Solving the Microsoft Mahjong Classic Puzzle–January 9th

This particular puzzle was a bit of a b*tch. Despite being flagged easy, it takes quite a bit of time, largely due to the placement of a few tiles that requires a strategy that is a bit out of the norm. Here is my guide to solving the puzzle using the tranquility tile set. (If you are using another tile set, you can still use this post, but will have to go by position alone.

First, here is how it looks as you start.


To explain the solution, I need to do 2 things:

  1. Identify the tiles in shorthand
  2. Grid off the board

Identifying the Tiles

In Mahjong, there are a group of tiles that can only match an identical tile; these are 3 suits (wheels (or dots), bamboo (or sticks) and numbers (or cracks)). the four winds (north, south, each and west) and a set of three dragons (red, green and white).

There are also two suits in which you can match any of the tiles: Seasons (spring, summer, winter, fall) and flowers (plum, orchid, bamboo and mum).


The wheels are easy to identify. They have a dot or wheel. You count the number of wheels to determine the number of the tile. I label these with a lower case w after the number: 1w – 9w.


Bamboo is also easy, as you count the number of bamboo fronds. The exception is the 1 of bamboo, which looks like a bird. I label these with a lower b after the number: 1b – 9b.


Numbers are a bit different unless you read Chinese. Here is how to identify them. 1, 2 and 3 of numbers have 1, 2 and 3 vertical lines across the middle of the top of the tile. The 4 looks like an arabic W. 5 is the most complex symbol. It has an up and down stroke followed by what appears to be a lower case h with a cross at the top and underline. 6 is a stick figure without the body segment. 7 appears a bit like a t, 8 like a broken upside down v and 9 is like a cursive r. I label numbers with a lower case n: 1n – 9n. Some of the numbers are shown below.



Winds are easy to identify, as they have the initial of the wind direction in black in the upper left corner of the tile: N, S, E, W.


There are three dragons: red, green and white. The red dragon is a stick with a circle colored red. The green dragon appears like a green bush or a green flame. And the white dragon is a blue square. I have a red and blue dragon shown below, with the numbers all ready on the graphic:



Seasons are found on green tiles. You can match any season with any other season.




Gridding off the board

On this board, there are 5 rows from top to bottom, starting from the 2 of wheels (or dots) in the middle top. and ending with row5 which has a south wind on the far left side. I am going to label these rows 1 through 5.


There are 13 rows, which I label A through M. Leaving the rows in place, here are the columns.


Notice that some of the tiles, like the 2 of bamboo (2b) on row 4 (partially hidden by the West wind (Wwind). These are half columns, which I label by adding an X. In particular, this is column Ax. Here is a shot showing the rows and the half columns


And here is rows, columns and half columns.


Designating Position

To designate a position, I also need to indicate the level of the tile. On this board, the 4 tiles on row 4 (starting with a flower and ennding with the West wind are at level 4. The North wind located at 5-M is at level 2 (there is one tile underneath it.

My location designator consists of row, column and level, with hyphens in between. The North wind at the lower left, for example, is 5-M-2. I will add the tile name (or type in flowers or seasons) in front of the location. Here is a map of a few positions, so you can understand the system.



As pointed out on the Mahjong FaceBook page, you have to focus on the bottom row. This is normal when you are solving a Mahjong puzzle, as you should focus on three areas.

  1. long lines
  2. Tall stacks
  3. tiles that cover more than one tile

Not focusing on these areas is bad. This particular puzzle is a bit insidious as there are some tiles that only have one pair and are located under other tiles that have only one pair. This makes it hard to clear off the board. Here are the areas to look out for:

North on top of north

2 6 of bamboo (only pair of them in game) on top of row 5

Two white dragons on row 5 at level 2

Two red dragons on the bottom level of row 5:

The general strategy here (as mentioned on the Facebook page) is to start row 5, level 3 from the left side, then level 2 from the right side and level 1 from the left side. This is not 100% true, as you will see.

The first step is to start clearing row 5, level 3, from the left. There is a 5n here at 5-B-3. You can see another 5n under one of the flowers. The designation for clearing this tile, fitting the scheme is 5n 2-J-2 5-B-3. To get to this tile, you have to clear flowers, which are designated flowers 2-Ix-3 3-G-4.


You then continue on the left side of row 3 for 2 more moves. Here are the first four moves. Counter intuitive moves are marked with a starStar.

Move Tile Location 1 Location 2
1 flowers 2-Ix-3 4-G-3
2 5n 2-J-2 5-B-3
3 Star 1n 2-C-2 5-C-3
4 Wd 1-J-1 5-D-3

The 3rd move, above, is counter intuitive. You would think you should clear off 5-B-3 with 3-K-2, but I found this move makes the puzzle unsolvable. At the end of the three moves, you have a board that looks like this:

It should be clear enough how to use the moves table now. Here are the moves to clear off the rest of the top of row 5. Note that we will start from the left side now (purple), as we will with row 2 (blue). Also note this table has some rows that say ALL, followed by a number of pairs. This means clear everything of that type off the board.

Move Tile Location 1 Location 2
5 Nwind 4-H-4 5-M-2
6 Wwind ALL (3 pairs)  
9 Rd 4-F-3 4-I-4
10 4n 2-Hx-4 4-E-2
11 Swind ALL (2 pairs)  
13 EWind 3-I-4 5-k-3
14 9n 1-I-2 4-Bx-2
15 8n 3-B-3 4-Bx-1
16 4b 1-I-1 4-Ax-2
17 2w 2-Gx-3 4-G-3
18 3w ALL (2 pairs)  
20 7w 3-Ax-1 4-L-1
21 5b 1-H-1 3-I-3
22 Mug Nwind 2-G-2 5-I-3
23 4w 3-Ex-1 5-H-3
24 6w 2-F-1 2-K-1
25 5w 2-J-1 4-J-3
26 3b 4-I-3 5-G-3
27 1n 3-K-2 5-F-3
28 Wd 3-J-2 5-E-3

Move 22 (beer icon) is also critical, as there is a north on a north in position 2G (at level 2 and 1). Exchanging either of these north winds for the north wind at 4-G-2 At this point in time, the top of row 5 should be cleared, as shown below:

The next step is to clear off both row 4 and 5. Because of the 6 of bamboo (6b), you have to start row 5, level 2 from the right. Here are the steps to clear row 5, level 2 (purple) and much of row 4, level 2 (blue). 

Move Tile Location 1 Location 2
29 1b ALL (2 pairs)  
31 9w 3-G-3 4-G-3
32 Nwind 1-G-1 4-G-2
33 7b 5-K-1 5-L-2
34 Ewind 3-Kx-1 4-Ax-1
35 6n 2-A-2 3-G-2
36 2b 2-Hx-2 3-Jx-1
37 8b 3-Bx-1 3-I-2
38 Swind 3-H-2 4-H-2
39 1w 2-I-2 5-J-2
40 Seasons ALL (2 pairs)  
42 3n 4-J-2 5-H-2
43 9b 4-K-2 5-G-2
44 4n 3-G-2 5-F-2
45 Gd 2-H-2 5-E-2
46 6b 5-B-2 5-D-2
47 1w 3-Ix-1 5-C-2

Here is the board after these moves:

You should now be able to solve this without my help, but here are the moves.

Move Tile Location 1 Location 2
48 flower 2-H-1 5-B-1
49 2w 1-G-1 4-K-1
50 Gd 4-J-1 5-C-1
51 2n ALL (2 pairs)  
53 8w 4-H-1 5-E-1
54 3n 5-F-1 5-K-1
55 Rd 5-G-1 5-J-1
56 7n 5-H-1 5-I-1
57 3b 3-Hx-1 4-G-1
58 2b 2-A-1 3-Gx-1

Hope this helps.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld

Analyzing the Michael Brown Shooting

I got a chance to go through all of the witness testimony the grand jury released (minus any embedded in the Grand Jury transcripts). I did this to see whether this was a clear cut case of a police murder or something more justified.  Everything in here is taken from my notes, and I have linked numerous documents so you can read the originals. You can find the bulk of the documents linked from this page. You can also find the same on USA Today (which also includes public videos entered into evidence) and the New York Times site.


Below are a couple of maps of the area. The first was taken from the web and shows some locations. This is the map that gave me the idea to determine where people were.

And here is my graphic, taken from Google maps, with the locations of various witnesses marked (these are keyed by the same numbers shown in the post). NOTE: X in a box is where Michael Brown’s body was at the end of the altercation. The blue dot is where Officer Wilson’s car was stopped.



  • Numbers are color coded per the description in the next section. Red are those that appear to be false (either outright lying or recollecting from false testimony) and orange are suspect in at least part of the testimony.
  • I am not completely sure the order of witnesses 30, 34 and 40. Assume 30 to be closer as he states the cop was between him and the boy and 34 burned out, which would have been easier near the parking lot entrance. It is known both were in their approximate locations, just the ordering is suspect.
  • The exact positions of 38 and 45 are also unknown, so I have placed them near the dumpster.
  • Witness 44 started back a bit further and likely ended a bit closer than his marker, based on his testimony. The marker is an approximation of mid-point and good enough for this exercise (to see why examine discredited witnesses).
  • I have no clue which apartment witness 57 heard the shooting from or which stop sign witness 64 was at. There are no stop signs at any street where a witness would have visibility to the shooting, at least not on the current views on Google maps.
  • The question marks indicate where I think the witnesses were based more on testimony than their statement of location. In other words, they are educated guesses.
  • The phone symbol is where one of the videos was shot that appears to fit Wilson’s side of the story. There is also one from Piaget Crenshaw (witness 43 – correction on this; witness is male, Piaget’s location very close, however) and apparently one from witness 41, although I cannot find it.

Wilson Interview

NOTE: Prior to the incident, Wilson had gone to a call in the Sharondale apartments, northeast of the point of the altercation. This is on track 324, page 1 of the radio log. Wilson got a call of a “stealing” going on. The information on the suspect is on page 7 (track 358) of the radio log. On track 364, page 8, he puts himself back into service (10-8). He then asks 25 or 22 if they need assistance.

NOTE: The stealing info is interesting, as people have stated there is no way Wilson could have known about the shoplifting, as the owner had not called anything in.

Saw two black males walking down Canfield. He told them to get on the sidewalk and they said they were almost to their destination. He asked “but what’s wrong with the sidewalk” and they answered “fuck what you have to say”. Wilson then called in for backup (track 369, page 9) and backed up his vehicle. Officer 25 answers the call (log page 10, track 372).

After backing up about 10 feet, Wilson tries to open the door and Brown says “What the fuck you gonna do?” and shuts the door on him, leg out. He then tries to reopen the door, Brown says something, closes the door and starts punching through the window. The first blow is a glancing blow. Brown then hands the cigarillos to Johnson and hits him again. Wilson thinks of using his mace, but it is on the wrong side, so he grabs his gun and aims it at Brown, who puts his hand over the top of the gun and pushes it towards Wilson.

Wilson states a shot was fired in the car and Brown ran. He exits the vehicle, states “shots fired. Send me more cars”. Brown stopped, turned, made a grunting noise and the most aggressive face he had ever seen and then charged with his hands in his waistband. Wilson ordered him to stop and then fired multiple times. Wilson yelled at him to get on the ground again. Brown, still hand in waistband, charged Wilson, and Wilson fired until Brown went down. He was about 8-10 feet away at this time. He then called “send me every car we got and a supervisor”. About 15-20 seconds later, two marked cars show up and started blocking off everything.


Dorian Johnson Story

Dorian Johnson was the closest to Brown at the time of the initial contact.

August 9


Witness Interviews

These are taken in order of when they were interviewed. Closest to the event are usually more accurate, although this is not always the case. I have included markings to indicate which witnesses are not credible and explain the reasoning later.

* (asterisk)  is used to indicate a witness I find not credible. red is used to indicate a witness that is likely lying or recollecting things rather than going by actual observations (I believe 2 are outright lying, while 2 are filling in way too many gaps), while orange is suspect, used for a witness that has some useful details, but some that are not likely to be true (either filled in some how (recollected?) or added due to personal feelings). Some of the witnesses in these categories state the shooting was execution style, while other take the other extreme, and some are in the middle.

Same day as shooting

* Witness 16 (8/9/2014 2:19 PM and 9/11/2014): Located approximately 150 feet from the police car in a third floor apartment (assume this was also 2973 Canfield Court instead of building next door, as she could not see where Brown was in the street from the other building). She heard a “skirr”, or car “screech”  and looked out her bedroom window and saw Brown tussling with Wilson in the car. She then heard two shots, one which she assumes is the one that hit the building across the street, and saw officer Wilson get out of the car with a  red face, which she assumed was from anger. She then moves from the bedroom to the living room and sees Michael Brown coming towards Wilson with his hands up, at his shoulders, and then shooting him at 2-3 yards. Under a second interview with the FBI, she describes getting her purse, then walking to the living room, then goes and gets her cell phone so she can record the scene (she has a video after the shooting that can be viewed) and then has to open the blinds in the living room. She then admits it took too long to get back and she only saw the tussle and then Brown laying in the street.

* Witness 43 (8/9/2014 4:12 PM): In father’s apartment, upstairs.Not sure where this apartment is, as the description does not get into location. I believe this is Piaget Crenshaw. NOTE: She later mentions seeing Brown with his hands up, although that is missing from her initial testimony (she looked away) and she has a lot of details. Can confirm not Piaget from end of video.

She heard screaming from Brown as he was reaching into Wilson’s car. Wilson tried to taze Brown, but failed. He then pulled out his gun and tried to shoot Brown, but failed. Brown started running and he shot him in the back. She looked away, as she thought it was over, but then heard 4-5 more shots and went back to see Brown lying in the street.

Witness 12  (8/9/2014 (twice, first at 4:40 PM, second 4:45 PM), 8/13/2014 and at least 1 media interview): This is Michael Brady, based on testimony. Location, first floor at 2973 Canfield Court, approximately 150 feet from the police cruiser. He was located Heard an altercation and came to the window to see Brown and Wilson fighting through the window of the police cruiser (“arms goin’ through the window”). Heard 2 shots from in car and then Brown runs. Wilson then shoots two more shots (8/13/2014) or 6 shots (8/9/2014) or 3-4 shots (8/13/2014). Brown then turns around curled up and walks towards Wilson, with his hands “probably up” and Wilson shoots 3-4 more times (most interviews) or 4-5 times (MSNBC interview). Brady’s testimony is all over the place, but the main thread stays consistent. Later testimony seems more recollection than remembrance.

Witness 25 (8/9/2014 4:59 PM): In kitchen on phone when fiancée called him to the window. Saw Wilson waking after a running Brown shooting steadily at him. Brown then turned to Wilson and was shot 2-3 more times.

Witness 22 (8/9/2014 5:06 PM): Located in a third story apartment, not sure of exact location. Sleeping, but awakened by the first two shots (from inside the car?). Boyfriend told her to come to the window. Saw Brown grabbing stomach or side and Wilson just kept firing. Then saw Brown kneeling in the street with his hands up and Wilson shooting him 3 times.

Witness 32 (August 9, 2014 6:40 PM): In car right behind Wilson, about 10 feet behind, heading west on Canfield. Saw Brown and Johnson in the middle of the street walking towards. Wilson said something to him (assumed, not heard) and Brown tussled with him in the car and a shot rang out. Brown backed up and ran east on Canfield, past the witness, while Johnson tries to get in the car. Both Brown and Wilson pass by car and through rearview mirror sees Brown fall after 3 more shots. Then takes off quickly, driving partially over the grass.

Witness 40 (August 9th journal entry): Heading east on Canfield very close to scene (since states Johnson told him to leave after shooting, most likely either in front of or behind witness 34, putting him 5-15 feet from the police car). White person, evidenced by first line in journal entry stating “need to understand the black race better so I stop calling blacks n*******s and start calling them people.

Saw police car back up and almost hit Brown and Johnson. Brown hit the door and looked pissed. Saw Brown hit car door with belly (this fits Johnsons description of Wilson trying to open the door). Johnson hits mirror on police car. Saw Brown in the window and then saw Brown running. Wilson got out of car with his left hand on his face and right hand grabbing his gun. Wilson yelled something at Brown, although the witness could not hear it as other people were already yelling outside. Brown turned around at Wilson (“with attitude”) and started running at Wilson, head down, like a football player. Wilson shot 3 times, but Brown continued advancing. Wilson fired 2 more shots, and Brown backed up. Mentions Johnson told him to leave.

August (not same day)

Witness 10 (8/11/2014): Working in the building at 2973 Canfield Court – same building as witness 12 and 16); not sure of exact distance, as he was taking things in and out of the building (120-150 feet). Saw Brown wrestling with Wilson through the window of the car and a shot went off. Brown took off running (witness thought Wilson had been murdered). Brown turns and makes a movement and then starts charging Wilson. Wilson shoots 4-6 shots. Brown stops and Wilson stops firing. Brown then charges Wilson again and Wilson fires 4-5 more shots and Brown falls to the ground.

Witness 14 (8/12/2014 and 9/24/2014): Located in apartment that looks straight down Canfield towards West Florissant (same building as Witness 10, 12 & 16?). Saw two young men walking down street approached by police cruiser. Then saw Brown tussling with Wilson while he was still in the truck. Heard a shot and then saw Brown run 25-30 feet from the car. Wilson gets out about 3 seconds later and comes around car to passenger’s side. Yells “stop” at Brown. Brown takes 2-3 steps and was shot 2-3 times. Brown lifts hands to shoulder level (pleading?) with his palms out at his rib cage level, and continues to step forward. Wilson yells stop again and then “lets loose” on Brown.

Witness 30 (August 13, 2014): Was driving east on Canfield, heard 3-4 shots and saw Brown hit in the leg. Brown turned around and lifted at least one hand. Witness thought he had a gun. Wilson then shot Brown.

* Witness 35 (August 13, 2014): Located in 3rd floor window, nearest apartment building to Northwinds apartments (2909 Canfield Drive), which puts him more than 200 feet from where Brown ended up in the street and close to 300 feet from Wilson’s car. Witness self-described as Brown’s best friend and Johnson’s cousin. Says he was on the phone when the first shot rang out (missed fight in car). Ran to window and saw Brown on knees with blood rushing from shoulder or rib cage. He heard Brown tell Dorian to run for his life and then saw Wilson get out of his truck and shoot him in the head. At this time, Brown was no more than 5 feet from the police cruiser. Also mentions saw Brown shot 4 times, then heard him pleading for his life and saying “don’t shoot me”, heard 4 more shots as he ran downstairs to the scene. Stated Wilson shot his 10 times at close range.

* Witness 48 (8/14/2014, also phone call follow up): In the middle row of a van on Canfield turning left at a stop sign (had to be Coppercreek Road to be near a stop sign and able to see any of the altercation). This would put her at least 200 feet from the police car and farther from where Brown was shot. Heard 2 shots and then sees Brown run. Brown turns to Wilson and runs at him, hands balled up. Wilson yells stop at least three times. Wilson shoots three times, stops and then shoots Brown again.

Witness 46 (8/15/2014): In car heading east on Canfield. Pulled over for police car to pass, as he/she had an outstanding warrant for tickets. If the story is true (doubtful), he was right in front of the shooting location. He saw “two mens” talking to a cop (who just passed him not too long ago?). The boys were heading east, the cop was heading east. The cop then stuck his gun out the window and shot Brown, and ended up shooting about 2 shots. After the shooting stop, the witness got out of the car and asked Wilson if he could help and Wilson told him “get the f*ck on”.

* Witness 45 (8/16/2014): Was near the dumpster at 2973 Canfield Court (In front of Brady’s (witness 12) apartment), about 75-100 feet from police car. A police car with 2 officers approaches Brown and Johnson, drives off and then backs up and almost hits them. Brown then goes to the window “either to defend hisself or to give up”. Saw Wilson grab Brown by the collar and then the first shot rang out. Brown backed up with a blood spot on his shirt. Wilson fired the second shot as he started to run. Brown turns around and puts his arms up and Wilson guns him down. The second officer than gets out of the vehicle.

* Witness 44 (8/16/2014 and 9/25/2014): Walking on the south side of Canfield, near the leasing office. Approximately 150 feet from the police car. Saw Wilson back up the car, hitting Brown and Johnson and then Brown running around to the driver’s side of the car for about 15 seconds. Brown then fights Wilson through the window, while Johnson runs away. A shot rings out and Brown backs up and checks himself, and then runs away. The gun falls to the ground. Brown runs about 10-12 steps and then turns to face Wilson, who is now out of the car (number of steps changes a lot in the interviews). Brown puts his hands up  like “I’m done” or “arrest me” and Wilson shoots him 7 or 8 times, 6 of them while Brown is backing up.

* Witness 42 (8/16/20148/16/2014):: In apartment on Canfield (very close to shooting, so most likely 2943 or 2947 Canfield. This would put him somewhere between 30-50 feet of where Michael Brown was shot, although some of the scene would have been obstructed depending on which apartment he was in.

He was on the phone when he heard the first shot (in the car?). Saw Wilson running after Brown and then shoot him in the back. Brown turned around and threw his hands in the air. Wilson unloaded his gun in Brown’s direction, unknown number of shots (“it was gruesome”). Shooting started about 20 feet apart, but ended with an execution style shooting with Brown on his knees (less than an arm’s length) while Michael Brown was saying “don’t shoot”. While Brown on the ground, he continued to shoot the body.

* Witness 38 (8/16/2014): Was near the dumpster at 2973 Canfield Court (In front of Brady’s (witness 12) apartment), about 75-100 feet from police car. Saw Wilson talking to Brown and Johnson. They move on and Wilson puts the car in front of them. The witness continues to the dumpster, but hears two shots. Thought it was just a warning shot, but then he heard another 6-7 shots. Ducked down and when he came back up the police were on the scene putting out crime scene tape.

* Witness 37 (8/18/2014): Driving east on Canfield, near leasing office, 125-150 feet from police car. When he came on the scene he saw Wilson dragging Brown into the car by his shirt. Hears a shot and Brown breaks lose. Brown gets 10-15 feet, with Wilson shooting 3-4 shots from his vehicle. Brown then turns around and puts his hands up. Wilson then casually walks up to Brown and shoots him 203 times at point blank range. He then stands over the body and fires 203 shots into it while it is on the ground. In total, 10 shots were fired.

* Witness 41 (August 26, 2014, also here): On second floor “between buildings” in a building with the west side facing Copperfield, so it could only be 2973/2975 Canfield Court (Brady’s building) or 2977/2999 Canfield Court. After hearing the first two shots (from inside car?), the witness went to the lot. Saw Wilson get out of the car and shoot Brown execution style, while on knees at close range. Wilson fired 9 shots so fast the gun had to be a full automatic,which the witness thought was illegal for police use. In later testimony the witness mentioned he/she saw Brown from the back only and saw a bruise on Office Wilson’s face.


Witness 34 (9/3/2014): Located in car heading west on Canfield, very near the police car (10-20 feet). Saw Brown and Wilson tussling for about 2 minutes. Wilson was holding Brown’s shirt and Brown threw “a couple blows”. Wilson was leaning towards center console. Shot rang out and Brown ran. He ran about 203 car lengths and then placed his hand on a brown car (as if winded?). Wilson came out and seemed “shaken”. Saw Brown turn around and come at Wilson and he was shot a couple of time. The witness then took off quickly: “I turn around right there in front of the officer truck and I burn out”.


Witness 57 (11/6/2014): Located in apartment in area (not sure where, but it does not matter). Heard shot and then saw tussling in car. Thought it was over until other shots were fired. Got cell phone and went outside to record the scene.

Witness 62 (11/6/2014): Treated officer Wilson at NW Healthcare. Wilson came in complaining of jaw pain. Stated he was punched twice and requested x-rays of jaw to see if it was broken. Had redness in the area of his jaw and some bruising. Also had scratch marks on the back of his neck.

Witness 64 (11/11/2014): At stop sign when he/she heard 2 shots. Saw brown running and appeared to be hit by shot in legs or hip. Turns to Wilson with hands up at chest level. Wilson about 8 feet away when shot.

Other Documents

I have examined a few other documents:

  • Medical record has diagnosis reason 95909 (other/unspecified injury to the face and neck) and 78492 (jaw pain). The primary diagnosis code 920 (contusion of face/scalp/neck except eye). TRIAGE: Chief complaint “he needs x-rays he was hit in the face a couple of times”. MEDICAL SCREENING: Skin pink, dry and warm (evidence of injury). Pain index of 6 out of 10. Prescriptions: Naprosyn 500mg tablets, 20, for pain
  • Wilson’s drug screen – negative on all counts (also see this)
  • Brown’s drug screen – Positive for cannabinoids (DELTA-9-THC and 11-NOR-DELTA-9-THC-COOH in blood) and 11-HYDROXY-THC and 11-NOR-DELTA-THC-COOH in urine. I personally find this uninteresting, as it was marijuana, but you can draw your own conclusions.


Here are my thoughts on this, organized into different headings:


First there are some witnesses I find problems with. Some are major (I would think they are outright lying) and some are suspect, colored to belief system or similar (of some value, but should be taken with a grain of salt. I have stated why I think the witnesses should be discredited, for discussion.

Discredited witnesses – Either outright liar’s, as in the case of witness 46 and most likely witness 35, or someone who has pieced together so much it is difficult to accept any of the testimony at face value.

  • Witness 35 was too far to have heard anything Brown through a closed window (other witnesses closer to the scene did not hear anything said from either party. He also describes the shooting taking place next to the cruiser (within 5 feet) and the shooting at point blank range. Since the resting place of Brown was much farther and a point blank shooting would have left powder on more than just Brown’s hands, this does not fit the facts. He also would have missed the past 4 shots as he was heading downstairs and had no angle, so could not have seen the “don’t shoot” hands up when it happened. More than likely his grief over losing a friend caused him to make up most of his testimony. He is warned numerous times not to lie under oath.
    • Witness 44 describes being so blind he could not find his friends in his high school café without his glasses. Admits not wearing contact lenses or glasses on the day of the shooting. He is located about 150 feet from the police cruiser and farther from where Brown hit the ground. More than likely he saw a blur and filled in the story with what he heard talking to other people.
    • Witness 45 describes seeing two officers, so it is more likely he/she came up after the investigation started, which was shortly after the shooting took place (within minutes). The witness also describes blood on the shirt, after Wilson shot Brown from in the car.
    • There is no credibility whatsoever to witness 46’s statement. He has Brown and Johnson heading the wrong direction. He has the number of shots completely wrong. Has Wilson sticking his hand out the window to shoot Brown and then sets himself up as an attempted hero, where he is foiled by a cop telling him to “get the f*ck on”.

Suspect witnesses – may be something of value, but the story has evidence of coloring to fit a certain viewpoint.

  • Witness 16 admits she did not see anything beyond the altercation in the police cruiser, as she was retrieving her phone and purse and did not see the shooting. Her testimony on the screech is useful, as it corroborates the car backing up before the fight, as is the information about the volleys of shots (matches other witnesses). The description of anything beyond the altercation is recollection, filled in by other people’s stories.
  • Witness 37 describes an execution that could not have taken place based on physical evidence. About the only thing that can be taken at face value is there was a tussle in the car. He is also warned numerous times not to lie under oath.
  • Witness 40 is not suspect in his shading of whether Brown had “attitude”. For this reason, I cannot accept the “charging like a football player”, especially since there is only one other witness that has Brown running at Wilson (there are many saying he was advancing). The events, overall, match other witnesses, but the racial beginning of the journal entry suggests a bit of bias in how the scene was reported. It is also a personal journal and not witness testimony.
  • Witness 41 could not have seen much of the altercation from the second floor landing (examining angles on Google maps) and would not have seen Brown on the street on his knees once on the lot level, as there were cars in the way. The physical evidence refutes a close shooting and had the witness seen Brown from back only, would have never seen him on his knees, as he would have been. About the only thing I find interesting is the description of the bruises on Wilson’s face, but these would have had to have been witnessed later than at the time of the shooting, as it takes times for bruising to come up.
  • Witness 42 describes an execution style shooting at very close range, which is refuted by physical evidence. He also mentions Wilson finishing Brown off while he was lying face down in the street, which would not match any of the wounds. It is also clear, from the interview, that he knows about the media stories being told.
  • Witness 43 has embellished the story to include a taser, which Officer Wilson did not carry. This makes the rest of the testimony suspect. Since she did not witness the actual shooting, her testimony, beyond stating Wilson and Brown were struggling in the car, is rather useless.
  • Witness 48 was over 200 feet from the scene and in the middle row of a passenger van, making it hard to see everything that was going on. Also describes Brown charging Wilson, as did witness 40


Here is what happened, as best as I can piece together from witness testimony, with some weight towards those that I cannot find issues with on my first reading.

Michael Brown and Darian Johnson are walking down the middle of Canfield Court, heading east to Darian Johnson’s apartment on the third floor of 2909 Canfield Drive. We know Brown and Johnson were recently at the Ferguson Market and Liquor, located at 9101 W Florissant Avenue, where Brown shoplifted some cigars and pushed the owner when confronted. It is approximately 11:40 AM. on August 9, 2014.

Officer Darren Wilson is driving a Ferguson Police SUV west on Canfield, having left a domestic disturbance in the Northwinds apartments. He comes on the teens and tells them to get out of the middle of the road. Some witnesses (not included in the testimony) have stated he said “get the f*ck out of the road” or “get the f*ck on the sidewalk”. Wilson drives by the two and then one of them says something back to Wilson (this is assumed by some witnesses). Wilson backs up the truck quickly (creating a “screech” or “skirr” described by witness 16), pulling up next to Brown and Johnson and attempts to open the door. The door bumps Brown (Johnson’s testimony). Brown then starts fighting the officer. Wilson is leaning away from Brown, but holding onto his shirt. Brown hits Wilson at least 2 times (witness testimony as well as medical reports and testimony). Two shots then ring out (one that hits Brown on the thumb at minimum (autopsy), and one that hits a window or window frame across the street – 2964 Canfield Court).

Brown and Johnson then run. Johnson ducks behind a car driving west on Canfield after trying to get in to the car (witness 34) , while Brown continues down the middle of the street. Wilson gets out of the car shaken from being hit and heads after Brown, albeit a bit slower than Brown. He shoots at Brown at this time, more than likely causing the forearm wound.

Brown then turns and faces Wilson. Wilson tells him to stop but Brown advances. The speed of the advance is unclear. It is also unclear whether Brown advances and is shot and then advances and is shot again (two volleys) or Brown advances once and is shot. He has his hands up at chest or shoulder level, but it is unclear whether the hands are in a surrender position or balled up.

After the altercation, there is an onsite investigation, after which Wilson is taken to Northwest Healthcare with evidence of bruising on his face.

Additional bits

Here are some additional bits I have found.

Wilson’s Testimony

Here are some images that corroborate Wilson’s testimony.

NOTE: There is evidence of the fight in pictures (taken at NW Healthcare):

There is also evidence of a shot fired inside the car

here is another from the scene that shows the same piece sticking out

There is also forensic evidence of blood in the vehicle, as well as blood splatters

From one side of the body, he appears to have his hand in his waistband, as stated by Officer Wilson

From the other, his hand is out, so perhaps it was up, or up at chest level

Video of Scene

I find this one interesting, as it supports Wilson’s claim Brown rushed him (fast forward to 6:30 and start listening as one witness talks about Brown coming back at Wilson (after someone asks “why his body come this way though”)

Next thing I know he coming back towards unintelligible(?). The police had his gun drawn.

More repeated about 7:12 bout Brown coming at Wilson.


It is hard to drive a firm conclusion, as the testimony is all over the place. Here are things that are clear.

  1. Brown and Johnson were walking down the center of Canfield
  2. Wilson stopped and confronted them
  3. They walked off and Wilson backed up
  4. There was an altercation in the vehicle and Brown was in the vehicle at some point, not just with a hand around his throat outside the police car
  5. Brown struck Wilson at least once on the left cheek
  6. A shot was fired in the car that struck Brown
  7. Brown got clear and ran off
  8. Wilson pursued
  9. Brown turned to face Wilson before being fatally shot

Some witnesses state Brown rushed Wilson, per Wilson’s testimony, including one overheard on a video shot just after the event. Others state he had his hands up. It is obvious some witnesses have changed their stories over time, while others outright lied about events they saw.

Brown’s hand wound appears to be at close range as the official autopsy states there is particulate matter in the hand, indicating a shot at close range to the hand. Brown’s private autopsy does not have this finding, but states there is no stipple.

It is also  highly likely at least one shot hit Brown as he ran away (forearm), although those stating he had his hands up offer another potential story.

Robo-SPAM Recruiters

To try to weed through job SPAM (I get about 150 recruiter emails a day), I set up a rule in email to send them back an email.

I used the following ruleset:

  1. I only responded to emails marked with the urgent flag
  2. I only responded if the words in the subject had titles I knew were off target (like “entry level”, “mid level”, etc)

This is the email I sent (yes, it is probably a bit snarky):

Thank you for your interest in me filling your current job opportunity. You are receiving this email because your email was marked urgent and had certain words in it that do not fit my resume, like “entry level”, “mid level”, “developer”, “analyst”, “engineer” or “local only”. My current job position is senior architect who specializes in pre-sales, enterprise architectural assessments and new client setups. I have not worked as a developer for many years. I also do not work as a recruiter, so I cannot help you fill positions. If you could, can you adjust your response methodology and only send me positions that actually fit my resume or place me on your “do not call” list?

More than likely, you did a buzzword search on the job boards and emailed your position out to every single person who had the buzzword in their resume. If you received this email more than once, you did the same search on multiple boards and use the same mass email process on each.

If I find your position is of interest, I will send you a response to determine how we should proceed.

Peace and Grace,
Gregory A. Beamer

Here is one email that shows what is going on (not a major shocker):

Hi Gregory,

I am so sorry to disturb you for each and every position. As we are using some kind of third party software, it detects the resumes automatically and send our opening to everyone in the list. Unfortunately, we can’t remove/change your email from that list. But, you can Unsubscribe from that if you see a link in the bottom of the email. Thank you and have a great day. 

Thanks & Best Regards,


Technical Recruiter

So the crux is this

  1. They are using a third party software to copy and paste job requirements into the system
  2. The software automatically searches resumes for any buzzwords in the description
  3. Every time the resume search gets a hit, it automatically sends out an email (mail merge template) to everyone that has a hit
  4. The businesses that use the software cannot stop from SPAMming me
  5. In order to stop receiving these emails, I have to make the effort to unsubscribe from their list

#5 is the most telling, as I get around 150 emails a day, most of which have unsubscribe lists, from nearly as many companies. In order to stop receiving emails that incorrectly target me, I am the one having to make effort to stop them?

I know this Robo-SPAM is efficient, at least from the standpoint of reaching 10,000 people with a single click, but is it actually working? If TekShapers, Xchange Software and ZIllion Technologies (et al) did a study to determine whether it is actually working, would they answer yes? Is the damage to their reputation worth using software that sends out more incorrectly targeted emails than correctly targeted emails? Is the response rate high enough that it warrants such a lazy method of doing “business”?

Apparently they think so. I will never work with any of these guys. I thank “S” (name masked above) for actually taking a bit of time to respond to me. Of the more than 1000 jobs responded to with my auto replier, less than a dozen have actually contacted me back, primarily asking for my resume and some type of email explaining what exactly I would like to do for a living. The rest are in the vegans in a grocery store and I am a slab of meat.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld

How to be an Amateur IT Recruiter

I have received more than 350 emails over the past 2 days with job opportunities. While this sounds great (I am in demand?), most simply show the hallmarks of a amateur recruiter.

As a service to those desiring to be amateur recruiters, as opposed to professional recruiters, I offer the following guide to help you in your quest. Please include each of the following in your daily habits.

Email Basics

The first thing you have to master is email basics.

1. Mark Every Job Opportunity Email as Urgent

Contemporary wisdom says people pay attention to urgent emails more than non-urgent ones, so make sure you mark your email as urgent. True, nothing in your email is really urgent to the recipient (me? other IT professionals?), but who cares. This is not about me, it is about you. The only possible kink in this plan is other people might also be marking their job opportunities as urgent. Let’s look at a picture of my inbox job folder:


Wow, 100% of the job folder is marked Urgent. My suggestion is to unlock the secret “super urgent” button in your mail client and use it so I really know your email is urgent … to you.

You should also bear in mind that adding words like “Immediate need” add more punch.

2. Search By Buzzwords

There is no better way to reach masses of IT professionals and simply scream “I don’t know what the hell I am doing” like firing off job emails based on buzzwords. When I get a $10 an hour support tech email, I am thrilled at the opportunity to increase my stress level at a thankless job that pays a piddly fraction of what I am making now.

And while you are at it do the same blind search on multiple job boards using their massive Spam email generator to generate thousands of emails in a single keystroke. Efficiency at its best.

3. Send Multiple Emails To the Same Person

Nothing wastes more time than making sure you are not sending out multiple responses. Why take more than a few minutes to complete your entire day’s worth of work. Peruse multiple job boards and send out emails using the same buzzword. Sure, about 95% of your list just got multiple emails and knows you are a lazy moron, but perhaps you reach a handful that are only on one board.


The blessing here is you not only show me you have no attention to detail, but you show me I am just a piece of meat to you, completely invalidating my existence. Yes, I want you to be my recruiter, as I like feeling like I am nothing.

4. Bold and Highlight Lots of Sh*t in the Email

Sometimes when I am reading an email, I miss the important stuff, so make sure you not only bold it, but you highlight it as well. Otherwise, I might send in a resume for this VB6 position that pays nothing, in a state far away from my home. Thank God Abhilasha bolded and highlighted Perforce, or I might have done something dumb like send my resume in for the job. Whew! Dodged that bullet.


Even better, bold and highlight the entire email.


Or if you really want to annoy people highlight and use red bolding.


Bonus points to Calvin since I have never worked on a criminal justice application and that is a required skill.

7. Copy and Paste the Entire Email from the Client or Account Manager

Why take time to edit stuff out of the email before sending it out. That takes time and time is money. Let the candidate see how truly lazy you are by including stuff that makes absolutely no sense to the recipient.


Yes, that one is at the top of a job email.

8. Send Out Emails to People Who Fail an Absolute MUST qualification

For example, let’s say you have a job for a person that must be local to Florida. Send it out to everyone. There are bound to be a few people that are ACTUALLY FROM FLORIDA (CAPPED in response to the email).


This particular email really took the cake as it was a complete forward (see #7).

Make The Candidate Do the Work for You

Why actually interview people when you can have them send you all the interview details to


This is a simpler one. Some have dozens of questions that have to be filled out.

Phone Basics

It is not enough to reach the coveted complete amateur title without having amateur phone skills. Here are a few things that can help you in this regard.

1. Show You are Using a Very Old Resume

I, like many people I know, no longer include a home phone on my resume. In fact, I have not included the home phone for about 6 years. When you call me on my home phone, it pretty much says “I don’t have your latest information” and “you are just a slab of meat to me”.

2. Ignore The Candidate’s Requirements

Your job is to convince the candidate to take the job no matter what. Don’t let things like “I currently make twice the max you are offering for this position” deter you from suggesting how much of a “great place to work” it is. If you can keep the candidate talking, maybe he will work for minimum wage.

It should also be of no importance that the candidate states “I do not want to move to Siberia”. If the position is in Siberia, then your job is to keep hounding them until they decide to take up. As long as they are still listening to you, you have a chance, right?

3. Insult Their Spouse

Since your culture devalues women, there is no reason to be polite to an IT candidates wife.

4. Be Demanding

Just because the candidate stated they are busy is of no consequence. Demand they take your call NOW and treat them like the meat slab they are.

5. Call Numerous Times

This is a two parter. In the first part, hang up and call back when you get their answering machine. Many candidates will screen the call until you irritate the crap out of them. In the second, if a candidate states “send me the job requirement and I will look at it later”, call them back every half hour until they convince you they really aren’t interested. Do this even if you get an email stating they are not interested and repeat #2 above.

6. Illustrate You Have Not Read the Resume

Nothing states you are working towards a complete dufus award than asking me a question about an item that appears prominently on my resume. Bonus points if it is both prominent and sits at the top of my resume.


While much of this is tongue in cheek it still amazes me how many think recruiting is simply a matter of finding slabs of meat and sending them to a processing plant. Considering recruiting companies, even subcontracting recruiting companies, can make a good amount with candidates, you would think we would have more professionals out there.

The reason there is a problem is very simple. IT, especially on the development side, has been a seller’s market for over 10 years. This has led to the worst developer on the team making more than 90K (or $50+/hour consulting), but it has also made it somewhat profitable to be lazy as hell and do bare minimum when it comes to recruiting.

There are plenty of professionals out there, and I know quite a few locally. But my inbox is routinely filled up with the amateur yo-yos.

In the next few days, I will show you my method of combatting the yo you farm.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld

74 “School Shootings” since Sandy Hook. Really?

I saw a posting from the Examiner posted that school shootings are on the rise. Here is their chart:


When I see a chart this far out of skew, I start to wonder. Are the numbers being charted the same as previous numbers. In other words, what are we calling a school shooting?

I also saw this article that stated there were 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook. You can also see a map in the Washington Post.“Of the shootings, 35 took place at a college or university, while 39 took place in K-12 schools”. This is even more dramatic, as the Examiner only stated there were 7 “school shootings” last year.

Here is the table from the link that posted there were 74 school shootings.





School Name

School Type

1. 1/08/2013 Fort Myers FL Apostolic Revival Center Christian School K-12
2. 1/10/2013 Taft CA Taft Union High School K-12
3. 1/15/2013 St. Louis MO Stevens Institute of Business & Arts College/University
4. 1/15/2013 Hazard KY Hazard Community and Technical College College/University
5. 1/16/2013 Chicago IL Chicago State University College/University
6. 1/22/2013
Houston TX Lone Star College North Harris Campus College/University
7. 1/31/2013 Atlanta GA Price Middle School K-12
8. 2/1/2013 Atlanta GA Morehouse College College/University
9. 2/7/2013 Fort Pierce FL Indian River St. College College/University
10. 2/13/2013 San Leandro CA Hillside Elementary School K-12
11. 2/27/2013 Atlanta GA Henry W. Grady HS K-12
12. 3/18/2013 Orlando FL University of Central Florida College/University
13. 3/21/2013 Southgate MI Davidson Middle School K-12
14. 4/12/2013 Christianburg VA New River Community College College/University
15. 4/13/2013 Elizabeth City NC Elizabeth City State University College/University
16. 4/15/2013 Grambling LA Grambling State University College/University
17. 4/16/2013 Tuscaloosa AL Stillman College College/University
18. 4/29/2013 Cincinnati OH La Salle High School K-12
19. 6/7/2013 Santa Monica CA Santa Monica College College/University
20. 6/19/2013 W. Palm Beach FL Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts K-12
21. 8/15/2013 Clarksville TN Northwest High School K-12
22. 8/20/2013 Decatur GA Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy K-12
23. 8/22/2013 Memphis TN Westside Elementary School K-12
24. 8/23/2013 Sardis MS North Panola High School K-12
25. 8/30/2013 Winston-Salem NC Carver High School K-12
26. 9/21/2013 Savannah GA Savannah State University College/University
27. 9/28/2013 Gray ME New Gloucester High School K-12
28. 10/4/2013 Pine Hills FL Agape Christian Academy K-12
29. 10/15/2013 Austin TX Lanier High School K-12
30. 10/21/2013 Sparks NV Sparks Middle School K-12
31. 11/1/2013 Algona IA Algona High/Middle School K-12
32. 11/2/2013 Greensboro NC North Carolina A&T State University College/University
33. 11/3/2013 Stone Mountain GA Stephenson High School K-12
34. 11/21/2013 Rapid City SD South Dakota School of Mines & Technology College/University
35. 12/4/2013 Winter Garden FL West Orange High School K-12
36. 12/13/2013 Arapahoe County CO Arapahoe High School K-12
37. 12/19/2013 Fresno CA Edison High School K-12
38. 1/9/2014 Jackson TN Liberty Technology Magnet HS K-12
39. 1/14/2014 Roswell NM Berrendo Middle School K-12
40. 1/15/2014 Lancaster PA Martin Luther King Jr. ES K-12
41. 1/17/2014 Philadelphia PA Delaware Valley Charter HS K-12
42. 1/20/2014 Chester PA Widener University College/University
43. 1/21/2014 West Lafayette IN Purdue University College/University
44. 1/24/2014 Orangeburg SC South Carolina State University College/University
45. 1/28/2014 Nashville TN Tennessee State University College/University
46. 1/28/2014 Grambling LA Grambling State University College/University
47. 1/30/2014 Palm Bay FL Eastern Florida State College College/University
48. 1/31/2014 Phoenix AZ Cesar Chavez High School K-12
49. 1/31/2014 Des Moines IA North High School K-12
50. 2/7/2014 Bend OR Bend High School K-12
51. 2/10/2014 Salisbury NC Salisbury High School K-12
52. 2/11/2014 Lyndhurst OH Brush High School K-12
53. 2/12/2014 Jackson TN Union University College/University
54. 2/20/2014 Raytown MO Raytown Success Academy K-12
55. 3/2/2014 Westminster MD McDaniel College College/University
56. 3/7/2014 Tallulah LA Madison High School K-12
57. 3/8/2014 Oshkosh WI University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh College/University
58. 3/21/2014 Newark DE University of Delaware College/University
59. 3/30/2014 Savannah GA Savannah State University College/University
60. 4/3/2014 Kent OH Kent State University College/University
61. 4/7/2014 Roswell NM Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell College/University
62. 4/11/2014 Detroit MI East English Village Preparatory Academy K-12
63. 4/21/2014 Griffith IN St. Mary Catholic School K-12
64. 4/21/2014 Provo UT Provo High School K-12
65. 4/26/2014 Council Bluffs IA Iowa Western Community College College/University
66. 5/2/2014 Milwaukee WI Marquette University College/University
67. 5/3/2014 Everett WA Horizon Elementary School K-12
68. 5/4/2014 Augusta GA Paine College College/University
69. 5/5/2014 Augusta GA Paine College College/University
70. 5/8/2014 Georgetown KY Georgetown College College/University
71. 5/8/2014 Lawrenceville GA Georgia Gwinnett College College/University
72. 5/21/2014 Milwaukee WI Clark Street School K-12
73. 6/5/2014 Seattle WA Seattle Pacific University College/University
74. 6/10/2014 Troutdale OR Reynolds High School K-12

Here is a map for those who are visual.



I am not one to take something at face value simply because someone states it, so I Googled each of the “school shootings” above.

Before starting with my findings, you have to cross off either #68 or #69 on the list, as there were not two shootings in two consecutive days at Paine College. You should only count one of the incidents, as there was only one incident. That leaves us with 73 incidents to investigate.

Of the shootings mentioned, at least 5 did not even occur on a school campus at all. Here is the list:

There is also a shooting that took place in a mall that houses a community college in addition to other tenants. Not technically a school shooting. This takes us down to a maximum of 67 “incidents” that took place on a school campus.

The next thing we have to do is define what a “school shooting” means. Does it mean a madman hunting down students only? Do we include gang related offenses or disputes, in which a specific person was targeted and just happened to be shot on campus. Do we including incidents in school parking lots that are not related to the school at all (including a mother gunned down by her estranged husband after dropping off kids and a gunman escaping police who had a shoot out at a community college)? And do you include self-defense shootings, like the teacher shooting non-student assailants at Martin Luther King Jr Elementary School)? And what about things happening on a school yard after hours? Are these all “school shooting”? I would venture a no on most, if not all of these. Your mileage may vary.

Here is a listing of the shootings that are probably not what you would normally call a “school shooting”, by category:

Description Number Dead Gunmen dead Wounded
Off campus (non-school shooting) 6 6 1 3
Parking Lot 26 11 0 15
Suicides 8 8 0 8
Drug Related Shootings 2 2 0 1
Gang Shootings 2 0 0 2
Robberies 5 1 0 6
Self Defense Shootings 2 1 1 2
Accidental discharge 4 0 0 2
Fights/Disputes 34 16 2 22
Student with Gun, no shots fired 1 0 0 0
Shot by rifle from long distance 1 0 0 1

Now, let’s look at incidents that might be called a school shooting. First the targeted shootings.

And, finally, the mass murder type of shootings like Sandy Hook:

  • Shooting #19: Six people killed (including the gunman). June 7, 2013, shooter kills his brother and father and then goes to Santa Monica college where he has a shootout with police in the library.  Six dead (including the gunman), four injured. Three of the dead (including the gunman) died on the campus.
  • Shooting #73: 1 person killed and two wounded. Shooter stopped by pepper spray while reloading his handgun.

NOTE: I am not going to glorify the shooters by calling them anything other than shooters.


Here is how things stack up:

  • Incidents: 73
  • Incidents with injuries or death: 65
  • Incidents that should be excluded
    • Incidents completely off campus: 6
    • Incidents in parking lots: 26
    • Robbery incidents: 5
    • Fight/Dispute incidents: 34
    • Suicides: 8
    • Accidental discharge: 4
    • Gun on campus, no shooting: 1
    • Self-defense shootings: 2
  • Incidents not Classified in above: 6 (including Reynold’s High School yesterday)
  • Incidents with mass shooters and random targets: 2 (only 1 targeting a school at start)

  • Looking at the list, we had 6 incidents in the last year and a half that we might classify as a “school shooting” (person comes to school with intent to harm, especially if shooting random victims) . This is close to the Examiner’s numbers. Of those, there are only 2 that could have been like a Sandy Hook (although both were at Universities and the shooters were stopped or killed rather quickly).

Is school shooting on the rise in 2013? If you look at Wikipedia, you see the following on incidents:


Incidents Deaths Injuries
1999 5 16 33
2000 4 4 2
2001 4 3 19
2002 3 4 3
2003 3 5 2
2004 4 1 5
2005 3 11 10
2006 6 10 8
2007 4 36 29
2008 9 15 27
2009 7 2 13
2010 10 14 21
2011 14 50 31
2012 31 25 33
2013 31 19 38

The problem is the Wikipedia table suffers from the same problem as the earlier arguments, or same two problems:

  1. Some incidents that are not “school shootings”, including some that happen at night, incidents in parking lots, fights and some incidents not even on school property, show up in the list.
  2. The data set is incomplete, as you can only find what is searchable on the Internet. You will naturally find more “incidents” this year, as the media is quick to call something a school shooting and is more apt to report on every “incident”.

But it does provide a completely different chart than the Examiner:


What I like here is the fact the chart is all over the board shows how sporadic the data is and strongly suggests the data set is more and more incomplete as we move back in time. It also shows spikes when mass murder school incidents have happened and illustrates how rare they really are.


Here is how I look at this.

  1. It is tragic when people are killed. Especially tragic when it is children and even more so when it is Elementary School children.
  2. The number of ‘’”incidents” may be on the rise, but, if so, it is only slightly. The majority of press on “rising incidents” uses “incidents” we would not normally classify as a “school shooting” (like man killed in a school parking lot at 2 AM after altercation). NOTE: This does not mean we should not do anything about it, but we should be sensible and not panic and knee jerk into another stupid direction.
  3. The number of mass murder type incidents is not on the rise. These, like Columbine and Sandy Hook, are the ones that should really scare us, as they are individuals intent on causing a huge amount of harm to innocent victims.

If we objectively look at the ‘’”problem”, we should notice that our children are not in real danger. School shootings are extremely rare incidents. When there is a school shooting, it is normally individuals targeting people they dislike for some reason, including bullying, gangs, bad grades, etc. In these instances, like any other assault or murder, it is an issue between two people and not some mass murdering clown.

As for the list that started the topic, I find it to be an unscientific bit of tripe. At best, it is an emotional argument crated by someone trying to show his emotions are justified. At worst, it is a bold faced lie. You decide.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld

Why Develop Using Gherkin?

I was having a conversation with David Lazar in the services wing of UST Global (my current company). During the conversation, we started talking about using SpecFlow and I detailed how I used Gherkin with SpecFlow to create a “paint by numbers” kit to drive offshore development.

As I sat and thought about it, I was reminded of a question someone once asked me about breaking down requirements which led to the question “why gherkin?” At the time, I am sure I came up with a clever tactical answer to the question, but now that I think about it more, the question is both tactical and strategic in nature.

To understand this, let’s look at specifics on how I break down requirements with me teams, when I am given some leeway on how the requirements get broken down.

Setting Up the Problem

I am going to start with the assumption that the requirements documents suck. I know this is not always the case, but I find it more likely than not that the requirements are insufficient to get the job done. This has led many company managers to the belief that there is something inherently wrong with offshoring, but the real problem is not so much where the work is being done, but the definition. Let me rathole for a second to explain this.

Company A sends work offshore and it comes back with less than stellar results. When the same work is sent inside the building, the results are much better. So, there is an assumption that it works onshore but not offshore.

But I will contend it IS NOT working onshore either. Things are still getting broken, but the feedback loop is generally much shorter as the business owner can walk over to the development pit and say “what were you thinking?” All of these trips are forgotten when comparing offshore to onshore. In addition, the employees have greater domain knowledge than the offshore team, which reduces the problem domain.

Let’s take this a step farther and compare onshore contracting to offshore. We now have less domain knowledge than employees, unless we are paying top dollar. We still have a short feedback loop, however, so this seems superior.

ASIDE: I have built and led teams in various countries and each has its challenges, As India oft ends up the whipping boy, let’s look at India. In Indian culture, there is a push to get to a higher level title. For this reason, you rarely see very senior resources. The bulk of any team will be somewhere between Freshers (fresh out of college, less than 1 year experience) to Senior Developer (approximately 5 years, maybe 7), with much of the team in the 1-3 years experience range. This is part of why the rates are so low, but it is a trade off. With lower levels of experience, you need more firm requirements.

The point here is the problem is not necessary offshore, it is just exacerbated. Let’s look at an example:

Requirement: At Elite Last Minute travel, a successful flight out is described as:

  1. Client is picked up at home in a limo
  2. Client is delivered to airport and given all pertinent documents by the travel consultant
  3. Client’s luggage is checked into his flight
  4. Client is escorted to the plane
  5. Client is flown to destination
  6. Client is met at destination by a limo
  7. Client is driven to hotel and checked in

Pretty straightforward, right? But what if the client wants to see the Lincoln Memorial (Washington DC) and is flown to Miami, Florida and checked into a hotel there. By the requirements, this would constitute a successful flight out.

This example is a bit on the absurd side, as it seems any idiot should know that the destination is part of the equation for success. But consider this: Once we gain tribal knowledge in a domain, we start to assume it is self-evident, as well. Unfortunately, it is not. Add culture changes into the mix and you might find the assumption leads to disaster.

Breaking down Requirements – Defining Done

The first step we have to go through is breaking down requirements to make sure done is properly defined. Let’s start with a simple requirement:

3.1 Multiplication
All multiplication in the system must return the correct answer

In an Agile environment, this is generally started by stating each requirement in terms of the user:

As an math idiot, I would like to have multiplication done for me, so I can look like a genius

Neither of these defines done, however, without the assumption the coder fully understands multiplication. To fully define done, we need to look at what some of the rules of multiplication are, Let’s say we start with the following:

  1. Multiplying two numbers is equivalent of the sum of the first number added to itself the number of times represented by the second number (okay, my ENglish sucks here, as this is on the fly)
    Example: 5 * 5 = 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 (there are five 5s in the additional side of the equation)
    Example 2: 2 *2 = 2 + 2 (there are two 2s in the additional side of the equation)
    Example: 5 * 2 = 5 + 5 (there are two 5s in the addition side of the equation)
    Example: 2 * 5 = 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 (there are five 2s in the addition side of the
  2. Multiplying any number times 0 results in zero (makes sense as the addition side would have zero {number value}s)
  3. Multiplying any number times 1 results in the number (also makes sense, as there is only one of the number in the “loop”)
  4. Multiplying any number other than 1 or 0 times the maximum value of an integer results in an error

This is not the complete rule set, but we can now break the problem down by these rules. I find the easiest way is to set up an Excel spreadsheet with inputs and outputs. For the above, I would use something like this:

Input A Input B Output
5 5 25
2 2 4
5 2 10
2 5 10
5 1 5
2 1 2
1 5 5
1 2 2
5 0 0
2 0 0
0 5 0
0 2 0
0 MAX 0
MAX 0 0

Done is now much better defined. If we take our previous example, we can break down the additional clarification too). NOTE: The actual inputs and outputs are more complex and then get separated out based on the unit being tested.

Input (Desired Attraction) Output (Destination City)
Lincoln Memorial Washington DC
Disney World Orlando
Grand Canyon Flagstaff

If you have not caught this, we are creating acceptance criteria. It is one way of “defining done”.

But What About Gherkin

Gherkin is a language that helps us use the acceptance above. If each line represents a single criteria in the acceptance matrix (the tables above), we might end up with something like:

Given that I chose the Grand Canyon as my desired location
When I fly to a destination
Then I will arrive in Flagstaff

So why is this important? For the same reason that user stories are important. It is a form of ubiquitous language that can be shared between business and IT to ensure everyone is on the same page. Provided we either make each of the lines into users stories and Gherkin statements (or code the acceptance table into Gherkin), we now have a definition of done.

Gherkin adds another value to me, when I am using Spec Flow. I can use the Gherkin statements to produce test stubs that I can send offshore. I call this a paint by numbers kit, as I can open them up in the morning and make sure the right colors were painted in the right spots (ie, they filled the assumptions in the given method, the action in the when method and the test result in the then method(s)).


This is just a brief intro into quality, as subject I am going to explore in detail as the year goes on. And while this may not express it clearly, as it started with an ADD (or ADHD) moment, the important takeaways are these:

  • Business and IT need to be in alignment with language. Here I am using user stories and Gherkin as the ubiquitous (shared) language, but you can have others. Domain Driven Design, which I will focus on later this year, also deals with the ubiquitous language concept, although it is more concerned with modeling the domain than defining done.
  • Most offshoring problems are a combination of expectations (a different understanding of what junior and senior developer means) and incomplete requirements. Fortunately, when we are in the same office, we can walk over and talk and give immediate feedback (not true in offshore engagements)
  • User stories and Gherkin can be used to bridge the gap from improperly defined requirements to a proper understanding of what done looks like (not true in ALL cases, but it is a good start)

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld

Big Thrill Rides

I saw a picture posted on Facebook about the X Scream on the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. Here is the picture:

This is a ride called insanity on top of the Stratosphere in Vegas. The tower is 1149 feet tall, with the deck up around 850 to 900 feet (from Wikipedia heights of the thrill rides.

Stratosphere Thrill Rides (Strip, Vegas)

There are 4 rides on the Stratosphere: Big Shot, Insanity, Sky Jump and X Scream.

Big Shot

The Big Shot fires you up at high speed from the top of the Stratosphere tower (at 1,081 feet, the highest thrill ride in the world). You can see this in the POV video below:


Insanity hangs you over the edge of the tower. This is the one in the original picture. At 900 feet, it is the second highest thrill ride in the world. Here is a video:

Here is a POV shot of the ride:

Sky Jump

The Sky Jump mimics skydiving from the tower. It rolls you out and then feels like it is dropping you. At 855 feet, it is lower than the rest and Wikipedia does not have where it is on the list of highest thrill rides in the world. Here is a video from a wrist cam.

And here is one at night.

X Scream

X Scream drops you off the side of the tower. It is the third highest thrill ride in the world. Here is a video that shows the ride from the side:

Six Japanese tourists got stuck on the ride during a power failure in 2005.

Old Ride: High Roller (GONE)

This ride no longer exists, but it was the first thrill ride the Stratosphere had. It was at 9809 feet and the highest roller coaster in the world.

Other Thrill Rides

While these are not necessarily sitting on top of some tower somewhere, they are considered the best thrill rides in the world.

X2: Six Flags, Magic Mountain, Valencia, California

This is the first “4D” roller coaster. The ride has spinning seats to change the angle of the ride, so you can be moving forward but facing backwards, and vice versa.

SkyScreamer: Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington, Texas

A 400 foot tower swing.

Eejanaika, Fuji-Q Highland, Fujiyoshida, Japan

Another “4D” roller coaster, with a longer track. You can see the spinning seats in the off ride part of the video. (Turn down the volume on POV if hearing the videographer screaming annoys you):


Kingda Ka, Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, New Jersey

Tallest Ground Based Roller Coaster at 456 feet. Shoots you up at 128 MPH and then back down.

Formula Rossa, Ferrari World, United Arab Emerates

This Ferrari styled coaster is the fastest in the world at 149 MPH. Here is a POV, but it does not seem all that fast on the video, as the ride does not have as many heavy drops. You see the speed a bit better on the later non-POV section.

The Joker, Six Flags México, Ciudad de México, D.F., Mexico

The park, in the southwest part of Mexico City, has a variety of rides. But the spinning Joker coaster is one of the favorites.

Hope you enjoyed this.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld


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