Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Flying in a post "OMG the terrorists will use liquids to blow us up" world

Today was my first experience flying since the plot to use liquid/gel explosives was uncovered by the Brits.

Let me first preface this by saying that I do not trust the airline to get any checked baggage from my place of departure to my final destination, especially when said trip involves a change of plane. I also loathe waiting around that baggage carousel with hordes of people waiting for my bag to finally come down the chute. So, whenever possible, I don't check any bags.

Luckily, I was not flying out of one of the more busy airports in my metropolitan area. Still, because of the whole no aerosols rule, I had to go out of my way to produce medical documentation for my inhaler--for severe asthma. They actually questioned me on the necessity of carrying this on the plane! Sorry, I'd like to arrive at my final destination alive and breathing reasonably well.

Now, before I packed my bags, I did the responsible thing and went to the TSA's website as well as other websites that listed the prohibited items and things that other travelers had problems with. For this reason, I procured several necessities for my trip:

  • solid perfume

  • pure shea butter - in solid form (from L'Occitane)

  • a brand new inhaler with box including prescribing information

  • lip balm - which is allowed, according to the TSA web site

My larger carry on item made it through the scanners with no problem. My purse, however, was another issue. And, there's nothing more embarassing than having your purse's entire contents emptied out in front of the world. Does everyone in the security screening area really need to know that I need an inhaler or tampons or any such personal item? They didn't bother pulling the bag aside and me along with it--instead they emptied the entire thing (this is not a small purse either) out on the table area just past the x-ray machine conveyor belt. So, after dumping everything (which I had so neatly packed in there so that I could find what I needed easily), they pull out my solid perfume and solid shea butter and inform me that they are not allowed. Thankfully, the screener didn't get an attitude when I suggested she read the labels of the items she was going to confiscate and informed her that both items were solids of consistency similar to lip balm. Luckily she indulged me and looked and changed her mind. Otherwise, I would have been one unhappy camper considering all of my research indicated those items were acceptable.

All in all, I really don't think these new restrictions are helping security. People are on edge when they're flying--they're scared. We've responded exactly how terrorists want us to.

Reports on the web indicate that flights have been delayed, diverted or other such hassles simply because passengers and/or flight attendants think two people might be of asian or middle eastern descent and who might be speaking in Arabic and glancing at their watches are a threat.

Give me a break. Banning liquids and gels and such is ridiculous--we're giving in to what the terrorists want: for us to live in fear and change the way we live our lives based off of that fear.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Don't Marry a Woman With a Career...

You've got to be kidding me.

Forbes Magazine has an article up now proclaiming that men shouldn't marry career women. It even goes so far as to say that if you do fall for a career woman, you're not very likely to actually get married.. or have kids... or be happy... or have a clean house

Well then, welcome back to the 1950s ladies. We're supposed to be happy, at home, barefooted and pregnant in the kitchen with dinner on the table by the time dear hubby comes home.

Career aspirations do pull on women, and admittedly there are many women in high places who don't have children. But, those aren't necessarily by choice of career over children. I know many women who just don't want kids of their own. Nieces, nephews? sure! But kids of their own? no. Some women don't have that inherent "mommy" gene that so many men seem to think all women posess.

Really, the problem with career women and having children and being happy about that is a symptom of a society that doesn't offer enough assistance to working parents. Mothers and fathers need more flexibility to be able to cope with work and personal life. The U.S. is much better at this than when I was growing up, but we're definitely not doing well by any means.

A few things that would help out in this regard:

  • Flexible schedules and work arrangements - and not just saying they exist, actually making them work and not penalizing those who take advantage of them.

  • Adjust tax law so that the second earner in a marriage doesn't pay the majority of their salary in taxes.

  • Affordable, good childcare. Many middle class women can't afford to work AND have kids in childcare. After taxes, some women who still choose to work end up LOSING money--in effect paying for the chance to work.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Combat Stress != Excuse for Rape

For those who may have missed it, several soldiers in Iraq raped and killed a 14 year old Iraqi girl and her entire family in March of this year. An article 32 hearing (like a civilian grand jury) is ongoing for four of those soldiers. The defense that has been stated for these crimes? "The constant fear of death and the trauma of several devastating incidents"

According to news reports, the "ringleader" of the attacks was discharged from the military at a later date due to a personality disorder. The fact that someone suffering from a mental illness made it into the Army in the first place is something that needs to be investigating. Add to that the fact that hate groups and gang members are making it into the military, and you have a real mess.

Iraq has become a mess. We've overstretched our military to the point that we'll recruit and take anyone just to meet quotas. The direct result of these efforts is the tragic events like the death of this girl and her family. Meanwhile, the armed forces are giving "early out" packages to officers, valuable, highly trained individuals who have proven themselves worthy of being officers.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Porn on the news!

A weekend news broadcast played a porn clip in the background during a segment. I guess someone wanted to a) make the news more interesting b) increase ratings.

Stupid Fundies...

A Sunday School teacher was asked to quit teaching her normal Sunday school class because there were men in the class. She'd been teaching at the same church for 50 some years! Why in the world make her quit now?

Of course, many news outlets are saying she was "fired". I'm not sure about the rest of the world, but every Sunday school class I've ever been in was taught by volunteers, not paid employees - thus being "fired" is not the best way to portray it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

I really didn't think this would happen...

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit ruled that the terrorist surveillance program is unconstitutional.

I'm really glad to hear this. However, I don't think it changes much. Similar situations in the past have come up, and those programs just moved to a different government agency.

And of course, W still defends the program that SPYS ON AMERICANS! Yeah, and making me take off my flimsy 1/8" thick flip-flops at the airport is making the skies safer.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

RANT: On being a female "hacker"/network security professional

What is it that makes men, especially "geeky" men, act like complete idiots around a woman who shares their interests? This week I have been attending BlackHat and DefCon conferences in Las Vegas. Both are conferences focused on Network security and hacking.

Over the course of BlackHat, a more organized and professional conference, I was approached on more than one occasion to be asked which company I represented at the vendor plaza (meaning, obviously since you are a reasonably attractive female, you are a booth babe!). Upon hearing that I was not a "booth babe", such men tended to tuck their tails between their legs and walk away. Over the course of the conference, I was gawked at, followed, pointed at, and made to feel like a novelty and second class citizen. How dare a woman come to their conference!

Next on to DefCon. The attendees at this conference were not the problem. I did get some unusual looks, but DefCon attracts an interesting demographic -- said demographic does not include straight-laced preppy blonde women but rather goth/punk/counter-culture types. I expected to look out of place, so this didn't really bother me too much. The comments from the hotel staff, however, really irked me.

"What's a girl like you doing at a hacker event"

"Oooooh, a beautiful hacker. Come here beautiful hacker, I have deals for you"

"Heh, what are women doing here? Isn't this some computer-type stuff?"

All of these incidents combined make me wonder if women really have achieved as much as we would like to hope in the fields of science and technology.

About 4 years ago, I volunteered with Girls, Inc. teaching technology skills to middle school girls and trying to spark interest in technology. The first comment any of the girls said to me was "Well, you're too pretty to be a computer scientist".

All of these attitudes about women and technology, math, engineering, and science have to change. Women bring incredible skills to all of these fields. And contrary to dinosaurs like those I encountered this week, women excel at these fields.

This has really pushed me to join an organization for women in technology, perhaps WITI ( or ACM-W. The only way women are going to make progress in the fields is to increase visibility and band together.

In the meantime, I will start working with the Girl Scouts through GirlsGoTech--a program to encourage girls' participation in math, science, and technology. I had great role models as a girl to encourage my intrest in computers, and I hope that I can help some girls to further their interests and perhaps some day pursue a career in technology.

Office Space Wars

I had forgotten about this classic until it was shown on the big screen at DefCon earlier today. I had a good laugh.