Damn Your Lies, TSA

You can see the balls on the TSA from Mars, trying to pass this bullshit off as an explanation/excuse... lemme ask you this:

What is more likely?

That, all of a sudden, there has been, for no apparent reason, a MASSIVE increase in the percentage of passengers who try to bring "forbidden" items through the security lines...

OR that the TSA's recent 10% cut in screener staffing, decided upon as a tactic via which to force more people to pay for TSA Pre or Global Entry (aka, The Rich People Security Shortcut Aisles), has NOT resulted in more revenue but instead is just fucking up the regular security lines more than usual?

I know, I know... one's instinct is to assume that YES, more people are MORE STUPIDER now, but that's not actually how it works. 

This is criminal. The TSA's #1 Job is to "Make Air Travel Safe". Cutting screeners and letting crowds of hundreds or thousands of people build up in unsecured lines open to the entire world does the opposite of that. Either fucking fund it to where they don't need to perform bullshit stunts like this to try and drive people (most of whom can barely afford the plane ticket to begin with) to pay extra to get through the sometimes-available Elitist Express Lanes or have to spend 4 hours in a fucking airport to make a 45-minute flight to Cleveland, OR do the smart thing, realize that this hideously expensive security theater is just that, theater, and tell the senators who own the companies that sell the nudie x-ray scanners to piss off and SHUT IT ALL DOWN.

The Books of 2016, #10: The History of the Renaissance World: From the Rediscovery of Aristotle to the Conquest of Constantinople, by Susan Wise Bauer

This is a weird book to review as it's not a standard, single-topic narrative history. Rather, each chapter focuses on a different slice of the world that makes sense to narrow in on topically, with the whole group of chapters slowly moving forward in time. So, for example, every fifth-ish chapter will revisit what's happened in, say, Korea since the last chapter on that area. 

Over the course of the whole book, you get a pretty damned good overview of everything that happened of note in every major civilization region across the globe over the couple hundred years this book covers (the same basic idea holds for the previous entries in the series as well). There's an almost unavoidable weighting of text in favor of European civilizations, just due to the simple fact that there's more written source material to work with for them (Bauer made clear in the intro to the first book of the series that she had to limit herself to civilizations that left written records; there's no room in her scope for archaeology or trying to interpret, say, whatever the hell the Harappans were up to in India, or what the bulk of pre-Colombian America was doing). That said, she obviously cares to give as much weight to non-European civilizations as the material can allow for, and does that well.  

Even as carefully as written a book such as this must, due to the vast scope of the topic being covered, be a wide but shallow pool. Bauer presents a pretty amazing level of detail on each cultural area over time, but if you're looking for explosive new interpretations or thoughtful analysis of larger trends, you're not going to find it here.

I like this series best as an accompaniment to deeper books I'm reading at the time; like, if I want a wider context on what all of Europe or the world was like during the time period covered by, say, the Third Crusade, I can get that from Bauer's series. 

So, for the well-read historian, the series will serve as a great refresher on areas the reader may be weaker on or have forgotten about. But it will work best for the novice; if you haven't cracked a history book since your college World History AP course, but are interested in catching up, this is the first series I'd point you to. 

Steve Would've Never Let This Happen

I don't understand the iPad Pro line from Apple. A few months ago they release the biggest, fastest iPad ever, with the most RAM and new accessories that only it can use, the regular iPads need not apply. Then, more recently, they release what everybody would consider the mainstream version, which has a lot of the bad-assed stuff of its older brother, but not all of it, and it's a bit smaller. 

So far, so good.

Until one realizes that this smaller, supposedly NOT the top of the iPad line has a better, if smaller, screen than its big brother. And some fancy light detection technology that will change the color warmth of the screen automatically to match its surroundings. AND it has a way better camera.

So, like.. what the fuck? 

Yeah, first world problems and all that, but if you want the absolute best iPad today to future proof yourself, there isn't a clear answer. Best iPhone? 6S or 6S+, the only difference is the size, pick accordingly. Best Mac laptop? Macbook Pro Retina 15, loaded. Best iMac? The big one, loaded. Best iPad? Uhhhh... depends.

I like Apple's willingness to have top-tier internals across a wide variety of sizes; the iPhone SE is a great example of this, providing first-rate hardware in a form factor the market has otherwise abandoned or consigned to shitty performance due to gimped parts from the bin bucket. But I cannot understand why they did this weird separation of high-end features across their top two iPads. 

So, I'll just stick with my iPad Air 2 for now. Fuckin' thing works fine, anyways.