Example of a Sincere Attempt at Security Questions That Still Goes Badly

Synchrony Bank has the following security questions when setting up an account. They look well thought out, at least. The only problem? All of the answers are required to be 6 characters or longer. There are plenty of proper names or other valid answers that don’t meet that requirement.

2 of the answers I can readily recall from this list don’t meet the requirement. Half of them I don’t have an answer for, and at least one of the answers is public information.

This one is bad… seven of my answers here are 3-5 characters, two don’t have an answer for me.

Again, 4 out of 10 are 4-5 characters, 1 doesn’t have an answer, and 1 of them I wouldn’t spell the same way twice. Also: Ford? Dodge? Kia? Honda? Lexus? GMC? AMC?

Beyond all this, programmers need to read Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names. …and anyone answering security questions just needs to store the answers to the security passwords as yet another generated password using something like https://1password.com/ (although I had to limit the symbols that my own password manager would use to generate because slashes weren’t allowed.)

Addition nuisance:

I *just* registered in this same exact tab 20 minutes ago.

The “Satirical News” Sites Need to Stop

The Onion has always been entertaining because it either operated at a very generic level or a very absurd level. While The Onion could be mistaken for real news, it was often involving a person that didn’t exist, a generic group of people, or things so absurd that no reasonable person could believe them to be real. Besides, The Onion was THE ONION.

However, now there’s a proliferation of “satirical news sites”.

The latest in the absurdity is Newslo, which is:

JUST ENOUGH NEWS… Newslo is the first hybrid News/Satire platform on the web. Readers come to us for a unique brand of entertainment and information that is enhanced by features like our fact-button, which allows readers to find what is fact and what is satire.

I’m trying out “SatiricAlert” to help me filter out this crap that has proliferated way too much to be entertaining anymore.

Principle of Least Surprise (Astonishment), foreign keys, and Rails

In yesterday’s post, I sorted through the foreigner gem to figure out how to change the reference column (primary key) that a foreign_key maps to.

The problem here is that, unless your Rails project(s) has grown up referencing “natural” primary keys instead of the autoincremented id implicit in an ActiveRecord::Migration, avoiding creating surprise by not referring to an artificial primary key actually adds surprise: The instinct of someone reading your code will be to assume that the foreign key maps to the auto-id of the foreign model.

Keep digging, KDF. Charging for updates? At $1-$2 per TEXT?

I’ve run in Chicago, NYC, and (yes) even the KDF before when updates were free.

Now, you can pay for the opportunity to be notified. No free notification mentioned (which is very helpful in letting a family member know if you need help, etc…)  At the 10-, 15-, 25- and 30-km markers, that means mini marathon participants (the overwhelming majority of participants) only get 2 updates.  Marathoners, of course, would get 4 updates. That’s $1 or $2 per text…  And from the wording of the below ad, that’s $3.99 per notification method/person being notified… probably should post those updates to Facebook for the most bang for your buck.

The Kentucky Derby Festival Sends an Email on the Course Change, Finally

Email from KDF Mini/Marathon

Of course, it’s a marketing email.  (Speaking of which, I seem to always see “Constant Contact” on emails that get me more fired up than other email.)

You’ll noticed that this email was received February 8, 2011.  The early registration deadline is February 14, 2011.  I would imagine that most procrastinators probably wouldn’t have made the early registration date, anyway.

Thanks for the notice of the advance change for the early registrants.

The text reads:

– Now with both the start and finish lines downtown, our new Marathon and miniMarathon courses have been designed to be faster than ever while taking runners past some of Louisville’s best-known landmarks!

– More great entertainment along both routes to keep you going on your 13.1 or 26.2 mile journey.

– Runners will enjoy the sights of Old Louisville and the Original Highlands and pass landmarks like Churchill Downs, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Slugger Field, KFC Yum! Center and the Speed Art Museum — just to name a few!

– It’s a whole new challenge

On point 3:  I guess the Southern Parkway crowds weren’t supportive enough.

Iroquois is for Runners, or How to Ruin the Best Half Marathon in the Country

The Course In Question

Go to the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon/miniMarathon page for the course map.

Where I’m Coming From

I’m a runner with modest ability.  I never ran track or cross country in high school.  I barely finished the mile fitness test my freshman year in high school.

Those PE exercises and recess games in middle school?  I didn’t have enough sprint in me to dodge a guy running up to me to tag me with the kickball that I just kicked.

In the last five years, I’ve built up the strength and endurance to run in the top 10% of the pack in a couple of marathons, and I’ve finished 8 marathons and 4 half-marathons.

A Comfortable Challenge

I regularly run the Iroquois Hill Runners’ Hard Ten route for training.  The uphill portion is a slow and steady climb.  The lower loop [marked Rundill Road on maps] has some steeper grades than the uphill road. And yet, Iroquois is no Eden Park hill in the Flying Pig, no Hatfield-McCoy 700 ft/1 mile up and downhill, no undulating 300 ft/mile up- and downhills of the Flying Monkey.

The lower loop in Iroquois is somewhere between “not flat” and “a little more than rolling hills,” depending on the elevation profile of your average training runs.  The base loop’s hills around the base rarely break out of the 50 ft range, and you get just about as much assistance on the downhills as you lose on the uphills–without the sustained punishment on your quads of a sustained downhill.

The Iroquois Park Runner’s Experience

Uphill and Rundill Rd at Iroquois Park in the Snow

Regardless of whether you’re running by yourself, with a couple of friends, or a few thousand of your friends, the canopy of trees makes the run serene. As you race around the bends, the narrow field of view keeps you from focusing on a point too far in the distance, so that landmarks in your field of vision go past quickly. The bends on inclines and declines offer opportunity for the efficient racer to pass without weaving through the crowd. The steady slapping of shoes on the pavement is the primary sound heard throughout the duration of the park run.

In the racing experience, going clockwise through park meant that, once you passed the up hill road, you were catapulted down a downhill for almost a mile as you and your fellow runners spilled onto Southern Parkway.  Then, the race began in earnest.

It should be noted that even the marathoners do not get this release anymore.  The new course travels counterclockwise.

Southern Parkway

Running down Southern Parkway was my second favorite feature about the Mini course. With the start line there, there was plenty of starting area on Southern Parkway with plenty of room to roam on the bridle paths on each side.  Part of the challenge of this arrangement was that the first two miles involved some narrow streets and tight turns.  However, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to be slowed down leading up to the hills leading up to and inside the park.

When the start line moved to 3rd Street, the crowd congestion just after the first mile dissipated, but the legs were left with more than a mile less of running prior to hitting the hills.  No matter–Iroquois Park was still waiting, and the release onto Southern Parkway would still be there as well.

The crowds along Southern Parkway were always amazing. The bridle path on each side provides plenty of room for spectators. Since the Mini drew at least 3/4th of the runners, crowds supporting the half-marathoners will no longer have a reason to cheer along Southern Parkway.  It could be lonely out there for the marathoners, even as early as mile 8 when they split off from the half-marathoners and run toward Iroquois.  At least prior marathoners didn’t hear crickets chirping until mile 12.

Commingling Futility

I sure hope there’s a SOLID plan to keep 7 minute mile marathoners trying for Boston Qualifying from being obstructed by 15 minute miler half-marathoners when they rejoin at miles 7.75/18.  If I was running the marathon of my lifetime for the first 18 miles, only to be obstructed by people instead of “the wall”, I’d feel like I had been assaulted by cronies of the race committee.  [See Again to Carthage: A Novel by John L. Parker (Amazon link) for a more vivid illustration.]

Updated April 30 [Race Day]

As I watched video of mile 10 of the Mini course, I saw a runner moving at roughly twice the speed weaving through the other runners. Apparently, at this point, there was no clear division of the two courses.

Also, due to last minute course adjustments, the mile markers 9/18 through 11/20 were paired…  That means that a 7:30 marathoner would have run into the wall 15 minute half-marathoners [the KDF mini attracts a large walking contingent] and would have to fight through for 2 miles, much like I experienced in Chicago, but with participants moving at half the pace instead of about 80% of my pace.

I encourage the 15 minute miler to participate. I blame bad course management for not giving a clear path for the half-marathoners and marathoners to co-exist.  Of course, I also blame bad course design, but minimally, better planning should minimize the challenges presented by the course layout.


Having grown up near the park, I once knew little about the Mini except for the fact that we couldn’t exit our neighborhood via Southern Parkway until after 10am, the barricades that lined the bridal path, and the stampede of runners running down the street.

Now, with the only the marathon route passing by at mile 15 instead of everyone passing by at mile 8–the neighborhood will now be blocked until noon, but the stampede of runners will be the thinned out trickle of marathoners that is typical of a medium-sized marathon at mile 15.

So, tradition doesn’t mean much.  Unless it’s Churchill Downs. I can’t recall if Churchill Downs–especially the trip through the infield–was always a “feature” on the Mini-Marathon, but judging by the contrived nature of the path through Churchill’s infield, I would have my doubts. Something about running through dank tunnels, snaking around aimlessly on the narrow infield path, and inhaling fresh hay and manure smell doesn’t scream “preferred running route” to me.

By contrast, thousands of people hit the Iroquois hills willingly, sometimes even when the traction is limited.

No Complaining Without Solutions!

Okay, so it’s easy enough for me to be a naysayer.  What would I do for the Mini course if I had some bizarre insistence on finishing on the waterfront?  Here’s my course.  It’s a pretty straight shot down 4th Street, and runs by the back side of Churchill Downs but not in it.  It would run through 4th Street Live! as well.


Do you really want me as a customer?

  • Don’t make me log in or create an account just to place my order.
  • Don’t make me do a password reset just because I haven’t logged in and I’ve forgotten my password.  If you absolutely insist on doing a password reset, do this instead:
    • Take my email and password + repeat password, regardless of whether I have an account under that email address currently or not.
    • Send a confirmation link to my email address.
    • Process payment once email has been confirmed.
    • I still insist that, unless you are a BANK, you do not need me to confirm that I am associated with some arbitrary identity that you have established in your system.
  • Recognize all of the common phone number representations. I should error out on
  • Don’t ask me to enter the +4 part of a zip code.
  • If your address lookup or data feed includes the +4 part of a zip code, it should match a 5-digit zip code without making me confirm or recalculate shipping.

Just got a cold call offering web design services…

I did a reverse phone number look-up using Google on the phone number on caller ID. [using “xxx xxx xxxx” including quotes as a search term.]

Their contact page is at the bottom of the first page of results.

The [Order Now] button on that page brings up:

If I hadn’t been cold called on my cell phone, I probably wouldn’t have created a post to point this out. [By the way, I clicked “Order Now” because I was curious how much their “rates” were.]

Dear geeks with an attitude…

Lose the attitude. I understand that there is an experience and language barrier. Frustration is natural. Deal with your frustration better.

People do not post on support forums when they know the answers. The support forum does not exist for you to feel superior about your knowledge in this one little area.

Of course, feel free to demonstrate your lack of ability to spell “calendar”, lack of grammar skills, and inability to treat others like human beings.

Click the image to view the response or go here for the original thread.

Geek has an attitude

Courier-Journal #fail: What’s a 5k marathon [Anthem 5k]?

Dear Courier-Journal.  5k is a distance.  If you’re unfamiliar, it’s 5 kilometers, which is roughly 3.1 miles.

Marathon also refers to a distance.  At present, that distance is 26 miles, 385 yards or 42.195 kilometers.

In history, the distance has been as short as 24.85 miles.  However, it has never been remotely close to 5k.  The last finisher of the Anthem 5k finished 30 minutes sooner than the world record marathon time.

I do not expect the average person to understand the distinction; however, in order to report on a basketball game, you wouldn’t allow the terms “extra innings” and “overtime” to be confused.  “Home runs” vs. “Touchdowns?”