Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Would You Like to Upsize Your Order?

Because proposal work is tedious and maddening, and sometimes maddening and tedious, one must have some fun. This week I reviewed a Request For Proposal for a database system that requires 'predictive intelligence'. Two items stood out in the spreadsheet:

28) iii

32) viii

That's the whole statement for those two requirements. Now it is the job of the analsyt to interpret vague requirements and that is what I did.

28) iii

"Vendor interprets this in accordance with the Third Eye requirement and bids four weeks to develop this as an XML interface. The customer agency is required to select and provide a Third Eye system to the contractor for the purpose of developing and testing this interface. Vendor shall provide an XML Schema for the EspXML language."

32) viii

"Vendor interprets this as the Instant Answer requirement. Vendor bids third party Eight Ball Magic Answer product from Whammo. Customer will receive Train The Trainer courses for this product. The bid is item cost current on delivery ($9.99 at Wal-Mart) plus a 30% markup. Training costs are for one week at $5995."

Somedays, this business is fun.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Innovation and Ideas: Understand the Difference To Pick The Means

Reading Tim Bray's blog on corporate blogging and outward and inward facing blogging, it occurs to me that when espousing the idea of open vs closed blogging, one should look at or reference the concepts of clusters and long distance inputs. See these articles on six degrees of invention and on innovation diffusion.

This resonates with the concepts of Information Ecosystems. To the point:

1. Ideas and innovations are not the same thing. Ideas can be blogged, shared on maillists or even in more controlled tech, forumed. Innovations are diffused through customer adoption, that means, real running code/product. If one wants to diffuse an innovation a wiki or even a UDDI registry are the means. The means are determined by appetite for messiness and risk/reward tolerance. Messy systems diffuse more ideas at a higher rate. More orderly systems diffuse innovations more predictably. Again, skating at the edge of chaos..

2. Clusters tend to retard ideas but diffuse innovation. Big changes tend to come from long distance relationships where distance can be conceptual or spatial. Clustered relationships can have very long lifecycles. Look at the Markup Tribe, as Tim named them. Innovation is inherently collaborative and so is leadership. To the point of Tim's blog, closed blogging systems don't take advantage of long distance relationships. They tend to reinforce the local clusters. "Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups." ;-)

3. Mid career employees are rising in value, not diminishing. Just as one acquires a company to acquire a market (not just the IP or technology), one hires an employee for their cluster membership (analogous to the old, hired them for their rolodex idea and why your resume includes your organizational memberships. It should also include your Google rating and Google count for contributions to mail lists, wikis and open source projects).

4. Companies are no longer a means to capture and hold ideas but a means to diffuse innovations through customer relationships. Customers can also be a long distance source of ideas (usually are in any RFP-driven business).

5. Ideas can't be patented. Innovations can. Note that Sony recently announced that they have patented 'emergent semantics' which is an idea that has been discussed for years here and elsewhere. The idea that semantics emerge bottom-up as systems negotiate to do tasks is venerable. I don't know what is innovative about the Sony patents, but like a lot of software patents, they may not pass the obviousness test.

This comes down to the appetite for ideas and the risk management for innovation. One can separate and manage these in theory, but in the real ecosystem, when the good ideas stop coming, the clusters lose their vitality and the innovation stops. Coming from a company that formerly had the mantra, "Shut up and go back to work!" now attempting to innovate by committee, it will be an interesting test of the learning curve of this company to see how long it takes them to find out that forums are ok for innovation, but for ideas, outward facing blogging is better.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

XML 2004: The People Who Changed The World

Someone asked on XML-Dev why the average age at the XML 2004 Conference is older than the usual at such events.

Because we aren't afraid to bully our managers? ;-)

Possibly because as one person noted, XML is thought to be only a syntax, therefore, what can an XML conference be about? Smart players in the business know that a lot of contacts are made, hallway business is conducted, and one can survey how well some application languages are doing or aren't. It's recon work. But this isn't the reason to send the younger players.

Send them to meet the people who changed the world.

The people at this conference are true innovators and leaders. To be accepted among such people is an incomparable honor. They have a global view and a global agenda. They don't see the borders; they see the connections. In a business where most are competitors, they are collaborators. In a world where most are feeding themselves, they are feeding each other. In a market where most simply accept what the dominant vendors sell them, these people roll their own and then show everyone else how to do that too.

Some bits are intuition. I was fortunate to be seated at a table next to Norm Walsh and Paul Cotton as they did some TAG work over breakfast. The respect these two have for each other is right up front. It showed in their work and their conversation. Believe it or not, that single serendipitous encounter gave me the confidence to say, yeah, we can let go of SGML and push XML to the top of the stack. Markup is just stuff; people of high quality make all the difference, particularly when they show such respect and take genuine pleasure in each other's company. Keep in mind, these guys work for competing companies. It can be fun, it can be respectful, and it can still be competitive.

I sat with Henry Thompson and talked futures. The man has an enormous grasp of arts, science, history and philosophy. I was pretty awed and he was very patient.

Ed Dumbill is solid class. It is so easy to be distainful, and it's a lot of work to pay attention. Edd is an asset to O'Reilly in ways they may or may not know. The diplomat.

Simon St Laurent will always be a credit to whatever he works on. A good egg. Funny too and unafraid. Fearlessness is a rare thing.

Eve Maler: Wow.

Tim Bray and Lauren Wood: the King and Queen. I am deeply in their debt. They lead with smarts and heart and genuine ethics.

Michael Sperberg-McQueen: a bear of a man. A deeply joyful guy who stays on the right side of the argument.

Jelks Cabaniss: Friendly, caring, loves life.

Michael Kay: I didn't get nearly enough time to talk to him and I regret that. There isn't one of us who works with XML that doesn't owe Michael for the care and detail in his books and his help on XML-Dev.

Priscilla Walmsley: calm rivers run deep. Smart. At ease.

Michael Rys: patient with lesser mortals. I'm glad he and Soumitra Sengupta are on the other end of the chain that feeds me technology. They treat their competitor with the utmost respect and humor.

Dan Connoly: a lover of good musical gear. This is something we have in common. Serious dude. Detailed and attentive. His name is in the highest ranks and the earliest for the WWW. He is one of the very few who can truly be said to have made the WWW a reality.

Mike Champion: tough minded and amiable. Results matter to Mike.

Mitch Amiano: sincere and a listener.

Jon Bosak: A taciturn way, he called the XML party to order; then he started his *serious* work. Jon quietly and resolutely pulls the levers and things happen. As Bray said, "Don't bet against this guy."

Pamela Gennusa: the first SGMLer I met. She impressed me then with her command of the technical, the political and the practical knowledge of markup. Still the classiest woman in the business.

Ken Holman: The teacher. He brought for my first visit to Canada, and made me realize what wonderful neighbors we have to the north. Genuine and a family man.

Betty Harvey: She can toss a balloon javelin twice as far as the best man in the crowd. Strong and smiling, she lead the charge in the Beltway to get the web accepted as a standard platform.

Bob Glushko: full of restless energy, he made a business of XML and is still protecting the openness of markup by defending the IP from the bad guys. Don't get in this guy's way.

Matt Fuchs: He sees through the mysteries straight to the application. He is imaginative, down to earth, and very very insightful. His success has no effect on his personality. I think whoever his friends in high school were still are, and anyone he has met since.

Some play duets:

Debbie LePeyre and Tommi Usdin: The divas of the markup community. Not just technical but also spiritual and kind. Probably two of the best people one could have as bosses.

Steve Newcomb and Michele Biezunski: warriors from the old school. We've served together and it was all good. When I'm with them, I'm the student again.

Paul Prescod: a committed man. Cool under pressure and funny. Priceless.

Then there are the technical aha moments. It was worth the price of admission to watch Steve Pepper build the Topic Map example with the Ontopia Omnigator. After years of reading or hearing about topic maps, to watch someone sit there and confidently model one from the requirements of an attendee in real time, I understood it better than all of the previous experiences combined.

Then there was John Cowan's presentation of RelaxNG. It was the clearest exposition of the advantages of it I've been exposed to. John is incredibly intelligent and one heckuva good friend when needed.

There were many more but these are good examples.

One cannot help but be impressed by the XML community. Some people do business. Others have subtle understanding. The leaders of XML can do magic.

And that is what the younger crowd needs to see: leadership by example. It is waaay too easy on the web to become bloodless or crusty. If there is to be a better world, the kids have to see how the one they have is being made better by the people who know how. Employers do themselves a big favor exposing their younger employees to the best in the business. Let them meet the real heros, the people who changed the world.

Innovation is inherently a collaborative art. So is leadership.

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Code of Joy

I received a mail from someone who found my song "Sam (for Liz)" at the site. That song, given away to the web, gets me the most consistently positive response of any work I've done. I attribute that to the incredible love people have for Elizabeth Montgomery and the character of Samantha, but also the deep need people have to believe in the power of good, the strength of courage in the face of darkness, and the resolute faith that darkness will always be defeated by the light. Yet the strength, courage and faith come from the struggle of the individual. In this struggle, one can give in to fear and abandon the struggle to make a more positive world for self and other, or one can learn to recognize and amplify joy in the myriad forms people find it.

Much is being made about the codewords used to sell the agenda of the far right. Much is made about the issues of morality. Would anyone dispute that joy is a shared codeword for anyone who struggles? The best way to go forward is not to contribute to the despair or the anger, but to discover the code for joy. This is what we should be about practicing in our lives and the lives of those we share with. Letters like the one I quote below is how I know that in that one piece of work, I discovered a means to share joy and that this work resonates in the hearts of some whose needs for joy and determination to share their joyful gifts are so great, it is a thirst for life itself. When I offer up songs or poems on the web, I do wonder if it is the right thing to do. It is. Regardless of the topic, if the code is the code of joy, it always is.

With a little pride, but mostly the humbling feeling that some works are made of the power of the universe to seek the highest achievement of humans, joy, I share the following. Thanks Kris. You pulled me back from a dark chasm today. That is how joy works when it is shared.


I just heard your recording of your song "Sam". Thank you. I had tears in my eyes as I listened to it, and I am a 44 year old man. You have written a gentle love song with yearning. The music will stay in my mind as I hum/whistle it tomorrow. The words are so,...special, they say what I feel. For that too, I thank you. You are gifted in many areas, I do pray that your talent may be more widely recognised, as you well deserve it. Do you have any C.D.'s available?

As a child I grew up watching Bewitched when it first came out; I even remember when it was in black and white. Thursdays were my favorite day of all because that was the night Bewitched was on T.V. . No matter what was going on in my life, Bewitched could make it better. You see, Bewitched was also about being different and trying to fit in. Well, we moved a lot as I was growing up, plus I was a bit smarter than many other children my age and a bit of a loner. Later I finally accepted and came out as being gay, so being different and trying to fit in really hit home with me. In addition, my whole life I have always been very psychic, which I was afraid to share with others, as well as a few other "abilities" as well. Your song came at a perfect time for me, and an important time in my life as well.You see, at this point in my life I am being pushed forward in my psychic work to be doing very serious work as my abilities have been recognised, an! d because of my high level of abilities many people are urgeing me to go professional. I have been very hesitant in moveing forward with this, as it is "different" and others do not understand. Hearing your song "Sam" tonight has resolved my hesitation. From it, I now feel the strenghth to move forward with my abilities no matter how different. Sam would have done so. Your song meant a great deal to me tonight, and I wanted to write and let you know why your song was so important to me, and to thank you.

Kris Tondee"

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Thank you, John Kerry

Thank you, John Kerry. Thank you for serving, thank you for leading, thank you for keeping alive the dream of the ultimate goodness of the American way. Of those duties that a leader may obligate to, the first duty of the American leader is to keep this dream alive. As this dream is passed on, it has always grown more powerful in its inspiration to make the real world more like that dream, a dream of justice for all, liberty denied none, and the rights of the common man honored as highly as the rights of the extraordinary.

That you did not win does not mean you are not the better leader, a strong and wise man, and that somehow this makes those who voted for you less satisfied and pleased to have done so. You make me remember that when the time came to tell this country that it had made a mistake, you saved the lives of men and women like myself, then draft age and unwilling to become conscientious objectors. We the very young who watched our older brothers and sisters go, and for those of us blessed by God to see them come home, there is the knowledge that the stories you told to Congress were truth. We knew the war had become something unwinnable because no matter how many battles we won, no matter how many Vietnamese and Americans died, there is no way to deny a country to the people who live in it without genocide. By understanding that the deepest oath of the officer is to protect the lives and liberty of the American people, you showed the true measure of the best of the American people, and the American soldier.

Understanding that you have obligations to your wife and family, to your friends, and to yourself, I nonetheless ask that you not do as other defeated Presidential candidates have done and step away from the platform. There are few times such as this when Americans so desperately need the leadership that only the very best of us can provide, and you are such an American. I and I think many others will be proud to work with you and with your wife to continue to keep the American dream alive. For this is the great treasure that we must pass to our children and this is the awesome promise we must keep to those who passed it to us.

Thank you, John Kerry. It is good to know you.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Wizard of Oz

The key to the character of the Wizard is that he is a humbug in a world where all other creatures have their unique magic. A carnival veteran, he must organize his world using his talents of illusion and character to survive. The Wizard is the Professor, the Doorman, The Cabby and The Guard. To protect his illusion, he must adapt his character so that all approaches to the truth about him can be foreseen and directed. His magical skills are his illusions and his acting. Skilled in timing, pattern and the technical arts, he is able to portray convincingly, the Great and Powerful Oz.

Yet the face of the Professor when at last found out is the face of a man worn with the worries of his promises to fulfill dreams when all of his illusions only served to open the paths of those whom the Guard favored to enter his presence.Oz is mighty. The professor is careworn. The Guard is sympathetic. The Cabby is carefree. The Doorman is bothered.

Not a man of great personal courage, he was nonetheless a man of great wit and penetrating insight. The quests he sent his visitors on redressed the evils of great magic used to enslave the playful productive citizens of Oz. Though the Witches were all powerful, they had no power over each other. This kept the light and dark powers of Oz in balance. Yet balance is not peace. The evil witches were free to enslave, and the good witches could only rule justly in their own realms. Changing the balance of power between the Good Witches of the North and South, the East and West, by that part of himself that was great and good, by example that was one part fraud, and one part believer in his own tales, this good man brought peace to the land of Oz, such were the tales of Oz.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Karma and the Laws of Scaling

"Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man, that he didn't already have." - America

SIDENOTE: I did get the role of the Wizard of Oz in the local production. I now need a balloon in case I need to make a fast escape. Oh my. I am a confirmed humbug and typecast.

Technologies that scale do so because they are not meaningful. The more you have to control a technology, the less likely it is to scale because power is the hardest item to scale effectively. At least, directly. It is a good idea to understand the difference between alternating and direct current. Do you want to send one amp at a million volts or one volt at a million amps? It depends on how far you want to transmit and just how thick a wire you can afford. What you gain in direct effect, you lose in heat. By metaphor, if you want to fix a person, it may be better to use a lot of little jolts to change their mind because one big one could burn them and you and likely will destroy the connection. After that, you are powerless.

I was reading a post by someone tempted to use their blog in attack mode. I don't know any specifics, but it seems to be a way of saying, "You've been bad. I'm popular, my blog is popular, people will agree with me and if I badBlog your reputation, your value will decrease." It reminded me of the conversation I was having with my ten year old daughter last weekend. It seems she and some of her friends are having a problem because they all gossip about each other. She asked what she could do to fix it.

I told her to apologize if she had said anything bad or false, but otherwise to withdraw. I told her that what she was after was power over others, but that my experience is that if one tries for that, one creates a lot of karma and that karma IS power, but it alternates acts or it destroys in a single act. The more one does to others, the more karma one accrues, and because the act done can't be undone, the more karma one has, the less power one has. Do as done unto, but be sure the game has a reward one values. The act is the surest expression of a value, but so is the choice to act or not act. The recurions make her crazy but she got the point.

After many mistakes and much karma, the one thing I've discovered is the futility of attempting to fix others. One can alter their behavior of course, but that fixes little in the cognitive realm. If as the old humbug tells the tin man that "a heart is not judged by how well it loves but by how well it is loved by others", one has to ask if the act of fixing others ever gains one a scintilla of admiration, or just fear? Fear has its place, but again in my experience, fear is an irritant one seeks to do without. One might frighten another once, but can one keep it up?

In the long run, I find fear to be the least powerful motivation. I find excitement and anticipation of pleasure to be far more powerful. Even then, karma is neutral. I've seen drug dealers with very pleasant personalities control entire universities the way a teacher controls an entire classroom of preschoolers with candy. It is the means that do matter for control is the same however it is obtained. But fear will make the mammal retributive and when the authority is relaxed, when the back is turned, or when through age or lack of practice that authority relaxes that fear making habit, the results are always the same and retributive. I blogged this concept under "The Value of Values".

Life and death, these are reasons for the destructive act, and even then, such acts exact a very high price. Wars are never right even when necessary and as my Father taught me, if you must use the weapon, use it, don't show it, and then with speed and precision because the one against whom it is used may be capable of taking it away from you and then will most certainly use it on you. Fast feet are a better means unless the weapon is in your face. Even then, it is better to take it from them and use it as you will.

Otherwise, as I taught my daughter, as my Father taught me: a dog that will bring a bone will take a bone. If you don't want to feast on bones or be feasted on, go home and do something you enjoy in the privacy of your own backyard. Those that love you will seek you out; those that don't have no lasting value. Karma is like XML: it doesn't care. So you have to.


See. It just doesn't work. Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man.

Do A John Galt

This article says it. Read down to the "What To Do" topic.

My phrase is, Do a John Galt. For those who have read "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand, you understand. Don't contribute to the madness and persuade every person of intelligent bearing that you know to also defer.

It's hard to run a country or a company without good ideas. What the right has shown is that they are masters of fear and divisive tactics, but have yet to offer a single good idea for improving the lot of the global society in which we live, or even the American society in which we work. They manage but they do not create. They harvest but they do not plant. They share everything but the profits and the power.

Better a small farm than a collective.

Pull the plugs and do whatever you can to make your life and the lives of those you truly care about better. Organize around your self-interests and come to understand what Rand called "the virtue of selfishness", that is, don't accept the guilt trap offered so often to recruit you to do work for those who do not have any interests beyond their own at heart. If they have a real interest in you, work with them. Do as you wish to be done unto on the first move, then as done unto for every move after that. It is the classic tit for tat strategy proven time and again to be the most effective way to survive and prosper.

They made the mess. Let them clean it up.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Election: Step Away from The Platform

Am I disappointed? Yes. Surprised, no. As Norman Walsh said on the www-tag list and Elliotte Harold quotes him, "Stupid is not illegal." and I add, not unelectable. But I am comfortable that I supported the best man for the right reasons and when one does the right thing, there are no regrets.

This was the result I expected and blogged that in reply to Tim Bray's blog asking that we fire George Bush. The American electorate will only make big changes when they are comfortable and thanks to the last four years of intense mismanagement, they are very uncomfortable. So they stuck with the evil they know and avoided risking more discomfort even if it is a chance for improvement. Again, that is totally unsurprising.

As to the future, well, the people who have made the mess now have to clean up the mess. You see, elections are not about what is right, but about choosing who wins. Whoever wins has to make things right. Today, there are a lot of things that are not right in America.

Here in Alabama, an ammendment was proposed to remove a law from the Alabama constituion that preserves racism. Quoting the description and results from, a local TV station web site, "...this amendment will get rid of three elements from the [Alabama] 1901 constitution... a requirement for segregated schools, a requirement for a poll tax, and language that says publicly funded education is not a right of citizenship."


Statewide Amendment 2
No 690,247 50%
Yes 687,594 50%

You'd think we'd voted for that if for no other reason than to appear as if we were living in this century, but we failed to pass it. From a state that tried to outlaw diminished 5th intervals in music, this shouldn't surprise you or that we voted 63% for Bush. The sort of unthinking Alabamians do every day has now swept the nation. It also shouldn't surprise you that former Chief Justice Roy Moore, famous for his battle to keep the Ten Commandments on display in defiance of Federal court orders that forced his removal from office, is the main opponent of the Ammendment to remove these provisions. The Alabama Constitution can only be changed by Ammendments, is in desperate need of being replaced, but won't be because both sides fear the other will commit Draconian acts in the revision. They're both right, too.

The economy is sputtering, the death toll continues to climb in Iraq, health care is so expensive even companies cannot afford it so both our premiums and our contributions are going up even as we are laying off high skilled workforces and paying taxes to send their jobs overseas, the price of gas is at an all time high, we are losing our technical edge to the Pacific Rim, and most of our allies are ready to dismiss us from world affairs for having bungled the war on terrorism so badly. Note that while returning Bubba to office, they also soundly rejected gay marriage.

That's a lot of minds to have to change, fences to mend, and laws to pass or remove, or people to screw. The Republicans now have unlimited power with Bush in his second term. I've said before, it is a tough problem to be on the wrong side of history but that is where America is today, not because it doesn't have values, but because it cannot afford its values so it chooses instead to focus on taking more from those who have less to give to those who have more to do less for those who gave so much so that those who have more will keep what they have and get more.

It's a class war. Like it or not. Osama Bin Ladin made it plain that he intends to bankrupt the country, and the Republicans are busy helping him. It would be funny if it weren't so obviously true.

That's a heckuva a mess to clean up. I'm glad it's not my job. It is time for the Democrats to go fishin', ride a bike, take walks, and play with their kids and watch. Do get out of the way of the Republicans. They are going to be very busy. Given the last four years of majority rule in both houses and the executive branch without a single accomplishment beyond death, high prices and creating the most divided electorate in my lifetime, they will have to move very fast. And they don't know how.

That's a train wreck at full steam. Step away from the platform.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Ten Small Truths of Web Developers

The Ten Small Truths: lessons learned from time spent trying to make three languages compile in one application with five namespaces.

1) It isn't that one standards organization is better than another. In fact, that is precisely the point. They aren't. It comes down to politics and those choices are simple: what's in it for me.

2) One would think we would search for the best design. We don't; we search for the best selling author because he or she will provide the easiest read.

3) If the customer doesn't know, the vendor doesn't have to care.

4) Do the Right Thing: the right thing means the MBAs make their numbers. Certainty is a warm spreadsheet.

5) The web is too much like Canada: it needs a strong leader to offset the difficulty of managing a weak government.

6) The web isn't the easiest platform; it is the hardest by a factor of five. We've gotten used to slow strangulation by the accretion of hacks. Worse is better and we actually believe that.

7) To know that a better universe existed, you have to be old enough to remember it. For the web, that means you have to be at least 50 years old. That means you are in a distinct minority among active developers. Minorities don't matter even if they are right. Socialism works only when minorities don't matter. See Truth 1.

8) If the press says it, it must be wrong. If anyone else says it, the press must be right.

9) A day in the library is a waste of time that could be better spent updating a wiki.

10) A day spent updating a wiki is a better day because now one's opinions about things one knows not nearly enough about will really matter.

So we have come to the place predicted by the Federalists, where the great unwashed masses have inflicted the maximum damage they can inflict and now want the damaged to repair them. Unfortunately, that is exactly what will happen.

sigh.. whimper... whine...

Sunday, October 31, 2004

The Witch Of Endor

Most wretched of the dark angels imprisoned in Lucifer's realm were the crunchers. These creatures toiled ceaselessly creating numbered realms from Hell's finite infinity. Sightless dark eyes frozen open, they worked their leathery wings in Hell's heat making a droning dumb hum, a random chorus of numbers that began, rose, fell, and began again on the same note. Yet nonumber could alter that tone for soaring among the tonalities is an act of imagination, the light of creation. Without God, no dark angel bound by God's edict could image light by their own volition save one.

One dark angel was capable of imagination: Lucifer.

This tortured hum was the single sound of clarity in torment. It was a song of hate for the Creation within which his dark world had been conceived. His mind was its tonal center that could not vary by purpose or accident.

As each number was created, it was dispatched to dark angels that walked on Earth bound to the will of their Master and bound to the realm of mortal man by his hateful sound. The numbers shielded them from the light cast by the heavenly stars. Yetby these obscured points of light in the sky, they made their way to that place where his dark will would manifest through their demonic acts. This enabled them to find the imaginative mind of mankind and to cobble from it's mortality, a semblance of being in the world of light without ever being enlightened.

Mortals follow the imaginative light in herds. Where the stars showed the way, the humans would find happiness and long lives by their own choices. Yet, his insidious dark angels walk backwards among these herds, pretending to lead them by obscuring the stars that would otherwise illuminate their mortal choices.

Thus, they lead those that follow them into wars, famine, pestilence, and dissolution.

Thus, the will of Lucifer to destroy the world of light is done in certain places, at certain times, to certain humans by ensnaring their mortal purposes and leading them to Death.

While the stars looked on, the true witches who could always recognize these dark angels, were sorrowful for the helpless, hapless mortals but it was not their concern or within their power to save them because the will of the mortal to follow the dark angel was inviolate by God's law.

So it was when Saul, King of the Israelites came to the valley beyond Mount Tabor and the Hill of Moreh to the home of the Witch of Endor.

As he approached with his party, she rose above the cushion where she sat cross-legged, red hair wild and eyes glinting with the trial put at her door. This one who had slain all those mortals who falsely claimed the powers of her kind, who now came for answers knew not that he sought his own judge.

Behind her, a small golden haired girl sat also cross-legged but bobbing about as young girls will. "Mama," she said, "Why can't the mortals do magic?"

Her mother replied, "Without our powers and memories, the mortals do love and fear a God whose only evidence is their own feelings, and this is all the magic they possess. Their minds cannot roam among the stars, stand on the planets, push asteroids into each other, and then put them back again. What they know of the universe is memory mapped to events in time in one direction only. Over generations, they will make marks that will become words, and by these, attain some measure of time as it was, is and ever shall be. By this, they will lengthen the measure of years of their life, but death is their end and that is the limit of their knowing while they live. Such is the making of God."

The little girl's eyes grew large as the King's party came nearer. "But Mama, if they have even that much magic, why does the King not see the dark one riding beside him?"

The Witch raised her hands high above her and intoned, "They see the darkness of the sun and moon falling as they think. They feel the coldness in the air, but they do not trust the evidence of their feelings, so their knowledge of God is limited to their belief in themselves. They believe the evidence of their eyes if what they see raises their emotions and thus, the Lightbearer may overcome them in the darkness."

The girl blew her hair away from her eyes. "Then Mama, if their emotions are so unpracticed, so mortal, will they never know the darkness from the true light? Even if they have no powers, can they not know by these feelings, true love?"

Her Mother laughed, "Yes, my dear, they can love many times as a mortal loves, but if by true love you mean eternal love, they cannot know what love exists beyond a small number of years of life, for they have no certainty, and certainty of love is love's truest feature."

The Witch of Endor put her finger to her chin as if puzzled.

"They are eternally loved while they may not know that such love is possible. What such love means to ones who live a short time and then begin another life without memory is uncertain. It may be mercy. Do you not think that should they know such love, their lives would become ever sadder believing that they will lose this love when they lose themselves to death?"

"But God will love them even in death."

"Yes, but we can know with certainty what they can only feel. For mortals, feelings of love are the most uncertain of all."

With that, she smiled possessively at her beautful young daughter, then raised her hands casting a spell to hide their true nature from the party now close at hand.

The cowled king and his servant rode into grove of Endor. Walking up the rise, they saw only an old woman and her daughter tending a small garden beyond the cottage.

"Who is that comes to see me?" asked the hag.

"Strangers seeking knowledge, Mother." said the king, careful to keep his face beneath the cowl he wore so only his lips were revealed and his eyes gave no hint of the fear in his heart.

"Knowledge?", she laughed, "Do you mean victory?"

The king drew a long breath. "If God wills this." he said.

"Ask your question." she said dryly.

"I do not seek your counsel, Mother, but the counsel of my Teacher, now dead. I am told you have the power to summon the dead."

Her eyes flashed fury, "This is an unclean act. Who is it asks this of me?" and she pulled the cowl from his face.

"Saul. King of the Jews. Slayer of the hundred women of Moreh whom he called Witch. Have you come to slay me and my daughter? Would this act not convict us and would you suffer us to live having done your bidding, King?"

Saul twisted his lips nervously. This woman showed no trace of fear as she spoke, as if his power was none to hers. Saul had seen warriors speak with courage but none with the simple direct cold tone of her voice.

"I am only a warrior who wishes to see his old Master before I go to the valley of Megido to face the Philistine army. Summmon the spirit of Samuel the Prophet to this house that I may know God's will in the battle to come.

"Then victory is your desire, Saul. Is fear your dark companion?"

With her words, the servant on the left of Saul began to pulse and glow as if some energy within him grew stronger. Saul stood gaunt but did not move. He had seen God's power and this was not more fearsome, yet within him, he felt a terrible coldness. With that feeling came the sound of a low throbbing hum like millions of locusts beating their wings beyond the next hill, undulating with an ominous pulse of pure evil. Saul shielded his eyes from the awful figure of his servant transforming before him.

The Witch of Endor watched with amazement. She had cast no spell on this servant. She knew that this was the will of the Lord of Darkness joined in this servant, himself a creature of darkness, and the terror that now overcame Saul. From the twisted visage, the features of an old man emerged, eyes rolling first to one and then the other, then settling on the face of the terrified King.

She muttered low and sternly, "What face does the spectre wear, O Mighty King, is it one you know?"

"Yes," he said, "It is the familiar spirit of my teacher, Samuel the Prophet."

"Then" she spat, "Saul, your fate is sealed, for this spectre is of your making, not mine. God has given you power over men. God has given you his promise that as his will is done, so shall you profit by his will. Have you not seen all your enemies fall before you as you have worked his will for his purpose?"

Saul stood as he had when Samuel lived, tall and regal. He did not forget that he was the king of the Israelites, the protector by God ordained of the kingdom of the tribes.

"Yes Woman, I have seen and done all these things. Whathas been required of me that I have not done? I did slay the Amalektites and burned their city. I have even spared the beasts and fowl and fed my people with these and the Amalek grain."

As the deathly face of Samuel came closer to the face of the pale King, she asked her last question.

"God ordered that no sign of the Amalek remain in his land. Are these full bellies the sign of the Amalek?"

Saul replied, "These are gifts of Earth. That my men are well-fed, that their bellies do not grumble before battle, are these not also signs of the good of the kingdom, the good I have made by the will of God?"

The spectre of the old prophet, Samuel roared at Saul, "Who dares call forth the power of God for his own election?"

The king fell back as if struck by death itself. He felt the aloneness, the immortal cold, the earth that would soon cover his face in his funerary robe.

"What can be done?" he asked of the awful spirit.

The ghost replied without pity, "Only that which a man can do." and then vanished.

Saul swooned.

Instantly, the Witch and her daughter resumed their appearance, both beautiful and powerful. The girl approached the unconscious man and stroked his face. "He looks like a good man."

"He is," her Mother said as she levitated his prostrate figure onto his horse, the horse whinnying but unfazed by the Witch's magic, for horses know true witches and do not fear them.

"Will he die in battle?" the girl asked compassionately.

"He will," she replied as she sent the horse speeding toward the valley where many fires burned. "He has his answer and now he believes God has abandoned him. So his will to fight, his certainty of purpose have also left him."

"But the words he heard were not God's words?"

"Deceit is the way of the demon, my daughter, but for a man to be deceived, he must himself work the magic of belief, and because his will is his own, that magic has none but himself as its benefactor, for good or evil."

With that, the Witch wiped a tear from the girl's face. "Come," she said, and they faded away on the smoke that from the fires burning in the valley where the sounds of swords being sharpened on wheels made a low dull hum.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Burt Rutan Comes to Moontown

I've been reading the umpteenth web discussion of 'simple systems are better and innovation as disruption occurs using simple systems (concat with) early vs late adopters' and reflecting on what Burt Rutan, designer of the winner of the Ansari X-prize has to say on the subject.

Rutan recently visited a local private airport called Moontown. Moontown is a grass strip. We stood just outside a hanger packed with pilots and kids. While rain dripped on us through a crack in the hangar door, Burt talked long into the night on the 'leave out the unnecessary' and how 'simpler systems are better'. He asked why the space shuttle was developed without exploiting the early systems that were simpler and reliable. He asked why NASA did not fly more civilians and failed to use the simpler systems for that as the Russians have. He didn't like the answer that those who signed the checks didn't want to pay for that. He said 'it's your money, so what's the disconnect in interest?" I told him, "There is no disconnect. We're here aren't we?"

His charts that show the reliability of the simpler systems are factually correct. His interpretations are historically inaccurate.

1) Mercury capsules never killed a pilot. Sounds good. Fact: the second manned flight almost killed Gus Grissom by sinking when the hatch door blew unexpectedly. The Apollo 1 capsule killed him on the pad. Scott Carpenter missed his landing target by hundreds of miles. The Faith 7 flight of Gordon Cooper of 22 orbits had almost every onboard system fail. He lined up the vehicle using his window on the horizon and manually reentered. The magnetosphere is quite a test of 50's simple technologies. We all know what happened to Apollo 13, and yes, it was the complexity of the redundant systems that enabled that crew to come home combined with the real time ingenuity of very smart people.

2) While devoting a lot of his speech to kicking NASA in the butt (he calls them Nay Say) and lauding his simpler system, he neglected to mention the composites that made his craft orders of magnitude lighter than the X-15 were developed by ... NASA. High performance materials require substantial investments before they can used on simple systems.

3) The checks for launch vehicles used in the manned space program with the sole exception of the Saturn series were signed by the United States Department of Defense who, while they were happy to see them used for manned flight, were mainly interested in delivering weighty bundles of thermonuclear destruction with them. Nuclear weapons and spy satellites don't weigh enough to rate a Saturn V, so they were happy to have the civilians sign those checks.

You see, the mission determines the necessary complexity and the acceptable risks.

Simple systems in the hands of very skilled and intelligent people can do a good job. Complex systems are often designed for the less skillful. Early adopters pay the price for becoming skillful enough to make a system good enough to make a late adopter successful at a tenth of the cost. So the rule of thumb for early adopters is: only if you absolutely need it now or are getting into the core business of the technology. As for why NASA did not go forward except into the shuttle program:

1) The shuttle design requirements are for... ta da... the delivery of military hardware to low Earth orbit.

2) The designers of the early 'simpler systems' were gutted from NASA when it was determined that the next American space program should not be tainted by "ex NAZI rocket scientists'. So the accomplished teams and visionaries were sent packing. Oddly enough, Rutan comes to our city because he wants to rub elbows with the remaining living members of that team. When your main financiers are a Microsoft manager made good and a British knight, it might be bad salesmanship to mention the history of that team although he says up front that Werhner Von Braun is his top hero. Tom Hanks, Phillip Kaufmann and Tom Wolfe did a good job of minimizing Von Braun's role, perhaps it is acceptable for Rutan to say that.

While he is right that it is impossible to prove that a system is safe, it is possible to test one long enough to rid oneself of most of the bugs as long as the bugs manifest in the time and environment given to testing. He did talk a lot about the fact that more regulators from the Office of Commercial Space Launch monitored his work than there are members of his team doing the work. I have to agree with assessment of that situation. It sucks.

As to buying a ticket, given that he has yet to ride SpaceShipOne himself and doesn't intend to (I asked), and he is busily selling his concept for Sir Richard Branson's space line, I think I will be a late purchaser of a Virgin Galactic ticket. Rutan never mentioned the effects of radiation through composites in sub-orbital flights. Early adopters often pay the price not only for the ticket, but for the tests. Thrill or no, I'd like to keep the tan I have free of splotches.

Homeland Security Systems and Event Types

One of the requirements set forth in the Markle Foundation Report is that access to private information has to be policy driven, thus, there is a need for doctrine with respect to the design to be implemented for SHARE. A concept I propose for this would be based on the notion of event types, or to be precise, an ontology of events in which information is recorded such that the event type determines who can access this information with or without the consent of the observed. An event is a combination of a time, location and event type. Any individual who participates in the event by dint of being at that location at that time obtains a role.

This is not a new idea. This is fundamental to police records management now and to measurements of policing behaviors. For instance, a traffic stop is a simple example of an event type. Many states require the reason for the traffic stop to be recorded in the records management system so that post-stop analysis can be used to discover trends that might indicate racial or other kinds of profiling. Use of force information is recorded to determine if officers are brutalizing citizens, or to justify the use of force given the circumstances of the 'event'. Role-based access to information is the basis for much security management in computer systems today.

Event types may be cultural. For example, a concert held in an outdoor setting is a cultural event. The opt-in to the rules for the behavior at the concert is the ticket purchase. Holders of tickets are legal participants of a type, concert employees are another type. Each of these is a role in a system of roles where the contract to obtain the role determines the allowable and disallowable behaviors. It also determines the rights to being observed just as telephone and email communications are legally observable when one obligates to the role of an employee. This means that someone attending a public event is observable and that identity obtained by biometric observation is legally usable because the opt-in is contracted and the contract is a service of the event type.

The implication is that the semantic web technologies such as OWL for declaring ontologies can be used to create legally recognizable event types and that the policies for observation and for later access to information beyond the observed information such as access to private data can be described in terms of the event types. This is how subpoenas work now. Suspicion of activity must be based on reasonable grounds. Access to private information is also based on these grounds.

It is likely that the seminal concept that unites these and could enable the homeland security industry to organize a standard for policy-contrained access is the concept of event types as a cross-product with roles.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Scared Stupid

I commented on a C/Net article (Scared Witless) by Charles Cooper about people being scared about their personal safety and how this was playing out in the election. As usual, the not-so-latent paranoia about surveillance systems emerged from readers. What follows are my replies. I'm blogging these here as part of a topic I blogged earlier about effective systems.

Take a Look At Your 911 Systems

By 911, I mean your public safety systems used by first responders for near real time operations (say Computer-aided Dispatch) and the police and fire records databases.

1. Until 9/11 (the event), these have been local systems, aka, vertical smokestacks, with little interoperation even across neighboring jurisdictions.

2. Public safety is a late adopter market with a lifecycle at about 12 years long (time from purchase to retirement). This means that technologies taken for granted on the public Internet are not used widely for public safety systems (security concerns aside for the moment).

3. 9/11 was the wakeup call the industry needed to finally take the issue of interoperability seriously and begin to work on standards for CAD-to-CAD (APCO 36) and database interchange (GJXDM).

4. The larger picture of the SHARE system as envisioned by the Markle Foundation is still blurry. The issues here are how to create a policy-aware system with immutable auditing, and the doctrines that must be provided from the governing authorities.

While it is trendlily paranoid to think the police have far reaching powers to snoop, they actually are more restricted than your neighborhood supermarket. On the other hand, the effect of government incursion given its other powers is great enough to warrant the restrictions.

Until after this bitter election, one won't see much action even though the public safety vendors began to solve the problems even before the 9/11 Commission and the Foundation did their work. Pundits such as yourself should begin to understand the differences among investigation and enforcement as defined first by local and state authorities, then by the Federal authorities.

And the political parties should quit scaring people with both sides of this argument. There is a tremendous amount of online information and it has been there for years. What 9/11 has provided is an accelerant to opening up the private sources and integrating the existing public safety resources. It will make for a safer community, but it is very necessary for the public to pay attention to the legislation and the doctrine that will come from the post-election administration.

Fear kills rational thought. This is a topic for rationality and imagination. There is a lot we can do with the technology to *prevent* us from becoming an Orwellian society. You need to spend less time looking for 'if it bleeds it leads' stories and start researching how public safety systems actually work.

First, the Homework

To discuss this without the deep doses of election hysteria, first it is necessary to read the Markle Foundation Report and to compare it to the 9/11 Commission Report. Then there is a Senate Bill and a House Bill to be reviewed to determine what is to be offered out to vendors to build. Pay particular attention to the sections on identity management, access by policy, and immutable auditing.

If you are only using web news sources, blogs, etc., you are missing the details that would enable you to understand the concern that the authors of those reports share with you. I share your concerns, and given the way the House bill has been created and its contents, they are justified. If you want to have impact, you need to take your Congressmen and Senators to task and emphasize the Senate version.

National driver's license standards are long overdue, but that is a simple problem compared to the issue of the breeder documents that enable one to establish false identities. The ease with which Al Qaeda was able to penetrate security systems and execute their plans SHOULD scare you. The general incompetence of the administration that allowed that to happen SHOULD scare you. On the whole, the 9/11 terrorists were boobs. We were beaten by boobs. If that doesn't scare you, you may want to check your pulse.

Instead, you are scared of the people who investigated the event and responded with approaches to this kind of event. That is predictable but not smart.

Technology has a role to play in a solution that protects and enables, and it doesn't have to mean we give up freedoms. It does mean that the freedoms we have are smartly applied. It does mean that you make the effort to understand the proposals for technology and decide for yourself which are acceptable solutions.

The parallel with the elections are this: you can yell or you can get involved. That's your decision. But that's as far as the comparison goes. The vendors will build what is described in the RFPs; so if you want to influence that, you have to read the details and understand them. This IS technology and you are paying for it.

Purging Vs Archival

That is one of the doctrinal and policy questions. Currently, your police records databases are mandated to purge records (excise all data and references to data) at some interval depending on crime type, age of offender, etc. So your 'permanent record' is not that permanent. On the other hand, the laws aren't that clear with respect to collection of private data, for example, who determines how long Google caches this web page reply?

But these are the issues to be worked. A problem with purge rules is that they are often confused with archival rules. Then there is the problem of jurisdiction and a judge: a judge can order your local agency to purge a record, then tell them a year later that they need to restore it. Given technical problems of referential integrity, that can be a hard task, so some systems purge the data to media which are then stored in a cabinet 'just in case'.

But yes, when the high school teacher tells you 'this will go on your permanent record', it can mean just that.

You will get as good a system and as protective as system as you have elected officials to provide sensible mandates. That is only as scary as you and your community are smart voters. The technology doesn't care. So you do have to. Again, systems that acquire identity biometrically don't need your buy in to get you into the system. A driver's license does. For the former, you need legal policy, for example, depending on the real-time event it is monitoring. Your local police agency has the right to demand your license at a traffic stop or accident. Does a sensor web have the right to match its biometric reading to its image of you smuggling beer into an outdoor concert? Well, that depends on the contract you opted into when you bought the ticket. Should it be tracking you for that? Well, you might actually want your cell phone to tell you when an act on the other side of the venue is coming on and how long it will take for you to walk there through the current crowd density, and by the way, where the nearest bathroom is. So you opted into services that enabled that tracking by identity and location. All perfectly reasonable.

What I've been saying here is that people are too often 'scared' of the wrong things and too trusting of the right ones. It is entirely possible to build a reasonable system, but it is not possible for it to protect you from unreasonable people using your reasonable services. That is why we have laws and elect smart people (we hope) and why elections built over fear and religion and Spy Vs Spy agendas are ever more dangerous to conduct.

The first years of powered flight and powered carriages were not safe. The difference is that you had to buy one of those. Neither I nor any product we create can make you feel safer; we and such products can help YOU create a safer world. You have to understand the means and the threat, and such understanding will not come of simply tossing pithy barbs at each other.

Summary: smarter electors == fewer regulators AND smarter systems.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Really, Mr Cheney?

So, Mr. Cheney, you tell us that if John Kerry is elected, America will be attacked. It has already been attacked, Mr. Cheney. You tell us that John Kerry will wait until the attack has happened. Would that be the same way that you and President Bush waited, Mr. Cheney, until thousands of Americans died in a single day after months of your administration being warned by your own Director of Central Intelligence and your terrorism czar? Should we be more afraid of a man who has gone to war, performed superbly, then came home to serve honorably, or of two men, one of which was derelict in his duty and the other who used his marriage to escape the draft?

You tell us, Mr Cheney, that we have to 'get our mind around' the potential that terrorists will use weapons of mass destruction in our country? Really, Mr. Cheney, and exactly what have you to offer to protect us from that other than talk radio, jingoist politics, race baiting, fear mongering, and that's just what you've done to Americans? Will Rush Limbaugh join the Marines and bore al Qaeda to death? Is there a policy in there somewhere that addresses nuclear proliferation? Is there a plan there to work with our allies to track and stop shipments of illegal materials? If perhaps you would show the courage to come out from behind your handpicked audiences with their loyalty oaths and face the electorate as a man, perhaps you might get some good suggestions. Would you recognize them?

Really, Mr. Cheney, isn't all you are offering more of the same poor leadership that got us into this mess? Be truthful, for once.

You can't, and you know it.

The truth is this: you aren't that brave, you aren't that smart, and you aren't that capable. You know how to tell us to fear, and you know how to tell a colleague to f**k off when confronted. A fellow that can't even face the American public surely cannot face down Osama bin Ladin if he is the threat you tell us he is. You used your position to line the pockets of the energy industry. You ran from public scrutiny and you are still running. There is a word for such a man but if a man can't recognize heroism, he won't understand what that word means.

So, I think we can do better. We do care. Better a man with a Silver Star than a man with a deferment and a golden parachute from Haliburton.

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Wrong Side of History

It was refreshing to read Tim Bray's blog this morning. It seems he has finally decided along with other world citizens to make the case for firing George W. Bush. It's about time. A lesson learned by some in the US after VietNam and the crises of race in the 1960s is that one can outlive the war and the crises, but afterwards face a terrible moment of self-realization that one was on the wrong side of history. In the technical debates that many of us here are engaged in day to day, this can be costly in terms of career or marketshare, but in the political debates, this can be costly in terms of real freedoms, and of the respect and safety of the world. It can be the difference between a future for our children here in the US, and there in Canada.

The US is a superpower and it is often arrogant about that. It leads many to believe in an unconsidered way that we can do anything, go anywhere, that our will must and can always prevail, that failure is not only not an option, it is not a possibility. This is the situation today. I can show the extremists the blogs that state clearly how many non-US citizens of the world think about the Bush administration and our conduct since 9/11. They will reply with the unconvincing but covering answer that "Democrats always say that" and "We don't need to approval of the world to defend outselves." Both are true. Both are irrelevant to this issue because the reality brought home to the US in VietNam was that even with superpowers, one cannot always use them to prosecute a war. As Sean Connery's character asks in the remake of "The Untouchables", "What are ya willing to do?" Power based on our nuclear arsenal is almost useless and that is why disarmament and work to stop proliferation became important. A weapon that is unthinkable to use is also useless.

So short of turning the world into a cinder, what are we willing to do? Will we continue to send forces into civil wars where there is little chance that we can prevail, but we can occupy? Will we use these forces to stop Iran from possessing arms that half-a-dozen other countries also possess with Iran knowing that proportional response is still the basis for our defense?

The most hopeful thing I've heard came not from these bloggers but from my doctor and his assistant yesterday after the third debate. They said, yes, we've finally decided to vote for John Kerry. When I asked why, they said simply, "He's smarter."

When it gets down to choosing a leader, one wants not to choose based on some misguided perception of our role in the world or even our relationship to God, but based on the competence and experience of the candidate, not his arrogance. This election is too close to call. If I had to predict based on what I know about typical American electoral behavior, George W. Bush is going to win.

So I thank the efforts of the citizens of the world. I only wish you had reconsidered your positions earlier, spoken louder, and helped to restore some margins of safety. Like it or not, understand it or not, we are in this together. A world where terrorists proliferate is a very unsafe place to be but a world in which superpowers find themselves confronting not only terrorists but their former allies through mistaken leadership that cannot accept the limits of their powers is far far more dangerous.

Being on the wrong side of history is bad. Not knowing it or failing to learn from it is worse, not only for your pride, but your future. We are in this together.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Many thanks to Tim Bray for pointing out this blog written by someone who actually served in VietNam and is brave enough now to talk about his own realities. This quote makes the point:

"It's hard to disregard the difficult and evil things we do, so I'm not surprised that so many vets think John Kerry betrayed them by speaking against the war in 1971. But many of them are alive today because of the pressure he exerted on the US Government, at the age of 27, to quit Vietnam, well respected by the kinds of Senators we can barely imagine today."

I'd like to say that the election is partisan. We're waaaay past that. With the announcement by the Sinclair Corporation that it will force its sixty-two affiliates to broadcast commercial free propaganda a week before the election in prime time, it's clear to see that here is a word for the right-wing Republican extremists: Evil..

Monday, October 11, 2004


Kamala danced in the candlelight.
Who did not love her perfect form?
As the tintara droned while the khajiri counted tal
Her shadow twisted among the marble columns
Brushing their eyes with secret delight
While her songs of sringara and viraha
Summoned nava rasas like servants of a raj.
Each man thought she danced only for him
Each man kept his blade close at hand
To protect the jewels he brought for Kamala.

A shanai cries like a child alone in a dark room
Caressing a flower to her face.
Her body becoming water and life,
Kamala prayed before the nataraja
That the Nameless One, face covered in ash,
Might make for her bursting heart, the sharanam.

"Shayad. Shayad. Shayad."
Each one spoke in turn to her uplifted gaze.
They touched her lips tenderly
Cupping the curves of her breast
Pushing the falling hair from her begging eyes
Then passed the seedcake to the one that followed.

Calloused feet fall hard in the temple.
Tears will not fall from silent eyes
Spotted like an aging face unveiled to the summer sun
Kamala does not sing beneath the parasol.
Dust gathers on the mirror as patjhar become sardii.
Yet in the unforgiving moonlight of Holi
Among the crumbling marble columns of an empty house
Old men place flowers where the devadasi who became sharii sleeps.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Who's Zoomin' Who: Web 2.0 Pundits and the Next Big Thing

Web 2.0 will likely be touted as where the advanced thinkers talked to the advanced business types who have made some pretty advanced fortunes using the Internet platforms. Discussions of the inevitability of open source, the evil Empire (we know the name, look up the number), FireFox over IE, REST vs web services, and all the usual cause de jours of the conspiracy-hungry zeitgeist will be debated in the hallways. The 'next big thing' will be featured on slides, and the Life of O'Reilly as pundit and prognosticator will be on display to up the ticket sales.

And the attendees will, as they usually do, miss the important developments in the evolution of the web.

Don't get me wrong. I've no prejudice against these events as technical theatre. They are fun to go to, one gets to rub elbows with the people whose cults of personality mean they are quoted more often in web circles than Karl Rove is in political circles, but one expecting to come away from an event like this with inside information, late breaking insights, etc., will leave with the same feeling as one who has eaten a two pound bag of pork rinds: full but unnourished. Why? Because these people came to promote a business: making money off the Internet. This is a cool thing, but it isn't a new thing and any conference that circles that topic will fall into the usual not-so-strange attractors of improving the user experience, network effects, power laws of sales, and the dot-bomb bust and how to avoid it. Developments, emergent and otherwise, that make for bad press don't amplify the feedback effects these folks are after at these events, so some urgent topics won't get discussed.

How about this: identity management systems for business transactions will not protect the individual or group from the application of wide-area sensor systems that aquire identity biometrically and pass it along the sensor web. The only protection will be built-in policy enforcement and these policies are as yet, non-existent.

Sensor webs ARE the 'next big thing' and I doubt that came up at Web 2.0. Even the developers of these systems recognize their implications for privacy and fundamental liberties, but say as the inventors usually do, that subject is beyond the scope of their work. It is political and even if it worries them, they aren't about to compromise funding or their careers worrying about that.

"Don't say that he's hypocritical
Say rather that he's apolitical
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down
That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun" - Tom Lehrer

People who do care will now have to pay very good attention to elections because political agendas do determine policy, not just as it is written, but as it is implemented. When the current reform bills for U.S. national intelligence are finally passed, under the Senate version, the National Intelligence Director has 90 days to provide a plan, and 270 days after that to begin implementing it.

It may be time to quit listening to O'Reilly and Company and start paying attention to what is being debated in the American Halls of Congress. The next big thing will be developed there, not in San Francisco.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Five Questions for the Presidential Candidates

In the next two presidential debates, there are five questions I would ask:

1. Given that the American defense policy has been proportional response, what would the American response be to terrorists exploding a nuclear, dirty, or biological weapon on US soil?

2. While it is good campaign strategy to duck the question of gay marriage by saying this is an issue to be decided by individual states, is this a credible response given that municipalities such as Seattle require companies from other states to provide domestic partner benefits to do business with the city? Doesn't this force the decision to go to the Supreme Court should a state outlaw gay marriage or does it force companies within that state to forgo doing business with these municipalities?

3. Given the rate at which the US military is using men and materiel, can we avoid a draft and higher taxes to replace diminishing stocks or must we withdraw from other commitments such as South Korea?

4. The cornerstone of a trusted information security network for homeland security is identity management. What is the candidate's position on national standards for driver's licenses and so-called 'breeder documents' such as birth certificates?

5. What is the appropriate doctrine for the use of and access to information held in private databases by government investigators for counterterrorism cases?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Godspeed, Gordo

There is a poetry to the universe. Events occur proximately the way a theme in a great work of literature is repeated differently but close together in time or space reinforcing some noble truth to the observer. I find it uplifting that on the day a pilot flies SpaceShipOne into space without computer guidance, a man who flew a Mercury capsule back from 22 orbits manually when the onboard systems failed passed away. People who only know of the Faith 7 flight from movies like "The Right Stuff" don't know the whole story of Leroy Gordon Cooper.

Mercury capsules were straight out of the 1950s. Full of wire bundles and not-quite-shielded circuitry made before the advent of miniturization that is the supreme benefit of the American space program, a Mercury capsule would charge like a capacitor in the magnetosphere, and any water in the circuitry could cause them to short out. System by system, the longer one stayed in orbit, the effects would cause systems to fail. Gordon Cooper flew the last operational Mercury mission and the longest one. His laconic coolness on the stick was legendary. He slept on the pad and for eight hours during orbits 10 through 14. Informed about the problems, ground control fearing his automatic reentry system was also failing, Cooper manually lined up the capsule on the horizon, fired the retrorocket pack, and brought his ship down as close to the recovery ship, Kearsage, as any computer could have in May 1963.

Gordon Cooper was the first American to make a second orbital flight. He was the backup commander for Apollo 10. He drove fast cars and fast boats. He was Vice President for Research and Development/EPCOT for Walt Disney. He loved to design aircraft. He chased UFOs over the skies of Europe.

And he was a heckuva fisherman.

To say he had the right stuff has become a cliche. To say he was a real hero doesn't say enough. Yet his life was rounded by accomplishments that few will ever equal and his passing was as well-timed as his reentry from space in a flyable if cheesy spacecraft. Gordon Cooper was a good test pilot. That is finest compliment one can pay.

Godspeed, Gordo.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Ansari X Prize and TV News

The increasing irrelevance of TV broadcast news becomes clear as I sit here watching the Ansari prize won by Bert Rutan and his company while ABC is showing Regis and Kelly interview a fellow from the Bravo hit show. The other major networks are showing something just as uninteresting.

As one who grew up watching Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, then the space shuttle, it is somewhat sad but then technology and the public taste do find their own level of commitment to each other. Perhaps the commitment of ABC to the transience of the Bravo show and adverstisers testifies that TV news has finally become merely entertainment and the Internet is where one goes to witness history being made.

Go Rutan! Yahooooo!

Friday, October 01, 2004

It's "Mullah", Not "Moolah"

Senator John Kerry is the clear winner of the first debate. His performance demonstrated the qualities one wants in a leader of the free world: good judgment informed by years of experience in the Senate dealing with foreign relations, sound analysis of the options given tough problems, smooth delivery and the ability to stay focused on the question at hand, strategic planning and initiative, restraint when matters of international or national urgency are colored by personal experience or relationships, and poise in the face of an adversary whose main objective is to inspire fear and to degrade confidence.

In the days ahead, some pundits and networks will cut and edit the debate videos to make President Bush appear to be all of the above when in fact any honest viewer saw that when the right questions are asked by the right man at the right time in the right place, Bush falls back on his arrogant and divisive character traits. Clever spinning won't obscure the facts of his failures of performance, both in this debate and in office.

It's "mullah", Mr. President, not "moolah". You are confusing the leaders of Iran with a former executive of Halliburton. It's Vladimir, not Vladimurr. One would think an Ivy League educated native of Maine would be able to pronounce these, but one suspects years of feigning a Texas accent has side effects.

Clear speaking and clear thinking are hard work too.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Red Palace

In his last days, Shah Jahan was left to die in the Red Palace
With one faithful daughter to attend him, tools to write,
Memories of his beloved Mumtaz, and his distant view of the Taj.
His son had defeated all rivals for the old man's throne and
Became emperor before his father would be wrapped in white linen
And carried aloft to the marble spired mausoleum.

In the manicured paths that lay between his heart and that end,
He watched the awed travelers marvel before the prayer towers.
In his grief for his Queen, now forever parted, he became a prisoner
Of his passion and his great works, enslaved by his love and his loss.

The jewels encrusting the carved writings would be cleaved
By the sharpened knives of foreigners who would conquer this land.
Having prepared his place for eternity, he had not prepared his soul,
His people, or his land for the days on sorrow's bent knee.

Without dharma, artha has no meaning, and kama, no taste.
Dusty winds blow harshly around the arabesqued walls.
Hear in them the wailing of an old man's parched cries
Lamenting the untouchable vista of the beautiful temple.

Suddha Prem

To offer without expectation
To accept what is offered and not ask for more
To give when the heart is breaking
To sail away from the safe harbor
To keep truth as a burning lamp
To bind your soul to the feet of another
To have faith in ends without understanding
To adore beyond desire for this world
To live in union with one beloved
To stand naked before God, unashamed

Make an altar of flowers and garlands.
Ring the bell and prepare the cordial food.
Light the candles and sing a joyful song.
Make a gift of your life to the life giver.
See in each living soul the same living light.
Do for others what they may not do for themselves.
Feel the divine presence in all places and beings.
Forget yourself and be the friend of your lover.

In times of need, be patient.
In times of longing, be satisfied.
In times of sorrow, be glad.
In times of anger, love.

Know that the Lord is with you.
Know that the Lord finds you pleasing.
Know that without fear, you may approach.
Know that without loss, you may depart.

Be one in separation and separate in one.
Partake of the bliss that transforms.
In that transformation is immortality.
In that bliss is pure love.

Friday, September 24, 2004


You smile when it hurts
It makes you beautiful
How easy it is to love
A look and an attitude
It makes you beautiful
It makes you beautiful

You try when its hard
You hold your head up
You make your smile
The light and the sound
For the voice of the world
It makes you beautiful
It makes you beautiful

It's the woman that lives inside
Who knows if she can she can
Tell it all to the common man
They will win in the end the end

It makes you beautiful
It makes you beautiful

len bullard - 09/24/04

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Any Color As Long As It Is Black: Web Services Vs REST

The secret to General Motor's success in unseating the dominant car vendor of the time, Ford, was in acting on the fact of the diversity of the car market itself, and not staying the course of Ford's "any color as long as it is black" strategy. When cars were new, the T-model and A-model Fords with their one-size-fits-all approach worked. With a low investment and low risk, the car buyer could learn about cars while enjoying the advantages of dependable if somewhat unreliable transportation. Once past that learning curve, reliability, fitness, comfort, and style became both possible and affordable. GM knew that classes of customers could afford these features and were eager to get them.

Something like this is going on in the Web Services vs XML-over-HTTP (aka, REST) markets. The XML-over-HTTP defenders are the new Ford. They take the position that a simpler system for building web applications is best and will triumph over the seemingly too complex set of web specifications for web services. The web services offenders claim that to build multi-domain enterprise applications, these must be built from composable parts that enable the designer to meet requirements where high reliability, security, fitness to task, and protocol independence are not nice to have, but essential and affordable. This group is emerging as the new GM, willing to step up to the challenges of mastering the web service stacks, of analyzing and correctly configuring enterprise systems, and of providing customization where affordable to classes of customers who are now past the initial learning curve of web applications and want more targeted products with efficient GUIs, great looks, and brandable appeal. Sex still matters.

The Ford group still seems to be of the 'lone hacker' mentality who want to innovate by building small compact systems that do one thing well. The GM group seems to be the team-oriented designers who understand the problems of designing, assembling, and maintaining large and complex systems that must do many things collectively.

For the Ford group, the problem is market share in a market that quickly can reverse engineer any innovation, and then it comes down to sales. This is the same problem of being an independent record producer who has produced a prodigy that might be the next Britney but can't afford to market the prodigy because access to the media is still the biggest expense, so has to put her on the road in the thousand mall tour in hopes a major label will notice her. Slashdot is the thousand mall market with blogs as the in-betweener gigs.

For the GM group, the problem is choosing a development framework that has effective implementations of all of the required web service specifications but does not impede interoperability with systems designed over other frameworks. Here, the choices aren't that many: Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and Sun with BEA thrown in for their dedication.

Some think that web services will collapse of their own weight. Obviously, XML-over-HTTP is here to stay because it uses the most fundamental web protocols. On the other hand, it doesn't do much to ensure reliability and affordability for systems that need more than "any color as long as it is black" systems.

It seems to me that the Ford crowd is tilting at windmills, to mix my metaphors. If they don't need web services and are happy to build single domain applications, they have what they need to do that. They are wasting their time and a lot of bytes going after the big companies that provide web service frameworks. I think there is a certain amount of the "anything but Microsoft" and "we are the innovators" and "we are Sun and we are on the ropes so let's kick the tires of the competitors" in this movement. On the other hand, the bigCos are also beginning to take their specification development work offline into smaller working groups so that by the time they submit a specification to a standards body, it is proven and close to fielding. Sun has to play there to stay in business and independent developers have to work with them to stay ahead of the learning curve.

Given that the consumers of the frameworks are the real customers and these are development groups, not Mom and Pop at home surfing the web, the new GM has every chance of doing it again because selling enterprise systems is quite profitable in a market that needs both affordability and differentiation. The interoperability of markets that formerly didn't even give each other a passing glance is evident. These market players don't buy from lone innovators. They watch them for evidence of something worth requiring from their usual suppliers, the GMs of the world.

Using the ecosystem metaphor, the XML-over-HTTP players are distributed across the ecosystem in small market niches. The web service players are distributed but their market niches are large and the core technologies they rely on are provided by the large technology vendors who continue to work together on these specifications and implementations, and who are speeding up their work by stepping back from the processes of the specification consortia yet still are committing to standardization and royalty-free specifications. Given that, the work of the XML-over-HTTP community is done but I don't see a new source of energy to enable anything more than linear growth. On the web services side, I see a complex set of specifications, but implementations in the frameworks could substantially increase the applications of these.

The web is no longer a one-size-fits-all market. This comes down to the lifecycle of the enterprise markets (how often do they buy and in what quantity) and the acceptance in developer shops that what they have built with web services can be reused. What is the value of code that is simple but local and not visible on the wire? Does the XML-over-HTTP approach actually become more cumbersome as more complex operations have to be sustained (eg, duplex-messaging), long running transactions are the norm, messages have to last beyond the initial transaction, transactions where HTTP itself isn't the right protocol, where the endpoints even if independently built have to also be secured and versioned while still being composable into higher level blocks yet still be transparent and loosely coupled?


Those are questions the developers concern themselves with but to the sales and marketing staff, they are as irrelevant as the composition of moondust. That one could make great cement from moondust is meaningless as long as the costs of mining and shipping are too high and effective alternatives are readily available. Even beyond that, a customer buys what a customer wants and the engineers have to build that. HTML was a rotten solution until it became popular. Last year's model of anything sells for less than next year's model. Never undervalue the sex appeal of the product. That is lesson one when selling to the mammals.

GM was willing to tackle the complexity of stratified markets and they dominated the car market over the innovator, Ford. Eventually, Toyota arrived and the higher quality even at higher initial costs took the market from GM. Regardless of the framework and the technique, it still comes down to affordability and quality, and that doesn't mean cheap and easily replaced.

Then, it is a matter of making sexy performant products. The web browser didn't stay grey for long, and two-tone cars with a lot of chrome plus automatic transmissions and power steering and brakes doomed the T-model Fords.

XML-over-HTTP is always there. The question is, is it enough? Smarter people than me don't seem to think so, but the bigger problem may be that the market really doesn't care about that kind of stuff. They want power steering and a sexy body.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Social Engineering and the Business Contract

In discussing the problems of proposing laws that govern use and content on the World Wide Web (the information space of the Internet), one must deal with the issue of international law. The web is an international resource and although most countries deal with this using laws based on local jurisdiction, this often does not work well. In many situations, this is a minor annoyance (pornography) and in others, it is a major problem (identity theft). While I certainly don't have a solution, I point out that this problem of jurisdiction is not a problem of the WWW, but of law in general.

Law can have a peer-to-peer effect. The example of domestic partners is relevant at this time in the U.S. Most see this played out on television as officials in cities try to approve local ordinances that contradict the laws of the home state. The next problem is that even if the state approves the unions, the bordering states don't or even pass laws that prohibit such unions. Eventually these cases will go to the Supreme Court or a Constitutional ammendment.

Today, they make for messy contract work. For example, the City of Seattle requires all companies that do business with the city to recognize domestic partnerships and provide equitable benefits. This applies to out of state contractors as well. The problem is identifying domestic parterships when the contractor state has no contract type or provision for recognizing such. In short, to bid on a contract in Seattle, the bidding company can sign an agreement to provide the benefits, but to whom? How does the bidding company know that a partnership as such exists? Without some form of binding contract between the partners, what is presented to the company for which at least one of them works to enable the company to legally recognize the union? Is living together enough? If marriage between same sex partners isn't legal and there is no provision for a domestic partership, is the signatory company breaking the law?

It isn't easy to be a global company. Heck, it isn't easy to do business across state lines. As these scenarios play out, the only safe bet is that the lawyers will have jobs and the preachers will have sermons. Who gets to do business with whom isn't all that clear. The social engineering going on in local courts and city administrations is well-intended, but it often reckons little with just how long it will take to get consensus, contracts, and costs in line.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Ideals and Idiots

At some point, the pundits fighting ideas like sender identification and digital rights management are going to wake up on the outside of the web mainstream looking in. Keep a list of the people who tell you that this is all a bad dream and YAGNI. It's a bad dream, yes, but you sure do need it if you plan to conduct business on the web.

The frictionless 'we are an independent nation' days of Internet engineering are over. Time to grow up and get used to the idea that items in transit, virtual or otherwise, are secured and so are the railways, highways, and information highways they run on.

The wild west was tamed when the man of law was backed up by the man of action. The WWW is no different but for too long it has been men of action ('just the right people') and people who 'talk too much and think too much' but don't have the stomach for the law and law enforcement. New business models will emerge, the cost of an MP3 will find a stable zone, and yes, the RIAA and others will continue to track and prosecute theft.

A lot of the pioneers of the Internet and the World Wide Web are supporters of open systems the way the cattle ranchers were supporters of open ranges. Freedom meant 'don't get in my way' but left little to the imagination of who would have free range and who would have rights. We may wish it were otherwise, but the surges in identity theft, theft of property, spamming and phishing make it important to find those who can combine law and action. If that means Microsoft steps up to the plate and '"git's it dun'", then they win marketshare. If the open sourcers and the free range supporters want to fight that, fine. Linux can die and take the open source movement with it. That's not a good thing, not a desirable outcome, but those who want a free range ecology have to understand the market is never sympathetic to "Sounds Good Maybe Later" when the foxes are taking eggs and the weasels are eating them.

Then there is the URL I received in the mail today. In the 'information space' of 'information resources', this one is a real hummer. It provides the names, photos and locations of agency employees and informants. It provides scans of sensitive documentation from public safety agencies. It proudly proclaims, 'If you have databases on us, we have databases on you.'

It is the most profoundly stupid website I've had to look at to date.

1) If those are real people in those photos and this is not a hoax, the site owner is signing death warrants.

2) Just as the lack of means to classify content by type got us PICS, this will get an even more invasive clampdown.

3) What happens if someone in a snit posts a picture of their freshly ex-domestic partner to that site?

So tell me, web pioneers, pundits of the let a thousand flowers bloom school, what should we do with this garden of poisoned poppies? Should the police agencies who do have some pretty powerful servers get Distributed Denial of Service Attack software and simply blow that site off the air? I can't say I would be bothered by that. It seems to be the tactic of choice when others get snarfled out there. Should they send sharply worded memos or their lawyers? Or should they log any traffic to that site? Can't be done? Couldn't catch the P2P thieves either, right? If you build it, they will listen, and they will react. Why? That is what you pay them to do and they are pretty good at it. Because of sites like this, it will be harder for undercover police to work, harder to turn informants, harder to make cases. Result: drug use in your neighborhood will go up, crime will go up, violence will go up. What will come down? The cost of your web service and your quality of life.

Quite an achievement...

Smart security sustains freedom. Otherwise, "freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." To those who still want the web as it was in 1993, in the words of the Duke, "You talk too much. You think too much. Besides, you didn't kill Liberty...", you weaseled your way out of it, one stupid idea at a time.

Friday, September 17, 2004


--"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator" -- President George W. Bush

In this article, David Greenberg discusses the tactics of the Republican Party since the 1992 defeat of George H.W. Bush. It resonates with what I am experiencing here in some private replies to these blogs, and in personal life where if I dare to wear the Kerry button to a local event, I am met with half-joking warnings and some that are not so joking. Even at work, people come up to me and say, "You sure are brave to wear that button here." In a neighboring county, a lady wearing a Kerry campaign button was greeted by her boss with, "You can work for him or me but not both" and that was the end of her job. Kerry heard about that, called her, and hired her.

At the very worst of the Wallace years in Alabama, I never heard of someone being fired for campaigning for a candidate unless they were actually not doing their job. This is outrageous.

I live in America, protected by a citizen government and a Constitution with a Bill of Rights. It seems these are a very thin veneer that can be undone by one administration using the tactics of the prep school bully. Fear and intimidation undo us too easily.

Having lived through the period of infamous Southern demogogues, I do recognize the steel behind G.W. Bush's sneer. It is the sneer of the little man become bully who can work his will with veiled threats to his opponents all the while acting as if he were a common man. He isn't. He isn't even Texan. The drawl, the denim jeans, and the boy howdy come lately personality are an act of a New England aristocrat, Ivy League educated, and wealthy. It's an act polished over many years but not many political successes. The act has kind even conciliatory words in it, but if you listen to the warm up acts, they are filled with vitriol, lies, and hate speech.

Note well: Bush rallies are closed events. Kerry rallies are open to the public. Kerry takes the heckling that Bush avoids facing, although his wife got a dose of it from a woman protesting the death of her son in Iraq. The woman was dragged from the meeting and charged with willful trespass. So, to tell the wife of the President of the United States the truth, one has to become a criminal?

This isn't like any election I've ever seen in America. The Republican behavior and tactics in every way betray a lack of faith in the people who give them their power and in the system they claim hegemony over. This is outrageous.

As Greenberg says, if we elect Bush this time, we have approved the politics of bullying. On the playground of American politics, no one is going to stop him in a second term from more eratic decision making and continuing his pursuit of policies that undo the gains of the middle class and the poor in the last century. The Republicans are well on their way to making this the century of American fascism at home and abroad. We get exactly one chance to stop them before this becomes a violent confrontation on the streets.

Last weekend, the "Dollar Man" as my Dad called him, drove through the neighborhood selling ice cream from his truck. As he handed me the goods (reward your kids for cleaning the house), he looked at the Kerry/Edwards sign in my front yard, and said excitedly and loudly in a Jamaican accent, "What about THIS?!? They are lieing about this man on TV. Is this the way you elect your president??? What can we do??? They ARE LIEING!!!" The Dollar Man typically says nothing but "Which one?" and "Here is your change." To hear him suddenly and without question launch into a tirade on the election was astounding. Immigrants "Get" American values long after the native born cave in to the politics of the bully.

I told him, "This isn't a normal election as I have experienced them and you are right. Turn off the television and get the facts, then whatever you believe, know, or support, come November, Vote. That's all we have to stop bullies."


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