Archive for March, 2011

My Last Flight

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

The documentary “Please Remove Your Shoes”, directed by Rob Delgaudio, was released in June 2010. It asserts that the United States Transportation Security Administration screening of airline passengers for weapons, explosives, etc., using both technology and humans, is only 2-20% effective, that the TSA managers punish personnel who report defects and propose solutions, that local airports have been repeatedly pre-alerted about “covert” tests of screening effectiveness, and that members of Congress merely wring their hands about the failures of the TSA rather than using their legislative power to reform or redesign the agency.

The documentary shows a letter from the TSA declining to participate in the documentary. And, 8 months after the documentary was released, my search of the TSA’s blog revealed not a single mention of it.

Another documentary that might scare anybody out of the air is Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story”, which describes how airline pilots moonlight and use food stamps to supplement their sub-subsistence wages.

Then there’s Christopher Steiner’s book, $20 Per Gallon (2009), in which he forecasts (and welcomes) the almost complete disappearance of airline travel as soon as the price of gasoline reaches $8 per gallon.

Flying has always annoyed me: poor intermodal ground transportation connecting airports, artificial monopolies in airport concessions, long waits, acrophobia, lack of control over safety and food, smoke exposure (in the old days), kerosene smells, crying babies, and on night flights an aching tailbone. More recently, the annoyance has been aggravated by awareness that flying hastens the death of the Earth. One organization estimates that by making one roundtrip coast-to-coast flight an average American adds about 5% to his or her total annual carbon footprint. Otherwise stated, every hour you spend in an airplane damages the Earth about as much as you normally do in 40 hours. Moreover, the motivation to fly has been vanishing, as digital connectivity becomes an ever more realistic (and sometimes a distinctly superior) alternative. I began attending funerals via telecommunication in 1984. High-speed rail transportation in some parts of the world is also an option. Now, “Please Remove Your Shoes” has delivered a powerful reminder of another good reason not to fly in this country: boycotting in protest the corrupt TSA–airline conspiracy that makes you pay in money and disruption for fake security, while the abuses that motivate people to make the U.S. a target of war remain.

My last flight was in March 2009. Flying again is a more odious prospect than before. So be it. Let’s work together to make human flight unnecessary and rare, and thereby to prolong human survival.

Installing Latest Perl on OS X

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

The first times that I tried to install the latest version of Perl (5.12.3) on OS X 10.6.6 (whose bundled Perl is 5.10.0), the installation failed.

1. Installation of the ActiveState binary would have been easy, but it stalled without explanation, failing to show any disks from which to choose an installation destination.

2. Installation from source code failed with an error in the execution of “make”, namely:

./miniperl -Ilib make_ext.pl cpan/Archive-Extract/pm_to_blib MAKE=make LIBPERL_A=libperl.a
Can't locate unicore/Heavy.pl in @INC (@INC contains: cpan/Cwd lib .) at lib/utf8_heavy.pl line 96.
make: *** [cpan/Archive-Extract/pm_to_blib] Error 2

I found an explanation of this error in only one place: a forum of the “BitchX” project. Because that’s somewhat obscure, I am repeating the explanation and cure here.

The error was (somehow) due to the fact that the environment variable PERL_UNICODE was set, with a value of 63.

To prevent the error from occurring, I issued the command “unset PERL_UNICODE” and then executed “make” again. This time “make” completed without error.