Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Winston Writes Home

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published March 26, 2015] © 2015 

Dear Mom and Dad –

As your first and most beloved child (OK, I realize the next three are actual humans), I wanted to update you on how I’m doing here at Camp Grammy and Grampy. Grandma has noted aloud that my sojourns here keep getting longer and longer. A kennel, however, would be unthinkable for a canine of my sensitive nature and exacting requirements.   

There's been plenty of sunshine here in La Jolla so I'm usually out baking somewhere - on the grass, on the bricks, or even my new favorite place, the nice warm dirt by the orange tree. Then I like to come in and rub my filthy body on the cream-colored leather sofa in the living room. Grandma thinks the leather cleaning people have me on their payroll.

Keeping grandma and grandpa’s house safe for democracy has, as always, been a full time job. It’s pretty much always DEFCON 3 here with the garbage trucks on Mondays, the lawn mowing guys on Wednesday, and the pool guy with that big scary pole on Thursdays. I exhaust myself with frenzied hysterical barking but still they persist in coming.
Now there are new threats to the household. Who knew that the toilet plunger in the guest bath could have been taken over by malevolent forces?  I snarl viciously at it to let it know that its behavior will not be tolerated. Grandma will finally come in and hide the plunger in a closet (vanquished!) I am sorry to report that grandma and grandpa continue to be clueless as to the dangers in their midst.

When I arrived this time, grandma had acquired a new feeding station with high sides. However, I still manage to hurl the occasional piece of kibble out on to the floor and then drag it into the carpet in grandma and grandpa's bedroom where they step on it in their bare feet and say bad words. But it's not nearly as easy as the old feeding tray where I could usually fling 30 pieces of kibble a day out onto the floor, never mind create a minor tsunami of water.
If there is one thing I don’t like about La Jolla, it is that it is the allergy capital of the world, infinitely worse than our house in L.A. I am constantly fighting infections. The folds in my face, never mind the inside of my silky ears, need to be cleaned daily, a process I cannot abide. Grandma and grandpa’s La Jolla doggie doc says they had a slogan when she was doing her training: Buy a bulldog: Support a vet. Worse, I overheard Grandpa muttering that for what they’ve spent on my care, they could buy a whole new dog.
A reader of grandma’s told her that there is a new miracle drug called Apoquel that works wonders for bulldogs of my allergic persuasion. Unfortunately, it is more expensive and harder to get than heroin. I’m on a waiting list for it (hopefully October?) which cannot come too soon. Grandma has been fantasizing about breaking into a local veterinary office that is rumored to have some.
The number of pills they stuff into me daily is positively ridiculous. I do NOT like taking pills – Benedryl, assorted antibiotics  - which don’t seem to work anyway. I no longer accept pills hidden in pet store pill treats, cheese, salami, tuna, and even hamburger. They’ve still been able to get me to take them wrapped in fresh sliced deli turkey breast. But don’t even think of trying the packaged stuff. I do NOT do cheap cold cuts.
I have developed a cunning system of swallowing the piece of turkey then spitting the pill out on the kitchen floor. I always leave it in a prominent place just to make a point.
 One of my favorite activities here is to stuff toys under the sofa and carry on until grandpa or grandma fetch them for me. (They are so trainable.) I also enjoy lying on their feet so they can’t get up. This is not an activity I get to do at your house since, with three kids under six, you never sit down.
Grandma and grandpa continue to be under the spell of my charms. I'm getting lots of rubs, toy tosses, and attention, which is, of course, my due. I'm an insanely attractive animal (regardless of the cruel things people say about my underbite), and have perfected all my laughingly adorable faces on them. When I tilt my head to one side and lift my paw, they are powerless against me. When I flatten my ears to my head and look up at them piteously, they think I am genuinely sorry for puking on the rug.
 Missing you and my “sibs,”
Yours in perpetual slobber,
Winston demonstrates his technique of swallowing the turkey slice but spitting out the pill
Winston shows the toilet plunger who's boss


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

**Torture By Password

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published March 12, 2015] © 2015 

I should have recognized it as the beginning of the end. When my university employer decided to make the transition from paper to computers some years back, each employee was emailed unchangeable personal passwords to do business with various departments, with the all-caps admonition: COMMIT THESE TO MEMORY! DO NOT WRITE THEM DOWN!

The passwords were all along the lines of *jwqY@7.  Well, I didn’t really want to contact the travel office anyway.
Lo these many years later, I have 12 PAGES of passwords. The irony, of course, is that I actually have a phenomenal memory for numbers. I still remember all of my childhood friends’ birthdays, addresses, and even phone numbers. But that, of course, is because they were all in my native English and I actually wanted to remember them.

Now, of course, we are all subjected to Torture by Password. The requirements are getting more onerous by the day. There usually have to be a minimum of 8 characters and include a capital letter, number, and “special character.” I can see that for financial accounts, but your local photo developing place? Please! Go ahead and steal my photos! My kids would thank you for it!
Personally, I would never willingly choose a password with a capital letter. I have hurled epithets at a lot of login sites over this, and I mean really really bad words. (I KNOW THAT’S MY PASSWORD YOU effing #$^&*#@#s! WHY DOESN’T IT WORK?????) Ultimately, I have to have them send me a link to re-set my password to a new one that I won’t remember either.

Let’s talk about those security questions for a moment. Almost all of our accounts are joint so when the question pops up about the name of the high school you graduated from, does it mean Olof’s or mine? His first car or my first car? Whenever there’s a choice (and there usually isn’t), we try to go for the unequivocal ones like, “Name of the city in which you got married.” Of course, even that assumes our second marriages, not the first ones.  Neither of us can remember our maternal grandmothers’ maiden names so we just never buying anything from that site.
I realize on-line hacking is a serious problem but when warned to be sure that the “personal phrase” or the “personal security image” I selected appears before typing my password, I can only think, “Hmm, does that look like an image I’d choose?” I tried to always go for a bird but avians aren’t always one of the options. Note to security programmers: There should always be a bird pick!

But it’s not even enough anymore that you have an email address, a user name, a password, a personal phrase, a personal security image, a display name, and three useless security questions. Several of our financial sites now require a 4-digit pin as well. This crosses the line into cruel.
My husband’s former employer made them change their payroll passwords every six months but you could never use one you’d used before. He worked there 17 years.

I’m truly reaching the end of the line on all this. There’s the Google and social media passwords, never mind your cell phone password and iTunes password and your Locate My Lost iPhone password, and your computer login and email accounts.  There are passwords for your virus software and your blog site, the seven airlines, 11 financial institutions, the ATM, the bill paying, six healthcare portals, retiree benefits, 27 assorted vendors, Staples, the pet meds place, your 1-800-Flowers account, the toy sites for the grandkids, the newspaper and magazine subscriptions, your Neighborhood Watch, your college alumni link, PayPal, the guest login on your home WiFi, assorted software renewal logins, TurboTax, Skype, Amazon, YouTube, your husband’s Droid, never mind Social Security and Medicare for us oldies. What’s my password? I HAVE NO FRIGGING IDEA! I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH BRAIN CELLS LEFT!

And on top of all that, my Amazon and Kindle book sales accounts and my Press Club interactions only work on Mozilla Firefox and not Internet Explorer. My bank insists on regularly hitting me up for security questions even though I’ve told them 8 billion times that THIS IS A COMPUTER I REGULARLY USE. The idea may have been to make it all easier but it seems like the only people who are finding it so are hackers. Maybe that’s the job of the future, the personal hacker. You just forget all about that password list and the security images and have someone on call to hack into your sites as needed. Since every day someone seems to steal my information from one of the conglomerates I deal with, I wouldn’t even be putting my data at risk since everyone but me seems to have access to it anyway.

The swelling in my brain is going down already.