Someone needs to tell these girls that is not how you ride a bicycle.

Seriously though, I am in awe.

New Resolutions:
Enthusiasm will fade –
But will you stay strong?

strong


Resolutions are hard. Any day can be the start of a clean slate, just as any day can mark the tearful end of the best laid plans of mice and men. My workplace gym is already down to the same few attendees that were frequenting it last December, and I’m hearing snippets of conversation over the transom wall of others that have already given up on their not-so-far-fetched goals of getting in shape, eating better, sticking to a budget, or gasp flossing every day.

I’ve had my share of failed resolutions, but that doesn’t happen any more. How do I do it, you may ask? Simple – I just don’t make resolutions. After all, you can’t break resolutions you haven’t made!

In all seriousness, though, I do have some things I’m interested in doing this year:

  1. Be more active on this blog. Not hard to accomplish – after all, I’m already only 1 blog post away from tying the total number written on here last year. Shooting for 1-2 posts a week as time permits.
  2. Creating a master home-maintenance plan and sticking to it. Now that we’ve moved into our new house, I want to keep it up. I know there will be things that break unexpectedly, but for the most part, I want to do whatever preventative maintenance is needed to keep things from failing in the first place.  This also includes cosmetic things, like painting shutters and keeping beds weed-free.
  3. Spending as much time with the wife and kids as possible. I know I’m going to have to do some more travelling, including a stint in Corpus Christi when we’re ready to start up our plant there this year. I want to take advantage of the time at home when I can.
  4. Continue my running streak. Enough said about that already in this post.

None of these SEEMS difficult, and that’s sort of the point . I can’t handle too many radical changes at once, but a couple of more minor efforts like these should be manageable, given a good plan, determination to do them, and accountability to myself and others. So now I’m off to plan my resolutions in a little more detail and I’ll be sure to let you know what I come up with.

How about you? Did you make any resolutions this year? How many have you already broken?

A couple of years ago, my workplace implemented a new password policy, requiring users to change their passwords every 3 months, not allowing the use of previously used passwords, imposing minimum password lengths, etc. Pretty standard stuff, really, and completely ineffective at actually securing data from unauthorized users.

If you stop to think horse_thiefabout it, most data thieves acquire a password, log into a system, and raid the hard drives of all their worth. Very rarely would they come back to hit the same target again. By the time the 3 month window rolls around and the user changes the password, that thief and the stolen data are long gone. You’ve changed the locks on the stable door after the horses are stolen, and although you may have now prevented your next barn-full of horses from getting taken the same way, your original horses are still out there in someone else’s pasture.

Ok, that analogy starts to fall apart there when you start comparing the various merits of horses and proprietary data, but you get my drift. A silly policy, and one that gets even more frustrating now that my workplace has also set up machines so that the screen-saver comes on after 5 minutes inactivity and requires you to log back in to unlock the system. Not only does this make Netflix watching very difficult (hey, not during work hours!), but those first few days after you change your password, you’re sure to type the wrong (old) one at least seventeen different times before your muscle memory finally gives out and your fingers start to learn the new password.

'This site wants a two-factor authentication. A retina scan and a urine sample.'

A better solution than “changing the locks” every 3 months involves making the login process more difficult to copy by an unauthorized user. Nowadays, experts have pretty much settled on Two-Factor Authentication as the generally accepted best practice for login protection (analogous to having to swipe a key-card and pass a retinal scan to open the lock on the aforementioned stable door). By combining something you have (e.g. key fob, smartphone, etc.) with something you know (e.g. a password), you can prevent others from impersonating you in the event one of the two factors is compromised. If you then make the password strong enough, there’s absolutely no need to regularly change the password, and you can keep the same one indefinitely unless you suspect it may be lost/stolen.

So why won’t my workplace adopt Two-Factor Authentication instead of this silly change-every-3-months policy? Like most initiatives, it comes down to cost and convenience. Two-Factor Authentication requires hardware in the form of tokens or key fobs, along with a server to authenticate against. For those engineers at the company that travel internationally and don’t always have guaranteed internet access, you run the risk of “locking out” these users until they can get back on the net. And of course, if they lose or break their key fob, you can kiss your computer goodbye until the office can drop-ship a replacement to you in the Middle of Nowhere, India, or Unapproachable Except By Pack Mule, Algeria.

All these adoption issues can be solved, of course (and likely have been already). But when your IT folks have to answer to a budget and corporate environment more concerned with meeting the letter of the law than the intent, you end up doing the bare minimum, infuriating all employees in the process. It looks like for the time being, I’m going to be stuck coming up with new passwords every three months for the foreseeable future. Hmm, I wonder if they’ll allow “monkey” or “12345678” for my next super-secure password?

incorrect.png

Happy New Year! Ok, now that we’ve got the obligatory greeting out of the way, I want to address a topic near and dear to every UVA graduate’s heart: streaking.

Don't try this at home

No! Wait, not that kind of streaking, THIS kind of streaking:

Now THIS is how you streak!

That’s right, as of today, I’ve successfully run 1 mile or more, for 370 days in a row. That’s every day of 2015 and then some.  Hooray for me for keeping alive an unbroken chain of an arbitrary action!

Seriously though, I wrote a blog post approximately this time last year, where I discussed where my inspiration for a running streak came from. Since that day, I kept the streak going, and some great things came of it:

  • I managed to run despite a number of work trips (both domestic and international). I also saw some really amazing things because my streak forced me to get out and run where I might not have otherwise.
  • The logistics of travelling to China were one difficult (I ran at 11:00 at night the first night I arrived there, and had to impress air travelers in Dulles Airport with my running prowess on my way back, when I ran the length of C and D terminal until I completed my minimum 1 mile effort the day I returned to the States). But I was determined, and the smog/fog in Chongqing didn’t stop me the two days I was there, where I ran outside along the Yangtze River and even stopped to take a photo of some playful children:

Look, it's a bird, it's a plane - no, it's a statue pointing at a tree!

  • I also managed to have a much better set of runs in beautiful Genoa, Italy, where the weather was perfect and allowed me to explore part of the city. I even found a statue honoring Christopher Columbus in one of the town roundabouts (Columbus was reportedly born in the Republic of Genoa, a fact that the locals take great pride in):

They really like this Columbus dude

  • I certainly can’t forget about the time I ran in Plymouth after a giant snowstorm hit the Northeast. I ended up running laps around a Home Depot parking lot after the plows came through and cleared the snow – it was the only clear path in the area!

Iceberg, Goldberg, what's the difference?

  • A riverfront park in Linz, Austria also provided me with some great scenery. I was “stuck” in Linz for about two weeks, and took advantage of my time there to explore both the city and the surrounding countryside.

Even more comfortable than they look

  • Once you get a streak going, it’s not a matter of if you’re going to run, but when and where you’re going to run. I explored the parks and paths of Bahrain (thankfully, not during their hot season!), waved hello as I ran past a giant Mr. and Mrs. Potato-Head at the Disney Resort my family and I went to for Spring Break, and jogged across cobblestone streets in Savannah on our one night “layover” on the drive home.

How can you NOT wave back?

Of course, it wasn’t all glamorous routes that could belong on the cover of a Runner’s World magazine issue. I had countless days when I slogged through my mile (or more, when I was on a training plan) doing half-mile laps around my neighborhood at 10pm when I realized I had forgotten to get my run in that day (or had just procrastinated doing so). I inhaled a bug on one run that I SWEAR was the size of my pinky-nail, and ended up in a horrific coughing fit for the next 5 minutes. I suffered from most of the typical runner’s annoyances at one time or another (no need to go into detail, this humorous video does just fine). But through it all, I kept the streak alive, which I am inordinately proud of.

I’m also proud of my TWO (that’s right, two!) half-marathons that I ran this past fall. The first was the Charlotte Thunder Road race, and after months of training, I ran a great race and set a new personal record. The second was a month later on Kiawah Island (coincidentally, the day after aforementioned bug-sucking incident). I didn’t do quite so well in that one, possibly due to the 70 degree temperatures near the finish. But finish I did! Two half marathons in one year is another new record for me, and you really can’t complain when you set a record, right? RIGHT?

Some of my coworkers have asked me if I’ll keep the streak going for 2016. After all, I’m already over halfway to 730 days in a row! For now, I’m just giving them a smile and say, “We’ll see.” But between you and me – that streak is calling to me, asking me to extend it, maybe even improve it. And thinking of all the fond memories that came from doing my 2015 challenge, I feel myself caving to the power of the streak. So 2016 will be the year where I do a minimum of 1.5 miles a day, every day. After all, I streaked 365 last year – how hard can it be to keep the streak alive for another year?

Back in high school, I had a baseball cap that read, “W.T. WOODSON CROSS COUNTRY”.  I remember carefully using a stitch-picker to remove the first embroidered “C” to make it spell “ROSS COUNTRY” and thereby started a long-running inside joke among my teammates (You’re in Ross Country, now!)

Apparently, someone had a similar thought, but decided the Cross->Ross transformation needed to be extended all the way to its logical and foregone conclusion:

Rosswalk

Kudos to some stranger out there for bringing Ross Geller and his affinity for dinosaurs to a local street corner near you!

(And thanks to my brother David for bringing this to my attention and brightening a stressful afternoon.)

Last night, I was checking the tracking on a package that I expected to arrive yesterday that hadn’t shown up.  I don’t usually have issues with UPS (my normal quick-shipper) but this one came by way of FedEx, which I have less personal history with.  Hoping they hadn’t done something silly like hand-deliver to the guy who was pressure-washing my neighbor’s fence, I logged into FedEx’s tracking system to find the following:

Not Due For Delivery

(red highlighted emphasis mine)

So what exactly happened?  They scanned the package Monday morning at the Concord distribution center, and someone (or something) made the executive decision that because it was “not due for delivery” it didn’t need to go out on a truck that day.  So it got scanned again, sat all day in a big pile of packages (probably also “not due for delivery” yet), and then got scanned again at 9pm, clearly just to taunt me with its “Ha Ha, I’m still not in your house” status.

Did the package NEED to be delivered on Monday?  Probably not. But it seems a little unfriendly to have some sort of corporate policy that says packages “not due for delivery” should be held at a shipping facility until they ARE due, rather than sending them out whenever they are available to go out.  Maybe the driver for my route wanted to knock off early and decided to push it back a day.  Or maybe FedEx knows that gas prices are cheaper on Tuesdays, and wanted to hold off all available packages an extra day?  Whatever the reason, the end result is an impression of not seeming to care about the end-user.  So good luck to you, FedEx.  I hope you make some other person out there really happy by delivering their package a day early, but it won’t be me – I’m headed back to UPS for my future shipping services.

How long will it be
Until I stop writing out:
2 – 0 – 1 – 4?

2014-is-over


Uneventful Sunday here at Casa de Bedlam yesterday – the girls and I finished watching one of the Doctor Who Christmas Specials (Voyage of the Damned), The CP finished working on her Family Treasures project for school, and we all took a trip down to Tupelo Honey in Charlotte for brunch. Dee was checking out the place as a possible brunch site for her half-sister’s engagement brunch next month, and I was interested in trying some of their recipes, myself. I ended up having a Moonswine Mary (think homemade Bloody Mary using jalepeno infused moonshine instead of vodka) and one of the best fried egg BLT sandwiches I’ve ever had. Dee’s toasted havarti cheese and veggie sandwich was quite nice too. We ended up having to wait almost 45 minutes to be seated though, which combined with the 25 minute drive made this something we’re not going to be doing regularly in the future (much to my stomach’s dismay). At least when we got home, both girls and I went out for our 2 laps around the block, rather than falling into a food coma on the couch, so I at least got a little taste of exercise, although nothing serious.

It may be a new year and a “fresh start” for any resolutions I’ve got going, but the workload is just as bad as it was before I left for Christmas vacation. I’ve got about a million things due in the upcoming weeks, and to top it all off, it looks like I’m going to be travelling this week to join some of my coworkers for meetings in Italy and then Qatar for a potential new project for the company. This will be my first real trip to Italy (visiting Sardinia in my mother’s arms as a baby doesn’t count), and although I’ll only be there for a couple days and working the whole time, it is a little exciting to be going there. Qatar I’ve visited before when I had to duck out of Bahrain for visa renewals, but I didn’t get to see much, so if I have a chance to sight-see there, I’ll try to take it as well.