A Letter I wrote to the TSA in 2008

Way back in December 2008, I was traveling back to Wisconsin after Christmas break, and did that stupid thing where you shove all your Christmas presents into your checked bags because you don’t feel like carrying them.

Unsurprisingly, when I went to pick up my bags from the baggage carousel, they were plastered with those stickers that say some TSA agent has dug around in them. I also discovered that anything of perceived value had been stolen out of my bags, including a shitty pair of shoes, a video camera, and some scifi DVDs. I wasn’t upset about shitty shoes or the camera, but I was pretty sad about those DVDs. 

Like any good citizen, rather than waste time filling out pointless forms to recover cost of goods stolen, I wrote this letter to the TSA. 

Dear Transportation Security Administration:

In this post-9/11 world, I understand the great lengths to which this noble country must go to protect the freedoms that too many of us take for granted on a daily basis. I, personally, realize that these freedoms come at a price, a price too high to tally or itemize. In fact, to try to even quantify the cost of freedom would be crass, vulgar, and disrespectful to the memories of those who have paid with their lives for the freedom of not only Americans, Iraqis, and Afghanis, but really, everyone everywhere since the dawn of time. 

It is for this reason that I do not fault you for my recent losses while traveling across our great nation. In fact, I believe that it is in the service of freedom that the TSA reappropriated my Battlestar Galactica: Razor DVD and Star Trek: Captain’s Log DVD. For this honor, I am eternally grateful, and am glad to have done my part to secure the freedom of the world, nay, the universe! For I believe that my DVD’s were recommissioned in order to help train military assets in your top-secret “Operation Intergalactic Freedom” program. 

I have long suspected that while our freedom on this earthly plane has remained secure, we are daily threatened by invisible, intergalactic beings who can only have the most sinister designs for America, and Earth at large. While I believe the training simulations run at prison camps like Abu Ghraib represent an effective start on how to deal with Alien invasions, truly, such training becomes elementary when compared to the undoubtedly advanced technology of the alien hordes who lurk just outside our galaxy’s borders. 

It is for this reason that I believe our soldiers need the wisdom and counsel of great future leaders like Captain Kirk, Captain Picard, and yes, even Captain Janeway. The diplomatic expertise of these collective leaders demonstrates the type of intellect, savvy, and sensuality necessary for making first contact with hostile alien forces. Soldiers must learn that before we resort to violence, we must present the guise of diplomacy, and lure the hostile aliens into thinking that Earth’s domination is, for lack of a better phrase, a sure thing. Just think of Janeway’s ingenius defeat of the Borg. She willingly ignored the sanctity of the temporal prime directive in order to achieve a greater good—the safety of humankind, and the safe return of her ship to the Alpha quadrant. Or consider Picard, whose intellectual curiosity and charming accent helped smooth over many a diplomatic nightmare with hostile species like the Cardassians and the Romulans. Once we have lured the alien forces into the comfort of our loins of freedom, we can then use the great military experiences of Admiral Adama as a guiding light for how to ultimately bring democracy to the universe. 

As you of course know, Adama’s universe was once foolish enough to assume that their Cylon neighbors were no longer a threat. Lulled into a comfortable freedom coma, Adama’s world was nearly completely annihilated by an unexpected Cylon invasion. Cylons, with their complete lack of compassion, would not hesitate to behead a baby if it meant there would be one less human on Caprica. What did we learn from all this? We have learned that aliens cannot be trusted, no matter how physically attractive they might seem, and that ultimately, the only thing that can save our humanity is the continued dissemination of democracy across the universe. 

In order to do this, we must first secure the borders of the Milky Way. Whether this means building a giant, energy barrier around the giant swirl we are proud to call home, or sending an army of drone aircraft to patrol our borders, we must make intergalactic freedom our highest priority. I, for one, am firmly behind Operation Intergalactic Freedom 100%, and indeed, if you should ever need my expertise in military strategy, I willingly volunteer my humble services. 

And truly, TSA, should you ever need to borrow more of my military training videos, all you have to do is ask. I’ll even bring popcorn. 

Cindy Au

They never responded. 

Apparently 9 people have now read part of my dissertation

A few weeks ago, I threw my entire dissertation onto Medium

I did this mostly because I’d been trying to find some old teaching materials in gmail and realized that the only digital copy of my dissertation was also sitting in gmail. As a Word doc attachment. 

Since that Word doc did represent, oh, about 5 years of work, I thought it might be sad if somehow gmail died (unlikely) or that old Word doc became radically incompatible with all known file formats (more likely) or the basement of the UW-Library where the hard copy is kept burned to the ground (possible?). In a desperate act of historical preservation, I thought it might be smart to keep a copy of it somewhere else.

I decided to put it into Medium because Medium makes everything look nice, and I was curious if my dissertation might seem more readable if it looked like an attractive long article instead of a Word doc. Here are the stats from the last 30 days:


Since 2010, only 4 people have ever read my dissertation, all professors on my committee. And come to think of it, I don’t actually know if they really read it. I mean if you had a bunch of grad students you were advising and they each had 200-300 pages of dissertation, don’t you think you’d be tempted to skim some of it?

I have no idea if these new 9 people read the whole thing. But even if they only read part of it, it is extremely thrilling and strange to imagine that in a mere 30 days I’ve more than doubled my dissertation readership. Progress! 

Anyways, whoever you 9 people are, somehow knowing that you even glanced at this thing has made me feel like maybe the 5 years I put into those thoughts weren’t totally lost to the void. (Also I suspect you 9 people might actually be my mother) 

I have often found academic writing to be mostly unreadable. It’s likely this is because the only people reading it is other academics, who are used to reading things that are highly unreadable. And in fact, the more unreadable the academic gibberish, the more commendable! 

It’s all quite silly, and Word docs certainly don’t help.

Grad students/dissertators/academics, you should try putting your writing into Medium (or anywhere public, really). We should get those thoughts out into the public sphere, and get that writing to a place where more people can understand what it is you are trying to say. Otherwise, why do it at all?

Respect ought to mean you can set aside the roles you play every day and indulge in perverse, silly, exciting, transgressive consensual acts, whatever they may be. Anyone who finds that dampening to the sexual spirit doesn’t sound quite ready for equality. So next time you read a little stat like, “The risk of divorce is lowest when the husband does 40 percent of the housework and the wife earns 40 percent of the income,” you shouldn’t think, wow, equality is really killing my boner. You should think, wow, we’ve still got a long way to go.
From What if Equality is the Biggest Boner Killer of All? by Tracy Moore of Jezebel. In response to the stupid Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex? by Lori Gottlieb, who wrote this book btw Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. (via lcucinotta)