Friday, March 23, 2007

Upgrade Schmupgrade

One of the duties that I have carefully wormed my way into, as I have said before is as a backup to our sole IT person at the credit union (poor bastard.) We have recently gone through a couple of conversions and some training on how to more effectively make the REALLY expensive processing software we use work.

However, as with any change there is resistance. The "I've always done it this way. Why should I change?" mentality is really difficult to overcome. Even in the face of how much easier the job will become, once someone becomes entrenched in a way of doing something, the new way is scary and frustrating.

That having been said, there is a certain joyous satisfaction in that moment that light dawns on marble head and you see the realization on their face that we are not trying to ruin their lives.

Then you see something like this and it makes all the frustration of convincing them seem somehow funny. It helps to keep the IT folks from coming to work with some sort of incendiary device or W.M.D.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This is NOT Why I Had Kids

I remember the day I saw my first child on a sonogram. I remember the joy in seeing that the baby was a little girl, the first in 2 generations on my father's side of the family. I remember holding that little bundle in the delivery room. The same can be said for both of my son's. The light they have shined on me cannot have a value placed on it nor could it ever be replaced.

That being said, I can't wait for the little buggers to get past childhood illnesses!

It seems, no not seems, it comes to pass that everytime any of them have a sniffle or the trots, it finds its way into my system as well. I hate being sick. It makes me feel like a weak old fart. That being said, I am sitting here debating whether I should drag my less than healthy butt into the office or spend another day on the couch. Yuck. I find that neither option really sounds like any fun.

On the one hand, I could go to work and sequester myself in my office and sit at my desk and stare at the walls until it's time to come home not really doing anything.

On the other, I could stay home and drive my wife crazy, risk the threat of physical violence and wait for the inevitable, "Why didn't you go to work" from her.


It's a no win own personal Kobiashi Maru. (for my Trekkie friends) Oh well, life is full of hard choices.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

I Can Fix Social Security

Here it is and the solution is fun for everyone...get busy with the one you love and make some damned babies. When social security was founded there was something like 20 people paying in for every 1 taking out. Now it's 8 to 1 and by the time I retire that number will have inverted.

Why is this happening? Simple, the birth rate in the good old U.S. of A. is currently 1.6 children per couple. If we aren't even replacing ourselves we are faced with a declining population and the direct result of that will be less people paying into government programs and therefore fewer programs can be funded. In many countries in Europe it is closer to 1.1 per couple. We are literally breeding ourselves out of existence.

One other interesting stat I'd like to throw in there for your consideration is that the birth rate in the "terrorist prone" countries is in the neighborhood of 7-9 children per couple. President Tom in Iran and Colonel (I think his rank is still Col.) Qaddafi (Sp?) have both said that the Al Queda approach to bringing the world to Islam is outmoded. They simply have to keep having children and soon they will be welcomed to countries to take the place of the children that the populations there aren't having. Then they can re annex all of the land that they lost to the Christians back in the past not to mention even more area just by over-running them with their children.

Scary huh? While I have been saying that babies are the cure for SS for a long time. I think I started when I heard Australia's govt slogan for the tax incentives they were giving families for having 3 kids 'One for you, one for your spouse and one for your country' due to their declining population and low birthrate. The info on the Middle East came to me from a video on If you'd like to see it just search for "save America" and click the link for videos, or you can check the book by his guest, Mark Steyn called America Alone.

Most who know me will say that this stand for more kids kinda flies in the face of one of my other philosophies, specifically that a lot of people shouldn't be allowed to have kids, just to stop the genes from spreading. I suppose in a way it does, but we can deal with screwed up kids after we are stable and funded. Besides, it'll give LD job security.


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Comments are Life

OK, I don't want to sound like Needy Ned, but feedback drives my creativity. That being said, if something I say interests you, tickles you or just plain pisses you off, let me know. I feed on discussion. It's like sweet, sweet nectar.

Ok, done begging.


MFA, What Is It And What Does It Mean To Me?

MFA or Multi-Factor Authentication is a new layer of security being added to online banking by financial institutions. The federal government has determined that simple user id and password verification is too easily spoofed by a cyber-critter and has there fore required F.I. to add another layer.

There is a pretty good article on Wikipedia on this topic that you can read here.

As I type this I can hear protests about how inconvenient it will be to have to go through another step to get to your information. My feeling is this, it’s a lot more inconvenient to have to go through a fraud and lose all my money to some cyber-critter with too much time on his hands and who, in all likelihood, will never get caught. It is the same approach I have about the increased airport security. If my being troubled just a bit keeps my plane from being the one they talk about on the news, more power to ‘em.

MFA relies on a few things and the levels that your own FI will go to is largely up to them. Our credit union chose to go with a two-factor verification, and it goes a little something like this. You log into your account as usual. But one time and one time only, you have to choose a picture from a group of pictures that the FI has provided. Second you have to set up one or several (again, wholly up to your FI) challenge questions to which only you know the answer.

The idea behind this procedure is that when you log in using your id and password, it gives you access to the next layer of security. Then you will see the picture that you have chosen. Since only 2 people in the world know what you have chosen, you can be reasonably sure that you are on your FI’s servers. You must also answer your challenge questions. This lets the FI know that you are you; because, you are, theoretically the only one who knows those answers.

That’s it. You’re in and everything should act as normal from there.

Like I said earlier, this is how my credit union has chosen to do this. There are a lot of other possibilities out there. Some FI will allow you to download a certificate to your pc that will let you into your account taking the place of the challenge questions. This is great, as long as the certificate doesn’t get compromised, and it makes your pc the ONLY one you can do online banking from.

With the advent of the biometrics for pcs, like using your fingerprint to log into Windows or to unlock the pc from screensaver, you may one day see the ability to scan your fingerprint from your pc to access your account.

Ok, that’s two pretty dry write-ups in a row. Story from growing up with LD next time, I promise.


Monday, March 5, 2007

Gone Phishing

There are very few times when stories from what I do for a living are worth telling. Accountants have, by nature, very boring jobs. Put an accountant into a financial institution and stand back and let the naps ensue. However, I have wormed my way onto the e-Commerce committee at my FI and get to help fight the cyber-critters and the Nigerian scammers on a regular basis.

We do everything we can to educate our members (ok, now you know I work at a credit union) and I thought, why not share some of what I know with anyone willing to take the time to put their eyes on my humble little blather.

I recevied an email in my home email the other day that kicked off this little diatribe and it serves as a really good example of a phishing scam. It also gives some really good examples of things to look for in these type of things. I'm going to copy the text directly into my post here and then I'll tell you what tipped me off. I guess I'm lucky that part of my job is to bust up this stuff, because except for a few small things this isn't a bad attempt.

Your Online Banking is Blocked
Because of unusual number of invalid login attempts on you account, we had to believe that, their might be some security problem on you account. So we have decided to put an extra verification process to ensure your identity and your account security. Please click on sign in to online Banking to continue to the verification process and ensure your account security. It is all about your security. Thank you.and visit the customer service section.
Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender © 2007 Bank of America Corporation. All rights reserved

There were lots and lots of official looking logos and all kinds of BofA propganda attached as well. The first thing that caught my eye was the fact that I do not have an account with B of A. Pretty much a dead give-away. But let's suspend that trivial factor and move on to the body of this piece of linguistic mastery. Two major grammatical errors in the first sentence and the fact that the "click here" link (removed for safety reasons) leads to the web address below:

Now what this link will lead you to is a site that in all probability looks JUST like the B of A sign in screen. So you sign in and bang right into online banking. What you didn't see happen was the hand off from the phisher's site to B of A where he, nice guy that he is, signed you in, leaving you none the wiser. BUT he now has a record of your user ID and password and as soon as you sign out, he signs in and sends himself a nice little gift. You go back to balance your check book and WTF?!?! you have no money. Neat huh?

This is just one way that they get you. And they have hundreds more. The best advice I can, and do give is:

1. always be suspicious, take every thing you get in an email as fiction unless YOU initiated the contact,
2. if you are concerned go to the website yourself, NEVER use the link provided in the email,
3. when in doubt call or go by your bank or credit union. They'd rather help you prevent this than have to help you recover from it.
4. use your brain. Most of these critters are banking on us being lemmings, and all to often they are, unfortuantely, right.

Hope this was worth the read and if it helps anyone avoid getting taken, then it was worth the write.


Thursday, March 1, 2007

The best brownies EVER

OK, there's no recipe for this. It's just a technique and wow is it good. It goes something like this:

1. Get a brownie mix or make your grandma's brownie recipe or whatever turns your crank.

2. Get your self a box of Andes mints. You know, the ones they give you at Olive Garden. You can get boxes of them at Wally World and other fine retailers.

3. Put half of the brownie mix in the pan you are going to bake them in.

4. Put a layer of the mints on top, and

5. Finish it off by putting the rest of the brownie mix on top of that.

6. Bake it per the recipe, let 'em cool a bit, grab a glass of cold milk and bliss out.

(You can substitute any melty candy you like that goes with chocolate for the mints. Peanut butter chips also work REALLY well.)



To Kill a War Leader Pt 9 - Dining with a Madman

I know...I's been a long time. Life has just been crazy, so that's all I'll say about that.  The bathroom remodel is d...