This past weekend I took a whirlwind trip out to New York City to visit my little sister Catherine as she starts Medical School at Columbia. The trip was a good bit of fun. I enjoyed seeing Catherine and the great city of New York, even for just two quick days. I posted some photos of the trip over at Doddsnet.
This next effect will hopefully be long forgotten if you’re reading this in the distant future, but at the time of this trip we were under heightened security alert for the airports (see here and here). There were signs EVERYWHERE in the airport reminding you that not only did you have to take off your shoes (yes, even flip-flops person in front of me in line and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T PUT THEM IN THE BINS, the TSA person reminded us all) but you also couldn’t bring anything liquid or gel onto the plane. Not a bottle of water, not a tiny canister of lens-cleaning solution I had overlooked in my camera bag, no liquid-or-gel-based makeup or lotion, and not even a starbucks coffee purchased across from the departure gate. See their breakdown of what’s not allowed at this link.
So, that said, I am absolutely amazed that my plane did not nose-dive into the ground on this trip. I mean, really… we totally SHOULD have crashed going one way or the other. On the way out to NYC I was sitting next to a nice woman from Spain. Much to my astonishment, as we were about 20 mins from landing, she reached into her purse and proceeded to touch up all of her makeup from the stockpile of liquid and gel-based products in her purse. Oops. Like I said, it’s amazing we didn’t crash.
Then, on the way back, even though we didn’t have anyone blatantly smuggling lipstick and mascara through in their purse as far as I could tell, we DID have this cool plane (rolled back into the Delta fleet after the dissolution of “Song” airline) where each of the seats had independently controllable audio/video setups. You could watch DishTV live, play video games, listen to music, etc. Very cool. AND VERY DANGEROUS! These units were enabled right from the start — even while we were sitting at the gate, while we taxied out for takeoff, and while we took off!!!
If the FAA is to be believed, anything more electronically nefarious than a wrist-watch used below 10,000 feet will cause the plane to lose control and crash into the ocean (even if you’re not flying over the ocean, presumably). That’s why I have to turn off my MP3 player from the time we close the airplane door until the pilot dings the bell twice at 10,000 feet. So it seems like a terrible risk to allow something as sophisticated as DishTV to not only PICK UP SIGNALS FROM A SATELLITE but to also PUSH THESE SIGNALS THROUGH A DECODER SOMEWHERE ON THE PLANE and then PUSH THE SIGNAL OUT TO DOZENS OR HUNDREDS OF LITTLE TELEVISIONS!
I’m totally kidding, of course. They probably just wrap this all in tinfoil (very thin, transparent tinfoil) to keep it from interfering with the rest of the plane’s electronics. So no harm done, and I’m totally okay with them leaving the TVs on the whole time. But no, I still can’t use my laptop or MP3 player until we hit 10,000 feet. Because it’s not wrapped in this same sort of tinfoil, I guess.