Why I build systems using Microsoft

by Bill Sempf 25. July 2007 12:11

I have a few very high profile (read: TV ads and NYSE listings) clients who are on me about solving their problems using Microsoft.  "LAMP ( Linux Apache MySql PHP ) is cheaper!", they say.

Well, they are wrong.  You have to consider cost of ownership, and that includes a lot of inputs.  This, which I have been following for years now, is just the latest.

PHP Security Team Member Resigns

Fact is, this story at Microsoft would have been reported by Brian Williams, probably from Seattle.  As it is, most everyone says 'What is PHP?' even if they do hear about the story.  They don't realize that many many high profile sites use this toy for an enterprise language.

You know, this is a big deal.  I'll get the rest of the information that makes this blog interesting and add it later.

One thing - this is not a condemnation of open source.  I love it, I participate, and I use it a lot.  Don't use it for enterprise applications unless you know exactly what you are doing.



by Bill Sempf 21. July 2007 12:27

I blogged earlier about an injury I received that has sidelined me. I am not pleased, but the fault is my own. I was practicing without focus.

Focus in the martial arts is particularly important. First, you must practice as you wish to perform. If you wish to be successful in saving your ass in a combat situation, you must absolutely be focused on winning. In order to know what that means, you must be focused in practice. Just like the kata must be felt to be understood, just like ukemei must be felt to be understood, just like torimei must be felt to be understood, focus must be felt to be understood.

Not surprisingly, focus is somewhat hard to describe - it is corollary to being felt to be understood, right? Focus is a matter of clearing your mind so that nothing exists except you and your uke. The samurai called it mushin - no mind. You are acting out of muscle memory.

Aah, but there is more than that. Even before you have the muscle memory, you must concentrate on a lot of other factors in order to learn the technique. That is not trivial. In order to accomplish it, you absolutely must not be thinking about being hungry, or your job, or your homework, or your wife, or your sore leg, or your gi, or the cute chick that joined class today, or the fact that your buddy missed class. Just the technique. Nothing else.

That in itself takes practice - which makes it even more of an important part of practice. (I mentioned that this is complicated.) I wasn't focused on my own ukemei, so I let me legs flop around, and one of them ended up under my tori's knee - which was exactly where it was supposed to be. Uke have responsibility for focus too.

So lesson learned. If you aren't able to focus, don't go to class. Or meditate before class and get that focus back. But don't ever, EVER practice without focus.


Personal | Ninjutsu


by Bill Sempf 17. July 2007 12:24

Unshinjutsu is the art of being invisible. It is usually studies in the literal sense: use of hensojustu to disguise oneself, or metsubushi to remove eyesight, or shinobi iri to not be noticed or whatever.

Today’s ninja has a lot more to worry about than someone seeing him where he shouldn’t be. Invisibility is now as much a matter of privacy as anything else. If someone searches for me name on line, they will get (hmm, let’s see…) 19,400 hits. My privacy is shot to hell because of what I do for a living. Invisibility matters even more for me than most because of this, so it has always been an interest of mine. Ninjutsu has renewed that interest.

We have been doing hensojutsu exercises in class, and they largely end with a bunch of guys sitting around giggling like high school girls. It’s hard to practice situational acting – it takes both knowledge and practice. In order to improve on this, I got Meisner On Acting from Amazon, and did a keyword search for Hensojutsu in Amazon.

On of the books I came across is turning out to be very interesting. It is How to be Invisible, by J.J. Luna, and it is very well – if somewhat spectacularly – written. He overstates some examples, but his ideas are just really well thought out and extremely well presented.
His first drive for invisibility is to erase your home address. Now, I am not going to tell you how he says to do it (go buy the book – sheesh!) but I can say this: it makes a lot of sense. Identity is a much more straightforward thing than we think. We are defined by our home address and phone number to a tremendous number of entities.

In the professional world, I am a computer professional with a specialty in the internet. I can say from personal experience that companies – both .com and brick and mortar – give privacy a lot of lip service while doing everything within the law to get as much information as possible. If an FBI agent walked into Target with a warrant, they could know practically everything important about you in a few minutes if you have ever shopped there at all. Trust me.

When you disconnect your address from your name your privacy – electronically and physically – increases dramatically. However, it means a dramatic change in personal habits. Like physical invisibility, which requires a large amount of observation of your environment, privacy will require you to think twice when just ordering a pizza. More take out, less delivery, folks.

Get Mr. Luna’s book and read it if you want to learn about today’s unshinjutsu. Privacy matters.

Tags: ,

Personal | Ninjutsu


by Bill Sempf 16. July 2007 12:26

Well I finally got hurt - took a falling knee to the side of my shin and have a hell of a welt there now. Leg injuries like this suck because they impact your walking and then your hips hurt, and then your back, and then your shoulders ... just terrible.

To treat initially, I just wrapped the contusion in gauze and soaked with Witch Hazel. This is quite effective - much more so than ice. Remember, ice is for dead people. The next day, I went to the health food store and got an Arnica compound over the counter, and some homeopathic trauma pills. So far it is pretty successful - I probably will only miss one class, and I am about 90% mobile.

I own a copy of A Tooth from the Tiger's Mouth: an excellent book about traditional Chinese medicine as it applies to sports injuries. That got me started on trauma liniment or Dit Da Jow (spelled a hundred ways) which is basically witch hazel with a bunch of herbs, steeped in alcohol. It is designed to prevent the pooling of blood in a contusion and it really works quite well.

I decided to make my own for the next time I am hurt, and did a little online research to find some recipes. Basically, there are three categories of herbs that are needed: pain reduction, blood flow stimulation, and blood clot reduction. They are soaked in vodka (not everclear, you need some water too) for a few months, then you are good to go. Here are a few of the recipes that I found:

American Die Du Jow

  • Alcohol (Vodka, Gin, Brandy - even Rubbing Alcohol) 1 or 2 quarts
  • Breadstraw
  • Calendula (Marigold)
  • Camomile
  • Comfrey (if you can still get it - you may have to grow your own if you want to add this)
  • Common Club Moss
  • Cow slip
  • Dandelion
  • Shepherd's Purse
  • Stinging Nettle
  • St. John's Wort
  • Wintergreen oil

Traditional Jow

  • 1 bottle of strong vodka, gin or Chinese rice wine
  • Artemesia (Liu ji nu) - 5g
  • Borneol (Bingpian) - 1g
  • Carthamus (Honghua) - 5g
  • Catechu (Ercha) - 8g
  • Cinnabar (Zhusha) - 5g
  • Cirsium (DaJi) - 1g
  • Dragon's Blood (Xuejie) - 30g
  • Mastic (Ruxiang) - 5g
  • Musk (Shexiang) - 1g
  • Myrrh (Moyao) - 5g
  • Pinellia (ShengBanXia) - 5g

Another simple one


  • Arnica blossoms (anti-inflamatory, pain relief)
  • Comfrey (anti-inflamatory, pain relief)
  • Blessed Thistle (blood purifier)
  • Goldenseal root (antibiotic, wound healing)
  • Ginger root (circulation, wound healing, pain relief)
  • Myrrh (antiseptic, circulation, wound healing)
  • Sasparilla root (blood purifier)
  • Witch Hazel (anti-inflamatory, pain relief)

Chinese formula


  • ru xiang, 12 grams
  • mo yao, 12 grams
  • chi shao, 12 grams
  • mu xiang, 12 grams
  • hong hua, 9 grams
  • tao ren, 9 grams
  • dang gui wei, 12 grams
  • pu huang, 12 grams
  • da huang tan, 9 grams
  • tian qi, 12 grams
  • xue ji, 9 grams
  • ding xiang, 9 grams

Remember, this formula is VERY TOXIC and should NEVER be taken internally or used on an open wound. You will end up in the emergency room if you screw up. If the skin is broken, and the bruise is deep, go to the doctor. It's just not worth being hurt for a long time.


Personal | Ninjutsu


by Bill Sempf 12. July 2007 12:24

Randori is compared by many to a chess match and I agree. There aren’t that many quick movements … belay that. There aren’t many fast movements. There is a difference between quick and fast. Quickness describes explosiveness – “quick off the blocks”. Fast implies time between decisions. You might drive fast (is 90 miles an hour) but you change lanes quickly. Get what I mean?

Anyway, in ground fighting fast movements aren’t a boon. When a pause comes in the action, taking a moment to think is of the utmost importance. What do I have? What are they giving me? What can I take? If I look ahead a move, what do I have?

My problem is essentially one of panic. When I am in that pause between moves, I hurry to grab what I can and squeeze. That has two problems. First, it tired me out very fast. Second, it is totally ineffective.

Those two do not a good combination make.

I defend quite well, really, because I am big and I am not afraid to put a hand in someone’s face to make them thing of something else. If my upper body is totally exhausted I can’t make use of either of those benefits. When you add in the ‘best defense is winning” bit, I really have one path – taking the time to look for the win.

What does that entail? Certainly I have to stop working mindlessly. When I am in the position of having a break in the action, I must do a mental inventory of actions. What joint can I use my weight on to make it go the way it doesn’t? What leverage do I have? Perhaps I should even work with some uke to give me the chance to try this.

The take home here is “it’s a chess match, not a race”. Take your time when the fight goes to the ground.


Personal | Ninjutsu


by Bill Sempf 2. July 2007 12:23

I am amidst a discussion at my club about the definition of genuine ninjutsu. You see, the bujinkan teaches a very well-defined, kata driven style or taijutsu that has by soke's own admission survived eventually unchanged since the eighteenth century. My club trains on a very modern style of taijutsu that looks a lot like a contemporary MMA match that broke out at a gymnastics meet. The reasoning for my club is that no one wears armor or throws lunge punches, so why train on them?

Well, I like that philosophy, so I train with my school, not the bujinkan school down the road. Why? Because I would rather get my history in books and be able to defend myself in a fight, than get my history in training and get my ass kicked. This is exactly how I see it too.
The bujinkan is trying - at least on the surface - to keep a historical art alive, and more power to them. Here's hoping that the history of the ninja is never lost. If it takes the bujinkan to keep it alive, so be it. Something has to.

However, the spirit of the ninja is to persevere. When a new threat emerges, it must be dealt with in its turn. When guns were introduced to Japan, the ninja embraced them. Today, people fight differently - heavily influenced by western boxing and easily carried knives. The ninja embraces these changes.

As such, we train for the new challenges, and allow the old ways to die. When we train metsubushi, we use pepper spray. Our intonjutsu looks a lot like parkour - embracing something that works. We have a ground game in our taijutsu because fighting occurs on the ground - honor is out the window, these days.

Are we less ninjutsu than the bujinkan schools? It could be said that we are more. I understand their point, though - there is a historical precedent and we are tromping on it. I firmly believe that we have a good reason, however, and I would put our curriculum up against any one's. I am glad I am studying this way - and I would like the bujinkan to see this for what it is and be pleased that the art continues to grow.


Personal | Ninjutsu

Husband. Father. Pentester. Secure software composer. Brewer. Lockpicker. Ninja. Insurrectionist. Lumberjack. All words that have been used to describe me recently. I help people write more secure software.

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