The Facts of Life

by Maria on September 5, 2016

Mind your own beeswax

Today’s lunchtime irritation; the password re-set questionnaire.

1 The second school I went to? I don’t know. I was FIVE. It was for a year, somewhere in the north of England. I was terribly unhappy and it was dark all the time. When Mum and Dad could afford a roast chicken, we’d call it a party and invite the neighbours. They’d have a great time but the next day it would be back to distant nods and hellos. At that point we were moving around a lot. See ‘Employment figures, Ireland, 1970s’, also ‘economic migrants, bloody Irish’.

2 The first person I kissed? Are you fking kidding me? This is information I need to a) share and b) regurgitate (I chose the verb carefully) at will? Actually, the first person I kissed, i.e. necked/shifted/snogged, was an Iraqi soldier and I was 11. Consent wasn’t really on the agenda.On the plus side, I finally understood the expression “I wanted to wash my mouth out with soap.” And no, I didn’t catch his name. The second one was fully consensual and later that same summer, and, oddly enough, made me puke. But sure, I’ll offer it up for access to a crummy user interface that can’t be arsed investing in two-factor authentication.

3 It turns out I have no idea what ‘town’ my father was born in. (It was Ireland in the 1950s. AFAIK he was born at home or in a nursing home down the road from the farm. He was about the fifth child and the fourth son, so no one was really paying attention.)

4 The first band I saw live was kind of big in Ireland in the 1980s, but their name only has two characters.

5 It is a matter of both principle and policy with me that my favourite film is Point Break. But this system disagreed. Maybe my punctuation was out or I wasn’t allowed a space? Or perhaps, as Lori Petty so memorably told those beautiful, testosterone-poisoned boys, I just wasn’t doing it right.

6 My first primary/elementary (Elementary? Really? Are we just giving up already and going to use American spelling, too? Dizaztrouz.) school was called after a saint. Who is to say, a year after I typed in this information, that I’ll get the right combination of Saint / St / St. correct? The possessive apostrophe, no problem, though. But was that really my first primary school? Or was it just a nursery? It was the loveliest Montessori place that ever cherished a small, pathologically shy child. I spent the rest of childhood wishing I could go back. What about the school I had to start Senior Infants in? (In Ireland, being a Senior and also an Infant was a real thing.) I remember as clear as day being forced to memorise (memorize!) the alphabet, a concept that seemed pointless, alien and far less interesting than reading my older brother’s books through. I sat at my tiny desk and counted up the number of years of school remaining. Fourteen. People say small children don’t understand time. Not necessarily true. And something inside hid itself away, probably for good. But the official name of the school which changed according to who was principal in the course of my life sentence? Not a clue.

7, 9, 10 Favourite subject? When? Sometimes English. Often History. For the last stretch, Biology. I also did Social and Scientific Home Economics, which clever girls were supposed to avoid, and loved it more than probably anything. This question would get firmer answers, i.e. ones that don’t change according to the vagaries of memory and taste, if it asked for the least favourite subject. The subject I spent years biting my lip to keep the tears at bay, glancing around to wonder at others who seemed to just know how it worked, endless grinds and the edict that whatever I said and however badly I did at it, I must remain in the top stream. Because. The one I buy popular books about to this day, to prove, oh, I don’t know what it is to prove. But yes, I remember that one. Ask that. I’ll get 100% this time. It’ll be very emotionally cleansing, at last.
Favourite teacher? It varied then and it varies now. Women, most of them nuns, I owe a debt to that I can never pay back, only forward. For all the damage corporal punishment was said to do, I didn’t and still don’t feel badly about the ones who gave us the odd thump, or ‘puck’ as it was called. The one where the dull metal Sacred Heart ring would deaden your arm but leave the tiniest bruise – tant pis, it was different times, then. But the one who did cold-blood humiliation and masochistic mind games? Dead to me.

And what I wanted to be when I grew up? No fucking clue. Still don’t.

9 Favourite childhood holiday? OK, this one I can answer because it’s where I still go. I’m not sure I want to offer it up to Big Data, though, seeing as it handles the rest of my memories so callously.

These are not authenticable factoids to be fed into the maw of some crappy insecurity system. I will not harvest my childhood memories for the convenience of NetSuite or Microsoft or whoever the hell. They are not fixed data-points, ready for commodification and re-use. My memories are just as irreplaceable as a fingerprint biometric, and turning them into smooth, round interchangeable tokens exhausts them in a way I despise.

Also, if I could remember half of this &%$%$, I could probably also remember my password.

{ 69 comments }

1

bob mcmanus 09.05.16 at 1:23 pm

Or you could just make shit up. As long as you are consistent, I don’t think they care. It is true that if you could remember the markers, you might remember the PW.

This is pretty interesting, because what they want are markers not in Big Data, not searchable, in order to establish a unique identity. Once, or soon enough, these factoids are in Big Data, new even more obscure markers will be needed. Unfortunately, fictional factoids will fail even sooner, as 3162 dudes use Axl Rose as a pseudonym.

2

Nick Barnes 09.05.16 at 1:26 pm

Answer “Lies, all lies” to all the questions.

3

Maria 09.05.16 at 1:39 pm

Bob, right. My first address was 1,600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This is that rare instance when remembering lies is actually easier than the truth.

Nick, I tried. But they generally want different answers to each one.

4

William Timberman 09.05.16 at 1:51 pm

Indignities, or what we used to be sure were indignities, are the hallmark of Big Data’s confrontation with the messy and personal. When we’ve all had our public personas rubbed perfectly symmetrical by lists we don’t match up to, though, what then?

This started early: I was launched into the world with a three-syllable last name, and no last name box on any form from the first grade on seemed any longer than necessary to accommodate, say Smith, unless you used a needle (presumably dipped in your own blood), or a typewriter which you hadn’t got, and now nobody’s got. Never mind, though. From now on the folks who want to know these things will just query your iPhone, and tell you who you are. By then, most likely, you will be that person, and all manner of things shall be well….

5

Placeholder 09.05.16 at 1:54 pm

“They are not fixed data-points, ready for commodification and re-use. My memories are just as irreplaceable as a fingerprint biometric, and turning them into smooth, round interchangeable tokens exhausts them in a way I despise.”

That is why they use them though. They’re something the internet doesn’t -didn’t – know about you. Before Facebook your date of birth was between you, your mother and your deliver and select friends. “For there is nothing so secret it will not be made open” As they say in the Tropic of Cancer – if God wants to end the world, he’d better hurry.

6

Philip 09.05.16 at 2:11 pm

I would just write nonsense in 4 of the boxes and use of one three passwords I use for stuff that doesn’t have personal information that I want kept confidential or I don’t access often enough to remember a specific password. If I have forgotten a password I’ve tended to find there’s a way to reset it without answering the questions.

7

parse 09.05.16 at 2:37 pm

You can use the last two words of whatever question you asked as your answer. Then you don’t need to remember it, because you are prompted any time the question is presented.

8

RichardM 09.05.16 at 2:53 pm

Then you just need to remember it was the last two words, whether or not you included the question mark, etc.

Apparently, to use the nuclear football, the US president has to enter a 16 digit numeric password changed every day, which no-one but they know. So at least Russia is safe from nuclear apocalypse, if not the rest of us.

9

Yankee 09.05.16 at 3:03 pm

Recently I phoned in as requested to confirm a change of address, which the folks already knew from the post office notification. I knew my password, but they wanted to ask Big Data questions, some from their own records, some not. I kept getting them wrong, but no problem they dragged out another set of 3 questions, repeat until we got lucky. Security theater.

I let my computer remember my passwords. I guess if somebody breaks into my house, hacks my computer, and orders a bunch of stuff from BeachTogsRUs it will be on me.

10

stevenjohnson 09.05.16 at 3:10 pm

I miss Andy Rooney…Or maybe I don’t, I’m confused.

11

Jacob T. Levy 09.05.16 at 3:17 pm

Hell yes. Preach it, Maria.

12

Lynne 09.05.16 at 3:17 pm

If my computer has to go in for repairs, the technician will have access to my bank account and everything else, because I ask the computer to remember my passwords. Even so, Facebook made me change my password recently and now refuses to remember the new password, only the old. And iTunes makes me change it often, and won’t let me go back to my old comfy one.

I was struck by this observation: “I sat at my tiny desk and counted up the number of years of school remaining. Fourteen. People say small children don’t understand time. Not necessarily true.”

At the age of 8, I got much-needed glasses. My father instructed me how to fold them and never lay them on the lenses so they would not get scratched. The first night I went to bed I reached up to place my glasses safely on the nearby chest of drawers, and thought, “I will be doing this for the rest of my life”.

13

Lord 09.05.16 at 3:21 pm

Whatever you do, don’t try to be clever. You will never remember those.

14

biztheclown 09.05.16 at 4:03 pm

You are correct about Point Break. That’s my policy too.

15

TheSophist 09.05.16 at 4:43 pm

I once got locked out of an account because I’d misremembered the answer I’d previously proffered and put “croydon”, where my mother had grown up, rather than “Bristol” where she was actually born. From that point on, the answer always became “Hobbiton”. Sadly, I probably have better recall of the lives of the fellowship than I do of my family.

16

bianca steele 09.05.16 at 4:54 pm

I can never remember whether I entered the make of my first car

17

bianca steele 09.05.16 at 4:58 pm

oops, feel free to delete that.

I can never remember whether I entered the make of my first car as the make or manufacturer or both. For movie, favorite as a teenager will always be remembered . . . but you have to remember not to tell everyone on the Internet what it is! I decided not to use a fun pen name I’d been using since high school as my online pseud because I’d been using variants of it as a password . . . then learned my brother uses a version of it (grandfather’s name before being changed) in his public e-mail.

18

AcademicLurker 09.05.16 at 4:59 pm

From that point on, the answer always became “Hobbiton”.

And if you enter it incorrectly you’ll get Ian McKellen’s voice shouting “You. Shall. Not. Pass!”.

19

Placeholder 09.05.16 at 5:06 pm

@RichardM

Actually it was

20

James Wimberley 09.05.16 at 5:10 pm

Maria: do the US Post Office OCR scanners actually recognize “1,600 Pennsylvania Avenue”? I would have thought the comma is WRONG and your or Michelle’s mail will be returned as undeliverable.

21

Sebastian H 09.05.16 at 5:11 pm

One time I forgot the password to pay my student loans (because they repeatedly made me change it too many times). So I was supposed to enter my birthdate as a check. They had it wrong. It took weeks to fix.

22

Omega Centauri 09.05.16 at 5:17 pm

Rarely used sites that make you choose random passwords have been my bane. I never got around to carrying a book of secret passwords. I can’t do much with my phone, cause I can’t find where I put the password -and I don’t want to spend an afternoon in line at Verizon.

I got a phone test of these sorts of questions after I applied for a Target credit card. I was rejected because they decided I was an imposter! I’m also persona-non-grata at Amazon -for similar reasons.

23

max 09.05.16 at 6:10 pm

Also, if I could remember half of this &%$%$, I could probably also remember my password.

This might the most charming post I’ve ever read on CT. (For the Platonic ideal of ‘charming’.)

Get an address/calendar book. Write ‘Obi-Wan’ on the front. Don’t use it for addresses or appointments. Write this stuff down in the address book. Leave lots of space around the entries so you can scratch out passwords and replace. It’s your only hope.

Pretty fake answers!
1) Hogwarts. For the value ‘what school did you attend…’ the answer is always ‘Hogwarts’.
2) Mother/Mom/Mum. What else could it be? (The question isn’t: with whom did you first make out? And no, don’t start.)
3) Mars. Men are from there.
4) One I didn’t attend.
5) Kodak 35 mm black and white ISO 400.
6) ‘A place designated as a school.’
7) Time remaining til final bell.
8) Imaginary.
9) Experience. Oh, wait, I thought that was least favorite. Never mind.
10) Taller.

max
[‘Ahem.‘]

24

js. 09.05.16 at 6:11 pm

It is a matter of both principle and policy with me that my favourite film is Point Break.

I feel like this is really calling for some elaboration.

(…It’s also by the way the only question I can successfully answer and always remember—Breathless, since you asked. Meanwhile, I’ve never had a pet, the street I grew up on had no name, and if I had a favorite teacher in primary school, I sure as fuck don’t remember what her name was. Trying to answer those questions is an utterly hopeless exercise in my life.)

25

nnyhav 09.05.16 at 6:32 pm

26

Maria 09.05.16 at 6:35 pm

Lynn, that is such a lovely little nugget, thank you.

James @20, huh. I thought that comma looked odd. Explains why my mail is going astray.

And thank you, hive mind. Clearly the answer is to create memorable lies.

We may have to talk Point Break, at some stage. Ruff.

27

Maria 09.05.16 at 6:47 pm

This is all a bit meta, but I just had to re-set my password to unmoderate my own comment. Happily, CT’s back-end is no snob and doesn’t care where I went to school.

28

Corey Robin 09.05.16 at 6:58 pm

I loved every part of this post.

29

JimV 09.05.16 at 7:46 pm

“Point Break” was good, but not as good as “Broadcast News” (it says here). I always thought “Merchanter’s Luck” by C.J.Cherryh would make a good movie.

Like others above, I keep all my passwords, security answers, account numbers, and so on in a document on my computer, so I can just open the document, hit Ctrl-F, and type in GE to find my SSO (Single Sign-On number) for their benefits website. It will be a great help to my relatives when I get hit by truck or a heart attack, since it is also on a flash-drive (among several megabytes of data) which I leave at a nephew’s house and periodically switch with an updated one.

That’s not very close to being secure, just convenient. People could also put a gun to my head or a relative’s head and get the information, though. Society doesn’t work unless the majority of the people in it act honestly. Or, as the Qeng Ho say, you have to appreciate the value of repeat business.

30

Garrulous 09.05.16 at 7:58 pm

“Senior Infants” was also known as “High Babies” back then, I just remembered. “Junior Infants” = “Low Babies.”

31

Cory 09.05.16 at 8:17 pm

+1000

+1 for every time I have felt something similar when setting up an account and going through this data-mining disguised as security.

32

Maria 09.05.16 at 8:20 pm

Yes, calling them Big Babies was a serious faux pas.

33

christian_h 09.05.16 at 8:52 pm

Yes! This is so very spot on.

34

Kiwanda 09.05.16 at 9:01 pm

Point Break is not only the best movie with both Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, it’s the best movie featuring a jump from an airplane without a parachute. It’s Lori Petty. It’s Gary Busey. It’s John C. McGinley. It’s us against the system. It’s death on a stick out there, mate.

35

Lalala 09.05.16 at 9:34 pm

I love this so much. I think this is my favorite CT post ever by a factor of 10.

I do love all of Belle’s posts–but that’s more like a wave…a warm glow that fills my chest. This is post is more like a wasabi explosion of love in my head.

“It is a matter of both principle and policy with me that my favourite film is Point Break. But this system disagreed.” I challenge anyone to top those two sentences in conjunction.

36

AcademicLurker 09.05.16 at 9:39 pm

It is a matter of both principle and policy with me that my favourite film is Point Break. But this system disagreed.

“This was never about online security, this was about us against the system. That system that kills the human spirit.”

37

Brendan Halpin 09.05.16 at 10:06 pm

This approach has a lot going for it (but you need a password manager):
https://twitter.com/chriswithpants/status/770435827142840320

38

maidhc 09.05.16 at 10:54 pm

I don’t see why I have to have a favourite film or a favourite food or a favourite colour or a favourite this or that. When I was younger people would always ask what’s your favourite colour. I always said grey because it’s not really a colour. But a colour that looks good as a T-shirt might not be a good colour to paint a house. Why should someone prefer green to blue? Makes no sense.

I like lots of films. Why should I prefer one to all others? I like many kinds of food. Given a choice, I would not just eat the same thing every day.

The first concert I remember was a brass band concert when I was about 4, and I marched around pretending to play the trombone. No idea what the band was. The first rock concert I went to had about ten acts on the bill..

Anyway I write down the answers to these questions in a little book. If I ever lose it I’m sunk.

39

timothy bateson 09.05.16 at 10:54 pm

I have a nice algorithm for producing memorable passwords. But… if I told anyone what it is, obviously, they’d all get broken.

Ok, I can illustrate with an example. The full name of a selection of dead and not well known actors you like (there are, what, 10-15 in your head), with a rule about how many and which letters get capitalized (every other, or the last 3, or… whatever), followed by dates that have significance for you (how many are there??) followed by the same date backwards. So, eg, TIMothyBateSON20166102

Is that a good way of producing safe passwords? They’re memorable, if not safe.

I went to several primary schools. The one I went to longest, a junior school, became a middle school while I was at it, then returned to being a junior school, so I never know what to call it,

40

js. 09.05.16 at 11:00 pm

Some systems now allow “passphrases”, which importantly can include spaces. So you can type out a whole sentence basically. It’s such an obvious improvement, I don’t understand why more sites don’t switch to it (other than the usual, of course).

41

Alan White 09.05.16 at 11:36 pm

tb @ 39–

You read my mind!

42

J-D 09.06.16 at 12:31 am

js. 09.05.16 at 11:00 pm

Some systems now allow “passphrases”, which importantly can include spaces. So you can type out a whole sentence basically. It’s such an obvious improvement, I don’t understand why more sites don’t switch to it (other than the usual, of course).

I wonder whether any of them were influenced by this:
https://xkcd.com/936/

Of related interest are this
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U-RbOKanYs
and its sequel

43

derrida derider 09.06.16 at 12:36 am

On passwords, of course you want one that’s easy for humans to remember but hard for computers to break, and passphrases are exactly that. This nails it.

But it has always struck me how incredibly ignorant the framers of these questions must be. If you didn’t grow up in a single house in the ‘burbs of a mid-size US city and have similar tastes to your peers, forget it. Maria is right (as well as witty and graceful). Most of these questions make little sense to even an Irish person or a Brit, let alone someone who grew up in rural China and now lives in Huangzhou.

44

J-D 09.06.16 at 12:40 am

Okay, so that’s weird — I pasted and posted both links in exactly the same way, and they show up differently. Huh.

45

js. 09.06.16 at 1:41 am

J-D — If the link is *the very last thing* in a comment, it’ll embed the video, otherwise not.

46

derek 09.06.16 at 2:47 am

Maria, I use the same answer to ALL questions: first school, first kiss, favourite subject, best teacher, favourite colour, favourite car, etc.,. It’s my favourite football team, no matter what the question. So pick favourite novel, favourite author, whatever, it doesn’t matter and that’s the answer.

47

BruceJ 09.06.16 at 3:05 am

if I could remember half of this &%$%$, I could probably also remember my password.

Truer words have never been spoken.

I spent a week trying to regain access to my AppleID after being unable to remember my Sekrit Answers. (Ironically it was not because I’d forgotten my password, but because I needed to make a different change to my account, although by the fifth time I”d changed my password only to be told that it was not right after it had been successfully saved I was ready to smash things. Protip: Apple happily allows you to put spaces in your passwords in the password set dialog, but does not later recognize it as a valid password.).

OTOH, I am actually the bastard who implemented such a recovery system at my place of work, but at least we allow you to write your own questions….

48

floopmeister 09.06.16 at 3:19 am

#34: It’s death on a stick out there, mate.

Yeah, it’d be the best quote from Point Break if the accent was at least a vague approximation of a rural/bogan Victorian accent…

Funnily enough, I couldn’t use ‘floopmeister’ as my X-Box gamer tag as someone had already chosen it. Who is this digital doppleganger? How did they come up with exactly the same name as me? Now I have to use floopmeister + random numerals…

All this nonsense is why I don’t use fake names on the internet – best to be honest and transparent.

49

floopmeister 09.06.16 at 3:25 am

But it has always struck me how incredibly ignorant the framers of these questions must be. If you didn’t grow up in a single house in the ‘burbs of a mid-size US city and have similar tastes to your peers, forget it. Maria is right (as well as witty and graceful). Most of these questions make little sense to even an Irish person or a Brit, let alone someone who grew up in rural China and now lives in Huangzhou.

Not ignorant – just parochial…
:)

50

Moz of Yarramulla 09.06.16 at 4:32 am

All this nonsense is why I don’t use fake names on the internet – best to be honest and transparent.

Your parents really called you “floopmeister “?? Really? Wow.

This is why I use a password manager. Well, a couple of them. The browser for trivial sites like this where losing the account is mildly annoying (oh no, I’ll have to become Moz of Yarralumla… at least people will stop complaining that I misspelt Yarralumla – Yarramulla is a real place, people). For more important stuff I have a wee collection of “facts” per the requirements of the site. They want “first person you kissed”… yep, it really was “Engle spaZs Blugdb %24”. No, I will never remember that, but if I lose all 27 copies of my password file or forget the password to it at the same time as my life partners do the same with theirs… I’ll be spending some time physically dealing with the various government and bank offices, won’t I. Sucks to be me.

I always interpret those questions as “give us your response to question”, not “give us facts”. My mother has more ‘maiden names’ than the queen of Australia, at least if you hack enough websites and believe the answers. She was a very busy maiden :)

Also, FWIW, pass phrases. Anything important has spaces in it. I can remember the three or four that matter, and one of those gets me into the password filing system. It might sound odd, but I can remember “When I was a girl {{Real Unicorns}} had humps!” much more easily than 16 random letters-and-digits-and-special-characters.

51

Moz of Yarramulla 09.06.16 at 4:36 am

Also, the first search result for a tool to calculate password strength has this to say about the passphrase “When I was a girl {{Real Unicorns}} had humps!”:

Length: 46
Strength: Very Strong – More often than not, this level of security is overkill.
Entropy: 235 bits
Charset Size: 85 characters

But they *did* have humps, mom, they did!

52

Matt Austern 09.06.16 at 4:43 am

Seems pretty simple to me. The second school I attended was nPqKxjNCcRrZvpLYplEB, and my favorite subject was y0JNpVETZQ0H401U3XRT. The first person I kissed was SB0rTZthy7SwOYJ1yyjt. My favorite band is JUL5bkYOg20DOB7Tni7u, my favorite color is MxFkRAb1x4ekg8qBA5re, and my favorite film is oPzfl3VwT5VDQdIQlX5q. My childhood pet was named 2vSpES8UP0lSSbbKqPut, and when I was growing up I wanted to be a pnAjV9RZkjyAMLFg5pMQ.

(No, I can’t remember this sort of nonsense. That’s what computers are for. But it does annoy me that web sites ask me to supply a half dozen secondary passwords in addition to the regular one.)

53

Doug K 09.06.16 at 3:20 pm

the attitude of our new code-writing overlords has always been, “it’s time that all these (l)users woke up and started having the exact same background, experiences, and upbringing as me.”
http://www.theonion.com/blogpost/when-will-idiots-other-end-political-spectrum-wake-53482

I just write it all down, passwords and fictitious answers to inane questions, then keep a copy of this document synchronized across devices. On the phone it’s encrypted with yet another password, a long and memorable one that I took some time and trouble over. Since it’s mine I don’t need to change it, which is a great relief. Requiring frequent password changes is a security risk.
https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/08/frequent_passwo.html

54

AcademicLurker 09.06.16 at 3:43 pm

I find that profanity makes for easily memorizable passwords.

55

Kiwanda 09.06.16 at 4:41 pm

#34 (me): It’s death on a stick out there, mate.

floopmeister: “Yeah, it’d be the best quote from Point Break if the accent was at least a vague approximation of a rural/bogan Victorian accent…”

A what accent? It sounded like AuSTRAILian for BEEH, surely that’s good enough.

Or maybe it didn’t, and should’ve.

Anyway, a great ending.

Next you’re going to tell me that Roy Batty didn’t sound like a real replicant, in The Greatest Soliloquy Ever.

56

floopmeister 09.07.16 at 12:32 am

Your parents really called you “floopmeister “?? Really? Wow.

:)

A what accent? It sounded like AuSTRAILian for BEEH, surely that’s good enough.

Or maybe it didn’t, and should’ve.

Anyway, a great ending.

I also seem to remember an inordinate amount of pine trees around what is supposed be Bell’s Beach (if I remember correctly…)

And yet there’s not a pine tree for miles: http://www.weekendnotes.com/bells-beach/

In other news, the moon landing was apparently faked!

:)

57

harry b 09.07.16 at 1:32 am

The first band I saw live, by coincidence, was a band that subsequently became big in england late in the 70’s, and its name has only 3 characters (starting with an X). I went with Dougie Benford (oh, he seems to have become some sort of undergroung music person: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Benford — that’s interesting) and we saw them at High Wycombe Town Hall. Now I wonder whether that really happened! Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton (god, he was definitely not god) and Joan Armatrading (fabulous) were next (all on the same bill!).

58

js. 09.07.16 at 2:56 am

English Settlement is one of my favorite rock albums of all time, top 10-12 easily. I’ve never seen XTC live (not the right age), but that sounds brilliant.

(I did see U2 live on my 18th birthday, late in their career and in my fandom. It was a good show, “spectacular” I suppose, tho I think I hardly listened to the band after.)

59

js. 09.07.16 at 2:57 am

I may be totally wrong about Maria’s 2-character band reference, obviously, tho U2 is the obvious choice. Am a lot more confident I know what band Harry’s talking about.

60

derrida derider 09.07.16 at 3:23 am

For those who haven’t picked it up “a rural Victorian accent” refers to the Australian state of Victoria, whence Bells Beach, not the pommy reign. It would sound a little different to, say, a north Queensland accent but probably not sufficiently so that most foreigners would notice. Neither, of course, sound too much like the way that actor spoke.

61

Maria 09.07.16 at 9:48 am

It’s traditional in my household, when commenting on the weather, to say ‘it’s dith on a steeck out theyah’. Devastated to hear this isn’t authentic Bells Beach talking.

62

Phil Beesley 09.07.16 at 11:39 am

I wonder whether these sort of questions would work if they were composed by mature adults with a background in psychology or similar.

Answers about schooling and childhood are easy to recall if you are under 30. As you grow older, they may cease to be things that matter. Favourite films are one of the few answers that remain constant and memorable over a length of time — but I have more than one.

63

Howard Frant 09.08.16 at 4:09 am

Hate to be so pedestrian as to offer practical advice, but… I keep all my passwords on an Excel spreadsheet, so I can change them, insert lines, etc. Occasionally I e-mail it to myself so I can look it up from other computers. What keeps this from being crazily insecure is that I use only a limited number of passwords, so I just need hints to remember what they are. For example, k_____ +#.

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Aidian 09.08.16 at 8:10 am

While you won’t find systems vulnerable to ‘Little Bobby Tables’ much anymore, I’ve found variations of ‘set’ ‘null’ & ‘variable’ will still occasionally crash databases. The right application of curly brackets and backslash characters helps. Very hit and miss, and only acceptable in certain circumstances….

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Hey Skipper 09.08.16 at 8:29 am

1. Pick a rule and stick with it. For instance, the answer to all verification questions is the first letter in each word of the question.

2. Get a password manager (I have used 1Password for years, it is brilliant.)

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Bernard Yomtov 09.08.16 at 9:26 pm

Do these answers really go into Big Data? I didn’t think so, but don’t really know.

The next time this comes up it might be interesting to invent an identity. Pretend you are a 50-year-old Canadian male, born in China, say, who likes scuba diving and golf. See what ads you get.

That might also be an easy way to remember the answers. “On this site I’m Joe Wang from Vancouver, etc.”

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Moz of Yarramulla 09.09.16 at 12:33 am

Do these answers really go into Big Data?

Possibly directly, but definitely indirectly – the regular hacks and dumps of “secure” databases contain an awful lot of these Q&A lists. The annoying thing is how few sites treat them like passwords (salt and hash them). It’s great for researchers and others who want to know what a typical answer looks like etc, but it’s also handy for people who want to use accounts belonging to others.

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merian 09.10.16 at 7:30 pm

Lovely! Thanks, Maria.

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Meredith 09.11.16 at 3:43 am

Feeling guilty because I just posted on Corey’s newest post when, since returning to CT after a spell, seeing with pleasure “Maria,” and spending much of today reflecting on her post (between bouts of laundry and such, report-writing — I have an awful because terribly boring report I have to write — and other stuff to do), I have been sustained through much of the day by thoughts about this post. Hi, Maria, and let me say (not for the first time) that you deserve a wider audience than CT (though I know you have other audiences — CT is not your only home), or rather, a wider audience deserves you — well, maybe does not deserve. Mercy is given, not deserved.

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