This is why we go through airport security

From the government TSA blog’s week in review:

Concealed Firearms– Normally when our officers discover firearms, they’re inside carry-on bags. This week, three loaded firearms were discovered on the passenger.

  • A 380. caliber firearm loaded with five rounds and one chambered was discovered strapped to a passenger’s ankle after walking through a metal detector at Cincinnati (CVG).
  • A loaded 380. caliber firearm with a round chambered was discovered in the rear pocket of a San Antonio (SAT) passenger during Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) screening.
  • A 380. caliber firearm loaded with five rounds was discovered after a passenger walked through a metal detector at Dallas – Ft. Worth (DFW).


51 Firearms Discovered This Week – Of the 51 firearms, 45 were loaded and 20 had rounds chambered.

“This week” was last week. People know when they go to catch a flight that they’re going to be scanned and their bags are going to be scanned. But we have in one week a bunch of idiots trying to carry 51 guns on planes. And a hell of a lot of them were loaded (the guns, not the idiots).

Here are just a few:

Guns+1Here’s a full list of the types of guns found as people were checking in for their flights:


Want to know what else miscreants tried to carry on planes last week?

•Two inert artillery shells were discovered in a checked bag at Chicago O’Hare (ORD). Two minors were returning from Europe and had found the shells at a French WWI era artillery range.
•Four inert/replica/novelty grenades were discovered in carry-on bags this week. Two were discovered in Atlanta (ATL), and the others were found at Baltimore (BWI), and Oklahoma City (OKC).
•Two razor blades were detected inside the shoe and wallet of a Cincinnati (CVG) passenger.
•A 6-inch saw blade was detected, concealed inside a bible at Orlando (MCO).
•Three box cutter blades were detected concealed in a shoe inside the carry-on bag of a Baton Rouge passenger.
•A cell phone stun gun was discovered at Omaha (OMA).
•A comb knife was discovered at John Wayne (SNA).
•A lipstick stun gun was discovered at Detroit (DTW).
•A shocking device was detected inside a cane at Billings (BIL).

I could almost understand the razor blades. Until I saw they were hidden in shoes. You know, you might have a razor blade in your carry on because you packed your razor there by mistake. Putting a razor blade in a shoe isn’t a mistake. And what’s with the saw in the Bible? Someone going to visit a friend in prison and planned to “spread the word” for an early release?

And fake grenades? What bothers me here is I often fly through BWI.

I do get annoyed with the check in process, mainly because I’m always behind people who apparently have never been on a plane before and have no concept of keeping the line moving. Last time I flew, I ended up behind a woman who kept going to the scanner and who kept being told … you have to take your coat off … you have to take your shoes off … you have to take the change out of your pocket … you have to remove your jewelry …

And then it turned out her boarding pass said “TSA Pre,” which means she had been already approved to go to the pre-check line, where she just could have walked through. But instead she got in the line with the rest of us and delayed the process.

But again, after seeing what people were trying to carry on planes last week, I’ll put up with the hassle and just get to the airport an hour earlier.

Watching planes land from outer space

I guess this video (which won’t embed, so click here) is kind of cool, but I’ve been on enough flights to know it’s not much different than watching planes land from a plane flying overhead. You see this all the time on those clear days when you’re at a window seat only halfway through your trip and flying over any major airport.

What is cool, by the way, is riding on a train and setting your Google map app on hybrid then hitting your location button. It’s like you’re flying overhead and watching your dot move across country. Zoom in and you feel like you’re moving faster than you actually are. And as you look at the map, you see what the buildings you’re going by look like from the skies. Give it a try sometime when you’re riding Amtrak.

A reunion in more ways than one

I was over at BlacktopXchange, the sports blog, and saw this video:

Very touching. There are lots of YouTube postings of soldiers making surprise returns home. But this had deeper meaning for me.

I’m now spending my time between Washington and Louisville. But see the football field in International School of Brussels this video: Our house was less than 1,000 yards from it when we lived in Belgium. That’s on the campus of the International School of Brussels in the Watermael-Boitsfort commune. We literally lived right next door to the campus for six years. And I mean literally in the literal sense.
See that guy on the left in the black outfit at the 1:10 mark? That’s the ISB athletic director Jason Baseden. That building behind him? That’s where our son went to middle school and high school.

Our son didn’t play football at the school, much to the disappointment of parents on the football team. (He was big enough to play tight end.) His sports were cross country, volleyball, basketball and track. He played baseball with the kids in the local league, not with the school. His heart was in basketball, and we told him the downside of playing football was if he got hurt, he wouldn’t recover in time for hoops season.

And he had a rewarding high school sports career. He played basketball through middle school and high school. His under-14 middle-school team came in second place in the European championship in Frankfurt. His high-school basketball team won the European championship for his division in his senior year at the Hague. His volleyball team placed third in the European championships in his junior year in Brussels, and then went to the Hague the following year and came in second, where he got an honorable mention for the all-star team.

ISB had an extensive sports program. Practically everything your kid would want to play. And the kids who participated in sports, boys and girls, traveled all through Europe. As parents, we got to see high school gyms in Germany, England, the Netherlands, France, Austria and Greece. And our son got to countries were weren’t able to get to because I had to work.

Just so you know, ISB is hosting Bitburg, high school at the military base in Germany, in this video. The only time I’d hear of Bitburg before we went to Europe was when Ronald Reagan went to the Nazi military cemetery and when the Ramones released the album “Bonzo goes to Bitburg.”

ISB football and basketball regularly competed against the high schools at the military bases. We held our own pretty well, all things considered, given that the military kids considered our athletes as the rich diplomats’ kids.

So seeing this video is a reunion for me as well. Of all the places I’ve lived, Brussels was my favorite. I flashed back on obsessing over high school sports, going to the football games on this field.

Anyway, I saw the video, and now I’m homesick.

A customs form for the Moon

i read recently (though I should have known this a long time ago), that when the Apollo 11 astronauts came back from the Moon, they had to fill our a form with Customs.

Which is kind of odd, because at the time, everyone on the planet knew that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins had just come from the Moon.

Anyway, here’s their customs form:


The most disconcerting part of this form though is the line that says:

Any other condition on board which may lead to the spread of disease:


Because who knew what kind of killer moon virus they would be bringing back? (Yeah, I was probably one of the three people who saw the movie “Apollo 18.”)



A warning to tourists: Don’t go there!

Back in the days when I was an expat, I would get regular warnings from the American Embassy on areas to avoid. A lot of times, the warnings were based on demonstrations various groups were planning. And most of the time, the warning was, “avoid the American Embassy,” because demonstrations around there were constant.

And the embassy would send messages on places to avoid in general (i.e., don’t go to country X. The government has just been overthrown).

But what places in America are foreign governments telling their citizens to avoid? Here’s a list from the Washington Post’s GovBeat column:

Boston: Avoid walking at night in Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury, and be wary of “petty crime” in Chinatown, the North End and Fenway.

New York: Be wary in Times Square and at the Statue of Liberty, and don’t go to Harlem, the Bronx or Central Park at night.

Washington: Northeast and Southeast should be avoided, and Union Station is dangerous at night. “Le quartier Anacostia n’est pas recommandable de jour comme de nuit.” Translation: Don’t go to Anacostia, day or night.

Baltimore:Considered a dangerous city except downtown.”

Richmond: “Do not visit the city on foot.”

Pittsburgh: The French urge their citizens to avoid Mount Oliver, Hill District, Homewood-Brushton and Hazelwood.

Cleveland: Avoid Cleveland Heights, Lakewood and Euclid. That warning got Cleveland Heights Mayor Edward Kelly upset. “The French government is foolish and doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Detroit: “The center is not recommended after the close of business.”

Chicago: Stay away from the West Side and anywhere south of 59th Street.

Houston: Be vigilant if traveling through Downtown, south and east Houston at night.

St. Louis: “Eviter le quartier nord entre l’aéroport et le centre-ville, mais la navette reliant l’aéroport est sûre.” Translation: Avoid northern area between the airport and the city center, but the airport shuttle is safe (Hat tip to our friend Chris Good, of ABC News, for spotting that nugget).

Atlanta: The French are nervous about the southern part of the city, and downtown after dark.

New Orleans: Northwest of Dauphine Street, northeast of Ursulines Avenue, north of St. Charles Avenue and south of Magazine Street are areas of concern.

Miami: “Canadians have been the victims of crime such as break-ins, assaults and pickpocketing in the Miami area, sometimes during daylight hours,” Canada’s foreign ministry warns. France says attacks on tourists in Florida are rare now, but were frequent a few years ago.

Los Angeles: France warns tourists to take care in Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Long Beach, and to avoid Watts, Inglewood and Florence.

El Paso: The British Foreign Office warns tourists about violence along the border with Mexico, and the border crossing at Ciudad Juarez specifically.

Having lived in some of these places, I can say that the folks abroad seem to know what they’re talking about.



The Atomium, and memories of Brussels

Ten years ago, my family and I moved to Brussels. We knew practically nothing about Belgium, other than the French didn’t get along with the Flemish (or was it the other way around?). And six years later, we didn’t want to leave, but college took my son back to the U.S. and my job took my wife and me to England. (That was kind of odd. Made me feel like a bad parent. The kid had every right to say: “I went off to college, and my mom and dad moved to another country!”)

What you see in the video above is the Atomium in the northern part of the Brussels. Built in 1958 for the World’s Fair, the Atomium is a representation of an iron crystal blown up to more than 150 billion times its size.

It’s across the street from Brupark, which is essentially an amusement park without rides. We went up there constantly because next to the Atomium is Kinepolis, a very impressive cineplex. First run movies with French and Dutch subtitles were regularly shown in Brussels before they reached the States. It’s where we went to relax.

And I went into the Atomium a number of times. It’s a science center, (the interior shots you’re seeing in the video show well lit escalators). I guess the whole area — which includes a Mini-Europe to go with a giant atom — is Belgium’s version of Epcot, without the rides.

Anyway, the video brings back great memories. I wasn’t homesick when I moved to Brussels, but seeing this, I’m homesick for the land of gaufres and frites.