The Department of State is proposing a new questionnaire as a precondition of getting a US passport. If the applicant is a newborn it might not be too much of a burden, but for an adult it reads like it was written by George Orwell.
If you’re a grown up and considering getting a passport, you should check in at the comment site or just email [email protected] and let DoS know that their estimate of 45 minutes to gather the required information is probably off by a couple of years.
A few of the questions, which I swear I am not making up:
5. List your mother's residence one year before your birth:
6. List your mother's residence at the time of your birth:
7. List your mother's residence one year after your birth:
8. Mother's place of employment at the time of your birth:
- Dates of employment:
- Name of employer:
- Address of employer:
9. Did your mother receive pre-natal or post-natal medical care?
- Name of Doctor:
- Dates of appointments:
10. What type of document, if any, did your mother use to enter into the United States before your birth?
11. Please describe the circumstances of your birth including the names (as well as address and phone number, if available) of persons present or in attendance at your birth:
Please list all of your residences inside and outside of the United States starting with your birth until the present.
Please list all of your current and former places of employment in the United States and abroad.
I declare under penalty of perjury that all responses contained in this document are true and correct, to the best of my knowledge.
False statements made knowingly and willfully in passport applications or in affidavits or other supporting documents submitted therewith are
punishable by fine and/or imprisonment under the provisions of 18 U.S.C. 1001 and/or 18 U.S.C. 1542.
This is so far beyond idiotic, so completely utterly absurd, that I’m tempted to believe that someone is pulling a hoax in releasing the document to get people riled up, like claiming there will be death panels or some stupid fabricated outrage like that. I suppose filling in “I’m sorry, but my memory of the circumstances three months before I was a zygote is a little hazy these days” would at least be true and correct, but might not lead to quick issuance of a passport. It is not just the flabbergasting stupidity of asking questions that no adult could possibly answer, but questions that utterly irrelevant to providing a passport that is galling. Dear DoS: derp?
I can haz parks here from 8-6 for onliez 12 hours?
Carolyn and I visited the Chernobyl reactor site with a Singularity University reunion organized by Andrew Bain (who did an amazing job, BTW, thanks!).
We had a walk to the crippled facility, the visitors center (in the shadow of the west wall of the crippled reactor), and a walk around the town of Pripyat made famous by Elena.
Chernobyl seems a particularly relevant lesson in light of the hysteria over radiation reaching the US from Fukushima. It has been 25 years since the reactor accident at Chernobyl and it is a good test of what will happen in Japan.
In Fukishima the reactor cores melted and cooling water carried radioactive material into the ocean, while there were gaseous emissions of hot materials, including (apparently) some radio isotope emissions. There were a few explosions, but of hydrogen liberated by thermal reaction – that is chemical explosions (not a “hydrogen bomb” as in an explosive fusion reaction). When Chernobyl’s reactor 4 blew up, the core blew open and the 2,000 ton upper plate launched 30 meters in the air, through the roof of the containment building, to crash down 90 degrees rotated into the core base. Without coolant, the core itself vaporized (kind of a fizzle yield bomb, about 3 tons of TNT) which blew almost all of the fuel into the air to disperse over the countryside, mostly into Belarus.
We measured radiation levels on the site as we went:
- 0.14 µSv/h in Kiev (granite buildings).
- 0.10 µSv/h at the 30km exclusion zone
- 0.10 µSv/h at the 10km exclusion zone
- 0.66 µSv/h at the south fence line of the reactor
- 3.41 µSv/h at the monument in front of the west wall of the containment
- 7.04 µSv/h in some dirt at the abandoned amusement park
- 16.07 µSv/h in the car driving over the plume – that was the only place where it seemed as trees hadn’t returned immediately.
According to XKCD, a NY-LA flight = 5 hrs = 40µSV = 8µSv/h.
Working at the visitors center, right next to the destroyed reactor, results in an exposure rate less than half that a flight attendant gets. Not that it would be smart to dig around (the contaminated dust from the explosion is estimated to be buried about 10cm by now), nor would I suggest eating the local produce, but walking around one needs only minor precautions such as long pants and closed shoes as beta emissions are highest at ground level and are significantly absorbed by the air before getting to head level. The ground we walked on had been cleaned, radioactivity levels were higher in the woods and other areas that hadn’t been scrubbed and stripped, but by now are no longer particularly dangerous.
25 years after the explosion there is a lot of activity on the site and on a nice summer day, we were told, 1,000 tourists might visit. We were one of three small groups when we were there, a bit early in the season, and at 8, the largest.
The site itself has become very beautiful, pretty woods with lots of birds and apparently moose and other large animals roaming around more or less happily free of people. The degree to which the surrounding forest has overtaken the abandoned town of Pripyat is quite amazing and shows the transience of human construction. Like every tour group, we visited the iconic school and amusement park, which are particularly poignant.
On the way out, we had to pass through a tourniquet (or turnstile in alternate translation) with radiation detectors. We were told that if we were contaminated we would have to try to clean up to get a passing score and anything that couldn’t pass had to remain. Nobody set off any alarms.
Or effective comarketing.
Remember: everything you post to the cloud is ephemeral and public, no matter what the vendor promises.
Only use the cloud in cases where it does not matter if the data is there tomorrow or not or never again, and data you’d be willing to publish on a tumblr page. If the data is sensitive or the remote record is important, do not trust 3rd party services. Don’t be stupid.