High School U.S.A.

In 1983 NBC featured a movie of the week called “High School, U.S.A.”. Apparently it was a pilot for a TV series that never came to fruition. The movie featured every “teen star” of the era, with every former “teen star” from the 50s or 60s as a teacher or other adult role. Here’s a cut and paste from IMDB:

Michael J. FoxJay-Jay Manners (as Michael Fox)
Nancy McKeonBeth Franklin
Todd BridgesOtto Lipton
Angela CartwrightMiss D’Angelo
Bob DenverMilton Feld 
Dwayne HickmanMr. Plaza 
Lauri HendlerNadine
Dana PlatoCara Ames
Crystal BernardAnne-Marie Conklin
Anthony EdwardsBeau Middleton
Frank BankMr. Gerardi 
Elinor DonahueMrs. Franklin 
Tony DowPrincipal Pete Kinney 
Steve FrankenDr. Fritz Hauptmann 
David NelsonMr. Krinsky, Janitor

I have absolutely no idea why this movie crossed my mind the other day but with the wonders of the Internet, I was able to watch this thing via YouTube. It’s as uneven in the 21st century as I remember it being back when I was a sophomore in high school.

Honestly, one of the things I remember from the movie is one of the high school seniors looked way too old for his role and he shaved with a straight razor. In 1983. That was very cool to me, though I had no idea why at the time. I could barely master my Dad’s Gillette Atra. It would be a couple of decades before I mastered the straight razor.

If you want to watch the full movie on YouTube, the best I can do is a Spanish dub.

Vote.

My husband and I requested and received our absentee ballots for the upcoming election. On Sunday we placed our completed ballots in a mailbox at the post office and by Wednesday we had both received word that the voting commission had received our ballots and our votes would be counted.

It can’t get much easier than that.

I know it’s trendy among Republicans to make voting as difficult as possible for Americans, especially for those that aren’t white and/or don’t tend to vote Republican. Governors taking away ballot boxes, heads of the postal service removing vital equipment, layers of red tape on voter registration procedures; the list goes on and on with the tricks up the sleeves of too many government officials. Then of course we have Cheetolini telling everyone that the election will be rigged and inaccurate and that it will be impossible to determine a “true” outcome. This is all part of a propaganda campaign to sow fear and doubt into the voting population. It’s his way of undermining democracy.

Do not let the Republicans or their Orange Leader scare you from voting and do not let them deter you from voting. Though it doesn’t seem like it lately, our government depends on the votes of its citizens. When we don’t vote, we end up with messes like we have right now.

We need to clean up the mess. We need to get rid of the cancer. We need to put the cockroaches back under their rocks.

Vote.

Distance.

I miss the hustle and the bustle of living in a big city. I miss mingling human energy with other humans. The train platforms are quiet. The sidewalks are quiet. The scurry is limited to avoiding others on the street lest you be exposed to COVID-19.

The information is relentless. The news is non-stop. Too much of it is not good. What I’d give to see another state or another country right now.

“If you see something, say something” has been replaced with dire warnings of getting too close to our fellow citizens. We should all be in this together, doing our best to lift each other. But we’re too divided, led by division, ripping each other down.

This isn’t the way it’s suppose to be. None of this is proper. None of this is correct. We can do better.

We must.

Simpler.

A video of a snowball fight in 1896 was recently colorized and speed-corrected. The result was shared on YouTube. I really enjoy it, as many photographs from that era don’t feature big wide smiles and tend to lend a more “somber” vibe to the time. Ooh, and the mustaches on the men are awesome.

It’s fun watching folks from the late 19th century having fun in the snow.

Passwords.

There’s a video on Youtube of a married couple demonstrating email to the BBC viewing public. The video was shot in 1984 and the couple was using one of the many 8-bit computers available on the market at the time. They connected to a local online service to retrieve their email, and as plain as day, when prompted for their password, they typed “1234”. At the 80s wore on, folks realized there was a certain amount of importance to their online account passwords, so they upgraded from “1234” to “password”. In the mid 1990s they may have been using “Password”, and geeks were probably using things like “P@ssw0rd”.

Our online presence, and more importantly, our dependence on online services has come a long way in the ensuing 25 years and our entire lives are now online. Our passwords need to evolve accordingly. 

A trick I’ve used for years is having a complicated “password base” and then appending different characters to that base depending on the application. For example, for Yahoo I may have the password “P@ssw0rd!Yaho” while for Google I’d use “P@ssw0rd!Goog”. It’s not the most secure approach, because if someone figures out your methods they can probably start getting into your other accounts. However, it’s a solid step in the right direction, the goal being have a different password for every online account.

I now know only one password. It’s a complicated password composed of random alphanumeric characters and symbols, and it’s quite long at 24 characters. What does this password do?  It unlocks my Password Manager account.

With many users now using primarily mobile devices for their computing needs, both iOS (Apple) and Android (Google) users have a mostly secure of maintaining their passwords and that’s the built in password manager. There are also plenty of third party options available: 1Password, Bitwarden, LastPass, etc. All of these passwords work on the same prinicple: you unlock the “password vault” with the one password you need to know, and then the password manager creates passwords for each of your accounts and automatically fills in the incredibly complex password it has stored when it needs to be called upon.

My experience with this is mainly around the functionality built into iOS. With Apple’s integrated ecosystem, my passwords are in sync across my iPhone, iPads, and my Mac. Depending on the device, I unlock the vault with my Apple ID password, FaceID or TouchID. Then, when I’m prompted for a password, the device says “Hey! I have the credentials for this account!” and offers to populate the data for you. You don’t need to know the password, Apple is handling that for you.

1Password, Bitwarden, and the other third party offerings basically do the same thing, and even include the biometric protection of FaceID and TouchID. You just need to take the extra step of selecting your third party password manager as the default handler on your iPhone and/or iPad. The advantage to the third party management software is that you can get plugins for anything: Firefox, Google Chrome, Windows, Linux, it doesn’t matter. Now your passwords are synchronized across multiple devices and multiple operating systems. For those not all in on one platform (like Apple devices only or something), this approach makes sense.

Google and Apple also go one step further in that they let you know when you’ve used the same password across multiple accounts and they also monitor when that password may have been compromised. In these instances, they give you rather easy to understand options to change the affected accounts so that your information stay safe. 

If you’re still using passwords like “baseball0517” to protect your online data, you really need to get to current times and start using a password manager, even if it’s the one that’s built into your operating system. One password for all accounts is pretty much the same as going on vacation with the front door unlocked and a sign on the front lawn that says “Come in and browse!”.

Over the next couple of weeks I’m probably going to write up some tutorials on managing passwords safely and share these on Medium. I’m a big advocate of online safety, so if you have any questions about this sort of thing, feel free to reach out in the comments on this blog post.

In the meanwhile, here’s some starter information from Apple and Google. Some of the third party password managers I’ve used in the past are 1Password, Bitwarden, and Dashlane, with Bitwarden being my favorite right now.

Happy security!

For the dorks in the crowd, here’s the “E-mail” video from 1984:

Local.

Since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve been relying on Amazon and other online shopping services for our household needs. One of the neat things about living in a major city is that we often will receive our order the next day, especially when ordering from Amazon. This sort of immediacy is nifty.

However, as it becomes apparent as to how much money Jeff Bezos is making off of these pandemic circumstances, and coupling this with the fact that he’s not really allowing that wealth to trickle down to those on the Amazonian front lines, the ones that really get our deliveries to us the very next day, I’ve started focusing on shopping local.

I’m what I would call an “avid shaver”. After years of having a beard and/or mustache, I settled into a clean shaven routine when I became a private pilot. In many ways this is in remembrance of a discussion I had with my father back at the big airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1984. As we were walking about the airfield, he mentioned that many pilots opt to be well groomed, clean shaved, and with a structured, disciplined demeanor. While I’m sure much of this is due to many pilots of that generation having been in the military at one point or another, I admitted he had a point. Being a good pilot involves a certain amount of calm, cool, discipline, and structure, and outward appearance sometimes reinforces these qualities.

As a clean shaven private pilot, I’ve been purchasing “artisan” shaving products for the past decade or so. I have a Merkur Progress double-edged or “safety” razor. Men in the 1940s through the early 1970s typically shaved with these guys. 10 blades cost less than $2.00. Compare that to your Gillette plastic multi-bladed razor. Back in the early 2000s I purchased shaving brush at a mall kiosk and it has lasted me all these years. I like trying various soaps and creams.

Enter Shavenation.com. I could easily order my shaving supplies through Amazon, but with my focus on local or at least non-big-corporately owned entities, I opted to give “Geofatboy” and his Shavenation electronic storefront a try. He’s located in the suburbs of Chicago, actually just down the street from Chicago Executive Airport, one of the airports I fly out of, and Geofatboy has a bunch of instructional videos online. I placed a small order to give his business a try and it arrived in two days, was well packaged, and met all of my expectations. One of the items in the package was a sampler pack of shave creams from Geo F Trumper; yesterday I used “Spanish Leather” for my shave and this morning I used “Sandalwood”. I’ll probably try something a little more adventurous tomorrow.

Taking a few extra moments every morning to whip up a nice lather with cream and a brush and then slowly shave with a double-edge razor is my meditative and quiet time. The practice centers me and gets me on a productive start to the day. I’m happy to have found Shavenation.com and I’ll probably spend too much money in the future on shaving supplies.

Love Or Let Me Be Lonely.

Last week I posted a video of Friends of Distinction singing “Grazin’ In The Grass”. I’ve always loved their vocals and the way they adapted the instrumental track with their own lyrics to make their own spin on the song.

Youtube suggested another Friends of Distinction track for me this week and it was a song I had not heard in a couple of decades. As soon as I heard the track I was transported into the backseat of my Dad’s muscle car, a 1971 Chevelle Heavy Chevy. It’s one of the songs we’d hear on 62 WHEN.

Here’s Friends of Distinction with “Love Or Let Me Be Lonely”. Gosh, I miss the funky sounds of the late 60s and early 70s.

But Really?

Trump announced that both Melania and he have tested positive for COVID-19. This came after it was announced that staffer Hope Hicks was tested as well. They have been working in close proximity all week.

With all the deception, spin, hoaxes, half-truths, and downright lies that have come out of the Trump Administration, I’m not sure I believe this latest revelation. There’s a strong part of me that believes this is a PR stunt to show that COVID-19 is no big deal and/or that he is a strong and mighty leader. While it’s quite possible this is all very true and they’re both in danger right now, it’s also very possible this is some sort of reality show hi-jinx.

The worst part is there’s really no way to know for certain.

Gamification.

When Apple release Watch OS 7 a week or two ago, all eligible Apple Watches were introduced to many new features. One of the highlights of this release is improved sleep tracking. Apple now encourages you to wear your watch to bed so you know how well you slept.

I’ve been using this since the day of release. Tonight will be the first night that I will not be participating in this latest gamification of life.

I don’t sleep well. I know this. I haven’t slept well in the past several years. Much of it is from feeling the weight of the country on my shoulders, but I also hear things in the big city or once in a while a neighbor, who we usually never hear, will make some startling noise in the middle of the night and then I’ll be in bed all wide-eyed thinking about random thoughts. Occasionally my brain will not shift out of overdrive and I’ll get into this light sleep. The way it really works is I instantly fall asleep but it doesn’t last long enough. As I’m falling asleep I jerk and bob in bed. My husband should probably have a seat belt for his side of the bed. I’ll save the sleep walking tales for another blog entry.

The last thing I need is watch on my arm and my mind grinding on the thoughts of what my “sleep score” will be in the morning.

There’s also another thing to think about with this sleep tracking. Apple doesn’t have a great track record with reliably sounding alarms for waking in the morning. The slightest disruption in the atmospheric continuum, like a time change or a tidal assault from the moon or something, and Apple can’t remember to sound the alarm. So I start waking up about 30 minutes before I should to see if I’ve missed the alarm.

The last thing that was bothering me about this sleep tracking is there’s really one schedule unless you get into full tinkering mode with the clunky app and Apple tries really hard to lock you into that schedule. But! It doesn’t turn the alarm on for the next day unless you manually turn it on before bed.

This is not a good UI design.

I don’t need to track my sleep to make rings close and harps whine when I wake up in the morning. If I want to track my sleep I can check the security cams to see if I’ve walked around or if I’m being over restless I’ll know because my husband rolled me over or something.

I know Apple wants us to be as healthy as possible and I feel like they’re mostly genuine in their intent, but I’m not as big a fan of the gamification of health as I thought I would be. It’s bad enough that the Fitness app never gives you a rest day without scolding you for not closing your rings in successive days. I don’t need reminders on how to sleep.

For those that enjoy the gamification of life, have at it. Love it. Take it to the next level.

I’ll sit here and nap as I tell you kids to get off my front lawn.