A Tree Falls in Reston

yayaThere’s an adage I’ve heard repeated many times that on their deathbed nobody ever wished they had spent more time at work. Well last week right after telling me from memory her Social Security number and less than 24 hours before her final breath, my Mom did just that.

“I so enjoyed my career at the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” she said. “I wish I had worked there longer.”

My Mom, an economist and librarian who died on New Year’s Day, was a nerd.

She might not have identified herself as such, but she was definitely a nerd.

This lady took no prisoners. Ideas and words were important to her. Mastering concepts, too. At her dinner table you had […]

Call for 2014 predictions!

crystalballUpdate January 2, 2014 — My Mom died last night, cleverly extending at least her financial existence into another tax year, so I haven’t been able to get to my 2014 predictions as promised. I’m headed home on Friday so look for the predictions column sometime over the weekend, thanks.

As some of you may recall I’ve been helping my sister care for our 89 year-old mother during an especially difficult period of her life, so if I haven’t been posting quite so much lately that’s why. But readers have been pestering me, nevertheless, for my annual column of predictions for the new year. And why not? But this time I really need your suggestions, which […]

RSA takes one for the team, but which team?

RSA_EMCEdward Snowden says (according to Reuters) that RSA Security accepted $10 million from the National Security Agency in exchange for installing (or allowing to have installed) a secret backdoor so the NSA could decrypt messages as it pleased. Hell no says RSA (a division of storage vendor EMC), stating in very strong terms that this was not at all the case. But then in a second day look at the RSA/EMC statement bloggers began to see the company as dissembling, their firm defense as really more of a non-denial denial. So what’s the truth here and what’s the lesson?

For the truth I reached deep into the bowels of elliptic […]

Some thoughts on how a Grinch stole Target’s Christmas

targetThere was a time when “activist investor” Carl Icahn actually owned and ran businesses, one of which was TransWorld Airlines (TWA), eventually sold to American Airlines. In an attempt to cut costs, TWA under Icahn outsourced reservation service to a call center built in a prison with prisoners on the phone. When you called to book travel you were giving your credit card number to a felon and telling him when you’d be away from home. Smart move, Carl, and very akin to what may have caused the post-Thanksgiving theft of 40 million credit card numbers from Target, the U.S. discount retailer.

Target used to do its IT all in the USA, then to save costs […]

Gallows humor for the NSA privacy debate

williamsessionsIt’s hard to believe sometimes, but I began writing this column — in print back then — during the Reagan Administration. It was 1987 and the crisis du jour was called Iran-Contra, remember it? Colonel Oliver North got a radio career out of breaking federal law. The FBI director back then was William Sessions, generally called Judge Sessions because he had been a federal judge. I interviewed Sessions in 1990 about the possibility that American citizens might have their privacy rights violated by an upcoming electronic surveillance law. “What would keep an FBI agent from tapping his girlfriend’s telephone?” I asked, since it would shortly be possible to do so from the agent’s desk.

“It would never […]