William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Category: Fun (page 1 of 128)

Two cannibals are eating a clown and one says to the other, “Does this taste funny to you?”

Happy 3000th Post!

Happy 3000th Post! I know just how you feel. Like it’s 30,000 posts. Still, I am glad you are here. But I have to ask: why are you here?

If you have to question the sanity of somebody who has read all 3,000 gems, most rough, some polished, and you do have to question it, imagine the queries we must put to the author of these precious stones.

What were you thinking?

I can’t remember.

What is your major malfunction?


“For that which I work, I understand not. For I do not that good which I will; but the evil which I hate, that I do. If then I do that which I will not, I consent to the law, that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that there dwelleth not in me, that is to say, in my flesh, that which is good. For to will, is present with me; but to accomplish that which is good, I find not. For the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do. Now if I do that which I will not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”

Also, the inability to keep my mouth shut.

What are some of the stranger things people have searched for such that search engines directed these people to your site?

“your cousin is seeing fashionable shoe from overseas.he has requested you to advertise these shoes write out the advertisement” (Buy these shoes, please), “boneless pork rectums” (this one is my fault), “does laverne cox still have male parts” (yes, he will always be a man), “how many geniuses are born each year” (almost none), “why aren’t marbles popular” (because people are addicted to devices), “objections to realism” (the world cannot be what you want it to be), “how does the brain tell the difference between good and bad music” (the former enhances the soul, the latter corrupts it), “calibrate porn” (every carpenter likes tight-fitting joints? or was this some sort of inveterate frequentist?), “can an untucked shirt be worn with corporate shoe without sock” (only at sea).

How do you write?

By binge. Many posts all at once, and then long fallow periods where I stare at the ceiling saying, “I should be writing something more lasting.”

But aren’t you working on other books?

Leave me alone. Oh, did you mean reading or writing other books?


Leave me alone.

Well, what about the podcasts? Didn’t I hear you were getting a camera to do real videos?

I can’t control what you hear.

If you don’t want to talk about what you should be doing, what do you want to talk about?

We could always fall back to the weather. Except even that has been politicized. Insanity. It is as if solar neutrinos suddenly became politically important, and you had nitwits running about moral signalling, saying idiotic things like “Tau neutrinos are more important than electron neutrinos.” Yet if you asked these morally upright folks just what a proton-proton chain reaction is they couldn’t answer. Substitute ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability’ for neutrinos and you get the same thing.

That’s a strong opinion. I already know not to get you going on gender ideology.

Feel free to ask. Hey, there really is such as thing as gender! Nouns, for instance, can be masculine, feminine and neuter, animate or inanimate. But people can only be male or female.

What’s your opinion about the burgeoning government bureaucracy?

It causes more misery than it does good. It will choke civilization to death. And nobody can stop it. Short of a military coup. Or perhaps a giant rock from space. Or our Lord’s parousia.

Let’s not be too gloomy. This is an anniversary, a time of celebration. What do recommend readers imbibe?

Torpedo ale from Sierra Nevada brewing. Delicious.

Speaking of beer, what can you tell me of the term session ale?

It’s asinine.

When cleaning a fish, should you scale or gut it first?

Gut it first. That way you can grab the now-empty space by the head for extra purchase. If you cut off the head, cut off the pectoral fins, too, where it’s difficult to remove scales. And then hold up the guts to terrorize the squeamish.

Which animal you have hunted that tastes unexpectedly delicious?


I understand you are fully independent. Do you accept donations?

Do I!

Thank you. I look forward to another 3,000 posts.

Yeah, but who’s going to write them?

Thoughts On One-Time Pads For Cell Phones

Best short description of one-time pads (OTPs) is from Jason Matthews, who is describing their use in the heyday of the cold war in the book Strangers on a Bridge by James B Donovan.

Before the advent of automatic enciphering technology, secure radio communications between an intelligence headquarters and its agents in the field were abetted by use of one-time pages (OTPs, sometimes referred to as “cut numbers”). These cipher pads were individual sheets of printed rows and columns of five-digit numerical groups. The pads were bound with rubberized adhesive on all fours sides, and normally printed small for concealment purposes.

A field agent would receive a shortwave radio broadcast from headquarters via one-way-voice link (OWVL.) These OWVL broadcasts consisted of a monotone female voice reading a series of recited numbers—an enciphered message. The agent would record the recited numbers in five-digit groups and subtract them on the correct OTP page. The resultant values would correspond to the 26 letters of the alphabet and reveal the message. Because each page of the OTP is randomly different and used only once, looking for patterns in cryptanalysis is futile. It is an unbreakable cipher…

Indeed it is unbreakable. Eat your heart of quantum cryptography! Because, in essence, every character in a OTP is separately encrypted, and each pad used only once, the code is impossible to break. I use impossible in its literal sense. No computer no matter how powerful running for any amount of time can decipher the message. That is to say, unless the “key” which generates the OTP can be discovered.

Since random means unknown, the “secret” to key generation is an unknown process. Here, of course, “quantum” events can be used, say, in the form of static of radios tuned to unused stations—as long as that static is atmospheric, or preferably extra-gallactic, in origin and thus unpredictable. Using any kind of “random number algorithm” produces, as all experts know, perfectly predictable, deterministic keys. (This, incidentally, is why in Uncertainty, I recommend against simulation methods.) Also, the device used to capture static must itself be as “noise-free” as possible, since known circuitry could generate predictable signals.

OTPs were used well after the advent of “automatic enciphering technology”. I recall in the early 80s listening on shortwave to “numbers broadcasts”, almost always in Spanish and male voices, in San Antonio. (Not only did I get my start in the Air Force in a cryptographic specialty, I was and am a “ham”; back then I was KA5YHN and am now K2JM.)

Shortwave broadcasts have the added benefit of disguising the intended receiver, which could be anybody with a radio and a length of wire. This is important to discourage “SIGINT“, or signals intelligence, which is the study of where, when, and how signals are sent. A surprising amount of information can be gathered about an encrypted message, even if the cipher is never broken, simply by paying attention to the transmission. SIGINT is called “meta data” with respect to your cell phone and computer messages, and that “secrets” about you can be discovered using it alone and ignoring the actual content of your phone calls and emails is why we don’t want the government, or other sources, evasedropping on our conversations.

Real OTPs must be destroyed immediately after use, or the cipher can be broken. They must be used only one time, or patterns will stick out like a Republican in an Anthropology department.

Now, with our hand-distractions, it is easy to store very large electronic OTPs (which can be used in encrypting text or digitized voice); it is even easy to generate keys, assuming the cautions about unpredictable generation are minded. The problem comes in swapping keys with recipients. You have a cell phone on which is the OTP App. How do you communicate this key to your friend? The key has to migrate from your device to his. It could do this via Bluetooth, but doing so exposes the key to the world. The device itself, unless it is well shielded against electronic emanations, can leak the key (this is called Tempest security). The key may be shifted to something like a thumb drive or SD chip, and then the chip inserted into your friend’s phone. The chip must then be destroyed, as in utterly, or otherwise rendered unreadable (perhaps by rewriting on it new unused keys many times).

This meeting between you and friend must take place. You can’t use an old key to transmit a new one, because with OTPs it’s digit-for-digit: compression of keys is impossible. Transmission of the key over the air or, say, internet exposes it. Anything short of a hand-to-hand swap exposes it. Since a meeting must take place, the usefulness of OTPs is limited. But very useful is absolute, unbreakable security is desired.

There are more problems, besides Tempest leakage. Suppose you are receiving the encrypted message from your friend, and decrypting on your device (ignoring electronic leakage, which is no small consideration). The device will still have the key and the plain-text message! Of course, this is no different a situation than the spy who sits in his room and has on hand the OTP and decrypted message. But a small piece of paper, or two, is easier to destroy and conceal than a cell phone.

This means the key must be self-destroying. As it is used, the places on the storage device must be re-written dynamically, and in such a way that no fine probing will ever reveal what was originally written. No easy task. And the same must happen to the message itself, after it is made use of. For voice communications, this is easy, because they’re (forgive me) in one ear and out the device. But texts (or emails, etc.) must be guarded more zealously.

OTPs are in use still on the internet, with otherwise innocuous web pages and images containing updated version of the five-number groups. Decrypting short messages can, and surely are, still processed by hand using paper OTPs. But long messages or other formats is not different than the two cell-phone case. Key swapping must still take place—as it did with paper OTPs, of course.

SIGINT for cell phones, and even web sites, is still a problem. Even thought the OTP App works as desired, your enemy will still know when you sent the message, where you were when it was sent, where your friend was when he received it, and how long that message was. That last item is perhaps the most revealing. So lucrative, if I can use this word, is this that stations have taken to swapping continuous messages so that outsiders never know when the real one starts and ends and how large the message was.

One last point about spoofing. A concern is that an enemy agent can inject numbers into the “code stream” which might mistakenly be taken to be real by the recipient. But unless the spoofer knows the key, and therefore hasn’t much need of spoofing, injection is immediately detectable. Which is also a boast of quantum-key cryptography. In that, incidentally, key swapping must still take place, though it is of a different form.

Conclusion? For cell phones, anyway, the whole thing is possible, and not even so difficult. The problems are signal leakage, lost phones, SIGINT and of course the key swapping. Just as with paper OTPs, we aren’t limited to only two phones, but an indefinite number in a network.

I always wanted to try this, but I am not a coder (though I code). The ideas are so obvious they must already be in use somewhere, but I’m too lazy to look them up.

Elephant Sausage & The Closing Of The Circus—A Reader Comments

I received the following email about my article that animals do not have “rights” (cut and pasted directly, though I removed an spurious HTML character).

Good afternoon, and just wanted to advise you BEORE you
comment on any IDEA, in the ANIMAL INDUSTRY, THE CIRCUS ANIMALS, for the FELD family, was strictly for PROFIT! Had you done your background, you would have known this. Your stupidity, sir, in your article, shows. You have NEVER, EVER, spent time in the presence of a LARGE ELEPHENT, under their care, in the BARNUM CIRCUS, as I have Witnessed, and PERHAPS, JUST PERHAPS, had your FKING EYES BEEN OPEN, IF YOU EVER HAD, POSSIBLY, YOU, after having to be CONSISTANTLY BEATEN FOR NO REASON, SCARED OUT OF YOUR MIND, POKED WITH TINES, and ELECTRCUTED, for no reason except the FELD FAMILY didn’t want to hire PROFESSIONAL PEOPLE, and then you have UNBELIEVABLE NO ACCOUNT PEOPLE working for them, THEY FEEL THE NEED TO UNLOAD ALL THEIR Uneducated PROBLEMS on the animals….so, I get PISSED AT PEOPLE EXACTLY LIKE YOU, on the other end, making uneducated comments, on NOTHING you
have any idea about. Peta made HISTORY, as they should have as it was the SADDEST SHOW ON EARTH should you ever feel the NEED to be treated as the animals they have in their care, I suggest strongly. go to them for a job…..you are their type. I hope to see in the future a more educated article on them and the YOU tube videos, should help in your research…YOU KNOW THE ONES?? They are the ones of THOUSANDS you must have not seen of BARNUMS being so kind to the animals, and I also strongly suggest, again, write a more informed article, and if you need more help, CONTACT my family, as we have fought to end this RIDICULOUS familys horror all our
lives……thank you for your time.

What I enjoyed most about this email is the mix of foul-mouthed apoplexy and politeness. It is not very unlike Yours Truly. Here is a person I can talk to, I thought.

Dear Barbara,

Well, when you say “IF YOU EVER HAD, POSSIBLY, YOU, after having to be CONSISTANTLY BEATEN FOR NO REASON, SCARED OUT OF YOUR MIND, POKED WITH TINES, and ELECTRCUTED, for no reason” you forget that I went through Basic Training (I don’t dare make a joke about marriage here). Anyway, these sorts of things are legitimate “lifestyle” choices for many these days. Fifty shades of poking and prodding. Don’t be so judgmental. Interests differ.

Some may be critical of your spelling. Not I. I love to pieces your neologism CONSISTANTLY, which is a creative and evocative pasting together of consistently and constantly. I shall use this word often, crediting you when I do.

I think you’re wrong that the Circus “was strictly for PROFIT!” If they had been making a profit, they’d still be making the elephants jump through flaming hoops on tiny tricycles, tug those giant ropes that make the tent poles rise, and providing endless buckets of fertilizer. The real mystery is what was done with this fertilizer. I suspect it was shipped to Washington and turned into regulations. Theories differ.

And I don’t think you’ve considered fully the harm caused by the closing of the circus. I mentioned some economic consequences in the original article. But think of the poor peanut farmers! And what about those unfortunate mice used to frighten the big beats to their hind legs? All thrown out of work! They were probably eaten by the stray cats that used to hook along behind the circus. Yes. Despite years of training and raising awareness by PETA, cats still eat meat. It’s a cruel world.

The next obvious question is: what happened to the elephants? I think they were sent to certain Texas ranches to be bred for meat. It is well known in Kenya, for example, that nothing beats elephant sausage roasted over an open flame. I myself prefer lion: elephant gives me gas. Tastes differ.

I take it kindly that “should you ever feel the NEED to be treated as the animals they have in their care, I suggest strongly. go to them for a job…..you are their type.” It was sweet of you to recall that I am always on the look out for paying work. Now I have been called a clown on this forum so often, that I feel sure I am well qualified for that position.

Alas, with the circus closing they won’t have a slot for me. Maybe I’ll apply at the slaughterhouses down San Anton’ way.

Yours sincerely,


All comments from new users go into the moderation queue. Other comments that are in moderation have run afoul of the (harsh) spam filters. They will be cleared about once per day by a person I engaged to manage the blog and email.

Breaking News Big sale on Uncertainty. Only $51.82. An exceptional bargain.

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