Archive for March, 2014

Suffering from password overload

The email read, “We’ve had a security breach. We need you to change your password immediately.”

The message looked and acted official. It was from a company email address. It appealed to my friend’s authority in his organization. It piqued his sense of responsibility. And it presented a contemporary corporate catch-22:

Click the link and risk being labeled by IT as prone to “phishing.” Don’t click the link and be labeled as unconcerned about data security.

After quickly weighing pros and cons, my buddy clicked the link.

“GOTCHA!” the technology department wrote back in more diplomatic language but with no less twisted pleasure. He had indeed fallen prey to a manufactured phishing attempt, the nerds alerted, and they had just the online training he needed.

Of course, the online training required a password – which he didn’t know!

Anyone else suffering from data security confusion? How ‘bout password overload? My password list no longer fits on the Post-It note stuck to my monitor!

While I should have known shopping at Target could one day empty my bank account, who knew fifteen years ago I would one day need a password for Domino’s?

Password complexity is part of the problem. Upper case, lower case. Letters, numbers, symbols. 8 characters, 16 characters, 246 characters.

Some passwords can’t include your name or initials. Others can’t include any word in the English language! Just when I was getting good with pass “phrases:”

OopsIdiditagain. Myfavoritecolorisgreen. Cloudywithachanceofrain.

To survive in this technology age, we basically need a graduate degree in cryptology.

“Do not eat convenience store sushi.” becomes “Dn3C$S.” This abbreviation is “strong”, unless a password requires a minimum of 10 characters.

And then, there’s the dreaded password change requirement. The nerds seem to be in a race to see who can require a shorter cycle. Beware; the following message is coming:

“Six minutes have passed since you last logged in. It is now time to change your password. Your new password cannot include any digit in your account number. It cannot include any character on the QWERTY keyboard. We will be sending you a special wingding keyboard with 176 characters and emoticons to choose from. Please allow 7-10 business days for delivery.”

So much for technology’s promise of increased efficiency.

And how about this conundrum?

You want to log in to your online account. You need your account number to do so. Your account number is listed on your statement. Since you signed up for e-statements, your statement is securely locked down inside the online account you cannot access.

But just think how many trees you saved! Go sit under one to defuse.

And, finally, the equally dreaded security questions:

My favorite teacher? My best childhood friend? My first pet? If only life were so clean-cut and I could remember if I capitalized their names.

Part of the problem is that since each nerd is consumed by his particular system, he thinks we are, too. He can’t fathom the possibility that anyone would forget a password or security question answer to his masterpiece.

That’s okay. This password / security question era will pass soon. Fingerprint readers, retina scanners, breathalyzers, blood samplers. Something will save us from the ever-growing list of passwords and their ever-changing requirements.

Until then, h@n9in+her3.

Kevin Thompson writes a weekly column for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at:

Onto the Field of Dreams

This week, spring brings the opening of youth baseball and softball season. Hundreds of little leagues will give thousands of kids the chance to hit, run and score.

I’m coaching again, and, accordingly, some youngsters will be suffering again. I’m the perfect combination of intensity and cluelessness. The heart of a champion and the skill of a benchwarmer.

When my middle school baseball coach told me I’d never get to play but that I could still be on the team, I accepted his offer.

“Playing is over-rated,” I likely reasoned at the time. “Practice is where character is born.”

Today, I tell my players and their parents that I “draft for character.” Truth is, I’m not sure we would look much different if I drafted for skill.

Baseball talent is about as easy to evaluate as figure skating. You know if they fall down. Beyond that, it takes a Scott or Josh Hamilton to tell a difference.

Which makes the youth baseball tryout and draft process all the more comical. Twenty-five grown men spending four hours studying how well nine-year-olds field ground balls.

Then, two nights later, gathering in an obscure motel conference room to make their selections. Spreadsheets and algorithms humming in the background.

The intensity is completely justified, I might add. Two months’ worth of self-esteem is riding on these draft picks.

Online fantasy baseball limits ridicule to a small circle of friends. Youth coaching puts one’s knowledge and skills on display for an entire community to see – or at least a batch of local grandparents.

Speaking of grandparents, I am beginning to understand why they love these games so much. There is something mesmerizing, even intoxicating, about watching one’s offspring execute a force out. Oh, the joy of producing the Chosen One who stopped the evil base runner from advancing.

My father loves to tell the story of the time he instructed a player to take “right field.”

“Coach?” the kid queried. “Is that your right or my right?”

My favorite story is the time I told a player to get the catcher gear on. Five minutes later, I found him fully armored but standing next to me near the dugout. All the other players had taken the field.

Through his mask he asked, “Where do you want me, Coach?”

“Catcher, son. Catcher.”

I like a man who makes no assumptions.

The assumption-free atmosphere is what makes youth sports so enjoyable. It’s why the Little League World Series makes such good TV. No contracts, no endorsements, no pouting prima donnas.

Sure, the entitlement mentality creeps in from time to time. But for the most part, it’s just innocent kids trying to find their way home, energetic children trying to get the bad guys out.

It’s still the age where the game ball is more memorable than the final score. The concession stand candy lineup matters more than its batting counterpart. I’ll try to remember this when we finish with 7 wins, 7 losses and 5th place in the tournament.

I would like to win a championship one day. That trophy would look nice in my office. But it would not outshine the faces of dozens of kids who allowed me the thrill of leading them onto the field of dreams.


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at

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