Friday, April 30, 2004


My congressman's poll

My Representative in Washington, Christopher Shays (R-CT), sent me a questionnaire. I tried to fill it in (my duty as a Citizen) but I messed it up so badly that I threw it away. I wanted to reword questions like, "The government spends too much/the right amount/too little." And I wanted to add missing multiple-choice alternatives like, "E. It depends on what you call 'terrorism'."

I just got the results, summarizing 24,551 replies. The document is clearly labeled, "not a scientific sample." But hey, data's data.

Almost 80% of the "voluntary and self-selecting" respondents, "believe we must fight a War on Terrorism at home and abroad." But war and terrorism did not top their list. They thought "Economic Growth/Jobs" was the most important issue before Congress. And the second most important issue before Congress was "Economic Growth/Jobs." The third most important issue before Congress was "Economic Growth/Jobs." "Budget Deficits" was second, second and third. Terrorism was third, third and fourth.

There were even more surprises among the "voluntary and self-selecting," most notably:
I betcha these "voluntary and self-selecting" respondents also volunteer and self-select to vote.

How many others threw out their questionnaires in frustration like I did?

Wednesday, April 21, 2004


What "Working for the Phone Company" is all about

Steve Crandall's blog points to this excellent article in CIO Magazine about the terrifying self-destruction of AT&T Wireless under the "leadership" of John Zeglis, who walked away with at least $27m from the sale of the hollowed-out hulk of AT&T Wireless to Cingular.

It is a story of detached, hands-off management, whose idea of morale boosting was to tell the troops, "Come in every day and expect to be fired." Everything was outsourced -- to Siebel, to NeuStar, to Deloitte and Touche, to consultants, to India -- in the vain belief that somebody would understand how all the pieces would go together. But, of course, the pieces did not fit together.

On number-portability day, November 24, 2003, the number portability software crashed hard. It stayed down for days. AT&T accounted for half of the FCC's number portability complaints in the first week.

Author Christopher Koch gets the inside story from several former employees. For example, one said, "We'd see our people going into these long meetings with people from Indian companies. We'd see whiteboards that had questions like, 'What opportunity do we have to offshore/outsource?'"

One thing the article missed was the precursor telco mentality about legacy software. When I was at AT&T (in the consumer LD unit), every year we'd look at the patch-on-a-bandage-on-a-scab-on-a-festering-wound legacy software and say, "Shouldn't we re-write the whole system with modern software methods?" And every year we'd study it. And every year, we'd say it'd cost $X and take Y months. And every year, Senior Management would ask what it'd cost to put another band-aid on the patch-on-the-bandage-on-the-scab . . . and we'd say 1/10th of the cost and 1/10th of the time, and the resulting decision was a no-brainer. The system never was rewritten the way it shoulda been. Into this mess add number portability -- or any moderate change at time-certain -- and stir until chaos emerges.

What was John Zeglis doing during all this time? "Minding the store," is not the right answer.

The on-line article is augmented by dozens of pithy comments from ex-AT&T Wireless employees. For example, apparently CIO Chris Corrado had his new Ferrari delivered to the AT&T Wireless parking lot on pink-slip day. Et cetera.

My own experience suggests that the article is not unique to AT&T Wireless. And I suspect it will ring true in Qwest-land and over at MCI-Worldcom-MCI. It's a glimpse into the culture of a dying industry, and it probably resonates well beyond telecom.

Worth reading!

Monday, April 19, 2004


Workshop on Electronic Voting -- Theory and Practice

This looks great:

Workshop on Electronic Voting -- Theory and Practice
May 26 - 27, 2004
DIMACS Center, CoRE Building, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ

Markus Jakobsson, RSA Laboratories,
Ari Juels, RSA Laboratories,

Tentative schedule includes Rebecca Mercuri, Ron Rivest, David Chaum, Ed Gerck, others . . .
I've registered!
David I

Wednesday, April 07, 2004


In a fast way

I want to talk about one other thing we've got to do to make sure this is a good place for people to realize their dreams and start a business and get well educated, is we've got to make sure this country is on the leading end of broadband technology. You see, new ideas and new businesses and new ways to educate people in Farmington, New Mexico are going to occur when we're able to get information flowing across cables and telephone lines in a fast way. That's what broadband technology is. It means we'll open the highways of knowledge -- new highways of knowledge.

This country needs a national goal for broadband technology, for the spread of broadband technology. We ought to have a universal, affordable access for broadband technology by the year 2007, and then we ought to make sure as soon as possible thereafter, consumers have got plenty of choices when it comes to purchasing the broadband carrier. See, the more choices there are, the more the price will go down. And the more the price goes down, the more users there will be. And the more users there will be, the more likely it is America will stay on the competitive edge of world trade.

The more users there are, the more likely it is people will be able to have interesting new ways to receive doctors' advices in the home. The more affordable broadband technology is, the more innovative we can be with education. It's important that we stay on the cutting edge of technological change, and one way to do so is to have a bold plan for broadband.

Let me say one thing about broadband -- we don't need to tax access to broadband. The Congress must not tax access to broadband technology if we want to spread it around.
George W. "English is my native language" Bush, per


Harmonica Genius Plays NYC

A more accurate description of Howard Levy would be musical genius. He plays other instruments, too, sometimes three or four at once, hardly ever in 4/4. I don't know how he does what he does. Levy's recording with piano player Anthony Molinaro's, "Live" has been in my personal top ten since I first heard it last September. Now I'm excited to get a chance to hear "Live" live!

April 22, 2004 8PM Howard Levy & Anthony Molinaro at Tonic, 107 Norfolk St, (Lower East Side) New York.
April 24, 2004 Howard Levy & Anthony Molinaro inn Cold Springs Harbor, NY. details here.
Apr. 25, 2004 3 pm Howard plays a set with pianist Ed Alstrom for “Harpin’ Help” at Bar A in South Belmar,NJ. More here.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004


Damped sine wave?

Month-by-month frequency of 237 misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq that were made by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice. Data from report to U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman, page 11. Note that the original impulse seems to have occurred in September 2002.

Monday, April 05, 2004


Gasoline at $7 a gallon

From The New York Times, Week in Review, April 4, 2004: "Imagining a $7-a-Gallon Future"
No price in America is more visible, indeed inescapable, than that of gasoline. And Americans don't like the numbers they're seeing today, and their anger has turned high prices at the pump into highly flammable political fodder. OPEC's decision last week to cut production has further fueled the fire.

But what are those prices telling us? That driving this summer will be expensive? Or that $3 a gallon, which spouted last week at a California station, is our future? Or more worrying, that after many years of false alarms, the world is truly beginning to run out of oil?

That last question is at the center of a fierce debate. Adherents of the 'peak oil' theory warn of a permanent oil shortage. In the next five or 10 years, they maintain, the world's capacity to produce oil will reach its geological limit and fall behind growing demand. They trace their arguments back to the geophysicist M. King Hubbert, who in 1956 accurately predicted that American oil production would reach its apex around 1970. In a recent book, _Hubbert's Peak_, Kenneth S. Defeyes, an emeritus professor of geology at Princeton, wrote that 'Global oil production will probably reach a peak sometime during this decade.' Current prices, he adds, 'may be the preamble to a major crisis.' "
Deffeyes spoke day before yesterday (4/3/04) at WTF!?! His theory is about as "controversial" as the Stupid Network was in 1997, and vastly more definitive because it is entirely uni-dimensional and data-driven. It is only "fiercely debated" at all because oil has been in oversupply for about 100 years and we've gotten used to it.

Moreover, Yergin's NYT article understates Deffeyes' key assertion by orders of magnitude. Deffeyes is much more definite than "sometime this decade." He says that the peak of the smoothed curve of oil production will occur on November 29, 2005, give or take -- three standard deviations span but a few weeks either way.

Deffeyes says that he's "the new Kyoto." He says that soon, even without a treaty, we won't be polluting the air because we won't be able to afford it.

Put that in your tailpipe and smoke it.


WTF retrospective: What Took Flight

WTF!?! 2004 (April 2-4, 2004) has passed from a promise to an event, and now it passes into the dusty archives of (small-h) history. Having given my all for several weeks to make it happen, I feel about as cognitive as a sea-cucumber. I've been regenerating seretonin for 24 hours, and finally I can wiggle my fingers over this keyboard. I spent so much attention on logistics, mood and flow that there are major chunks of content that blew through my synapses with nary a trace. (And I missed some other important things -- like thanking Bruce Kushnik at the end of the show for the way his incredibly talented keyboard playing helped set the mood and "bookend" the sessions.) One day, I'll actually *go* to one of my own meetings.

So I'm especially grateful that WTF!?! was "confblogged" (or "type recorded") in amazing detail by FastCompany's Heath Row, who writes,
I tend to strive for almost-verbatim near-realtime transcripts of the sessions I sit in on. I type as folks talk. I lightly edit and clean up the text at the end, and I aim to post the entry within minutes after a talk ends. I call this type recording. Until there's persistent digital audio recording, marker setting, and near-immediate voice-to-text translation (anyone working on all this?), type recording -- grassroots stenography -- is as close as we can get. The networks allow for transmitting audio and video, yes, but text -- pure wordage -- is eminently more digestible, flexible, easily manipulated, and used.
Heath type-recorded 15 sessions including:WTF was also closely blogged by Martin "telepocalypse" Geddes.

UPDATE: An index of all Geddes' WTF blogging is here.. (Thanks, Martin!).

Geddes fills in some of Heath Row's "holidays", such as the Friday sessions and the Sunday wireless extravaganza with
Tim Shepherd, who modestly disclaims inventing mesh networking. Gordon Cook, the sharpest quill in telecom. And Col. David Hughes, an extraordinary gentleman and soldier who has been wirelessly connecting the ends of the Earth.
Geddes and Heath Row provide nice triangulation on the other sessions.

WTF!?! was also blogged at Corante by Steve Stroh. Meanwhile, Pito Salas gives a completely different view; to him, the evening BOF sessions were the highlight.

UPDATE: Russ Nelson has a long (but wrong) write-up of his reaction to "The end of the Age of Oil" talk by Deffeyes. (Russ seems to miss the fact that Deffeyes is not talking about *running out* of oil. He's talking about an all-time peak in oil production, and about a coming divergence between demand (rising) and production (falling). Deffeyes does not once say that there won't be any more oil. Nor does he claim that prices will not stabilize. RTFB, Russ (Read the Book) before inventing ridiculous objections.)
UPDATE UPDATE: Russ has revised the blog entry above, and now it makes a lot more sense. Now it reads almost exactly like one of the last chapters of Deffeyes' Hubbert's Peak :-), the one that deals with what the post-peak world looks like.

Then there's all kinds of secondary blogging. Notable among them, Jeff Jarvis, who first alerted me to Professor Eli Noam's dystopian musings, continues his ad-Noam-inem attack. (After Noam's talk, I gave him a pair of rose colored glasses in an attempt to correct his vision :-)).

WTF has made a mark as far away as Singapore and India.

Thanks to all 90+ WTFers, 12 virtual participants, and to everybody else who helped make it happen!


When smart minds converge . . .

At WTF last weekend, Roxane Googin recounted that telecom is becoming like the airlines where (as one airline exec told her), "Prices are set by my stupidest competitor."

Just three days before that, Bob Lucky, said "Telecom may be heading the way of DRAMs, where the price is set by the most idiotic competitor."


(Hint: Lucky [also] said that even though he spent his career in the telephony realm dominated by a centralized Advanced Intelligent Network, he believed in the inevitability of a dumb central fabric and intelligent end nodes. ibid.)

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