7 Airport Security Check-in Tips

7 Airport Security Check-in Tips

People have varied reactions to traveling.

Some people enjoy going to exciting or restful destinations.

 

They are not disturbed by the vagaries of travel.  They just look on the security checks, delays, and the other aspects of travel as part of the experience.

For some people travel is a necessary part of their job.  They learn how to manage the travel experience to minimize discomfort and maximize the use of travel time.

 

For yet others, travel is a frustrating, and at times maddening, experience they either put up with or hate with a passion.

 

Whatever category of traveler you fall into, airline travel is harder than you think.  This is because every form of delay and inconvenience that you can imagine (and even some you would never imagine) may occur with any flight.

 

I have personally had many unusual experiences traveling by air.  I have also heard endless stories from other people who have had many of their own adventures in air travel.

 One of the most potentially frustrating aspects of air travel is the security check.  However, it does not have to be so bad.  This article will relate 7 tips that I follow for getting through security with the minimum of hassle.  It is not an exhaustive list, but future articles will expand on the topic with additional suggestions and stories.  Feel free to share yours.

  1. If you don’t have to bring it, don’t bring it.
    Yes, this sounds simple, but many don’t follow this simple suggestion. Many years ago when I flew, I carried a toolkit that I had received as a gift.  The ratchet in the toolkit had a pistol-grip.  After being pulled aside by an overly nervous agent, I decided that I really did not need to carry the kit.  This suggestion also goes for over packing your carry-on with every gadget that you will never use anyway.
  2. Have your boarding pass and ID ready for security.
    Now, c’mon this is a no-brainer.  Just make sure to have your boarding pass and your driver’s license/passport in your hand when you are called by the security agent.  Just in case this happens to be a really bad day for the agent, you won’t be the person that wasn’t ready to present their ID.
  3. Be polite.
    If you prefer to be rude and difficult, then you should also plan on extra time in the security area.  I am not saying to act servile, just polite.
  4. Plan what to wear.
    This can prove complicated if you are flying directly to a business meeting, but even then, it helps to prepare.  Typically, you would plan to wear something comfortable for your flight.  In addition, you should now think about how your outfit will work going through security as well.  Wearing high boots and a couple of pounds of bling will not help you get through security quickly.
    Make sure you can get your shoes off and on easily.  Decide what belt you will have, and make sure that you can you take it off, and put it in your bag quickly. Don’t wear the socks with holes that day.
  5. Plan to put everything normally in your pockets into your bag.
    I always have all metal objects (my belt, keys, glasses, etc.) in my bag to go through the x-ray.  It is best to not have anything in your pockets when you go through the scanner.
  6. Have your liquids bag in an accessible front pocket of your bag.
    This is definitely inconvenient for me, because I like the liquids in my shaving bag, but that won’t fly (pun intended).  So, I have the bag in an outside pocket, and I just pull it out and dump it in the bin with my shoes.
  7. Get a TSA compliant laptop bag or have your laptop ready to pull out.
    Yes, there are TSA compliant laptop bags.  See the Tom Bihn website for an example laptop bag.  Otherwise, make sure that you can easily pull out and replace your laptop in your bag.  If this is difficult, then repack or consider a new bag.

Taking these steps usually helps the security process go smoothly.  Even though, sometimes, things will still be harder than you think.
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Rescuing Troubled Projects 1

Rescuing Troubled Projects 1
Some years ago I was assigned to a troubled account.  I knew I was in trouble the first day I arrived.  I was ushered into a conference room that had been converted into an office for the acting Delivery Project Executive (DPE).  The walls were covered with whiteboards, and the whiteboards had lists of red, yellow, and green projects.  The DPE, calling in from back east on a speaker phone, said he was glad that I had joined the team.

I replied that I assumed he was giving me all of the green projects.  Nope.  I got all the red and yellow projects.  In fact, I realized pretty quickly that I couldn’t have created this big a mess, if I had planned to.  I could never have thought of all the things they did wrong.  And on top of it all, the place had the morale of a gulag.

Now, every project is harder than you think so there is a pretty good chance that at some point a project manager will get assigned to a killer (i.e. troubled) project.  A killer project is a project that is so hard that you wonder if you will live to laugh about it later.

If you haven’t been lucky enough to experience such a project, just wait. There is undoubtedly one waiting out there for you.

Now, before you get the torches and pitchforks, let me tell you that I have been assigned to several of these projects.  And I want to help you survive yours, when and if the time comes.

My objective is to arm you with some ideas and techniques for dealing with killer projects. I will discuss things I have used that usually work.  But, please take note.  There is no technique that always works.

I will also review things that I have tried, but that you should probably avoid.

Please let me give one more disclaimer up front.  The techniques that I will discuss are NOT replacements for good PM practices.  I expect that you already know to verify requirements, set up issue, change, and risk management logs, to establish a communications plan, and the rest of project management blocking and tackling.

The point of this article is to give you some tools for handling the unusual situations that are the hallmark of troubled projects.

In this first article, I will discuss what I think you should do first when you arrive at a killer project.

OK, now you’ve arrived.  You have had your 5-minute orientation and hand off in the hallway.  Now you are the Project Manager.

What do you suppose that you should do first???

I suggest that you start by exercising the First Law of HolesSTOP DIGGING!

Remember, I am assuming that you know or that you quickly discover you have been assigned to a killer project.  If you are on a great project, where everything is under control, just keep doing what you are doing.  That is not what this article is about.

Unless you are very lucky, on killer projects you will usually not have much up-front information.  This makes it difficult to make the “right” decisions the moment you arrive.

However, you should try to keep the hole from getting deeper.

Here are a couple of examples from my own experience:

I was assigned to a large supply chain project.  This was the initial phase, and I was told we already had a couple of senior architects on site. I dutifully checked with our sales rep to make sure we had a contract in place, and I flew to the site.  The day I arrived, I found that we did indeed have senior architects on site, and they had been there for a few weeks.  What we did not have was a signed contract.  I called the sales rep and let him know, that the team was leaving that evening, unless I saw the signed contract.  The contract was signed in a couple of hours, and the project proceeded successfully.

In another case, I was called in to replace a PM at a large company where we were doing a roll-out of laptops to the senior executives and personnel.  The day I arrived the outgoing PM told me that the company had not paid its bills for a very long time.  The PM had informed the CIO that the team would leave that day if the bill was not paid.  Isn’t that a great way to start a new project?!

This threat had been made before, but it was never carried out.  I met with the CIO and asked, if he understood the team would leave, if they did not pay.  He said he understood. They did not pay, and I pulled the team out on my first day on the job.  After two unpleasant weeks, the company paid, and the project went on successfully.  However, I was “rewarded” by being assigned to a different project.

Your actions may make you very unpopular for a while, but the alternative is usually worse for you and your company.

Be prepared for the developers, the customer, and maybe even your regular allies to tell you that you can’t afford to stop or even slow down.  This is frequently the mindset of those who are too close to the chaos and who probably contributed to the troubles in the first place.

However, do you really think they would be in the hole, if what they were doing was working so well?  I have heard it said that we never have time to do it right, but, we always have time to do it over.

Stopping the hole from getting deeper requires that you understand what is causing the hole. This is where you will want to apply your PM Methods.

This is not rocket science.  Be aware that killer projects usually have several problems that have grown from molehills into mountains.

You should conduct an abbreviated Root Cause Analysis.  You are not trying to ferret out every issue!  You are looking for the major sources of bleeding and hole-digging!  As you discover the problems, halt the digging.

Usually, you will start by meeting with the account executive and/or client representative to get their read on the problems.

Afterwards, interview the team and get an initial feel for where they are.

Next, you should meet with the client and other relevant stakeholders, to hear their tales of woe and to get a feel for their objectives.

Concurrently, you should get familiar with existing agreements, the charter, and any other documentation that may (if you are lucky) exist.

By the end of this process, in conjunction with the account management, you should have halted or slowed the primary unproductive activities.

At the same supply chain project that I mentioned before, I was told by the client that he couldn’t see any need for a project manager.  And this was for a project with a budget of many millions of dollars!

So, I created a risk analysis, which I then presented to my client and his manager.  While I was speaking, their eyes got as big as saucers.  They wanted to know who had told me all of their top secret problems!  I told them no one!  These were just the obvious risks that any senior project manager knows when a major account does not have project management.

A little while later, the client called me in and apologized, saying that he now understood why they needed a project manager.  Actually, I was so successful, that they sent me home and got a local, cheaper project manager.

Oh well…

As you might guess, if you don’t get control of the bleeding, then you may well get run over by the project before you get very far.  We will discuss this in my next article.

Z-Brick Removal #2

Z-Brick Removal #2
In the first installment of Kitchen Renovation Nightmares I began a discussion of removing Z-Brick.  The prior owner of our house covered all of the kitchen and laundry walls in faux brick (Z-Brick).  We wanted to redo our kitchen and the Z-Brick had to go!  Of course this was harder than we thought.

Our house is over 60 years old, and we did not want to have to demolish the walls.  As I mentioned last time, I learned about a technique called skim coating that I hoped would fix the problem.  I determined to test the technique.  I chose a section of wall in the laundry room as my test area.

Z-Brick is affixed to the wall with a cement-like material.  The “bricks” come off somewhat easily with a hammer and pry bar.  However, the wall surface that is left is pretty bad, with chunks removed, globs of cement, and very rough sections of cement.

This next view gives you a better idea of how rough the wall is after taking off the bricks.

In order to prepare the surface for skim coating, I proceeded by knocking off the globs of cement with a hammer and putty knife.  This left me with a “smoother” surface with chunks of plaster missing:

My next step was to power-sand the wall with coarse grit sandpaper.  This gave me a more uniform surface that still had many chunks missing:

From here, I decided to patch the areas where there were open spots, dips, and holes.  I used light spackling compound for the patching.  Once the compound was hard, I sanded it:

The final step before beginning the skim coat was to prime the surface.  For this purpose, I used Zinsser® Bulls Eye 1-2-3® Water Base Primer paint.

The test area was now ready for skim coating.  While the picture makes the area look smooth, it was definitely quite rough.

Next time, I will go through the actual skim coating process I followed.  I found over time that some things worked and some did not.

Until then.

Z-Brick Removal #1

Z-Brick Removal #1

Well, it is time for the first installment of Kitchen Renovation Nightmares. This time we will discuss the joys of removing Z-Brick. What is Z-Brick you ask?

Z-Brick is a plastic material made to look like real brick. Each “brick” is about an eighth of an inch thick. The bricks are glued or cemented to the wall to give the appearance of real brick. The product is still around, and it is in many houses where this was done as far back as the 1950’s.

Depending on how well this was done, it may look good or bad. The prior owner of our house had done a fair job as you can see below. However, over the years we had really grown to dislike this stuff, and we wanted to remove it as part of our kitchen renovation.

If you search on the web for “removing Z-Brick”, you will find that almost everyone tells you to demo the walls, and put in new drywall. Some people tell you to put the drywall over the Z-Brick. This is because the “cement” they use to affix the Z-Brick is pretty much like regular cement. It doesn’t come off easily, and it often takes chunks of the wall with it, or it leaves a big glob of cement where the brick used to be.

The demo method is great, if you are a contractor or a wiz at drywall. If you are not, then you need to have a contractor do this. It gets worse, if you have lath and plaster underneath as we did.

So what else can you do?

After watching a number of videos on the web about hanging drywall, I came across a procedure called skim coating. This is a technique for finishing walls that consists of applying thin coats of joint compound to the walls to give a smooth paint-able finish.

After reading an article and watching a number of videos, I decided to do a test to see if this would work on a wall with the Z-Brick removed. If it didn’t work, I would then have to go ahead and remove the plaster and lath, and put in drywall.

Of course the videos make it look easy to cover almost any nightmare texture on any wall. Don’t be fooled; Everything Is Harder Than You Think. However, this process does work, if you are willing to put in the effort.

The next couple of blogs will demonstrate the process I used for my test and the results. The picture below shows the section of wall that I started with after removing some of the bricks. The bricks come off easily enough with a pry bar and hammer.