So, today, a participant in a WebEx-based class that I’m leading this week asked me what “oortcloud” meant. I had to get her to repeat herself a couple of times before I realized that she was referring to the password I set up for the WebEx session some weeks ago when I first scheduled it.
My employer has asked that we always use new passwords for each WebEx session rather than endlessly re-using something banal and generic because people were visiting our corporate WebEx site, seeing sessions that looked “interesting,” and signing into them by successfully guessing the password. Why the heck a random customer would decide that their day wouldn’t be complete without crashing a session on hold bill/alert optimization in hospital billing is beyond me, but I’m assured that it was happening on a regular basis.
So I’ve taken to assigning passwords based on random whim. “Pellinore” came, for example, when I apparently had been channelling T.H. White, and “jumboshrimp” came when I was in a very oxymoronic mood. But I had completely forgotten that today’s password was “oortcloud”. So, when we resumed class after lunch and “Jay, what does ‘oortcloud’ mean?” came out of nowhere, I was caught off guard. Next thing you knew, I’d shrugged, decided that it was easier to answer than just say “oh, something random,” and had launched into a sixty-second lecture on the icy shell of protocomets orbiting our sun about a half light year out, which periodically gets perturbed by passing stars, causing comets to veer into the inner solar system, and about how some theories hold that periodic mass extinctions are due to said comets impacting the Earth, blah blah blah, blah blah BLAH.
There was a moment or two of stunned silence on the call when I came to a close. Then I got a cheerful “well, thanks!” from my student, and we moved on into the afternoon’s lecture.
I made it through the afternoon without concussing my participants with any other random orations on, say, horst and graben topography or the hibernation physiology of Cheirogaleus medius, and a good time was had by all.
Until half an hour after class, when the same participant instant-messaged me to ask a question about the class exercises, and happened to throw this in:
“ok. has anyone told you that you sound like Sheldon on the big bang theory?”
She assured me, when I asked if that was good or bad, that it was indeed a good thing, but still…
Maybe I need to switch to more ordinary WebEx passwords.