I hadn’t intended to do much in response to the FCC’s Order extending the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act to broadband providers and VOIP providers. I was just gonna kibbitz my buddies at EFF and CDT. But then I reread the Order, got mad, and filed this Petition for Reconsideration. As it was due November 21, I ended up pulling a late night right before Thanksgiving.
What pissed me off? See below.
A few months ago I got an email invitation to a big party to be held at a trendy nightclub in New York City to commemorate Salon’s tenth anniversary. This was on account of the articles I’ve written for them over the years (see “stuff John wrote” in the little box on the right), one of which I later found out had been selected as one of the “Best of Salon 2003”. I figured I might get to hobnob with some high-octane literary people, maybe make some connections. You never know what might come of such things. So the big day came a few weeks ago and I drove down to Manhattan for this damn party. Hung around the dark noisy nightclub where I couldn’t see a thing or hear myself think. Didn’t know a soul who was there. I talked to a few people; a few short conversations. I even talked to Joan Walsh, Salon’s editor-in-chief. For about 11.5 seconds, that is, until a literary Somebody came by and Walsh turned away from me (the nobody), and posed with the Somebody for the cameraman with the big tripod that he was lugging all over the place and spazzing into people with. Which I thought was rather rude of her, actually, even though it was a noisy party and that kind of abrupt conversational focus-shift does happen at parties like that. I just stood there like a dork for about 2 minutes waiting to see if Walsh was going to resume the conversation that she left mid-word. Finally I took the hint and mosied along. At least the photographer didn’t offer to take my picture, which is good on account of I still have that bad tooth and I look like crap when I smile. Everybody who was a somebody was dressed in stylish black. I too was wearing a black sweater, but it didn’t count because I was also wearing “cheeno” pants and fake topsider boating shoes that I got at K-Mart in Manahawkin for $14.
It cost me thirty damn dollars to park the car. I missed most a day of work, too, between the going to and the coming from New York. My boss wasn’t too crazy about that. Here’s an account of the only significant connection made.
Inside: some more dead ends and projects that went nowhere.
Last week I was asked about information management in Croquet. Editing and editorial are tough problems in any global information system. I don’t have a magic bullet, but I do think we have two general approaches.
Last week I described the network model we’re building for Croquet, and was asked about some security issues. I think the main security weaknesses to what I have described come from the ability to misrepresent oneself as the Introducer or as a machine responsible for a World, or to deny others access to a World or the Introducer by sending a bunch of messages to it that demand its attention. Part of the answer in both cases is to distribute the roles of Introducer and of Worlds among many machines
You can read a very interesting interview with Aaron McGruder, creator of the Boondocks, here. Skip the first page of pro-forma business stuff. It’s the part where he gets on to what is wrong with our democracy today that is worth reading.
Last week was the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia (“the land of civilization, culture and enlightened thinking”, according to the official Web page). It has been reported that the conference was supposed to be about narrowing the digital divide. Croquet architect and all-around Computer God Alan Kay presented a model of the dynabook, er, $100 laptop to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, while his buddy Nicholas Negroponte presented one to the Pope. Picture here. (And there was much amusement in the Stearns household when we realized that this made me one degree of separation from Annan and two from the Pope.) A lot of world leaders were taking this theme very seriously, but I hear the conference turned out to be all about US control over the ICANN system for Internet domain names. Even more leaders were taking seriously this idea, as argued by countries like China and Iran, that the world can’t accept ICANN to be under the control of a rogue state that practices state censorship, executions, unilateral invasion, torture, use of chemical weapons, etc. President Bush chose not to attend, in order to that he might visit Asia and criticize China regarding human rights.
The ICANN flap is interesting in several ways. There’s the timely main story in the news about the relationship between the US and the rest of the world. Then there’s the timeless backstory about the idea that progress is not achieved by consensus or committee, but by someone actually doing something that works. That’s what the US did. We only got into trouble because it was successful. I’m fascinated by this idea lately as it relates to development within Croquet. It’s hard for people who feel excluded to do other than to demand sharing, and particularly hard for them to realize that nobody “anointed” the folks who are producing the stuff they want to be shared. People do stuff and it works. Then other people want it. The trick, if it were possible to optimize such things, would be to share when things aren’t yet working so that others might join in the creative fun. But too many cooks and the management cost of such “optimization” can easily spoil the soup. It’s a dicey thing. I know, because I’m on both sides of the problem right now.
But the most noteworthy thing of all, to my mind, is that the ICANN flap is all so unecessary. US officials say the current system works just fine, technically, and they’re sort of right, except that the rest of the world says it doesn’t, and they’re right too. But I think there’s a much better way to handle the mapping of addresses, which we’re currently trying to build out in Croquet. Whether we’re the ones to do it or not, there’s no technical reason that the whole thing can’t be done in a way that makes the whole political argument moot.
I will be the first to acknowledge that some good came out of World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) last week in bringing together a lot of people to talk about important issues. On the key item in the news, what would happen to ICANN and management of the domain name system, the U.S. won hands down. And while I have no desire whatsoever to see the DNS run by some UN-type organization, I understand why the U.S. is not exactly popular in other countries.
Via R Mutt, who posts on Kuro5hin and Husi, I come across this article that postulates that the plutonium propulsion of the Cassini space probe is actually designed as a fission bomb that will explode under atmospheric pressure when it’s crashed into Saturn at the quote, end of its life, unquote.
Since Saturn is all helium and hydrogen anyway, this Cassini fission explosion will start a fusion explosion, and Saturn will become a star (allowing terraforming of its earthlike, Atari-sounding, moon Titan).
The author speculates that Freemasonry may be implicated in this nefarious plot (nefarious in that it’s really not nice to go about rearranging the Solar System without consulting the rest of us humans, espescially since a side effect might be–let’s just say, suboptimal– for Earth), and even quotes Alistair Crowley in his analysis!
Gary, let’s you and I investigate! You handle the space part, I’ll handle the conspiracy part. Everybody else, I suggest stocking up on sunglasses.
I was driving west on the Cross Bronx Expressway, a place that always makes me extremely nervous, with my both hands clenching the wheel, listening to WFUV, Fordham University’s tres cool radio station, when mine ears beheld some wacky dub reggae with a very rock sound and out-a-control singer going on about G-d using very “old testament”-y sounding language. I was quite taken. Three minutes into the song I was screaming, “Yah, Mon! Yah Mon! Rock on muthafucka!” as the guitar solo went stratospheric.
“Who the hell was that?” I asked my invisible car mates when the song ended.
Turns out it was this guy, Matisyahu, nee Matthew Miller, a Hasidic rapper now from Crown Heights, Brooklyn. So I downloaded his album Live At Stubbs, which was recorded at a rock club in Austin, Texas, and listened to it about 10 times yesterday.
Kinda got me thinking about things musical, Jewish, and Brooklyn.
As part of the off year elections, 32 communities in Iowa voted on referenda on whether to explore having a muni broadband system. 17 of the 32 voted to go forward, with 15 voting not to explore the option. Given that Mediacom and Qwest, the incumbent cable and telco companies spent about $1.4 million to defeat the measures, while proponents of the measure spent only a few thousand dollars, that’s pretty good.
Meanwhile, developments in Michigan and Pennsylvania below.