Flying… and a Soapbox.

I was really happy with the way the above image turned out.  This image is a mosaic of 6 images, plus some interpolation made with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM and Photoshop in the fading light on a flight earlier this year into Key West, Florida.  I don’t normally post images on Jonesblog larger than 600 dpi wide to prevent people from abusing copyright too badly (I am always running into photographs being used online without compensation or recognition), but its hard to appreciate how impressive the clouds were from the above smaller image, so make sure to click on the image above to see it in a larger size.


This year there has been remarkably less travel than in previous years with only three trips by plane so far.  There is another trip planned in the near future for work that I am not entirely happy with, particularly given that one of the people I was planning on talking with there about research projects cancelled at the last minute and another colleague and good friend looks like they will not make it to this meeting either.  Its OK I suppose in that it will focus the work time in the evenings after the meetings and allow me to finish some reviews on manuscripts as well as finish a reviews I am writing.

Though I am not looking forward to the physical hammering on the body from international trips where one flies out, attends a meeting and flies right back within 4 days really does tend to hammer on you, particularly when work is so demanding right now.  That said, I have other friends who are well into the hundreds of thousands of miles traveled per year and the hassles they have are far worse than mine.


While I do enjoy travel and seeing new places, the hassle of all the additional security and the down economy are all good reasons why there has been less travel.  For me, the last flight was particularly obnoxious when it came to security.  I opted out of the body scanner for reasons of wanting to avoid additional ionizing radiation exposure.  Isolated reports are indicating that radiation levels produced by the full body scanners are much higher than published records and I’ve yet to see a reliable, published study on how much radiation is absorbed by the scan.  Additionally the TSA scanning machines do not have nearly the same requirements for service and checking that other sources of radiation exposure get.  Note: not a single mention of radiation appears on those TSA pages.

Because I opted out, I got a very aggressive physical pat down which always results in a feeling of being treated like a criminal.  On top of that, the TSA agent broke my $100 headphones pulling them out of my bag and got more aggressive with me when I stopped him from trying to pull the belt out of my trousers.  These are the kinds of trousers with an integrated belt… the kind of belt that is not designed to be removed.  So as he says “You’ve never *tried* removing the belt have you?” while pulling on said belt instinctively had me grab his hands to which he got even more aggressive.  I told him that I’d never get the belt back in if he tore it out and he relented, but I had to undo the belt and unbutton so he could feel inside the waistband… Pretty irritating all things considered when all I was doing was trying to get on a plane to photograph the final landing of the Space Shuttle.  On top of that, I realized upon reaching my destination that my Surefire flashlight that I always carry with me did not appear to make it back into my bag after the security screening process.  The end result was an additional $200 “tax” on that particular trip for the headphones and flashlight.  Some countries you have to pay that kind of money as a bribe to leave, but I never thought that my own country would exact this sort of abuse upon its own citizens.  I am hoping that there is new reform that allows low risk passengers to travel without disrobing, getting exposed to needless ionizing radiation and having to be treated like criminals.

I’ve said it before, but I do remember a time when the airlines were focused more on a timely delivery of passengers and their luggage as well as customer service.  Now we have to practically strip down physically or virtually in order to fly and have to endure all manner of inconveniences just to get on board.  In fact, I used to routinely carry a pocket knife with me when I traveled and even remember chatting with Steve Wozniak about which ceramic knives were best for travel when metal knives started becoming a problem.  Back when I lived in Texas (not too long ago), I remember passengers carrying shotguns and rifles with them on planes because they did not want to have to worry about them getting damaged as cargo.  I Don’t believe any hijacking was ever performed with one of those long guns that was carried on in the luggage…  Just something to think about.


Enough complaining for now…  Off to do some writing before the next trip.

12 Replies to “Flying… and a Soapbox.”

  1. You know, beside TSA, the US Immigration treat all incoming visitors (excepted with a Canadian passport) like criminals by fingerprinting them and taking a mugshot.

    That’s what the Police to do suspects they arrest, and just to compare, even for permanent residency, Canada didn’t take fingerprints.

    That’s what 9/11 brought to the world.

    This is by itself why I avoid traveling to the USA.

  2. There’s only one candidate running this time who will put an end to the TSA. I don’t even need to say who it is.


  3. I recently found your blog and really enjoy it. ABout a year ago TSA jacked me for a tiny keychain antique knife that was about an inch blade length. I tried to file a complaint and they weren’t having it. I would have missed my flight. TSA is a huge waste of tax payer money and now with the ATF essentially giving guns to cartel who knows what is around the corner!

    1. Thanks for the comment SL. I also had TSA confiscate one of those clear plastic electronic door lock keys for a storage locker from me once. Cost me $150 to replace, so they’ve extracted their pound of flesh a couple of times from me.

  4. Have I told you my TSA stories, Bryan? Let me just say that if 1/4 of your body is a metal composite, you’re going to have a pretty hard time getting thru security. Oy.
    I keep flying anyways, but can’t believe how inconsistently and ridiculously I’m treated every time I go through US security.

  5. So sorry to hear about your troubles with TSA. Air traveling has become a nightmare since 9/11. I wish they would start implementing more reasonable ways to maintain a certain level of safety. The pictures of the clouds are amazing. In the first one, I love the colors particularly in the dark, top right corner…. amazing. And that was shot through an airplane window, right?! Thanks for posting!

  6. Hi Bryan – I feel for your particular predicament here. Its certainly a fine line between ensuring we are all safe traveling whilst retaining some degree of humanity. I took my two daughters (aged just 3&5) to our local airport last summer en route to our holidays. My oldest became scared of having to go through the xray machine on her own and I of course could not take her through. The woman security officer decided rather than make her more distressed took her round the side and ‘patted’ her down instead – there was something intrinsically wrong with this woman patting down a 5 year old child (particularly your own) but that said, we have to consider the lengths that certain individuals will go to do us harm. Great pictures by the way!

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