Monday, October 05, 2015

Teachers Matter

In honor of World Teachers' Day, here's an excellent infographic from the folks at Grammarly.
Find out more about them at

World Teacher Day

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The hacking cycle

At the FBI InfraGard seminar today in Dania Beach, I learned a lot about the current state of hacking. Of course, I’ve learned a lot over the years as I write about Steve Levitan, a (somewhat) reformed hacker who solves crimes with the help of his golden retriever, Rochester.  But it’s always great to have things presented in a simple, digestible way.

One of the presentations covered the hacking cycle, which I’ve recreated here. (Note: all errors are my own, not those of the presenters!) Interesting note is the evolving nature of threat attackers – the bad guys innovate faster than the good guys.

The Hacking Cycle


The first step. The hackers are interested in a particular company or industry, but need to figure out who to target and how. They use corporate websites to get employee names—sometimes high-level employees like the CEO or CFO, but also they might go after someone like an executive’s admin, because that person often has the same access to information that the boss has.
They search through social media to discovering personal information about the targeted employee. Since email is the biggest way that hackers get access to an organization’s system, their goal is to construct an email that is tailored enough to the individual that it seems reputable and makes him or her willing to click on a link—which then leads to the next step.


The act of actually getting the hacker’s software into the organization’s system, allowing these outside agents access to your server and data.


Once the hacker gains access to the organization’s system, he may take some time to snoop around at what’s in the environment and how he can use it. Perhaps the data is contained in a particular brand of software or type of database. The hackers can put up a bid for a specialist in that on the dark web. More and more, hackers are specializing in specific areas, and then collaborating on projects.


Actually getting into the appropriate database or  finding the data within the system


Removing the data or causing harm to the system


Selling the data that has been stolen or collecting payment for the hack.

I learned a lot more at the seminar which I'll be posting in the future. For now here's a link to Infragard:

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

International Literacy Day

The folks at Grammarly have come up with another great infographic, this one to support International Literacy Day. (if you don't see the infographic below, then click the title above to open a new window where you can see the whole thing.)
Courtesy of

Literacy Day

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Home vs. Hotel

In 1981 I lived in an SRO hotel on Upper Broadway, at a time when that neighborhood, sandwiched between the Upper West Side and Columbia, had not yet been gentrified. A Latin bar called La Ronda flashed its neon all night, and periodically fights spilled out onto the sidewalk.
Visitors had to check in with the grizzled, half-soused receptionist before being allowed upstairs to my small studio. The single window looked out onto an air shaft so the room never got natural light. Cockroaches roamed rampant in the tiny kitchen, the size of a closet, with a tiny refrigerator and a two-burner stove.
I worked just up Broadway in the alumni office for Columbia Business School, and one of my responsibilities was traveling out regularly to visit alumni clubs and bring them news of the campus.

Back then Hilton was one of the swankiest hotel chains, and they were kind enough to offer discounts to academic personnel. So I stayed in those hotels when I went to Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago – even the Merv Griffin Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles when I flew west to meet with our LA group.
The hotel rooms were always nicer than home. It wasn’t just the service—someone to clean the bathroom, swap the towels and make the bed. The towels were bigger and plusher, and there were always thick white bathrobes. The bedding was crisp and white, the pillows fluffy. There was free cable TV, even HBO and MTV, back when they were big novelties.
Nowadays, though, the equation is reversed, and home is nicer than the hotels where I stay. It’s first a matter of economics. Now, for the most part, I travel on my own dime, and even when I’m go to a college-sponsored event my expenses are limited.
Hilton isn’t what it once was. Now there are W's and Mandarin Orientals and all manner of boutique hotels that are well outside my price range. So I end up at the Best Western, the Ramada, sometimes a Sheraton.
These hotels aren’t trying for the epitome of luxury—they’re aiming for a middle niche. But at the same time, my own home life has improved. My bedroom has the perfect lights for reading, with a bookcase right beside the bed. I have more disposable income for things like linen pillowcases and huge, fluffy Turkish towels -- much better than the rough, skimpy hotel towels that barely wrap around my midsection.
My queen-sized bed has a down comforter and big down-filled pillows, and has spoiled me for hard mattresses, foam pillows and those thin polyester bedspreads.
The first time I used a hotel shower with a massaging head, I felt like visiting royalty. Now those heads are twenty years old, and I have to bend over in a slippery tub to wash my hair. At home, I have a  brand new marble-tiled shower with a big, square rain shower head positioned just right for my height, as well as a hand-held three speed attachment.
And at my home as well, I have a partner and two loving dogs. No hotel chain is going to duplicate that.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Children of Noah

In eight books, police detective Kimo Kanapa’aka has investigated homicides and other crimes that take place in Honolulu’s District 1, which covers the downtown area from Liliha Street to Punahou Street and from Round Top Drive to Ala Moana Beach, including the Aloha Tower. His cases have taken him around the island, from the Windward to the Leeward Coast and up through the center of the island to the North Shore.

Now, Kimo and his detective partner Ray Donne have accepted an assignment to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, where personnel from a variety of Federal and local agencies are loaned to the Bureau to work on complex cases.

Kimo and Ray must negotiate a new bureaucracy and a tricky case, which begins with threatening letters sent to a U.S. Senator and his family. Things heat up as they discover connections to other harassment of mixed-race couples and families, even children. Since his own kids are a mix of many cultures, from Hawaiian to haole to Japanese to Korean, Kimo feels especially motivated to solve this case.

After so many cases in this small section of the island, though, I wanted to give Kimo the chance to explore crimes without a downtown connection, perhaps bigger cases than a homicide detective might encounter. At first, I thought of transferring him to the state police – only to discover that there is no real counterpart to Hawaii Five-O.Then I participated in the FBI Citizen’s Academy, an eight-week course introducing Bureau operations to civilians, and learned about the Joint Terrorism Task Force – JTTF. What a great opportunity for Kimo!

I was sad to leave behind some familiar faces from the HPD, including his boss Lieutenant Sampson, and one of my favorite supporting characters, Juanita Lum, the secretary in the Vice department. But I couldn’t let Kimo go into this new territory alone—his detective partner, Ray Donne, accompanies him. 

Ray was a big part of Kimo’s decision to accept the new assignment. Ray and his wife Julie have a baby son, and Ray’s hoping to ride a desk in the Bureau’s office in Kapolei, staying out of harm’s way. With the birth of twins fathered by Kimo and his partner, fire investigator Mike Riccardi, Kimo feels the same way.  He needs to be around to pass on the lessons he’s learned from his own father to these two new keikis, fraternal twins Addie and Owen.

Children of Noah has a complicated history. I actually wrote a different book, Ghost Ship, which begins with a motor-sailboat washing ashore on the Leeward Coast, with four dead bodies on board as well as radioactive material. It was a big, complicated plot, and in the end I decided it was really two books. So I split it in half, added a lot of stuff, and came up with this book. Now I have the first half of Ghost Ship that needs rewriting, and a whole new second half with new, stronger villains.
It’s a big task, but I have faith that Kimo will lead me down the right path.

Children of Noah is available as an ebook from MLR right now; other vendors and the print edition coming soon. 

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

My Summer Book

I’ve been seeing lots of lists of summer reads lately, and that reminded me of Goodbye, Columbus, a book I associate with summer, because I read it during summer school.

My parents were very opposed to my sitting around all summer long doing nothing. Since we had a big yard and a twenty-acre lake behind our house, they weren’t interested in sending me to summer camp. So instead I went to various summer programs offered by our school district. 

The summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school that meant taking the bus to Pennsbury High for a summer course in literature. 

I remember meeting in Room 222 – this was during the years when that TV show, starring Michael Constantine and Karen Valentine – was on TV. I can’t recall what else we read, but the book that stuck with me is Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus.

I was a voracious reader, but this was one of the first books I read that was about somebody like me – Jewish, teenaged, growing up in the suburbs.  It was his first book, published when he was 26, and included the title novella and five stories.
Wikipedia states that “Each story deals with the concerns of second and third-generation assimilated American Jews as they leave the ethnic ghettos of their parents and grandparents and go on to college, to white-collar professions, and to life in the suburbs.” 

Well, that was me right there – a second-generation American Jew. My father even grew up in the same “ethnic ghetto” as Roth himself – the Weequahic Park neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey.

I went on to read more Roth, particularly Portnoy’s Complaint, which informed my senior thesis, a book about Jewish assimilation, among other things. I also got to take a course at the University of Pennsylvania with Roth himself. 

It wasn’t a creative writing course, sadly; instead, we read a bunch of novels, including several by Colette, and then wrote essays about them, which he critiqued heavily. I don’t think we ever discussed his work in class – he just assumed, I guess, that if we’d signed up for a course with him we knew what he’d written.

He was also kind of a prick, a lot like the characters he wrote about, so maybe he just didn’t care what we thought.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I’ve had many careers, from university administrator to construction manager to college professor. But most often for fiction I mine from the twelve years I spent in software development.

In the 1980s, I was working as a project manager for shopping center developers – a background that I used in the first book in the “Love on” series, Love on Site. But when the opportunities for new construction dried up late in that decade, I was left adrift. I’d been working as a consultant so I wasn’t eligible for unemployment compensation.  To pay the bills, I went back to a skill I’d learned the summer after sixth grade – typing.

I registered with a two temp agencies in my neighborhood and went on a number of different assignments. I was a speed demon at the keyboard, and knew how to use word processing and spreadsheet software.

My last job as a temp was also the start of a new career. One Thursday morning I showed up at the office of a software company that needed some data entry done. What began as a two-day assignment turned into nine years and an eventual role as a computer game producer.  

I typed in the questions and answers for games such as Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune and Family Feud. Then I tested the games on computers and game consoles, wrote the instruction manuals and the box copy, and presented the finished games to the licensors for their approval.

I first used this background in, about a gay-centric website on South Beach. 

It was lots of fun to come back to it to build a world for Larry in Love on the Web. He's an app developer for a startup on South Beach and I learned a lot about app development while writing it-- though I sure couldn't build my own!

 In between the first draft of this book and its eventual publication, I also wrote a short story for the M/M romance group on Goodreads, called “Creeling the Bridegroom.” Some of the Love on the Web characters appear there.