Quote of the day—Arthur

[Arthur suddenly laughs uproariously]

Gloria: What’s so funny now?

Arthur: Sometimes I just think funny things.

Played by Dudley Moore in the movie Arthur.
[Today I was reminded of this by co-worker Josh when he burst into laughter.

Barb does this too, perhaps even more frequently than Josh. And they, unlike Arthur, are not drunk when this happen.

They both spontaneously, without any apparent external input, burst into laughter.

I like that.—Joe]

Marry for money

I heard this at work last week and thought it was hilariously funny:

Marry for money—earn every penny.

It was attributed as a Yiddish proverb but a quick Internet search failed to confirm that claim. No matter.

Besides the direct interpretation it would seem it applies to other areas as well, such as choosing your career and employers.

Mugme street news

Man Arrested After Assaulting Three People With Baseball Bat:

Officers arrested a 38-year-old man Wednesday in downtown Seattle after he attacked three people with a baseball bat.

Around 10 AM, the suspect approached a 39-year-old man at Westlake Park and asked for a cigarette. When the man declined, the suspect brandished his bat and struck the victim in the arm.

The suspect then walked down the street to 5th Avenue and Pine Street and attacked a man and a woman, both 65. The suspect fled, dropping his weapon as he walked off.

SPD bike officers were able to locate suspect and arrest him within seven minutes of the first 911 call about the incident.

Okay this started one block northeast of Mugme Street but it’s close enough.

That’s deadly force he was using on people. The guy is lucky he didn’t get shot.

When I worked downtown I would get off the bus in the morning at Westlake Park and I would frequently walk through a corner of it to go to lunch.

Use cash

I use a credit/debit card online. But when I’m in a physical store, except in rare cases, I use cash. This is one of the reasons why:

Clothing store chain Eddie Bauer said today it has detected and removed malicious software from point-of-sale systems at all of its 350+ stores in North America, and that credit and debit cards used at those stores during the first six months of 2016 may have been compromised in the breach.

I work in security and POS systems are one of the things we watch and worry about a lot.

Oh, auto-correct

I received this customer inquiry today;
“Which of the has tunes would fit a polish style am.”
So I did a little translation;
“Which of the gas tubes would fit a polish style AK.”
And translation of the translation;
“Which of your forward optic mounts would fit a Polish style AK?”
Context. It’s all about context– I’m reasonably sure I wasn’t being asked about the appropriateness of certain music for Polish radio stations on the amplitude-modulation band, for example. And so now I can give an informed answer to the question without asking him to clarify.

More on tightening threads

This is a deep, serious discussion of mechanical esoterica, with implications to life in general, so if you’re not interested in mechanics or in life lessons, go back to doing your nails, watching TV or stressing over your made-up relationship drama.

If you get the clamp screws tight enough, you probably don’t need the Locktite. If you don’t get the screws tight enough, the Locktite won’t help.

Thank you for sticking it out all the way to the end of this post, though if you needed to read it, you probably didn’t, and if you didn’t need to read it, you most likely did. I’m preaching to the choir then. Still it must be said.

Why women should panic?

I don’t think women have any reason to panic. The article was written by a homosexual man. He seems more than a little bitter toward women at times. He makes some interesting and entertaining points, but I disagree with most of them for the most part.

I can only speak for sure for myself, but I’m pretty sure that the drive among men to solve problems is not a result of wanting to impress women. Sure, for a young buck, that may be a big part of it, but he’ll rarely get very far in his problem solving if he’s distracted by an over-active sex drive. Once you’ve been married for decades and your children have gone on to lead their own lives, and you realize that happiness and sex have virtually nothing do to with one another, the desire to “impress women” (which is idiotic in the first place) goes by the wayside.
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Mugme street news

This came out just before Boomershoot and I set it aside for when I had more time. That time has come.

I have frequently posted about what Barb named “Mugme street” in downtown Seattle. In case you ever had any doubt as to the validity of claims of this being a “bad part of town” we now have this news:

SPD, FBI Target 3rd and Pine Drug Market In Operation Crosstown Traffic

A four-month operation by the Seattle Police Department’s Major Crimes Taskforce (MCTF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has led authorities to 186 suspected drug dealers and thieves, who turned Seattle’s downtown core into an open-air drug market and street corner swap meet. As of Thursday morning, police have arrested 95 suspects, and local officials are now working to get some of those dealers off the streets by connecting them with a pioneering and promising diversion program, instead of sending them to prison.

Since January, MCTF detectives and West Precinct officers have been working undercover as part of Operation Crosstown Traffic, a partnership with the FBI, US Attorney’s Office, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and City Attorney’s Office, aimed at identifying criminals involved in a thriving underground economy around 3rd Avenue and Pine Street. Over the last year, police have received 10,000 calls of service in the area surrounding the 1500 block of Pine Street, including frequent reports of drug dealing and property crimes, as well as violent brawls, shootings, and stabbings.

Detectives also got a good look at the area’s underground economy in action, as shoplifters sold armloads of stolen goods—like Seahawks jerseys, sunglasses and even bottles of shampoo—to crowds at bus stops and on street corners. Shoplifters took the cash from those sales, detectives say, and went straight to area drugs dealers, before heading to nearby alleyways to shoot up or smoke narcotics.

Ry and I used to work in the Century Square building. It was a very nice building on the inside and on 4th street, but one side of that building was on 3rd street from Pike to Pine. We are both glad to have escaped from there.

Seattle is extremely hostile to gun ownership and even though you can legally carry a gun on the bus and on the streets company (California based) rules didn’t allow us to carry into the office.

Effectiveness of linear-feedback shift registers in testing digital circuits

In 1984 I wrote a paper for the company I was working for at the time. It was in support of a new test instrument the company was about to release. The paper was published in the IEEE Instrumentation and Measurement Technology Conference Proceedings. I was scheduled to go to Long Beach California and present the paper during the conference January 17-18, 1984. But the company cancelled the release of the product and I did not attend the conference.

Before there was the World Wide Web there were online services you could subscribe to, dial up with a modem (1200 baud rocked!) and do searches of periodicals, journals, papers, etc. This is what one of those services, Dialog, had in their records in July of 1984:


A scan of the paper is here (click on each to get a readable version):

EffectivenessOfLinearFeedbackShiftRegistersInTesting01 EffectivenessOfLinearFeedbackShiftRegistersInTesting02 EffectivenessOfLinearFeedbackShiftRegistersInTesting03
EffectivenessOfLinearFeedbackShiftRegistersInTesting04 EffectivenessOfLinearFeedbackShiftRegistersInTesting05

Today, over 30 years later, there is probably very little of the paper which is applicable to modern test equipment. But something I learned while writing the paper is something I still occasionally “put people in their place” with.

Unless you know the something about the error statistics of whatever digital system you are trying to test then it almost doesn’t matter which checksum, hash, or CRC you use for error detection. In fact, surprising to nearly everyone, if you assume that all errors are equally likely, then you can just pick the last (or first, whatever) 256 bits of a digital message and have just as good error detection as any other 256-bit hash. Or if you are using a 16-bit checksum then you might as well use the last (or first, whatever) 16 bits of the message.

It all boils down to the assumptions about the types of errors in the message. You, whether you realize it or not, make lots of assumptions about the types of errors in a digital message. For example you assume it is very unlikely, compared to other types of errors, that every 17th bit will be inverted. Or that every DWORD will be XORed with 0xBAADF00D. But the assumption, “every error is equally likely” means the math for detecting those errors will arrive at an interesting conclusion:

For a message N bits long there are 2N-1 possible errors. Any hash, checksum, etc., M bits long can only have 2M different states. One of those states represents a valid hash/checksum/etc. The other 2M – 1 represent detected errors.

If all errors are equally likely then those 2N-1 possible errors are equally mapped into each of the 2M possible states of the hash. It will only detect a fraction of those errors. The fraction will be (2M-1)/(2M). Or stated differently the fraction of errors which map into the valid hash is 1/2M. For a N bit message (2N-1)/2M errors are missed. For 2N >> 1 (all real world cases) this is essentially equal to 2N/2M or 2(N – M).

If you use the last M bits of the message it will detect all 2M-1 errors in the last M bits and miss 2(N-M) errors in the previous part of the message.

Hence it does not matter if you use a M bit hash of the entire message or the last M bits of the message. The same number of errors will be escape detection.

In “real life”, not all errors are equally likely. This is particularly true when you are trying to detect messages which have been altered by an attacker. But there are many situations where people spend way too much effort trying to determine the “best” hash to use when just using the first/last/whatever M bits or a simple checksum of M bits will work just as well as the latest NSA blessed crypto hash and consume far less computational resources.

I find this counter intuitive and very interesting. I suspect it says more about our intuition than anything.

Quote of the day—Bill

We aren’t going to be breaking glass and using flash-bangs.

May 15, 2015
[Mid morning on Friday (the 15th) my boss poked his head out of his boss’s office and asked me to join them and my lead. The first thing he told me was that I wasn’t in trouble. Next they asked me if I would be able to help out a different group by doing some travel that might extend into the weekend.

About then the V.P. poked his head into the office and gave us the guidance above. This was more than a bit amusing since my lead is former special forces, my boss is former law enforcement and army, and his boss helped make explosives for Boomershoot this year. And of course my guns and explosives experience was also being addressed. The V.P. knew of all of this experience in the room and I’m pretty sure he was speaking metaphorically.

I ended up putting in a 17 hour work day on Friday and 11 hours on Saturday. It was an interesting experience. I drove out into the desert and observed and helped another much more experienced team do their work until the early morning. I was the least experienced person there but in some ways I was better prepared than most of them. I shared my food with them and even used one of my knives to assist. There was only one person other than me who had the recommended ear plugs.

Most of the team left about 1:00 AM. One other guy and I left about 1:30 and went to our motels. We came back at 6:00 AM for a few minutes. He then left and I went back to my motel for more sleep. At 9:00 AM I attended a phone conference call for about 90 minutes and then returned to the site by myself until a little after 4:00 PM. I arrived home about three hours later and went straight to bed.

Who knew the life of a software engineer could be so interesting?

No glass was broken and no flash bangs were used. Mission accomplished.—Joe]


My lead and I went to lunch with three representatives from a vendor today. One had spent many years in law enforcement and the other two really enjoy hunting.  At lunch we spent a lot of time talking about the outdoors, shooting, hiking, hunting, and climbing mountains.

While returning from lunch and walking through the parking garage:

Vendor Rep: Nice Kydex holster for your flashlight. I suppose <company name> has a policy against fully loaded magazines to put in the slot next to it.

Joe: They just might.

Vendor Rep: But it’s the only holster you have for the flashlight, right?

Joe: That’s right.

It was the law enforcement guy.

I love this job and the people I work with.

One lie update

At a group meeting at work today they asked for “Two truths and one lie”. I used these:

  • I won first place while playing for the University of Idaho chess team in the Association of College Unions Intercollegiate Tournaments in Region 14 (Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana).
  • I have a solar powered explosives production facility in Idaho where I make about a ton of explosives using Kitchen-Aid mixers each year for recreational purposes.
  • I went to Blackwater (a private military company and security consulting firm) for “gun blogger summer camp” for free and was taught by one of the top handgun shooters in the world.

After some discussion they pretty much unanimously agreed it was the chess item. Good job guys!

One of the guys in the group said, “I’m glad he is working on our side.” The director (who found out about Boomershoot during my interview for the job and signed up to attend Boomershoot with her husband) of our group responded with, “That’s why we hired him.”

Fail, fail, fail, fail…

I’m writing this after just getting off the phone with Great Big Gun Accessory Company That Everyone Knows. I’m not pissed, just a little disgusted. I got a 130 dollar tool made by that company, from an Idaho retailer, and the tool is defective.

I called the retailer about it immediately. After some vacillation (first fail) and some obvious back-and-forth amongst the person who took my call and someone else (second fail) they referred me to the manufacturer (third fail).

I then called Great Big Gun Accessory Company That Everyone Knows and got put on hold by a robot. OK; that’s sort of tolerable, as it’s a busy time of day for a busy company in a very busy industry. After only two or three minutes I got a person. I got directly to the point; I had ordered this tool and it has some bad threads.

She actually muttered under her breath at me, as though she’d been robbed few minutes ago and I had just threatened her for her wallet; “Oh, good God…” (fourth fail). She then had to put me on hold (fifth fail) to talk to someone else (sixth fail) after which she went on and on in her Eeyore/Marvin the Paranoid Android tone, (seventh fail) about oh, woe is us; we’re juuust swamped with customer service… (eighth fail) and that she’d take my name and number and someone would call me back, maybe today but probably tomorrow (ninth fail).

There’s a point to all of this, mind you. This isn’t so I can vent my frustration– I’m not frustrated. I got this tool on a lark, because I thought it would be something fun to try. Well, all the fun has been drained right out, but it’s not frustrating in any way because I really have no “need” for this item than can’t be served with tools I already have.

The point is; if you’re in business and you have a customer who has a problem, AND you’re capable of solving said problem, then DO IT, RIGHT NOW. Your customers will absolutely love you for it, and your service will have been so unusually simple and easy that they’ll tell everyone they know about you. That two or three dollars, to fifty or 60 dollars it actually cost you to SOLE THE CUSTOMER’S PROBLEM STRAIGHT AWAY will have been your cheapest and most effective advertizing ever!

The retailer could have solved my problem immediately, without even thinking about it, if they’d simply send me a new part. “No problem, Mister Keeney; we’ll get you another part out to you right now, and you’ll have it tomorrow. Sorry about the inconvenience.”

That is our goal, but we don’t always reach it (for one thing, there is internal disagreement on its merits, if you can believe that). It is an ideal, which will rarely be met in all cases, but it is none the less THE ideal.

This is so very simple, and so very obvious, that practically all businesses fail to consider it. The few who do will rule the retail world. All the rest will have every excuse in the book why they don’t do it, and they’ll all be very reasonable and thoroughly justifiable excuses.

If you HAVE THE ABILITY to solve the customer’s problem RIGHT NOW, that is an OPPORTUNUTY for you and your company. Don’t miss the opportunity.

Meanwhile, after talking to two people, at two companies, each of whom had the ability to solve my problem right then and there, each of whom had to talk to at least one other person who also had the ability to solve my problem right then and there, I’ll be waiting for a phone call (not a replacement part, mind you, not even a promise of a replacement part, but a phone call) that may or may not come in the next 24 hours.

The time it took either one of the two people I spoke with to hum and haw and consult with peers and finally get around to telling me to call somewhere else or to take my name and number for someone else to get back to me, THEY COULD HAVE SOLVED MY PROBLEM RIGHT THEN AND THERE, and so you see, it would be far MORE EFFICIENT just for them, which would free up more customer service representatives to help more customers.

This isn’t rocket surgery.