Memory full, delete password

July 09, 2008|By GREGORY KANE

Have you come down with it yet? Are you afflicted?

I've sure got it, and I've had it a while now. I've got a bad case of "password overload." Is there something for which we don't need passwords?

About a year or two ago, my daughter dragged me kicking and screaming into the 21st century by selling me a computer. (For those of you thinking that, as my daughter, she should have just given me the thing, consider this: As I lie fading away on my deathbed, I plan to sell her my Order Sons of Italy watch.)

The computer has a password and user name, which I'd forgotten until my best buddy in the world - that would be my grandson Spencer - asked what they were.

"Beats me, grandson," I answered. "Ask your mom." I realize I should know the user name and password for my home computer, but darn it, I'm passworded out.

I'd used a computer before, of course, right here at my official Sun desk. And it was here that I got my initial case of password overload. I need a password to log on to the computer. I need another password to log on to the evaluation system; still another one if I want to peek at my pay stubs. And then there's the password to access my voice mail.

I kid you not. Yes, if folks who run the Tribune Co., which owns The Sun, are to be believed, there are hundreds -nay, perhaps thousands - of people out there who are just pining away to know what kind of voice mail messages people leave me.

Oh, and it's not just the passwords. We have to CHANGE the passwords about every six months. I figured I had that problem licked: To change passwords that frequently and also remember them, I'd just combine letters from the names of my six grandchildren with the numbers from the year they were born. But those enlightened minds at Tribune have decided that to log on to the computer, I need 24 different passwords.

Well, that killed that plan. Unless my son and daughter go completely crazy, there's no way I'm going to have 24 grandchildren.

Now if the building that houses the employees of The Sun were on the grounds of a Tactical Air Command or Strategic Air Command base, I'd understand this level of security. For those of you who are not veterans of the Air Force, let me provide a brief explanation.

When I was in the Air Force, airmen would go out of their way to avoid duty at TAC or SAC bases. Discipline was harsh; military protocol was to be followed to the letter, and airmen were expected to be the quintessence of military bearing. Unpolished shoes, an unpressed uniform or haircuts not in accord with regulations might be tolerated at other bases, but not at TAC or SAC bases.

The reason was simple: TAC and SAC bases were the places that protected the United States from nuclear attack. Airmen were expected to be sharp about the little things so they'd be extra sharp about the biggest thing: keeping the country safe.

Now, The Sun is many things to all sorts of people. Those who are pro-Israel think we're pro-Arab. Those who are pro-Arab think we lean toward Israel. Conservatives think we're too liberal, and liberals think we're probably not liberal enough. Some whites think the paper favors blacks too much, while some black men - from opposite ends of the political spectrum, I might add - swear this paper has it in for black men.

One thing all those disparate groups have in common is this: Not one person in any one of them will ever, ever mistake The Sun building for a TAC or SAC base.

I have to put up with the constant password changes here because, after all, work is work. But now everybody wants in on the act. I started getting my prescriptions by mail this year, and the company where I now get my medications advised me that the quickest way to get them is to order online.

Of course, this required a user name and password. I wanted to bank online as well. Same deal: needed a user name and password. For years I've taught a writing course at the Johns Hopkins University, and for years I got my class rosters from the Writing Seminars office and filled out grades on paper forms.

You guessed it: Those days are gone. I now have to get class rosters and fill out grades on a computer. And yes, I need yet another user name and password.

Where will the insanity end? And when will someone wake up and realize that there is only so much useless information the human brain can hold?

Well, my brain, anyway.

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