The Thick Of It

I have just started watching The Thick of It on BBC Four and BBC America. A weird combination of Yes Minister and The Office, it hilariously captures the rise of public relations over substance in the bureaucracy. It reminded me of the politically hyper-sensitive reign of current Congressional candidateElwyn Tinklenberg as Transportation Commissioner in Minnesota during the Ventura administration.
My favorite quote of course is in Episode One when the then Minister of Home Affairs is being told to resign, and he suggests the Transport Minister resign instead, and the political aide says something like “We can’t fire him. Transport, that’s important stuff, you know, cars, trucks, roads” and the doomed Minister of Home Affairs says “I know what Transport is”.
— dml

Conferences and Laptops

I just attended NetSci 2006 , which was an interesting conference with physicists and social networks people claiming the title “Network Science” (I believe I was the sole representative of physical networks: transportation, electricity, telecommunications, etc.).
What was most remarkable about the conference was the especially large number of audience members who used laptops while someone was speaking, especially if the speaker was not a “name” or an especially experienced. Why bother showing up if you are going to pay more attention to your computer screen than the speaker?
One can understand the next speaker reviewing their powerpoint perhaps, but I think for something like this more communications channels (free wireless) is less, diminishing the effectiveness of the conference by having less common ground among the audience to discuss common issues (i.e. the presentations in the last session).
— dml

DC Commuter Tax

The Washington Post notes Supreme Court Declines D.C. Commuter Tax Case. I am sure the court is right that the framers gave Congess full authority over the district. It is just too bad DC cannot exploit its monopoly power as national capital to tax those who live outside the district to pay for District services. This notion of “taxing foreigners living abroad” is a politically elegant way of off-loading costs in the toll-road context.
— dml

Network Neutrality and Quality of Service

There has been a lot of discussion about “network neutrality” as being a core property of internet service. This discussion includes a number of inter-related concepts, which not every advocate agrees to. In particular, the wikipedia article on the subject identifies:
“* Non-discrimination means that all traffic over the network (typically or exclusively digital packets or bits) is treated the same by the network, including the traffic originating with the network operator. This principle of ‘bit parity’ means that all bits are treated as ‘just bits’, and no bit traffic is prioritized over other bits, and none is hampered or disabled.
* Interconnection means that network operators have both a duty of interconnection and a right of interconnection to any other network operator. Networks must be constructed so that there are a reasonable number of accessible interconnect points; that traffic is carried to and from rival networks at reasonable rates; and that the network is built with sufficient excess capacity to accomodate the reasonably foreseeable traffic that may be presented at the head-ends or peering points. Without a right of interconnection, there is no network.
* Access means that any end user can connect to any other end-user. End users may be people, but the term could also mean devices (modems, routers, switches) or even other networks. Access means that a piece of content, say, an email message, has a right to enter the network, and if properly addressed, be received by the other end user, even if said user is on another network. In other words, traffic can begin at any point on the network and be delivered to any other point.”

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