Monday, October 29, 2007

Shhhh. The password is ... "password."

The old game show, "Password," still gives me a tummy ache. Maybe it's because the only time I ever got to see Allen Ludden and his cast of stars was when I was holed up in bed, home sick from school. It came on right after "As the World Turns" every day. (An aside from the "I know way too much useless information about TV stars" files: Allen Ludden was married to actress Betty White, a.k.a. silly Sue Ann from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and one of "The Golden Girls.")

Anyway, I learned a lot about the English language from "Password." I even had the home version. What could be more fun for a kid with a pretty good vocabulary? The "Lightning Round" could make me a little queasy -- pressure, you know -- but I discovered there was pretty good money to be made from knowing what words meant: at first, $50 per correctly guessed word, can you believe it?

The reason I started thinking about all of this "Password" business is that the word, "password," morphed from its early military and speakeasy days into game-show usage and now is the second half of the "username and password" combo to enter a secure Web space. Which brings me to a mini rant for the day.

Apparently it's just not enough to have a plain old username and password today. Now you have to be able to answer challenge questions like, "Who was the best man at your wedding?" or "What is your mother-in-law's middle name?" or "What color was your second pet's third toenail?" to enter a supposedly secure Web site. It's becoming a whole new game show in itself. I can't even get the answers right when I have written the questions myself!

Today, case in point, I entered a site to be left unnamed, to pay a bill. "In an effort to serve you better," it said (that's always the reason), I had to list answers to FIVE challenge questions that I could remember answers to later. Heck, I have a hard time remembering what I did yesterday, much less the answers to a bunch of questions that I chose today. The thing is, I can answer questions today that I'm asked today and not necessarily will I answer them the same way tomorrow or six months from now. You see, I'm a "shades of gray" person. Answers aren't necessarily always the same. It depends on when one asks them. So, when you ask me, "What was the name of your first pet?" I'll retort, "My first pet when I was a kid? Or after I was married?" And when someone asks me, "What was your grandmother's middle name," I'll wonder, "Which grandmother?" The frustration is dizzying. Which makes me queasy, in need of a cold washcloth on my head, a hot water bottle on my belly and "Password" on the telly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Seems like 10 minutes ago

I love lists, I was reminded yesterday when I heard a radio show host musing about his Top 10 movie soundtracks. I got to thinking, do I KNOW 10 movie soundtracks? Oddly enough, all I could think of was Rodgers and Hammerstein's score from the old TV version of "Cinderella." When I was 10, it was a TV special starring Lesley Ann Warren with her charming crooked smile and the handsomest guy I had ever seen playing the prince. He was dreamy, really. I wanted him with all my heart. But back before VCRs, you'd have to wait for "the repeat," when the network would decide to air the show again. Nevertheless, I fell in love not only with the prince but with the music and still can sing just about every song from that show.

Just last year I learned that the 1965 version was a remake. PBS aired the original 1957 version -- starring Julie Andrews, who was absolutely gorgeous then, with a voice as clear as a child's and a waist as big as my wrist. And although early TV productions were pretty crude fare, filmed with only a camera or two and cardboard sets that looked like a high-school play, there was something wonderful and raw about them.

But back to Lesley Ann and the dreamy prince. These songs still make me weep with prefeminist joy: "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" and "Ten Minutes Ago." Now close your eyes, pirouette and pucker up.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Life sucks, and other adventures of grownups

Well, Monday began full of its usual promise, then slowly unraveled. Gray, cold rainy. My office phone continues to ring: People are still pissed off that UST didn't invite Desmond Tutu to speak here. Our staff gets to listen to their self-righteousness. We have taken hundreds of phone calls over the past 10 days or so. It's tiring, and I wish these people would get over it. I was sympathetic, now I'm just plain tired of tirades from the left, tirades from the right, Israelis, Palestinians, anti-apartheid activists, peaceniks, blog-readers. Right now, they're all nasty.

The phone rings again: It's our new college graduate, due to begin his first "real" job that day, voice shaking. The job has fallen through. Some HR person has told him, "guess we weren't supposed to offer it to you without authorization from corporate" or whatever. Dozers. Jerks. Idiots. They haven't thought that they're cutting off a real person at the knees. I ache for him.

We hear that our next-door neighbor -- who lives in our old house -- has had a stroke and may not know who we are. We never see lights on there anymore. He and his housemate may have to sell the house, as it takes two incomes to afford the payments. His partner is a realtor, and you know how that work is going these days. Meanwhile, he's making breakfast at 3 a.m. because he doesn't believe the clock nor wonder why it's still so dark.

The pattern continues through the evening. Some of hubby's potential customers decide that naw, even though he's put in so much time on their bids and plans and projects, well, they've just decided to call someone else. Sigh. Customers often don't think much of your work being your family's bread and butter, your self-esteem, your raison d'etre. For some reason, these kind of losses feel like knife wounds. And in this economy, these blips are tough to weather.

I didn't sleep well last night, with all of these things aching in my mind. Even the cat was pacing. Ick.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Weekend winners

Every so often No. 2 daughter gives us cause for a real nice party. She ran the Twin Cities Marathon yesterday. It may be "the most beautiful urban marathon in America," but the 2007 edition earned "sweatiest" honors. It was 73 degrees at race time, and by the time we strolled up to watch around 11 a.m., runners were already dropping like flies. Actually, at Mile 23 I saw few runners but lots of haggard walkers. A spectator with a huge mastiff caught the eye of an exhausted runner toward the end of the race. The tired marathoner quipped, "Ya think we could ride him?" Also heard from an entrant on the course, near race end: "When IS that fucking bus coming by?"

Congrats to Emily for finishing, much to the relief of her mother, in under five hours. And congrats to her sister, Nicole, for going beyond the call of duty in the Sister Support Department, entertaining her twin toddlers along the course for two hours while we waited. (Note to readers: A marathon will interest a 2-year-old for about 5 minutes. A marathon will interest a 2-year-old on a sugar high for about 3 minutes.)

Special thanks go to our favoritest niece and nephew-in-law, Amy and Kurt, for a marathon party (read: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) to mark the occasion. There's something special about a day that starts with mimosas and Bloody Marys at 9, continues with strawberry daquiris and ends with Johnny Walker. I won't go into what that something is, but ... a belated toast to our No. 3 child, Nate, who just nabbed his first real job. Here's to gainful employment and another marathon: the repayment of student loans! Huzzah!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mundane musings

Sorry I haven't been blogging very regularly over the past few weeks. School's back in session, which means I'm actually working in my office all day long. I'm so busy that I come in around 8:30 in the morning, look up at 4 p.m. and wonder what happened. It's kind of like being on another planet for much of the day, then driving home and discovering that everything is sort of like I left it. Which is disappointing, sort of.

So call me a loser, but I recently discovered that I can watch all the TV shows I really like (but, in our house, are pre-empted by the guy who holds the remote) online if I decide to take a lunch break. Woo-hoo! So I can watch "Ugly Betty," "Grey's Anatomy," "Desperate Housewives," "Brothers & Sisters" and all those chick shows for which I regularly earn my husband's scorn. I love the Internet!