Dear Reader: Why You Haven't Heard From Me

Tim Woodward

It’s an understatement to say that I am not a tech-savvy guy.

Part of this has to do with being born in the wrong generation. My kids and grandkids, who grew up with computers and the Internet, do intuitively what has me screaming at the device of the moment. I threw my smartphone across a street once. It landed in tall grass and wasn’t damaged, though part of me wished it had been.

Another part of it has to do with having the wrong kind of brain. I’m right-brained. Right-brained people tend to be creative and artistic, as opposed to left-brained people, who are better at things like math, science and mechanics. My wife is left-brained. She had to stop me once from pouring water into the part of the coffee pot where the coffee is supposed to go.

The IT people where I worked as a full-time journalist hated to see me coming. They had more important things to do than fix problems that didn’t seem to happen to anyone else — and are still happening. I’ll be typing, press a key a little too hard and a new and baffling window opens up. When I asked a tech about it, he looked at me as if I had frogs growing out of my ears.

The latest issue involves my hotmail account, the one readers use to email me with comments or questions. Its address appears at the bottom of my columns. For reasons I’m about to explain, a new one appears there as of today.

I enjoy hearing from readers and try to answer every email. It would be rude not to answer them.

That brings us to the problem, which is not entirely hotmail’s fault. It’s my fault, or at least it was in the beginning. An unusually long time had passed during which I hadn’t checked the hotmail account. Long enough that I couldn’t remember its password.

Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem. Resetting a password is easy, right? It takes seconds. Anyone can do it.

Unless it’s a hotmail password.

The first step in resetting a hotmail password is a request from Microsoft to verify your identification. Reasonable enough, except that the email address Microsoft wanted me to use is history. The alternative was to call or send a text — using a number I didn’t recognize and to the best of my memory had never seen before.

The third option was to enter a current email address. Microsoft would then send me a security code. It also asked me to type an eight-digit alphanumerical code, which seemed a bit obsessive. This was a simple request for a new password, not the codes for a nuclear launch.

The security code arrived promptly. From there it should have been a simple matter of entering it, creating a new password and getting on with the business of answering readers’ emails.

Wrong. The next hoops to jump through were providing my first and last names, my birthdate, the country where the email account was created, the state where it was created and the zip code.

Then came a request for passwords previously used, which was beyond annoying considering that the whole reason for doing this was that I’d forgotten the password.

A few days and some vigorous cursing later, I remembered the old password, entered it — and was asked to identify Microsoft products previously used!

They had to be kidding. All this to reset a password?

Next, Microsoft wanted the names of any of its products I’d purchased. That was followed by a request for email addresses of people recently contacted and — I am not making this up — the subject lines of my emails to them.

Most of the people recently contacted were readers, contacted only once. Remembering their addresses weeks later — let alone subject lines — would have been like remembering the phone numbers of childhood friends. The exceptions were a woman named Gayle, who had sent enough emails that I remembered her address, and a man named James P. Morden.

James lives in the Philippine Islands. Don’t ask me how he came to be reading columns on my blog there, but he did and started writing to me. We’ve exchanged dozens of emails and gotten to know each other reasonably well, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember his address. It had been weeks since I’d written him. Poor James probably thinks I’m mad at him, dead or have fallen off the planet.

Entering Gayle’s address and James’s name brought an email saying Microsoft would let me know whether the information supplied would be sufficient. This could take up to 24 hours.

You can imagine my relief when an email arrived saying that my request had been approved, clearing the way to create a new password.

Except that the new password didn’t work.

Repeating the process twice more didn’t work, either. The result in both cases was an email saying the information provided wasn’t enough.

Knowing my propensity for cyber blunders, one of my tech-savvy daughters gave it a shot.

Same result.

“I don’t believe it!” she said. “What else do they want? A blood sample?”

All this is a long way of saying, to paraphrase Chief Joseph, that from where the sun now stands I am done with hotmail forever. My new gmail address is shown below.

If you’ve emailed me and haven’t gotten a response, at least now you know why.

And if anybody out there has an email address for James P. Morden in the Philippine Islands, I’d love to hear from you.

Tim Woodward’s column appears every other Sunday in The Idaho Press and is posted on the following Mondays. Contact him at

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