Monday, April 9, 2012

Lies We Tell Ourselves, Plus Assorted Links

STANDING in line at security at San Francisco International Airport not long ago, family in tow, I dutifully pulled the laptop out of my bag and placed it in a separate bin for its solo trip through the X-ray machine. I also had an iPad in my backpack, so I caught the eye of a security agent. “Excuse me, does the iPad come out too?” I asked. 
“Not here,” she said. “Other airports might be different.”
This was not the moment for a follow-up question, but I was curious: What’s the distinction between the devices? Similar shapes, many similar functions, the tablet is thinner but not by much. Is the iPad a lower security risk? What about the punier laptop-like gadgets, the netbooks and ultrabooks? What about my smartphone?
 Richtel followed some theories about why this is the case, and ultimately found his answer from a security consultant who didn't want to be identified:
BACK to zero. Until I happened upon a security expert who asked that he not be identified because he has worked on related issues with the Department of Homeland Security. He said that the laptop rule is about appearances, giving people a sense that something is being done to protect them. “Security theater,” he called it.
Just when I’d decided it was time to limit my airport questions to asking about the whereabouts  of the nearest power outlet, this source added an ominous twist: If the government really wanted to cover the dangers posed by electronics, he said, it would need to carefully inspect all manner of electronics, from phones to netbooks to tablets, to look for increasingly small and sophisticated weapons.
However, he added, “banning every computer-related device on planes would be absurd.”
 It would be absurd to ban computers, but we do make it extremely difficult to fly with them, from needless inspections to pointless and unenforced instructions to turn off devices when taking off and landing. It's amazing the lies we tell ourselves (and believe when told to us) in order to fly.

There are some innovations in air travel, however:

Surf Air is introducing a new model for short-haul air travel, which is a segment that is declining for air travel. From a NY Times article:
Travelers who want to shave time off a four-hour car drive don’t have many options. Amtrak’s Acela Express has just a single route. And given airport procedures, flying isn’t such a shortcut. Surf Air, an airline starting this summer, has designs on that short-haul sweet spot.
Its concept: eight-seater, first-class planes fly daily loops through uncongested regional airports (inaugural route: Van Nuys-Palo Alto-Monterey/Pebble Beach-Santa Barbara). For a $3,000 membership fee during the initial three-month trial — and for up to $1,500 each month thereafter — members can fly as many times as they wish along that route, subject to availability. They can drive to the airport, hand their car keys to a valet, wheel their bags up to the pilot, and board.

In auto news, most hybrid owners don't buy another hybrid. Perhaps the decline in the value of signaling?

The hybrid news is somewhat surprising considering the high gas prices, which are still cheap in the US compared with other counties.

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