How to get yourself imprisoned [by/for talking about Unicode]

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/12/11 10:16 -05:00, original URI:

My friend Liz was heading to Alaska on Sunday morning and she ended up with something of a layover in Seattle.

I suspect she just missed me, since it seems like there are flights to various pieces of Alaska every 7.5 minutes, even on Sunday. :-)

But these days I'll take what I can get, what with me hemorrhaging friends left and right to other parts of the country! :-(

Anyway, she left the "secured" area and met me in the pre-secured area, and we chatted for a bit (she had a few hours, and what the hell else was I going to do on a Sunday morning that would be more interesting -- laundry?).

I told her that I could have met her at the gate if she wanted.

She interrupted to explain about all the TSA rules.

So then I explained how all you have to do is by a refundable ticket for that day, no penalty for refund or change. Then just get it refunded when you are ready to leave the airport. They look at you funny, but they still do it1,2,3....

Anyway, among all of the other non-technical pieces of conversation (and we had hours of that, lots had happened since we last talked!), she was asking me about that Behind 'How to break Windows Notepad' post, and I found out that some kinds of conversation might not be appropriate in aiports....

I was telling her about an interesting reverse question that had come up the other day where a file was Unicode (it was a log file) but it was being detected as being in the default system code page on some locales but not others

She was thinking about that and asked "Would placement of a BOM impact things?" (she pronounced it bomb and neither of us really noticed since that is what we would have called it anyway).

So I said "Sure, you just put a BOM in front of the file and then detection is easy" and as I said it the person walking by who practically turned white cause us both to realize the downside of the pronunciation of BOM as bomb (which is what I did) or as BEE-OH-EM (since that would sound like an under-educated terrorist  trying to be subtle).

We were suddenly both very embarrassed as we realized what we said, then we laughed, then we got really serious as we both realized we could easily be in a whole bunch of trouble.

Luckily, the person either didn't contact security or security decided we weren't a threat (since nobody came to talk to us), but both of us decided to move back to non-technical subjects and stay there. Things that sound like BOMBS come up a lot less often that way.

Now that I think about it I haven't heard from her since seeing her off at the security checkpoint, perhaps TSA did hassle her on the way back to board her flight. Sorry, Liz!

Much more talk about the BOM in the airport, and we'd probably still be in jail right now....

Would have made a nice alternate post title, I think: Don't talk about placing the BOM while waiting for a flight.

Though this post probably shouldn't even count as a cautionary tale, since I doubt there are any normal people out there who would run into this problem. :-)


1 - She decided me saying this was not necessarily proof that I was insane.
2 - On the other hand when I admitted I have done this a few times in the past, she decided it might be.
3 - And when I admitted that I did it on at least one occasion to be at the gate for someone who was flying in to visit me, she decided that it was. :-)


This post brought to you by U+feff, aka ZERO WIDTH NO-BREAK SPACE)

# Cheong on 11 Dec 2007 10:58 PM:

Regarding BEE-OH-EM, what stops you from immediately switch back to saying "Byte-Order Mark" instead?

# Michael S. Kaplan on 11 Dec 2007 11:48 PM:

I don't know for sure. Habit? :-)

# ReallyEvilCanine on 12 Dec 2007 10:35 AM:

Whodaheck pronounces that acronym (or almost any other TLA) as a word?! Also, does Liz have XP or Vista installed on her "ibbumpick"?

# Mihai on 12 Dec 2007 12:48 PM:

"I doubt there are any normal people out there who would run into this problem"


But how many normal people do you think are reading your blog?


# ReallyEvilCanine on 12 Dec 2007 1:05 PM:

An Officer and a UTF File:

I want your B-O-M, MayoNNAISE!

No sir!

Say it! B-O-M!

No sir! I won't do it!

EF! BB! BF! You're cut!

Don't you do it! Don't! You... I got no way else to mark! I got no way else to mar... I got nothin' else.

What can I say? I'm doing installs right now.

# Tanveer Badar on 24 Dec 2007 10:38 AM:

I am liable to being at the wrong place at the wrong time. But then, I never claimed (at least in known history) I was ever normal.

I totally agree with Mihai, not many normal people read this blog.

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referenced by

2009/01/07 Someone please detect if there's a BOM before the plane takes off!

2008/05/19 Everyone seems averse to the BOM these days; Should we blame TSA? :-)

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