on the edge

computers & technology, books & writing, civilisation & society, cars & stuff

Greg Black

gjb at gbch dot net
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If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

FQE30 at Qld Raceway 25 May 2003


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Worthy organisations

Amnesty International Australia — global defenders of human rights

global defenders of human rights

Médecins Sans Frontières — help us save lives around the world

Médecins Sans Frontières - help us save lives around the world

Electronic Frontiers Australia — protecting and promoting on-line civil liberties in Australia

Electronic Frontiers Australia


(Coming soon…)


(Coming soon…)


(Coming soon…)

Software resources

GNU Emacs


The FreeBSD Project

Fri, 16 Jul 2004

Security jokes

On my recent trip to Melbourne, I was startled to see that it’s now a crime to make jokes about security in airports—notwithstanding the self-evident fact that airport security is little more than a joke. Bruce Schneier’s excellent monthly security newsletter CRYPTO-GRAM has plenty of stories that make this case pretty well.

Mind you, although I like Schneier, he lost a bit of credibility with this remark in the current issue:

The United States is admired throughout the world because of our freedoms and our liberties.

Somehow, no matter what its record was in earlier times, it’s impossible for me to see the US as a bastion of freedom or liberty at this stage in world history—and its record in the past is nowhere near as splendid as US apologists would like us to believe, but that’s too big a story to handle now.

But back to airport security. Going through the checks in Brisbane, I was not challenged. This was a first for me in the post-WTC world. My sister, however, had something in her carry-on bag that upset them. She was asked to remove the offending object, but nobody could tell her what it was or what it looked like. Eventually, they suggested that she hold some items in her hand while they sent the bag with the rest of its contents back through the scanner. Failed again. So they removed more stuff and tried again. This farce was repeated eight times—yes, eight times. Eventually, the guards decided that she was not a threat, and we were allowed to proceed.

On my return flight the same afternoon, my bag—unchanged from the morning—failed the test in Melbourne. It contained the same extremely threatening collapsible umbrella that was so harmless in the morning. I had to remove the umbrella, unpack it, open it and demonstrate that I had not concealed a knife inside it.

But if I was going to hide a weapon inside it, I would have at least hidden it inside the hollow shaft of the umbrella and nobody looked there. If the security people are reading this, I hope they’ll take note and destroy every umbrella that goes through Melbourne airport from now on. It won’t bother me, because I don’t plan to go back to Melbourne for any more funerals and so I won’t need to take an umbrella in the future. And we’ll all feel so much safer if we know they’re looking after us properly.