today’s most beautiful thing


: “Peering out of the windows of the International Space Station (ISS), astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson takes in the planet on which we were all born, and to which she would soon return. About 350 kilometers up, the ISS is high enough so that the Earth’s horizon appears clearly curved.”

The original, unedited, tweeted direct-from-orbit photo is here, courtesy of astronaut Doug Wheelock.

TSAfail 2010, link-dump

For the First Time, the TSA Meets Resistance

"Yes, but starting tomorrow, we’re going to start searching your crotchal area" — this is the word he used, "crotchal" — and you’re not going to like it."
"What am I not going to like?" I asked.
"We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance," he explained.
"Resistance?" I asked.
"Your testicles," he explained.
‘That’s funny," I said, "because ‘The Resistance’ is the actual name I’ve given to my testicles."

Full Frontal Nudity Doesn’t Make Us Safer: Abolish the TSA 

Bipartisan support should be immediate. For fiscal conservatives, it’s hard to come up with a more wasteful agency than the TSA. For privacy advocates, eliminating an organization that requires you to choose between a nude body scan or genital groping in order to board a plane should be a no-brainer.

Man opts out of porno scanner and grope, told he’ll be fined $10K unless he submits to fondling 

He opted out of showing his penis to the government, so they told him he’d have to submit to an intimate testicle fondling. He told the screener, "if you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested." After faffing around with various supervisors and supervisors’ supervisors, he opted not to fly, collected a refund from the American Airlines counter, and started to leave the airport. But before he could go, the supervisor’s supervisor’s supervisor told him he wasn’t allowed to leave the checkpoint once he entered it, that he was already in for up to $10,000 in fines, and that he would have to return and allow the man’s minons to palpate his genitals before he’d be allowed to leave the airport.

Lobbyists join the war on terror 

The degradations of passing through full-body scanners that provide naked pictures of you to Transportation Security Administration agents may not mean that the terrorists have won — but they do mark victories for a few politically connected high-tech companies and their revolving-door lobbyists. […] But this is government we’re talking about. A program or product doesn’t need to be effective, it only needs to have a good lobby. And the naked-scanner lobby is small but well-connected.

National Opt-Out Day

It’s the day ordinary citizens stand up for their rights, stand up for liberty, and protest the federal government’s desire to virtually strip us naked or submit to an "enhanced pat down" that touches people’s breasts and genitals in an aggressive manner. You should never have to explain to your children, "Remember that no stranger can touch or see your private area, unless it’s a government employee, then it’s OK."

The goal of National Opt Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change. We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent. This day is needed because many people do not understand what they consent to when choosing to fly.

TSA Opt-Out Day, Now with a Superfantastic New Twist!

By the way, it is the official position of Goldblog that everyday is opt-out day. There’s no need to wait until November 24th. But come November 24th, here’s an idea you might try to make the day extra-special. It’s a one-word idea: Kilts.

Rape Survivor Devastated by TSA Enhanced Pat Down

Coming back from Chicago, Celeste, like increasing numbers of travelers, was forced to make a difficult choice – either allow strangers to see her naked or allow strangers to touch and squeeze her breasts and groin in full view of other travels and TSA agents. “This was a nightmare come to life,” Celeste says, “I said I didn’t want them to see me naked and the agent started yelling Opt out- we have an opt here. Another agent took me aside and said they would have to pat me down. He told me he was going to touch my genitals and asked if I wouldn’t rather just go through the scanner, that it would be less humiliating for me. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I kept saying I don’t want any of this to happen. I was whispering please don’t do this, please, please.”

Stop the TSA’s Nude Scanners!

Bold legislators in New Jersey and Idaho have introduced bills stopping the new porno-scanners, but that’s not enough — we need to pass these bills in every state! So I set up a thing to make it super-easy to contact your state legislator about it. Just add your name and zip code to our petition and we’ll automatically email your state rep.

Fly With Dignity

An organization seeking advocacy and recognition of the TSA’s and DHS’s actions against our privacy and right to refuse unwarranted search.

Complete List of Airports with Whole Body Imaging/Advanced Imaging Technology Scanners

the books I have on the go. what are yours?

  • Kathe Koja’s newest novel, Under the Poppy, has been adapted for an immersive stage production slated for 2011 at the Detroit Opera House!

    I’ve been talking about books a lot this week, but it’s only just occurred to me that I never seem to tell anyone what it is I read. Ridiculous, considering how much of it I do, even now, after I’ve made it a mandate to only read in interstitial places like line-ups or on the bus. (I’m going slowly blind, in that way where the more I read, the faster my eyes disintegrate, and yet… and yet.. books! Reading! The world!) The closest I come is when I press a title upon some unsuspecting friend. “This one!” I say, “It’s essential. It will broaden everything, give you an entirely new framework of reference.” Or, “It’s fun, the main character only talks in rhyme.” So, in the interests of disclosure, and to line them up in my mind, here’s the books I’ve read from cover to cover in the past four weeks, some for the nth time:

    Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, Googled: The End of the World As We Know It by Ken Auletta, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain De Botton, Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente, (my latest favourite book), A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers, Clouds End by Sean Stewart, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky, and Spook Country and Zero History by William Gibson.

    Intelligent, graceful fiction, touched by poetry and the hard, clever edges of the technology sector? Delicious! Probably the best run of tasty books I’ve had in years. Plus, Palimpsest was a surprise delight. I was completely devoured in the first three pages, and still have yet to make my way back out. Fingers crossed for as lucky a streak-of-good, I’m currently wading my way through:

    The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language by Steven Pinker, The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009 edited by David Eggers, (already a favourite), and Tony’s copy of Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust and Emma Bull that even at page 92 I’m still not sure I’m going to like.

  • a day without dread is a day of victory

  • Passengers aboard a Continental Airlines flight from Phoenix to Everett, Washington, engage in an impromptu pillow fight.

    I’m out of practise with going outside. Almost everything I prepared to do on Thursday had to be put off until Friday because of Remembrance Day, unemployment having excised my awareness of such things as holiday hours. I lucked out, though, in feeling far better with the way things worked out than if my original schedule had fallen into place. I got out of the house, reconnected with a good friend, had a great time, and finished all my chores. Plus there was chocolate. Win.

    Some other good news is that the Sell All My Stuff sale has been going well. Not galloping along, but steadily sauntering, which is enough to keep me content with the plan. In response, I’ve been doing my best to keep up with my listings, adding items in time with things sold, and sending things promptly to those out of town. (Not everyone has paid for what I’ve mailed them yet, but that’s to be expected, and I’m sure it will be fine.) I’ve also started moving the books I’m selling from my shelves to the hall. I’m finding that when involved in a project that involves thinning down my possessions, it’s really quite helpful to keep everything that’s for sale in one place. It gives a visual sense of the scale of what I’m doing, as well as allowing me to keep an accurate tally of what I’ve put up for sale versus what I’ve decided, for now, to keep. Also useful: when someone buys a book, I no longer have three places to check for the title.

  • how peculiar

    Schizophrenia has long been blamed on bad genes or even bad parents. The real culprit, they claim, is a virus that lives entwined in every person’s DNA.

    Sixty million years ago, a lemurlike animal—an early ancestor of humans and monkeys—contracted an infection. It may not have made the lemur ill, but the retrovirus spread into the animal’s testes (or perhaps its ovaries), and once there, it struck the jackpot: It slipped inside one of the rare germ line cells that produce sperm and eggs. When the lemur reproduced, that retrovirus rode into the next generation aboard the lucky sperm and then moved on from generation to generation, nestled in the DNA. “It’s a rare, random event,” says Robert Belshaw, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford in England. “Over the last 100 million years, there have been only maybe 50 times when a retrovirus has gotten into our genome and proliferated.” […]

    Through this research, a rough account is emerging of how HERV-W could trigger diseases like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and MS. Although the body works hard to keep its endogenous retroviruses under tight control, infections around the time of birth destabilize this tense standoff. […]

    The first, pivotal infection by toxoplasmosis or influenza (and subsequent flaring up of HERV-W) might happen shortly before or after birth. That would explain the birth-month effect: Flu infections happen more often in winter. The initial infection could then set off a lifelong pattern in which later infections reawaken HERV-W, causing more inflammation and eventually symptoms. This process explains why schizophrenics gradually lose brain tissue. It explains why the disease waxes and wanes like a chronic infection. And it could explain why some schizophrenics suffer their first psychosis after a mysterious, monolike illness.

    living in the eye of a needle

  • Men and Women Entrepreneurs: Not That Different

    I only have one Young Drivers Of Canada classroom lesson left, on December 9th. Except for that, it’s now all about learning in an actual vehicle, something I’m terribly nervous about. Lori gave me a very sweet lesson in her pick-up truck when she was in town last week, out in a parking lot along Spanish Banks, one of the most beautiful spots in Vancouver. It was nice to see her, nice to be a student, nice to be out of my apartment. She was remarkably patient, and though she says I did great, I’m still mourning the imaginary bumper I clipped while practicing parking.

    In other news, my quest to list everything I own for sale seems to be going well. Not only have people been putting dibs on my books, I’ve been getting a positive reaction from my Craigslist ads too. I can’t overstate how good I feel about this. I didn’t start this project to get rich, after all, but to find some relief. My debts are intense, ravenous things with sharp, horrible teeth, and any extra five dollars I can conjure to feed them makes my life better. Once they are gone, I’ll be able to save for myself, and maybe even, le gasp, go to school!

    Tomorrow I plan on going through my mending box and seeing how much there is worth saving, as well as setting aside some time to actually fix what’s left. I’m also going to bring books to the post office to calculate shipping, return all of the household’s bottles and cans for bus-change, and maybe meet some friends for tea. Not the most thrilling plans, but enough, I think, to see me through a day without falling into unemployment depression.

    P.s. I have a bag of clothes to donate to charity, does anyone have a particular favourite?