terriko: (Default)
Back from defcon. Almost recovered from con crud.

Defcon is a con that doesn't have a great rep among women, so I'd given it a miss despite being curious until I'd collected a posse. It worked out well.

I was expecting the exhaustion, the chaos, but I wasn't expecting to feel artistically inspired.

I spent hours searching for a robot army and, when I found it, the robots danced with me.

I went to an elevator talk which wasn't about pitching to CEOs but was rather about hacking elevators. All other elevator talks are going to be disappointing now, but elevators are going to be more interesting.

I played a game that started with soldering a badge and meeting strangers that somehow plunged me into a little augmented reality that I was desperate to see more of.

I designed a t-shirt that a whole bunch of people wore, and more people asked me where to buy one.

I discovered that casinos are pretty much all the migraine triggers at once and that as a result it was sometimes more relaxing being on the con floor than leaving it.

I talked about teaching and learning through games. I learned a few things through a game, including that there are still times where my desire to make games is much greater than my desire to play them.

I wish I'd gone sooner, but suspect I also made the right choice by waiting until I had backup.

I came home with a head full of things I wanted to build... and also full of congestion and mucus so it hurt too much to do anything.

... but I got back to building a game today, so maybe I'll get some of these other grand plans in motion too.
terriko: (Default)
I'm pretty busy with thesis this week, but the organizers of the Linux Symposium generously offered me a free pass, so I can stop by and say hi! Right now, my plan is to stop by for a bit tomorrow afternoon (Monday) if I get my other work done far enough along and then maybe again on Wednesday. I'm sad to miss Jon's kernel report (and I hope he's awake for it), but I know if I go in the morning I won't get enough work done for Tuesday's deadline.

Most of my usual OLS crowd decided to try out LinuxCon this year, so I'll be down a few friends, but I'm still looking forwards to the chance to socialize. Thesis-writing can be very isolating! And I gather I'm easy to spot at OLS, so make sure you say hi if you're there!
terriko: (Default)
I was at Security BSides Ottawa last weekend. I don't have much time to blog about it right now because I'm writing a paper, but here's what Pete Hillier and Dan Menard had to say about the individual talks.

As an academic, I find un-conference events a little strange. Normally, when I go out to a conference, I can expect every single talk to be about a brand new research idea, or some twist on an old one. There's a lot to be said for hearing existing ideas phrased well or talks showing off existing technologies, but it always takes me a while to move from one mindset to another. It's also lovely to hear people who are largely there because they like speaking and are willing to put work into their presentation skills. Definitely some quality talks to be had. And one that I didn't like (sorry, but mathematical formal methods for security are one of those things that always sounds great on paper but has been a great disappointment to me in practice), but I almost feel like it'd be disappointing if I agreed with everything!

I wish that some of these talks could be brought to even more general venues. Many were fun, but very much preaching to the choir. I'll bet the Star Trek talk, for example, could be rejigged nicely to take it in to a high school or undergraduate CS event. If anyone from BSides would be interested in doing talks at Carleton, you might want to talk to our undergraduate society or others at the school.

The other strange thing for me comes in meeting people who are working in industry, something I get to do surprisingly (embarrassingly) rarely as an academic. I learned some useful things from my lunch partners about the state of security in the trenches, especially how Ottawa as a government town has a particularly interesting landscape. And of course, Ron's now inspired me to go take a look at nmap scripts, which sound like exactly the sort of hacky security fun I needed: the type that comes in small debuggable chunks I can use as a diversion from research when I need a break but don't want to leave the security headspace.

So yeah, great people, interesting talks, and overall I felt it worthwhile despite the lack of research-level novelty that I take for granted in my usual conferences. Looking forwards to next time!
terriko: (Default)
I went to see William Gibson talk at the writer's festival this week, and I mostly just wanted to brag, so I guess I have to write about him. ;)

As the Internet no doubt can tell you, he's an interesting speaker, and I was surprised to find him less polished than other authors I've gone to see. And I don't mean that as a bad thing at all: in a lot of ways it made him feel more human. I've noticed that there's a whole subset of authors who feel that they are God's Gift to the Genre ([personal profile] miko usually uses Robert J. Sawyer as her prime example of this) and I'm always a little leery at the beginning of a talk as to whether this is going to be one of those but Gibson put me immediately at ease. Very candid, very honest, and pleasantly funny when talking about how he writes.

I particularly loved when he was talking about crowdsourcing details. He'd been looking for some information about where to find security cameras in some area (an airport maybe? I forget.) and got a pile of different responses to his twitter query. Of course, he says none of them agreed with each other, but then he points out that as a fiction writer, he doesn't have to worry about the accuracy of responses: he can choose the one that works best with his narrative and modify as necessary. I love this, because it's almost exactly my approach to using biology within artificial life algorithms: I don't really care if a model is rudimentary or even proven to be inaccurate in living organisms. If it's interesting and fits my code narrative, I can use it as a base for neat ideas anyhow. I guess artificial life is pretty much the speculative fiction of the code world. I mean, I basically spent a year wondering if email could be treated like proteins and whether we could develop immunity to bad emails. That's my master's thesis, but doesn't it sound a little like spec fic?

I've been out to a few other writer's festival events, including a very inspiring talk by the exceptional Jane Goodall, but William Gibson is the first author whose talk made me think, "wow, I should really get back to writing." I do a lot of writing, but very little creative writing nowadays, and he's the first to make me really yearn for it.
terriko: (Default)
We met one of the women who works at the hotel in the elevator, and she said that they loved having PAX there because even though it was a huge crowd of people, everyone always seemed so happy.

So I've spent the weekend around happy people, playing games and seeing demos and getting free stuff (including oh so many free t-shirts. Kudos to Sega for tossing women's shirts into the crowd! I'm so excited about mine.) It's weird how normally after a conference, I feel kinda exhausted and don't want to be around people, whereas coming back from PAX I feel relaxed and eager to try out a few more games.

This weekend, my personal group raised $80 for Child's Play with our cookies, and we handed off a box of them to someone more eager too, so she probably raised even more (I'm guessing she was the one who raised $4000 -- since she was over 2k when we met up with her!). The whole group raised $7900 + a bucked o' change. I got to hear about the work that happened behind the Humble Indie Bundle (including some insinuation that another bundle could be in the works!), saw some hilarious out-takes from Telltale, watched an excellent concert from Paul and Storm and Jonathan Coulton (And I'm sure MC Frontalot was awesome, but from where we were we couldn't make out his lyrics, and the performance lost something when you had to use a cell phone to figure out what was being said! Apparently opera halls aren't designed for nerdcore, but at least he makes all his lyrics available for free!) Susan and I tried out Kinect and found it surprisingly, shockingly fun. Especially the battle/trick race game we were playing that had us holding our hands up to drive imaginary cars and tipping around to do tricks. When we got there, there was basically no line, but we gathered one with our antics!

Susan's hat and my backpack were clear hits, and less trouble to wear than full costumes, so now I want to make more hats. People were always surprised to hear we'd made them ourselves including the patterns -- and some were disappointed because that meant they couldn't just buy one themselves!

Anyhow, it was a very fun weekend, and I'm coming back feeling less stressed and ready to conquer this term.

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