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The Longest Now

Wikimedia lights up Korean Yahoo! cluster
Thursday September 15th 2005, 11:55 am
Filed under: %a la mod

A few months after Yahoo! announced it was donating a passel of servers
to Wikimedia’s global network, along with rackspace and bandwidth in one of their Korean
server farms, the first of those machines have been set up and are
operating as squids. (see the network topology)

The yellow regions on the daily status graphs show traffic and requests being handled by the Korean cluster.

Wikimedia lights up Korean Yahoo! cluster …

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Viral regenerative power
Thursday September 15th 2005, 9:07 am
Filed under: indescribable

Old news already : mice that regrow organs and limbs.  Injections of cells that can pass this power on to other mice.  It’s a hazy Australian dream; but also apparently an understated reality
Last weekend, Wistar Institute’s Ellen Heber-Katz presented a paper on these “MRL mice” at Aubrey de Grey’s Sens 2 conference.  If you come across the full text, let me know. 

Viral regenerative power …

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“As long as we can choose our networks…”
Thursday September 15th 2005, 5:31 am
Filed under: metrics

I suppose that should be refined to “as long as we can choose what routes our traffic
takes…” — that is, which peers, what types of lines and routers, perhaps even what
last-mile providers.    It should be possible to say “if
there’s no way to send the following content along routes I trust,
don’t send it.

You don’t have to be paranoid to want this.  You might distrust a
route because you expect it to attempt to reconstruct, alter, and
resend content; because you suspect it of not accepting content from
certain areas or sites, because you worry that it keeps track of what
you send when, without your permission…  You might not want to
send content through any router that doesn’t respect the “return
receipt” flag which sends back information on how your packets
travelled on their way to a destination. Or you might just not want to
support in any way certain traffic providers, explicitly asking to
patronize other providers whenever possible.

“I’ll take ‘Arlnet Secure Wifi’ from my
house to the Arlington Center hub, ‘Hub of the World’ or ‘OpenBelNet’
from there to the Harvard U. hub, ‘HU Internet2’ to the Cambridge
Internet2 backbone hub,  and any lines/routers run by WorldCom or
UUNet, or on the dynamic ‘Debian-Class1’ network list.”

“Oh, as for my other options and preferences:
  •   Latency : as long as total latency is under 3 seconds, stick to the above networks rather than leave them.
    I use Return-receipt packet delivery, which sends me back a packet for
    every packet I send out, announcing the route it’s taken, or that it’s
    been dropped.  This more than doubles my bandwidth bill, but has
    its advantages… feed the resulting datastream into a route-analyzer;
    and one can set up all sorts of useful triggers.  When my
    preferred routes are all down, I can opt to use secondary networks –
    either outside my normal prefs, or at a higher rate.  I can also
    tell my Net-enabled applications not to complete sensitive transactions
    if there have been any fishy routings in the past minute. (Besides,
    whenever my provider makes too many routing mistakes, I get a free
    month of service.)”

Implementing this would seem to take significantly more intelligent routers and middleware than currently exists.
For a great coverage of some of the topics brought up at the Web of Ideas discussion tonight, see Geoff Huston‘s killer essay on the finance of networks, with its diversity of options laid out in gory detail.

“As long as we can choose our networks…” …

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Directing rage locally : “There will be no Superdomes in our city”
Wednesday September 14th 2005, 11:23 pm
Filed under: indescribable

Most of the people writing about New Orleans and other destroyed cities are confused about where to direct their purest, most blazing anger. 

It shouldn’t be directed at the federal officials or other
meta-organizers who failed
to organize or prepare in time — although they were terribly
negligent, each relying on other parts of a broken system, and have
been wasting funds and abusing their responsibilities for years. 
They deserve scorn and shiny, new jobs in a sector that can tolerate
incompetence.  And their large, organized systems [FEMA, more recently parts of Homeland Security]
can be blamed for the hundreds of billions of dollars of damage and
other invaluable losses of private, personal historicity, which were
“5-year preventable”, even “1-year preventable”.  But these
systems did not lead to the immediate deaths and serious illnesses in
the city, nor to the massive damage and losses which were preventable days after the storm hit.  

No, the proper targets for this most pressing rage are local officials;
police and government officials and other forces in NO and surrounding
cities; regional and state planners with access to the closest sources
of help (and with supporters and constituents comprising the owners of
local trucking, shipping, and security outfits) who failed to do what
was necessary to save their immediate neighbors. Even, saints preserve us, the office of Mayor Nagin was extensively complicit in this catastrophe. 

Hopefully you’ve already read the remarkable essay by Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Slonsky,
EMS workers from San Francisco who were in town for a conference, on
their adventures trying to escape the city on foot.  Below is a
streamlined excerpt, to illustrate my point.

[Day 2 : 500 people left in the hotels in the French Quarter] 
We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves,
and locals… We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources
including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the

We pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and
take us out of the City.  Those who did not have [were] subsidized
by those who did… The buses never arrived. We later learned [they had been] commandeered by the

By day 4, our hotels had run
out of fuel and water… [the hotel] told us to report to the convention
center to wait for more buses.   

The [National] Guards told us we would not be allowed into the
Superdome… and that the police were not allowing anyone else in[to
the Convention Center]…  we asked, “If we can’t go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?” The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us.

[Now down to a group of 200]
We walked to the police command center at Harrah’s on Canal Street…
the police commander [told us to] cross the [Crescent City Connection bridge]
where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. 
The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, “
I swear to you that the buses are there.

[Group of unknown size, grows while approaching the bridge]
We organized ourselves…  As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs
formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close
enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads… The
sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. 

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway [as] there was little traffic on the 6-lane highw ay.  They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City

All day long, we saw other families [attempt to cross the bridge]…
only to be turned away.  Thousands… [A]s dusk set in, a Gretna
Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle… A helicopter
arrived and used the wind from its
blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff
loaded up his truck with our food and water.      read the entire essay

Larry Bradshaw
is chief shop steward of the Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790;  Lorrie Beth
is a steward of the same chapter.  As Counterpunch notes, both also write for Socialist Worker.
+ See their Hardball interview (September 13), with video.
+ The above report was apparently confirmed by Bostonian Cathey Golden and her son, who were part of the group.

added.  It is one
thing to do wrong by people a thousand miles and two layers of
bureaucracy away; quite another to do wrong by people in your own
district, or even the next, who are suffering before your eyes. 
There are a select few hundred people who were criminally negligent during this disaster, and most lived within a few hundred miles of its center.

Read the entire essay,
which is rather more severe than my quotes above. 

UPDATE:  I note that Gretna police chief Arthur Lawson confirmed
that his officers, “along with those from the Jefferson Parish
Sheriff’s Office and the Crescent City Connection Police,” sealed off
the bridge. 

Directing rage locally : “There will be no Superdomes in our city” …

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Weinberger on the brain
Wednesday September 14th 2005, 7:16 pm
Filed under: popular demand

The Weinberger talks tonight, restarting his “mind and clueful chatter over matter” series at Berkman, and two weeks from now at the KM Cluster summit in Waltham.  Don’t miss a single episode…

In other news, Erik Moeller has an incisive analysis of how -NC licenses (like cc-by-nc) are harmful.  He doesn’t go so far as to classify when they are useful (the
most productive way to speak ill of a tool), and he relies a bit too
heavily on Wikimedia examples for my tastes (there are all sorts of community factors at work making these projects successful, not simply what kind of license was chosen), but it is worth reading carefully.

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New Orleans, before and after : Days 0 through 5
Sunday September 11th 2005, 3:59 am
Filed under: Too weird for fiction

What a fantastic, nightmarish photoessay.  200 photos, before and after, all over town.  Beautifully shot by one Alvaro. As Ian notes, he could use a caption editor, but his love of the city comes through… it breaks my heart.

when I wasn’t taking pictures, we donated a truckload of food to the
police department, gave away over 10 gallons of water to civilians when
we decided to leave, and we sat on the curb outside of our apartment
with a radio on so that the whole block could listen to the news. I’m
not trained as a lifesaver, but I do like taking pictures.

The city seems to have been fine well into Day 2; a quick evacuation should
have been possible as late as day 3, once everyone realized there was real
trouble underfoot, and was promised by day 5.  I’m not sure when
the last buses left, but it was more like day 8…

New Orleans, before and after : Days 0 through 5 …

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New Orleans flooding: dynamic map overlay
Sunday September 11th 2005, 1:11 am
Filed under: popular demand

Database-backed GMap flood-data overlay, for the entire city.

New Orleans flooding: dynamic map overlay …

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People Finder XML Spec 1.1
Wednesday September 07th 2005, 10:42 pm
Filed under: metrics

Standards are sexy.  Reuniting families is sexierPFIF is worth the time it takes to read it.
In use by the grassroots Katrina PeopleFinder project [Katrina help wiki | search for refugees here).

People Finder XML Spec 1.1 …

How to help [KATRINA]
Monday September 05th 2005, 8:41 pm
Filed under: metrics

Public lists of “ways to help” with Katrina relief : a
retrospective.   Below are a collection of links from the
past weeks, and some public timelines.  How to do better next
time?  Is a “Disaster 2.0” effort the answer?

Timelines: from TPM | from Wikipedia

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You didn’t know what when ?
Monday September 05th 2005, 8:06 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Michael Chertoffthought the crisis had passed‘.  Mike Brownthought it was a typical hurricane situation“.     The President… well, his mind was elsewhere, and the First Mother thought it was an excuse for a vacation. The United States,
in pretending to prepare for trouble while forgetting how, and
elevating leaders who never learned to accept blame and have no role
models to show them how, is
gearing up for a complete meltdown during the first truly unexpected

Just as the leaders of New Orleans fled with their networks of friends
when disaster struck (when just those networks could have responded
smartly to an ornery Fate), I can see the leaders of an entire state or
coastline fleeing in the face of still greater trouble.  As
Douglas Adams predicted, the “Someone Else’s Problem” field will be one
of the strongest in the universe some day.  Let’s hope we are
still around to appreciate the irony.

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On contingencies; Ray in Austin
Monday September 05th 2005, 7:42 pm
Filed under: metrics

Ray in Austin
is my favorite blogger at the moment.  He’s writing solely about NO; his anger is tangible and practical.  He
provides a recap of Walter Maestri’s work in predicting hurricane
damage and evangelizing for preparedness, apparently in vain.  An NPR story from last year describes how explicitly this very storm had been played out in the minds of people preparing for it.

Meanwhile, skilled volunteers are actively not being called in
Chains of command are still worrying about looking good to others,
while the “related deaths” toll is steadily soaring.  I’ve seen
this kind of careful negligence before, and cringe to observe it when
so much is at stake.  10,000 deaths doesn’t sound unlikely to me any more.  According to
some sources (the NYT?), we’re up to 250k refugees in Texas, far more
than the 100k I predicted last week.

Meanwhile, the Army relief forces seem to have dived into NO from a standpoint of total war:

Combat operations are underway on the streets “to take
this city back” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“This place is going to look like Little Somalia,” Brig. Gen. Gary
Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force
told Army Times Friday as hundreds of armed troops under his charge
prepared to launch a massive citywide security mission from a staging
area outside the Louisiana Superdome. “We’re going to go out and take
this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under

… next up : you didn’t know what when???

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Spitting on the dead : too good for them
Monday September 05th 2005, 7:26 pm
Filed under: null

An increasingly neglected minority in the United States has gotten some
of the worst of the latest storming, flooding, infection and
dehydration deaths, largely overlooked by the press : the newly

An unspecified number of corpses in the Superdome were left there for
days.  Others were seen floating through the water by what seems
to be an entire regiment of amateur and professional reporters and
support staff.  People working with the dead feel the need to
justify their efforts — “Families need to know what happened to the people they lose,says
one Dr. Senn, a forensic dentist from San Antonio, in a Katrina-related
interview.  I hadn’t realized leaving the dead to rot in anonymity
had become a community-lifestyle choice.

thousands of bloated corpses”… “corpses lay abandoned in street medians”… “corpses have been sighted on porches, sidewalks and flooded streets”… “we’re
not even dealing with dead bodies”… “floating in canals, slumped in
wheelchairs, abandoned on highways and medians and hidden in attics”…

Even in a city bereft of order and shepherds, there are always alternatives
Even a gob of tobacco spit on a dead man’s face is a reminder that
someone saw fit to walk right up and leave a remembrance. 
Abandoning bodies to float and decay at will, even those of strangers,
is worse ignominy still.  Have we forgotten what it means to honor the dead?

Reading about the Great Galveston Hurricane reminds me that this has
often been the result of disasters; I wonder how that has played out in
other countries and times.   Certainly the 1900 Galveston
disaster, with 2 corpses per rescue worker, was a very different story
than the latest NO disaster, with a ratio of more like 1:10.

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Never entrust anything priceless to a black box
Monday September 05th 2005, 7:04 pm
Filed under: null

Never trust infrastructure that doesn’t provide rapid feedback —
automatic, world-readable feedback where appropriate.  Not with
anything invaluable.

Not with your life; not with critical contingency plans; and for God’s sake, not with your children or your mother’s life.

Never entrust anything priceless to a black box …

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LeMonde practices Wikilove
Friday September 02nd 2005, 7:54 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

A front-page article
in Le Monde (& carried by the Financial Times?) on Wikipedia
interviews some Wikimedia France members (Anthere, Ryo); and related articles
include a few questions put to the esteemed Mr. Wales, and a few more put to editors of Larousse and Robert.  If you
saw this syndicated elsewhere, drop a line.

LeMonde practices Wikilove …

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Identifying refugees
Friday September 02nd 2005, 7:46 pm
Filed under: chain-gang

If you are near a refugee center, or a church or home, (I’m talking to
you, Houston) that has taken in Hurricane Katrina refugees, please help
locate and identify them.  At proper shelters, please check with
the shelter to coordinate with others tracking the refugees in other
ways.  For details on how to help with just a camera and a pencil,
see the latest post from Andy Carvin (permalink)
about locating and identifying Katrina refugees.  I have reformatted and edited it
slightly  here.

Friday September 02nd 2005, 3:39 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

I’d like to know where you turn for hurricane information; and where
you’ve gotten breaking tidbits from, at different points in the past
two weeks.

  • Web : Wikipedia itself [cf. Mcall, et al], though not Wikinews
  • Radio & Television :  Air America 
  • [e-]Paper : The Australian surprised me with some of their coverage
    • Overviews : BBC, Chronicle
  • Other : Friends in Texas & LA, watching different local news sources

Right on schedule, it’s… National Preparedness Month!
Friday September 02nd 2005, 2:40 pm
Filed under: indescribable

The site maintainer[s? I’ll be kind and assume it’s one overworked
webmaster with other obligations] hasn’t had the time to update their
main page content to mention Katrina or link to relief efforts. 
Clearly a northerner.  A 6-page press release sent out today had two mentions of Katrina edited in at the last moment.  The title of the release, “COALITION FORCES MORE THAN DOUBLE IN SIZE TO JOIN HOMELAND
like its subtitle and leading paragraph, read like so much meaningless
copy, as though there were no disasters actually taking place at the

If you see Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff or American Red Cross Chairman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter
during their appearances today in DC, please thank them for me; each of
them added a single sentence about Katrina to their quotes in the
release.  Ms. McElveen-Hunter is quoted as saying,

In the
terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there could be no more
important message than the need for Americans to get prepared for the
next disaster.

I hope the  need to help with the current disaster is next on the “important messages” priority list.

Some local reps to contact to find out how well these national activities are preparing citizens for emergencies :

Right on schedule, it’s… National Preparedness Month! …

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