Bruce Schneier briefed congress on the NSA

I suggested that we hold this meeting in a SCIF, because they wanted me to talk about top secret documents that had not been made public. The problem is that I, as someone without a clearance, would not be allowed into the SCIF. So we had to have the meeting in a regular room.

This really was an extraordinary thing.

Bruce Schneier

Making Flickr badges work with https

Following Eric’s instructions, I switched paulschreiber.com to https.

I then had to get rid of the pesky mixed-content warnings. Most were pretty straightforward — I had a few JavaScript files and images that used absolute URLs and HTTP; I switched them to use HTTPS.

However, my flickr badge presented a problem. (It’s bothering some other people too.) While it was easy enough to swap out the <script> tag:

<script src="http://www.flickr.com/badge_code_v2.gne? count=5&display=latest&size=s&layout=h&source=user&user=37996608105%40N01" type="text/javascript"></script>

for the https version:

<script src="https://www.flickr.com/badge_code_v2.gne? count=5&display=latest&size=s&layout=h&source=user&user=37996608105%40N01" type="text/javascript"></script>

that wasn’t enough. It only changes the thumbnails, not the tracking pixel, which still points at:

<img src="http://geo.yahoo.com/p?s=792600102&t=67f50b8889e85d80a3ed5894813da604&fl_ev=0&lang=en&intl=us" width="0" height="0" alt="" />

Fortunately, geo.yahoo.com responds to HTTPS requests. I wrote a thin wrapper around this, replacing the call to flickr.com with a call to a local file:

<script src="/wp-content/themes/paul2/flickrbadge.php? count=5&amp;display=latest&amp;size=s&amp;layout=h&amp;source=user&amp;user=3799 6608105%40N01" type="text/javascript"></script>

flickrbadge.php is a tiny script:

<?php print str_replace("http://geo.yahoo.com", "https://geo.yahoo.com", file_get_contents("https://www.flickr.com/badge_code_v2.gne?" . $_SERVER["QUERY_STRING"])); ?>

Doing creative work

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
― Ira Glass

How to take your bike on Amtrak

After biking to DC, I needed a way to get my bike back to New York. There were a few options:

  • Ship it (FedEx Ground would be best)
  • Take it with me on a bus
  • Take it with me on a train
  • Have someone drive it back

Since I was already taking the train myself, I figured that’d be the easiest and most inexpensive way to do so. I was right about the latter, but not about the former.

While Amtrak attempts to explain its bicycle rules, they fail miserably.

Q: I have a bike. I’m taking a train. Can the bike with me?
A: Sometimes.

There are four different situations you might be in:

  1. You cannot take the bike on the train with you
  2. You can take the bike on board the train with you
  3. You can take the bike on board the train with you as checked baggage
  4. You can take the train, and the bike will go as checked baggage on a different train

Bikes on board (walk the bike the train with you)

You can do this on several of Amtrak’s line: Amtrak Cascades, Capitol Corridor, San Joaquin, Pacific Surfliner, Downstate Illinois Services, Blue Water (trains 364 and 365 only), Missouri River Runner, Downeaster
(BRK, POR and BON stations only) and Piedmont.

For those of you (like me) unfamiliar with Amtrak’s naming scheme, here’s a decoder ring:

  • Cascades is the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington)
  • Capitol Corridor takes you from the San Francisco Bay area to the Sacaramento area (California)
  • San Joaquin runs through California’s Central Valley
  • Pacific Surfliner takes you from Los Angeles to San Diego (California)
  • Downstate Illinois takes you from Chicago to other parts of Illinois
  • Blue Water is code for “around Michigan”
  • Missouri River Runner takes you St. Louis to Kansas City
  • Downeaster runs from Boston to Portland, Maine
  • Piedmont means Raleigh-to-Charlotte

Bikes as checked baggage (bike in a box)

In order for you to to check your bike as baggage, both the arrival and departure stations must offer checked baggage service. Unfortunately, Amtrak doesn’t provide this list in a useful format. There’s a list of stations and a search tool. Ugh. How inconvenient.

I put together a script to collect this data from the Amtrak site.

Amtrak stations with checked baggage service are: ABQ, ADE, ALB, ALX, ALY, ANA, ATL, AUS, BAL, BED, BEL, BFD, BHM, BNL, BOS, BUF, CBS, CDL, CHI, CHM, CHS, CHW, CIN, CLB, CLE, CLT, CRB, CSW, CTL, CVS, CYN, DAL, DAV, DEN, DFB, DLD, DNC, EDM, ELP, EMY, EUG, EVR, FAR, FAY, FLG, FLO, FNO, FTL, FTW, FUL, GFK, GFV, GJT, GRO, GRV, GSC, HAS, HAV, HCH, HKL, HMD, HNF, HOL, HOS, HUN, IND, JAN, JAX, KCY, KFS, KGG, KIS, LAJ, LAK, LAX, LKL, LMY, LNK, LRK, LSE, LVW, LYH, MCD, MEI, MEM, MIA, MKE, MOD, MOT, MRC, MSP, MTZ, NHV, NOL, NWK, NYP, OKJ, OKL, OMA, ORL, OSD, OXN, PDX, PGH, PHL, PRC, PSC, PTB, PVD, RGH, RMT, RNO, ROC, RVR, SAC, SAN, SAS, SAV, SBA, SBG, SBY, SDY, SEA, SFC, SJC, SKN, SLC, SLM, SLO, SNA, SNS, SOB, SPG, SPI, SPK, SQA, STL, STP, SYR, TAC, TCL, TOL, TPA, TUS, TWO, TXA, UCA, VAC, VAN, VNC, WAS, WFH, WIL, WIN, WLN, WOR, WPB, WPK, WTH and WTN.

Just because there’s checked baggage between your departure and arrival stations doesn’t mean you get to take the bike on board with you. Not all trains have a baggage car. If your train doesn’t have a baggage car, your checked baggage will be placed on the next train that does, and you can come back to your arrival Amtrak station to retrieve your bike.

As an example, the only WAS-NYP train with a baggage car is the 10pm train.

If returning to your arrival station to pick up your bike is too inconvenient, you can always show up at your departure station the day before, check your bike, and collect it when you arrive.

Actually checking the bike

You can’t just hand the bike over to the baggage clerk as-is—the bike must be in a bike box. Amtrak will sell you one for $15. Most bike shops will give you one for free, as they throw them out.

Once you have the bike and the bike box, you need to pack it up. There are many YouTube videos demonstrating how to do this. Typically, you’ll need a pedal wrench and a set of allen keys. If you have bolt-on skewers, bring along a 15mm wrench.

After the bike is boxed up, bring it to the Amtrak ticket counter. The clerk will take your contact information, charge you $10, and hand you a receipt and a claim check. Next, tape the necessary paperwork to the box (Amtrak should loan you tape) and write your name and phone number on the box with a sharpie (just in case).

Finally, walk around the corner to the spot where you drop off checked baggage, and hand your boxed bike to the clerk.

Ellen Miller’s brilliant vision for open government

Let’s imagine in for a moment what it would be like if everything the government can share publicly were made public as it happened. If every law, report, inspection, regulation, enforcement action, budget and meeting that we should be aware of is actually made available online and in real time. It would be nothing short of revolutionary.

Many of the incentives that govern our democracies would be fundamentally altered.

Corruption would merely be unthinkable, or at least unsustainable. Regulations could be quickly
enforced. Waste could be quickly addressed. Citizens with good ideas would have an easier time getting in touch with power and the bad actors would be more easily weeded out.

Armed with with access to all kinds of information citizens, can play a more productive and
effective role in self-government and civic life.

Our work to expand public access to government data is enabling citizens like never before to hold their government and their public officials accountable. We must do this because our governments are only as strong as our citizens are informed, and our information is open.

Life hack: buy two belts

Belt shopping is a pain. It’s often difficult to find something you like — in my case, as plain and free of ornamentation as possible — and that’s reasonably priced. The value of the time spent looking is often more than the cost of the belt.

Next time you find a belt like this, buy two of it.

That way, when your belt finally dies, you don’t have to go through this whole process again. Boom. Simple.

(This, of course, doesn’t apply to belts that are fashion accessories. Just the ones that hold up your pants.)

Kathleen Wynne on women and opportunity

This morning, Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s premier-designate spoke at a news conference. Her remarks on women jumped out at me:

I don’t know if any of you remember, or have seen my maiden speech, where I talked about coming to the legislature, I felt that I had a responsibility to represent all of my constituents, but that I had some special responsibilities, and I talked about young moms, who might have been at home listening, and having their little kids and thinking “how am I ever going to do the things with my life that I want to do” and I said I can be an example, because I had three little kids, and I was receiving faxes and doing laundry at the same time, with one on my hip, and that doesn’t mean that at some point you can’t have a bigger life.

But I also said that I had a special responsibility to young, gay people who might be looking for the possibility that there might be a more accepting world somewhere. I’m not a gay activist — that’s not how I got in to politics, so I’m not going to spend the next — I’m talking about it today because you’ve asked about it, but I’m not going to spend the next months talking about this. But it is important to me that young people, and people who are frightened, see the possibilities, and that if I can help people to be less frightened, then that’s a wonderful wonder thing.

But for me the really historic thing, and this is the battle I’ve been fighting since I was five years old and went to kindergarten and realized I wasn’t expected to play with the blocks because I was a girl. For me, the fact there are six female premiers across the country — that’s huge. That’s a huge, huge thing. We’ve wondered about why we haven’t had a higher percentage of women in legislatures and in parliament. Well, maybe we’re reaching a critical mass and maybe now it will just be whether you’ve got what it takes to get your name on a ballot and whether you can win in a riding as opposed to whether you’re male or female. Maybe this will make a difference.

Pauline Marois has already reach out to me. I don’t know who else has, but I’m looking forward to talking with all of them and I think the conversation at that table of premiers will be very interesting, and I look forward to chairing that meeting.

Where to eat (and what to do) in New York

Similar to my Where to eat in San Francisco list, here’s a set of recommendations for food an activities in New York, particularly in Brooklyn.

Restaurants (general)

  • Aquagrill (seafood)
  • The Soul Spot
  • Inoteca (Italian)
  • Shake Shack (Brooklyn location has no line)
  • Veniero (for dessert)
  • Juliette (French)
  • Atlantic Chip Shop (really good beer selection)
  • Nectar (sandwiches and salads)
  • My Little Pizzeria
  • Moim (Korean)
  • Court Street Bagels

Bars (with good food)

  • Char No 4
  • Bar Tabac (try the squid ink tagliatelle)

Bars

  • Angel’s Share (speakeasy)
  • Union Hall
  • Bar Great Harry

Japanese

  • Ganso (ramen)
  • Hibino
  • Sushi Azabu (reservations strongly recommended; so is the unagi)

Coffee Shops (good places to work from)

  • Vineapple
  • Tea Lounge
  • Ted & Honey

Vegetarian/Vegan

  • Red Bamboo
  • Quantum Leap
  • Blossom (fancy)

Middle Eastern

  • The Hummus Place
  • Taim

Cuban

  • Café Habana
  • Sophie’s Cuban

Mexican

  • Oaxaca
  • OMG Taco
  • Rachel’s Taqueria

Thai

  • Spice
  • Ghang Thai
  • Pok Pok Ny

Parks

  • The High Line
  • Prospect Park
  • Brooklyn Bridge Park
  • Central Park

Museums

  • Transit Museum
  • Tenement Museum
  • Louis Armstrong Museum
  • International Center of Photography
  • MOMA

Books

  • Book Court
  • Strand

Sports

  • Chelsea Piers

Music

  • The Living Room
  • Googies
  • Rockwood Music Hall
  • Piano’s
  • Arlene’s Grocery
  • Mercury Lounge
  • Union Hall
  • Spike Hill
  • The Bell House
  • Littlefield