doing the shmoo

Greetings from Washington, DC – the home of corrupt politicians, sleazy lobbyists, democracy destroying SuperPACs and Moby Dick House of Kebab.  I’m here to attend ShmooCon, which is (IMHO) one of the better security cons out there.  I’ll be blogging about what I learn over the next few days, so stay tuned for some cutting edge security goodness.  Interested in anything specific on the schedule?  Drop me a line at al@al-berg.com or DM me at @alberg on the Twitter.

doing the shmoo

a pleasant (paranoid) london afternoon

Didn't see these guys, though

Finding myself in London on a Saturday afternoon, I decided to take a walk into espionage history.

London Walks’ Spies and Spycatchers Walk is a interesting, educational and entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  The tour, which takes about 2 hours, includes a number of espionage landmarks, most of which are connected with the “Cambridge Five” case, in which the uppermost levels of British and American intelligence were penetrated by the Soviets (remember them?).   The tour also includes the Itsu Sushi shop where the Russian secret services used Polonium to poison ex-KGB/FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.  We did not stop for a snack.  We also stopped at a number of buildings with espionage related pasts, including the location where the invasions of North Africa and Normandy were planned during World War II.  The tour ends up with a lesson on spy to spy communications and a look at at dead drops.

While being in the actual locations where secret history happened is pretty neat, the real draw for this tour is the green carnation wearing guide, Alan.  He really knows his material and is a wonderful story teller.

The tour starts at Piccadilly Circus on Saturday afternoons at 2:30 PM and costs a very reasonable 8 pounds.  London Walks offers a plethora of themed tours and day trips – I was so impressed with this one that I plan on doing another one (or maybe 2) today.

a pleasant (paranoid) london afternoon

off to deepest, darkest africa

Tomorrow afternoon, a group of my Liquidnet colleagues and I will be boarding a flight for Amsterdam to connect with another flight to Kigali, Rwanda.  We’re going to the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in Rwamagana, Rwanda to help upgrade and extend the village’s wireless networks and servers.

The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) is a residential community in rural Rwanda. Its 144 acres are home to youth who were orphaned during and after the genocide in 1994. The Village is designed to care for, protect and nurture these young people. It is a place of hope, where “tears are dried” (signified by the Kinyarwanda word agahozo) and where the aim is to live in peace (from Hebrew, shalom). The marrying of these two languages and concepts in the name of the Village is intended as a reminder of the success of similar efforts in Israel, where genocide also changed the face of a nation. — ASYV web site

I’ll be posting pictures, and updates from the trip (which includes a trip to visit with Rwanda’s Mountain Gorillas) on a separate Tumblr blog – alinrwanda.tumblr.com.  Please join me over there for a look at how technology is helping change kids’ lives in central Africa.

off to deepest, darkest africa

i (helped to) discover a new asteroid!

Over the past few days, I have been on Mount Lemmon in Arizona attending Astronomy Camp.  I’ll give you a couple of seconds to stop giggling now.  Done?  OK, I’ll wait a few more seconds…

During the camp, I and 15 other nerdlingers had the opportunity to take advantage of Arizona’s dark, dry and clear skies as well as a number of large telescopes used by astronomers from the University of Arizona and around the world.  For me, the highlight of participating in the program was spending a few hours with the Catalina Sky Survey, who are responsible for keeping a watch out for Near Earth Objects (NEOs) which might collide with the Earth.   CSS, along with a worldwide network of observers, looks for unidentified moving objects in the night sky using (in this case) a 60″ telescope on Mount Lemmon, as well as sophisticated computer software.  Luckily for me, I was a “guest observer” with CSS when a new Near Earth Object called 2010-KE came into view, and thus got my name recorded as one of the discoverers of this object.

OK, so I had a couple of disappointments – first, I would have named this object “Al’s Hurtling Rock of Doom,” but the Minor Planet Center (who makes naming decisions) came up with 2010-KE instead.  If you ask me, I think anti semitism was involved here.  Secondly, 2010-KE is not projected to actually hit the Earth, only to pass close by.  I would have really liked to have my name on “the big one” or at least one that would hit my neighbor’s car which is parked on the street rather than in his driveway… not that I carry a grudge, Bob…  Other than these quibbles, being a NEO discoverer was really cool.  I shall now be (even more) insufferable.

Here’s an animated GIF showing 2010-KE streaking across the sky…

And here is a diagram showing just how close 2010-KE was to Earth when these shots were taken…

And here is the official bulletin from the Minor Planet Center announcing the discovery of 2010-KE…

NEO 2010-KE DIscovery Bulletin

i (helped to) discover a new asteroid!