A series of posts dedicated to the journey of writing my first book, Unsecurity: Information security is failing. Breaches are epidemic. How can we fix this broken industry?
This is the fifth article in the series. The others:
See here for the full list of articles in this series, including those that are planned in the future.
This article is longer than the others. There’s some drama in this one.
If you don’t recall, or if you’re just joining the conversation now, my plan called for a two-week writing trip to Cancun in January 2018. Life sucks, right?! The challenge was convincing my co-workers that I was going to Cancun to write a book, not to go on vacation. They said they believed me, but you could see the skepticism on their faces. I had to come back with a finished book, or at least solid progress on one if I was going to convince them. This was added pressure that I didn’t need, but I was up for proving them wrong.
The plan was for me to be in Cancun for one week by myself, doing nothing but writing. I would be joined by my wife and my 13 year-old daughter for the second week. On the second week, I would write all day and spend the evenings with my family. A good plan, I thought.
I didn’t want to wait for the trip before I started doing something with the book. So, months before leaving, I started the outline. At the time, there was no title and all I had was the idea. The book was supposed to be about what’s broken in the information security industry. If you know this industry, you know that there’s no shortage of topics that I could have chosen to write about. The fact is, there are many things that are broken, depending upon your perspective and experience. I needed to figure out how to take all the things that I think are broken and organize them logically into chunks, which would later become chapters.
I open Microsoft Word and stare at the screen. Ten minutes pass. What’s wrong with me?! OK, break time.
While on my well-deserved break, I convinced myself that I needed to write something. Write anything! This is where it all started. I just wrote anything and everything that came to mind about the frustrations I have with the information security industry and what seems broken to me.
I think the experts call this brainstorming.
I drew upon the experiences of my past, and kept typing words, with no attention given to context or structure. The document started to fill with topics. Slowly, out of the topics emerged themes. Once thoughts started to flow, I was surprised by how easy the thoughts went from brain to document. After an hour, I even added some pictures that I downloaded from the Internet. The pictures with the smattering of unorganized words in a Word document started to become my outline. I did something. Yay me!
Here’s the first brainstorming document. Impressed?
Over the course of the next few months, and before leaving for Cancun, I made numerous changes to the outline. I didn’t do any heavy writing, just revisiting the outline once a week and tweaking it here and there.
Before I knew it, it was time to leave, and it was time to get serious about writing this book!
Can’t Believe I Forgot
This was a week that I won’t forget. Read on, and you’ll know why.
I arrived in Cancun on Saturday, January 6th. We rented someone’s condo lockoff at the Royal Sands. I’m a regular guy, so a four-star resort is not an everyday experience for me. The Royal Sands is an impressive place, and I had to check it all out. I already knew that I wasn’t going to get much writing done on this first day in Mexican paradise, and I needed to get comfortable with my new surroundings first. I spent the day getting oriented. The weather was perfect, the resort was very comfortable, and I didn’t know anybody. This was going to be the perfect place to get comfortable and write. I was feeling good!
Just one thing to do before I turned in for the day. I needed to complete some tasks for a large bank client of ours. Once I completed these simple tasks, I planned to get some rest. I would get up early the next morning and get busy. No problem. I break out my laptop and get to work. Thirty minutes in, I notice that my laptop could use a charge. Easy enough. I grab my computer bag and stick my hand in the pocket where I always keep my power cord, and…
I FORGOT MY POWER CORD!!!
Who does this? Turns out I do. I’m notorious for leaving power cords behind, and my wife even reminded me before I left. Ugh. At first, a little panic. The panic didn’t last long though. Cancun is a big town, and I’m sure I can find a power cord somewhere. In the morning, I’ll just check with the front desk.
Finished up my bank work, then sat outside in the warm ocean air before I turned in for the night. It was a good day.
It’s Sunday. I’m settled, and I’m excited to get focused on what I came here for, writing! Quick shower, short walk on the beach, and a visit with the kind people at the front desk was in order. I asked the concierge if he knew where I could find a laptop charging cable. He had no idea. OK, not a good start. I asked if the resort had any laptop power cables that were left behind by other guests. Nope. I try my first inquiry again. After some back and forth, he tells me that there’s an Office Depot in town. Cool, they’re sure to have a cord! I whipped out my iPhone and found it. It’s only 10 miles away.
Take the R2 bus for 12 pesos, 30 minute ride, and I’m there.
I’m starting to feel a sense of relief and excitement as I walk in the store confident that they’ll have what I’m looking for. I had trouble communicating with the store employees because I don’t speak Spanish and they didn’t speak English. This just meant that I roamed around the store for awhile. Then voila! I’m in luck, a universal laptop charger with an assortment of attachments! I grab the goods for a closer inspection. The closer look revealed that this universal charger wasn’t all that “universal”. It didn’t contain my attachment, so it wouldn’t work. At the time I was using a Lenovo laptop with a rectangular male end. No dice.
What now? Well, I’m thinking that this can’t possibly be the only store in Cancun with computer accessories, and I was right. My trusty iPhone revealed that there’s an Office Max, a Walmart, a RadioShack (yes, Radio Shack), an Ofix, and a Sanborns. Plenty of options. I just need to walk. Lord knows, I can use the exercise. First stop Walmart, on the way I pass a scary looking jail or prison, no dice. Next, RadioShack, nope. Ofix wasn’t open. Sanborns had some computers, but no cords. Another RadioShack, and I’ve struck out. In all, I’ve walked 9 – 10 miles and I have nothing to show for it. My mind is racing because I have writing to do dammit!
I decide to do what I always do when I’m at my wit’s end. I called my wife. After discussing the situation, we figured we had two options. I could buy a new laptop or we could (maybe) ship my power cord from Minnesota to Cancun. We decide to check on whether latter. Twenty minutes later, my wife calls to tell me that FedEx can get my cord to me by Tuesday morning for $83. OK, deal. Between this time and Tuesday, I figure I’ll write thoughts on paper and conduct as much research as I can on my iPhone. I needed a haircut, so I’ll knock that out too in my new spare time.
On the walk back to the resort, I called a friend, just to chat. I shared my dilemma with him, and he had a seemingly brilliant idea. Isn’t there a Dragon dictation app for iPhone? My heart jumps, is there?! I open my iPhone’s App Store, do a quick search, and YES, yes there is an app! There’s an app called Dragon Anywhere. Sweet, I’ll just dictate my book while I wait for my new cord to arrive. I install the app, pay the fee to open all the features, and I’m in business.
Or so it seemed.
I don’t know if you’ve tried dictating a book on an iPhone, but it’s painful. I couldn’t get it to work well. I don’t think it’s the app, I think it’s me. Training the app, and my training for using the app, were both pains in the butt. In addition to my troubles using the app, I couldn’t get over the awkward feeling of talking to my phone without a person on the other end. I was not digging this at all, but I’d just have to fight through it. Maybe it would get easier.
I finally got back to the resort late in the afternoon, and I was tired. No writing on Saturday. A great workout on Sunday, but very little writing done. This is not going according to plan.
It’s Monday morning. I have some expectations, and I have some hope. I expect to get my power cord the next day. Today I’ll spend my time muscling through the best I can with paper and an iPhone. I spend the morning writing thoughts in my notebook, doing research on my iPhone, and talking to a stupid blinking cursor that hated me. My frustration was mounting, but I had hope. By noon, I’d already had enough. I needed a break.
I took the bus downtown to get a haircut. I found this place called La Cueva del Lobo (The Cave of the Wolf). It was listed online and it looked like a decent place. The reviews were good, so I went. My barber didn’t speak a lick of English, so I used my phone to translate what I wanted. Oh my…
THE BEST SHAVE AND A HAIRCUT EVER!!!
I’m not a high-end barber or spa guy, I’m a give me a quick haircut and get me out of here guy. All I wanted was a quick trim, and what I got was so much more. The visit to this small barber shop in Cancun was an incredible experience. My barber’s name was Jose Luis, and this guy takes his craft seriously! It’s hard to put this experience into words. I knew that I didn’t want it to end, but it did. Is this weird?
Despite the fact that my haircut was magical, I still wasn’t making much progress on the book. Writing was painfully slow without my laptop. I tracked my FedEx package all day, and my spirits were raised with each new update. The updates showed my cord getting closer and closer. I went to bed this night confident that I’d be running at full speed sometime the next day.
Tuesday arrives. It’s another beautiful day. I continued my slow progress while checking the FedEx tracking for my package every hour. This was an uneventful day. Then 3:30 in the afternoon came. This is when I got the ominous message from FedEx. The status on my package had been updated with a bright red bold “Clearance delay” message. According to the update from FedEx, my power cord is in Cancun, but it’s held up in the “clearance process”. I have no scheduled delivery date anymore, so I’m not sure what to think.
After getting over the disappointment, I convince myself that it can’t take long for a power cord to clear Mexican customs, can it? Hope returns. Tuesday passes, no cord.
Wednesday arrives. Same status. I’m now wishing that I would have bought a new laptop during my forced tour of Cancun on Sunday. I could go get one now, but the cord could clear customs at any moment, plus my wife arrives in two days. This is a pickle. Called FedEx, they’re completely useless in this situation.
Wednesday passes, no cord. I hate writing on an iPhone and a notebook. 4-1/2 days gone, 15 pages written, all on an iPhone, using my teeny keyboard and a dumb dictation app that keeps misspelling every other word.
Thursday arrives. Same status. My power cord is still held up in the clearance process! It’s hard to express my anger. Checked the package status all day, same stupid message. At this point, I hate FedEx, I hate Mexican customs people, I hate writing, I hate my neighbors, I hate the sun, I hate ocean waves, I hate everything. Believe it or not, I’m a positive guy. Eventually I get over it. My wife arrives in less than 24 hours. She’ll rescue me again, this time with a power cord.
Thursday ends. Friday arrives. I’m juiced! My wife will arrive today! She’ll bring her pretty self and she’ll bring me a power cord! She arrived in the afternoon, with a power cord in hand. All seemed right with my world again.
Week one was over. Progress: 25 pages on an iPhone. Package still stuck in customs. On to next week…