Posted By Sandra Alland

So I applied for my new British passport, and for once something official worked efficiently (ok, worked at all) here, and I got it in two days. I had been reassured by many people that the new freaky-deaky Passports Of The Future weren't being implemented for a few years -- so lucky me didn't have to get fingerprinted or eyescanned.

However. My new passport is in fact freaky-deaky. It's a Biometric Passport officially, although they didn't collect any biometric data... yet. My passport has a chip! A chip, my friends, complete with AN ANTENNA! I'm really not sure what either of these things mean, as my Information Package told me nothing about them except that they exist. I found this on some government site (, records from the House Of Commons on July 7 of this year:

"Passports: Biometrics

Lynn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the (a) range (b) purpose and (c) cost of the antenna on the new biometric passport. [215690]

Meg Hillier: The purpose of the antenna in the UK biometric passport is to allow the chip to communicate with border control readers in accordance with the requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. In terms of range, these requirements call for the biometric passport to have a read range of up to 10 centimetres from the reader. It is not possible to separately identify the cost of the antenna as it is part of an integrated component provided by the chip silicon manufacturer."

So okay 10 cm doesn't sound bad. But if I'm with my passport at all times in another country, can I be tracked like a lost puppy? And what can be added to this chip?

Speaking of the End Of The World As We Know It, I'm reading a book by an amazing micropress publisher who hand-makes all his (gorgeous!) books. He's Edinburgh's Hamish MacDonald, and the book is Finitude. It's not really the kind of book I'd normally read... speculative fiction, sci-fi, end-times kind of thing. But the confession is -- I'm really digging it. The world is ending because of humanity's environmental abuses. But our anti-hero -- a gay salesman who just wants to save his own ass -- makes it superfascinating and not preachy. MacDonald knows how to tell a story well, and has an imagination on par with some of the most famous science fiction writers out there. The characters are well-painted and the action is downright filmic. Thumbs up for making me read something out of my normal range... and like it.




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