San Franciscans to Reclaim the Streets

January 27th, 2004

rts-sf.gifA new Reclaim The Streets movement is underway in San Francisco. Participants hope to replace the usual glut of automobiles near the intersection of Haight and Stanyan Streets with a flood of pirate-attired, partying pedestrians on Valentine’s Day 2004 from noon until 9 pm.

The original Reclaim The Streets groups coalesced to form massive London street disruptions in the 1990s, including a 1996 event in which thousands reappopriated a 3/4 mile stretch of highway to form a giant street party.

See details of the San Francisco RTS movement, and plans for the February 14 event, at And spread the word.

(PARANOID WARNING: The RTS-SF Web site includes a mysterious sign-up form that requests your e-mail address. I’m not saying the people behind this site aren’t who they claim to be, but it’s best to assume the worst — that spammers and/or John Ashcroft are on the receiving end of that form. Use a junk e-mail account, or just don’t register.)

UPDATE 2/14/04: See phonecam shots of the event on cheesebikini cam.

Schwarzenegger: This Time it’s Personal

January 13th, 2004

tuition-hike comic from -- if you're reading an rss feed, you really should check out this image.  The gist of it: Schwarzenegger's raising California grad student tuition by another 40 percent.
No joke. And this follows last year’s 30 percent tuition increase. My degree’s getting more expensive by the minute.

And its value might be shrinking. This $372 million cut faced by the University of California system, following on the heels of similar cuts each year for the past four years, has the preseident of the UC system “deeply concerned” about the quality of education that UC can provide. Many people consider Berkeley the best public university on the planet, but how long can that reputation be maintained without funding?

What’s Your Law?

January 11th, 2004

lightbulb.jpgJohn Brockman at asked many of the world’s smartest and most interesting scientists, technologists, artists and authors to draw up potential “laws” or rules of nature that occured to them as a result of their work. So far 160 of these people have submitted nuggets of wisdom from their respective fields, and together their contributions form one of the most entertaining and inspiring documents I’ve read in months. Here are a few of my favorite submissions:

Tor N┬»rretranders’ Law of Symmetrical Relief: If you find that most other people, upon closer inspection, seem to be somewhat comical or ludicrous, it is highly probable that most other people find that you are in fact comical or ludicrous. So you don’t have to hide it, they already know.

Tor N┬»rretranders’ Law of Understanding Novelty: The difficulty in understanding new ideas originating from science or art is not intellectual, but emotional; good ideas are simple and clear, but if they are truly new, they will be hard to swallow. It is not difficult to understand that the Earth is not at the center of the Universe, but it is hard to believe it. Science is simple, simply strange.

Lee Smolin’s Second Law: In every period and every community there is something that everybody believes, but cannot justify. If you want to understand anything, you have to start by ignoring what everyone believes, and thinking for yourself.

Steven Kosslyn’s Second Law: The individual and the group are not as separate as they appear to be. A part of each mind spills over into the minds of other people, who help us think and regulate our emotions.
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I Want My Wi-Fi Telephony

January 4th, 2004

Last February I requested a small, cheap mobile device that:

  • notifies me when I’m within range of an open wi-fi (wireless Internet) access point, and:
  • allows me to call any telephone number on the planet, nearly free of charge, whenever I’m within range of a Wi-Fi signal, via a simple numeric-keypad interface.

    Back then, the hardware necessary to make this a practical reality wasn’t cheap and it wasn’t widely in use. Now it is. Many of the most popular PDAs (personal digital assistants), like my new Palm Tungsten C, provide Web browsers and high-bandwidth wi-fi Internet connectivity.

    We have the hardware. We have the infrastructure — the cities are becoming saturated with wi-fi hotspots, many of them free for public use, and robust Internet telephony networks have been in use for years.

    And we have the client software — but it hasn’t been designed for the right devices. A handful of firms like Dialpad and Net2Phone already provide cheap PC-to-phone voice service. But none of them seem to have ported their client applications for use on PDAs.

    What are these firms waiting for? For a very modest investment in resources, Dialpad and its competitors can make a very compelling offer: global telephone service on the go for prices less than one-tenth what you pay for mobile or even land-line phone service.

    Dialpad: I have my portable wi-fi telephone and I’m ready to pay you to use it. What are you waiting for?