Friday, December 17, 2004 1:41 PM
part 11

Another day, another conference. This one was in Seattle, at the Microsoft campus. Microsoft's reputation for software security is deservedly poor, but their physical security at the campus is really serious. There are guards and cameras and locked doors that need access cards... and that's just to reach the cafeteria. Of course, every security implementation has its weaknesses, and the majority of those lie with the people who use them. In this case, it was time to leave, but we'd got ourselves locked out of the building. We wandered around for a while, trying to find a way in, but without success. Finally, we managed to break into the building by following someone in, leaving enough distance that it was not obvious that we didn't have an access card, but close enough that we didn't trigger the alarm, since we were passing through a delay-door. All that just to get back to the car, in order to go out again.

That night, there was a boat trip on the lake, to look at the scenery. At the dock, there was a boat for us, and there was a boat for some kind of teenager party event. We left at about the same time, and when the respective music started, it became clear that we were on the wrong boat: their music was 80s-era Michael Jackson, ours was Diana Krall.

Later that month, there was a conference in Germany. My itinerary never arrived for that flight, but I received a flight confirmation that contained the airline details. On the day, I went to the terminal of that airline but of course it was the wrong terminal. Fortunately, a security guard knew where I had to go and said "I know a shortcut". Most shortcuts are the longest distance between two points, and this one began by him heading for a nearby door...

[Cue text from one of my favourite computer games, called "Enchanter". (C) 1983, 1984, 1986 by Infocom, Inc. I hope I don't get into trouble]

Standing in front of you to the north is a door surpassing anything you could have imagined. For starters, its massive lock is wrapped in a dozen six-inch thick iron chains. In addition, a certain five-headed monster sporting razor-sharp spears for tongues seems to be imbedded within its heavy oak frame. One is almost embarrassed to mention the gargoyles spewing flame and sulphurous ash which ornament either side of the door, or the ninety-seven slimy groping tentacles which taunt you ever closer to certain death. A sign, floating serenely above the door and glowing hideously in purple letters, offers the following rude understatement:

Don't Bother

[Actually, it said "Alarm will sound if door is opened", so I just stood there, looking at the guard.]

As you motion toward the monstrous door, the adventurer follows the imaginary line which proceeds thence from your outstretched arm.

The seemingly fearless adventurer shrugs and walks purposefully toward the door, ignoring all harm to his person in the form of knives, tentacles, and molten lead. As three buckets of the latter pour over his head, he casts you a perplexed look.

"Did you try the doorknob?" he asks, as twenty-seven knives delicately skewer him.

Before you can answer, he reaches for one of the gargoyle heads which, by sheerest coincidence, has just flooded him in red-orange flame, and turns it gently.

"I think it's unlocked," he says, stoically ignoring the host of human-sized rats which feed on his incinerated torso.

His left hand, broken and bloodied, pulls at the gargoyle head.

"I'm going on ahead!" he cries, opening a simple wooden door.

Wooden door? You rub your eyes for a moment and look again as he goes through it. Yes, just a plain wooden door.

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Okay, so not quite a wooden door, but anyway, the alarm didn't go off. Behind the door was a set of stairs leading down into a dark place, but at the bottom of the stairs and through a door was the place where I needed to be. Perfect.

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