DEF CON 26

I returned home yesterday from DEF CON in Las Vegas. I attended with my teammates from Defiant. As we are a remote team, this is our annual get together for some face-to-face meetings, hacking escapades, and some fun. I knew there would be a lot of people there. I was woefully unprepared for the sheer crush of humanity.

I brought my kids. After living in Mount Shasta, they haven’t traveled a ton lately. They had never seen Las Vegas. Mark took them around to sightsee while I did work things. We also got a badge for Max to attend DEF CON. Of course, Claire was jealous and wanted to see too. So we swapped badges for a bit so she could visit the R00tz Asylum village and play. Both of my kids had a BLAST. And I had fun, too. Claire wore her Pen Tester for Hire t-shirt to school today. I hope it is well revered.

Max and I attended a talk on hackable touchscreens that ended up on Wired before we even left the room. When the webcam intrusion lit up the screen during the talk, Max’s eyes lit up, too.

Meeting my teammates and bosses for the first time was great.

I felt a little torn having both family and work at the same event — I wanted to spend time with everyone — but it all worked out. I had some heart-to-heart talks with my friends and laughs with my family. And the crescendo of them all together on the last night was amazing. 

There may or may not be video of me dancing to Michael Jackson. (Spoiler: there is)

Ceasar’s Palace was lovely. Until the last night. Others have written about the hotel security checks more eloquently than I ever could. We had a visit, and I just let Mark handle it. If I was alone, I probably would have been much more upset about the visit. If I was alone with the kids, I would have been freaked out.

They had said that we had not had our room serviced, and that meant they had to inspect the room. Problem is, we DID have our room serviced. There was no valid reason for the visit from Ceasar’s Palace security, even though it got sorted out quickly. No one else on our team had a visit. All in all, it was weird. 

It’s over, though, and so I have turned my attention and focus to the good memories.

Not nearly as long as I thought it would be.
DEF CON Patrol included golden retrievers. (Not sure these folks were here for DEF CON.)
Send your USB drives to North Korea. 
Mr. Bean (at least the cardboard cutout of him) came along with us.

That all being said, I’m fairly certain it will be my first, and last, DEF CON. 

 

Someone Moved

We moved to Phoenix in mid-June. I don’t yet feel at home. The oppressive heat has been wearing on me, but I can see an end to the furnace-inspired onslaught soon. I find ways to stay positive and adapt.

I like the skies here. 

Last night, a dear friend from Mount Shasta called.

Before I could even lament the heat, he said, “I know you’re homesick. I know it’s hot there. But if you were here, you’d have to deal with the heat AND the smoke. When the winds are from the north, it’s smoke from fires in Oregon. When they’re from the south, it’s smoke from Redding.”

The fires have been giving me a strong case of survivor’s guilt. My heart is still firmly planted in Mount Shasta. What happens there matters a lot to me.

And yet, the wildfires of the last few years were a deciding factor in my decision to move. I really never wanted to leave. But three summers of intense smoke were getting too much to bear. Watching Alex suffer through the smoke while he was so sick last year was really the last straw.

Some compromises were made after housing searches near the coast were proving unfruitful. A visit to Phoenix in May opened a lot of opportunities. We’re renting and not quite sure if we’re permanent valley residents quite yet. People tell me to hold on, hang in there, by fall I’ll love it here. I am surrendering to that.

I like that I can find anything and everything I want here. 

August was to be trips to the coast, and I was holding out for that. One small problem: the Phoenix area school year starts August 8. Not even kidding. I suppose I should have checked on such things. But honestly, every school district I’ve ever known starts sometime near Labor Day. I thought perhaps with the summer heat, school might not start until mid-September. How naive, non-Arizonan!

With the pain of inevitable growth and loss hanging overhead as I stretch out of comfort zones, I catch glimpses of good things on the horizon. Though it is hot, I am venturing out and about and meeting new people. I’ve found volunteering for things that I like makes a new place so much more interesting and fun, so I am doing that.

And writing.

This blog has languished. And I’m getting strong intuitive messages that it’s time to up the commitment to this space and maybe even another. I switched some design elements around and I’m diving into the WordPress Gutenberg editor. Again, more staying positive and adaptation to my environment.

I like Lake Pleasant is close. There are pools everywhere and I don’t have to take care of any of them.

The move has been hardest on me and Max. We both loved our mountain enclave. I miss my neighborhood, my neighbors, my friends. I miss my morning walks through quiet forests. The desert is so different.

Mark much prefers here, and Claire is embracing change and new opportunities.

So, we adapt.

Fun things:

  • I visited Saint Louis and attended WPCampus as a representative for Defiant. I had so much fun with this group of very passionate and connected higher ed WordPress users.
  • The kids and I took a trip up to Sedona. Max asked why we didn’t move there instead. He has no idea of my lifelong Sedona fascination, and yet somehow he knows. He enjoyed it rather a lot.
  • I have all but given up on Facebook. Long story. Privacy, usability, a community of hateful commentary… I’m done. I still use it to check in on some things, but it’s starting to feel like AOL 1999.
  • Work is fascinating. Every time I think I’ve done all I can do and have mastered my world, a new challenge shows up to pull me out of my comfort zones.

I like that I can smell opportunities everywhere. 

And finally, some photos.

Arizona sky
The skies are beautiful, especially with monsoon season.
Max in Sedona
Sedona got this teenager out of the car and taking pictures.
pyramid mountains
Though it’s not exactly Black Butte in Mt. Shasta, it has the same pyramid like feel. I like these hills.
bodhi and sven
The fur-enabled beasties are either adapting or plotting my demise under the kitchen table. 

This post was written and organized using Gutenberg. So far, so good. Here comes the future.