Monday, February 18, 2013


I know, it happens to the best of us.  But I'm supposed to be a data professional.  My email account is not supposed to get hacked.  My pride is stung just a bit; but it could be worse.  At least it was a sophisticated hack.

You see, like most data professionals, I have three levels of password security.  Level one goes to my bank account password.  It's long and complex and hard to guess.  Level two goes to my e-mail accounts - they're shorter, but still don't spell anything, and should be hard to break.  Level three goes to my shopping and utility accounts.  I don't care so much if someone breaks in and gets to my electric bill.

When I first set up my iTunes account, three years ago when I got my iPhone, I set it up as a shopping account.  Time went on, I got an iPad, iCloud arrived to back up my data to the cloud, and I wasn't thinking that part of the data backed up to the cloud was my e-mail contact list.  I still had it on the simple password list.

Silly me.

I found out about the hack about ten minutes after it happened - my friends on the west coast were up and checking e-mails, and one of them texted me.  I cussed a blue streak, got online, changed my password and started on damage control.  I was puzzled by some of the bounced messages - they were sent to people who weren't on my personal e-mail account.  So, I puzzled and puzzled some more (in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss).  How did the hackers get the addresses?  It wasn't until morning that I figured out the link to my iTunes account - it's the one place where my personal and work emails blend.

I felt a little better; my email account password hadn't been hacked after all.  But really stupid.  I should have thought about the security of the iTunes account when I set up the online backups.  Fortunately for me, it was a hit-and-run hack.  They sent out some stupid link to a magical weight-loss site.  **sigh**  I do wish these people would use their powers for good...

So, for those of you who are not data professionals, here are a couple of ways for you to avoid the trap I found myself in:
  • For anything that involves money or your email accounts, the password should be 10-16 characters long, shouldn't spell anything, and should be used on one site only.  A good way to come up with a secure password is to pick a phrase:  The sun will come up tomorrow.  Then, pick the first letter of each word:  Tswcut.  Add some numbers you'll remember.  (The last four digits of a friend's phone number work well, for those of us old enough to remember when we had to remember phone numbers without the help of our phones.)  And you have it: Tswcut6403 - a hard to hack but easy to remember password.  (And yes, I have a list of websites and passwords written down somewhere.  I figure it's really hard to hack my paper files...)
  • I have a separate email account I use for shopping accounts.  I figure since I use simpler passwords on those sites, this way if the accounts do get hacked, they don't get much - just links to places that send me shopping e-mails.  I also don't allow the sites to save my credit card number - it's not THAT hard to type in each time, and I've heard of too many places getting broken into and those lists of card numbers stolen.
Here's hoping I'll save at least one person from getting stung as I was...  grrrrrr.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Year Ago Today

It was the fifteenth day of the second month of the 2012th Year of Our Lord, and the good surgeons did undertake to rid my life of the demon Asmodeus.  Their sure and steady hands were well guided by my champion, the Archangel Rafael.  With precision, they did cut into my flesh and ferret out all traces of the demon.  Asmodeus was removed from my flesh and cast into the deserts of Northern Egypt, bound hand and foot, where he impotently gnashes his teeth and wails his threats unto the uncaring skies.  To guard against his return, I daily partake of a potion of mixed favors.  Whilst on the one hand it bringeth aches to my joints and removeth the strength of my fingernails, on the other it provideth patrols of guardians who guard my inner passageways, searching for traces of the demon or his cursed minions.  Should the guardians happen upon the blighted spawn, they quickly dispatch them with blazing swords, banishing them anew so I may yet live to see my children's children grow unto the fullness of their lives.

Or something like that.

A year ago today was my last day on the other side of one of the great divides in my life.  To the previous division of before-and-after-Mom-died, I added before-and-after-cancer-surgery.  While a good portion of the time after surgery is mercifully lost in the fog (painkillers do a great job of preventing memory from working well), there are a few things that stick out in my mind.

First and foremost is waking to hear that Asmodeus had not yet managed to invade my lymph system.  I hadn't quite dared hope it could be so until they told me the news.  Despite everything else, when I heard I was swamped with relief as I dropped the heavy burden I hadn't even let myself acknowledge I had been carrying since I'd first found the cancer over a month before.

One of the others is the well-meant but insensitive comment that since I didn't lose my hair, it must not have been 'real' cancer.  I secretly feel that way myself.  So many go through years of hell once they have the disease.  Why was I excepted from the rigors of chemo when my good friends who are fighting similar battles are not?  On the other hand, I've decided those who say they don't even notice the implants after the first year are lying to make everyone else feel better.  How can you not notice that you have a six-inch wide band of numbness across the front of your chest?  I mean, really!

There are memories I treasure:  Of those who brought food and helped clean and made sure I took my medicine and brought me out so I wouldn't go stir-crazy when I probably should have stayed home (I'm really not good at letting people help; I haven't had much practice).  Of the outpouring of cards and love from people who are part of my everyday life, and from those I hadn't heard from in years.

There are memories too painful to touch even now:  Of driving free and doing just what I wanted to do each day.  Of waking each morning to readily see the hand of God in the beauty surrounding me, knowing I was part and parcel of the scene.  That road is now closed to me.  Where ever I go from here, it can never be down that same carefree and joyful path.

It is a year later.  I am alive.  I have not only survived, I am well down the road to health.  That is more than too many who have heard the dreaded diagnosis can say.  I am trying to be happy about it, but it's not working so well tonight because I am afraid.  I am afraid that when I go in for my checkup next month, they will tell me my guardians have lost the battle, and the cancer has again gained a stronghold in my body.  That's what happened to Mom.  Tonight, the words of logic, which tell me all the good reasons the cancer will not return, are lost in the roar of the wind of what might-could be.

Yet, I've made it this far.  And I refuse to let fear rule my life.  So, tomorrow night I will go out and celebrate anyways.  Because life is good and I have today.  And today is all any one of us has.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

House Hunting II

OK.  This house hunting stuff isn't so bad after all.  You just have to look in the area where the Universe has decided you should look instead of the area you thought you wanted to live.

I'd spent over two decades living north of the Plaza, and I wanted to stay there.  (Yes, the distinction is meaningless to many - we ARE talking houses less than three miles apart.)  North of the Plaza is scrappier, less of a sure thing; the people who live there band together to support each other in their work of reclaiming these beautiful old city neighborhoods.  South of the Plaza is more established.  Safer.  More sure of itself and its place in the world.  It doesn't need to be reclaimed because it was never unclaimed.

Yet, when I looked north of the Plaza, I couldn't find ANYPLACE I could both afford and was willing to move into.  As soon as I looked south, ta-da!  There was not one, but two good options.  ('Go here', says the Universe...)  So, I picked one, and jumped in with both feet.  It's the one that needs more work (of course?  I never said I'd never pick up a rehab house again, did I?  I hope not.  If so, I'll have to eat my words), and it's in a great location.

When I first moved to Kansas City, I fell in love with Loose Park, just south of the Plaza.  It's beautifully landscaped, with a walking trail and lots of kids and dogs accompanied by their adult people.  The house I picked is just a few blocks from the park; I'll be able to go there for my walks.  I've missed my walks this past year.

The house has lots of big windows, and no closets to speak of.  The kitchen is beyond redemption; I'll have to add to the back of the house to make it into a workable space.  It's not a big house.  I like that part.  And it doesn't need a total makeover.  'Just' the kitchen.  and, as long as you're going to do that, you might as well make it a two-story addition, and redo the bathroom just above.  and it IS a two car garage, but wouldn't it be nice to have a little workshop space out there....

No, I'm not sure about what I'm doing.  But I'm doing it anyways.  I close on March 1.