EKR: August 2009 Archives


August 31, 2009

DHS has posted their new laptop border search policy. Actually, there are two policies, one for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and one for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Don't ask my why they're different. Here's the CBP policy.
An Officer may detain electronic devices, or copies of information contained therein, for a brief, reasonable period of time to perform a thorough border search. The search may take place on-site or at an off-site location, and is to be completed as expeditiously as possible. Unless extenuating circumstances exist, the detention of devices ordinarily should not exceed five (5) days. Approval of and Time Frames for Detention. Supervisory approval is required for detaining electronic devices, or copies of information contained therein, for continuation of a border search after an individual's departure from the port or other location of detention. Port Director, Patrol Agent in Charge, or other equivalent level manager approval is required to extend any such detention beyond five (5) days. Extensions of detentions exceeding fifteen (15) days must be approved by the Director Field Operations, Chief Patrol Agent, Director, Air Operations, Director, Marine Operations, or other equivalent manager, and may be approved and re-approved in increments of no more than seven (7) days. Approvals for detention and any extension thereof shall be noted in appropriate CBP systems of records.

And here's the ICE policy:

Special Agents are to complete the search of detained electronic devices, or copies of information therefrom, in a reasonable time given the facts and circumstances of the particular search. Searches are generally to be completed within 30 calendar days of Border Searches of Electronic Devices the date of detention, unless circumstances exist that warrant more time. Such circumstances must be documented in the appropriate ICE systems. Any detention exceeding 30 calendar days must be approved by a Group Supervisor or equivalent, and approved again every 15 calendar days thereafter, and the specific justification for additional time documented in the appropriate ICE systems.

I've argued before that there isn't a very good analogy between ordinary border searches and electronic searches. I'm not surprised that that's not an opinion that's been taken onboard by the feds; after all, this is a convenient excuse to rummage through people's data. Nevertheless, it's frustrating that DHS still doesn't seem very interested in minimizing the impact on travellers. Having your laptop detained by DHS for 5 days, let alone 30, is a pretty large impact on your average business traveler; I would say that my average business trip is no more than a week long, so one could easily imagine that you would be denied access to your device for the entire duration of your stay in the US. A much lower impact procedure would simply be to image the traveler's hard drive and then send them on their way. It's certainly true that this means that DHS has a copy of all your data, but presumably if they have your computer for a week they could have taken an image in any case, so having them just take an image in front of you seems dominant

There is some text in these policies about that, but as far as I can tell it's basically at the discretion of the Special Agent. I would far rather see there be a hard requirement that absent some probable cause for believing there is extra data not present on the hard drive, any search default to a copy. It's important to remember here (again) that laptop searches aren't like drug searches: a laptop isn't a good way of carrying contraband into the country; rather people who are otherwise bad actors might happen to have evidence of their bad actions on their laptops. So, keeping the laptop itself from entering the country isn't anywhere near as important, especially if you're not detaining the traveller.

It's also worth noting that CBP seems to do surprisingly few such searches:

Between Oct. 1, 2008, and Aug. 11, 2009, CBP encountered more than 221 million travelers at U.S. ports of entry. Approximately 1,000 laptop searches were performed in these instances--of those, just 46 were in-depth.

It's hard to know what to make of that. On the one hand, one could say "the overall imposition to travelers is low". On the other hand, one could say that this can't be that valuable an investigative tool if they only use it 46 times in 9 months. I'd be interested to know how many arrests came out of those 46 searches.


August 30, 2009

Behind "what did you eat", "where do you get water" is one of the big questions you get. On the JMT and in the Sierras in general, the answer is "everywhere". I only remember a few stretches of the JMT over 5 miles without some source of water (lake, creek, river, etc.) And for the few stretches where there isn't water, you just need to know in advance and tank up. I carried three water containers: an empty quart-size Gatorade bottle and two 2 liter Platypus canteens, but never carried more than 3 liters of water, even for the dry stretches; if you're moving at 2 miles/hr, then you really only need about 3 liters even for a 5 mile stretch, since you can't absorb more than about 1l/hr.

This is only a partial answer, though, since it's not considered a great idea to drink untreated surface water (though see this article). There are three basic treatment options:

  • Chemical treatment (e.g., iodine, chlorine)
  • Water filters
  • Electronic devices (steripen, miox)

The idea with chemical treatment is simple: you fill your containers, drop the chemicals into them, mix, and wait. Old-style chemical treatment really was terrible: it was slow and left a bad aftertaste. Things have gotten a lot better, though. The best chemica treatment is probably Aquamira, which works in 15 minutes and leaves only a very minimal aftertaste. I've used Aquamira drops, which require mixing from two bottles, but Aquamira also comes in tablet form which I'm informed by friends is more convenient. The big advantage of chemical treatment is that it's ultralight. The disadvantage is that it's slow and can be problematic with marginal water sources: if the water is cloudy you need to prefilter it to remove as much of the particulates as you can. If you are trying to get water out of a shallow stream, you also can have trouble getting your container to actually fill. Finally, it's still annoying to have to wait 15 minutes to drink.

The other traditional alternative is water filters: your typical filter is a pump attached to some sort of filtration element. You drop the input hose in the water and attach the output hose to your bottles. When you pump, the water is forced through the filter and into your bottles. The big advantage of a filter is that it's fast, can work even with very shallow water (since it's a pump), and removes all particulates. Of course, if the water is really dirty, the filter can clog, but the better filters are pretty good about this. Many of them come with prefilters that will remove most of the larger particulates. You can also get two kinds of non-pump filters: small filters that fit over the mouth of a water bottle (this only seems suitable for very limited circumstances) and bag filters (e.g., the ULA Amigo). I've seen the Amigo in action but never tried it myself so can't vouch for it. The big disadvantage of filters is weight: the overall weight of my filter (I use a Katadyn Hiker Pro) is 440g.

The newer alternative is electronic purifiers. These come in two varieties: ultraviolet irradiators (Steripen) and electrolytic (MIOX). [As far as I can tell the MIOX is just making chlorine dioxide, the active ingredient in Aquamira, electrolytically.] Of these two, the Steripen looks better: it's more convenient and seems faster (about 1-2 minutes). I'm not sure I see a huge benefit here: they're both a lot heavier than Aquamira and have a lot of the same drawbacks in terms of marginal water sources that any chemical system has.

I currently use a Katadyn Hiker Pro, and carry Aquamira as backup. The difference between the Hiker and the Hiker Pro is that the Pro has quick connect hose fittings, which is somewhat more convenient. I also bought a Platypus Filter Link so I can pump right into my Platypus containers. This works well, except that there's no vent in the Filter Link, so when you get to the very top of the container, you start to get air back pressure. This seems like it would be fixable by punching an air hole.


August 28, 2009

The LA Times reports that Raymond Azar, a Lebanese citizen was rendered from Afghanistan to the US:
Reporting from Alexandria, Va. - A Lebanese citizen being held in a detention center here was hooded, stripped naked for photographs and bundled onto an executive jet by FBI agents in Afghanistan in April, making him the first known target of a rendition during the Obama administration.

Azar, 45, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to commit bribery, the only charge against him. He faces a maximum of five years in prison, but a sentence of 2 1/2 years or less is likely under federal guidelines.


"The FBI followed standard operating procedures when transporting prisoners to the United States," Gina Talamona, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said Friday. She said restraints "were used with the sole purpose of ensuring the safety of the defendants and the agents."


They said he was photographed naked and subjected to a cavity search to ensure that he did not carry hidden weapons and was fit for travel. Court records confirmed that Azar was shackled at the ankles, waist and wrists and made to wear a blindfold, hood and earphones aboard the plane.

This seems like a pretty aggressive set of security measures: presumably the FBI agents are armed and given that the prisoner has been restrained, one has to wonder exactly what the FBI expects him to do in order to escape. I'd be interested to hear what the standard procedure is for transporting known violent offenders inside the US. A little research finds this document from Virginia:

When an officer transports a prisoner in a non-caged vehicle, the prisoner shall be placed in the right front seat and secured with a seat belt. The prisoner shall be handcuffed with his or her hands behind the back, palms outward. A lone officer shall never transport two or more suspects in a non- caged vehicle unless directed by the on-duty supervisor. [Note: Some agencies require officers to place a suspect in the right rear seat, rather than the right front seat. Officer safety considerations can be argued to support either procedure.]

With that said, if you're transporting people you intend to aggressively interrogate, one might imagine wanting to isolate them to make them more vulnerable to future interrogation. Note that I'm not endorsing this, and even if that is the intention, it's hard to see why you would need to do this for someone suspected of bribery who's going to serve a couple of years.


August 27, 2009

Some sort of shelter is one of the "big three" heavy backpacking items (the other two are backpack and sleeping bag). Traditionally, of course, this means a tent, but some ultralight backpackers have started to go with some even more lightweight options, such as tarps (see for instance: Tarptent). Tarp construction varies, but at a high level they're single-wall tents with various degrees of full enclosure. A lot of them save weight by using a trekking pole as a tent pole, thus avoiding the need to carry a separate pole. With this technique you can get a single-person shelter for around 20 oz (assuming you're using trekking poles anyway).

I don't use trekking poles myself, and my personal preference is for an ultralight tent: the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1. The Fly Creek UL1 is a double wall tent: an ultralight mostly mesh bag held up by a single pole and then a separate rain fly. The entire apparatus weighs 1.04 kg (2 lbs, 5 oz) including stuff sacks, stakes, etc. [Big Agnes lists this as 2 lbs, 3 oz, but my scale gives the above number]. It's nominally freestanding, but as a practical matter you at minimum want to stake out the foot of the tent, since there's only a single pole running to the foot the corners tend to flop in otherwise. In addition, if it's cold you need to be careful about how you stake out the rain fly: unless you guy it out especially in the vestibule, you don't get adequate ventilation and there's a lot of condensation inside the tent—I've seen this happen with my Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 as well. In addition, if you just leave the vestibule slack you get a lot of draft. So, finding a site where you can put the stakes in can be a little tricky. The other minor issue is that the tent only has 38" of headroom so I at least can't sit up straight except in one location and even then I suspect I'm a little bent over. On the other hand, you don't really want to spend that much time in your tent.

If set up properly, the Fly Creek UL1 does a great job of keeping you warm and dry. The next to last day of my JMT trip it started to rain right after I got to Guitar Lake at 3ish and kept going for the next 11 hours or so. I stayed in the tent warm and dry pretty much the whole time and slept well. The two guys next to me were in tarp tents (not sure which model) and complained that they had a lot of wind and rain intrusion (I think due to the requirement to keep some openings for ventilation) and that they were extremely cold and wet and didn't really sleep at all. Seems like that difference was worth a few ounces and I saw other people ogling my Big Agnes.

I should mention that on about day 8 (probably the 9th day I'd used the tent) I went to stow it in the stuff sack and the top 3-4" of the stuff sack tore almost completely off (there's a seam running down one side and that didn't tear). This doesn't affect the functionality of the tent—it's just the stuff sack—but it's a minor inconvenience. I've contacted BA and they're sending me a new stuff sack.


August 26, 2009

Probably the first question you get asked about a long backpacking trip is "what do you eat?" This is definitely a central concern, since you obviously need to eat and food often makes up between 1/4 and 1/2 of the mass you're carrying. First, some constraints:
  • The nominal human caloric requirement is something like 2000 Cal/day, but more if you're exercising. Different people require radically different amounts of food depending on their metabolism, how fast they're going, how much weight they're carrying, etc. Backpackers probably aim for more like 3000 Cal/day, but you need to learn how much you personally need.
  • You want your food to be as light as possible. Carbohydrates and protein provide 4 Cal/gram and fat provides 9 Cal/gram. Water in the food costs as does fiber and other non-energetic components.
  • You probably need around 1g protein per gram of body mass per day.
  • In areas where there are bears (the Sierras definitely have bears) you need to store all your food so bears can't get at it. In some areas you can hang your food from trees, but it's better to use a bear canister, which is basically a big plastic bin. I use the Bearvault, shown below. For JMT, bear canisters are basically required. This creates a new constraint: food must also be compact in order to fit into the canister. Note that the canister itself weighs on the order of 2.5 lbs, so that's a substantial cost in and of itself. On the other hand, it's not like you're not going to bring food at all!

Within those constraints, you can more or less do whatever you want and there is a lot of variation. Lots of people use the traditional freeze-dried backpacker meals, especially for dinner. From one another hiker, I heard the legend of a Pacific Crest Trail (Mexico to Canada) thru-hiker who eats couscous and textured vegetable protein cooked in a plastic bag on the top of his pack by the heat of the sun during the day.

Another important factor here is palatability. You could of course load up your pack with dog chow (approximately 4 Cal/g) and eat that for every meal, but you'd probably get tired of that pretty quickly. There are plenty of trail stories of people who just packed the equivalent of dog chow (e.g., trail mix) and then tired of it 3-4 days out and were reduced to begging passersby for something different. Confounding the palatability issue, a lot of people lose appetite after long days of effort as well as at high altitude, and what you want to eat in those circumstances may vary. A lot of people also report losing their appetite initially and then regaining it with force after 4-5 days, which complicates resupply (more on this in a bit). Finally, you have to decide if you want to cook. Most people do, but the stove does weigh something, and then you need a pot to boil water in, plus the fuel, and so you're talking somewhere on the order of 250-600g, which isn't insignificant. My experience on recent trips in the sierras has been that I wasn't hungry for freeze-dried dinners after a long day and I don't much care if things are hot, so I just decided to take cold food this time.

As a practical matter, you can't take enough food for 11 days, so nearly everyone does one or more food resupply drops. I did mine at the Muir Trail Ranch.

My initial plan was as follows:

Meal Food Quantity  Calories
Breakfast  Granola 60g 294
Lunch Triscuits 56g 265
Almonds 56g 376
Snacks Granola 60g 294
Clif bars 3 783
Dinner Triscuits 74g 395
Peanut Butter  64g 400
Jerky 56g 146
Chocolate chips/m&ms  30g 152
Fun size snickers 2 ??

I packed all this stuff (except the clif bars and the peanut butter) into individual ziploc bags inside one quart-sized ziploc bag per day. The idea here is that you just pull out today's bag and you're good for the rest of the day. I also brought an extra day's food bag for backup.

This plan disintegrated really fast. Let's start with the triscuits. My general thought was that they were flavorful, salty, and crunchy, etc. so this would work out, but unfortunately while this is fine at home in front of the tube, on the trail, it's more like you're eating sand and you just have to shove it down. I only managed to choke down the full dinner portion of triscuits once or twice. Now for the jerky: I generally like TJ's beef jerky (teriyaki flavor) but I decided to mix it up a little bit and buy different flavors and somehow whenever I pulled out a dinner bag I got some disgusting flavor. The only ones that I concluded I could tolerate were the teriyaki and some spicy/peppery flavor. Also, jerky requires a huge amount of chewing, and this isn't really consistent with the objective of just getting calories in, especially when you're not really hungry in the first place.

Finally, there's the peanut butter; from a palatibility perspective it was fine, but from a dispensing perspective, a disaster. I packed it in these squeeze tubes, but they're pretty useless. I put chunky peanut butter in one and then when I went to squeeze it out, I got a small bit out and then it just clogged. When I squeezed harder, the plastic clip popped off the end and getting back on didn't really work out—I think it was broken somehow. The clip on the other tube actually broke before I left, so basically a bust. At the resupply point, I threw away the tubes and just packed the peanut butter into a ziploc bag, but this didn't really work any better, since you can't get it out with a spoon without making a huge mess. [And remember you don't want to get covered with PB since then bears think you smell like food.] Like I said, a bust.

So, the bottom line here is that I brought way too much food and had to do a bunch of re-sorting out at the resupply point. What I eventually settled on was something more like this:

Meal Food Quantity  Calories
Breakfast  Clif bar 1 240
Almonds 56g 376
Snacks Granola 60g 294
Clif bars 2 783
Dinner Triscuits 56g 265
Peanut Butter  64g 400
Jerky 56g 146
Chocolate chips/m&ms  30g 152
Fun size snickers 2 ??

Note that we've lost about 650 Cal here, so that's a pretty significant change, and even then I was really having to shove food down and often only ate like half my jerky or something. I wasn't wearing a power meter or anything, but at this point it's clear I was at a significant caloric deficit; at the end of the trip I had lost about 10 lbs even though I had a fair amount of food left in my pack and wasn't really ever feeling hungry.

Three other points that deserve making:

  • I deliberately deemphasized (yes, 3/day is deemphasized) energy bars even though I eat a lot of them during training. The theory here was that for the long term I should actually eat, you know, food. This was a mistake. I had energy bars left at the end but they were the thing I liked the best—probably because they're sweet—and I would have been better subbing them for some of the more food-type food.
  • I brought about 6-8 energy gels on the theory that I might need the occasional fast burst of energy to get over some pass (and this helped with Forester Pass and Mount Whitney), but I only ate a total of 2 gels. This isn't a big deal, but they're the only food I brought that contains a lot of water, so there is a weight penalty here.
  • One of the better moves I made was to bring a few packets of Propel powder. At altitude and in the heat you need to consume a lot of water, but it also gets boring because it's tasteless [this is part of why Gatorade was invented]. Propel is just flavoring, so it's super-light, and mixing up a bottle of flavored water occasionally can make it much easier to rehydrate.

All in all, though, my food seems to have worked out pretty well. Given that I didn't want to eat at all, it was always going to be an exercise in forced caloric input, and since I managed to get enough calories in without vomiting I guess you could call it success.


August 25, 2009

Sorry for the unadvertised absence but I've been gone hiking the Appalachian Trail John Muir Trail.

Here's the executive summary: the JMT starts at Happy Isles trailhead in Yosemite Valley and nominally goes to the summit of Mount Whitney, 211 (208? It's remarkably hard to get accurate numbers here) miles away. Because there's no road that goes to the top of Whitney, you then need to hike out to the trailhead at Whitney Portal, for a total distance of 218 (222?) miles. I left Yosemite at about 10 AM August 13th and arrived at Whitney Portal at about 2 PM August 23rd. More specifically:

Day  Camp Site Distance  Cumulative
1 Upper Cathedral Lake 17 17
2 After Donohue Pass 20 37
3 Reds Meadow 21 59
4 Squaw Lake Outlet 21 79
5 South of Selden Pass 24 103
6 Sapphire Lake 21 124
7 Upper Palisade Lakes 22 146
8 North of Glen Pass 22 168
9 Tyndall Creek Crossing  21 187
10 Guitar Lake 16 203
11 Exit 15 218

Note: numbers are approximate and don't include detours, places where I accidentally went off the trail for a little bit, etc. The cumulative and distance numbers don't add up perfectly due to round off error.

It's traditional, I suppose, to do some sort of day by journal, but honestly you don't want to read that "Day 5: walked another 20 miles. Ate another 9 PowerBars. Stunning scenery. Very tired." More interesting, I think, is to talk a bit about planning, gear, logistics, etc., so I'll be doing some of that over the next few days. I'll also post some more pictures once I get them uploaded, sorted, etc.


August 12, 2009

I just got back from the EVT/WOTE 2009 conference. More accurately, I should perhaps say that I just got back from a conference held by United and Air Canada. Out of the 72 hours or so I spent out of California, I spent about 33 hours waiting for planes to board, sitting on a plane waiting for it to land, sitting on a plane in the air, sitting on a plane circling the airport, or sitting in a hotel waiting for the next plane after I missed my connection.

My routing out to Montreal was SFO-BOS-YUL, but when I got to Boston and finished walking the 5 or so miles to the satellite terminal of the satellite terminal where Air Canada takes off from. There I was informed that the flight to Montreal had been cancelled and that my new routing was through Toronto and then to Montreal. Suddenly my 9:30 arrival turned into a 11:30 arrival (if I can get on the full 10:30 flight) or more likely a 1:30 arrival (if I end up on the 12:30 flight). We get most of the way to Toronto and the pilot announces that Toronto is closed due to weather and that we're going to circle around. After circling for a while, we land in Buffalo to refuel, but by then the weather system had rolled into Buffalo and we spent about 2 hours on the ground waiting for it to pass so we could take off. Remember at this point that Buffalo is something like 100 miles from Toronto by car. In fact, two of my fellow passengers decided to rent a car and (after arguing with the FAs quite a bit) were allowed off the plane. We eventually took off and arrived in Toronto at around 12:30. Luckily, everything else was backed up and so our 12:30 flight had turned into a 2:00 flight, or, as it eventually turned out, a 2:45 flight getting into Montreal around 3:30.

On the way back things looked a little better until my flight from YUL to IAD was delayed in takeoff by 30 minutes and then in the air by another 20 minutes or so (we aborted one pass on the runway and then had to approach from the other direction.) I got to the gate for my IAD-SFO flight right after they had closed the door and even though the plane was still at the gate and the guy right behind me was United Global Services (their highest status level) the GAs refused to let us on. As this was the last flight out of the night, I spent the evening at the beautiful and classy Herndon Holiday Inn Express and took the 6:57 flight to SFO, arriving 9 hours after my scheduled arrival.

Obviously, this stuff is annoying, but I'm not sure there are any really useful lessons here. Obviously there's not a huge amount to do about the weather. On the other hand, in Buffalo it was really clear we were going to be on the ground for several hours so it seems like Air Canada could have let us off. For some reason they really hate to do that though. As for my return flight, I suspect we're victims of management by objective: airlines care a lot about on time statistics and delaying the flight for us, even though they knew we were connecting, threatens that. If you always held connecting flights then any single delay would have a ripple effect throughout the system. That said, missing connecting flights often has a much bigger effect on passengers than having a flight be 10-30 minutes late, so it would be nice to have statistics that measure this inconvenience. This actually seems like something you could do: the airlines know what passenger's ultimate destinations are and if/why they get rescheduled, so maybe you could replace a flight measurement with a measurement of the number of passenger-hours delayed or maybe the average number of passenger-hours delayed.

For instance, if I was flying SFO-ORD-IAD and my SFO-ORD flight is delayed but I still catch my connection and that's ontime, then this is a 0 delay. On the other hand, if my SFO-ORD flight is delayed and I miss my flight out of ORD and have to catch one that arrives two hours later, then this is two passenger hours of delay even if all the flights out of ORD are ontime. On the other hand, someone just on the ORD-IAD flight doesn't count as delayed at all. I'm not sure if this is a good metric, but the airlines should have all the underlying information and the software to compute this shouldn't be too hard.


August 4, 2009

This year's EVT/WOTE includes an all-new Rump Session, taking place at 8:30 PM on Monday August 10.

This session will no doubt include results more important, and simultaneously more hilarious than any to be presented at the main workshop. However, this can only happen if you (yes, this means you!) submit.

Acceptable topics include:

  • Work in progress
  • Work which you haven't had time to start
  • Work which you will do if you ever get some free time
  • Work which should not be started at all

Each presenter will have between 4 and 7 minutes, depending on the number of submissions and an as-yet-undetermined evaluation formula.

Submissions should be directed to the Rump Session Chair, Eric Rescorla (ekr@rtfm.com). Please provide a talk title, name of the presenter, and an estimate of how much time you would like.


August 3, 2009

The cash for clunkers program presents an interesting security challenge: a lot of the point is to take cars off the road, so this means we need to be sure that cars that are turned in don't end up back on the market. The natural solution is to put the vehicles "beyond use permanently", as they said of the IRA's weapons. But you want a simple and safe method of disabling them The WSJ covers the solution (literally), some stuff called "sodium silicate" (pointer due to Terence Spies):
What Mr. Mueller discovered is that sodium silicate is the designated agent of death for cars surrendered under the federal cash-for-clunkers program. To receive government reimbursement, auto dealers who offer rebates on new cars in exchange for so-called clunkers must agree to "kill" the old models, using a method the government outlines in great detail in its 136-page manual for dealers: Drain the engine of oil and replace it with two quarts of a sodium-silicate solution.

"The heat of the operating engine then dehydrates the solution leaving solid sodium silicate distributed throughout the engine's oiled surfaces and moving parts," says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publication. "These solids quickly abrade the bearings causing the engine to seize while damaging the moving parts of the engine and coating all of the oil passages."

Sounds like it beats sugar in the gas tank.


August 2, 2009

Mrs. Guesswork is flying in from Stockholm today, scheduled to arrive tonight around 10. You can't trust the schedules on transcon flights, so I check things out on the Delta site, which tells me it's an hour late, currently over Colorado and due in at 11:09. No problem, I'll watch Anthony Bourdain for a while and then head over. Around 9:15 I check again and (gulp!) it's now on time. Planes don't fly that fast, but it's not at all out of the question that Delta just screwed up here, so I'll just head over.

Right before I leave for SFO, I check again. The flights still on time, but then I notice something screwy: the flight is dated August 3rd, not August 2nd. I go back to the main page where you enter the flight #, and here's what it offers me:

  • Yesterday Aug 02
  • Today Aug 03
  • Tomorrow Aug 04

At this point it should be obvious what happened: Delta is based in Georgia, and in Georgia it's tomorrow, so naturally the site decided that's what I was interested in, despite the fact that that flight takes off something like 19 hours and today's flight is actually in the freaking air. Outstanding!


August 1, 2009

Recently there have been a number of theme travel shows, where the host flys around and checks out how they do X in various countries. You may have heard of "No Reservations," where Anthony Bourdain checks out local foods. Fight Quest has a similar concept, except that the hosts travel around the world learning to beat people up (there's a similar show called Human Weapon that I have yet to check out). The stars have MMA experience, but mostly explore traditional arts like Wing Chun, Kung Fu, Muay Thai, etc.

The format is basically the same in each show: they split up the stars (Jimmy and Doug), with one of them training with a more traditional style (typically out in the country somewhere), with the other training in a more gritty urban style. The instructors torture them for five days and then they each have to fight with a chosen fighter of the relevant style. The concept mostly works out, but a lot of the interest is watching them try to adapt to whatever artificial rules are imposed by the style they're fighting in. In several of the episodes, they pretty much clobber their opponents but "lose" anyway because they didn't comply with those stylistic rules. This works out in some cases, though; it's hard to argue with a knockout. As Terence pointed out to me, you kind of do want to see these guys say just once "this is the stupidest martial art I've ever seen", but they're unfailingly respectful.

The one exception here is Krav Maga, where there basically aren't any rules and a bunch of stuff that's prohibited in MMA (eye gouging, groin strikes, etc.) so one might say that this is a case where it's MMA that has the artificial rules that don't apply to a real fight. Unfortunately, we don't get to see any one-on-one fights, only one man fighting a group, where he pretty much gets pummelled, so it's hard to see how effective these techniques are. On the other hand, in a real fight one might expect your opponent to pull out a gun and shoot you, so I'm not sure how to gauge artificial here.