Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mistaken Identity

I just read an article about a small commuter airline pilot who lost his job because he had the same name as someone on the TSA's no-fly list. It's clearly a case of mistaken identity, as the last paragraph points out that the pilot who lost his job is a white Irish immigrant, while the person on the no-fly list that bears his same name, is hispanic.

As an amateur pilot myself, I can't begin to tell you how frustrating this is to hear. You work very hard for your aviation certifications, in both time and money. In doing so, you gain a profound respect for the decades of work that went in to creating the global aviation system. Then to see it all go away because of the actions of someone who bears the same name is indescribable.

I understand that the no-fly list has a good and noble purpose. I support that purpose whole heartedly. It's just that we are taught, from a very young age, that we are responsible for our own actions. We are also taught that everyone else is responsible for their own actions. For those who don't take their responsibilities seriously, they get removed from areas of society through mechanisms like the no-fly list, jail, probation or good 'ole fashioned "time-outs". It's considered, and rightly so, a profound miscarriage of justice when someone is forced to pay for the crimes of someone else.

I believe that eventually enough people will be wrongly punished by the TSA's misguided efforts, that it will create a critical mass of dissent. The only way to relieve the growing pressure is to install logical checks and balances on their power. Anyone on the no-fly list, should have the right to a speedy appeal to an impartial panel/jury/judge empowered with the ability to remove them (or not) from the no-fly list. Until that happens, pressure is going to continuously build up.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Electronics Stores

I've been looking for some good local electronics shops that are open on the weekend. So far, the best I've found is Vetco Surplus. They've got a pretty good selection along with some quirky stuff that's fun to look at. I've heard there are others, but apparently the market is shifting on these small mom & pop shops.

I used to really like Radio Shack, but they seem to have sold their soul to consumer electronics. Pretty soon they're just going to be YACS (Yet Another Computer Shop). Fry's is pretty much the same. They used to have a great selection of discrete electronics here at the Renton, Washington store. Unfortunately their parts are disgustingly overpriced and the selection has slowly whittled down to nearly nothing.

Places I've been told about, but haven't yet checked out are Radar Electronics and Alphatronix. There's also a neat store in Tacoma called C And C Electronics, but they're only open during the week.

I'd love to see if a superstore type hobby shop is feasable in the Seattle area. It wouldn't just sell discrete electronics, but anything else hobby related. I figure something like that would take at least ten million dollars to open and about 4 or 5 million to keep running for the first few years until it made a profit. Features of the place would be fair prices, knowledgable employees, free workshop and class space, idea workshops and product incubators. It'd also have regular sales and various customer enticements, as well as work very closely with local schools to foster creative ideas. A good starting concept would be Neal Gershenfeld's book FAB. According to a recent interview by Neal on NPR's Science Friday, he's been inundated with people dying to make his vision a reality.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Commercial Irony

Hilarious string of commercials tonight. First a pretty inspirational Weight Watchers commercial. Had great music (I think it's something by Cher) a storyline (as much as a 30 second commercial can develop) and good photography. Just as I'm getting excited about losing weight (TIC), the next commercial comes on for... wait for it... "Rich Dairy Queen" treats... Oh the irony...