Monthly Archives: August 2014

Passwords for Dummies


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I don’t normally consider myself dumb, but I couldn’t think of a creative new password on Tuesday.

The bank teller said, “You’ll have to key in a new password to open your microwave-oven savings account.”

My mind froze with the pressure. The teller looked at me with her modern hair, holding out her portable wireless keypunch pad for me to click in my new secret code.

My mind raced. Nothing came.

A strong password is unique

A secure password includes capital and lower-case letters.

Contains Arabic numerals.

Uses symbols such as those found in conversation balloons of cursing comic-strip characters.

A healthy password is quick to remember when someone’s beeping behind you at the drive-thru.

I couldn’t think of a new password. My right index finger hung in the air above the beige buttons. The teller’s tight smile faltered. I licked my lips. She cleared her throat.

What to use? What to use? As a password for my thumbs-up, free access to online Icelandic-music training tutorials, I’d already used my nickname as a teenager: “Dumbo_The_Weasel_15!?#.”

I had used my dog’s name and his quirky habit for my online tax-attack program: “Poofy_Gnaws_His_Leg_Rash_27%.”

I had used my mom’s maiden name, my first tricycle, my elementary-school gymnastics coach’s favorite munchie, and my wife’s shoe size in meters for my email-account password: “Glutzik_FlappingKnees_Who?_2.”

“Um,” I said.

Scrambled numerical dates of birth of all my children?

A burrito divided by the year that lock washers were discovered?

My meanest piano teacher’s initials, the diameter of a rubber wading pool, plus an asterisk representing a Christmas tree star?

The teller glanced at her watch.

“Well,” I said, perspiring. “Could I do a password remotely off-site from home and not here in the bank where I am right now?”

She looked at me, expressionless. Her frozen smile had long since melted in the heat of my flush.

“Maybe not,” I stammered. Seconds thudded by as blood pounded in my ears. I looked at the letters and numbers that mocked me from the plastic device.

Finally the teller put the keypad on the counter. “Okay,” she said. “I can provide for you a generic, computer-generated, plain-waldo password from our Passwords for Dummies program. You can log on off-site and change it later when you’re thinking more clearly.”

“That would be fine,” I whispered, exhaling slowly. “Thank you. I promise I will change the computer-generated, generic password just as soon as I can figure out the name of the cereal that Mata Hairi ate in episode 3 of Lancelot Link Secret Chimp.”

“Fine,” she said. She tapped a couple keys on the computer, printed out a chit, and handed it to me.


Strong password. Robust simplicity. Memorable yet mysterious. Numbers. Symbols. Concise capitals. Logical lower cases. Everything a password could possibly need. Right there. Bravo.

I went home and changed it to “password.”



Filed under Fun, Happy to help, Humor, Life challenges, Time management, You're not alone!

Blackie Ate It


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I had the whole weekend to write this article, but now it’s 12:30 a.m. on Monday, and nothing’s done. Why?

I had to do freelance work Saturday because money is tight and in a fit of macho pique I agreed to complete 87 hours of freelance work in the next three weeks in addition to my regular nine-to-five job.

My wife insisted Saturday that I whisk her away from cleaning muddy floors, so we went to the sale at the tree nursery and spent two and a half hours buying a holly bush, two rose bushes, a rhododendron, peat moss, a willow tree, decorative white rocks, and a flea collar. Nathan and Rachel were climbing in and out of both our shopping carts, and I kept hearing, “I’m thirsty. I’m hot. I’m sweating. I’m tired. I want to go home. I want to sit down. I want ice cream.” The kids were complaining too.

Three-year-old Nathan dangled Saturday from the rearview mirror in our Plymouth Voyager and ripped it from the windshield so I had to get alcohol, crayons, and that special adhesive from the auto-parts store to stick the mirror back on. This is the fourth time Nathan has hung from the rearview mirror of the Voyager and has ripped it from the windshield. Once my wife hung from the rearview mirror of the Voyager and ripped it from the windshield.

Nathan turned the garden hose on Blackie the dog Saturday and Blackie ran into the house so Nathan dragged the hose into the house and continued spraying Blackie inside the house.

I had to plant the willow tree in the back yard Saturday, which meant I had to dig a big hole and find some wire cutters to cut the plastic flower pot off of the dirt around the roots and put peat moss in the hole and stick the tree in and fill the hole up with dirt and throw away all the rocks from the hole and cut the dead branches from the tree with the Pampered Chef knife my wife found for me and put Band-Aids on the fingers that I cut while I was trying to cut the dead branches from the tree with the Pampered Chef knife my wife found for me. I then had to water the tree. All this I had to do in the dark.

Sunday I had to wake the kids up.

I had to walk Blackie.

I had to water the tree.

I had to take the family to church.

I had to dig an important ditch in our yard so I could bury a drainpipe attached to the end of our downspout

I had to schlep 145 pounds of rocks culled from the important ditch in our yard where I buried the drainpipe attached to the end of our downspout.

I had to take the family to evening church.

I had to give the kids a bath, read them a story, and put them to bed. Twenty minutes later I had to turn over their cassette tape. Ten minutes later I had to yell at them for getting out of bed. Finally I heard Rachel saying, “I don’t want to wear this dress. I don’t like this dress,” and I knew they were asleep.

I had to have an argument with Steven about his right sneaker.

I had to bring the word processor into the dining room so I could write this article while the rest of the family went to bed, but instead of going to bed the rest of the family crowded around the dining table and discussed the black eye Steven received at weekend basketball camp, how he should best go about procuring a summer job, and whether a tall, combination microwave stand and pantry shelf would look good in the kitchen next to the door leading to the basement stairs.

I had to take four showers in two days.

All of these excuses are true. Plus Blackie ate my other, better article.

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Ears Again


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Family night. We were watching The Three Stooges when the Ears Again infomercial came on. I sat silently, casting surreptitious glances at my wife and kids. The seconds ticked by as Joe Pushy on the tube enthusiastically expounded the joys of hearing restoration. I was nervous, waiting for the usual accusations of deafness to be flung my way, but no words emerged from the five other mouths in the room. After what seemed to be forty-three minutes, Joe hollered the toll-free number for the last time and the commercial finally ended.

“Ah,” I breathed quietly. “A Lexus commercial is on now. I’m safe.” We watched without interest the cornering capacity of the luxury car.

“Papa,” said Steven, not taking his eyes from the vehicle’s sleek aerodynamic design. “Did you see those things are invisible now?”

“What things?” I asked, remembering only too well the hideaway Ears Again products. My gaze remained on the classically appointed dash and the rich tanned-hide upholstery.

“The hearing ameliorators,” said my wife Ann. From the corner of my eye I saw her groping for the clicker as she stared at the low Lexus sticker price. If she found the mute button, I was in trouble; that would mean our family would have a discussion and I didn’t like this deafness topic.

Ann hit the mute. Reality took on new color and we blinked, stretched, and looked around. A silent Red Lobster commercial began.

“Mmmmm,” I ventured, trying to change the subject, “don’t those shrimps look scrumptious?” But it was too late.

“Dad, you know!” piped up six-year-old Rachel. “Ears Again, the scientifically tested and approved auditory enhancer!”

Steven was smiling. Lisa began to snicker. Ann said, “Papa’s not deaf, he’s just preoccupied and has a timed response delay.”

“Yeah,” said Lisa, “like when I asked him to take me to the mall and he thought I complained my cake was too small.”

“That was only natural,” I began. “Your music was loud and everyone has trouble hearing with extraterrestrial background clangor.”

“Yeah Papa,” said Steven gleefully. “And when I told you your toast had popped you looked in the dryer, thinking your clothes had stopped.”

Ann laughed unsupportively. “The other day I told him to walk the dog and he gave me a wok catalog.”

“Hey,” I rejoined. “That’s not fair. I didn’t have my glasses on and your lips were fuzzy.”

“Rachel laughed, too, “I asked Daddy to say a prayer and he sprayed my hair!”

Gales of laughter ensued. I was becoming angry now. “Prayer, hair, there but for the grace of God go all of you!”

The living room broke into pandemonium as everyone compared hearing loss stories at my expense.

“…we wanted ice pops and he got us spice drops.”

“…looked in lot ‘J’ when the car was in lot ‘A’.”

“…told him to pass the mustard and he said there was no pudding.”

“You people just need to speak more clearly, please!” I pleaded.

The stooges came back on and began to choke and smack each other. Ann unmuted the TV and the family lapsed back into staring silence, punctuated by slapstick-induced chortles.

“Honey,” I said to Ann after a few minutes. “Could you turn up the volume a little?”

In one accord the family looked at me and said, “See, I told you so!”

“You sold me what dough?” I asked.

When the next commercial came on I trudged into the bedroom, picked up the phone, and dialed the toll-free number. It might just be a relief to have Ears Again.

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