Neil's News

Great White North

10 March 2009

I've spent the past week in Ottawa, visiting my grandmother, giving a couple of lectures, writing a paper. Some random musings:

Security lock. One of the hijacked planes on 11 September 2001 left from Newark Airport. As a result, security is pretty tight there. But after walking around the terminal for eleven hours, cracks in the security started appearing. For example, can anyone guess the access code for this staff locker room? And once you have access to staff uniforms, where would you like to go from there?

The metric system. Meters, grams, litres, celsius, how I missed thee. A few weeks ago I asked the water dispenser back at Google for some hot water and it informed me that it was about to dispense water at 203°. Eep! When will the US crawl into the 20th century and go metric? Probably not for a while, when visiting Houston several years ago I spotted a sign in a high school science classroom that stated "We don't want no foreign rulers."

Lisgar. I returned to my old high school to give a lecture on Internet security. As usual they found the content hijacking exploit in under two minutes. We then moved on to time-keeping problems and internationalization. It's a real thrill to engage with a class that doesn't just keep up, but keeps pushing one forward. I even threw some of my Google interview questions at them and they nailed every one. A very different experience from giving the same talk in the US last month.

Carleton. I returned to my old university and gave mostly the same lecture as the one at Lisgar. Interestingly they didn't do as well on the interview questions as the high school students. While much more knowledgeable, they were also much more risk-averse, not wishing to suggest a potentially wrong answer. I think Sir Ken Robinson was right.

Blood. I'm not permitted to donate blood in the US because my extended stay in Inverness invites fears that I might be a carrier of Mad Cow Disease. Basically if you lived in Europe for more than five years (since 1980), the US doesn't want your blood. Canada has more nuanced rules which recognise that Hungary and Britain are different countries which pursued different agricultural policies. So I donate blood whenever I'm in Canada.

Ok, enough fun, time to fly back...

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