Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bear Shock

Can you imagine this happening while you're asleep in your tent? Well, I can. That's why I have never had a decent night's sleep on any of my many camping trips in bear country. It's also why I always thought I would never be able to go camping in grizzly-infested places like Glacier National Park. But that may be changing: in Backpacker magazine yesterday, I I read about the Bear Shock electric fence. It's a portable, 3.7-pound electric fence that runs on two D batteries and allows you to enclose a 30 ft X 30 ft area. When a bear touches it, it gets a 6,000-volt shock. During testing by the National Outdoor Leadership School, it was extremely effective at turning back bears coming into camp for food.

Of course, this not as good as my idea of fencing off an entire state or two for those hikers who want to remain bear-free. Still, it means we're moving in the right direction.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Baggage claim

Now that you're not allowed to carry toothpaste or mascara onto an airplane, almost everyone checks bags. This is good news during the flight, because there is more room in the overhead compartments. It is bad news at the baggage claim.

There are two ways a flight full of people can deal with the baggage carousel:

Approach #1: Everyone stands back from the carousel about a foot, forming a large circle or oval whose circumference is large enough to accommodate everyone from the flight. Everyone can stand comfortably, can easily see the all bags as they come by, and can step forward when their bags come.

Approach #2: Everyone can try to cram themselves right up at the edge of the carousel, forming a small circle or oval whose circumference is NOT large enough to accomodate everyone. Half the people on the flight have to stand on their tiptoes or peer around people to see the bags coming. If they actually do see their bags, they have to squirm through the mass of people yelling "excuse me" and trying to get to their bags before the bags move on.

I have yet to see any flight full of people choose approach #1. Even if a few bright people are standing back, once some morons start in with approach #2, everyone else has no choice but to join in.

I encourage everyone to write to airport managers and designers and encourage them to paint some kind of lines on the floor around the carousels to tell people where to stand.