Uncommunicated Concerns

As one might expect, communication is something that I generally take pretty seriously. When people are able to effectively share ideas and concerns, good things can happen in a short amount of time. When ideas and concerns are kept vague and imprecise, however, negative outcomes are generally the rule. This latter situation is something I’m seeing with regards to a pen test1 that has recently been performed on one of my newer projects. I was told that “there are some issues” with the software that must be resolved before it can be used in the EU, but I’m not being given the report from the vendor nor even a hint at what the issues might be. Given the complexity involved with most modern software, problems can exist anywhere in the stack, not just with the stuff I coded.

All in all, I like seeing the results of hack attempts against my software. As techniques continue to evolve, it’s hard to know how an entity might try to gain access to a system and/or database. There are the classic methods such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting, and there are more complex methods such as attacking the web server with carefully crafted URL strings. Seeing first hand where my software is weak provides an excellent opportunity to not only improve the software2, but to examine how exploits are changing with time. Sure, it’s a bit frustrating at times to see a list of X-many things that need to be fixed, but the end result is positive.

Unfortunately, I’m not getting that list. What I am getting is delays and vague statements, which does nothing to solve the underlying issues.

Hopefully this is something that will be resolved in the coming week.

  1. As per Wikipedia, a penetration test, colloquially known as a pen test, is an authorized simulated cyber attack on a computer system, performed to evaluate the security of the system. The test is performed to identify both weaknesses (also referred to as vulnerabilities), including the potential for unauthorized parties to gain access to the system's features and data, as well as strengths, enabling a full risk assessment to be completed.
  2. Given how many of my projects are all built around the same core, an improvement in one results in improvements in many.

Who Has Time to Read Anymore?

Earlier today I enjoyed a short conversation with a neighbour who was sorting and organizing some old books for recycling day tomorrow. There were three boxes on the ground containing perhaps 50 books in each, and all were in pretty decent condition. Being perhaps a little too nosy, I asked why she was tossing so many books. Her reply intrigued me:

These belonged to my husband, but he'll never read them now1. As for me, I just don't have the time.

While I don't know my neighbour's exact age, she has got to be in her early 80s. Given how long Japanese women tend to live, she could have as many as two decades ahead of her. No time to read? Given my lack of delicacy when talking to people about mortality in Japanese2, I didn't want to dig too deep into her remark, but it does raise a bunch of questions.

Does she lead an incredibly active lifestyle? Does she spend a great deal of time on social media? Is she a weak reader, meaning a book might take her a year to complete? These are questions that I would think about if a young person were to say they didn't have time to read. It's interesting to turn it around for someone more than twice my age.

  1. He passed away last month two days before Christmas
  2. Twice I've had conversations on activities people might want to take up as they reach their 70s and 80s, and twice I've made terrible errors in speech that ruined the friendly chat. I'll hold off until my language skills improve.

Writing It Down

At least one new blog post has appeared on this site every day for the last 139 days. This repository of randomness started its existence just 4,486 days ago as a WordPress-powered site hosted from a Synology NAS sitting on top of a refrigerator1. This was at a time when I had ample opportunity to do just about anything I wanted as I was living in Vancouver and working just 10 hours a day. Despite the freedoms taken for granted in the past, though, I've never enjoyed a posting streak nearly as long as this one. How long will it continue?

Pen and Paper

There are a lot of benefits of getting words out of our head and stored in some other format, ideally a medium that requires the abstraction that is written language. We're forced to slow down, to put our thoughts in a more linear order, and (hopefully) to link ideas in a logical manner. The rigid rules involved with writing encourages us to rationalize what we record. Because we're generally unable to write at the same speed as we think, we're afforded an opportunity to consider different aspects of an idea. This is something that I greatly enjoy as it means there's a good chance I might learn something before the document is completely written, and learning is an ideal outcome from any exercise.

Which brings me to a topic that I've been thinking about quite a bit over the last few weeks as the boy is starting to do things I don't like with greater frequency. He's yelling when he doesn't get his way. He's learning how to push and shove. He's screaming his throat hoarse when it's time to leave the park. He's colouring on the walls. He's breaking his toys. The list goes on, but all of these issues boil down to a very generic reason: he's being a two year old.

As the boy's parent, it's my responsibility to make sure he doesn't grow up to be a jerk. This means employing some effective forms of discipline to encourage "proper" behaviour. This falls in line with Rule 5, after all: Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

When I was young, the most common pattern of discipline followed a "three strikes" rule where children would get two verbal warnings then a physical response. I've yet to (intentionally) hit my kid and have no plans on employing some of the more demanding physical punishments that I experienced. The question I have is whether words are enough to teach behaviour when the recipient of the lesson can't yet make sentences himself. In the last few weeks there have been some pretty interesting meltdowns where the boy, for whatever reason, will throw a temper tantrum with as many decibels and tears as his little body can muster. The most common response to this in Japan is for the parents to ignore the child, letting them burn through however much energy they wish to spend. This, in my mind, is the least effective way of teaching as very few people learn to master a skill by being shunned. Instead, I pick the boy up, put him on a chair while holding onto his arms, and speak to him like an adult. My voice goes from being soft to stern, and I use short sentences telling the boy why he's on the chair and what he needs to do to regain some freedom. Generally this works after a couple of minutes. Sometimes it can take half an hour. Mind you, time is relative, so half an hour for me is like an entire afternoon for him. Fortunately, I can wait.

Is this the right way?

Every child is different and different situations call for different types of discipline. If the boy were being violent to another person, I could certainly restrain him. Would I "hit back"? If the boy were older and throwing rocks off the nearby pedestrian bridge in an attempt to hit the passing cars, I could certainly restrain him. Would strong words and forced apologies to angry drivers be enough, or would I employ some other form of punishment? I do not want to be quite as physical with discipline as my parents were, but I don't want the boy to think that there aren't any consequences for poor behaviour. Future me knows that I'll make a bunch of mistakes while raising the next generation. Present Day me wants to make sure I don't make too many.

  1. And, just for giggles, it turns out that I'm 14,546 days old today. Who knew?

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