James Rafferty Blog

The Personal BLOG of James Rafferty


 Updated Blog Location

I have now mapped the updated blog, powered by Typepad, over to my own humancomm.com domain name.    You can read the blog at its new location here.   

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 Blogging on the Road to Malta

This is just a short entry to note that I've started a new blog on Typepad which is not currently under my regular humancomm.com URL.    You can reach the new blog here.   Typepad offers tools to allow writing from any location, which is convenient, since I'm often on the road in various exotic locations for business.  My intent is to map this blog over to my URL, but in the meantime, you can find it here.   My latest entries are about a recent trip to Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea in between Sicily and Northern Africa.   Enjoy!

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Friday, November 10, 2006   

Author: Jim Rafferty

Hi James / by a convoluted route, I stumbled on this page & just thought I'd say hello to a namesake. I'm resident in UK, of Scots/Irish stock. I wonder if, like myself, you're inquisitive about the Rafferty origins?

Regards, Jim Rafferty / Tunbridge Wells / Kent UK

Reply from James on November 18, 2006: 

Hi Jim.  Good to hear from you.   We too are curious about the Rafferty origins, but have not been able to figure out the location in Ireland where an ancestor Michael Rafferty came from.   We do know that he was here in the U.S. in the late 1880's.   The genealogy is much clearer in our wings of our family.   When I visited Ireland in 1987, we did find a Rafferty Music store in Galway, which felt right.   Cheers!

 Celebrations - Here and Next Door

It's that time of year again, the celebration of America's favorite holiday.    As Americans, we all find ways to mark the occasion of the 4th and it is a chance to spend time with family and friends as we enter the summer.   In recent years, I've always spent the long weekend in the U.S. with my family, with activities varying from year to year among a selection of parades, cookouts, and other outdoor activities.   Last evening we decided to try something different.   

We live in southeastern Massachusetts, so we are not too far from Rhode Island.   This year we have been taking the time to learn about one of the unique dining areas in the Northeast, Federal Hill in Providence.    We drove down Route 95 to Atwell's Avenue and got off.   The first sign that you've encountered something different is an overhanging street decoration of a large pineapple.    Immediately, one sees a series of older style Italian restaurants and dark metal gas lights; you've arrived on Federal Hill.   On this Saturday night, the street was hopping, with lots of strolling pedestrians and a backup of cars progressing slowly up the street.  Based on previous experience, I took the first available parking spot and we set off on foot.   Federal Hill is a slice of Italy transported to the Ocean State.    Tables are set outside along the sidewalk for dining "al fresco" and you cannot escape the smells of good food, interspersed with a funkier ambience of tattoo and body piercing parlors.   We'd been here recently, so we kept walking until we came to an open courtyard.    This too was transformed on this warm summer night, as a small two piece jazz - vocal combo was playing music and the plaza overflowed with people just walking or eating outdoors.    We scanned a menu at the restaurant opposite the band, Constantino's, and decided that this place would do fine.    The outdoor seating was reserved, but we gladly took a table when offered that was just steps inside the restaurant's interior. 

As we sat, the musical group played a selection of soft jazz and pop, ranging from Jobim to Sade.    Constantino's has a broad offering of entree's that feature freshly made pasta and lots of fresh ingredients.    After a few minutes of scanning the menu, we all opted for some kind of pasta dish, preceded by salads.   My own salad was a good example of the inventiveness of the kitchen, as it featured fresh oranges over a few neatly arranged leaves of endive, set off by black olives and olive oil.   I remarked that this evening was a good way for me to segue into my upcoming week, when I'm scheduled to go to another city that opens up for celebrations in the summer, Montreal.   We live in a small town, so it was interesting to see that many of the people in the restaurant were dressed up for dinner, in outfits such as formal black dresses for the women and sports jackets for the men.   My wife and I also were served some very nice wines by the glass, a French chardonnay and a Pinot Noir from Oregon.    A little while later, the main entrees arrived and we were not disappointed.    The pasta was indeed as fresh and tasty as advertised.   My dish included shrimp, calamari and, gasp, baby octopus (small and pink, with tentacles), all of which was good.      

Needless to say, we were all full by the time dinner was over.   We settled our bill and then began our walk back to the car, happy for the chance to walk after all of that food.   We got back in the car and drove a few blocks to Providence Place.    This is an amazing shopping mall cum parking garage, that overlooks the rivers in the center of Providence.   

Our goal was not shopping, but a fete unique to Providence, the Water Fire.   As we exited the Mall on foot, we immediately encountered a very crowded sidewalk.   We went about 2 blocks to the right and crossed over, then walked slowly down a series of steps to a walkway which overlooks the closest of the three rivers which run through the center of town.   It was dusk, so we waited for the festivities to begin.   In the center of the river, were a series of evenly spaced buckets, which floated on the water and contained several nicely split logs each.   Already, there was music emanating from speakers that were adjacent to the river, a spacey mix of new Age and world music.     The scene was set, but we had to wait a bit more for the main event.   We caught glimpses of people in boats setting fire to wood nearby, but our own buckets remained unlit.  Finally, a black gondola sliced through the waters beneath a shallow stone bridge and a group of people dressed in black served as the backup, as a woman with a long black torch lit the buckets on fire one by one.    By now, the smells of burning wood were beginning to scent the air and we watched as the kindling started to burn, followed by the logs.   Very soon, there were blazes in each of the black kettles and the evening's events were in full swing.    Looking across from our vantage point, we had a good view of Providence's idiosyncratic skyline, which includes buildings from several eras, beginning with the early twentieth century look of the Biltmore hotel, and then marching forward through a progression of styles reminiscent of other buildings I've seen, such as the Empire State Building and Hartford's Traveler's Tower.    Part of the fun of Water Fire is walking along the river and taking in the scene from different vantage points.   On this night, the banks were packed with revelers enjoying a inexpensive night out.   As the fires advanced into later stages, we could feel the heat from the flames and bursts of sparks flit into the air nearby.   Fires in the night have a primeval feel; the combination of water, night, fire and music is an inspired one.     Eventually, our feet grew a bit weary and it was time to walk back.  Now, in the dark, we noticed the uneven walk on cobblestones, which added a bit of challenge to the re-tracing of our steps.   

I look forward to seeing Montreal again later this week.  In years past, I spent many July 4th holidays in Canada in either Toronto or Montreal.   With the July 1 Dominion Day holiday, Canada has its own reason to celebrate over this same weekend.  In Montreal, this is the time for the world renowned Montreal Jazz Festival.    The events of last evening recalled for me similar nights in Montreal, where the streets are closed off and bandstands are set up throughout the heart of the city.   One can walk along and hear music from one stage and then continue on to several other venues, all in easy walking distance from areas like Place Des Arts on St. Catherine Street.  I look forward to experiencing that again later this week.  

One other note.  Recently, our local rock station WBOS has instituted a wonderful program called "Backspin".   Every weekday morning at 9:00, we "enter the time portal" and get to hear music released in a prior year such as 1979.    The host, Charles Laquidara, is outstanding and really knows his music.    For example, on a recent morning, he played "Like a Rock" from Bob Seger.   By now, we've all heard sound bites from this song on truck commercials, but the song itself has so much more going for it than the well known title line.   It's an anthem, in the best sense of the word, telling a tale of days past when the singer was "Like a Rock" and of the striving that he still has to live up to this self image from his past.  Add to this some thick notes on slide guitar and we have a classic that works on several levels.   Forget the truck commercial; go and get the full song for your music device.    This is just an example of Backspin, where Charles brings it all back home, playing music we know or should have known.   Check it out, on any morning at 9:00 am eastern US time, streaming on the web. (Posted July 2, 2006) 

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 Collaboration Tools at IETF 65

Here are some notes from my attendance at the latest meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force, held from Sunday May 19 to the 24th.  

Monday, May 20th

As I write this, I’m at the Internet Engineering Task Force meeting in Dallas, Texas.    Yesterday, we experienced some very inclement weather, as the area near my hotel was hit with massive rainfall.   When I arrived at 1:00 PM with a friend via a cab from the airport, the rain was falling in monsoon-like waves, but the driving conditions were still passable.  Within about two hours this changed.  Attendees who came to our hotel had to pass through at least a foot of water by about 4:00.   One of my other friends arrived about 5:00 and recounted that their taxi driver was reluctant to drive through the flooded service road to get to THIS hotel, but was totally unable to get access to some of the other nearby hotels.   As a result, virtually everyone who came to this hotel (the Anatole Hilton) for any reason was stranded here for the evening.   Fortunately, this is a VERY large hotel and I met several people who got reasonable rates for an overnight stay without reservations.  

For scenes from that day showing the flooded conditions, see Richard Stastny's blog.  

Today, the sun is out, the water has receded and life is returning to normal.  

This was a good week for experiencing different new uses of personal technology.   For example, this was the weekend when the NCAA college basketball tournament began.  A useful new innovation is that the games are mostly available online via streaming video at no cost from cbs.com.   It actually works very well, but the only down side is that rules on “blackouts” still apply, even when CBS pulls its usual stunts and switches off to a different game.  So, for example, I wanted to watch the UConn Huskies play, but the game was being locally broadcast.    In the meantime, other games such as North Carolina State were available via the streaming video.  However, CBS in their wisdom, switched off of the UConn game and was showing North Carolina on the broadcast.   So, I was unable to watch the UConn game on TV and it was not available on streaming video due to the blackout that was essentially being enforced nationwide.    Basically, CBS doesn't get the fact that some viewers will want to watch the game over the net and that customers will get really upset on the TV broadcast when the CBS producers "take the remote" and switch over to another game.    This contrasts to the excellent coverage offered by AOL on the Live8 concerts last summer, which I blogged about previously.    In that case, AOL made all of the streams available and the Net customer was able to pick and choose the concert of their choice, without restriction.  As TV programming becomes more widely available over the Net, companies like CBS will need to adapt to the new medium and start letting their customers exercise more choice over how they choose to experience programming.    In this case, since CBS did not carry the game I wanted, I left CBS and logged on to the UConn Huskies site, which had a link to the Hartford based radio station that was carrying the game.   Hence, I was able to eat lunch at a hotel restaurant and simultaneously listen to the ballgame on my WiFi connected laptop.   And, oh, by the way, the satellite access at the hotel broke down on several occasions that day, as the inclement weather interfered with the satellite signal; by contrast, my over the net reception of steaming video and audio remained steady as long as my PC had power and I stayed in range of the IETF WiFi antennas. 

In addition to using streaming audio and video to keep up with my favorite basketball team, I also used some new (to me) tools to improve my IETF experience.    Since about 2002, the IETF has been providing additional ways for remote participants to monitor and participate in the meetings.    In particular, most Working Groups had Jabber chat rooms.  Jabber is a flavor of instant messaging that was standardized a couple of years back by the IETF in their XMPP working group.   Jabber has a client - server architecture.  In order to use it, one needs to load a client to their PC and then register with a Jabber server somewhere.   There are many choices both for servers and clients.   I went to Jabber.org, which had lots of information about potential clients and servers.   For Windows, one of the popular clients is Exodus, so I downloaded that while sitting at my first meeting (ENUM) on Monday morning.   I then chose to go to Jabber.org and registered a new username on their server.   Once I logged on to their server and had a unique jabber id, I was then able to join the IETF chat rooms.   So, for example, I logged in to the Jabber server for the ENUM session and was able to follow a running commentary that was offered by a relatively new role, the "jabber scribe".   Sitting in the jabber chat room for a working group is useful even if you are actually in the room.    The scribes try to capture the essence of what is going on both in presentations and in comments from the room.  Sometimes, there is also some side commentary that is going on in the chat room itself.   I was taking copious notes during the sessions myself, but it was handy to have access to notes on items that passed by too quickly for me to catch.   Remote users could also log onto live audio streams of the working group meetings, but in the room itself, sitting in the jabber chat room was much more unobstrusive.   I liked it quite a bit.   At one point, I tried to check out the proceedings from another meeting by logging on to a second chat room; unfortunately, the concurrent MMUSIC session was not being monitored by a Jabber scribe.   However, I was able to dip into more than one meeting at a time via Jabber later in the week and even was able to jump into a chat room after I had returned to Massachusetts on that Thursday. 

I also used one other new tool that week.   At the average IETF meeting, there are lots of things going on and various and sundry things that an attendee might want to know about.  The formal meeting page for a particular meeting has now been supplemented by a wiki that adds additional coverage.   I was able to sign on to the IETF wiki page for the meeting and then do a search to find out the name of the email server that had been set up for the meeting.  In years past, this information might have been found on a piece of paper in the "terminal room" or not.   So, it was handy to be able to do a quick lookup, make a quick adjustment to one of my email clients and then send out a message to the IETF discussion list, using the local mail server from a personal email address.  

When I got back from the meeting, one of my colleagues told me about his experiences setting up a Sling Box, which is a new net appliance that allows a remote user to access their home cable, satellite or other TV system.   Several of us who attended the recent VON (Voice Over Net) in San Jose were able to earn a Slingbox by visiting about ten booths at the show.   I'll write more about this once I've set mine up. (Posted 4/1/2006)   

 Breaking Radio Silence

It is March and several months have gone by since my last entry.   It has been a busy time, comme toujours, but writing in the blog has taken a back seat during this time.   What's been goin' on?   Well, a fair amount of travel.   Since January, I've been to Oahu, Fort Lauderdale and Miami at various Voice over IP industry events.   I'll go on in the upcoming weeks to San Jose and Dallas for similar reasons.   The stint in Hawaii was particularly pleasant, as I got to see an old friend and enjoy a day of sunshine and 80 degree F temperatures.   Here is a shot that I took of the area around the town of Kaneohe around mid-day.   

I've also been playing some guitar on a Fender Stratocaster that my wife bought for me last year.   For Christmas, I got a copy of the "Real Book", which has arrangements of jazz standards, and I've been having fun working through the music both new and familiar in the book.   When things get hectic, there's nothing like music to iron out the rough edges.    I've also been working in the background on other creative efforts that I'll plan to write more about as they come to fruition.    As a clue to what that means, I've been following the blog of former fax standards colleague Tom Evslin with great interest as he has been going through the process of publishing his first novel both on-line and in hard copy.   

I also find it amusing that publications such as Time Magazine have discovered that there are some alternatives to television as we know it.   Readers of this blog will note that I talked about TV over the Internet early last summer.  The change since then is that small video enabled devices such as Apple's video Ipod have now been introduced, adding an element of mobility to the concept of downloading video.   

Going forward, I expect to continue to write about personal technology as I encounter it and continue to share thoughts about the intersections of my travels, music and books of interest, interspersed with occasional geo-political comments.   Speaking of which, I just read Richard Clarke's book, "The Scorpion's Gate", which is a thriller set a few years from now in the Middle East.    This is the same Richard Clarke who was formerly in charge of counter-terrorism in both the Clinton and Bush administrations.    Clarke really knows his stuff when it comes to the dynamics of the Middle East and international politics.  We seem to be in an era when nonfiction is valued above mere "fiction", but I continue to believe that novels are very good places to explore the complexities of today's landscape, just as a writer like Hemingway was able to do the same during his era.    Clarke covered some of the same material in his memoir "Against All Enemies", but in the context of a novel, he is really able to bring to vivid life to some of the challenges a country like the US faces in the Middle East, where the roots of today's struggles are a complex mix of economics, history, religion and politics.   

So, my radio silence is broken for now.   I'll hope to write more when I get back from the next round of travels.    Adios.  (Posted March 13, 2006)

 SIP Beyond Voice over IP

I have just returned from the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) meeting 64 in Vancouver, Canada.   This was an interesting week, but along the way, I read most of a book which I think is destined to be an instant classic.  My industry is Voice over IP, which involves conducting phone calls and  other kinds of communication sessions over the Internet.   This book is entitled: "SIP Beyond VoIP", by Alan Johnston, Henry Sinnreich and Robert Sparks.  In this case, SIP refers to the Session Initiation Protocol, a protocol which has taken the telecommunications world by storm in recent years and is the linchpin for the emerging next generation of communications over the Net.    The authors are all well known members of the IETF and have a good understanding of the world of SIP.   Better yet, they are able to take the reader through from an introduction of the basics of the protocol and then go way beyond that to cover how SIP can be used to enable an innovative set of new applications.   

In Voice over IP, SIP has won the standards battle against various alternatives, but in its evolution, it has grown from a simple peer to peer protocol into something completely different.   The current core specification for SIP is contained in RFC 3261, which all by itself contains 269 pages and is the biggest RFC (short for Request for Comments) ever published.  But SIP does not stop there.   There are also several IETF working groups which are busy producing extensions to SIP and applications that are built on top of SIP.   The core SIP working group has now published 37 documents and its offshoot SIPPING WG has itself now produced 18 documents.   These two groups are still at work and there are also numerous others.  

With all these words, even an experienced standards reader can have difficulty keeping up.   With all these documents, one is in serious need of a roadmap!   Thankfully, the authors of "SIP Beyond VoIP" have now produced such a roadmap.   The timing is good, since the core of SIP has undergone changes in the last few years and the explosion of new applications is well underway.    The book begins with several chapters that cover the basics of SIP, describing its core elements and how it works.   A major driver for SIP has been the transition toward sending voice over Internet Protocol packets, but the books goes on to point out that SIP can do much more than simply replicate the ability to make voice phone calls.   After the introductory material, the book is broken down by application, which offers an opportunity for the authors to cover various topics with more depth.   Applications which benefit from this treatment include instant messaging, presence, conferencing, emergency services and service directories.    Along the way, the authors take much of the mystery out of topics like ENUM, which is likely to be the service directory choice of the next 10 years, and Network Address Translation, the pesky network elements which break many Internet applications.   The book then closes with material on peer to peer (P2P) communications, which both looks back at the roots of SIP and forward at how non-SIP applications like Skype are changing the IP communications rules.   

The book is interspersed throughout with pointers to the source material and I've already personally benefited a great deal by following some of these links.    For example, the P2P chapter references a fascinating article by SIP inventor Henning Schulzrinne and Salmon A. Baset on how Skype works.   The article is pretty technical, but it's also a terrific story.   This is a practical example of how applications like Skype and Kazaa have been able to successfully navigate the difficult straits of today's Internet, while helping to bring concepts like NAT detection and traversal into the Internet mainstream.    So, if you want to get an idea about where the Internet communications revolution is going, reading "SIP Beyond VoIP" is an excellent next step.  I recommend it highly.  This is also an auspicious beginning for the publisher, Von Magazine, which is another offshoot from Jeff Pulver's company, Pulver.com.   My thanks also to Jeff Pulver for providing this book to the speakers at his last VON conference in Boston.    (Posted Nov. 11, 2005)

No Direction Home

PBS is now showing a spectacular movie, Martin Scorsese's "No Direction Home".   It's about the early years in Bob Dylan's career and features commentary by the older Dylan as well as many other people who were in New York at the time he hit the folk scene there.   There is amazing footage from different stages of Dylan's career.   The film begins with Dylan's masterpiece, "Like a Rolling Stone" and switches back and forth between scenes from some concerts filmed in 1966 and reminiscence of his childhood years.  The concert footage there is from the legendary "Don't Look  Back" concert footage, when Dylan toured, alternating between acoustic material and his early rock songs.   The backing group is to later become known as "The Band".    The group plays beautifully and is a suitable match to Dylan's genius.  Robby Robertson in particular is already displaying the virtuosity on guitar that he later displayed in The Band.   Most amazing of all is how many people in the audience hate the music and think he has totally wasted the talent he'd shown in his earlier folk material.  

Dylan's music has held up very well over the years and songs like "The Times They Are a Changin' " and "A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall" still speak powerfully in times of trouble.    I highly recommend the movie, which is playing in two parts on PBS stations.   I also heartily recommend Scorsese's earlier rock film, "The Last Waltz", which has several connections to this movie, since Dylan and The Band are featured in both films.   This cinematic diptych tells the story of how young musicians go on road and their life changes.    As I write this, I've only seen the 1st half of "No Direction Home", but we know from history that the Dylan of 1966 was pushing the limits and had a motorcycle accident that demarcated his early career from all that was to follow.   For another view of the early sixties in New York, try reading Samuel R. Delany's memoir "The Motion in Light in Water"; there is an amusing episode in the book where Dylan makes a cameo appearance.  

In a more contemporary but related vein, I recently saw an outstanding concert by folk singer Mark Erelli.   Mark writes in the folk idiom, but like the early Dylan, uses it to speak both on the issues of the day and in more mythic terms.   In fact, there were moments during the concert when I heard echoes of both early Dylan and early Paul Simon, but Mark speaks powerfully with his own voice.   It turns out the Mark and I have at least one thing in common.  We have both played music with his producer, the outstanding drummer Lorne Entress.  In my case, Lorne was the drummer in my first rock and roll band back when he was in high school and I was in college.   Lorne has since gone on to become a fixture on the Boston music scene and is well known both for his drumming and, more recently, his music productions.   I've including links here to both Mark and Lorne's web sites; they are both well worth seeing live.  

After the Flood

This has been a eventful week in the history of our country.     The thought that occurs to me in the aftermath of Katrina and all of the devastation which we are seeing here is:   "This changes everything".    Of course, this was the mantra after 9/11, but this current disaster seems to highlight in relief a number of issues which this country essentially put on hold after 9/11 and for which we are now paying the price.    However, like 9/11, this massive event does seem to signal that "Business As Usual" is no longer an option for the United States as a country and for the many people of the Gulf Coast whose lives will be changed forever by the loss of home, life and livelihood.   

I attended a church service Sunday in my town of Norfolk, Massachusetts and it was clear from the many comments in the congregation that this disaster and its aftermath touches so many people in our country, whether through connections with friends and family from the Gulf Coast or in ripple effects as people without homes or in devastated cities and towns relocate to other places, some likely never to return.  

The scenes from the disaster are still showing on television, but it's not too soon to start thinking about lessons we should learn from this.   This particular scenario (i.e. Category 3 or larger hurricane hitting Gulf Coast) had been widely predicted as being of particular danger for New Orleans and the areas around it which are at or below sea level.    Yet, it seemed there were always stronger reasons to delay than to act.  In this now familiar pattern for Americans in recent years. it will cost us far more to re-build New Orleans than it would have to shore up the levees and save the city from the worst side effects of the flood.   

It's time for a national conversation to develop a new set of priorities for this country.    The "War on Terror" is simply too narrow a focus for our country and leaves us vulnerable in many ways if we ignore the other mega-trends of this new century, which include a new energy crisis, the continuing surge toward globalization of the world economy and the neglected issue of climate change.   Right now, the U.S. is fighting a battle in Iraq that has massively distracted us from the original mandate to strike back at the terrorists that caused 9/11.    We have done that, but it was in Afghanistan, not in Iraq.  In Iraq, we are now caught up in a centuries old battle between Sunnis and Shiites, and have set ourselves up as a target for terrorists in the region.    I suspect the US will have little choice but to "declare victory" at some point in the next year, even as the Iraqis fight their political, religious and military battles amongst themselves.   The Bush administration has concocted a variety of notions on why we needed to take out Saddam, and the net effect has been to leave us vulnerable in Iraq and around the world.   

This past week, when our National Guard was needed back home, where they belong, many of them were still in Iraq.    No small wonder that the Department of Homeland Security was not able to marshal a coordinated response in a timely way, when a large proportion of the guardsman who live in and know the region are instead serving in Iraq.   Maybe some of these people would have been aware that looting is a common response to a broken urban fabric, unlike the bureaucrats in charge, who were stunned that this was happening.    In a similar respect, recent congressional budgets have made large cuts to the monies for flood control; instead this money and billions more are being spent in a losing cause in Iraq.   This past week, a storm called Katrina struck at a United States which has been letting many big issues slide, while fighting the so-called "War on Terror". 

Yes, we must be resolute against groups such as Al Quaeda, but we also need to be smart about it.     The most powerful nation in the world needs to snap out of its post 9/11 malaise and once again show that we are a place where even the poor and downtrodden can find opportunity and live out their dreams.   Katrina had dealt the country a severe blow, but we need to learn from this experience and come back stronger by re-investing in our own future.    We also need to be thankful for the offers of so many around the world to help us in our time of need.  Even a superpower can be mightily humbled by forces of God and nature.   Let's take this opportunity to accept the gifts of others and not squander this latest burst of international good will.  

Atoms and le IETF

In early August, I spent a week at the Internet Engineering Task Force in Paris.   Paris is one of my favorite places and my business travel plans this year have taken me into the city three times, very unusual even for a Francophile such as myself.   The IETF-63 was held at the Palais des Congress, which is usually better known for hosting Rock and Roll concerts.  In fact, while we were there, large LCD screens were advertising that Michael Buble would be in concert during November.   

Ordinarily, the IETF is a site of non-stop work, right around the clock.  But with a location in Paris, several of my friends were taking the opportunity to spend extra time in the city or surrounding environs before or after the meetings.   For example, one engineer had just spent a full month in the city studying French with his wife.   During the week, the social event was held at Musee D'Orsay, the beautiful building on the Right Bank which has been transformed from a train station into a magnificent museum.   A large number of IETFers took the time to go to the museum, commune with the Impressionists and snack on a series of petites repas in between glasses of wine.   Truly a different kind of meeting than sitting in an ad-hoc setting debating the fine points of a protocol.  

While at the IETF, I shared breakfast with Paul Hoffman, who is co-chair of the ATOMPUB development effort.  ATOM is the new flavor of syndication protocol which is targeted to be a real standard, rather than an array of dialects like its cousin RSS, the feed protocol this blog uses.    Paul is a long time IETFer, but most of the ATOM community has never set foot into a physical IETF meeting.  However, true to IETF style, the real work gets done on the mailing list anyway.   Paul was pleased because the working group had recently come to a consensus on the Atom Publishing format and that it was being blessed both among developers in the blogosphere and among big players like Microsoft.   In fact, as of this day, August 17, the document has been approved as a "Proposed Standard", which means it will be published as a standards track RFC sometime in the months to come, after it winds it way through the RFC editor queue.   ATOM has lots of neat features, but still relies on a relatively small number of tags to enable users to build a feed.   

Blogs are one of the new features that were not evident at the IETF even just a couple of years ago.   For example, a good update on the work of the ENUM working group is provided by co-chair Richard Shockey in his blog.   When I was publisher of Human Communications Digest, I was one of the only ones to cover the IETF and other standards groups.   Now, it seems like everyone's talkin'.  Just another day in the 'shere I guess... (Posted August 17, 2005) 


author: Richard Stastny

submitted by
 (richard@stastny.com) on Sunday, March 12, 2006 at 21:33:22


url: http://voipandenum.blogspot.com

Hi James,


just discovered your entry about the IETF in Paris (ATOMs and the IETF). I have no idea why technorati discovered this entry just 5 hours ago. You mention my blog there, but as Richard Shockey's blog. I am used that people mix us up, besically because we have the same first name, steal each others slides for presentations and both like to wear Hawaiian shirts, and are both heavily involved in ENUM, but maybe you could correct this.

Reply from James on March 13, 2006:  

Richard, you are of course absolutely right, as I discovered shortly after my original post.    It is a bit confusing to have two people who are best known as Richard, both VERY active in many of the same activities.   My apologies for the mixup.   For the readers, the blog is question (voipandenum) is done by Richard Stastny, not IETF ENUM co-chair Richard Shockey.   As for the time capsule effect in Technorati, it took all of my entries to date and logged them once I was able to figure out how to have them recognize the blog.  


 Concert on the Square

My wife Cindy and I just spent a fun, late July evening at Copley Square in Boston attending a concert.   I'm a big fan of Aimee Mann, so I convinced Cindy we should make the trek.    We drove in, parked at the Prudential, got a quick bite to eat and then walked a couple of blocks to the concert.   The weather was fine; just about 70 degrees F and with a breeze.    When we got the plaza, it was already filled with people at 5:40 and the music of the first artist Tracy Bonham had begun.   Tracy played a mix of acoustic and loud rock music.   She has a sweeping range and used it to good effect.   Hers was a fairly short set, that finished with her current hit, "Something Beautiful".   We had taken out our canvas folding chairs and had comfortable seats, situated in front of the Boston Public Library.   We could easily hear the music, but the performers were about 300 feet away; we wished that we had brought binoculars.  

We soon discovered that it was to be a cool night, but we hung in there and listened to the music.   There was all kinds of activity, as downtown Boston passed before our eyes.   There were street performers, parents with toddlers, college students, and in general, a mix of all age groups.   Many stopped to hear the music, but just as many walked on by.    Aimee Mann came on about 6:30.    She has an excellent band and personally has quite a bit of stage presence.    She wore a light blue top and is wearing her blonde hair down past shoulder length.   In addition to the music, she told stories; it seems that she is now into boxing for exercise.    She has a new album "The Forgotten Arm", which is thematic, set in the early seventies and containing musings about the life of a couple going through hard times.   During the show, she played most, if not all, of the new album, and would give us hints on what each song was about.   Musically, it was all very interesting.   Aimee uses a full palette of musical expression and her tight, five person band was able to create a wide range of musical backgrounds simply with 2 guitars, bass, keyboards and drums.   We both enjoyed the music, which included solo vocals by Aimee in well articulated alto tones, plus occasional two-part backup harmonies where the guys usually sang the high parts.    Aimee herself has a good range and can move comfortably into higher registers for emphasis, but generally stayed in a mid-range as she told her stories in song.   

For an encore, she played two songs, which included a friendly version of the the old Three Dog Night tune "One".   By now, twilight was coming on, as the sun painted its final colors on the ceilings of the church behind the stage.    We walked up Huntington Street and were soon back at the Prudential Center.   A few minutes later, we were on our way home.   We live in a quiet town with lots of trees.   Even though we have lived in the Boston area for five years, it seems we are just starting to take advantage of having a great city just 45 minutes to an hour away.    It's a study in contrasts that makes our occasional jaunts into this city that much more special.      

Share the Path

I just finished a relaxing week in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.   Wolfeboro is blessed with three major bodies of water:  Lake Winnipesaukee, Lake Wentworth and Crescent Lake.   Connecting the lakes with each other and the center of town is a multi-use recreational path.   Like many of the best paths in the U.S., it was converted from it's earlier use as a rail line and is now a rail trail.    So, in Wolfeboro, its very practical to hop on your bike and take a ride into town to do an errand such as mailing a post card, or to walk into town for breakfast.   Many people do just that.  

In my home town of Norfolk, the main paths are sidewalks, which fork out from the center of town.   These are also used both by bikers and pedestrians, but there are many parts of town that are underserved.   Three years ago, the town opened up a recreational center about two miles out of town on Pond Street.    It's a great facility and is now the site of year round sports, a playground for young kids and a shade structure for concert events.     What is missing is the path that will connect the Pond Street facility to the center of town, so that people of all ages can safely get to the park without having to get in an SUV.    Wolfeboro is an example of how useful these shared paths can be.  

I'll close this note with a picture of Wolfeboro's Bike Path.    


A Judgment Call

The recent retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor from the Supreme Court took many people by surprise.  Predictably, the wonks of the left and right got into a fever pitch about who would be nominated as a successor.   The area of judge selection has been a red meat activity which has often brought out the worst behavior of partisans on both sides.    I was therefore somewhat surprised when President Bush announced his selection of John Roberts for the post and started hearing about his background.   Roberts already went through the vetting process several years back when selected as a Federal Appeals Court judge.  I've been listening to interviews of the people who know him among both political parties and based on what I have heard, he is very impressive and has excellent credentials for the post.     Roberts is considered to be a conservative, but in the reports that I have heard, he is above all recognized by his peers as being a very capable lawyer and is not known as being an ideologue. The Senate has already announced that they will hold confirmation hearings when they come back into town September.  

One thing I am finding disturbing is the attempt by some on the left to rush to judgment and immediately say his nomination should be rejected.   Mr. Bush could have just as easily chosen a candidate who has a track record of extreme conservatism or wants to legislate from the bench, but he was smart enough to nominate someone who has expertise in his field and is well respected by his colleagues regardless of their political affiliation.   Mr. Roberts should get a thorough "job interview" during the hearings and the press should investigate his background, but please, let's hold off from all the attacks until and unless there is a sound reason to do so.  I usually vote Democratic, but I prefer to make my mind up on each individual issue.  We'll hear plenty about Mr. Roberts in the coming weeks so that by the time the Senate holds its hearings, he'll be much better known to all of us.    If we want capable people to work in public service positions, we could do with a lot less of "attack dog" politics from both the left and the right.   I must also say that the Supreme Court judges have a tendency to define themselves mostly after their selection, despite all of the hoopla.   Our system continues to produce a crop of judges who respect the rule of law and often surprise us with the positions they take when hearing individual cases.  

As for Democrats, there are still plenty of real issues out there on which to make a stand.   It's good politics to pick fights where you have a chance to win and show a real difference of perspective, such as in the area of global warming, where the US is far out of step with the rest of the world and the scientific community.   I find it amusing and encouraging that the big supporters of the Kyoto protocol in the US are at the local level.    That's usually the way changes in policy gain support, at the grass roots.    


Watching Internet Broadcasts of Live 8

Yesterday the live 8 concerts were on in a worldwide coordinated concert for Africa that was held at many different venues.  For the music fan, it was a cornucopia of possibilities.   In the morning, I discovered that ABC would have concert coverage, so I set up my VCR to record that.  However, I quickly discovered through Google that AOL was also going to have live coverage in real time on the Internet and that replays would also be available.   

So, while I was getting ready to do my bills for the weekend, I pulled up the AOL music channel and found that about 8 sites were available to be watched, plus an edited master channel which swung between the different sites and also offered replays.  

There was an amazing variety of music.   Early on, Brian Wilson was on in Berlin and his band offered a sample of what they have been playing on their Smile tour.  The band began appropriately with "Prayer" and then quickly segued into "Heroes and Villains".    The band was in great form and this version of H&V was outstanding, with Brian in good voice and his band lending their impeccable harmony vocals.   They went on to play some of the popular Beachboy hits.  I must say that the live sound was very good over the Internet; I have a high-speed cable connection and had no problems with the sound all day long, regardless of the venue.  

Later in the day, I heard Pink Floyd with "Wish You Were Here", Dave Matthews Band playing several selections, Neil Young backed by a gospel choir and a terrific guitar player from the Rome show (Valenti?) who played acoustic guitar, but shifted seamlessly into some Hendrix influenced rock before moving back into acoustic territory.   I told my teenage son about the show and he quickly glommed onto the fact that groups like Green Day and Audioslave were playing.   So, there truly was music for everybody.   

A couple thoughts on all of this.  One, it is clear that rock groups can get our attention by this kind of show and it was powerful to intersperse shots of poverty in Africa with the music groups.   Those who watched the show were also encouraged to support the political agenda of having the Group of 8 countries provide more support to wipe out poverty in Africa.   However, I note that viewers were not really pushed to do much else.   The world is becoming blasé about big events and this one, while bigger than Live Aid, seemed to make much less of a splash.  

However, the experience I had with AOL TV over the Net is a preview of where live media is going.  It is now possible to get a much more complete viewer experience over the Net than on the major TV networks.   On AOL, I chose what to listen to at any one point and basically "controlled the remote"; the only commercials were ads on web page and a brief intro mention of Windows XP on the video clips.     On ABC, they made the editorial choices and tended to show only one song per artist, plus at least as much commercial time.   For me, the Internet channel experience was far better and with a decent set of headphones, the music was just fine as well.   It will be very interesting to see how this emerging IPTV phenomenon plays out.  The traditional telco and cable players seem to be thinking about giving us more of the same old TV, just over the Internet.   My bet is that many viewers will opt for a far richer experience where they truly call the shots.  

Adventures in Personal Tech

    Lately, I've been trying some new things in the area of personal technology.   This is one of the themes I'll explore a bit in this blog.   RSS itself has been a real eye-opener to me.  Once you have a good RSS reader, its hard to believe that you have been living without it.   I'm using FeedDemon and find it's doing the job just fine for me.   This past Spring, at the Voice over Net (Von) show in San Jose, Jeff Pulver provided all attendees with a demo copy of his Pulver Communicator, which has a built-in RSS feed.   I found it handy for tracking what was happening at Von and was disappointed when my copy expired.   So, I started looking on the web for RSS and found all kinds of things.   I still remember when I was testing out a high speed connection in Stockholm and suddenly saw how quickly FeedDemon can populate a series of channels.  

    I've also been using an IPod and ITunes a lot this year, since getting the IPod over the holidays.   I love music, but have been mostly listening to CDs and even drag out my collection of vinyl records for listening to vintage jazz and rock.   But, bit by bit, a reasonable selection of my favorite music has moved over to the IPod and this has really improved the experience of taking a long airplane or train trip, things that I've done quite a bit this year.   I'm also very impressed with the thoughtful design of both the IPod and ITunes.  For example, I downloaded a set of songs from ITunes and decided that I wanted them on a CD.   Very easily, I was able to burn the CD.  Then I decided to create a list of the songs.  I went over to the ITunes print menu and what popped up was an offer to create a list of songs in CD Jewel Case form factor.  Wow!  Very impressive; the designers had considered in advance that some songs would still move off onto CDs and then we'd want a song list.  Voila!  It was so.  Hence, I can now listen to songs like Mancini's Peter Gunn in the car.  (If you haven't heard this song, check it out!  It takes the Basie Big Band style and hypercharges it.  No small wonder that Jimi Hendrix sometimes played this song.) 

Starting Fresh - June 12. 2005

        Well, I have the sense that I'm too busy to do this, but I have been inspired by Blogs that I have seen by people I respect like Tom Evslin and Jeff Pulver that have encouraged me to jump in.    I work as a Product Manager in Voice over IP for Brooktrout Technology, but the opinions in this blog will strictly be my own.   In a similar respect, I'm heavily involved in the Voice over IP field, but my intent is to stay away from areas that might conflict with my work.   However, in areas of public policy related to Voice over IP, I may have some things to say from time to time.  

    So, why a blog?   Well, I've been doing this web site since about 1998, originally for my Human Communications consulting business and since 2000, most of the updates have been either personal or about articles or my speaking engagements.   What I am seeing is different in Blogs is that they are more personal in nature and more free ranging as well.   Plus, with the really neat technology of RSS; there is a much simpler delivery mechanism for web content than has ever been the case before.   Here, I must give my credits to my friend Paul Hoffman, who told me about ATOM, a standards based syndication approach which goes somewhat beyond RSS, last Fall at the Washington IETF.   Paul is co-chair for the Atom activity.  

Next, what will the topics be?  My interests are very wide ranging and include personal technology, politics, globalization, music, travel, sports and many other things.    At this point, I'd guess most of the comments will be about the nexus of personal technology, globalization, travel and politics.   I note that Tom Evslin ranges between these topics very well, as does my favorite newspaper columnist, Tom Friedman of the New York Times.   I travel a lot, especially internationally, so these experiences of seeing different parts of the world have had a profound influence on my beliefs. 

I believe that globalization is going to happen, regardless of how many people would like to hold it back in this country and in others such as France, based on my experiences in how business has changed in the last 30 years.   I started Human Communications in 1992, and I must say that it was a global business right from the start, even though the tools of the time did not make it easy.    Even during the first year, I had accounts with whom I communicated only via email, which at the time was on Compuserve.  Rather to my surprise, I found I could make money on consulting and newsletters from people that had never met me, but valued the information and advice that I was able to offer.   So, I'm not a late convert; I've been living globalization since 1992 and even before then worked for a company (Fujitsu) that was headquartered in a different country.   

I'll wrap this up here, but include a picture from my travels.   Three weeks ago, I visited Israel for the first time.  It was a fascinating experience, especially on the day that I got to visit Jerusalem.   I'll write more on that visit in an upcoming entry or two.  

Here is the picture: 


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