Another Waste of Taxpayer Money

I knew the FAA was slow, but this is ridiculous.

I’m terrible about opening my mail. I routinely fetch it from my mailbox (which is two miles from my home) and leave it on the dashboard of whatever vehicle I’m driving. Or toss it behind the seat. Or bring it inside, but leave it in my “inbox” pile. No matter where it enters my life, it sits there for a long time. Truth be told, there’s a six-month period in early 2014 when I just stuffed it all in a box and lost it in my garage. (I honestly think there’s a black hole in there.)

This time of year, when I’m actually expecting checks, I pay a little closer attention to what comes in the mail. That’s why I noticed the letter from the FAA and opened it within two weeks of receipt. (Heck, I knew the FAA wasn’t sending a check, so why rush?)

Inside was the letter dated 5/19/2017 that you can see below.

FAA Letter
So the FAA basically waited 17 years to give me an opportunity to opt out of releasing my address to the public.

It basically says that back on April 5, 2000 (not a typo), Congress and the President — Bush 43, I guess — enacted a law that required the FAA to make pilot addresses available to the public. Fortunately, I can opt-out of this invasion of my privacy by signing the letter and sending it back to the FAA.

But I have to hurry! Even though it took them 17 years to send me this letter, I only have 90 days to respond.

Can you believe this crap?

My first thought was what a waste of taxpayer money this is. Wikipedia reports that there were 590,039 certificated pilots in the United States as of 2015 year-end. That means the FAA had to print and mail 590,039 letters just like the one I got.

Maybe that’s why it took so long? Maybe they just got up to the Ls?

So the FAA has blown through 1181 reams of paper and a similar number of boxes of envelopes. Even if they got bulk rate on mailing all those envelopes, they’ve still spent well over $100,000 on postage. Somebody had to handle the mailing — even if a machine stuffed the envelopes, someone still had to tend to that machine and get them to the post office. How many trips to the Post Office is that? Do they have trucks standing by for mass mailings like this?

So how much money have they pissed away on this so far? A quarter million? More?

And then there’s the processing. I’m not going to the website. I’m going to sign the letter and mail it back. There’s got to be some poor slob in Oklahoma City who’s sitting at a desk just waiting for envelopes with signed letters to come in. He or she has to look up each one in the system and toggle a check box to say we want our addresses kept private. And then what? Do they actually file all that paper? Stick it in filing cabinets? How many filing cabinets do they have? How many rooms does that fill? Do they have buildings filled with filing cabinets of paper?

Paper!

And for what? What gives Congress and the President the right to decide that the public is entitled to the addresses of certificated pilots? What is the benefit of such a rule? Why would they even do this?

And who the hell wouldn’t opt out?

This is stupid from start to end. it’s wallpapered with stupid.

But that’s our tax dollars at work. Imagine how many educational programs the cost of this mailing would have funded. How many Meals on Wheels dinners. How many airport improvements, for Pete’s sake.

Why are the people in Washington so damn stupid with our money?

Naked on the Deck

And other benefits of a home with privacy.

Lately, I’ve taken to relaxing on my deck after a shower or soak in the tub. Naked.

Naked on the Deck
This chair outside my bedroom door to the deck is a perfect place to relax after a shower or soak in the tub.

I can do that where I live. My north-facing deck is covered and blocked from the road by my home. There’s a hill to the west that separates me from my closest neighbor. To the north and east, the land drops away, leaving me with a clear view down to the Columbia River Valley with more than a quarter mile between me and the closest home or orchard.

I have a comfortable chair out there where I can relax, letting a warm summer breeze tickle my skin and dry water droplets my towel missed. I listen to the birds or the crickets or the orchard sprayers while looking out over miles of orchards, scattered homes, a small lake, the winding Columbia River, basalt cliffs, and the city of Wenatchee off in the distance.

It’s one of the perks of living someplace with privacy.

My home in Arizona had nearly as much privacy and I admit I occasionally lounged on my upstairs patio there after a shower or bath — mostly on a warm winter afternoon when the sun flooded the covered area. But I was far more likely to drop my towel at night than during the day; my neighbors were a lot closer and more likely to spot me out there. I’m shy.

My vacation home in northern Arizona was the ultimate in privacy. No one was ever around up there. That place also had a deep silence broken only occasionally by the sound of the flapping of a raven’s wings or a car wandering onto the rumble strip along the closest paved road two air miles away. Or a jet, 30,000 feet up, flying on the jet route over the Grand Canyon.

I value privacy — real privacy. That’s one of the reasons I live on ten acres two miles down a gravel road on the edge of town. Yeah, it’s a long drive — 10 miles to the nearest supermarket — but it’s so worth it.

People complain about loss of privacy from big data collection by social media or portable devices or government agencies like the TSA. Yet these same people live in homes 20 feet from their neighbors’ and rely on association-approved fences to keep those same neighbors from watching their backyard barbecues. Or they share walls with neighbors in apartments or condos and can hear their neighbors sneeze or argue or have sex. Or their windows look out into community spaces, thus requiring them to close the blinds if they don’t want their neighbors to watch them eating dinner or watching television.

I lived like that for a while: in a fishbowl condo that reminded me so much of a movie that I named the network Rear Window. I hated having to use blinds to block out prying eyes — and light. I hated the thought that I had to change the way I lived my life just because I lived so close to other people.

But here in my new home, I don’t have curtains or blinds on any of my windows. I don’t need them. No one is going to look in — no one can. And no one wants to — most of the people out here have their own lives and don’t need to poke their noses into their neighbors’ business. (Sadly, not all of them have learned what living in the country is all about, but I suspect they’ll learn that lesson soon. Seriously: some people who live in metro areas really should stay there. They’re not welcome here.)

So I’ll relax naked on my deck whenever I like, basking in the privacy that my semi-remote home gives me, glad that I made the decision to rebuild my life here, in a place I love, on my terms.

Facebook Crosses the Line. Again.

Facebook is now posting advertisements from my account.

Yesterday, a friend sent me an email message that included the following shared Facebook update:

An Ad I didn't Write

Yes, it’s a Facebook update apparently written by me that is promoting a magazine I don’t read or care about. This appeared in one of the groups on Facebook that I’m a member of.

When I clicked the link to see the ad for myself, Facebook prompted me to log in with my friend’s account information. It actually filled in the user ID field with his account name.

I was appalled.

Let’s look at what’s going on here: this is a Facebook update that looks like it was written by me to promote a product I don’t care about.

Is it unreasonable for me to be outraged?

And yes, I checked the Facebook Ad settings. This is the only one that seems as if it should apply and I’ve got it set to No One, meaning no one can see my name attached to any advertisement:

Ad Settings

Why has this happened? How many other times has it happened? Is it happening to your Facebook account, too?

How many more liberties will Facebook take with our privacy in an effort to maximize their bottom line and bombard us with advertising?