terriko: (Default)
Do you still have a job?

Yup, so far! J too. But J's dad has had to switch companies. Thankfully, he got an interview and offer right away for a position that's up his alley, so that's cool. Sadly, he'll be moving for the new job shortly after our wedding.

How's that wedding planning going?

Actually pretty well. We're hardly done, but we spent time this week painting the stairway and reading stuff from the choose-your-own-adventure ceremony guide our most excellent officiant sent. Some of the options in the book were... hilariously not us. Much laughter ensued. :)

But yes, we've got a list and we're ticking things off it. Being internet generation that we are, the list is actually a Google spreadsheet and the closest thing we have to a wedding planner is a grumpy sysadmin in Denver who is determined that we won't run out of food. Okay, we also have a whole IRC channel full of folk who are also double and triple-checking our checklist. We are seriously lucky to know such great people.

Are you getting stressed out yet?

Not this week -- we've actually been relaxing a little again. We've got a great community of friends, as I said above. And especially lately, J and I have been especially in sync as we sort out tasks and try to finish the last house reno stuff. (I would never have thought looking at carpet could be so hilarious, but it was!) We were pretty worn out after Pycon and the cold we caught, but we've been kind to ourselves and each other, and it's been good. It probably helps that neither of us cares deeply about the details: there'll be food, and friends, and a legal tying of the knot, and everything else will work out or it'll be a hilarious story to tell people later. We're so very lucky that there aren't huge complicated wedding traditions on either side of the family, but also that both of us are quite happy to say no when we're told we just "must" do something. ("But there have to be flowers!" "There are, they're in the garden" "But couldn't you just buy..." "... buy more flowers and put them in the ground?")

Anyhow, life is good, but painting the guest bedrooms and dealing with lists *is* taking up a lot of my evenings, so you might not be hearing *that* much from me for the next few weeks. Wish me luck!
terriko: (Default)
You may have seen this article on Peter G. Neumann: Killing the Computer to Save It. It was making the rounds a few weeks ago. (Note that you can read NYT articles without logging in if you turn on temporary cookies and then click the link.)

In case you were curious or maybe thought some of that sounded familiar, that is indeed the same DARPA grant that drew me to the US for this postdoc. I'm on CRASH or "Clean-Slate Design of Resilient Adaptive Secure Hosts." The article has a short mention of the stuff we're doing:

Clean Slate is financing research to explore how to design computer systems that are less vulnerable to computer intruders and recover more readily once security is breached.

Dr. Shrobe argues that because the industry is now in a fundamental transition from desktop to mobile systems, it is a good time to completely rethink computing. But among the biggest challenges is the monoculture of the computer “ecosystem” of desktop, servers and networks, he said.

“Nature abhors monocultures, and that’s exactly what we have in the computer world today,” said Dr. Shrobe. “Eighty percent are running the same operating system.”

Lessons From Biology

To combat uniformity in software, designers are now pursuing a variety of approaches that make computer system resources moving targets. Already some computer operating systems scramble internal addresses much the way a magician might perform the trick of hiding a pea in a shell. The Clean Slate project is taking that idea further, essentially creating software that constantly shape-shifts to elude would-be attackers.

That the Internet enables almost any computer in the world to connect directly to any other makes it possible for an attacker who identifies a single vulnerability to almost instantly compromise a vast number of systems.

But borrowing from another science, Dr. Neumann notes that biological systems have multiple immune systems — not only are there initial barriers, but a second system consisting of sentinels like T cells has the ability to detect and eliminate intruders and then remember them to provide protection in the future.

In contrast, today’s computer and network systems were largely designed with security as an afterthought, if at all.


That barely touches on all the cool stuff we're doing, since the article isn't exactly about our work at UNM & UVA, but it was pretty neat to see it in the news.
terriko: I am a serious academic (Twlight Sparkle looking confused) (Serious Academic)
One of the things I occasionally talk about at work is that my experience in the standards process completely destroyed any illusions I had about standards being made for the good of all[1]. Which is why this quote about the process of deciding on IPv6 amuses me so:

"However, many people felt that this would have been an admission that something in the OSI world was actually done right, a statement considered Politically Incorrect in Internet circles."


- Andrew S. Tanenbaum regarding the IPv6 development process in Computer Networks (4th ed.)

And since I imagine few of you follow my long-quiet web security blog (I didn't really feel like writing more on web security while doing my thesis or shortly thereafter), here's another quote that amused me from the same book:

... "some modicum of security was required to prevent fun-loving students from spoofing routers by sending them false routing information."


- Andrew S. Tanenbaum regarding OSPF in Computer Networks (4th ed.)

In case you're wondering what's up, I'm reading this textbook to brush up on my basic routing terminology with the plan to do some crazy things with routers in the future. It's quite useful for this purpose, but I keep getting distracted by how awesome Tanenbaum's writing is; you can see from his humour and deeper insights why his texts are considered standards in the field of computer science. I think the last time I was this struck by a textbook author was while reading Viega's Building Secure Software.

This sort of carefully crafted understatement is a huge contrast to the other book I'm reading currently, The 4-hour Workweek, which I'll probably review in a later post if I don't give up in disgust. (It's full of useful ideas, but the writing style is driving me nuts.)

[1] Standards are made for the goals of the companies involved in the committee. Sometimes those happen to be good for all, sometimes not, and the political games that happen were very surprising to me as a young idealist.
terriko: I am a serious academic (Twlight Sparkle looking confused) (Serious Academic)
When I was an undergraduate, I found that university really wasn't living up to my expectations of stimulating, interesting people and ideas.

But today, I was totally living the academic dream.

We had a visit from a leading expert on ant behaviour. This wasn't about computer ant algorithms; she studies real live ants. We started off the day with her talk on the Turtle Ants she's been studying in Mexico, a talk filled with pictures of ants and paths and grad students on ladders pointing at the trees. A talk filled with speculation about behaviour and patterns and analogies to search in computer networks and bifurcation of biological trees. Over the course of the day, the group talked ants, bees, simulations on the computer and using robots, immunology, flu and t-cells in the lung, patterns and theories. It was the kind of conjunction of ideas from multiple disciplines where things were just clicking and questions and potential experiments started getting debated.

Biochemistry from my scientist parents, ecology and field work from Macoun Club, immunology from the above plus my own master's research, algorithms from math and CS... I was pretty proud of myself for knowing the jargon pretty much across the board and being able to keep up. I love that I'm with a group where seemingly disjoint backgrounds are consistently recognized as a huge advantage, and my own particular background fits right in.

I learned a bunch about ants and flu today. My notebook is filled with doodles of ants and cells doing stuff. Apparently turtle ants, since they have paths in the trees, sometimes get the paths broken when the wind blows, and the ants just back up and wait for the wind to blow the branches back so they can keep going. I learned that swine flu's replication rates in cells are a hundred times higher than avian flu (and ~20 times more than regular flu) but avian flu does other things to suppress immune response. I learned some about how T-cells get into the lungs and find infection despite the fact that they don't seem to move fast enough to explain how well we handle infection. And I got to watch people putting ideas together in ways that might result in using experiments in ants to try to explain things that would be much harder to test in the lungs, and so many ideas that probably just couldn't happen anywhere else.

So if you've been wondering why the heck I moved here despite the many downsides about the US/desert/altitude/regional poverty/city, etc.... this is why: Cutting edge research at the conjunction of biology, computing, and maybe a few fields besides. Even if I decide to do something else once my contract is played out, this has already been amazingly worthwhile, and with my own project starting to take shape, I'm pretty sure it's just going to get better!
terriko: (Default)
As a woman who learned a bunch about negotiation from the book Women Don't Ask, I find this very interesting:

In fact, Asians are far from passive, unassertive workhorses. CWLP research shows that Asian respondents were as likely as other ethnic groups to have asked a manager or supervisor for a pay raise or a promotion at work. Thirty-seven percent of Asians report asking for a pay raise and 28 percent for a promotion, figures on par with peers in other groups. The fact is, both male and female Asian professionals actively advocate for themselves and the rewards they feel they deserve.

The problem is, they’re asking. But they’re not getting.


Read the rest at Forbes: Asians in America: What's Holding Back the "Model Minority?"

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