Sunday, October 25, 2009

A net quitter walks into a hacker convention

"What else are you going to do? Cut a hole through a sheet and fuck through it? Do you have a telephone you can crank up? And how are you going to get around? Let me guess, you're gonna use a wheelbarrow."

So answered the guy with the cherry red hair and beer stained t-shirt when I told him about what I'm contemplating.

I was hanging out at the 11th annual Toorcon convention, a gathering of hackers and security experts held, rather conventionally, at San Diego's Convention Center. Topics this year included modeling cyber threats, exploiting an Apple firmware update and why black hat hackers always win.

My friend's boyfriend was a speaker, and we stopped by the reception because I wanted to see the culture, she wanted to see her man, and we both wanted the free crab cakes rumored to be at the refreshment table. Those ended up being really gross, but the wild mushroom and goat cheese eggrolls were most munchable.

This guy and his friends were at the beginning of a power hour, which makes me wish I'd waited until shot 59 to get their reactions.

We didn't stick around that long, though, since the conference was going on all weekend and I was going to drop in on some sessions on Sunday.

Then, things took a turn for the worse. My friend's boyfriend broke his leg and he's now in the hospital. She's been by his side the whole time. The hackers have been coming and going from the hospital, offering their airline miles and couches and anything he needs to extend his trip or make his stay more comfortable. I missed my chance to learn about their technology and subculture. And I was reminded of the old journalism adage: Never assume. That the crab cakes will be yummy, that hackers are out to mess things up for others or that things will ever go according to plan.

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