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Tech Squares!

On Tuesday, I finally went back to Tech Squares. It was my first time dancing there in about a year, I think. As predicted, it didn't go great --- I was struggling a bit towards the end of the class when I took it, and a year without practice didn't help any... I danced in two tips. The first went fairly disastrously. Some of that was me sucking, though I think a decent amount was that it was a square with seven people and a phantom, and two of the people were dancing flipped gender. I sat out the last club tip, and then danced a class tip, which went quite smoothly. I definitely had trouble sometimes, but the squares never really broke down. I think I may resume going to Squares most weeks, and hopefully relearn how to square dance...

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A class with such promise...

This semester I was pretty excited about taking 6.858 --- "Computer Systems Security". I thought there was a decent chance that I'd find security interesting.

A week into the class, I was even more excited --- the first lab had consisted of developing three exploits for a toy web server, which had been both fun and educational --- besides practical security lessons, I also got a much better understanding of C, assembly, gdb, the stack, and related relatively low-level things. That week was particularly successful in teaching about those things, since I'm also taking 6.828 (Operating Systems), and the first lab in that class was largely about familiarizing ourselves with the same sort of ideas. Also, I hadn't had much exposure before --- I nominally learned C a long time ago, but except for a bit of Barnowl hacking a couple years ago, I haven't touched it since (and never touched it much). C --- much less assembly --- and gdb we hence things that were way level than anything I'd worked with in my recent, Python and PHP dominated, activities.

Unfortunately, the class went downhill from there. My interest in defending against buffer overflows by restricting the execution path had been basically satisfied by the papers we'd read, and Lab 2 was largely a painful fight to learn an unfamiliar API rather than a fun challenge. Lab 3 was sort of decent, though privilege separating a webapp gets tedious pretty quickly.

Going into Lab 4A, I had high hopes that it would be more fun. It was about implementing four different types of web application attacks, which sounded a lot like the first lab, which I'd liked so much. I'm not totally sure why, but it didn't really turn out as fun as I'd hoped. Partially, I think that's because it felt too API-driven --- a lot of time was spent trying to figure out how to make a POST from Javascript, or find what HTML element or attribute I could stick my Javascript in on. I think that the buffer overflow exploitation lab had had a much simpler available API --- a list of syscalls and glibc functions, and not a whole lot else that mattered much...

*shrug* Ah, well. At least 6.828 continues to be pretty awesome.

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  • Computers
  • School/Educational
  • Journal
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An unusually prepared week

This past week --- and, in particular, the end-ish of it --- was unusually nice. I managed to get my act together enough to do my 6.828 lab on Sunday. I also had a 6.858 test on Wednesday, and therefore no 6.858 lab. Usually, I spend Thursday doing the 828 lab, and then Friday doing the 858 lab for most of the day. This time around, though, after my 6.840 pset was in (I wrote a quine in Scheme! It was actually pretty satisfying), I had very little to do.

This meant that, for the first time since the end of last year, I actually managed to go to the contra dance in Concord. Which, by and large, is way better than MIT's contra's. (One disadvantage is that I seem to have a lot more trouble finding somebody to dance with in any given tip. I'm not really sure why. *shrug* I still got in plenty of dancing.)

It also meant that I got to go see Despicable Me with LSC on Friday. It... actually wasn't as good as I was hoping, and 26-100 seats turn out to be kinda uncomfortable. Oh well.

Anyway, last week was fun. Maybe I can get my act togetherish this week too?

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Free weekend!

Woohoo! I finally had a mostly free weekend. It was pretty nice to be able to (mostly...) relax. No UA retreat, UChicago outing, ESP retreat, Rush, or travel from California to distract me.

I went out to dim sum with Rebecca, her parents, and a couple other friends on Saturday afternoon. After that I took a nap, went to an art show of my aunt's at which I saw my sister, uncle, and aunt, and then went out to dinner with my sister and some people she was going to the symphony with.

Today I got to hang around, read and tool (I finished my 828 lab for the week already! Maybe I can go to the Contra this Thursday?). :)

Oh, and get like halfway through that second half of my UChicago blog post. At some point I'll finish and post it.

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Weekend

This past weekend was UA retreat which, after much waffling, I ended up going on. This is also the last weekend in a while for which I'll be gone most of the weekend which is nice. *sigh*

Retreat was fairly productive. We did an exercise where we brainstormed problems that the UA could address, and then split up into three groups to discuss some of the themes. Not entirely surprisingly, some of the frequently-mentioned themes included communication with the student body, communication within the UA committees and Senate, and Senate issues. I'm conflicted as to how bad an idea using those as the three breakout topics was. On the one hand, the UA exists to serve the students --- not to become a productive student group. On the other hand... we all have expertise in those topics, while expertise in other fields is less common. I guess really what I wanted was probably a group or two on UA stuff, and a group or two on policy issues. Picking topics by "number of post-its about them" was... possibly a bad plan. Meh.

We also had an evening session on parliamentary procedure, something which Senate (including the Speaker) is... sadly confused on. Tim (Vice-Speaker) managed to get Jonte (Speaker) to let him run it, which I think was was good. Anyway, we discussed the "Bill to Come up with a Better Idea". The admins have decided to put in a ball pit in Lobby 7, which the students are all agreed is a bad plan --- it'll block the Infinite. Unfortunately, there's disagreement on what to do instead --- paint Lobby 7 purple and avoid statues, add statues on the plinths, or paint Lobby 7 orange. Each person got assigned one of those three positions, and we tried to produce a bill using RONR. I think people found it generally fun and educational. I got to call somebody on trying to amend an amendment to an amendment... :)

I think it was also pretty productive for getting to know people, which was good.

Anyway, we got home this afternoon. Ruthie and I tried visiting Berry Freeze for froyo, which was pretty tasty. It might replace Berryline... (Though we're agreed that Berryline has a better name. :) )

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Alex·Dehnert