Why I Opt Out of TSA Body Scanners at the Airport

I think all Americans will spend some amount of today reflecting on the events of September 11, 2001.  For me, as a frequent traveler, I seem to do this every time I go through a TSA body scanner.  I was in Washington, DC at the time of the 9/11 attacks and remember them quite well but not knowing anyone, personally, who was killed that day, the TSA security procedures act as my reminder.  Each time I go through a TSA checkpoint, I am shocked and dismayed that I am the only visible person opting out of the TSA body scanner. My reasons for doing so are many, and it is frustrating to see so many pass through these machines without stopping to think about what they are doing.

There are many arguments against these TSA body scanners with most being a matter of privacy (they take a naked photo of your body) or safety (they blast your body with radiation). I think I was able to get past both of these issues until I watched the below video, taken from my home airport. The author of the video currently has a case pending in U.S. court system but he makes it quite clear that these machines raise some serious questions, but do little to enhance our safety.

The response of the TSA to this video, was quite telling in my opinion. More telling than this is the change of heart TSA officials have had since leaving the agency. A former director of the TSA now calls for a complete reversal of many of the TSA’s current practices because they do not add significantly to our security yet continue to raise privacy and safety concerns.

Basically, for me, it comes down to a few basic factors:

  • I am a law-abiding citizen and do not deserve to be submitted to inspection as though I am a criminal.  Although the ‘nudo-scope’ machines are not currently in use, they may return to use.
  • We really don’t know the long term affects of this radiation but there is significant research out there suggesting that these are not as safe as the government might have us believe.
  • TSA body scanners are very expensive and I don’t like paying for it with my tax dollars.
  • As the video above showed, TSA’s body scanners don’t really help to make us more secure but are just one piece of the ‘security theatre’ currently employed.
  • Many of the TSA agents I’ve spoken to, one agent each time I opt out, agree with my decision to opt out and tell me their reasons for doing the same.

I recently came across an article in the New York Times in which the author was very critical of the entire program. Although I am also critical of the program, I have to disagree with nearly everything this author wrote in BodyScanner Why I Opt Out of TSA Body Scanners at the Airporthis piece. Ever since I’ve educated myself on the program and decided to opt out I have repeatedly found TSA agents to be both friendly and understanding of my choice. Generally, they work to get me through security with minimal delay and usual confess they tell their friends and family to do as I am doing. One in Detroit recently told me their standard office joke is that there will be commercials in 30 years asking: “Did you or someone you know work for the TSA before the year 2020 who might be suffering from fill in the blank radiation disease, if so, call this number!”

I do generally believe that most people in government are in their chosen career because they have a desire to serve their country, hence my personal experiences with TSA agents are generally quite pleasant. This doesn’t mean that lobby dollars aren’t in play (feel free to do your own research on the staggering amounts spent to get these machines in airports) nor does it mean that anyone on either side of the debate truly knows the long-term health impact of these machines. For my money and time, I view it in my interest to opt out and I wish others would do more of the same. I have always assumed that opt out statistics are tracked by the TSA (I’ve actually seen daily counts) and the more people opt out, the sooner TSA PreCheck will be available to everyone.

 

image credit – NYTimes.com

Cedar Point Bachelor Party

Bachelor parties are one of those things that are supposed to be very special but often times, don’t end up that way.  A bunch of guys go out for a big night on the town, drink themselves into oblivion, then don’t remember most of what happened.  Recent movies have done a lot to cement this stereotype and for that reason, leaving town for a weekend away has become almost the norm it seems.  Imagine my surprise when my most recent buddy to get engaged suggested something completely out of left field, going to an amusement park none of us had ever visited: Cedar Point.

The park itself is known for one thing, roller coasters.  Big ones, small ones, and everything in between.  Here is a listing of some of our favorites for the day.

  • millennium force 250x111 Cedar Point Bachelor PartyMillenium Force.  We did this one first and planned to do it for our last coaster for the day as well.  One of the biggest and fastest in the entire world clocking at over 90mph we didn’t even notice that it didn’t go upside down.  The power of this thing was just massive and really incredible.
  • Top Thrill Dragster.  From zero to 120 m.p.h. in about 4 seconds it didn’t matter that the entire ride was only 17 seconds long.  You could watch the video but it really doesn’t do the ride justice.  The most incredible part, as the day wears on and the equipment heats up, the coaster doesn’t always clear the top and sometimes falls back down from where it came from.
  • meanstreak 250x111 Cedar Point Bachelor PartyMean Streak.  This was a very massive wooden roller coaster and because it was wooden we chose to do this as an ‘easy’ ride after lunch….bad mistake.  This coaster did not disappoint and also claims to be amongst the world’s largest wooden coasters.  It is due to be overtaken soon by the new coaster going into Six Flags Great America.
  • Mantis.  This ride will likely hold a special place in our hearts when we think of Cedar Point.  After ‘finishing’ our day at Millenium Force we walked past this entrance and saw no line.  Not only were we in the front row on the next run of coaster but then we ran to the back row for the run after that.  NOT A GOOD IDEA.  It was midnight and by that point we were toasted.

There were other rides of the day but overall these were our favorites.  Rapter and Maverick were both pretty solid coasters as well but I think we were all a touch disappointed in Gatekeeper which was the new coaster for 2013.  It was big but didn’t really differentiate itself from the others we did.  Gemini, another wooden coaster, was a bit of a bust for us as well but Blue Streak, originally built in 1964 was surprisingly fun and kid friendly at the same time!

IF YOU GO:  Stay at one of the many lodging options on the grounds as you get into the park an hour earlier.  We waited for our first 4 roller coasters for less time than any other single line the rest of the day.  We enjoyed a nice cabin in lighthouse point which fit all 7 of us but it was UN-surprisingly snug.  Best part, flying in and out of Detroit saw us for a detour to a Tigers game (they won) and saved us loads of money on airfare.

 

I just ran a triathlon

It may have been a short triathlon, taking place in North Miami Beach, but it was the maximum length allowed to be called a sprint and it was a good stepping stone for me in trying out this new sport. The race was the 25.75 North Miami Triathlon and it felt great to get out there and even better to finish!

First.  What is a Triathlon?

A triathlon is three sports; swimming, cycling and running.  The three sports are always in that order, it’s pretty logical when you think about it.  In this race, the swim was 750 (.46mi) beautiful meters of open water swimming in Miami’s Biscayne Bay followed by a 20k (12.4mi) bike ride and a 5k (3.1mi) run.  My job was very simply to do those three events, in that order, as quickly as possible.

 miamitriathlon I just ran a triathlon

But Wait, What about those Adventure Races you used to run?

So yes, the adventure races are far more involved, take a lot longer, and involve lots of alligators.  This was NOT that.  My best hope for wildlife was a manatee or two but we didn’t see any of those.  Last year Jill did an Xterra Triathlon in the same waters and other swimmers did report a manatee in the water, but I digress. In an adventure race, the racer uses a map and compass to navigate the wilderness, sometimes on bike and sometimes on foot or in a boat, in whatever direction he or she chooses.  I view adventure races as a more difficult undertaking than a triathlon, simply because of how long it lasts and the mental anguish of poor decision making.  But, the events are very different and require a different type of fitness and mental fortitude.  An adventure race can last for 6 hours to 6 days, this triathlon took me just over 90 minutes while the longest available – the Iron Man – will take the winner just over 8 hours.  Because it is shorter, the triathlon requires a different sort of athleticism and a lot more hustle and no real opportunity to sit down and breathe.  Added benefit of the triathlon: finishing in time for brunch!

As I mentioned, I finished in just over 90 minutes, which is fantastic considering my [much too easy] goal was 2 hours.  My swim time was tremendously quicker than I had expected, I’d been working on that, while my run, which I did in normal shoes, and bike were right about as good as I could have hoped.  Here are my stats:

times I just ran a triathlon

The setting for the race was absolutely beautiful.  Miami’s Biscayne Bay and cycling through Oleta River State Park was a treat as well.  What wasn’t a treat was being passed on the bike by more racers than I could count.  Basically, if do an image search for the word triathlete, you’ll see what one looks like and the kind of bicycle they have.  Sometimes those bikes cost as much as $5,000.  My bike, which I use to commute, cost a measly $300 and well, I don’t think I much look like a triathlete.  Still, I enjoyed a great morning and have something to build off of.  Besides, I had the best looking cheerleaders of the entire race!

miamitriathlonkids I just ran a triathlon

IF YOU want to do a triathlon as well the 2575 race series is a great way to start.  The races are short, yet still long enough to be a very meaningful distance.  Also, the locations are simply phenomenal.  Using these races to travel all around the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean wouldn’t be such a bad plan.

4 Bachelor Party ideas for Las Vegas and Beyond

Typically, most bachelor parties here in the USA involve a lot of booze and often a trip to Las Vegas or Atlantic City.  In a few weeks, I’ll be heading out on a bachelor party myself and although some of the other guys wanted to take a traditional Vegas trip and stay at a place like the www.arialasvegas.com, the bride to be was dead set against that option.  Several still took the time to research Vegas flights and things to do in Sin City but it was to no avail.  Las Vegas can be a great place, but it is only one of the options we have here today.

Kayaking in Mexico Rio Micos 250x166 4 Bachelor Party ideas for Las Vegas and Beyond

A Backwoods Adventure.

Nothing quite says manliness and male bonding like a camping trip.  Somehow the challenge us urban and suburbanites face when lighting a campfire always makes stories for the ages.  Add to that a few rounds of brew and no real stressors and you can have yourself a nice relaxing trip…but that’s not what bachelor parties are all about.  Instead, try to take a mountain biking or a white water rafting trip.  The nice thing about rafting is that by choosing a rafting company, such as the one we used on my bachelor party, no one needs to have any real skills or gear.

GK ridethumb(1) 4 Bachelor Party ideas for Las Vegas and Beyond

Be A Kid.

With this upcoming bachelor party we chose instead to do something that would be simple and fun.  We’re visiting Cedar Point in Ohio where we will ride roller coasters until we’re blue in the face.  To add a little bit of manliness to the weekend we’ll also be hitting a baseball game and grilling out for dinner.  The really exciting thing is that none of the crew has been to this park before; most have never been to Ohio for that matter.

4739910421 fd5c4c52a9 m 4 Bachelor Party ideas for Las Vegas and BeyondTravel Abroad

In sticking with the theme of doing something new, why not take that same airplane and turn it in another direction.  Recently I went to a Bachelor Party that took place in Puerto Rico, no passport needed and relatively inexpensive airfare still left us in a new country with plenty of options for things to do.  Although if you have more money at your disposal, you could follow the British Stag Party tradition and visit Prague instead!

 

 

adventure travel 4 Bachelor Party ideas for Las Vegas and Beyond

When a Massage Just Isn’t Enough

Is it possible to call yourself a weary traveler even if you haven’t been anywhere new or on a typical “adventure” in a while? I think yes.  We are all in one way or another a weary traveler on the road of life.  A bit poetic perhaps, but it’s true.  The stress, anxiety and frustration we feel at home doesn’t automatically leave us when we hit the road, instead it is somehow transformed into positive stress (what time is the train? wait, what time is it now? oh no…), anxiety and yes, even frustration.  We’ve all lived through it on the road, and when we get home we swear to our friends that those were the best moments of the trip.  And yet at home, those are the moments that cause us to scream “I can’t take it anymore!”

As a weary traditional traveler, exploring the world, I took to the spas of Tbilisi in the hopes of some relaxation.  What I got can only be called the most unorthodox way to relax…the massage and scrub.  Now, repeat that with a heavy soviet accent.

Massage and scrub. 

Read about the spas of Tbilisi before you continue. Yes, the scrub was painful, humiliating and yet afterwards I was willing to do it again, because… it was relaxing in that painful stress relieving sort of way.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when we were waiting for our twins to make their appearance in this world.  We headed across the State of Florida to check out one of our favorite staycation options- Marco Island.  Let’s just say the differences were abundantly clear from the moment we arrived:

2009 HMI Spa 3 When a Massage Just Isnt Enough
Photo Credit: Hilton Marco Island Spa Website

No scary woman with a scrub brush and a hose here.  Instead, the locker room looked like the inside of a softly lit palace, complete with uniformed attendants and fluffy white towels.  Unlike the sulfurous water and back slapping, the spa massage included soothing instrumental music, soft mood lighting, aromatherapy and moisturizing massage oils.   No one approached me with a look of determination to scrub me clean or beat into submission my aching back.  The atmosphere was soothing, quiet and relaxing.

Too relaxing.

90 minutes after crawling onto the massage table I woke up.

Does a massage count if you fall asleep? 

Maybe I’m just better off handling my stress and anxiety with a trip!