John Kelly's Washington
Friday, July 17, 2009; 12:00 PM
Post Metro columnist John Kelly was online Friday, July 17, at Noon ET to chat about computer password purgatory, Kafkaesque parking ticket runarounds and anything else that's on your mind.
John Kelly: Greetings, all. I spent all of yesterday at Camp Moss Hollow and still haven't quite recovered. It's hard work lounging around in the country.
The final campfire of the night was moving, the campers sitting in a circle around the blaze. The trees above looked as if they were hung with fairy lights, so full of fireflies were they. David Fahrenthold had a great story this week about why there are so many fireflies this year (probably the wet spring).
As I walked my dog this morning a different thought crossed my mind: Occasionally I see fireflies during the day, usually in the morning. I never know whether they got up early or stayed up late. In any event, they strike me as sort of sad. They're the loser guys who stayed at the bar after all the hot chicks left, hoping that they might get lucky. When I see them aimlessly crawling along the grass or flitting from tree to tree I want to say, "Hey buddy. You're trying too hard. Go home, get some sleep, practice your flashing some more, then go out and impress the ladies."
I'm hearing from lots of readers who say they've had experiences similar to David Yacobucci, the Fairfax man I wrote about yesterday. He keeps getting D.C. parking tickets, even though he's adamant he never parks there. This may a topic worthy of further exploration. What's your experience?
And many readers sent in helpful suggestions for dealing with thepassword panic I experienc e, the near-constant hunger my various computer personas have for me to come up with another freakin' password. Unfortunately, most of the suggestions require me to possess an ordered brain and a good memory, both of which I think it's too late for me to acquire. How do you manage your password hygiene? Or should we all get retinal scanners for our laptops?
What else is happening in your neck of the woods?
It's A Great Day: John, I checked the obituaries and my name wasn't listed. Looks like it going to be a great day! How's things on your end?
John Kelly: Just fine, but it's only noon. There's plenty of daylight left we have to survive.
Rockville Town Center: My guess is money changed hands under the table between developers and elected officials in the development of what's laughingly referred to as "Rockville Town Center," which apparently is causing merchants to hemorrhage money due to the lack of customer traffic. Why pay to park to go to a bar or restaurant when there are so many nice restaurants in the area that offer free parking and are more accessible? And there's a movement afoot to charge for parking for the library as well. The parents and kids from the local environs (Lincoln Park)who rely on libraries for Internet access among other things would be priced out. The whole deal stinks!
John Kelly: Why does using a library necessarily equate with driving to a library? Can't kids walk there? Ride their bikes? Take a bus? When did ample, free parking become an American birthright?
I do find the whole Rockville Town Center thing kind of funny: Let's rebuild the downtown we destroyed 50 years ago. But when I was there the other night it looked like lots of families were sitting outside, children were playing in the fountain and the line at Giffords ice cream was huge. (And it being a Sunday, I didn't have to pay for parking in the city lot, though could have paid a whopping $1 to pay in the lot across from the Regal.) I don't know how the merchants are doing. Are they really hemorrhaging money?
And what about at other similar places? What can people report from places like Reston Town Center or Downtown Silver Spring? Is there a charge for parking and does it keep people away?
Somewhere out here: Didn't make it through the whole chat. re: mathematics fields that are good to study, i.e., there's lots of jobs.
Field called Operations Research. Optimization, Supply Chain, Queueing Theory, Simulation all come from this discipline.
Study lots of Statistics and you will be golden. Applied Math is good. Anything where you take a 'real' problem and help to come to conclusions, using the data.
There really are jobs in these fields...
John Kelly: Thank you. Got that, people? And if any of you end up with lucrative careers courtesy of this chat, I want you to remember me.
Speaking of which, in the story conference room here at The Post there's a great piece of art on the wall. I remember hearing it came from a skit on "Saturday Night Live." It's like a mini-billboard and shows Gerald Ford with the headline, "I Got My Job Through The Washington Post."
Diningo, Utah: John, your article on the old woman cursing at little kids raised a good point in by book. When I go to a restaurant, I expect to encounter all types of people who are young, old, loud, quiet, etc. If this woman doesn't like to eat around children, she can stay home and eat. I wonder if she ever had children and if they were perfect.
John Kelly: I agree that in this particular restaurant noisy kids should have been expected. (Here's my blog on the incident.)But I'm not willing to say that all behavior should be excused. In a perfect world, parents would moderate their kids' behavior. But if a kid is doing something really distracting--running around and babbling at the front of a theater during a performance of a non-kids' show (or even a kids' show, actually)--then I think it's okay to say, "Sweetie, can you sit down so we can enjoy the show?" or, better, to talk to the parent.
The woman at the restaurant was in the wrong because 1. she was rude, 2. the kids weren't that bad, 3. she wasn't at a five-star restaurant.
Re: spineless Spud: Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital? TIGGYWINKLES???
Only in England.
John Kelly: Ah yes, Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital, as mentioned in my blog today. I wondered how the Daily Mail had such handsome photos of the bald hedgehog and then I remembered I'd heard of Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital before. The British press writes about them all the time, whenever some odd or cute or oddly cute or cutely odd critter is found. I imagine Tiggywinkles has a full-time photographer and professional on-premises studio, not to mention a very savvy PR agent.
Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: John --
You ever think that maybe that firefly you see early in the morning is actually heading home from the lady's place?
As for passwords, my current password for my computer at the office has 5 question marks on the end. My next password will have six.
John Kelly: When I started at The Post we had an antiquated editing system called RayEdit (designed by Raytheon, the missile people!). You could use it to send messages and, since it was laborious to sign on and off of, most people left their terminals on. This was a mistake if you left your terminal, as people would plop down, one eye scanning the newsroom for you, and send out a message in your name. Oh the fun we had! I knew one editor who was even able to quickly reprogram a terminal's smart keys so that whenever a certain person retrieved a bit of code--to insert a typesetting command, say--it would send a message. Another way to do this was to guess a person's password, easier back then. Supposedly my boss's password was "yourefired." I believe that was considered a warning.
Alexandria, Va.: Why doesn't the Post list AMC movie theaters and movie times anymore? This is very frustrating!
John Kelly: Those are paid classified advertisements, not a service of the paper. I imagine AMC decided they didn't want to pay for them anymore, figuring customers could get the info from MovieFone or Fandango. I would suggest calling AMC and telling them you miss the movie times in the paper. Maybe if enough people did that, The Post could last a few more weeks.
Alexandria, Va.: I wrote in three weeks ago noting how the printed Post can no longer be used to plan my moviegoing now that AMC Theatres, the dominant chain locally, no longer advertises its showtimes or movies in the Post.
I have noticed another life ritual that has changed over the years. I used to look forward to the weekly Food section and the accompanying ads, and would plan menus and shop that day, using the best sales of that week since several chains are close to me. I guess the Post has lost its influence here as well, for now advertisers plan their sales with no regard for the Post. For example, my Wednesday paper includes ads for Safeway, where the sale starts that day; Shoppers, where the sale starts Thursday; and Giant, where the sale starts Friday. And waiting until Friday to shop doesn't work, because by then my local Safeway is often out of the weekly specials.
Unlike the moviegoing annoyance, I have yet to find a reasonable online replacement for this service. Perhaps your occasional feature on bygone Washington institutions should do a feature on the good old days of newspapers in general, and the Washington Post in particular, and how people depended on them for many things other than news.
John Kelly: The power of local supermarkets--Giant, especially--once was a sight to behold. In fact, when our new presses were purchased about 10 years ago, Giant was consulted. We had to make sure our new color presses would satisfy the chain's advertising needs. Now? Not so much.
Part of the reason, I think, is that consumers have more choice. They can summon information when they want. While a Wednesday food section may have once made sense--if that's when families did their "marketing"--why is Tuesday the day many papers' health sections come out? And is Thursday especially "homey"? Now we can go online and get info on our own schedules.
Arlington, Va.: Regarding the Gerald Ford billboard in the Post newsroom: That tag line is a takeoff on an advertising campaign by the NYT many years ago: "I Got My Job Through the New York Times."
John Kelly: Aha. Thanks.
Ex-Alexandria: "Somehow, the Virginia DMV made two sets of YBA7225 license plates. A Virginia DMV spokeswoman said no one there could recall that ever happening."
That may be, but years ago, 1991 to be exact, when I lived in Alexandria, I stopped to get gas. This was in the days before there was a credit card slot on the pump and one had to inside to sign the slip. They wanted my plate number, so I went out and looked at the rear: QVH 905. Went back in and signed, came out around the front of the car and happened to look at the front plate: QVH 906.
DMV gave me new plates.
So either someone else also had QVH 905/906, or the whole rest of the sequence was screwed. Since we never heard of a wholesale recall of Virginia plates, I presume the former. But I don't know what DMV did.
This was before one had to return the plates: I still have them.
John Kelly: Yes, the VA DMV spokeswoman said exactly that has happened before. I asked David to check his plates and he said they both matched. I think this would be an isolated incident, where just 905 and 906 were switched, either when they were made or when they were stacked up to hand out at the DMV. It does suggest that potential glitches exist throughout the system. The moral: Check your license plates when you get them.
Falls Church, Va.: I have a question for the Civility Police -- sorry, I've forgotten the real name --
I was at the Joel/John concert last weekend. Paid a pretty penny to be on the 200 level. Guy next to me sung at the top of his voice for the entire time. Throughout the night I edged closer and closer to the other side of my seat, and at points put a finger in the ear closest to him. What else could/should I have done?
John Kelly: Was he singing in key?
I don't think there's anything you could have done. I just can't envision how the conversation would have gone: "Excuse me, I'm hear to hear Billy Joel sing, not you. Can you please stop singing?" There's just no way not to sound bad. Now, I do think he was guilty of not understanding concert dynamics, a topic I've addressed in my blog. No one should sing on EVERY SONG at a concert, just as no one should stand for every song at a concert. But you can't expect people never to sing, especially on anthemic choruses.
Rockville, Md.: Another possible explanation for the poor gentleman who got repeated erroneous parking tickets in D.C. -- my husband got a speed camera ticket from the District, and the picture that accompanied the ticket was clearly not his car. While the sequence of letters and numbers on the tag was the same as my husband's, the plates were not from Maryland. (We did - -eventually -- get that cleared up with the D.C. DMV. We hope.) Perhaps Mr. Yacobucci's ticket issuers are writing down his license plate number, but incorrectly noting that they're Virginia tags.
washingtonpost.com: An Existential Parking Conundrum: How Can You Prove You Aren't Where You Aren't? (Post, July 16)
John Kelly: Yes, that could be it. Maybe the offending car has plates from Washington state (WA) or Vermont (VE) or something that looks like VA. Or maybe they're even DC plates and the person is just keying it in wrong.
Seven Fountains, Va.: Saw the column yesterday about erroneous D.C. parking tickets, and realized I may be in for some real difficulties. I live in a rural area about 90 miles from D.C., and have not been in Washington for several years. But last month I got a notice informing me that I had an unpaid ticket for parking illegally in the 800 block of Dahlia St. on April 6. The notice had my correct Virginia plate number, but described the offending vehicle as a Chevy, when in fact my vehicle is a Toyota 4-Runner. I responded immediately, enclosing a copy of my registration and suggesting that somewhere along the line the plate number must have been misprinted. In response to my letter, I was informed that it may take up to six months for a hearing examiner to decide the case. Silly me, I thought this would then be put to rest. But now I'm not so sure. Paging Mr. Kafka...
John Kelly: Can you e-mail me your info: firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm hearing from enough people about this that it seems worthy of further investigation.
You may be lucky: There's a big difference between a Chevy and a Toyota. David Yacobucci had a slimmer argument to hang his appeal on: He drives a Ford SUV when the ticket was marked "Ford Pickup." But they still let him off--after my intervention, of course.
I wonder whether ticket-writers should be taking a photo of the entire vehicle.
Visiting D.C.: Found your Thursday column interesting and have a similar story. A short time ago, I pulled into a space on H-Street, NW just as another car was pulling out. The car leaving was the same make and model as my car, but a different color. I dutifully put in my quarters for 2-hours parking and went about my business. My meeting ended early. But when I went back to my car after just 1-hour and 15-min there was a parking ticket on my windshield. There was still 45-min on the meter and when I looked closely, the ticket was for another car, with a different license plate number, but the same make and model. The ticket was for exceeding the parking time limit. So somewhere in Maryland, there is a car that was ticketed for a violation he/she did not commit and doesn't even know there was a ticket issued. So how do you fight it?
John Kelly: Wow. That guy is muy screwdado. What must have happened is the parking enforcement officer was expecting the other car to exceed the limit and had entered all the info in his little machine. Then that car left, you took its place and the meter guy walked by, saw your car, printed out the ticket and slapped it on the wrong car.
Is it time for a head to toe investigation of parking enforcement in DC?
Washington, D.C.: I had a similar situation as David Yacobucci in Thursday's article. I received in the mail a couple of weeks ago an overdue parking ticket notice from the DMV. The ticket, which I have not seen was for a parking violation for the 400 block of H St. NE on May 22. I work at the State Department and that day from about 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. my vehicle, a Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, was parked in an underground parking lot across the street from Main State on the opposite end of town from the infraction, as it is everyday. The notice indicated the ticket was for a Mazda, but the tag number was indeed mine. I've responded with a letter of explanation and a copy of my vehicle registration. I received yesterday a confirmation of receipt and processing letter from DMV. I just hope this won't lead to repeat ticketing and intransigence on the part of the DMV, such as Mr. Yacobucci has experienced.
John Kelly: This thing may be happening in isolated ways all over the city. If it happens to you just once, you might brush it off, paying the fee and forgetting about it. Or you might fight and win because there was an obvious vehicle discrepancy. David's problem was it happened FOUR TIMES. I keep meaning to drive over to that area where he got the tickets--all at around 11 a.m., all written by the same parking enforcement officer--and see if I could see another car with his plates.
is Thursday especially "homey"?: I recently moved to Colorado, and I was fascinated to learn that the Denver Post also runs its fitness section on Tuesday and food section on Wednesday.
There isn't really a home section though -- Thursdays are just "lifestyle".
John Kelly: Yeah, it's like all the papers in the country agreed or something.
Password solution: Take a word or string of numbers that's meaningful to you (the day you got married, say, is 111099).
Embed that string into the same place of the name of each site that requires a password. So then you have a unique, but relatively memorable, password for each site: fac111099ebook gma111099il van111099guard
(I heard this trick from a colleague, and I think it is brilliant, but I haven't implemented it yet because I like my current hackable passwords.)
John Kelly: That's not bad. All those numbers scare me, though. I'm a person who needs a password full of letters.
Passwords: My office has a password convention that you must include letters, numbers and a special character (-#&;-$% -- not to swear at you). Some pick something you like (the month and year of your birth, kid's birth, anniversary, and add a special character, starting with the far left of the keyboard, e.g., July1956. Next time it's due to change, just change the special character. This is good for at least a year. (From another person who finds changing passwords to be PITA.)
John Kelly: That's even simpler. And "special character" sounds so, well, special. Isn't that special?
Columbus, Ohio: A friend who lives in D.C. forwarded me your article about texting in movie theaters and "radical civility."
He passed it on to me because I've been in the midst of spreading my own version of a Radically Civil Movement!
Please visit Step Back From the Baggage Claim
The Movement and Book is being passed throughout the travel world, and as a metaphor for our lives away from the airport, is encouraging more grateful and compassionate action in the world!
"Step Back from the Baggage Claim: Change the World, Start at the Airport."
Join the Movement. Travel Gracefully.
John Kelly: Thanks for the link, Jason. I will check it out. With me battling at the movie theaters and you fighting at the airports, perhaps we can unite our two armies somewhere near the mall food court.
Arlington, Va.: John,
I am going to try to be online for your discussion today. You may have already seen my e-mail from yesterday, but if not, here it is:
I read your column today with great interest. David is not scamming you. How do I know? Because I have had the same problem with D.C. DMV. You may be surfacing a big story here, if there are others out there who have experienced what I call "vehicle identity theft". Let me explain...
In January 2009, I received a notice from D.C. DMV stating that I had failed to pay a parking ticket. The license plates on the notice were old vanity plates that I used to have, but had been inactive since April 2006. I checked my calendar and saw that I had not been in DC on the date of the ticket. I contested the ticket by mail , stating that the information on the ticket was wrong in that the license plate number listed was not mine. Interestingly, the make of the car on the ticket was correct, a Mercedes. I included a copy of my registration, and to add weight to my argument, I added a photo of my tags reflecting my current number. Six weeks later, I was relieved to received notice that my case had been dismissed.
Then in May, I received another notice from DC DMV for failure to pay a ticket with the same old, inactive license number as before. This time I decided that I'd better go downtown and try to straighten the problem out. I hated the thought of dealing with the DC bureaucracy, and went armed with a week's worth of Sudoku puzzles and reading material. I was pleasantly surprised that the process was well organized and took about 2 hours. But I digress...
When I went to adjudication services I learned that the underlying ticket this time was for having an expired inspection ticket. I learned that DC enforces inspection stickers from nearby jurisdictions. In any event, I was told that I would need to have a hearing and that I could have one that same day. After going through my story and showing my registration, the hearing officer dismissed my case. She could see from her computer that this was the second time that this had happened to me. I asked her advice about what I might do to resolve the problem, and she suggested that I contact Virginia DMV to find out why the information they are sending to DC shows that the tags in question are still registered to me. So I did that. This is the response I received:
"Thank you for visiting www.dmvnow.com.
The plates message "----" has not been reassigned to any other vehicle registered in Virginia since they were deactivated on April 20, 2006. You are listed as the last and only owner of the plate message. Is it possible that someone may have stolen the discarded plate from your trash and has been using it?
There is nothing that DMV can do to stop D.C. from writing tickets if they are interpreting someone's tag as your old tag number. You will have to dispute each charge with the D.C. DMV."
So then I decided to send D.C. DMV an e-mail explaining my problem. Their response was:
"Thank you for contacting the Department of Motor Vehicles. There is nothing that we can do if the parking enforcement officer or an MPD officer record the ticket number incorrectly. Each time a ticket is issued you will have to Adjudicate the ticket. Thank you for allowing me to assist you with your inquiry." Mr. Kelly, is this the kind of bureaucratic purgatory you are looking for? You would be doing a great public service if you uncover the source of these vehicle identity thefts. You may just be the next Bob Woodward.
John Kelly: That's weird. Did the number on the inspection sticker match your number too?
Outer Burbs, Va.: Parking at Reston Town Center is free and ample. There are several garages, lots, and some limited street parking. But many people walk there -- I noticed that many of the restaurants have water bowls for dogs on their patios.
It is extremely busy -- I think I waited 45 minutes for gelato on a Saturday.
John Kelly: Thanks.
We will rebuild our shattered economy on the strength of gelato sales!
Vehicle identity theft: So John, what can we do about these failures to pay notices that folks, especially in Virginia, are getting? Can you tell us how many people you have heard from who are having this problem? It's happened to me twice.
John Kelly: I must have heard from a dozen people, between e-mails directly to me and this chat.
Parking tickets and mixed-up tags: Hmm. Let me anonymously apologize to a D.C. resident who might be on the hook for the parking ticket I got last year. I considered whether to pay it or try to challenge it (it was totally a BS ticket, for reasons I won't go into), and when I went online to pay it, I discovered what I hadn't noticed before -- that the ticket had my plate number but identified it as DC, rather than MD. So I said, forget it, now I'm really not paying. But I do hope there isn't a real DC car with that tag number. (If there is, it's highly unlikely they have a similar car, so they should be able to prove it wasn't them.)
John Kelly: My god. You're the Smoking Ticket. There probably is a DC car with that tag, but he probably won't be in trouble because DC associates it with your MD plate. I think.
Rockville, Md.: A real town center offers services for a mix of incomes, not just pricey restaurants and shoppes. A real town center has a place to get haircuts, a place to buy groceries, perhaps a video game room for kids to congregate, a mix of affordable family restaurants as well as more upscale establishments, affordable housing as well as upscale condos, and a library accessible for everyone, kids on bikes, low-income families, the elderly on fixed incomes, EVERYONE.
John Kelly: But the Rockville Town Center isn't a real town center, and why would you expect it to be? It's a simulacrum, built to approximate a town center that grows organically over time. And perhaps it will.
Springfield, Va.: My husband works for a local Design/Build firm. He drives a white panel van (with company logo, of course). He has never been to D.C.; however, has received two parking tickets in the last year. When trying to argue the point with D.C., however, company attempts have been futile. The argument should be simple when you can produce timesheets verifying location but no one accepts that. It's clear that the ticket-writer is writing "white panel van" yet entering the wrong license number on the ticket but try to get them to believe that. And honestly, how many white panel vans are out there? It's a mess.
John Kelly: Can you e-mail me your contact info: email@example.com. I smell a Pulitzer. (Oddly, it smells like my empty metal lunchbox from when I was in fifth grade.)
When I see them aimlessly crawling along the grass or flitting from tree to tree I want to say, "Hey buddy. You're trying too hard.: Oh, give them a break. You know they only live for 2 weeks once they reach adult stage. Poor guys are just trying to get as much as they can before the go.
John Kelly: Well that's all right then. I was under the assumption they hadn't gotten any, rather than that were getting even more. I was, perhaps, projecting my own experiences on them.
Burke, Va.: My husband and I read yesterday's column with great interest. We, too, have recently received a "Notice of Unsatisfied Parking Tickets" from the District DMV. As with Mr. Yacobucci, the ticket was for our license plate, but a different make of car. We are also Fairfax County residents and the car in question is driven by our daughter to a paid for parking spot at her Fairfax County high school (where the car actually was that day). (I also work in Fairfax County and my husband rides the VRE). We have been charged the $60 fee as the ticket is "overdue" (as of course we never received the original ticket.) We have filed a mail adjudication explaining that this is not the right car, etc., but having read yesterday's column, I am not hopeful that it will be easily resolved! We would like to know if this sort of thing happens frequently in the District. Thanks. (By the way, our ticket says our car was at the 2300 block of Champlain St. NW East)
John Kelly: Can you contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again, the key to beating that ticket resides, I think, in the fact that the vehicles are completely different.
New Phrase: "Muy screwdado" is my newest favorite phrase. Thanks, John!
John Kelly: You're welcome! Let's all try to use as much as we can.
Mathematics fields that are good to study, i.e., there's lots of jobs. : How about that math guy on Numbers? What kind of math should you study if you want to help the FBI solve crimes?
John Kelly: Hollywood math. I think that's where the numbers don't quite add up, the movies never make a profit, and people who negotiated for a percentage of the net rather than the gross are muy screwdado.
Parking, D.C.: I think they do assume you are going to over-stay. I got a ticket with the time of 10 a.m., when I know that I was back in the car and 10 blocks away when 10 o'clock came (change of show on NPR at 10, so I noticed). I had put enough money in to cover me until 10, but I didn't look at the meter before I drove away (the ticket was smushed way down low under the windshield wiper, and I didn't even see it until a few blocks later). (P.S., I appealed by mail but was shot down. It was easier to pay than keep fighting.)
I also one got a ticket for parking in Georgetown on a date months after my sad old car had died. The license plates were in my parent's basement in OH at the time of the alleged violation.
There should be an investigation. I think they guesstimate who won't be back, if they come by with a few minutes on the meter, and I think they sometimes flip through their old tix and issue phantom ones to the plate numbers they have. Easier than walking around and writing them!
John Kelly: I think you have a legitimate argument in your second case. In your first one, I'm not so sure. Not because you didn't put enough money in. You probably did. But because you didn't look to see how much time the meter said you had. I've noticed that it's not unusual for the meter not to register a coin I put in. Sometimes you need to sort of smack the meter, or put another coin in. I never noticed this happening with the old meters where you turned that little knob after putting your quarter in. It's the new ones--with a digital screen--that seem to misregister.
Olney, Md.: When I go to Rockville Town Center on weekends, I park in the Metro metered lot across Hungerford Drive from the garage. I walk for 1 extra minute, and don't have to drive up 6 levels of parking to find a space on the roof. But let's just keep this to ourselves.
John Kelly: Gotcha.
Concerts: This is why I love the Birchmere: everyone sits down and shuts up. I paid to hear the band, not drunk off-key audience members. If you want to sing along, turn on the radio in your car and go for it.
Standing is a separate issue though... depends on the venue, band, etc. I've had bad luck always sitting behind standers at Wolftrap; if the entire audience is sitting except for four people, those four will be in front of me. Generally I just stand up too, it's not a big deal, and usually they don't do it the entire time.
John Kelly: Right. Venue matters. There are some who find the Birchmere too restrictive. Others love it for exactly that reason.
Arlington, Va.: Haven't been to Silver Spring in years, but I go to Reston Town Center often to visit my local bike shop and get my fix of awesome frozen yogurt with real fresh fruit (sans sugary syrup). Lots of free parking and it seems pretty busy whenever I'm there.
John Kelly: Lots of free parking you say? Read on...
Reston Town Center: My fiance's company is in the process of moving to new offices in Reston Town Center. They were informed when signing the lease that the lots there were going to switch to Pay Parking in the near future, I think around October. FWIW.
John Kelly: How reliable is this report? Should we start panicking yet?
There's just no way not to sound bad.: It doesn't sound bad at all. Nothing like as bad as having someone spoil the concert for you by singing along. "Excuse me, I came here to hear so-and-so sing, not you" is exactly the thing to say.
John Kelly: Then you're stuck next to them for the rest of the show. At least at a nightclub you can move around to escape the tuneless singalongers.
Alexandria, Va.: If you will post a phone number for AMC, I would happily call it every day! I called my local theater and just get a recording. Please consider putting this in your column next week...
John Kelly: What a good idea:
Password solution -- another suggestion: What I've been doing for years is taking surnames from my family and translating them into password-ese: my MIL's maiden name spelled backward, for instance, with perhaps a capital letter inserted or the letter i changed to a number 1. I switch around among these, and can usually recall which password goes with which account (for that month). Some especially dumb computer systems let you re-use the same password but with one slight change (an extra question mark on the end, as another poster noted, or something like Surname123, changed over the months to Surname234, etc.).
John Kelly: I'm doing something sort of like that now, with song lyrics. But I think I'd rather swab the inside of my cheek every day for some sort of DNA-password protection than have to come up with new passwords.
Passwords: John, why don't you confer with your co-worker Brian Krebs. He posted a link in his chat today for password safe, might be helpful? Or maybe he might have a suggestion for you.
washingtonpost.com: Safeguarding Your Passwords
John Kelly: I'll check it out. Thanks!
Gaithersburg, Md.: I haven't read the column mentioned above, but I have to put in my two cents about children at restaurants, and generally in public. I fully expect to encounter children at restaurants, but I also expect to encounter parents who can keep them under control. This is part of my general feeling that many people seem to think that having children exempts them from normal rules of courtesy and common sense -- a license to block escalators, let the kids make as much noise as they want, wherever they want, run around tables at nice restaurants, etc. I'm happy that you have kids, but please understand that not all of us find them as enchanting as you do. If you can't keep them under control, take them to places that are designed to accommodate children, not to the restaurant where I'm trying to have an expensive dinner. Teaching your kids manners will not stifle their creativity or stunt their growth. And get off my lawn while you're at it!
John Kelly: What you say is true, and I agree, but how does one deal with a parent who disagrees, or is just clueless?
Arlington Gay: Arlington County has an office building in the Clarendon neighborhood that has free parking after 5 p.m. and on weekends. Many fine restaurants, but I'm sorry to report I have no info on gelato.
John Kelly: I think I'm adopting a position on this, based on recent events, as they say: I don't necessarily mind paying for parking. What I mind is paying for a ticket I didn't actually get.
Abbreviation Police: Actually, Vermont is VT. But VE is the country abbreviation for Venezuela.
John Kelly: So Hugo Chavez is running up parking tickets in an attempt to destabilize our country!
Sweetie, can you sit down?: That makes the kid the boss. My dad would say "you need to sit down or we're going home." and we sat down. No fear, spanking or meanness, just the facts. I hate hearing parents ASK their kids if they'll do something. Hate to deal with those kids in 20 years.
John Kelly: "Mr. Smith, will you please pay your taxes?"
Passwords: I do the password tango. Invent a sequence of dance steps for 1 finger that includes the upper and lowercase keys, the numbers and special characters, then just change the starting key.
John Kelly: What if you were born with two left thumbs?
Kids in Restaurants/Public: John,
I'm here to argue that for a good deal of people (although I'm not confident enough to put a number on it) 'not' moderating their kids' behavior is just as rampant as movie texting. Sure kids are going to act up from time to time, but it seems like you can't go anywhere in public anymore (except to a bar) without one or more out of control kid coupled with parents who don't care. I think this problem has gotten out of hand because it's taboo to effective "question someone's parenting," so we're afraid to ask parents to moderate their children's behavior. The only ones who aren't afraid are doing it all wrong, like that curing women.
My fiancee and I have a saying: "The best contraceptive in the world is other people's children." We didn't develop that philosophy because the majority of children in public are well-behaved angels.
John Kelly: It does seem like the parent who takes the crying child out of the movie theater, rather than sitting there ignoring her, is a rare enough occurrence that I sometimes want to rush after her and hug her.
Still, children do have their attractions. You can dress them up in cute little outfits, for example.
AMC redux: One more point: I think the AMC decision they don't "need" advertising anymore assumes that everyone is using their Web-phone to look up movie times. So I think there's some definite age discrimination in this move by AMC.
John Kelly: Haven't you heard? If you're over 34 you don't exist.
Washington, D.C.: Many of your readers will be sad to learn of the death of longtime D.C. activist Jan Eichhorn this week. Jan was a force in this city's Democratic politics and also the founder of Jan's House (formerly Friends of Tyler School), a tutoring and mentoring program.
John Kelly: I did not know Jan but I'm sorry to hear that.
Passwords: I have a limited number of passwords that I use, of varying degrees of security. I associate them each with their original account and have a list that I keep of all of the sites where I use them. So, for example, my credit card login is recorded as login=college and password=law school while my Gmail is recorded as login=gmail and password=yahoo (ironic, perhaps). Yes, it requires me to be organized enough to record new combinations. But I get the personal benefits of writing down my passwords with the security of not writing for the whole world, "Hey! my password is StupidPassword1"
John Kelly: This is why the world depicted in "The Matrix" could never come true. The huge brain would keep breaking down whenever it was time to change the passwords.
Freedom Plaza: There's a real-live marching band outside my office. Who thought this was a good idea?
John Kelly: You'd rather have a zombie marching band?
I checked the obituaries and my name wasn't listed. Looks like it going to be a great day! : Oh boy, is this what it's come down to? I'm getting laid off and I'm worrying that the fact I'm still alive will be the only thing I can think of that makes it a good day.
John Kelly: Maybe you will look back at this as a wonderful turning point in your life. Not only were you still alive, but you got to change careers.
Mrs. Tiggy Winkle is a famous hedgehog: The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (Amazon.com)
We keep our neighborhood block parties from descending into orgies by having everyone pull out pictures of their children.
John Kelly: I think pulling out a photo of the bald hedgehog would have the same affect. Unless your neighbors are into that sort of thing.
Okay, Kelly, what is on the agenda for this weekend? Please don't say "mowing the grass," as it hasn't rained in a couple of weeks.
I am curious, what would be the punishment for hacking into someone else's "Computer Code"? I, personally, would freak out, as much of what I send via e-mail is highly confidential, as in for "thine eyes" only.
Have a wonderful weekend, no matter what your plans may be!
John Kelly: My dad and his wife are sailing the Chesapeake so we're hoping to rendezvous with them at some port o' call. And my mom and her husband are visiting Baltimore, so we'll probably link up with them. It's going to be one of those frenetic weekends.
Richmond, Va.: I'm going to the Appalachian Trail tomorrow (sadly I mean that literally, husband is still in a cranky mood)
John Kelly: Not as cranky as Jenny Sanford.
Have fun. Watch out for ticks.
Arlington, Va.: In response to your question, I never saw the number of the expired inspection sticker. Anyway, I have always had a current inspection. One of the problems is that when you get a notice for failure to pay a ticket, a copy of the underlying ticket is not included. So if you never really got the ticket, you can't see the source info. I hope you will write a follow-up article on this topic sometime.
John Kelly: Yes, that was one thing David Yacobucci did: request copies of the tickets. They showed all were written by the same person, for what it's worth.
Ballston, Va.: Back in the mid 60s when my bro and sis and I were growing up our parents took us out to eat with them. We would go to the old original Flagship on the Waterfront, not the new one. We knew if we acted up no rum buns or fisherman's platter but a trip out to the car and a butt whipping. Never got one but the threat was enough.
Forward about 13 years I am waiting tables and had played rugby for years. I was carrying flaming shish kebobs for another water when something grabbed my lower leg. My natural inclination was to kick it off but instead I looked down to see a very cute little blond girl attached my leg. I told her nicely to go back to her mom and said a prayer thanking God she didn't get badly burned from the flaming brandy or bounced off the brick wall. Hey, even 20 years ago I had parents changing kids diapers on the table, a first- class restaurant the Franklin Stove in Fairfax City, etc.
John Kelly: I'm going to have to consult my Martial epigrams to see what he had to say about rudeness. It sounds like it's been around a while.
John Kelly: The meter just expired on this chat and I need to move my vehicle. Thanks for stopping by. I hope those of you who said you've had experiences similar to David Yacobucci's will e-mail me: email@example.com.
We have just one week left in our Send a Kid to Camp campaign. If you've been meaning to donate, now's the time to do it. Not only will all donations be matched, if you donate more than $125 you'll get a gift certificate from Clyde's.
Thanks, and have a great weekend.
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