Some notes on locksport.

Mar 27 2018

A couple of weeks back, as part of our continuing education program at my dayjob I ran a hands-on class on locksport, the quasi-science (perhaps art) of picking locks for fun and... well... fun.  I'm a security wonk so most of the talks I run have some security content in them, but I wanted to do something that was fairly suitable for everyone (coders and not).  So, I got the go-ahead to expense a few more locks and some intro picksets to give away from The Lockpick Shop (no consideration for mentioning or using them, they had what I needed at a good price) and hauled most of my collection of locks and tools to work over the course of a couple of days.

I used the Creative Commons licensed lockpicking village slides from the TOOOL website for my talk after editing them a bit to condense them for time and spent a couple of evenings practicing both my slides and craft to gear myself up for the class.

What follows are some pictures and ruminations I have on the topic of locksport that come from years of playing around with locks (after spending about as long trying and failing to get any locks open) and doing formal and informal sessions on the topic.  Please bear in mind, I'm far from a master of this particular art.  I've competed only once (and pulled a Charlie Brown by picking the lock backwards, thus jamming it at the worst possible time) and, while I recognize that there are some very talented people out there who are into locksport for the sheer artistry of it, I'm not one of them.  I'm a pragmatic lockpicker: I'm on assignment, I need into something, I'm going to pick the lock and get in.  I'm not a spring steel artist.

Okay.  Enough chitchat, here's what I actually wanted to write.

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Neologism: Going rogue

Mar 27 2018

Going rogue - noun phrase - Ignoring the directions Google Maps (or whatever map navigation application you have on your phone) gives you in favor of using the knowledge inside your head and local area expertise.  The thing about map navigation applications is that so many people use them, the moment you deviate from the main course you have almost entirely empty streets, with a significant reduction in travel time.

Algorithm for implementing a dead man's switch.

Mar 04 2018

So, you're probably wondering why I'm posting this, because it's a bit off of my usual fare.  The reason is I think it would be useful to make available a fairly simple algorithm for implementing a general purpose dead man's switch in whatever language you want, which is to say a DMS that could conceivably do just about anything if it activated.

But what's a dead man's switch?  Ultimately, it's a mechanism that has to be manually engaged at all times if you want something to happen, and if that switch turns off for some reason, something else happens (like a failsafe).  A good example of this is the bar on the handle of a power lawnmower you have to hold down so it'll move while the engine's running.  If you let go of the bar the engine keeps running but the lawnmower doesn't keep rolling forward.  Another example can be found in locomotives; the conductor has to hold down a switch or lever so the engine will pull the train, and if that lever is ever let go (say the engineer has a heart attack or is otherwise incapacitated) the throttle closes and the train will grind to a halt.  More along the lines of what I'll be talking about are the watchdogs found in industrial controllers and realtime operating systems.  While running normally a software process inside the device flips a bit somehow - say, writing a 0 into a certain device node.  If the underlying hardware ever finds that the bit didn't get flipped within a certain period of time it reacts somehow to fix things (for example, it might reboot in an attempt to un-stick the gizmo).

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On the toxicity of USian gun culture.

Feb 25 2018

I've been keeping quiet about the mass school shooting in Florida some weeks ago because it's such a hot-button topic, and many people speaking out are catching harrassment and death threats - even the students who survived the massacre.  Of course, the National Rifle Association went on the record as saying, quote, "The NRA doesn't back any ban."  Meaning, of course, they'll do their damndest to hamstring any new legislation that has to do with guns.  It's also worth noting that there were multiple law enforcement officers - trained and armed - at the school, and they did nothing.  Which isn't surprising to me; if they're anything like the police in the school I went to, they went out of their way to not do their jobs (the students selling both drugs and guns I graduated with did so with relative impunity).  Oh, and let's not forget what can happen if you play the part of the hero and disarm the shooter - the cops think the hero's the shooter, and open fire.  No good deed goes unpunished.

But that's not what I want to talk about.  What I want to talk about is gun culture, as someone who's part of it, but who stays as far away from it as possible.

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Neologism: Platypus truther

Feb 18 2018

Platypus truther - noun - Someone who doggedly, ruthlessly, and almost to the exclusion of anything else (including good sense) espouses, defends, and picks fights over a position, idea, or hypothesis that is completely and totally around the bend.  Even taking into account the context of this person's other activities (social media history, books written, and so forth) it makes absolutely no sense why they would claim to believe such a thing, let alone fight with people over it.  There is absolutely no way of telling if they're communicating in good faith or not.  It could be trolling, it might be absurdist peformance art, it could even be software mediated madness, or some other combination of phenomena.

The term was coined as a description of a Twitter user who is adamant that platypodes do not actually exist.  The individual's claim is that all drawn depictions of the creature are fanciful, all video recordings are special effects, and all live specimens are actually mutilated creatures of other types.  Nobody knows what the hell they're on about, so all we can do is shake our collective head and close the tab.

I guess this is a milestone, isn't it?

Feb 09 2018

As I write this, it's roughly a week before my 40th birthday.  I'm sitting in a hospital waiting room tapping away on Windbringer while Lyssa undergoes surgery to remove a cataract from her left (and only working) eye.*  When this post goes live on the day of my actual 40th birthday, more things will undoubtedly have happened.  I don't know how much time I'm going to have in the next few days, so I guess I'd best take advantage of the spare time I have due to how busy I've been lately.

A lot's happened in this past year that I'm still trying to wrap my head around.  My grandfather diedSomebody I knew but wasn't terribly close to committed suicide.  I've been in the hospital and laid up at home a couple of times with strict "Sit on your ass and read comic books while you heal" orders (which, as you've probably already guessed, got boring pretty fast).  Our landlord has begun the process of selling the house we're presently renting, which has introduced no small amount of uncertainty into the short-term future.

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Online talk about exocortices.

Jan 28 2018

A couple of days ago I gave a talk online to some members of the Zero State about my exocortex.  It's a pretty informal talk done as a Hangout where I talk about some of the day to day stuff and where the project came from.  I didn't have any notes and it was completely unscripted.

Embedding is disabled for some reason so I can't just put the vide here here.  Here's a direct link to the recording.

Curveballs.

Jan 25 2018

Sometime last summer, around the time we renewed our lease, our landlord mentioned that he wanted to sell the house we've been renting in California for the past couple of years.  As one might expect, this caused a bit of a stir at home, but then we didn't hear back from him for a couple of months (no news is good news, right?) and went back to life as normal.  Around Yule we all but forgot about it.

Last weekend, our landlord paid us a visit and informed us that he was starting the house-selling process.  The first round of inspectors would be around to check the house out last week (as you read this post) and could we please straighten the place up a little.  A not unreasonable request, this immediately kicked the family into high gear, cleaning stuff out (at last count, one box of clothes and four of books), throwing stuff away (so much stuff that we had to call a trash hauling company to take it away due to the limitations imposed by the local trash pickup company (only things in the bins they rent to you, nothing overflowing, nothing on the ground or street)), straightening up the backyard (the lawn clippings and raked leaves constituted a nontrivial amount of the stuff hauled away)... you get the drill.  Suffice it to say that the house hasn't looked this good since Yule.

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