Sometimes being a Ph.D. student is illegally good: although this might end my travels for the year, I have absolutely no reason to complain due to the last two months’ adventures: Boston, Israel, and now the Caribbean with a short stop in Houston and New York City!
Being the unlucky one chosen to present our secure division paper at this year’s Financial Crypto, I had to go for a week of sun and diving on Bonaire. So bad was it in fact, that my girlfriend offered to come with me to help wherever she could; and thankfully she took care of most of the diving, leaving me responsible for only the conference during the first few days, and two days of diving in the end.
On the way there we had booked our tickets with enough delay in-between the connection flight to go have a look at Houston. I don’t know if we were just unlucky, but when the bus dropped us off down-town it most of all looked like a (modern) ghost town: huge skyscrapers and broad roads alright, but no people nor cars in sight. Since it roughly stayed like this for three hours while we walked around, we had almost given up and decided to just head back to the airport early for dinner when we stumbled upon the only few blocks with a bit of life. Thankfully we gave it a second chance, and found not only that House of Blues is a great place for a pulled pork BBQ burger, but is also an apparently famous venue in town.
Finally arriving on Bonaire after 18 hours in transit we went straight to the hotel, and didn’t see until morning how splendid the Divi Flamingo Beach Resort really was: 30 degrees, morning fruit buffet on the beach, and a calm blue Caribbean waiting 10 meters away. Unfortunately I had to attend the conference immediately after while my girlfriend went to get started on her diving certificate — and even worse, the conference room was located on-top of the diving shop so I could sit there, inside, and look down on them having fun in the water outside. Here a padding on the shoulder is perhaps in order, as I noticed that several of the other conference attendants where not so serious, and where in fact diving along with her.
All said, it was a good conference though, with interesting topics both from academia and industry. I got to talk to some industry people, and most strikingly of all I learned that they were actually quite excited about the research being done in academia (in this case secure multi-party computations) yet would not dare to touch it before it had somehow received an approval stamp from e.g. the US government; in other words, they needed someone to point fingers at if something went wrong — understandable of course, but hadn’t thought about before that.
It was also fun to see and meet Ross Anderson for the first time, as his book Security Engineering was a heavy influence on me when first getting interested in security and crypto. The other book was Applied Cryptography by Bruce Schneier by the way, and both come highly recommended for anyone getting into the area and wanting a broader overview.
When the conference was over we had taken two days extra, which meant that we could go diving together and had time to rent a jeep and do a round-trip of the island. Amazing diving spot with corals literally appearing 15m off the shore by the hotel, and stunning nature reserve with flamingoes, pelicans, and goats!
Finally, one the way back to Denmark we had again planned for a few hours lay-over, this time in New York City. There were only a few hours to spare this time, but we did manage to grab a burger and a stroll in Central Park, not least thanks to a ride into town from some of our earlier dive buddies. After almost being late back at the airport we sat down in our seats and denied for a few hours that we were heading back to cold and dark Aarhus.