The latest instalment in a series in which I answer the ongoing question “How do you fit it all in?”, which people ask me when I tell them what I do.
I woke up in South Carolinaaaaaaa! How exciting.
Less exciting was the fact that I needed to be at the conference hotel by 7am, so I had to leave my motel at 6.30, so I didn’t have time to go and watch the sunrise on the beach. Boo hiss. But the sun seemed to understand that I wanted to see it getting out of bed, so it rose especially dramatically and allowed me to photograph it from the motel balcony, which was pretty despite the buildings and lampposts and stuff in the way.
I arrived at the conference hotel, found some coffee and installed myself outside on the sort of – not sure what it’s called – patio? balcony? bit overlooking the pools and the ocean, anyway. And I spent a while working before the conference began.
The conference was followed by a networking thing, which meant I got back to my motel pretty late and just collapsed into bed.
Woke up, watched the sunrise from the balcony, went to work. Posted this on Facebook, which is a pretty accurate representation of what my week’s been like:
I am having a weird and wonderful time discussing international security, computer forensics and counter terror with a bunch of people in South Carolina.
– Yesterday began with a discussion of whether fully automated warfare (yes, basically robot wars) is a good idea.
– Then I hung out and drank wine with the ex head of cybersecurity at the NSA. I think we’re friends now?
– I met a guy who was tasked with patrolling the perimeter of Area 51 (“It doesn’t exist, of course. But my job was to shoot anyone who crossed its border.”)
– Then I met a world expert on the psychopathology of artificial intelligence, so I told him about a paper I’m writing on the subject, and he offered to help. Yay.
Today is beginning with a session on using social media in counter terror investigations. While it sounds (and is) kinda cool and badass, some of the stuff I’m having to watch is also pretty horrific.
Following the horrific terrorism videos, the rest of the day unfolded uneventfully until it was time for networking in the evening. I managed to locate the party table, and tried my first South Carolina moonshine! It was so good. This Glaswegian approves.
Yes they really were that bright. The greenish one in the background tasted the way I expect it might taste to drink the inside of a neon sign. The very bright orange one was mango & peach and it was delicious. The browny-orange one on the far right was ‘apple pie’, which was essentially apple + cinnamon + very strong alcohol. And the clear one on the far left? Pure alcohol. Like drinking gasoline. You could almost feel it seeping through your pores.
I was told there wouldn’t be a hangover, which I was skeptical about but which turned out to be true.
The final day of the conference! I got up, watched the sunrise, and went to work. After some fascinating discussions about how to identify and ultimately stop (or at least slow down) the proliferation of child abuse content online, it was time for lunch, which I ate overlooking the pools and the ocean.
I had some meetings in the afternoon, then hung out on the deck for a bit working some more, and then I went back to my motel. Thus ended the conference, and for the rest of the week I was able to be a bit freer with my time, although I still had work to do.
I got up and worked all morning. Working until 12 in South Carolina means you’re working until 5pm UK time, which feels about right, so I did that and then went off to explore.
I’d meant to go to the state park when I was here before, but never got a chance, so on Thursday I walked down there and wandered around it.
I actually overshot it by a couple of miles and ended up in some kind of suburban housing estate, where all the houses were painted pretty colours.
Last time I was here I didn’t want to go home, but this time I don’t feel like that. I’m enjoying spending time here, but I’m also looking forward to being back in my flat. I think it’s because I’ve finally created something that feels like a home: a strange feeling for someone who’d moved 24 times by age 25.
Anyway, in the end I did find the state park and I walked around it admiring the nature. At the end of one of the piers, I stood among the people fishing and watched the sharks.
I walked for six hours in total, and by the time I got back to my motel I was ready to not do any more walking. Still, I took myself for dinner at the oceanfront bar a little later, because the food’s not bad and they do some excellent amaretto cocktails.
When I got back to the motel after that I went straight to bed at about 7pm, read for an hour or so, and then fell asleep.
Waccamaw day! How exciting. Last time I came here I did a tour of the Waccamaw river, which is part of a beautiful nature reserve, and I’d booked to go again because it was one of my favourite things I’d done.
It was excellent this time as well; we didn’t see any snakes or alligators, but there were plenty of turtles and egrets and butterflies, and of course Riverdog.
Then a couple of ospreys started fighting over a nest. They swooped right down by the boat, it was very exciting.
I got back to the motel in the early evening, went for dinner, came back and went to bed early.
My last full day in Myrtle Beach – I decided to spend it by the sea. I hired a deck chair and sat there for seven hours, getting into the ocean every so often to float around and jump into the waves, then retiring to the chair and lying there trying to even out my tan.
I’d taken Kierkegaard to the beach with me, along with my notebook, so I did some writing and thinking and worked on a paper I’m sort of writing. I say ‘sort of’ because I haven’t fully decided if I’m committed to it yet; at the moment I’m just throwing ideas around in my mind and seeing what might come out.
In the evening I went for dinner and the ladies at the table next to me didn’t have enough seats – they were a party of about fifteen – and since I was dining alone I said I’d be happy to move so they could use my table. Then they were like, why not just join us? So I did, and I made a bunch of new friends.
I woke up at 4am and decided to get up, since it was 9am London time and I thought it might help me reset my body clock to GMT. I went to the beach for one final Myrtle Beach sunrise of 2018.
I went for breakfast – I was very excited to be going back to London, land of salads – and then went back to the motel to finish packing. A couple of hours later I was in the airport, then on a plane, then in another airport, then on another plane… and finally, on Monday morning, I landed in London.