success vs failure

Failure is not the opposite of success.

Failure is not overcoming.

Success has plenty of “failure ” along the way – It is called learning.  Learning what not to do and what you need to do.

If you never stop trying, you don’t fail.  You may decide to stop pursuing a course of action as not cost effective, but that is not a failure, but a decision.

Humans are lousy random number generators

After reading Bruce Culp’s December 2014 newsletter, I found it interesting that I was writing on a similar topic, but from a different direction. In Bruce’s newsletter, he mentions a Reg Parker who thought through the human process and the weaknesses in humans. I would consider this one of the first steps in social engineering, a problem we still face today. In his case, he did not use social interactions to obtain information, but clever observation of human behavior and how to leverage that knowledge. What is the problem we are looking at?
Humans are lousy random number generators!

I may not be the best Enigma historian, but my training in Mathematics and Statistics has shown me that humans are lousy at choosing random numbers or letters. Part of the security of Enigma, or any cryptology system, is that randomness. The rotor starting point and the key used, needs to be random. In addition, any short-term repetition or pattern endangers the entire system.

To test this theory on myself, I recorded my passwords over an extended period. By studying that list, I noticed I have certain patterns in the self-generated passwords. I do better by looking around at choosing objects at “random,” taking three or 4 characters from the name or category and add numbers and special characters by bouncing my hands on the keyboard without looking. Not perfect, but better than the ones I thought up as “random.” Because we have a tendency to fall into patterns, I was careful not to choose the same object that was chosen in the prior 4-5 passwords. While true random passwords or choices can repeat, a repeated three letter pattern would assist the cryptologist/bad guy in cracking my password.

Many people have studied humans’ lack of ability to be random (see below). So how can we overcome this problem as we try to emulate proper procedures to create secure keys? Alternatively, to use this to create better passwords for yourself? True random passwords are difficult to remember, but there are strategies to help. Semi-random pronounceable passwords are better for humans, but are a weaker then true random ones. A bit weaker, but one you can remember is far better then one that is secure, but you have to write it down! As a systems administrator, I have to generate initial passwords for my users. I use the Password Generator listed in Sources of Random, below. You will notice, the pronounceable passwords have many 3-letter groups that we can take advantage of for Enigma settings.

If you look under “Sources of Random,” I also have a couple of different Apps and a web page to help. Are these truly random? Nope! However, the pseudorandom algorithms are sufficiently complex, that for the number of messages we are likely to send, we should be OK.

Don’t like these? Got one or two dice? Couple of coins? I have created a couple of charts to let you use “old tech” to generate some random values. The coins are a bit more work, since it takes five coin tosses to get one letter, but if you are not in a rush, it works. The dice charts were designed to spread the numbers out so the chance of any dice roll will give you the best chance of getting a number, but even with that, 10 throws out of 36 (27.7%) are a reroll. Without getting in to fancy dice and complex charts, it is the best I can do. If you want to spend a few bucks, you can get a 26-sided die.

Do you need to change anything for something we do for fun? No, but hopefully this will give you some thoughts on the problems of creating secure keys and passwords

Sources of Random:

  • Web based Random Letter Sequence Generator: You can generate several three/four letter sequences to use as starting points and keys for Enigma enciphering. Generate several sequences to keep handy, and scratch them off as you use them. (
  • Android App: “Letters & Numbers Generator”: My favorite Android app to generate random letters. (
  • IOS: “Letters – Random Character and Words” by Georg Dresler
  • Dice:
    • 26 letters:
    • 26 numbers:
  • Password Generator:


  • Human Password Selection and Randomness:
  • Are people capable of generating a random number?
  • Humans cannot consciously generate random numbers sequences: Polemic study.
  • Kerchkhoff’s principle:

Top 10 reasons for studying martial arts

Another sent to me a long time ago.


10) Broken masonry makes great drainage for potted plants.
9) Get beaten up by people half your size and twice your age.
8) Never run out of kindling wood again.
7) No need to wonder what belt to wear.
6) Get to be on first name basis with the Emergency Room staff.
5) These uniforms make nice pijamas.
4) Never need to wonder why it’s hard to get up in the morning.
3) Get to appreciate the finer points of Chuck Norris’ acting.
2) Learn to count to 10 in 3 different Asian languages.

And the top reason for studying martial arts:

1) (Tie) Get to star in Ginsu commercials. / Three words: free nose job.

Cat Bathing as a Martial Art

This was sent to me a long time ago. Enjoy!


Some people say cats never have to be bathed. They say cats lick
themselves clean. They say cats have a special enzyme of some sort in
saliva that works like new, improved Wisk – dislodging the dirt where it hides
and whisking it away.

I’ve spent most of my life believing this folklore. Like most blind
believers, I’ve been able to discount all the facts to the contrary, the kitty
odors that lurk in the corners of the garage and dirt smudges that cling to
the throw rug by the fireplace.

The time comes, however, when a man must face reality: when he must
look squarely in the face of massive public sentiment to the contrary and
announce: “This cat smells like a port-a-potty on a hot day in Juarez.”

When that day arrives at your house, as it has in mine, I have some
advice you might consider as you place your feline friend under your arm
and head for the bathtub:

— Know that although the cat has the advantage of quickness and lack
of concern for human life, you have the advantage of strength. Capitalize on
that advantage by selecting the battlefield. Don’t try to bathe him in an
open area where he can force you to chase him. Pick a very small bathroom.
If your bathroom is more than four feet square, I recommend that you get in
the tub with the cat and close the sliding-glass doors as if you were about
to take a shower. (A simple shower curtain will not do. A berserk cat can
shred a three-ply rubber shower curtain quicker than a politician can shift

— Know that a cat has claws and will not hesitate to remove all
the skin from your body. Your advantage here is that you are smart and know
how to dress to protect yourself. I recommend canvas overalls tucked into
high-top construction boots, a pair of steel-mesh gloves, an army helmet, a
hockey face mask, and a long-sleeved flak jacket.

— Prepare everything in advance. There is no time to go out for
a towel when you have a cat digging a hole in your flak jacket. Draw the
Make sure the bottle of kitty shampoo is inside the glass enclosure. Make sure
the towel can be reached, even if you are lying on your back in the water.

— Use the element of surprise. Pick up your cat nonchalantly, as
if to simply carry him to his supper dish. (Cats will not usually notice
your strange attire. They have little or no interest in fashion as a rule.
If he does notice your garb, calmly explain that you are taking part in a
product testing experiment for J.C. Penney.)

— Once you are inside the bathroom, speed is essential to
survival. In a single liquid motion, shut the bathroom door, step into the
tub enclosure, slide the glass door shut, dip the cat in the water and
squirt him with shampoo. You have begun one of the wildest 45 seconds of
your life.

Cats have no handles. Add the fact that he now has soapy fur, and
the problem is radically compounded. Do not expect to hold on to him for
more than two or three seconds at a time. When you have him, however, you
must remember to give him another squirt of shampoo and rub like crazy.
He’ll then spring free and fall back into the water, thereby rinsing
himself off. (The national record for cats is three latherings, so don’t
expect too much.)

— Next, the cat must be dried. Novice cat bathers always assume
this part will be the most difficult, for humans generally are worn out at
this point and the cat is just getting really determined. In fact, the
drying is simple compared to what you have just been through. That’s
because by now the cat is semipermanently affixed to your right leg. You
simply pop the drain plug with you foot, reach for your towel and wait.
(Occasionally, however, the cat will end up clinging to the top of your
army helmet. If this happens, the best thing you can do is to shake him
loose and to encourage him toward your leg.) After all the water is
drained from the tub, it is a simple matter to just reach down and dry the

In a few days the cat will relax enough to be removed from your
leg. He will usually have nothing to say for about three weeks and will
spend a lot of time sitting with his back to you. He might even become
psychoceramic and develop the fixed stare of a plaster figurine.

You will be tempted to assume he is angry. This isn’t usually the
case. As a rule he is simply plotting ways to get through your defenses and
injure you for life the next time you decide to give him a bath.

But at least now he smells a lot better.

More 7 Habits notes

Habits 1, 2, & 3 create the private victory, moving you from dependence to independence.
Habits 4, 5, & 6 create the public victory, moving you from independence to interdependence.
Habit 7 encircles the whole.


The Private Victory


Habit 1. Be pro-active (Principles of Personal Vision)

  • Between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose.
  • Act vs. be acted upon – The opposite of pro-active is reactive
  • Listen to our language
  • Take the initiative
  • Responsible = response able
  • Circle of Influence vs. Circle of Concern (see copies of diagrams, Covey p. 81 – 85)

Habit 2. Begin with the end in mind (Principles of Personal Leadership)

  • Is the ladder of success leaning against the right wall?
  • Everything is created twice
  • Mission statements – Personal, family, corporate
  • Identifying roles & goals
  • Centers – see copies from Covey p. 119 – 124.

Habit 3. Put first things first (Principles of Personal Management)

  • Time management matrix
  • Principles of Interdependence


The Public Victory

The Emotional Bank Account plays an important role.


Habit 4. Think win-win. (Principles of Interpersonal Leadership)

6 Paradigms of Human Interaction

  • Win/Win
  • Win/Lose
  • Lose/Win
  • Lose/Lose
  • Win
  • Win/Win or No Deal

Habit 5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. (Principles of Empathic Communication)

  • Seek first to Understand, then to be Understood — or — Don’t prescribe before you diagnose!
  • Use Empathic Listening
  • Diagnose before you prescribe
  • Don’t use autobiographical responses.
  • This Habit is smack in the middle of your Circle of Influence!

Autobiographical responses are:

  • Probing
  • Advising
  • Evaluating
  • Interpreting

Habit 6. Synergy (Principles of Creative Cooperation)

  • Definition of Synergy
  • Synonyms
  • 1+1=3 or 4 or 100 or …
  • It is the basis for Principled Centered Leadership
  • Fish for the 3rd alternative
  • Value differences! (IDIC)




Habit 7. Sharpen The Saw (Principles of Balanced Self-Renewal)

  • Principle of Balanced Self-Renewal
  • 4 Dimensions of Human Nature
    • Physical (Exercise, Nutrition, Stress Management)
    • Social/Emotional (Service, Empathy, Synergy, Intrinsic Security)
    • Mental (Reading, visualizing, Planning, Writing)
    • Spiritual (Value Clarification & Commitment, Study & Meditation)
  • Balance in Renewal
  • Synergy in Renewal
  • Upward Spiral – Learn, Commit, Do, …

Paradigms and Principles

Paradigm shift – Paradigms are frameworks for looking at the world (Galileo’s solar system, Newton’s laws of motion, relational databases, object-oriented programming).

Character is primary, personality is secondary.

(character ethic vs. personality ethic)

No quick fix.

Perceptions – The way we see the problem is the problem.

Principle-centered: “The Character Ethic is based on the fundamental idea that there are principles that govern human effectiveness – natural laws in the human dimension that are just as real, just as unchanging and unarguably ‘there’ as laws such as gravity are in the physical dimension.” (Covey p. 32)

Values are maps – maps are not the territory.

Principles are the territory.

Seven Habits Overview

Definition of habit – (see diagram, Covey p. 48)  Intersection of knowledge (knowing why you should do it), skill (being able to do it),   desire (feeling like doing it).

Effectiveness lies in the balance between production and production capacity.  Example – story of the farmer and the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Need to balance physical, financial, and human assets.

Emotional Bank Account

  • Easy to Withdraw
  • One Withdrawal can wipe out many deposits – can even go in to the RED!
  • Basis for Trust

Six Major Deposits:

  • Understand the individual
  • Attend to the Little Things
  • Keeping Commitments
  • Clarifying Expectations
  • Showing Personal Integrity
  • Apologizing Sincerely when you make a Withdrawal


Activity Matrix

Urgent Not Urgent


  • Crises
  • Pressing Problems
  • Deadline-driven projects, meeting, preparations


  • Preparation
  • Prevention
  • Values clarification
  • Planning
  • Relationship building
  • True re-creation
  • Empowerment
Not Important


  • Interruptions, some phone calls
  • Some mail, some reports
  • Some meetings
  • Many proximate, pressing matters
  • Many popular activities


  • Trivia, busywork
  • Some phone calls
  • Time wasters
  • “Escape” activities
  • Irrelevant mail
  • Excessive TV


Introduction to the 7 Habits

Briefly, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, by Dr. Stephen Covey, are a framework to help plan your life. The Seven Habits, in conjunction with other concepts help provide a holistic way of looking at your life, values, roles, goals and relationships.

The Seven Habits are:

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin With the End in Mind.
  3. First Things First
  4. Think Win/Win
  5. Seek first to Understand, then to be Understood
  6. Synergy
  7. Sharpen the Saw

These habits provide us a process to move ourselves along the Maturity Continuum, starting with Dependence, moving to Independence, and finally, Interdependence.

Let’s take a short look at this. Starting with Habit 1, we have proactivity. Proactive is the state of mind that says, “I am responsible for my situation, or my response to it

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind. Where do you want to go? Not just today, but in the long haul.

Habit 3: First Things First. These are planning and execution. We want to expand, grow, and generally have fun.

Habit 4: Think Win/Win. I will not win at your expense. BUT … I will also not lose to satisfy you. I will not be hard-nosed, nor will I be a martyr!

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, THEN to be Understood. This order is not accidental. By taking the proactive stance of listening first, we allow the other party to express themselves, without them feeling they are competing with us for expression. Once they feel they are understood, then we have all the time in the world to express ourselves. They are ready to truly listen, as we truly listened to them. Now we have a real foundation for problem solving.

Habit 6: Synergy. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, or 1+1 is greater than 2. We utilize habits 4 and 5 to find a better answer to our situation, thus allowing both of us to get all we wanted and then some!

And finally, Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw. The habit of renewal and balance. Here is where we keep ourselves “sharp”. No just technically, but mentally, physically, and spiritually.