Monthly Archives: August 2015

When Rules Collide

In Odd Language #115: When Rules Collide, I wrote about a simple case of ordinary English rules causing trouble when applied to E-mail addresses. A simple hyphenation rule ends up creating an erroneous E-mail address.

Were that the only area where rules collide!

The world has many cases of a rule that makes sense within its own area causing trouble when it collide with a rule from another area.

I had an example of this nearly happening to me when I was getting set to attend university.

The dorm rules included that one had to pay one’s rent for the semester so many days before the start of the semester. This made sense, because they need to be able to get answers to people as to whether they have room for them for the semester.

My funding had a rule that they would not pay out any amounts until so many days before the start of the term. The made sense, because of people abusing the system in the past by getting lump sums and then never attending.

Unfortunately, the funding time was less than the dorm time. Fortunately, the dorm administration was flexible enough that if you had firm proof of your funding, they would accept that.

What if they did not, and someone had no other way to pay?

Something making sense in its own area is not enough for it to make sense in general.

Odd Language #115: When Rules Collide has, at its close, the following: “Hiawatha Bray can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.”

The issue: The text is broken up, on my system, as:
“Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hi- Follow him on Twitter
The dash at the end of the first line makes sense in ordinary English, but is quite incorrect for an E-mail address as the E-mail address does not contain a dash.

Puzzle #118: Logic Problem

Three students (Gordon, John, and Sue) each rent a different type of dwelling (apartment, dorm room, and house) and each have a different type of pet (cat, dog, and goldfish). From the clues below, determine who rents what and has what kind of pet.

1) John’s dog likes chasing the apartment dweller’s cat.
2) Gordon keeps his dorm room neat.
3) Cats and dogs are not allowed in a dorm room.

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, September 9, 2015 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Puzzle Solution #116: Puppies!

Spoiler Inside: Solution to Puzzle SelectShow


A company that I work for recently changed its name. I do not doubt that there were quite a few changes to be made to accommodate this: new signage, new letterhead, changes to promotional material, changes to names in bank accounts, and on. I got stung slightly on the bank account one, because on international transfers, the name gets checked and it must agree. Until they deal with this, my monthly payment will be delayed.

None of these changes are very big; it is the totality of it all that will get you. This is “Did I forget anything?” writ big.

So, how did the in-house client billing system that I support come out of this?

Quite well.

There were only a few places where hard-coding had to be replaced, and none of them were critical.

This is why, when writing a system, one should avoid hard-coding values that will supposedly never change. The company name had not changed in over twenty-five years, but that did not stop it from happening.

I was ready.

How will you do?

Odd Language #114: Dangerously Cheesy

FritoLay has a trademark they use with their Cheetos Puffs: “dangerously cheesy”.

The issue: Have a look at the definition of cheesy. Definition 1 fits what FritoLay was thinking – “of or like cheese: a cheesy aroma; a cheesy taste.” – but the second definition does not: “Slang. inferior or cheap; chintzy: The movie’s special effects are cheesy and unconvincing.“. What was the FritoLay marketing department thinking?

Puzzle #117: Luggage Combinations

Is your luggage combination 1234? There are jokes about that.

It would be a bad idea to select too obvious a combination, whatever that amounts to. We could make up all sorts of rules about what combinations are obvious. Limiting it to the following, how many supposedly unobvious combinations are left? It is too obvious if the combination:

1) has all the same digit or three of the same digit,
2) has two pairs of digits regardless of the order,
3) has the digits in ascending order or descending order, or
4) forms an obvious arithmetic equation. Examples of these are: 7815 (7 + 8 = 15), 1798 (17 – 9 = 8), 9654 (9 × 6 = 54), and lastly 8199 (81 ÷ 9 = 9). Consider leading zeroes so 2024 is out (2 + 02 = 4).

There are unobvious combinations, but how many?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, September 2, 2015 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Puzzle Solution #115: Kittens!

Spoiler Inside: Solution to Puzzle SelectShow


I like seeing things improve. Most people do. Unfortunately, in this hyped-up world, disruptive change is the rage. The latest technology is supposedly going to solve all of your problems. It rarely does anything of the sort.

Too many times, it is forgotten that many small things can make a big difference. Just because a company has gotten a sophisticated client management software package does not mean that the company should forget more mundane activities like making sure that the customer’s packages are securely packed and delivered on time.

Take a look at any complex activity that you are involved in. If you know it well, there are probably many things that could do with a bit of adjusting and you know it. A tweak here and a tweak there can result in a big difference.

I do inventory counting part-time. The scanners that we use have complex software. Over the last several months, I have been making notes on deficiencies that I see from my perspective as a user of the scanners. Few of these changes are very big, but combined, they could help make using the scanners more efficient.

What can you do in your area?