My first live-blogging event: truck explosion

Sitting in my NY apartment, I suddenly hear a loud BOOM on the Queensboro bridge. ¬†I ran to the window and I couldn’t see what happened but I did see all Queens traffic stopped, some people running and cars trying to back-out off the bridge.

The air quickly smelt of smoke and while something still didn’t feel right, there was no screaming or any other loud noises, so I started tweeting ūüôā

Continue reading “My first live-blogging event: truck explosion”

Nemo found Central Park

Friday night, the blizzard “Nemo” hit the northeast portion of the United States. Mainly affecting areas north of NYC, it blanketed NYC in a few inches of snow. The serendipitous timing provided hours of entertainment for children and adults in Central Park. It seemed like all of the city was out enjoying the snow. ¬†Including dogs in snow boots, which I think is a NYC thing.

Saturday morning I had breakfast at Cafe Sabarsky, which is one of my favorite, albeit infrequent, breakfast restaurants. ¬†Although if you do visit the cafe, the breakfast hours on weekends are 9 – 11 am and they are quite strict on the timeliness of the cutoff. ¬†So, my breakfast was more of a brunch ūüėČ

Anyway, walking down from 86th street I passed many of my favorite landmarks now covered in snow. Sadly, the Strand kiosk¬†was closed but the Waffles & Dinges stand was still going strong (having just had a Sachertorte, I skipped the cart this time…). For those of you who like amateur photos shot from a phone, enjoy the following collection. Continue reading “Nemo found Central Park”

Math, Waffles and Books in NYC. One of these is not like the others.

Like the beginning of 1Q84, I immediately recognized the Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake on the radio. Ok, so in 1Q84 it was LeoŇ° Jan√°ńćek and I actually didn’t know what act of Swan Lake it was (turns out it was the great trumpet solo in Act 1 – No. 2 Valse), but I was impressed with myself nonetheless. ¬†Cultural reference to start the new year… check.

My musical spidey-sense went off while I was browsing the Strand bookstore. ¬†Despite the ridiculous amount of books contained within, I prefer the low key Strand kiosk on 60th and 5th avenue, but more on that later. ¬†If you ever read a book outside of school for fun, or if you are looking for your required reading, you’ll love either Strand location. ¬†The main store is a nice place to visit after you visit the new Museum of Mathematics or MoMath for short.

Continue reading “Math, Waffles and Books in NYC. One of these is not like the others.”

NYC Travel Tip: Governor’s Island

Open to the public since 2003, Governor’s Island is a great summer retreat when one wants to escape island life on Manhattan. ¬†A repurposed Army base, this summer-only hideaway has been on my “to see” list for a while and I was glad to make a trek to the island, despite the simultaneous HOPE conference.

On Gov’s Island facing toward Lower Manhattan.

There is a short ferry from Manhattan’s Battery that takes about ten minutes or so of actual travel time. ¬†Besides some great views of Brooklyn, the statue of liberty, Ellis Island and lower Manhattan, most of the northern part of the land is open to the public. ¬†I was surprised to see a sand-filled beach beer garden and an abundance of table vendors from ice-cream trucks to recycling campaigns to political activists. ¬†All of this in front of a backdrop of¬†closed military barracks and parade grounds makes for a surreal sight.

Tall ship passing between Governor’s Island and Manhattan. There was a decent wind that day, which would make for a great day for sailing!

Renting bikes is popular here and so are collisions or near collisions among urban-dwellers who don’t get out of the city much. But, if one can manage to avoid a handshake with a bicycle, sitting and watching the water traffic is entertaining enough. ¬†By the way, the island, the ferries and the walking is free (as in beer)!

Google Earth view of Governor’s Island, Brooklyn (with Bridge) and lower Manhattan. If I was properly prepared, I would have brought my GPS with me to record the trip…

I recommend visitors bring water and snacks with them as the on-island carts are very much aware that you are stuck on an island. ¬†Also, when the military left apparently so did the sanitation system as most of the toilets are port-a-potties. ¬†But, besides these realities of island-life, it really is worth the trip on a nice day and besides central park, it’s probably the closest open-air escape from the city.

NYC Water Taxi with Staten Island ferry. In the background, lower Manhattan. The water taxi was featured in AFAR‘s picture mash-up a few months ago which featured taxis from around the world.


When one has a serendipitous day off in NYC there are several things one might go see / do.  The views on the top of the Rock and Empire are amazing, visiting the Brooklyn Brewery is fun and eating a Belgian Waffle in Central Park while reading a book purchased from the Strand kiosk is: legen-wait-for-it-dary.  But when I discovered that HOPE#9 was this weekend, I was all in!

Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) has been going on since 1994 and largely supported by 2600 Magazine, which I’ve been reading more regularly since it has been published on the Kindle. ¬†This was the first HOPE that I attended, and while I only attended 7 of the 36 possible talks (assuming one can’t be in all three rooms at once, otherwise the number of distinct talks was over 100), I am definitely going to the next HOPE! ¬†Not the “next hope“, that was in 2010, but the next HOPE in 2014…

Not the best view in the room… but it was standing room only in the Crimeware talk.

So, first lets dispel some myths. ¬†Hackers are actually very friendly people. ¬†I hadn’t preregistered, so when I went to buy my passport, a friendly fellow hacker sold me an extra one for a discount. ¬†Then, walking around the mezzanine, where the lock picking labs, soldering station, and hammocks are located, a friendly patron pointed me to the right elevator. ¬†Throughout the conference, people in suits,¬†goth-like clothing t-shirts and flippie-floppies all sat together and listened to a range of topics. ¬†In fact, I think the hacker community is one of the most inclusive groups that’s around.

But, I’m not a hacker anthropologist. ¬†So,¬†I attended the talks below (the links jump to the HOPE#9 abstract).

  1. Smartphone Penetration Testing Framework.  This set the stage for my HOPE experience.  On the stage, Georgia challenged the audience to hack her iPhone and within minutes, her iPhone would only display a picture of a cat.  Her point, that smartphones on your company network are a big risk, was well received.
  2. Technology to Change Society
  3. Lunch.  Two Hawaiian style pieces of Pizza from a nearby slice-shop.
  4. Crimeware Tools and Techniques of 2012: Past, Present, and Future. ¬†The inside look at black-market tools, including automated credit-card shops. ¬†Lets just say, if you jailbreak your phone, you should be really, really¬†sure you know where that binary came from…
  5. Keynote from William Binney.¬†¬†Think WIRED’s cover story on the NSA’s Utah¬†operation a few months ago.
  6. Hacktivism, Tools, and the Arab Spring.
  7. Destroying Evidence Before It’s Evidence. ¬†Given by an EFF lawyer. You should really know what anticipatory obstruction of justice is (US v. Wolff).
  8. Digital Security in Health Care Institutions. ¬†Or how it’s possible to hack an implanted insulin pump to kill somebody (and why the company hasn’t fixed it yet).
  9. Why Browser Cryptography is Bad and How We Can Make It Great. [On Saturday] Talk on encrypted group chat given by the Crypto Cat founder.
  10. Protecting Your Data from the Cops.  Given by another great EFF lawyer. Among other topics, she discussed the application of the 5th amendment privilege to encryption situations.
Swag from HOPE#9. Yes, that’s a GNU and technically the glass is not from HOPE, it’s from Thinkgeek, but I thought it was apropos…

As you can see, in the short time I had to attend HOPE, it was jam-packed. But the talks go each day until midnight! ¬†I also didn’t get a chance to try the Arduino lab or some of the other interactive demos. ¬†It sounds like HOPE#9 was going as well as the other HOPEs and if that’s the case, you can see me at the next one. ¬†Next time, I’ll try to stay for the entire weekend.

Literaturhaus NYC

For those visiting NYC Upper East Side, I recommend the following half-day trip, which happened to be my Monday morning. ¬†Start off with Breakfast at Caf√©¬†Sabarsky at 86th and 5th. ¬†It’s a quiet, Viennese style caf√©¬†in the Neue Galerie Museum. ¬†It has the¬†distinct¬†European caf√©¬†feel, where they make real caff√® lattes¬†(milchkaffee) and where one can sit with a Newspaper stick and enjoying leisurely reading. ¬†Caf√©¬†Sabarsky reminds me of my other favorite caf√©¬†in Berlin, the Literaturhaus Berlin. ¬†Like Sabarsky and as its name implies, the Literaturhaus caf√©¬†is designed for reading. ¬†And not the kind of reading one does with a highlighter or with the swipe of the finger, these caf√©s¬†are the battlefields to tackle Joyce, Foster, Dostoyevsky, or Pynchon. ¬†None of whom I brought, since I had excellent company at the time. ¬†But I semi-frequently go to restaurants by myself just to read, which I recognize is not a normal habit…

So, after a European breakfast topped off with Sachertorte, walk down (or through) the Park to the south-east corner of Central Park at 60th and 5th Avenue.  There you will find two kiosks.  One, is the Vendy Award winning Belgian Waffle stand: Wafels and Dinges.

Waffles and Dinges Cart

Skip that for now, since you just had Sachertorte, but remember to go back one day and try a waffle with Speculoos.  Instead focus on the stand of one of the great NYC companies: The Strand Bookstore.  This kiosk is a mere speck of the books offered in the main bookstore which contains over 18 miles of books and where one can order books not only by the author, but by the foot.

The Kiosk, open 10 AM to dusk April through December, weather permitting, is the reverent flame for the book against its barbarian attacker: the eBook.  Even mentioned in this recent WIRED article, the book benefits from what the eBook readers lack: good

Strand Kiosk on the SE Corner of Central Park

design. ¬†Now, I own a Kindle and it has its place for me, but there is something about browsing through table-tops of books at the entrance to central park. ¬†And if the location and availability hasn’t won you over, the pedigree of books on display will. ¬†Of course, at the kiosk, the Hunger Game Series and other popular fiction are available, but the¬†majority of this corner shop is the boxes of half-priced (slightly) used classics. ¬†I had to limit myself to three: Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf (nat√ľrlich, I would try to read it in German, but Kafka is still difficult for me. ¬†And I tend to collect German books and not finish them. ¬†So, I really want to read Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann in German, but you see, I’ve just purchased these books…), Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale, and The Redbreast, a Jo Nesbo novel.

While this may not be the itinerary for first time New Yorkers, stay an extra day next time to give this a try. ¬†Or, if you forgot to bring your copy of The Brothers K., try the trip above in reverse and pick up a copy at the Strand Kiosk on your way to Fr√ľhst√ľck. ¬†As of Monday, there were three copies left.