Thursday, April 30, 2009

Job v. Halifax

Today was a very unusual day in my academic career, many members of our research group took the day off to watch the civil trial Job v. Halifax. The case was brought by Alain Job, a Cameroonian immigrant, against Halifax bank. Job claimed there were phantom withdrawals from his account and was the first person in the UK to bring a bank to trial over the security of the Chip & PIN system for bank cards.

This has been a major topic for my research group over the years, which I've caught the tail end of, and Steven Murdoch testified as an expert witness in the case. We went to watch Steven, observe the case, and to learn a bit about what it's like to see crypto in action in a legal setting. This case had everything, lots of intrigue and mistakes by both sides. And of course the Lawyers were wearing powdered wigs. It's a minor case, but represents an interesting battle of the little guy vs. the giant bank, which is a struggle that has been playing out more and more these days.

The judge should issue his decision within a month, we're all anxiously waiting.

Monday, April 27, 2009

My Very Own St. John's

I enjoyed a formal dinner at St. John's tonight with my friends Julia, Emma, and Jess. And, curiously, nobody else. In a rare turn of luck, we were the only 4 people to sign up for dinner for the evening and so we had the large and historic St. John's dining hall all to ourselves. The show went on admirably, and we had some delicious food. They even printed up a menu, listing the vegetarian option for the night, which I was the only one to get. Not sure I'll ever see this again.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Quiet Period Begins

The Spring (or 'Easter') term is designated quiet period in Cambridge. So, tonight was the last formall hall and Pav dance of the year for Churchill. Cambridge tradtionally takes the time before exams extremely seriously, to a silly degree I think, because it's pretty unlikely the undergrads will be using next Friday night with no Pav to be studying for their exams which are still weeks away. Anyway, as a grad student I'm just busy 100% of the time so it doesn't really matter, there's very little sense of the academic year for me. But I'll miss the Friday night Pavs, which have been fun.

Monday, April 20, 2009


I spent the weekend in Copenhagen, visiting my high school friend Keegan who is doing an exchange semester there as part of his law program. The weather was beautiful, as was the city, and I had a really pleasant time seeing the old downtown. Here I am with my friend Jeremy, who made the trip with me, atop the Rundetårn with a nice view of downtown. It was my first time in Scandinavia, and as expected things were clean, orderly, friendly, and extremely expensive. When the airport has hardwood flooring and leather chairs, you know you're not in Kansas anymore.

Copenhagen is also known for being the home of Carlsberg beer, so we took a tour of the brewery, which had some nice historical exhibits on the brewery and the town, as well as the largest collection of beer bottles in the world at over 14,000. Finally we had a very eventful day at the Copenhagen zoo, one of the nicer zoos in the world. We saw several fights, lots of animal babies in the springtime, and were lucky enough to see a zebra give birth. The baby zebra was standing immediately and walking within a few minutes, truly amazing to see.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

I celebrated by dinner with friends, and tried my hand at making hot cross buns. They were a mixed bag taste wise, but I think my effort to be multicultural was commendable. In addition to the traditional hot cross buns, I made a hot star of David bun, a hot star and crescent and bun, and a hot agnostic bun (though I inserted a toothpick into that one to see if they were done-so I guess there's always a tiny bit of doubt).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

England meets the Parents

Parents visited for this past week, arriving last Saturday and leaving this morning. On paper 7 days with the parents in town seemed like a lot of town, but we certainly kept busy.
We spent the first few days in London. Mostly I remember doing a lot of walking, such as above on the Millenium Bridge, but we also saw Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Number 10, Trafalgar, Hyde/Green/St. James Parks, St. Paul's, the Tower Bridge, etc. We spent a good deal of time each at the British Museum and the Tower of London, which were both phenomenal. Makes you realize how much history this country has, truly spectacular.

Next came three days in Cambridge. I thought this would be the more relaxing part of the trip, but I majorly underestimated the amount of things to do and see in Cambridge. We spent hours seeing the colleges, the old streets, the churches, and so on. We even caught a service at King's Chapel (above), and went out punting (also above, though you can't see us, we're on a boat). Parents also saw the Fitzwilliam and Botanic Gardens.
Of course, one of the major elements was just my parents wanting to know what life is like here for me, as parents like to know these things. As seen above, we made it to Churchill and also the Computer lab, and had dinner with a bunch of my friends one night and my research group the next night. The trip was a nice semi-break from work (though I still worked a decent amount), but also showed me how much this place has to offer, and reminded me to take advantage of it all while I'm here.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Two Conferences, One Week

Just wrapping up a crazy week. Tuesday I presented some Facebook research at the ACM Workshop on Social Network Systems in Nuremberg. This also got some minor media buzz. Then from Wednesday-Friday I was in Cambridge at the International Workshop on Security Protocols. I presented some work on human-level cryptography on Friday.

I took a little bit of time after the two to reflect on my academic career so far with my first two publications in the book and a number of others floating in the ether. So far it's going well, I have a number of topics I'm interested in and I'm grateful for the position of freedom I'm in, despite the amount of work it's taken so far.