I went silent, didn't I? I wrote almost nothing at all in the month of March. March was eaten by travel. I made trips to Stockholm and Toronto, with a brief stopover in Iceland--just long enough for me to lose my wallet. In a few weeks, I will leave for Hong Kong, Beijing, and the Dominican Republic. And in the time I have had between trips, I have been awfully quiet. I am trying to catch up on sleep.
Stockholm is Europe on the "easy" setting. It's flat and clean. Everyone speaks English. It has picturesque museums and opera houses and official architecture, second-hand clothing stores and adorable little design boutiques, coffee shops and book stores. I see a lot of coffee shops, because although it is sunny, it is -15 degrees C outside. There is a little bit of snow on the ground, but even in this frigid weather, signs point to Spring. Everyone is ready for the cold to be over.
I deployed my warmest coat, a 70's vintage leather trenchcoat with a great big fur collar. The combination of the trenchcoat and my enormous sunglasses caused my hostess to mistake me for the Italian panelist. My glamor was short-lived. Having shed my outer layers, I sat on a panel full of important, official cybersecurity people in suits while sporting knee-high industrial boots and a black hoodie. It was an easy room, a crowd of people who wanted to like me. I scored easy points defending anonymity and cryptography against a law-enforcement opposition whose argument essentially boiled down to, "but...child porn!"
I met a Pirate Party representative in the European Parliament and endless people from the Swedish State Department. I met some very sweet Internet freedom types from nearby Uppsala. I may have gotten a bit tipsy with an Irish guy from Index on Censorship and spent a little too much time discussing the finer points of British comedy. The glamorous Italian co-panelist and I got along like a house on fire and the event organizer declared that we were in love. I fell asleep in my tiny European hotel room with my boots on.
In the morning, I got on a train with my hangover and a copy of Anna Karenin and took off through the snowy suburbs to the airport.
Icelandair is really quite pleasant, as airlines go, even if it is not on Star Alliance and does not bring me the precious, precious airline miles that are the lifeblood of the professional traveler. My trip to Toronto took me through Reykjavik, where the airport featured enormous posters displaying Facts About Iceland (in English). Did you know that Iceland has an enormous number of volcanos? Or that some alarming percentage of the population believes in elves?
Icelandair is really quite pleasant until you get off the plane and discover that a wheel is missing from your luggage (the same wheel you had repaired after it was torn off in Istanbul) and you can't find your wallet. Did you know that Icelandair covers all kinds of accidental damage to your luggage, but it does not cover damage to wheels or handles? Did you know that Icelandair employees were unable to locate my wallet anywhere inside of the airplane? Did you know that the currency exchange at Toronto's Pearson airport will not exchange Swedish krona for Canadian dollars? Fortunately I had (barely) enough Euros and Brazilian reals at the bottom of my bag to pay for a bus ticket into Toronto proper, followed by a short cab ride to my hotel. J was sweet enough to wire me enough money to get through the next ten days.
The conference at the University of Toronto combined some of the best and worst aspects of the Carmen San Diego job. In some ways, going to conferences means meeting other professional conference goers, drinking heavily with them, and gossiping about your mutual acquaintances. You see the same talks and people talking about the same projects. You see people going around in tedious circles about the same problems. Everyone fights over funding. Everyone overuses the term "cyber." New activists show up and I terrify them when I talk about security and privacy. Activists that have heard me talk about security and privacy show up and demonstrate that they haven't really learned anything as a result of my talking to them. I despair. I eat late night Korean barbecue in a variety of hole-in-the-wall restaurants. I take goofy photos from the top of the CN tower. I wander around Kensington Market and promise myself that I will finally read that Cory Doctorow novel which is set there. I go out to a fancy dinner at Georges. Record store employees roll their eyes at the mention of the Canadian Music Festival. I buy J a Venetian cookbook with an octopus on the cover. I stay up very late writing blog posts for work while everyone else is out carousing.
I come back to ess eff and kiss J. He tells me stories about SXSW and we make decisions about Bunker 3, which will not be ready until the fourth week of May. I have seen the world and I have never been so tired.