A Picture from History: St. Valentine’s Day Massacre


In 1929, alcohol was an illegal item throughout the United States.

But a thriving bootleg liquor business sprang up underground.

And in Chicago, nobody had as much influence in the trade as gangster Al Capone.

Al Capone
Al Capone

For Capone, business boomed. He pulled in roughly $85 million per year in 1920’s money — close to $1.3 billion today.  

There was only one problem…Bugs Moran.

Bugs Moran

Bugs Moran
Bugs Moran

Moran’s attempts at moving into the liquor business aggravated Capone’s South Side Gang, who wanted to operate throughout Chicago, not just a section of the city.

Capone wasn’t happy…and Moran was about to make him even less so.

Location of Saint Valentines Day Masascre
Map of Chicago

Aside from attempting to assassinate Capone’s friend and mentor, Johnny Torrio, Bugs also sent hitmen after Capone.

John Torrio
John Torrio

But Moran took it further, targeting Capone’s chief hitman, “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn.

Jack McGurn
Jack McGurn

Bad blood built between the two and it culminated on Valentine’s Day 1929.

The Last Valentine’s Day

February 14, 1929 — seven of Maron’s men waited in a North Side garage for a shipment of bootlegged Canadian whiskey.

A police car pulled up with four men stepping out – two wearing police uniforms.

The police ordered Maron’s men up against a nearby wall, shoulder to shoulder. Thinking it was nothing more than a police raid, Bugs’ men complied.

Reenactment of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
Reenactment of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. (Photo: Chicago History Museum)

It would be the last thing they’d do.

Shots rang out from two Thompson submachine guns and a shotgun.

By the time the dust settled, all seven of the men laid dead on the ground.

Valentines Day Massacre Tommy Guns
The two Tommy guns used in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre now reside in Berrien County, Michigan. (Photo: Chriss Lyon via Block Club Chicago)

Chicago Mourned

Public outcry was swift for what became known as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

It proved to be a nightmare for Capone.

Before the shooting, he was seen as something of the common man’s hero — fighting against the system’s injustice.

St Valentines Day Masascre Brick
Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre brick displayed at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment, Washington, D.C. (Photo: David via WikiCommons)

But after, Capone became a violent criminal in the public’s eye. In short, it was a public relations disaster.

Furthermore, the massacre brought down the entire strength of the federal government on Capone’s head.

Capone was in Miami during the shooting, but the blame instantly fell to him. (Though the case technically remains unsolved.)

Al Capone
Al Capone

Valentine’s Day 1929 brought Capone into the limelight, and investigators seized the opportunity to lock him away.

The famed gangster was later sentenced to 11 years in federal prison for tax evasion.

This is a new style of article for Pew Pew Tactical; if you liked it — let us know in the comments! If you didn’t enjoy it…well phooey. To catch up on previous Pictures from History, click on over to our History Category.

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The 10 ‘Seinfeld’ Episodes to Watch If You’ve Never Seen It Before (Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That)


Graphic: Elena Scotti (Photos: Getty Images)

More than 30 years ago, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld brought an impressive innovation to the TV sitcom: Protagonists who are uniformly terrible people.

Sure, Married… with Children’s deplorable Bundys had been on air for a couple of years, but that series was on Fox—then a small upstart network—and an explicit parody of family sitcom tropes, while Seinfeld was, at least on the surface, a more traditionally structured show. It was also in the big leagues, airing on NBC, and the terribleness of its central characters was a lot more subtle: Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer made us love them while also reflecting some of our worst flaws, overreacting to small slights and petty annoyances in all the horrible ways we’d probably like to, if we thought we could get away with it.

After a rocky start in the ratings, it broke out in a big salad way, and was a ratings monsters through the remainder of its nine-season run. It has remained a favorite in reruns (and, more recently, on streaming services) ever since—thanks in no small part to an all-time great cast. Its even darker spiritual sequel, Curb Your Enthusiasm (which featured a whole season revolving around a fictional Seinfeld reunion special) is still going strong. Oh, and Seinfeld’s coming to Netflix starting Oct. 1—the streaming giant having paid some $500 million to grab the rights away from rival Hulu—so you’ll be able to while away your fall visiting or revisiting the gang.

Maybe you’ve never watched the show, and are feeling left out of this particular pop culture moment, or maybe it has just been a couple decades and you need a refresher. If you don’t want to immediately dig into 180 episodes, you can take a representative sample and totally get the gist (not hard when the show is about nothing, am I right?). Like a lot of TV, this show peaked somewhere in the middle seasons, and despite some minor plot continuity and a few running gags, there’s no need to start at the beginning.

This isn’t a “best of” list. Rather, these are 10 episodes that represent the things that Seinfeld did particularly well—including a couple with iconic punchlines and catchphrases that will get you in with the cool crowd, circa 1995.


How the Bark to Make Cork is Harvested from Cork Oak Trees


Nearly every task you can perform on a tree, whether it’s cutting it down, de-limbing it or stripping the bark, can be done by a machine. Indeed they often require one.

However, one tree-borne task for a specific type of tree resists automation and can still only be performed by humans using hand tools . That task is stripping the bark from a cork oak tree, for the purpose of turning it into cork. The bark has to be removed cleanly, so as to avoid damaging the tree; the bark will regenerate, but it will be another nine years before one can harvest it again. If you’re too heavy with the axe, you risk leaving a gash in the tree beneath the bark, which then becomes an entrance for insects who will destroy the valuable cash crop.

Here’s a look at the process in Portugal, the world’s largest producer of cork. And while it might seem like fun to cleanly peel a tree, the work and conditions look absolutely grueling:

When I watch stuff like this, I can’t believe I ever just tossed a cork in the garbage.


MySQL: Our MySQL in 2010, a hiring interview question


I ranted about hiring interviews, and the canned questions that people have to answer.
One of the interviews we do is a systems design interview, where we want to see how (senior) people use components and patterns to design a system for reliability and scaleout.

A sample question (based on a Twitter thread in German):

It is 2010, and the company has a database structure where a fixed number front end machines form a cell.
Reads and writes are already split:
Writes go to the primary of a replication tree, and are being replicated to the read instance of the database in each cell.
Reads go to the database instance that is a fixed part of the cell.

Read and write handles are split in the application. Clients write to a primary MySQL database, which then replicates to a database instance that is fixed part of a cell. Clients from a cell read from this fixed replica.

Unfortunately, this is not very effective:
The data center has 10 cells, but when a cell overloads its database spare capacity from other cells cannot be utilized.
Also, the data center is not redundant.

We want to:

  1. Load balance database queries.
  2. Extend the architecture to more than a single data center (or AZ).
  3. Optionally be resilient against the loss of individual databases or a full AZ.

Possible topics or annotations from a candidate:

  • What kind of strategies are available for load balancing database connections?
    • DNS, Anycast or L2 techniques
    • Proxy (but not a web proxy)
    • Zookeeper or another consensus system with modified clients
  • What are the advantages or disadvantages of this?
    • L2. Huh. Don’t do that.
    • DNS updates are slow and complicated. It can be made to work, but you will always have very little control over what is balanced why and how. DNS is better used for a global load balancing of http requests, and not as a database load balancer.
    • Zookeeper could be used to do this with modified clients, but we would have to discuss how exactly that works. That’s an interesting subquestion of its own.
    • MySQL Router or ProxySQL are made for that, but have a lot of interesting subquestions of their own. See below.
  • What else may be different when load balancing database connections instead of http?
    • Webproxies are not good database proxies. The database protocol is not http, and it is a stateful protocol. This requires extra care when load balancing.
    • Database connections can be long lived. A load balancing action to a different client only ever happens on connect. If you disconnect and reconnect only every 100 web actions or so, it is possible for the system to rebalance slowly. On the other hand, if you are using TLS’ed connections, connection setup cost can be high, so longer lived connections amortize better.
    • Database connections have a highly variable result set size size. A single select may return a single value of a single row, or an entire 35 TB table. If the proxy tries to be too intelligent and does things with the result as it passes through, it can die from out of memory.
    • Proxies can become bottlenecks. Imagine 50 frontends talking to 10 databases via a single proxy on a typical 2010-box with a single (or two) 1 GBit/s network interface, and results contain BLOBs.
  • What else there is to know?
    • Replication scales only reads. As this is a shared nothing architecture, each instance eventually sees all writes. To scale writes, we have to split or shard the database. That is out of scope for this question.
    • In our specific scenario, the number of writes is not actually a problem. We can assume a few hundred writes per second.
  • Can we extend that to more than one AZ?
    • Yes, we can create an intermediate primary in each AZ, which takes the writes from the origin AZ into each sub-AZ. It then fans out to the local replicas. This saves on long distance data transfer. It also creates mildly interesting problems for measuring replication delay.
    • Because the replication tree is deeper, writes take longer to reach the leaves. Most applications should be able to accomodate that.
    • The alternative would be something with full Two-Phase-Commit, but that would be even slower, and would have scaling limits in the number of systems that participate in the 2PC.

This is usually how far we get in a single interview session, and only with touching only on some of these points.
To find all is completely unrealistic, even for experienced people.
We would now reach a point where we discuss failure scenarios.

But it would be highly unusual to get this far, and that is not actually the goal in an interview.
I do in fact hardly care about the solution we end up with.
My goal is to have a useful discussion about databases, scaleout and resiliency, and about stateful systems and their limits.
When there are remarks such as “Our environment is smaller, but for us … works” or “We tried this: … but observed that often …” that’s actual gold in an interview.

Even things such as “In HTTP one would do … but I can imagine that with stateful systems that does not work because …” is already old, because it shows a level of reflection and insight that is rare.

The objective is not to reinvent our 2021 setup. The objective is to use this clearly limited setup as a base for a common conversation about database probems.

“Database Reliability Engineer” is the hardest position to hire for in my environment, because it is an H-shaped qualification

The concept of H-shaped people is a metaphor used in job recruitment to describe the abilities of individuals in (or outside) the workforce. The vertical bars on the letter H represent the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field or discipline, whereas the horizontal bar is the ability to combine those two disciplines to create value in a way that was hitherto unknown.

The objective is to find a person that “Understands MySQL” and “Understands Python or Go” (“Understands any database” and “Understands a useful programming language”), so that I can throw them at our existing codebase and have them useful within 3-6 months – ugh.

If I can find one person per year, I am very lucky.

Planet MySQL

How Thermacell Keeps Hunters From Being Hunted by Mosquitoes


Nothing ruins a hunt like becoming the hunted. Thermacell wants to protect you from the buzz (and bites) of mosquitoes so you can focus on the details of your hunt.

A Portable Mosquito Repeller by Thermacell can alleviate the pains of early-season hunts by creating a zone of protection around you.

Part of hunting is staying still in a stand so wildlife doesn’t detect you. That’s hard to do while mosquitoes are swarming you. Even if they’re not biting, they’re buzzing around you, which can range from distracting to making you wait until the first freeze to hunt.

If whitetail hunting takes you into the woods where summer-like conditions persist, like fighting off mosquitoes, perhaps it’s time for a new approach.

Shop the MR300Shop the MR450

mosqutio repellent MR300F

Thermacell: No-Contact Mosquito Repellent

There are a few ways that Thermacell stands out from other mosquito and insect repellents.

First, there’s the way it works. Unlike general bug-repellent lotions and sprays, Thermacell repellent isn’t applied to your skin and thus doesn’t need reapplication midday.

Instead, the portable devices use a small, unscented mat that holds the repellent and, once heated, disperses a vapor around the device. Thermacell says the repellent creates a zone of mosquito protection up to 15 feet away. The activated mats can last up to 4 hours.

The active ingredient in the repellent mats is allethrin, a synthetic version of pyrethrin that’s found in plants like chrysanthemums — and data supporting this claim has been reviewed and accepted by the U.S. EPA.

The recent builds of these models have improved on the original designs with a quieter ignition. That’s something hunters will care about once they’re in the stand.

Hunting Companions

Thermacell makes two portable mosquito repellers for hunters to consider:

Thermacell MR300: Hunters take note — this portable repeller can be ordered in a deer camo print. The redesigned holster clips onto your belt and holds extra mats and fuel cartridge refills. (It can be ordered separately with the MR450.)

Thermacell MR450: This model adds a rubber over-mold to withstand some abuse, as well as a clip for wearing or mounting below you. It also has a zone-check indicator so you know when it is active.

person holding thermacell mr300 with camo on and a hunting bow

No Smell

We get it — you’ve got all kinds of unscented gear and cover sprays. But, if you’ve found yourself ending a hunt early because you became the hunted, perhaps it’s time to stop worrying about whether a slight odor may spook deer and try hunting in peace.

One of our reviewers wrote that Thermacell repellent is a must-carry for early-season turkey hunts. He placed it upwind and below him for the most coverage. And while he detected a slight odor, he decided it worked for early-season deer: “I put more emphasis on the wind direction and stand location, and I worry less about smelling like nothing.”

Thermacell says its fuel cartridges are scent-free, and the brand also sells Earth Scent refills.

If you’ve been using other mosquito repellents to prevent a hunt from becoming an all-day blood donation session, consider the Thermacell portable repellents as a mess-free alternative.

Portable mosquito repellent hunting

This post is sponsored by Thermacell. Learn more about the MR300 and other mosquito repellents.

man carrying antlers on a sitka gear backpack with a thermacell mr300 attached
Freedom From Mosquitoes: How Thermacell’s Portable MR300 Battles the Bugs

The Thermacell MR300 Portable Mosquito Repeller repels mosquitoes by creating a 15-foot zone of protection for your hunt, campsite, backyard, or adventure outings. Read more…

The post How Thermacell Keeps Hunters From Being Hunted by Mosquitoes appeared first on GearJunkie.