ezra just called. apparently he is participating in a 5-hour walk between 5th and pine, and 4th and pine, in downtown seattle today. they’re going to take 5 hours – from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm – to walk 1 block, without interacting with anybody.

this is definitely my kid.

i’m going to take pictures. should be interesting.


microsoft, among others, sees the invention and popularization of the general-purpose computer as a historical mistake.

ALL of the things you can currently do with computers (write text, do mathematical computations, edit graphics, edit sound, manipulate financial records, statistically analyze data) are things that the general public should not have access to for free. period. all these things should be rented to consumers, with ultimate control of the data involved residing in the renting corporations, not the individual users.

if windows vista’s control mechanisms become established, linux will become, by default, useless, and shortly thereafter, illegal. after all, of what use is a computer that can’t communicate with any public or corporate data (i.e. if ALL commercial content is protected, including commercial websites)? and if this is the case, any attempt by non-“trusted” computers to access this data will be definition be illegal cracking.

which is why this article is particularly scary…

Researchers Explore Scrapping Internet
April 13, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) – Although it has already taken nearly four decades to get this far in building the Internet, some university researchers with the federal government’s blessing want to scrap all that and start over.

The idea may seem unthinkable, even absurd, but many believe a “clean slate” approach is the only way to truly address security, mobility and other challenges that have cropped up since UCLA professor Leonard Kleinrock helped supervise the first exchange of meaningless test data between two machines on Sept. 2, 1969.

The Internet “works well in many situations but was designed for completely different assumptions,” said Dipankar Raychaudhuri, a Rutgers University professor overseeing three clean-slate projects. “It’s sort of a miracle that it continues to work well today.”

No longer constrained by slow connections and computer processors and high costs for storage, researchers say the time has come to rethink the Internet’s underlying architecture, a move that could mean replacing networking equipment and rewriting software on computers to better channel future traffic over the existing pipes.

Even Vinton Cerf, one of the Internet’s founding fathers as co- developer of the key communications techniques, said the exercise was “generally healthy” because the current technology “does not satisfy all needs.”

One challenge in any reconstruction, though, will be balancing the interests of various constituencies. The first time around, researchers were able to toil away in their labs quietly. Industry is playing a bigger role this time, and law enforcement is bound to make its needs for wiretapping known.

There’s no evidence they are meddling yet, but once any research looks promising, “a number of people (will) want to be in the drawing room,” said Jonathan Zittrain, a law professor affiliated with Oxford and Harvard universities. “They’ll be wearing coats and ties and spilling out of the venue.”

The National Science Foundation wants to build an experimental research network known as the Global Environment for Network Innovations, or GENI, and is funding several projects at universities and elsewhere through Future Internet Network Design, or FIND.

Rutgers, Stanford, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among the universities pursuing individual projects. Other government agencies, including the Defense Department, have also been exploring the concept.

The European Union has also backed research on such initiatives, through a program known as Future Internet Research and Experimentation, or FIRE. Government officials and researchers met last month in Zurich to discuss early findings and goals.

A new network could run parallel with the current Internet and eventually replace it, or perhaps aspects of the research could go into a major overhaul of the existing architecture.

These clean-slate efforts are still in their early stages, though, and aren’t expected to bear fruit for another 10 or 15 years—assuming Congress comes through with funding.

Guru Parulkar, who will become executive director of Stanford’s initiative after heading NSF’s clean-slate programs, estimated that GENI alone could cost $350 million, while government, university and industry spending on the individual projects could collectively reach $300 million. Spending so far has been in the tens of millions of dollars.

And it could take billions of dollars to replace all the software and hardware deep in the legacy systems.

Clean-slate advocates say the cozy world of researchers in the 1970s and 1980s doesn’t necessarily mesh with the realities and needs of the commercial Internet.

“The network is now mission critical for too many people, when in the (early days) it was just experimental,” Zittrain said.

The Internet’s early architects built the system on the principle of trust. Researchers largely knew one another, so they kept the shared network open and flexible—qualities that proved key to its rapid growth.

But spammers and hackers arrived as the network expanded and could roam freely because the Internet doesn’t have built-in mechanisms for knowing with certainty who sent what.

The network’s designers also assumed that computers are in fixed locations and always connected. That’s no longer the case with the proliferation of laptops, personal digital assistants and other mobile devices, all hopping from one wireless access point to another, losing their signals here and there.

Engineers tacked on improvements to support mobility and improved security, but researchers say all that adds complexity, reduces performance and, in the case of security, amounts at most to bandages in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse.

Workarounds for mobile devices “can work quite well if a small fraction of the traffic is of that type,” but could overwhelm computer processors and create security holes when 90 percent or more of the traffic is mobile, said Nick McKeown, co-director of Stanford’s clean- slate program.

The Internet will continue to face new challenges as applications require guaranteed transmissions—not the “best effort” approach that works better for e-mail and other tasks with less time sensitivity.

Think of a doctor using teleconferencing to perform a surgery remotely, or a customer of an Internet-based phone service needing to make an emergency call. In such cases, even small delays in relaying data can be deadly.

And one day, sensors of all sorts will likely be Internet capable.

Rather than create workarounds each time, clean-slate researchers want to redesign the system to easily accommodate any future technologies, said Larry Peterson, chairman of computer science at Princeton and head of the planning group for the NSF’s GENI.

Even if the original designers had the benefit of hindsight, they might not have been able to incorporate these features from the get- go. Computers, for instance, were much slower then, possibly too weak for the computations needed for robust authentication.

“We made decisions based on a very different technical landscape,” said Bruce Davie, a fellow with network-equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc., which stands to gain from selling new products and incorporating research findings into its existing line.

“Now, we have the ability to do all sorts of things at very high speeds,” he said. “Why don’t we start thinking about how we take advantage of those things and not be constrained by the current legacy we have?”

Of course, a key question is how to make any transition—and researchers are largely punting for now.

“Let’s try to define where we think we should end up, what we think the Internet should look like in 15 years’ time, and only then would we decide the path,” McKeown said. “We acknowledge it’s going to be really hard but I think it will be a mistake to be deterred by that.”

Kleinrock, the Internet pioneer at UCLA, questioned the need for a transition at all, but said such efforts are useful for their out-of- the-box thinking.

“A thing called GENI will almost surely not become the Internet, but pieces of it might fold into the Internet as it advances,” he said.

Think evolution, not revolution.

Princeton already runs a smaller experimental network called PlanetLab, while Carnegie Mellon has a clean-slate project called 100 x 100.

These days, Carnegie Mellon professor Hui Zhang said he no longer feels like “the outcast of the community” as a champion of clean-slate designs.

Construction on GENI could start by 2010 and take about five years to complete. Once operational, it should have a decade-long lifespan.

FIND, meanwhile, funded about two dozen projects last year and is evaluating a second round of grants for research that could ultimately be tested on GENI.

These go beyond projects like Internet2 and National LambdaRail, both of which focus on next-generation needs for speed.

Any redesign may incorporate mechanisms, known as virtualization, for multiple networks to operate over the same pipes, making further transitions much easier. Also possible are new structures for data packets and a replacement of Cerf’s TCP/IP communications protocols.

“Almost every assumption going into the current design of the Internet is open to reconsideration and challenge,” said Parulkar, the NSF official heading to Stanford. “Researchers may come up with wild ideas and very innovative ideas that may not have a lot to do with the current Internet.”

Board requires pharmacies to fill all orders
April 12, 2007

TUMWATER — After years of debate, the state has made it official: Patients must get prescriptions filled even if pharmacists are opposed to the drugs for religious or moral reasons.

The Washington State Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously Thursday to adopt a policy that applies to all kinds of medications, although it clearly was aimed at Plan B, a birth control measure that critics say is tantamount to abortion. Most health experts refute that claim.

Druggists with personal objections to a drug still could have a limited escape by getting a co-worker to fill an order. But that would apply only if the patient is able to get the prescription in the same pharmacy visit.

Essentially, the regulations require pharmacies either to dispense legally prescribed drugs or make sure customers could get the medication elsewhere in a timely fashion.

The issue has been debated since 2004, when the state board began receiving complaints that pharmacists were refusing to fill some prescriptions for moral, religious or ethical reasons — primarily prescriptions for Plan B, sometimes known as the morning-after pill. It can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 percent if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

The rule-making process began in January 2006 and resulted in more than a year of workshops, drafts, amended drafts and public hearings.

Last year, the state Pharmacy Board declared that pharmacists might be able to deny prescriptions for personal reasons.

That was the pharmacy association’s preferred route, but the policy angered Gov. Chris Gregoire, women’s groups and some state lawmakers.

The rule adopted Thursday is a compromise worked out last year by Gregoire, women’s advocates and the Washington State Pharmacy Association.

Pharmacy board member Rosemarie Duffy said Thursday the new rule is about more than the Plan B drug. It’s about antibiotics that have to be taken within four hours or supplies for diabetics.

But it was the morning-after pill that caused opponents to refer to proponents as “baby killers” and proponents to point out that when a person’s doctor fills out a prescription, that prescription should be filled in a timely manner.

According to its manufacturer, Plan B works like a regular birth control pill. It prevents pregnancy mainly by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary, and may also prevent the fertilization of an egg. It may also work by preventing the egg from attaching to the uterus.

Because Plan B is used to prevent an unplanned pregnancy, it will not affect an existing pregnancy. It is different from the abortion pill RU-486.

The new rule is likely to go into effect by mid-June.

What happens if a pharmacist or pharmacy refuses a prescription? Board member Gary Harris said once the board receives a complaint, the pharmacist or pharmacy will come before the board for disciplinary action. Each individual case will be reviewed by a board member, who could recommend a fine or probation, for example.

That recommendation would then be reviewed by a panel before action is taken.


Twilight Zone
Pass through the portal to the alternate reality of the War Party’s propagandists.
by Gregory Cochran
April 9, 2007

I think almost everybody has wondered what would have happened if they had made a different choice in life, taken a different path. If you didn’t think of it by yourself, seeing “It’s a Wonderful Life” a few hundred times has probably driven the point home by now.

Many authors have applied this idea to big turning points, writing about alternative histories in which Hitler won World War II (Fatherland) or the South won the Civil War (Bring the Jubilee). The notion may not be pure fantasy: the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics suggests that these Worlds-of-If may really exist, although forever unreachable.

Or maybe not so unreachable. A very odd pattern of statements by prominent supporters and members of the Bush administration suggests that we may have some truly unusual visitors—literally out-of-this-world.

You see, the president and his associates keep referring to historical events that never happened, at least not as they did in the fields we know. And they keep referring to the same historical events. Over and over, the secretary of state and the (now former) secretary of defense have referred to guerrilla warfare in Germany after the Nazi surrender. But there just wasn’t any. You can’t find it in the history books or in the memories of people who were there at the time. My uncle was in Bavaria in the summer of 1945: no trouble. Secretary Rumsfeld repeatedly talked about the similarities between today’s Iraq and America after the Revolutionary War, but again, I’m pretty sure that there aren’t any. I don’t believe we found tortured corpses in the streets of Philadelphia every morning back in 1784. And why does President Bush keep saying that Saddam refused to admit those UN arms inspectors back in 2002 and early 2003? Why did Condoleezza Rice, in 2000, say that Iran was probably backing the Taliban, when in fact the two had almost gone to war in 1998?

Now some might say that these statements were just talking points—that is, lies—but I sure wouldn’t want to accuse anyone of lying. More to the point, there have been many a historical statements that are just strange and don’t seem to advance any particular political agenda. For example, when President Bush said that the Japanese lost two carriers sunk and one damaged at the Battle of Midway (instead of losing all four, which is what actually happened), who gained? When POTUS said that Sweden has no army (it does), what political argument was advanced?

We’re talking about the rulers of the most powerful nation on earth. It can’t be that they’re just pig-ignorant—of their own history, yet. There has to be a deeper, more subtle explanation.

We can learn more by examining these statements in detail, including those of the administration’s close supporters. They too keep diverging from the history we know. Recently, Rep. Don Young of Alaska quoted Lincoln as saying, “Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged.” Lincoln never said that, of course. Cliff May, at National Review, said “President Roosevelt waited until after World War II to put in place a commission to investigate what mistakes led to Pearl Harbor.” Pretty fly for a dead guy: FDR passed on just before Germany surrendered, well before the Japanese quit. And anyhow, the first of many Pearl Harbor investigations—the Roberts Commission—started only 11 days after the sneak attack.

More and more, I get the feeling that Bush and his friends come from one of the Worlds-of-If—a sad place, even worse than the one we actually live in, a world in which their odd statements are true.

When tired or stressed, they refer to the history that they lived and learned in school. But their briefing books recount an alternate history in which Iraq in 2002 was not a poor and backward country but the coming threat, as our Germany was in 1938. A history in which America, after the Revolution, was a flaming cesspool like Iraq today, a world in which Lincoln executed unruly legislators. One in which World War II dragged on long after the indecisive Battle of Midway. One in which our occupation of Germany was plagued by guerrilla warfare. One in which we’ve been fighting World War IV with Iran and Syria for 25 years, as Jim Woolsey has repeatedly said. One in which a hostile Islamic Caliphate has bothered to go through the formality of coming into existence.

Close study of such statements might eventually give a rough sketch of that other world’s history. This would be of immense value, for it would allow us to learn much about the inner workings of the historical process, just as the discovery of a different kind of life on Mars would be an epochal event in biology. The fact that a history that diverged from ours at least 200 years ago, judging from the differences in the Revolution, still bears some resemblance to ours—still had a battle of Midway, just not the same battle—suggests that unknown overarching forces constrain the course of events. But the story is never the same in detail.

The casual mention of World War IV strongly implies that these interlopers also had a World War III. They must have suffered greatly—maybe bombed out, likely short on resources such as oil. I would guess that those disasters irretrievably darkened their political perspective, just as our World War I left an entire generation embittered and disaffected. Certainly some kind of civilizational blight is needed to explain Vice President Cheney’s “Dark Lord” shtick.

Somehow they came here, so there must be a gate or portal. Judging from the spatial clustering of identifiable visitors, it’s somewhere in Washington, probably very close to the AEI building. Possibly inside. It may be an accident of nature, or it might be a scientific wonder used for judicial exile, just as bad Kryptonians were sent to the Phantom Zone. You have to wonder about that when you consider the kind of guys they’re sending.

If two-way transfer is possible, there could be vast business opportunities. There are reasons to suspect that science and engineering took a very different path over there: their limited understanding of nuclear weapons—they seem to think that nukes are roughly as easy to build as bottle rockets—suggests that nuclear fission may never have been developed on their timeline. But even if they’re behind us in some areas, they’re likely to be ahead in others. I’d guess that they know far more about torture than we do. Practice makes perfect.

Even if they’ve never split the atom, they have much to offer. The very existence of such a portal is the most significant new scientific result in a century, far more important than any result expected from the most advanced accelerator. The sheer physical presence of Condoleezza Rice on this plane suggests, indeed demands, new physics that may lead to the long-desired marriage of quantum mechanics and general relativity. It’s either this or string theory.

Of course this means that we need to corral some or all of these visitors for study and experimentation. Such experiments would, I suppose, interfere with their civil liberties, if they had any, but they’re obviously not citizens of these United States. Technically they’re illegal aliens. Gitmo’s a-waitin’.

And perhaps we can do more. Obviously this other world is in a sorry state and could stand some saving. They’re our closer-than-brothers—our other selves living in a world gone bad, a world in which the toast always falls butter-side down, a world where Mr. Potter owns the Building and Loan. Undoubtedly an irrepressible desire for freedom burns in every heart there. As soon as possible, we should begin preparing for their liberation.

It will be a cakewalk.