May 2003 Archives

Nicholas Negroponte commented on his vision of the future of WiFi in a Boston Globe interview last week:

I think WiFi is exactly like the Internet, it's exactly the same. I just joined a technical advisory committee of the FCC [Federal Communications Commisssion], and we had our first meeting. And one person got up and said, `There's no economic model to sustain WiFi.' And I raised my hand and I said, `There's not only a precedent, there's a very strong economic model ... flower boxes.'

Think about it. If you put a flower box outside your house, you're first of all using your own money to buy the flowers. You're hanging it out there. You're doing it for your self-esteem, for the beauty of looking out the window and seeing the flowers, of decorating your house and making it look well. But it also, if everyone on the street puts nice flower boxes out, makes the street look nicer. It happens a little bit on Beacon Hill, it happens a lot in European cities.

Now the theory of flower boxes, if there is such a thing, could be taken to WiFi. I put in a WiFi system in my home for my own use, but it radiates out into the street. There's no incremental cost for me to let other people use it. There really isn't. ... If everybody does that, then the entire street has broadband. Every park bench has broadband, every convenience store has broadband, and so on.

So if you take that approach, it's very much like the Internet. You make these resources available by connecting them. The sum of the parts is just much, much greater. And I think that's what's going to happen for a major piece of wireless.

[note to myself: figure out how to display block quotes using my MT templates and stylesheets]

scenes from a primary

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It's late, but it looks as if our candidate won. It is possible to go up against the old party machine and win. Grass roots organization, hard work, and enthusiasm can do it. Nothing like an upset to renew your hopes for democracy. We're going to have a very different school board...

Midway through the day it began to pour rain, and kept raining pretty steadily until the polls closed. It is still raining. And cold. I don't know how it affected turnout, but clearly enough people who cared came out and pulled the right lever.

Mark and I worked at a polling place in a part of town known to support the entrenched opponent. The voters were mostly senior citizens, black and white - the site, a public housing high rise. What scenes do I remember? The amount of teasing and chatter going on. The young constable (wearing the opponent's t-shirt) telling me that the opponent "walks the line, very close to the line." I think he was talking both about her racism, and perhaps her ethics. But he was careful not to be specific, and I was careful not to press for details. His job is determined by patronage, but I had a sense that he might not have voted along all the party endorsements, even though he was handing out party slate cards.

What else? Standing my ground when the judge of elections didn't want to let us in to watch the count and tally. I was cheerful while he spent a very long time reading my credentials, but I didn't give up, and he couldn't legally kick us out. The voting machines are large brown metal booths, solid and institutional. Each of them produces a large (looked roughly three foot by seven foot) piece of paper, on which all the votes have been marked by the machine in faint gray numbers. It's a mechanical recording process. No names are used on the giant sheet, so you have to know your candidate's lever in order to follow what's going on during the counting. The votes are read off the paper and recorded, and then the recorded totals for each sheet are added to tally the total votes for a given candidate. "Seven E: two plus six is eight." "Eight." "Eight." "Eight." The other sworn election officials nod and write down the number. I make a note on the back of a poll card, and by careful listening am able to leave with an exact count. The opponent wins, but by only nine votes - this in her stronghold. We have very good news to bring to the post-election party.

But I think the moment I'll remember for the longest had nothing to do with voting at all. An elderly woman - slightly tipsy (she'd been celebrating her birthday - June 4th) had been talking and laughing with us outside the poll. Lots of opinions. Lots of sentiment. Not incoherant but not quite together, either. Somehow, just as the poll was closing, she began singing "I did it my way." No one was outside but Mark and me, and we began singing with her. She knew all the words, and we did what we could - even threw in a little harmony. "Ol' blue eyes," she said, "he was the best."

first glass

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Will it break? I made a bead today. Of glass. An opaque blue stick about two inches long and less than a quarter of an inch in diameter became red hot, translucent in the loud blue flame, a j-shape, a slumped snail, and then slowly, slowly, with the help of gravity and impatience and an unsteady hand turning the mandrel, it became a lopsided blue bead. I think. It cools in a crock-pot full of vermiculite overnight, and I'll see it tomorrow.

what a week!


The final revision of my children's book has been approved for publication, they have chosen a really cool illustrator for the project, and thanks to the second half of the modest advance, it looks as if I'll be able to go back to Ortahisar, Turkey for a few days this summer. I'll be teaching some young women how to edit video on the computer, and I'll be taking pictures, panoramas, and more video for myself.

I'm giddy, but can't tell whether that's from lack of sleep over other project deadlines or just plain delight and gratitude.

here and elsewhere


A dark and rainy morning. Cars rush along Fifth Avenue while I'm acting as proctor for a History final. Pages turn. Someone drops a pencil.

Reading some history from the inside out, while I sit and survey this room of students. Salam Pax, the Iraqi architecture student who kept his blog going as Baghdad came under attack, has been able to post to his weblog again. Fifteen days worth of journal entries from the middle of a modern war. Whether he's talking about the taste of Iranian cola or escaping into his headphones or worrying about friends and family or describing what he knew minute by minute, the level of detail and perspective is vivid and unforgettable.

And should I want to forget, here's a collection of one-minute vacations: unedited ambient sound recordings to take me someplace else for 60 seconds.

oblique strategies


...or ways to get unstuck. Originally a deck of cards created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, and subtitled, "over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas," Oblique Strategies is now a creative utility for OS X. (And a free download, at that!) Click on the button below a brushed metal window and you are offered a word, a phrase, a question, a sentence. Perhaps helpful? Perhaps not? I'm reminded of the Magic 8-Ball, though in some incarnations Oblique Strategies are more about art than about oracle.

Thanks to BoingBoing for another great link.

(This is my first post from the new computer - I've been moving files since yesterday, and now I'm almost all in one place.)