A New Role For Eliot

As many of you know I have a long history within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), having been involved since 1989.  The IETF is responsible for many of the underlying protocols that computers use to talk with one another for purposes such as Email and the Web.  I have served as the chair of two working groups, a research group, and have written numerous drafts and requests for comments.

As of late I have been involved with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).   The ITU is a U.N. organization whose origins date back to at least 1869, long prior to forming of the U.N. The ITU has developed numerous data communication standards, including X.509, which is what web encryption uses, as well as many of the codecs that are used on the network to transmit voice and video.

Last May I was able to join the United States delegation to the World Telecommunications Development Conference (WTDC) in Hyderabad India.  Now I have been asked to serve as the Internet Architecture Board liaison to the ITU-T.  My role will be first and foremost to see that liaisons (messages between the organizations) are properly handled by the IAB and IETF.  I will advise the IAB and IETF on how the ITU-T functions, and the context around particular liaison statements.  Occasionally I will assist in drafting liaison statements.

These organizations operate quite differently.  The IETF is driven by individual participation, where people needn’t even attend meetings to participate in decisions.  The ITU-T is an intergovernmental organization in which only governments may make decisions, although others may advise.

This is an important role at an important time, because when these two organizations do not cooperate at some level, they end up duplicating and competing with each other’s work.  That can lead to more expensive products or products that do not work well together.

Grate Expectations! Potato Latkes

Potato Latkes
Courtesy Sputnikcccp/Wikipedia

Hanukkah is a time when all good people grease their arteries with potato pancakes or latkes.  Friends will remember the haze of grease that would descend in my San Francisco apartment every year around this time, for the party I called Greasefest.  This would involve somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 lb (11.34 kilos) of skinned potatoes, a bunch of eggs and onions, some matzoh meal, and a vat of oil.  Oh and people you care about to foist all of this on.

Here now my recipe in smaller numbers:

  • 5 lb (2.27 kilos) of large peeled potatoes (the larger, the better)
  • 2 eggs
  • two medium-large onions, quartered
  • 1/2 cup matzoh meal
  • 2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup (or more) A descent high smoke temperature oil (grape seed oil is good)


  1. Preheat a large pan to the highest temperature you have.
  2. Grate potatoes and onions into a large bowl.  If you are making a larger amount, seriously consider using a food processor.  My aunt swears that it doesn’t taste as good, but I suspect that’s only if you use the blending blade instead of a grater attachment.
  3. Add eggs, matzoh meal, and salt.  Mix.
  4. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  5. Add grape seed oil, and allow to heat.  Important: do not add the mixture until the oil is VERY hot.
  6. Dollup small portions (about 2 tbsp) of the mixture into the pan.  Consider wearing long sleeves for this part as the oil will splatter. Flatten the mixture as best you can.
  7. Cook for approximately two minutes or til brown on one side.  Flip, and cook another two minutes.
  8. Remove latkes to a plate covered with paper towels to remove excess oil.

Serve with apple sauce and/or sour cream, coffee, orange juice, and Lipitor.

Bread for Beginners

When I was about 10, my neighbor came over to babysit my brother, sister, and me.  My sister being about one at the time, my mother left one instruction: check on the baby.  Instead, we baked bread, which my neighbor loved to do.  I don’t remember how the bread tasted, but I do remember my mother yelling at the babysitter,“You didn’t check on the baby!”

“But Mrs. Lear, how did you know?”, the girl responded.  “Easy,” said my mother.  “There are no white footprints leading to her room, while there is flour all over the rest of the house!”

This, and the fact that bread takes a long time to make, has led to a lifelong aversion to baking bread.  That came to an end today, with a little coaxing from a few corners, not the least of which were my wife and daughter.  I started with the simplest recipe I could find, after my wife found yeast.   It’s Super Easy Bread for Beginners, which is found on about.com.  This is a recipe that is nearly impossible to get wrong, and yet I almost did, by misreading the amount of salt (I thought I saw a b in tsp).  It is an extremely white bread, but it’s a start.  Next stop will not be a challah, as I’m still not up to either separating out eggs, or braiding.  But it will be a more whole or cracked wheat bread with some fun seeds.  Wish me luck.

For the record: no flour all over the house, although daughter’s shirt needed a good sweeping.

Frequent Traveller Nightmare Part 1: Why I don’t travel (that much)

I used to love to take a trip on an airplane.  And my airline of choice was United.  I flew on them because their planes were clean, they got me to where I wanted to go most of the time without a plane change (particularly when I lived in San Francisco), and I could follow all of the air traffic fun on my headset, giving me something the remote possibility of learning something, while mindlessly staring out the window.

Almost a decade ago my love affair with flying ended, sometime after the love affair with my (now) wife began.  We were often separated by hours of overnight flights and thousands of miles.  It was also a time when United went bankrupt while their planes were over capacity.  Since then, the Towers fell on 9/11 (I was in the UK at the time), and we’ve become so paranoid about our personal safety thanks to the Bush Era approach of leading from a position of fear that air travel has become a flying prison experience.  And so I have largely stopped.

My own personal travel has dropped from a peek of 120,000 miles per year down to roughly 30,000.  Yes, I still travel, but considerably less, and not often to America.  There are more than a few reasons for this:

  • Flying is expensive, especially for families.  I now have one.
  • Fuel surcharges that can be over 200% of the cost of the ticket (something that Continental misleads customers to believe it is entirely beyond their control).
  • Distance- this cuts both ways: I don’t need a plane (or even clothing) to see my wife and daughter, while my parents and American friends are much farther away, making the trip both more expensive and difficult.
  • Convenience- who wants to deal with the TSA?  To be fair, here in Switzerland they really do make it as painless as possible.  I have only ever once missed a flight here in Switzerland, when a train broke down, and the SBB actually rebooked me on the next flight before I arrived at the airport!
  • A long flight is hard on a child– any child.  Parents need to think long and hard before putting their children– and other passengers– through that.  We made that mistake by bringing our daughter on a long haul at the age of 4 months.  When she was sick.  Big mistake.  Even though the doctor told us it was okay for her to fly (he was wrong) in order to get to Florida.
  • But beyond that, anyone in the back of a long haul has a miserable experience ahead of them from the moment they board.  You can be assured that drinks on American airlines won’t be free, the movies will be lousy, and the food will be, if anything, worse than you remember.
  • Families have very few options to upgrade.  When I’ve done so, it hasn’t been worth it.  After all, what’s a comfortable chair if you can’t sleep because you need to attend to a child?

All of this boils down to the fact that the average flight to the U.S. costs us around $3,100.  It’s about 1/3 that to elsewhere within Europe.  Compare that with the $388 it used to cost me to go from San Francisco to the East Coast.

This leaves business travel.  I have reduced that as well.  A lot.  Some people aren’t in a position to do so, I am, and I have.  It has helped that my company now discourages travel where four years ago people would just as soon hop an airplane than pick up a phone. Now we have TelePresence, WebEx, and all sorts of other collaboration tools at our disposal.  I applaud the change.

But even when I do travel, within Europe I prefer the train when it is feasible.  I recently chose the train over the plane to get from Zürich to Maastricht.  That turned out to take only about an hour longer without a plane than it would have taken with.  But it cost quite a bit more.  Within Switzerland I always use the train to Geneva.  No reservations required, and it just works.

Like or Dislike: Foyles War

To blow off steam after what can be a very long day, Christine and I will occasionally watch TV, like most of the rest of the world.  Most of what we watch is on DVD, and my current favorite is a show called Foyle’s War, created by Anthony Horowitz.  It’s a combination of murder mystery and historical fiction, at the outset of World War II.  Played by veteran Michael Kitchen, Chief Detective Inspector Foyle covers the beat of Hastings, an English coastal town.  Kitchen depicts our hero as a stiff-upper-lipped classic English gentleman, with a stick so far up his posterior, you wonder how he walks.

What I like about the show is that it really gives you a feel for the sorts of hardships the British endured during the war, and how they endured them.  Families were torn apart, there was very limited food to eat, there were prisoners of war, bombings, land confiscations by the government, the invasion of the American troops.  And mixed into all of this, a murder or two.

While there’s occasional blood and guts, there are no DNA labs, no fancy police cars, or for that matter, fancy getaway cars.  Just a game of wit to get you through.

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