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Category Archives: Ideas

Annoying You Into Better Passwords

There are some people that have, over time, integrated security into their daily routine.  It’s just the way it is for these people.  And I would encourage everyone to begin working towards that goal.  There are other people who see security as nothing but a hindrance, an obstacle to them getting done what they want to get done.  Even after getting hacked multiple times, security is still a burden to these people.  And this burden is most often felt in the workplace.

It is sad, really, when people don’t take security seriously and their lack of concern becomes a liability for their employer.  And when the employer tries to enforce their required security practices, the users simply try to get by with the least amount of effort possible.

The two main constraints on passwords in the workplace are complexity and expiration.  The password must contain certain characters and be a certain length and you have to change it on a regular basis.  A recent article came out where NIST (The National Institute of Standards and Technology) made the following recommendations:

  • Remove scheduled password change requirements (must change password every 90 days)
  • Remove complexity requirements (one upper-case/lower-case/number, no two successive characters)
  • Require screening of new passwords against lists of commonly used or compromised passwords

On one hand, I think this is good, but I also don’t think the average user could be trusted to not create a secure password, even if it was checked against a blacklist.  So I have what I think is a better solution.  And the solution has the benefit of discouraging bad behavior.

Keep the first two items.  Eliminate complexity and expiration.  But, in place of (or addition to) the third item, there should be a server on the network that tries to crack account passwords 24/7, via both dictionary and brute force.  When it succeeds, the compromised account gets locked and the user has to change their password.  The cracking server would also send an email explaining that their password was cracked in X number of hours/days and they need to choose a more difficult password.  The email would provide tips for creating a better password.

The result of this process is that the people who choose weak, shitty passwords will have to change their passwords more frequently.  Those that choose more difficult passwords will be rewarded in that they don’t have to change their passwords often at all.  If you’re sick of getting your account locked out, the fix is simple.  Make a better password.


Time For A New Product

When I was up in the wasteland, I was out driving one afternoon and saw some yard signs that said “Watch for Motorcycles!”  This isn’t a new message to me.  I see it all the time on bumper stickers where I live.  This might be the first time I’ve seen it on a yard sign, though.

Anyway, the message resonated differently this time.  When I read it, I thought to myself, “Where can I get one of these?”  Where could I buy one?  Not a sign, a watch for motorcycles.  I mean after all, there’s advertising for them all over the place.  Half the cars and trucks down here have a sticker that says “Watch for motorcycles!”  Now there’s yard signs for them too.  Someone is really missing out.  All it would take is some Hammacher Schlemmer (wow, spelt it almost perfectly the first time!) writer to promote it.

The Watch For Motorcycles

Imagine your motorcycle sitting alone in its garage.  It’s cold, alone, and desperately wants to get outside and into the sunlight.  The days pass by with no visitations or consolations.  The sun rises and falls each day and your poor motorbike waits for you.  Wouldn’t it be a joy for your motorcycle to know the actual time of day so it could anticipate your arrival?  The arrival which never comes?

HamSchlem is proud to be the exclusive distributor of the watch for motorcycles.  You’ve seen them hailed on bumper stickers and on yard signs: “Watch for Motorcycles!”  Now, the opportunity to own one of these heralded and yet non-acquirable objects is here at last  Present it to your motorcycle as a token of your affection even as you let the gas go bad in the tank and allow the tires to dry rot.

Fashion trends show that motorcycles have always loved bling and more caring owners lavish their bikes with bling even as they ignore them for months at a time.  You too can be a part of this ridiculous crowd and gift your motorcycle with its very own watch so it can tell time.  At least until the watch battery dies from the neglect you’ll inevitably heap upon it.

So, anyway, that’s a great product idea.  However.  It’s already been done.  Presenting, the “Watch For Motorcycles” watch for motorcycles:


Halloween Scenes – Peep Show

Larry the Rat was just finishing up his dinner when he heard a knock on the front door of his home.  Who would be visiting him now?  Maybe it was a package.  But it was late for package delivery.  Larry was suspicious.

He’d only moved into this house recently.  It was a long move from his hometown, but sometimes long moves are needed.  Long moves can be good.  A new start, right?  He didn’t want to be called Larry the Rat anymore.  Just Larry would be fine.  And when he started making some new friends, that’s who he would be.  Just Larry.

When Larry was back in his hometown, he had what a lot of people would consider a thankless job.  It wasn’t a good job or a bad job, and by that I mean, he didn’t work specifically for the good guys or the bad guys.  He worked for both.  He was a rat.  Larry the Rat worked his way up the chain.  You wouldn’t think a rat could get away with the same trick twice, but the good guys did enough to keep the bad guys guessing and Larry was never the one to blame.

But, Larry the Rat didn’t feel he was compensated well enough for the amount of risk he was taking.  He was in the system pretty deep.  Both systems, in fact.  Larry had a special gift for living two lives.  And this last summer, he determined he was going to live one life for the rest of his life.  No more helping anyone.  A free agent with a clean record.  The good guys told him it was a smart career move and provided some excellent record cleaning assistance.

As you would expect for a professional like Larry, he told no one where he was going.  Not the good guys, and certainly not the bad guys.  He bought a typical house on a typical street in a typical neighborhood in Nowhereville.  The perfect place to ditch his rat surname.

But the preparations didn’t end there.  He built a panic room in his new house – completely impenetrable.  And although it wasn’t obvious from the outside, all the windows of the house were reinforced.  It would take a very large-caliber rifle to blast through on a first shot.  Any other attack would require multiple shots, which no one would risk that kind of exposure in a neighborhood like this one.  At the sound of the first gunshot, Larry would be squirreled away in his panic room, calling the good guys for a quick favor.

Not only the house windows, but the doors were completely reinforced, too.  No shooting through them, no way.  He’d also seen enough drug raids to know how battering rams worked and what was effective in slowing them down.  Again, just more time to get to the panic room.

Tonight, the massively-reinforced front door was being knocked upon.  And Larry the Rat was suspicious about that.

Walking silently, out of the view of the reinforced windows, he came up to the front door.  Larry listened closely for any indication of who it could be, friend or foe.  The heavy door gave no clues who was on the other side.  Larry looked through the security peephole in the door.  It was black.  Larry saw nothing.

The knock came again and Larry started, jumping in place.  “Damn it.” he cursed himself.  Did he make any noise?  If he did, should he just man up and ask who’s there?  Should he turn on the outside light so he could see who was out there first?  Either one would expose his location.  Larry looked back to where the panic room was.  How many windows were between the front door and the panic room?

Larry calmed his mind for a moment.  What a crazy vision.  The whole mafia lined up at each window, blasting away fruitlessly at the thick glass while he dashed down the hall.  His house was more secure than most any bank.  He had time to live.

His calm was immediately broken by a sheet of paper slid partially under the door.  He pulled it through.  Legal-sized paper?  The paper had an advertisement on it.  In big, bold letters at the top: PEST REMOVAL.  The logo was an upside-down rat in a cage.  Larry dropped the paper without seeing anything else.  He didn’t want to see.  But curiosity got the better of him.

Larry moved back to the peephole.  Still black.

Without warning, although the delivered flyer should have been sufficient warning, Larry’s eye was pierced.  A long, thin, metal rod fired through the peephole, into his eye and with enough force to spear his brain and exit dramatically through the back of his head.  Larry’s shock denied him a scream of acknowledgement that his assailant had hit his mark.

The man outside was quite aware of his success as he watched his end of the rod shudder and then incline as the section inside the house was pulled down from an unseen weight – the weight of Larry the exterminated rat.

Inside, Larry was trying to bargain his way out of his imminent death.  “Next time, reinforced peep hole.  No, external cameras.  Yeah.  With night vision.  And maybe… maybe… hmmm.”

Halloween Scenes – Lesson Of A Lifetime

Another workday for Randy.  He gathered up his racks of snacks and drinks and cheerily set out on his daily route.  He did love his job.  He loved meeting all the people, people busy doing their own jobs.  And he was glad he could provide them with a little daily happiness.  Maybe the happiness was coming from his cans of Coke and Pepsi and bags of Doritos, but Randy liked to think they enjoyed his friendly banter each day.

“Having fun yet?” Randy queried the first person he met in the office.

“Every day,” the random person replied.  Randy didn’t need to know the details.  He just wanted to show he cared enough to ask.  Another person was up ahead.  Randy prepared his next witticism.

“Working hard?”

“Hardly working, Randy.” Aw, that guy got him good.  It’s almost like he was ready for it.  Randy chuckled to himself and entered the break room where his machines were.  Without any care, he replenished each machine in turn.  He did this every day, the process was quite routine for him.  He liked filling the machines, but the machines didn’t have that same interactive quality he got from people.

Randy reloaded his truck and went on to the next stop.  Another office building – he liked the people there.  “Hey, working hard?”  “Having fun yet?”  And more machines.  More change in his large canvas bag.  Boy, the banks were annoyed when Randy showed up.  He was either asking for a bunch of change or was giving them a bunch of change.  Always such a hassle.  “Working hard?”  Absolutely, Randy.  You make us work very hard.

Heading home from another productive day, Randy found himself in a bad situation on the interstate.  A semi truck had swerved to avoid a reckless car cutting in front of it.  The semi weaved back and forth, then began to topple over, right onto Randy’s truck.  The accident was over in a flash.

The next morning, Randy woke up in his bed, ready for work.  It was another workday for Randy.  He had people to meet and machines to fill.  He arrived at his first stop on his route and went to the break room.  A man was sitting in the corner at a small round table.

“Hey!  Having fun yet?”  Randy announced his arrival to the man.  No response.  Oh well, Randy thought, not everyone is as happy at their job as me.  He went to the machines, but they weren’t his.  Well, they looked just like his, but his key didn’t work.  He looked them over and determined they seemed stocked well enough for another day.  He’d bring backup keys tomorrow.

Randy went to the next office on his route and engaged the first person in the hall he saw. “Working hard?”  Again, no response.  Geez, must be a Monday, thought Randy as he continued on.  But just like the last place, his keys wouldn’t turn in the machines’ locks.  Randy thought something was very strange about all this.  Had he been replaced?  Was there another Randy on his route, filling his machines and cheering up all the workers?

Randy ventured out of the break room and into the office halls.  Everyone he met had no response for his witty queries.  “Having fun yet?”  “Working hard?”  “Having fun yet?”  All met with silence.  Most just kept right on walking.  Was this a prank?  A conspiracy?  Randy got more agitated with the workers.  “Working hard?”  “Hey!  Working HARD?”  “Having FUN yet?”

Finally, Randy had enough.  He stood firmly in front of a man walking in the hall, blocking his path. Pointing accusingly, he demanded, “You!  Having fun yet?”  The man paid him no mind and walked right through Randy.  Randy’s eyes grew wide.  His memory slowly began filling in.  The drive home on the highway.  The truck.  Then waking up in his bed again.  The reality dawning on him brought a sadness.  The thought crystallized that this was all he knew in life and he had taken it to the afterlife.  It was his afterlife, forever.

Randy woke up the next morning in his bed.  He wasn’t excited to do his route today.  He grudgingly arrived at his first stop and trudged his way to the break room.  “Having fun yet?”  “Working hard?”  No response.  Randy was learning a thing or two about working hard and having fun yet.  And his lesson would go on and on.

Halloween Scenes – Desiccation

Terrence was having a pretty good day. Today was sunny and bright, but not uncomfortably hot. He moved along slowly in the grassy park. After all, he was not really in a hurry. After all, he was a slug.

But a slug still had things to do and places to be. Terrence was no different in that regard. He knew where he was going: to the other side of the park, where he knew he could have a great meal. Slugs aren’t too particular about where they eat, unlike some people who demand that everything be organic. Organic is everything in a slug’s life. Terrence didn’t know there was such a thing otherwise and didn’t even know anything about people to know otherwise either.

Terrence arrived at the edge of the flat-park. Sometimes, the flat-park was very hot and he would have a difficult time crossing it to get to the grass on the other side. Sometimes it was cool, which was nice. He’d even crossed the flat-park once when it was wet. Not wet like his track – smoother, softer. That was the best. He liked wet a lot. Today his body told him the flat-park was warm and dry. Not the best, but not really bad, either. He made his way, post-haste. But for a slug, post-haste is… I’m sure you understand.

His senses told him he was more than halfway across the flat-park, almost there to the grass. But then, the hail started. Terrence’s day was suddenly not as good. He didn’t detect there would be any bad weather soon. And he could still feel the sun, so Terrence was mightily confused. But the hail kept on falling.

This was no usual hail. This hail stuck to him, instead of bouncing off. And it burned. It burned badly. Terrence wrapped himself around, trying to wipe off the hail stuck to his body. His efforts were only partially effective. Where the hail had landed, it still hurt. The mysterious hail had sucked the life out of him, it seemed.

As the hail continued to fall, Terrence was torn between trying to make it to the grass – and hopefully safety – or to fight out here in the open to clean his sluggy body. His pitiful brain became overwhelmed with the fight or flight decision and his body started thrashing around on its own. Terrence was becoming scared. If this hail kept falling, he wouldn’t get to the other side and he wouldn’t be having the meal he had been looking forward to.

But the hail did keep falling and falling. Terrence’s body was becoming covered in the white flecks of hail, and it hurt so very much. He felt himself getting tighter, losing his sluggish mobility. His thrashing slowed down and Terrence grew tired as the burning covered his entire body. His senses were useless to tell him anything other than he was stuck. He could no longer move.

As Terrence felt the weight of more and more hail on his body, and the pain screaming over his entire paralyzed length, he wondered if there was a god. Slugs don’t pray for success or pray to be saved, but Terrence, in his final moments before he expired, attempted a simple communication with whatever power was above him, raining death down on him on this wonderful day. “Why?”

A small, round-faced lad hovered over the scene on the sidewalk, his tight, curly, red hair framing his face like a simmering fire. The lad grinned as he sprinkled Terrence’s doom upon him. The young boy could never had heard a slug ask him for his motivation, but with improbable and impeccable timing, he chuckled and said, “Salt life, bitch.”

Halloween Scenes – Everybody Loves You Now

Monica sighed in the bathroom mirror.  “Why doesn’t everyone like me?  I’m not that bad of a person.”  She had just started at her new job and for reasons she couldn’t explain, people just weren’t warming up to her.  It’s almost as if someone had come in before her and spread all kinds of untruths about her.  Monica sighed again.  “Okay, let’s get on with it.”

She flung her towel against the far wall of the bathroom where it hit with a dull thump and fell mostly onto the towel rack in a clumsy heap.  Keeping it off the floor was considered a win in Monica’s book.  Jumbled or not, it was hanging.

In her bedroom, Monica chose an outfit quickly.  As she mindlessly grabbed a top and skirt from the closet, she had a passing thought that maybe it was her choice of clothes that turned people off.  Maybe they were too plain?  Too predictable?  “It’s business-smart.  I’m smart and in business.” she justified to herself.  But in the back of her mind, she scheduled a wardrobe refresh to happen soon.

Out the door and off to work, she walked briskly to the bus stop, where Stan met her.  Stan was all-business, all the time.  They worked at different companies, but shared the same bus.

“Morning, Monica.  You settling in at Adams?  Third day’s the charm.” All-business-all-the-time chirped.

“I’m breaking through.  Everyone loves me.” Monica returned the fake cheer on the same level as Stan.

“You go, girl.”  Stan closed the conversation with an equally ridiculous finger-gun gesture.  Monica rolled her eyes inside.

Monica had the same day as the previous two.  People uninterested in her or what she had to offer or say.  But they didn’t seem to want to get rid of her, either.  They just wanted her to… exist.  Back at home after the parade of monotony, she dejectedly looked into her bathroom mirror again and asked the same question, “Why doesn’t everyone like me?”

The mirror suddenly appeared to extend into an infinite tunnel, black and hollow.  Monica jumped back, shocked and afraid at this sudden change.  A voice came from the deep void. “You want love?”  The voice was feminine – thin, not husky; unthreatening, yet dispassionate.  When Monica didn’t respond, it repeated, slightly more enticingly, “You want love?”

“Ummm.  I don’t exactly want love, but I want to be loved.”  Monica spoke carefully, then quickly added, “Does that make sense?”

“Unreturned love becomes resentment.  You want?” The voice sounded suddenly pandering.

Slightly offended by the misunderstanding, Monica clarified herself. “Oh, I love everyone who loves me.  That’s not a problem.  So, yeah, I want.”

“Everybody loves you now.” And the mirror flashed back to its reflective self, showing Monica staring agape.

The next day, Monica noticed a radical change in Mr. Stan, the all-business man.  He looked at her; engaged with her; listened to her.  They had a real conversation.  “This is love?” thought Monica.  “It’s weird.”

Everyone at her workplace had similar transformations.  Her ideas were listened to.  She was invited to lunch by multiple groups of people.  She never had a lack of conversation or need for any extra assistance.  It was all there.  At the end of the day, as she readied for bed, she faced herself in her bathroom mirror and offered her thanks.  The mirror did not respond, so Monica answered herself.  “I love you, Monica.”

The mirror did its stretching thing again, into the infinite tunnel.  Monica thought it seemed different this time.  Darker, scarier?  She dismissed her concerns as just getting used to the tunnel after seeing it once before.  She was going to express her thanks again, but the feminine voice came first.  “I can do more.”

“What is more?” asked a skeptical Monica.  Her mind began to fill with ideas.  What’s more than everyone loving me?  Is there more than love?  Is there a more than everyone?  An everything?

As her mind landed on the word “everything”, the voice spoke her thought, “Everything.”  Monica puzzled over this.  “You want?”, queried the voice, sounding a bit like an excited child, wanting a specific answer.  When Monica continued to ponder what everything meant as opposed to everyone, the voice repeated its earlier warning, the one that spurred Monica to act initially.  “Unreturned love becomes resentment.”

“Yeah, yeah.  Trust me, I’ve been loving all the loving I’ve been getting.  No shortage here.”

“You want?”

“Sure, why not.” Monica replied dismissively.  She still didn’t understand the difference and what could it matter?

“Now everything loves you.  Now.” And the mirror suddenly wore Monica’s confused expression.

Monica went to bed and slept incredibly well.  When she woke up and reflected on the best sleep of her life, she had the weirdest expression in her head, “the bed and blankets hugged me all night.”  She took her morning shower and dried herself.  She looked in the mirror and proclaimed, “I love everything and everything loves ME!”  And with that, she spun and threw her towel at the wall over the towel rod.  As the towel hit the wall, Monica heard a faint cry.  Her eyes grew wide and watered up slightly.  She did not just hear a cry.  It had to have been an animal outside or something.

To satisfy herself, she rushed to the bedroom window and peeked outside.  Her back yard was teeming with animals, all staring at her window.  When they saw her face, they rose up.  Some waved, some shook their heads, some seemed to smile.  Monica slammed the curtains closed in absolute shock. “No. No. No.  That cannot be what I’ve done.”

She peeked outside again and the animals were all still there looking back at her.  Monica suddenly felt warm all over.  “Oh my god.  I’m a fucking Disney princess now!”  The thought of that filled her with even more love for everything.  It began to make sense.  Her bed, her blankets, the towel, oh no, the towel!  She rushed back to the bathroom and stroked the towel gently, arranging it carefully on the rack.  “I know now,” she explained comfortingly.

Getting dressed was rather more difficult this morning.  All her outfits wanted her to wear them.  When she would pick one, the others would express disappointment.  Monica had to console all of the left-behind outfits and get on with her day.  She promised they would all get a chance.  She did not know that promise would go unfulfilled.  She did not know it was her last day.

Monica went out to her back yard and expressed her love for all the cute creatures that came out to see her and told them she’d be back later.  And then, Monica felt something crawling up her leg.  It was a large spider.

“Oh shit!” Monica swore as she swatted the spider off her leg.  The spider was at first dazed, but then collected itself and moved towards her again.  “Oh no.  I hate spiders.”  The spider paused, looked around, and advanced again.  “Stay back!” Monica warned.  She grabbed a broom that was near her, resting against the wall.

With a shriek of surprise, Monica found the broom was covered with ants.  She shook them off her hand and backed away.  Now the spider and a large collection of ants were advancing on her.  She couldn’t love them.  No way in hell.  She dashed back inside the house and slammed the door behind her.

Monica met her end that day by the ones she could never love:  spiders, ants, cockroaches, bees, and the like.  They all came to see her.  They swarmed her house so she could not leave.  They blotted out the light from all her windows.  Eventually, the unloved creatures found holes and entered the house quickly.  They loved her and yet resented her for not loving them in return.  They made her understand.  They only wanted her to love them, and she would not.  As Monica was slowly and methodically devoured and as she screamed and writhed on the floor of her house, Monica was not missed at her new job at Adams.  As it turned out, her co-workers didn’t even care if she existed.

Halloween Scenes – Bundle Of Joy

America is weird.  Only in America could you swap out one bad thing for another in the name of salvation.  In this case, Steve was approaching surrender on the idea that Halloween should not be about sugar and should instead be about gifts.  Easter had been a trial run of this concept this year and his daughter, Hannah, hadn’t protested at all.  A well-raised consumerist baby, Hannah was.

Steve broached the idea one night with Hannah and asked what gift she would be interested in.  “BabyGoo!” Hannah had enthusiastically replied.  Steve hadn’t even heard of such a thing.  Was it like Slime, which came in an appropriate garbage can?

“Dad, geez.  It’s the best doll ever.  The most realistic baby doll ever made!”  The well-raised consumerist baby was well-versed in the marketing language put forth for the BabyGoo.  Steve said he would look into it, and later that night after Hannah was asleep, he did just that.

Steve learned that BabyGoo might be the most realistic doll ever, but was probably the most expensive doll ever, as well.  But he couldn’t argue with the customer reviews.  They were pretty much unanimous in their praise.  Most everyone commented on the realism, some saying the doll was almost too real.  There was a close-to-even split between people who said the weight of the doll was too heavy and those that said the weight was the most realistic part.  Some reviewers said the doll was too floppy, while some people refuted them by saying their dolls were stiff.  Someone was trying to organize the data and determine who had floppy dolls and who had firm dolls.  Maybe there was a pattern.

The doll itself was being touted by its maker as the greatest thing ever.  “The most realistic baby doll ever!”  He’d heard that somewhere before.  “Anatomically correct”  Steve rolled his eyes.  “Made with the most realistic materials available”  There’s that word again, realistic.  This company needs better writers.  Regardless, Steve was swayed by the excellent reviews and committed to buy one for Hannah.

At work the next day, Steve showed his coworker, Shawn, the BabyGoo product page.  Shawn didn’t have kids and as you would expect, wasn’t particularly interested in the idea of creepy, realistic dolls.  “Crap,” Steve lamented, “they discontinued the baby girl model.  It was there just last night.  That’s the one I was going to get for Hannah.”  Steve half-turned to Shawn.  “I wonder why it was discontinued.”

“Pedophiles.” Shawn replied flatly.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Shawn!”

“Just sayin’.  I mean, they say right there, anatomically-“  Steve furiously threw up his hand, demanding Shawn to shut the hell up.  Shawn shrugged and took his leave while Steve took a few moments to flush that entire conversation out of his mind.  When Steve had finally calmed down enough to remember that this is something Hannah wanted, he placed his order for a boy doll and returned to work.

Two-day shipping delivered the BabyGoo quickly (in two days, in fact).  Steve opened up the package and startled back from the box.  Inside was the BabyGoo, the most realistic doll ever.  Steve did not disagree with that hyperbole at all.  The BabyGoo was real AF.  Steve felt himself falling down into the Uncanny Valley as the perfectly proportioned face of the BabyGoo stared blankly up at him, not suffocating in its plastic bag.

“Hannah!  It’s here!”  Steve called out uneasily.  Hannah came running and squealed with joy when she saw the lifeless doll sealed in plastic.  Steve didn’t understand this reaction at all.  But Steve wasn’t a young girl, either.  Hannah thanked her father with a huge hug and ran off to her room with BabyGoo.

“Well, good timing anyway since tomorrow’s Halloween,” he thought as he went back to his computer and tried to put those dead, shiny eyes out of his mind.

The next evening, Halloween, Steve and Hannah left their porch light off and settled down to watch classic horror movies.  BabyGoo was Hannah’s guest of honor at the screening.  Not paying a lot of attention to the movies, Hannah talked non-stop about how awesome her doll was.  It turned out to be the floppy version, Steve noticed.  Hannah had to support the doll’s head constantly.  Just like a real baby, Steve thought.  What a teaching aid that could be.

Hannah talked about how real the doll was.  The skin wasn’t like skin, it was a bit more rubbery.  His toes were actual toes, not just a molded foot.  He had a pee-pee.  Hannah thought that was hilarious.  You could move the doll’s eyelids, but they tended to open on their own and stayed open.  Hannah was demonstrating how to close the eyes and was getting slightly frustrated.

“Easy on the doll, Hannah,” Steve coached her. “It wasn’t cheap.”  Hannah paused for a moment, then gave the eyelids one more sharp closing.  Her flingers slipped and her fingernail cut the doll just under the right eye.

“Oh no!”  Hannah cried.  She looked at the damage she’d caused to the dolls face.  It was a significant gash, and a thick liquid was oozing out from it.  “BabyGoo,” thought Steve, absently.

Hannah thrust the floppy doll at Steve, who reluctantly took it.  It was the first time he’d touched a BabyGoo.  It was soft.  It was also surprisingly heavy.  He could imagine the whole doll body filled with the goo that was slowly leaking from Hannah’s inflicted damage.  His mind thought quickly.  Crazy glue and makeup.  BabyGoo was going to have to live with a facial scar.  He took the doll to the kitchen table and inspected the damage.  He pushed on the cut and felt the structure beneath the skin.  A realistic structure, he considered.  Very realistic.  He pulled back the cut and saw the white frame inside.

With a rising feeling of nausea and lightheadedness, his brain quickly identified the secret to the BabyGoo’s realism.  That… is bone.  No doubt.  It is real.  Or it used to be real and it’s just sealed up?  Plasticized?  And the internal goo?  Was it…

Steve ran to the kitchen sink and emptied his guts.  Hannah started screaming and crying.  BabyGoo remained motionless on the counter, leaking thick fluid from its facial wound.

Steve wasted no time bagging, double-bagging, triple-bagging the BabyGoo and threw the abomination in the trash.  Then he reconsidered and threw it in the outdoor trash.  Even that wasn’t enough.  It had to go.  Tomorrow morning, he would take the BabyGoo trash bundle to a random dumpster and get rid of it for good.  But now he had to console Hannah.

After a difficult conversation of obfuscating the truth, Hannah calmed down enough to go to bed.  Steve was still wired up though.  He jumped back on his computer and went immediately to the BabyGoo website.  Unsurprisingly, both girl and boy models were discontinued now.  The reviews had been updated.  Almost unanimously one-star.  The BabyGoo’s product description was also updated with a bold disclaimer at the end: “No product returns will be accepted.”

(Poop) Time And Tide Wait For No Man

Inspired by AK’s post, I thought it would be interesting to provide a perspective from the stall on the other side of the wall.  It’s not all fun and games in our world either.  While we may be outnumbered by the females, there’s enough of us to cause problems for each other.  The problems are exacerbated by the infrastructure at hand.

So here’s the general problem.  We have two stalls, one of which is the handicapped suite.  You can tell by the visible shoes/feet that the “lowrider” stall is occupied, but there is no way to know if the suite is in use unless you test the door.  This is because the door is always closed regardless of being latched or not.  Now I consider myself a courteous gentleman.  If I must test the door, I stand at a distance and lightly test the handle with a single finger.  Today, I had two goddamn hulks trying to rip the door off the hinges to get to me.  And I am considerate when I’m inside the suite, too.  I bob my leg to jingle my belt buckle.  Sometimes I clear my throat.  Surely hearing something from inside would indicate occupancy?  No!  Hulk shit now!  RATTLE RATTLE.

As is my nature, the problem-solver, I set my brain to work on how this can be remedied.  There is no existing way to indicate occupancy, but there is an existing way to indicate vacancy.  I employ this method religiously for everyone else’s benefit.  The other knuckledraggers here are slow to adopt it, because I think they don’t understand.

The method I employ is to slide the locking latch shut as I leave.  The closed latch is stopped by the door frame when the door is closed, leaving the door slightly propped open.  You can visually see that the door is open and the stall is available.  It’s easy and costs nothing.  All it requires is adoption.  And so I began planning a campaign to promote this concept to my less-considerate cohorts.  I would post some PSA-type flyers in the stall to remind others to prop the door when they leave.  I needed some clever ideas, clever slogans.  On my first brainstorming, I came up with the following:


With such a marketing campaign, how could I fail?  Well, you only fail if you try.  I did not go through with the propping campaign.  Instead, I started thinking of even more clever ideas.

What if there was a plexiglass “flag” that you could slide onto the latch mechanism from inside?  The flag would extend outside the stall.  That would indicate occupancy, which is more valuable than indicating vacancy.  Because, despite the compelling arguments posted within the stall, you still have to kind of assume that someone may not comply and you have to test the door anyway.  And if that’s the case, then door propping is not 100% reliable and might as well not even be attempted.  (You have to love black and white viewpoints.)

Another early consideration I had was putting a spring lever inside the latch, which would hold the door slightly ajar when unlatched but wouldn’t interfere with closing and latching the door.  I even did the research into what type of metal would be needed and how to form it into a spring lever that wouldn’t simply wear out.  A torch was required to heat treat the metal, so I reluctantly back-burnered that idea. (ha!)

Now, the obvious solution to this is to update the infrastructure.  It would be as simple as buying a latch that has an open/closed indicator on the outside.  You know, like on airplanes.  But even though we seem to get new toilet paper and paper towel dispensers on a bi-annual basis, we can’t upgrade the door latches.

Time will tell if any of these things actually happens.  Until then, I’ll be jingling in the suite.  Keep your ears open.

The CubeRoof

At work, some time ago, we had contractors doing a build-out of new offices right beside our cube farm.  This got me thinking, why can’t we all have offices?  Along with this consideration, I am always hearing from the vampires in my group about how horrible the lighting is.  Everyone wants the light to be cut to 50% or less.  I’m not in that group.  I like light.  I brainstormed a new product idea to help us all.

Why does a company build cubicles and not not all offices?  Some reasons could be:

  • Cheaper
  • Layout flexibility
  • Increased communication, for better or worse
  • Increased oversight

Why do employees want offices and dislike cubicles?

  • Increased privacy
  • More environmental control (light/temperature/décor)
  • Sense of ownership

So what’s the difference between a cube and an office?

  • Door
  • Walls to the ceiling
  • Windows or lack of windows
  • Basically, enclosure. 

So let’s completely forget about convincing management to let their subordinates shut themselves behind a door.  I walk a tight line between being controlling and liberal, and with the co-workers I have, allowing a closed door is simply an invitation to sleep all day.

So if we can’t have doors, we can create enclosure by raising the walls to the ceiling.  This, however, would create serious issues with lighting, temperature, and airflow.  So, my idea is to lower the ceiling to the cube: CubeRoof.

The biggest design point of CubeRoof would be the modular, minimal pieces involved in the system.  Taking cues from both IKEA and ClosetMaid, the CubeRoof system would be cheap and easy.

The first element of any roof is the truss.  The truss is comprised of three straight elements and three angles.  To simplify the system, there are a small number of extendable aluminum beams, similar to “cargo bars”, in varying maximum lengths.  This comprise the angles of the truss and the support beams between them.  Then, there are adjustable angle brackets that connect the beams.  The adjustability allows any peak or pitch of the roof.  The angle brackets have a lip for attachment to the top of the cubicle wall, and a post to accept another beam to connect trusses.

Finally, the roof material is simple nylon fabric sheets connected to the trusses and to each other with Velcro.  Having different lengths, widths, and colors provides for an endless combination of roof styles.  Light color fabrics for diffused light, dark colors for light blocking.  Inset screens for ventilation and panels for adjustable “skylights.”  Aftermarket and customizing possibilities could be large.

I would estimate one CubeRoof requiring three interconnected trusses, which would be eight straight bars, nine angle connectors, and two properly-sized roof panels.  Of course, I’m not going to build it.  That would be for someone much better than me, if you believe in the power of capitalism.

The Social Security GUID

With the recent Equifax debacle, I froze my credit file at all the places I was able to.  But the news still keeps on coming.  Whenever I read about these events, I think, “Why can’t we just request a new Social Security Number, like we can request a new bank account number?”

Well, for one, there’s not a lot of SSNs available. 1.2 billion at the max, and I’m certain that you can’t have SSNs like 000-00-0000, and there’s probably a few other notable blocks that couldn’t be used, so it’s less than that.  And with people constantly dying and being born, those numbers are always getting used up.  If we were to allow people to request new SSNs easily, we would exhaust the available supply very quickly.

So, if we were to reimagine how our country’s income tracking system could be implemented, we should make sure it’s not going to need an update for a very long time.  And when you think of things that are going to last a long time, I think of 128-bit values – GUIDs.

I understand that the retrofit of a new field in databases around the world to accommodate this new ID value would be nigh impossible, so this is just a thought exercise in what we could want from a national identifier.

Foremost, we would want our ID to be replaceable at will, but we would also need to be able to keep a history of former IDs.  For example, if your ID was stolen or leaked, you would simply request a new one, and the old one would be archived.  The old ID would continue to be valid for existing credit lines and other previously established links, but would no longer be valid as a lookup for new lines of credit or other interests.  Ideally, you would update your old accounts with your new number.  Maybe it would be mandatory to keep your ID up to date within a year of changing it.

Second, your ID should not be able to be guessed or calculated.  There are guidelines for the structure of SSNs that indicate approximate year of issue and state issued in.  With a random GUID, there is no such pattern (although it could be somewhat implemented with the resultant loss of security).  The vastness of a 128-bit space would nearly eliminate guessing.  The length of a GUID also means it would be difficult for people to memorize upon overhearing someone else reciting it.

So, if we were going to do this, do it right, do it big. Go from 10 bits to 128 bits and never think about it again.