29 September 2006

The maddening number of passwords

This week was the close of a required action for everyone in my organization to log onto system X and input some information. System X pointed to the same username and password file as system Y, a system that we know all these folks are using every two weeks. So you'd think it would be easy for people to log into system X. Not so much. Turns out that many of the 3000 people here are letting their browsers automatically fill in their password on system Y. So many folks had no idea what their password was anymore or only thought they did.

I raise this because we are living in an impossible era. I, personally, have over 50 user IDs and password combinations. And I'm just talking computer systems/websites. Where I try to limit the variability to make it easy on myself, different systems have different criteria. Some allow no more than 8 characters. Some allow no less than 8 characters. Some require special symbols. Some don't accept special symbols. Some you can keep forever, others require updates every 60 days. And the beat goes on...

The human brain is not meant to be able to store all these permutations. I'm amazed that I can remember my ATM pin number, my credit union's phone access code, my stock broker account access code, my work and home phone passwords, and so on. Plus, all the phone numbers I call on a regular basis. Heck, some days I'm glad I can remember where I live.

I think I'm doing pretty good. But still, there's all those system passwords. The problem with not remembering passwords is that you have to record them somewhere which defeats the whole purpose of having a secure password. I have a method of encoding for a little extra protection but most people don't. It's not surprising that identity theft is so rampant. Sigh. We're doing this to ourselves!

Time to get away from all this technology and go for a walk in the woods.

27 September 2006

"Be vewwy quiet. I'm hunting speeders! Hahahahah!"--E. Fudd

I don't really get the point of obvious, consistent speedtraps. If you travel Rte 295 between the south and north sections of the Washington Beltway you will see a speedtrap. There's one on the southbound side and there's one of the northbound side in close proximity to each other. On both sides, there's a vehicle and an obvious radar/camera set up to snap license plates of speeders.

I could tell you where it is but there's really no reason to--you'll know. It's there every day. All day. Every commuter knows it's there. And if you are not a commuter but you find yourself in commuter traffic, you'll know something's up long before you get to it. People slow down to the required 55, or sometimes even 45-50 mph, a good two miles before the trap.

Now it would be different if this was not a well-used road. But the only time this isn't a heavily populated route is at 3 am. So how much revenue could they possibly be pulling in? I do prefer the obvious speed traps to the sneaky ones but I just don't see the point of slowing up traffic when you get no revenue in return.

Yeah, I know. Safetyblahblahblahsavinglivesblahblahblah. Nobody's buying that.

Odd, that's what it is.

26 September 2006

The CSI Channel: All CSI, All the Time

You've watched CSI: SVU, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, and CSI: Las Vegas. And, if you're like me, you've said to yourself "If only there were more CSI shows!"

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CSI: The Wonder Years--a lighthearted yet poignant tale told from the view of investigators when they were children...

CSI: The Simple Life--follow the hilarious antics of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie as they try their hands at crime scene investigation...

CSI: Jericho--investigators continue to look into crimes after the apocalypse...

and so much more! Order before midnight tonight and we'll upgrade you to the CSI "Two for One" package that includes a SECOND CSI channel consisting of blooper shows gathered from episodes on the first channel! DON'T DELAY!! OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY!!!

25 September 2006

The blur of the weekend (Michael Moore, Capitol City Brewery, H Street Festival, Veridian)

Saw "Bowling for Columbine" for the first time (yeah, yeah, I'm a little behind the times). I don't disagree with anything Michael Moore showed/said from a philosophical point of view but I can see why he makes so many enemies on the right. He's as subtle as a jackhammer. The older I get, the more I value presenting an argument in a way that honors both sides and still makes your point.

Capitol City Brewery is always a nice way to go. Excellent pretzels and horsradish dipping sauce, an okay hummus plate (what it lacked in umph it made up for in volume) and excellent beer.

H Street Festival was nice, if small. The people were very friendly and there's a martini bar down there with an excellent selection and more friendly people (somewhere on H St NE between 12th and 14th) that was offering 2 for 1 coupons. Yum!

Went with friends to Veridian for dinner Sunday. Food was quite good but not extraordinary. Two vegetarian options were tasty. Prices were up there. We opted not to pay $10 for the pleasure of parking in the restaurant's lot. We parked on the street for nothing. Service was pleasant but not totally knowledgable (we asked questions about wines and the server knew some of the wines but others he wasn't clear on.) Ambiance was okay--large space with black and pale tan furnishings. Interesting art on display. Overall, I'd give it a 21/30.

22 September 2006

Oh and... L'shana Tova

To all those who know the code :) and even those who don't...

L'shana Tova!!

Wishing everyone all that is good in the coming year.

OK GO/Don't try this at home

The OK GO video "Here It Goes Again" is truly inspired and very catchy. A word to the wise, don't watch it while on a treadmill.

21 September 2006

The death of intellectual jazz

I don't know why other people go to conferences. I go with the hope that at least one speaker will jazz me intellectually. This is no different from my standard for school. In the midsts of a second masters, when I wasn't even getting one intriguing idea per semester, I stopped. Give me the jazz or go home. [Insert Ben Stein's monotone "Bueller? ...Bueller? ...Bueller?" here]

This conference had exactly one such speaker but, hey, one counts. You know the kind of speaker that is thinking way beyond the required level... who's jazzed himself about the large problem he can solve and is ready to propose a new way of approaching it. Who's energy is so infectious he's practically giving off sparks. Who's escaped the weight of the bureaucracy and the Dilbert reality enough to still be alive inside and out.

Here's the thing, in the past I used to love this sort of thing and it would inspire me to do research on the topic or take classes or at least become a groupie. This time, even though I got that jazzed feeling, I also got that tired and intimidated feeling. Me? I don't intimidate easily. But suddenly I felt so far behind the curve that I didn't even want to try to make the effort to get brighter. This troubles me and I'm not sure I know what to do with it. Maybe it's age. Maybe it's something more.

On a way tangential note I wonder if other organizations are experiencing the same symptoms as ours. We have a very talented, very large pool of folks in our organization. Bright, creative people. Even the slouches are above the norm. But we've reached a point of ...dispersement, I guess I'll call it. There's so many bright people scattered so far that want to solve any problem presented to them or even just one that they notice (whether it's in their official domain or not) that at any given time we have at least a dozen different people/groups across the country working exactly the same problem in different ways. They don't talk to each other. When they're presented with a "Hey, Bob, you know what? Andy here is doing the same thing!" they rarely care. It's duplication of effort on such a huge scale and there doesn't seem to be a clear way to stop it.

I get that sometimes (read: often) it's easier to just do something in a low key way for you and your buds. That by raising it officially, you lose control. Maybe it goes to committee. Maybe it never gets done. Maybe you don't recognize it when it is done.

I get that boldness can drive change or at least plant the seed.

But this seems to be reaching virus-like proportions. We are less and less efficient.

If the rules are so onerous that we do anything to work around them, it's time to fight the fight to change the rules.

If the trust is so low or the dispersement so extreme as to not be overcome-able, it's time to start over.

Or maybe I need a reframe. Maybe this is the organic model. Does nature bubble up its inventions in a dozen places before the change takes hold?

I think I need a glass of wine...

Well, that's my soapbox moment. I'll return now to the usual inane complaining about stupid commercials and such.

20 September 2006

Quick scenes from a conference I'm attending...

I swear I was in the ladies room stall when the woman in the next stall took a business call. Complete with "Yes, sir, I'll look into that. Let me get a piece of paper and get the number from you..." One can only imagine what "sir" thought of the flushing sounds in the background. Bizarre.

What is it about free food that makes it taste so good? Why do we eat double what we'd eat at home, simply because someone else is paying for it and it's there?? Wish I knew. And how Pavlovian are we? It takes a day to establish a pattern: It's 2:00. Yesterday at 2:00 there were cookies. Right here on this table, they were. I know it was this table. Where are the cookies? *slobber*panic*slobber* Cookies?!?!!

Not sure which type of speaker is worse: the one that looks painfully bored with his own presentation (and probably is because heaven knows we were) or the one who posits questions just to be able to answer them.

Hm, at least the cookies were yummy.

And look at the free pad and pen I got! :) :)

15 September 2006

The changing of the seasons

The temperature has dropped in the DC metro area. After months of temps in the 80s and 90s, now it's in the 60s. Sigh. I'll miss Summer. No more sun dresses and sandals. Time to get out the heavy, dark clothes and adjust to the shorter, colder days, the lack of flowers, the lack of energy. Yeech.

Last week I saw Florida cousins at a family gathering in Jersey. They were saying how'd they'd like to move north to retire as they miss the changing of the seasons. I can't relate. Not at all. Give me tropical 365 days a year. Give me a chance to get bored with the weather.

Ah, Summer, we hardly knew ye. See you next year...

13 September 2006

National Folk Festival in Richmond

The National Folk Festival is in Richmond, VA on October 13-15 and it's free.


06 September 2006

Sandals Royal Bahamian/The Sandals experience

I like Sandals. They do adults only all-inclusive well. This is not an "adults only" resort like Hedonism. This really is simply no kids. They used to be just heterosexual couples but now they are open to all couples, and I applaud the change.

Sandals Royal Bahamian was our third Sandals--Sandals Halcyon on St. Lucia and Sandals Ocho Rios in Jamaica rounding out our experience. I was pleased at all three but I believe Royal Bahamian had even better service than the other two, which is pretty amazing.

From the moment we arrived and were served champagne and cool cloths during check-in to the time we left, we got the royal treatment. Staff went out of their way to meet any request. An example: a waitress in one of the eight restaurants asked if we would like more bread and in the course of his response my husband mentioned that he didn't like olive bread, which was the default. She insisted on going to the bakery, beyond the restaurant, and getting him a kind of bread he enjoyed, which she promptly did. Any problem was quickly fixable. One exception: we had to wait two hour for maintenance one evening but it was a holiday so I expect they were short staffed and he did apologize for the delay and fixed the problem completely.

Every thing was clean and well kept and beautifully appointed. The food and drink were both good and plentiful.

If I had to complain (and don't I always have to complain about something?) it would be that the scheduled entertainment was weak. We wound up going to the piano bar quite a lot because the other entertainment was so lame. Who books the same band every night? On the flip side, the pianist was a gifted musician and a good entertainer so, really, even in this area we suffered not at all. To their credit, when we were at Sandals Ocho Rios, there was a lot of different entertainment (steel drum band, dancers, fire eater, etc.)

What's strange about Sandals is that it is couples only so it's very artificial to be around nothing but couples (tables for two everywhere except in the Japanese restaurant where table of 12 sit around the chef, etc.). But, hey, that's what we paid for so we could truly get some peace and quiet time for just the two of us and it was worth it. No shrieking tots. Amazing what a difference it makes. We socialized with a lot of nice people there.

Bottom line: I'd heartily recommend this resort. If you go, do it right and get an ocean view room. World of difference.


My new office is so quiet I can actually hear the clock ticking. Ahhh...

Maybe I can find a quieter clock. :)