. the FEC, and the balance between First Amendment rights and campaign finance laws
  • Loons of the Week (on moisturizers and stinkburgers)
  • This Week in Gate Keeping (what does the Tesla Roadster really sound like)
  • Rumors of a new challenger to Sen. Al Franken in Minnesota
And, they were joined by special guest Sen. Marco Rubio for an extended discussion on the lightly covered but vitally important recent developments in Venezuela and the uprising against their socialist government.
Here's the link for the show:  Quiet Riot, with Marco Rubio.
UPDATE:  And the player is back in action in the upper right hand corner of this web site.  

Separated at Birth?

A longtime reader submits the following Separated at Birth.

REO Speedwagon front man Kevin Cronin and...

...ACA front woman Kathleen Sebelius?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

What Did You Expect?

Today on the internet a bunch of people were grousing about their dissatisfaction with Monday night's ending of "How I Met Your Mother." I would note that this post contains SPOILERS, so if you're concerned about ruining the anticipation of watching the finale on DVR, I would advise you to GET A LIFE and stop reading now!

With that out of the way, I'll briefly recap a mediocre, yet long-running show with a mildly creative premise.

The entire show is a flashback from the year 2030 where the main character, Ted, is telling his teen-aged kids a story. The story is titled, "How I Met Your Mother," but the title is deceiving. At no time in the first 200 episodes does Ted really explain how he met their mother. Occasionally, he'll give a small hint, but it's usually an aside. The really bizarre thing about the stories Ted tells is their graphic sexual content. In most stories, either he or his friend Barney is horned up and going after some broad(s). These stories are not exactly the story a dad wants to tell to a teenage daughter (and son) if he wants her (or him) to develop a healthy sense of sexuality.

Barney is easily the funniest character on the show, because he has no moral compass and that can lead to some funny situations. There is a shade of truth to Barney, despite his antics which are amped up for TV, because there are plenty of guys like that out there. Normally, they are called 19-year olds. Never mind that Barney is over 40 by the end of the show. The other characters include Ted's  fairly normal married friends, who in real life would never hang out with a guy like Barney and certainly wouldn't help him act as a sexual predator on unsuspecting women. The final main character is a girl named Robin, who in the course of the show developed a romantic history with both Barney and Ted.

You will notice that I've listed the five main characters, and the "Mother" isn't included. She really wasn't ever shown until late into the 9th season. The show would have been more accurately titled, "How My Perverted Buddy and I Got It On With (Literally) Hundreds of Women Before You Were Born." Yet fans of the show actually believed the story would end with Ted meeting their mother and everyone living happily ever after.

One interesting thing about the show is the timeline. Because the story began in 2030 and flashed back to 2006, the time-frame only advances in the flashbacks. So in season one, the story of what happened in 2006 is being told in 2030, yet in the final season the story of what happened in 2014 is being told in 2030. That creates a problem with the kids. They would be in their mid-teens while recording the first episodes, yet  would normally (until Obamacare changed the rules) be out of the house and on their own nine years later. The creators solved this by recording the ending scenes while they were still kids, nearly a decade ago. On a typical show, the kids are only shown for a few seconds, so I'd imagine that it didn't take much shooting in 2006 to gather all of the footage required for the entire run of the show. In fact, one could argue that the final show has more dialog from the kids than all the other shows combined.

Now we the audience didn't know that the kids parts were recorded in 2006, but it was one of three logical options, the others being 2) get new kids for the final show or 3) bring back adults and try to make them look like kids through makeup and camera trickery. Since they have never done 2) or 3) despite showing the kids for a few seconds at the end of each episode, it makes sense to anticipate that the ending was planned years ahead.

On to the ending, which dissatisfied so many fans of the show. In the final episode, Ted meets the mother, they spend a few minutes together on screen, have two kids, she dies, and Ted concludes his story. Along the way Barney gets a girl pregnant, has a baby girl, and completely changes his personality. Ted's kids end up explaining what anyone who's watching the show already knew: the story wasn't about how he met their mother at all. I'm shocked that anyone could possibly be shocked by that.

To the fans who are upset with the ending, I'd advise you not to get too down on this bad ending to a mediocre show. Much better shows struggled to come up with endings that were even adequate. Seinfeld and Cheers were two of the best comedies of all time and their endings were widely criticized. The Sopranos and Lost took a lot of grief for insulting their audience with their bad endings. Of all the comedies that had a highly anticipated ending, only Newhart really lived up to the billing.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Just Right

In today’s WSJ, Matt Ridley takes a closer look at the soon to be released second part of the latest United Nations IPCC report on the impact of climate change. You know the IPCC, right? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, people who deal strictly in science with facts, data, and all that.

Climate Forecast: Muting the Alarm:

The 2007 report was riddled with errors about Himalayan glaciers, the Amazon rain forest, African agriculture, water shortages and other matters, all of which erred in the direction of alarm. This led to a critical appraisal of the report-writing process from a council of national science academies, some of whose recommendations were simply ignored.

Others, however, hit home. According to leaks, this time the full report is much more cautious and vague about worsening cyclones, changes in rainfall, climate-change refugees, and the overall cost of global warming.

It puts the overall cost at less than 2% of GDP for a 2.5 degrees Centigrade (or 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature increase during this century. This is vastly less than the much heralded prediction of Lord Stern, who said climate change would cost 5%-20% of world GDP in his influential 2006 report for the British government.

The forthcoming report apparently admits that climate change has extinguished no species so far and expresses "very little confidence" that it will do so. There is new emphasis that climate change is not the only environmental problem that matters and on adapting to it rather than preventing it. Yet the report still assumes 70% more warming by the last decades of this century than the best science now suggests. This is because of an overreliance on models rather than on data in the first section of the IPCC report—on physical science—that was published in September 2013.

So the report says that the economic impact of climate change will be much less than previously predicted imagined and that it will lead to species extinction. And that’s based on warming projections that seem unlikely to occur.

In short, the warming we experienced over the past 35 years—about 0.4C (or 0.7F) if you average the measurements made by satellites and those made by ground stations—is likely to continue at about the same rate: a little over a degree a century.

Briefly during the 1990s there did seem to be warming that went as fast as the models wanted. But for the past 15-17 years there has been essentially no net warming (a "hiatus" now conceded by the IPCC), a fact that the models did not predict and now struggle to explain. The favorite post-hoc explanation is that because of natural variability in ocean currents more heat has been slipping into the ocean since 2000—although the evidence for this is far from conclusive.

None of this contradicts basic physics. Doubling carbon dioxide cannot on its own generate more than about 1.1C (2F) of warming, however long it takes. All the putative warming above that level would come from amplifying factors, chiefly related to water vapor and clouds. The net effect of these factors is the subject of contentious debate.

In climate science, the real debate has never been between "deniers" and the rest, but between "lukewarmers," who think man-made climate change is real but fairly harmless, and those who think the future is alarming. Scientists like Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Richard Lindzen of MIT have moved steadily toward lukewarm views in recent years.

Even with its too-high, too-fast assumptions, the recently leaked draft of the IPCC impacts report makes clear that when it comes to the effect on human welfare, "for most economic sectors, the impact of climate change will be small relative to the impacts of other drivers," such as economic growth and technology, for the rest of this century. If temperatures change by about 1C degrees between now and 2090, as Mr. Lewis calculates, then the effects will be even smaller.

Indeed, a small amount of warming spread over a long period will, most experts think, bring net improvements to human welfare. Studies such as by the IPCC author and economist Professor Richard Tol of Sussex University in Britain show that global warming has probably done so already. People can adapt to such change—which essentially means capture the benefits but minimize the harm. Satellites have recorded a roughly 14% increase in greenery on the planet over the past 30 years, in all types of ecosystems, partly as a result of man-made CO2 emissions, which enable plants to grow faster and use less water.

These more realistic warming projections would mean that climate change will have even less impact than the already dialed back IPCC report suggests. And if the warming that does occur is indeed relatively minor it could be a net benefit for mankind.

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

March 24th, 2006 is burned into the memory of Gopher hockey fans as a day of infamy. That afternoon, the Gophers who were the #1 seed on the West Regional as well as being the top seeded team in the NCAA tournament, fell to #4 seeded (and #16 overall) Holy Cross. In overtime. In Grand Forks. In front of eleven thousand raucous Sioux Team That Shall No Longer Be Named fans who-in classic schadenfreude fashion- savored every single minute of the Gophers humiliating and bitter defeat.

The game is still regarded as one of the greatest upsets in NCAA tournament history and still remains an open wound for Gopher fans which rivals fans still eagerly pour salt into at every opportunity:

Some Gopher fans maintain that given the circumstances and the setting of that game, nothing could be worse than that lose. Or could it?

Consider the Gopher’s NCAA tournament opening game tomorrow afternoon against Robert Morris (it’s a school not a tobacco company). The Gophers are the #1 seed in the West Regional and Robert Morris is #4. The Gophers are the #1 overall seed in the tournament and Robert Morris is #16. Sound familiar so far?

Now consider the differences. In 2006, Holy Cross had a 26-9-2 record. This year, Robert Morris finished 19-17-5. In 2006, Holy Cross was ranked #21 in the PairWise rankings. This year, Robert Morris is ranked #44 in the PairWise rankings (remember there are only 59 teams in D1 college hockey). In 2006, the Gophers had to face Holy Cross in front of a crowd of mostly hostile North Dakota fans at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. This year, the Gophers will face Robert Morris in front of mostly friendly Minnesota fans at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

By any objective measure, the Gophers losing to Robert Morris tomorrow would be a bigger upset than their 2006 loss to Holy Cross. Would it be worse? That’s more subjective and would be a judgment that individual Gopher fans would have to make for themselves. Here’s hoping it’s one that we don’t have to make.

For those Gopher fans looking for a reason to worry, consider the following. In 2006, the last two games the team played before the NCAA tournament were lackluster losses to St. Cloud State and Wisconsin in the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul. This year, the last two games before the tournament were lackluster loses at Michigan to close the regular season and against Ohio State in the Big ten tournament in St. Paul.

The best way for the Gophers to ease their fans nerves (and any they any might have themselves) would be to get up early and get up big tomorrow against Robert Morris. In any good can come of the 2006 loss to Holy Cross, it might be in serving as a timely reminder to this years’ team that you can’t take anything for granted at this time of year.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

HWX: The Naked Truth

It's a special midweek edition of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience (HWX), with John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reconvening to bring you the finest in podcast excellence.  Topics addressed this week include:
*  Recap of the Minneapolis Ricochet Meet Up and revelation of the location of the salvageable audio from the Lost HWX episode recorded that night
*  Power Line vs. The Washington Post’s embarrassing reporting on Canadian oil sands and the Koch Brothers, with the man who made the news, John Hinderaker
*  Loon of the Week – CNN and the black hole theory of the missing Malaysian plane
*  This Week in Gatekeeping – tacit admissions and abject denials about Newsweek’s reporting on the alleged inventor of the Bit Coin

We were also pleased to be joined by Paul Skousen, author of The Naked Socialist.  We talk about what socialism is, why it’s been with us for so long, and why, despite its record of failure, it continues to have a hold on humanity.  We also talk about why he considers the Constitution the “miracle that stopped socialism” and how, despite recent trends, we could still separate ourselves from it in the future.

Here's the link for the show:  HWX:  The Naked Truth
(Normal channels of accessing the podcast, like the little player in the upper right hand corner of hits website, are experiencing temporary technical difficulties with the Ricochet 2.0 transition.  Please stand by for their return.)