Category Archives: Travel

It’s amazing more email accounts weren’t hacked back in the 2000s

At a tech training session, I wanted to get access to some of my class-related email on the training computer. But I didn’t want to log into my primary email on an open network, or on someone else’s computer at all. I have no idea what they’re logging, whether they’re doing SSL inspection, whether there’s a keylogger on it — probably not, but who knows?

Heck, I didn’t even want to use my own device on the hotel Wi-Fi without a VPN, and that was at least secured by WPA2! (then again…)

I ended up forwarding the extra class materials to a disposable email account and logging into that one. No risk to other accounts if it got sniffed, at any level.

But I remembered how we all used to get at email when traveling back in the early 2000s, before smartphones, and before every laptop and every Starbucks had Wi-Fi:

Internet Cafes.

We’d walk into a storefront and rent time on one of their computers. Then we’d go to our webmail site and type in our primary email login and password over plain, unsecured HTTP without TLS.

I’d never do that today. Admittedly, I wouldn’t need to in most cases — I can access my email wirelessly from a device I own that I carry in my pocket. (Whether that’s a good thing remains up for debate.)

But more importantly, we know how easy it is for someone to break into that sort of setup. Even if your own devices are clean, someone else’s computer might have malware or keyloggers or a bogus SSL cert authority on their browser to let them intercept HTTPS traffic. An HTTP website is wide open, no matter whose device you use. And an open network is easy to spoof.

So these days it’s defense in depth: If it needs a password, it had better be running on HTTPS. If I don’t trust the network, I use a VPN. And I really don’t want to enter my login info on somebody else’s device.

Achievement Unlocked: Total Solar Eclipse!

I’ve always wanted to see a total solar eclipse, but until now I never had the opportunity. I’ve caught a number of partial solar eclipses over the years, and quite a few lunar eclipses. This year’s “Great American Eclipse” was perfect: it passed close to Portland, where we have family, and we could visit friends on the way up.

By the time I reserved our hotel there was nothing left inside the path of totality, but we could still get an expensive room in Portland. I reserved that immediately for the nights before and after, then a motel for a few nights before so we would have time to visit, then we planned out the trip up and back.

Driving Into the Path

The morning of August 21, we got up at 5:30 to drive south into the path of the eclipse. We didn’t actually make it out the door until at least 6:30, and the parking attendant had lost our key (fortunately we had two, and they did eventually find it that afternoon), and then we got lost trying to find an ATM in case we had to pay a ton to park in someone’s field (one way streets and bridges and driving into the early morning sun), but we got on the road toward Salem by around 7:15/7:30, with our eclipse glasses, water, snacks/emergency food, and a very sleepy 6½ year old.

The threatened traffic jam carpocalypse didn’t materialize. There were slowdowns, sure, but nothing we hadn’t experienced on the way out of LA. Our nav system (which J. calls the “map lady”) sent us onto a side road at one point, and we drove through the countryside a while before getting back onto the interstate.

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Wildflower Superbloom in the California Desert – Anza-Borrego Spring 2017 Photos

Anza-Borrego Wildflowers

The kiddo had a day off from school in mid-March, so I took a vacation day and we all drove out to the desert to see the spring wildflowers. After the endless suburbia of Los Angeles, northern Orange County, and Corona, we drove past hills green from the winter rains, then into the similarly-endless suburbs of Temecula. It’s been years since I took Highway 79 south, and the city has grown a lot, but after a few miles the strip malls and housing developments disappeared, the road shrank to two lanes, and we drove through green hills with oaks, bushes, and the occasional patches of poppies, mustard and lupins. Fences, dirt roads and gates indicated ranches and wineries. Continue reading

WiFi is the new Color TV

When I was a kid, motels still advertised “COLOR TV!” on their signs to entice weary drivers to choose their facilities over the next one down the road. I’m pretty sure color TV was standard by then, but the signs remained.

These says, every motel I drive past has “Wi-Fi” on the sign, for the same reason.

Except it’s not quite the same. I mean…can you imagine if color TV was included with every room at the Motel 6, but you had to pay extra for it at a business class or nicer hotel?

That would be kind of silly, wouldn’t it?

Hotels and the Illusion of Simplicity

Hotel bedsManeuvering around toys on the living room after four days by myself in a hotel got me thinking about clutter. Traveling forces you to pare down your belongings for the duration of the trip. What fits in the suitcase. What’s easy to pack up again (if you’re going to more than one place). But it’s really an illusion enabled by two things:

  1. At the end of the trip, you go back to your life. Anything you leave behind is merely deferred, not eliminated. Which is good, because even if you have extra stuff, you probably don’t want to be reduced all the way to a suitcase for real.
  2. The travel economy enables you to skip a lot of things that you’d otherwise need supplies (and time) for: cooking, cleaning, repairs, etc.

Yeah, it feels like you’re simplifying your living situation for a few days…but that’s because you’re paying for someone else to do all the maintenance work.