Looking back on 2016

For the past couple of years, I’ve done Jen Dziura’s “Design Your $next_year” workbook towards the end of the year. It’s been a very helpful exercise. It’s definitely worth the couple of bucks.
One of the things it includes is making a list of the things you accomplished in the year you’re closing out; I did so in the workbook in my terrible handwriting, with items ending up in the margins and upside down as I tried to fit them all in. Which feels pretty good, I must say. This year I decided to also type it up and post it for posterity.

It’s a bit of a brain dump, and incomplete by necessity — this year included a fair bit of working towards goals that will not be public for a while, but also supporting people through crises that are not mine to disclose. The latter friend-crises came in the form of mental health stuff, intimate partner violence (which this book is an utterly essential read for friends who are trying to help), workplace harassment, and mass-scale online harassment.

That said, here’s the stuff I can talk about:

  • Throughout the year stuff:
    • Taught at least 5 Ally Skills workshops — at Slack, during (but not at) Defcon, and elsewhere, and finally attended a Train-The-Trainers for it so I could learn from how others teach it
    • Mentored a bunch of folks including some interns, yay!
    • Gained just over 2,000 Twitter followers. Thank you all for listening to me babble ❤
    • Did a bunch of skiing and coached friends
    • Helped hire a bunch of folks at Slack
    • Generally helped things not be on fire at Slack
    • Wrote some PHP for the first time in a decade
    • Wrote some very funny tweets on @SlackHQ but you’ll never know which ones were me!!!
    • Started lifting weights in earnest again. I learned a lot from Julian’s guide and Stumptuous. My biceps are AMAZING 💪

      Seriously, biceps
    • Made some good progress towards getting some gut health stuff that’s been annoying for a long time figured out (if you have IBS and haven’t heard of SIBO, there’s a bunch of new and interesting research!)
    • Generally ate super healthily and cooked lots of things (especially pork chops and also poached eggs) with my Nomiku (and finally got to meet Lisa, the founder! who just got funded on Shark Tank holy crap!!)
    • Volunteered for the Hillary campaign both on the infosec side and the more general GOTV side
    • Donated a few thousand dollars to causes I support like the ACLU and Callisto
    • Maxed out my 401k
    • Took good care of my brain by going to therapy regularly and (with medical supervision) tapered off one of the brain meds I had been taking
    • Rediscovered my childhood love of Star Wars and watched the entire Clone Wars and Rebels series and read several of the New Canon novels
    • Started painting
  • One-off stuff, in rough chronological order

I learned a few things in 2016 as well — I need to work on saying no to things a bit more, as I’ve been very overcommitted and definitely dropped a few balls last year. I’m going to travel less and do less speaking this year, particularly for the first half.

I’m still working on the “plan your 2017” part of Jen’s workbook. I started it before the election and then put it aside for a couple of months. And then the election happened. I’m still figuring out how to re-prioritize how I spend my energy now that “fighting fascism” is a higher priority than “getting an MBA.” I’ll write more about that soon.

Happy New Year, and for all the good that I was fortunate enough to got done in it, good riddance to 2016.

Turkey Soup

Lots of folks will be roasting turkeys tomorrow, and while there are a zillion recipes out there for turkey soup, this is the one I grew up with. My mum always said that it was better than the turkey itself, and while I’m a big fan of her perfectly brined birds, this soup really is sublime.



Save the bones if you’ve eaten the drumsticks etc. Once the pandemonium of the main meal is over, take all the leftover meat off the carcass and put it to one side – you’ll use some of it later.

Cover the carcass in water in a big pot. Add:

  • a couple of onions, peeled and cut in quarters
  • some celery (mainly the leaves for the stock-making process, you’ll use the stems later)
  • salt, pepper
  • a couple of tablespoons of thyme

Simmer for 2-3 hours. While it’s simmering, cook up about 3 cups of rice (more or less depending on how big a bird you’re working with). Mum uses plain white rice but last year I used 2 cups of basmati and one cup of wild rice and it was delicious, so be adventurous! Put the rice aside for later.

Once the stock has simmered adequately, strain it – carefully! Toss the bones and other solid parts.

There are two ways to de-fat your stock: chill the strained stock and skim the fat off the top of the gelled stock, or use a fat separator (I love my OXO Good Grips 4-Cup Fat Separator, which looks like a weirdly shaped measuring cup). You can skip this step but the soup will be a little greasier. It will still be delicious, don’t worry.

If you did the chilling step, bring soup back to boil. Either way, add:

  • the cooked rice
  • chopped celery
  • chopped turkey
  • salt and pepper to taste

Simmer for about another half an hour, then enjoy with rustic crackers, French bread, or other delicious carbs. A bit of Tabasco goes nicely too.

The soup freezes really well, so don’t be afraid to make lots!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also enjoy my mother’s English Bread Sauce recipe, which I posted a few years back.

Happy holidays!

Travel tricks

I have a couple not terribly secret secrets to awesome travel deals.


Ok, there are only really two:

ITA Software’s “Matrix” flight booking system, and Hotwire combined with betterbidding.com. Here’s how I use them.

Enter the Matrix

ITA Software, a recent Google acquisition, has the most amazing website for pricing out flights.  You can’t buy them on there, but you can spec out a fare and then re-create it on the airline site or your preferred multi-airline aggregator (Kayak, Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, etc.).

They have two versions of their site: the original and Matrix 2.  I had been using the original site up til now – for simple fare constructions, it’s quick.  I was looking for flights with a somewhat complex set of requirements this evening and had another look at the Matrix2 site and it’s improved a lot since I last tried it.  Any day after next Wednesday, 3 or 4 nights stay, one city to any of 3 different cities?  No problem.  I’m blown away.  And that’s not even looking at open jaw or multi-hop flights.


Leigh’s lazy way to get awesome hotel rooms without guessing much or waiting:  it’s pretty simple.  Shop on hotwire.com (link uses the betterbidding affiliate code), and use the hotel lists on betterbidding.com to check which hotel you’re getting into.  I prefer Hotwire to Priceline because it’s quicker (even if they don’t have William Shatner as a spokesperson!).  And it reminds me of dodgy ancient filesharing networks.  But anyway… One trick I saw on one of the forums: vary whether you add kids or not to the booking and you’ll get a different selection of hotels.

One more thing…

Airline miles and loyalty programs can be pretty awesome.  Air Canada currently has the lowest Star Alliance Gold redemption level in the Star Alliance system at 35,000 miles.  This gets you lounge access for a whole year.  Sweet, but also potentially money- and hassle-saving as there is free food 🙂

I haven’t really optimized my dealings with non-Star Alliance airlines yet, but the other two main airline networks are Skyteam (Delta, Alaskan, KLM…) and Oneworld (American, British, Quantas…)

Good resources on these topics are flyertalk and for the Canucks, canflyer and Red Flag Deals.

Recipe from my Mum

My Mum is English by ancestry, and has for a number of years been making one of her family’s traditional recipes to go with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. I think it’s really yummy, so I asked her if I could share it.  Here it is, mostly verbatim – I just separated out a list of ingredients for easier shopping.

English Bread Sauce


  • 10-15 cloves
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 cups bread crumbs (the ones you can get pre-made at the grocery store work, but bakery ones are better 🙂 )
  • butter

A pot on a stove containing milk and a onion with cloves stuck in the onion
Simmering the milk and cloves


  • Stick the cloves in the onion.
  • Add onion to milk in a saucepan.
  • Simmer for about one hour on low heat, so that milk is infused with the onion-clove flavour. Do not boil.
  • Remove onion and discard.
  • Add salt and about 1 cup bread crumbs, and simmer over low heat.  Again, do not  boil.
  • The crumbs will swell up, and the sauce should have a thick consistency. If it is too runny after simmering for a few minutes, add some more bread crumbs.

Serve with turkey, ideally with more bread crumbs, these ones fried in butter.  About a half cup should be enough – use whatever you have left.

Owen broke the internets

I had the following exchange a bit ago on twitter:

barsoomcore: Dear iPhone: stop autocorrecting “hawt” into “hast”. Who the hell says “hast” anymore?
hypatiadotca: @barsoomcore only when discussing Rammstein!
barsoomcore: @hypatiadotca Of course I NEVER discuss Rammstein!

Upon my relating this to my friend Owen, he pointed me at the following, and forever spoiled me on funny things on the internet.  I don’t think there will ever be anything to top the following two videos:

and the reverse:

The line-dancing totally makes the second one.

And now back to your irregularly scheduled program which will not contain random videos too often, I promise. These were just too awesome not to share 🙂


Asking Daily – happy little negotiation moments

Two of the most important books I’ve read in my entire life are Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever’s “Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation – and Positive Strategies for Change” and the follow-up “Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want“.

They’ve inspired me to make significant changes in my life – negotiating the salary for my first “real job”, challenging contracts and business practices that I didn’t think were fair, and generally making my life way more awesome by asking for – and nearly always getting – what I want.

Yesterday, for example, I sent a note about the MOO cards I ordered to their support desk asking for a replacement set of cards because they had misprinted mine.  It was a small issue, and they offered me a half-off coupon, but I insisted that they send me a whole deck – and guess what, they did.  Kudos to them for solving the issue, and to me for asking, and then asking again.

I’ve created a Twitter account called @askdaily, inspired by these books and this particular incident, to share this kind of “happy negotiation moments” – mine was little, but I’d love to retweet people’s (particularly womens’) successes with job negotiations and promitions, contracts, car repairs, sales negotiations, housework splitting, whatever the happy moments that people get from asking for what they want out of life.


TD Canada Trust password policy fail

My browser was behaving strangely when I tried to log in to the TD Canada Trust online banking server, so just to be paranoid I decided to change my password using another machine.  I then realized that it was just me being dumb – my user agent was set to IE as I had been testing something earlier.  Oops!

However, it did all lead me to discover this gem epic failboat of a password policy:

When changing your password, please remember that it must be between 5 and 8 characters in length and should contain both letters and numbers. Special characters (e.g. #, &, @) must not be used as they will not be accepted by the system. Passwords consisting of all letters or all numbers are not recommended. Although TD Canada Trust does not require you to change your password, we recommend that for security purposes you change your password every 90 days.

Okay, wtf people.  5-8 characters seems awfully permissive, and doesn’t let me put in a nice long password… but not requiring numbers and letters?  Just recommending it?  And their system doesn’t support punctuation in passwords?  Yeesh.

It gets worse.  I decided to play around with it, and was able to change my password to the following:

  • foobar
  • 12345
  • 11111
  • aaaaa
  • the first 5 characters of my bank card number (which is the username when one logs in, and is common to many TD customers).

Obviously I’ve changed the password to one which is as secure as I can make it given their crappy constraints, but it really angers me that I’m paying through the fees I pay them for this kind of asinine security policy.  It almost makes me want to go through the hassle of switching banks… but I’m sure the others all have similar issues on one level or another.

Some days, though, this industry just makes me want to set things on fire – today is one of those days.