Christmas vacation begins!

While walking around the European Parliament building last week, I invented a new gang sign. EU in da house, y’allz!

We spent a great three days putzing around the Marché de Noël in Strasbourg. We’re now in Paris until Sunday, then Lyon for a night. Then Nate comes and we’ll all head to Lucy’s châlet in Pontcharra for two nights, then back to Lyon for New Year’s and then my birthday on the 2nd. I start teaching again on the 5th.

You’ll forgive me if I’m largely offline until then.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to All!

First drafts are in.

Holy crap. The Internet of Elsewhere might actually be real — I just filed my first draft.

Grand total word count came to about 83,000 words. I’m pretty stoked but also deathly afraid.

I apologize if I haven’t been very communicative over these past few weeks as I’ve been trying to pound this thing out.

Becks and I are in Geneva for the weekend for the Fête de l’Escalade and to visit my old Italian teacher, Luca Notari.

Thanks to everyone for all your support. I’ll need it now more than ever.
It’s 2:30 am in France. Bedtime for me.

Updated: Estonia approves voting via mobile phone. (Not exactly.)

The Estonian parliament (pictured) has just approved a bill to let Estonian citizens vote via their mobile phone. This makes the country the first country in the world to do so, and comes about 20 months after Estonia held its first nation-wide election where the electorate could cast their ballots online.

Mobile phone voting, which likely will come via a new secure SIM card to be used in conjunction with the country’s digital ID card system, will take effect in the 2011 parliamentary elections.

[via Russian News and Information Agency]

Update: Kris Haamer points me to a TV ad previewing EMT’s mobile voting system that aired about 20 months ago.

Update (Dec 17.): I spoke with Silver Meikar, an Estonian MP, who told me that this actually isn’t quite mobile phone voting. In fact, this is using Estonia’s digital ID card infrastructure to use your phone as an ID tool instead of your ID card and reader. You still need a computer and an Internet connection to vote online, but you now can just have your phone instead of your ID card. So, not as sexy.

IDG News Service has more.

How to swap or give-away SIM cards?

In the last year, I’ve been to Finland (where I bought a temporary SIM card for my three-day trip there). I also have SIM cards for Iran, Estonia, the Netherlands, France, the US, Senegal and others. But once I get home, these SIM cards are useless to me — they sit in my desk drawer. I’m sure there’s hundreds if not thousands of other people worldwide who have a stack of SIM cards that they don’t use much, but keep on the off-chance that they do return to those countries.

For example, today, I lent my Dutch and Finnish SIM cards to another English assistant who is going to those countries over the Christmas break. Both have < 10€ of credit on them (assuming they haven't expired), and I can't use them at all as I have no plans to go to either of those countries anytime soon. And that got me wondering -- why isn't there a website/service, analogous to CouchSurfing or something, where I can temporarily borrow/swap a SIM card that I only need for a short time (say, a week or less), without having to pay much for it, or go through the hassle of buying a new phone number/SIM card. Before I came to France, I bought two used SIM cards on Craigslist in the Bay Area, and boy am I glad that I did, because new ones (at least from Orange) cost 15€ just for the card. So, any enterprising web developer up for the challenge?

Hossein Derakhshan was really arrested

Sanam Dolatshahi, an Iranian blogger now living in Florida, says that the arrest of Hossein Derakhshan has been confirmed by his family in Tehran. The arrest has also been confirmed by a friend of the family’s, as quoted in today’sThe Globe & Mail. To be clear, I myself, have not spoken with anyone in Hoder’s family yet.

Sanam writes:

My friend Nazli finally got the OK from Hossein Derakhshan’s sister, Azadeh Derakhshan, to publicly announce that Hossein Derakhshan, one of the first Iranian bloggers, was arrested on the afternoon of November 1, in Tehran.

I am quoting this news from Nazli Kamvari, a friend of Hossein Derakhshan and an Iranian blogger living in Toronto, who has been directly in touch with Hossein’s sister and just wrote about this news in her Persian blog.

My understanding is that Hossein’s family has been under pressure from the authorities not to talk about Hossein’s arrest and not to get a lawyer for him. So, it is understandable that they are not talking to the media. But we at least can assure both the Persian and global blogosphere, who were previously in doubts about Hossein’s arrest, that he’s really arrested.

Hossein has gone through various changes in his politics and he has rubbed many activists the wrong way, including myself. (I personally don’t approve his politics and we have had couple of fierce arguments and fights in the past few months.) However, we should not have double standards when we deal with human rights. Any human being should be entitled to freedom of expression and should have access to an attorney while in jail. I hope human rights advocates start campaigning for Hossein Derakhshan.

Update: I personally talked to his sister, too. She is very worried about Hossein. We should be careful with the way we spread the news not to have a negative effect. Absolutley no neocon propaganda shit.

ITU’s new data: “Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2008”

I’ve just flipped through the International Telecommunications Union recently released executive summary of their Telecom Reform 2008 report. The ITU says that there are now 1.5 billion Internet users worldwide, and 4 billion mobile phone users.

Oh, and then there’s also this:

ITU’s Internet and broadband data suggest that more and more countries are going high-speed. By the end of 2007, more than 50 per cent of all Internet subscribers had a high-speed connection. Dial-up is being replaced by broadband across developed and developing countries alike. In developing countries such as Chile, Senegal, and Turkey, broadband subscribers represent over 90 per cent of all Internet subscribers.

SF Chron: New land-use law’s message: build near transit

SF Chronicle:

But [Stephanie Reyes, senior policy advocate with San Francisco’s Greenbelt Alliance] and other advocates acknowledge that the importance of SB375, signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in late September, lies as much in the tone it sets as in what it will accomplish, which remains unclear.

Essentially the law, which will take years to implement, uses incentives and requirements to encourage local governments and builders to concentrate growth in urban areas or close to public transportation hubs in an effort to reduce Californians’ use of cars and lower their greenhouse gas emissions.

The ultimate impact will depend on how the legislation is put into effect, and whether its carrots and sticks will outweigh the cries from people who don’t want big new buildings on their block.

Whatever the law’s accomplishments, proponents hope it sends a clear message that will be reflected in future legislation and policies on the state and local levels: Dense, transit-oriented development is a critical goal for the collective good.

Also, see SPUR‘s “A Midlife Crisis for Regional Rail

Mumbai Attacked

Scott Carney, an American journalist friend living in Chennai (nowhere near Mumbai), describes the situation as “unbelievable,” adding that this is the “first time that there has been real urban warfare in the country.”

He points me to the SAJA Forum for some good online resources and a hastily organized series of webcasts. There’s also a bunch of info floating around Twitter.

My thoughts go out to all those affected in Mumbai, India and throughout the world.

Also, a big fuck you goes out to all terrorists, everywhere.

NYT: Where the Traffic Median Is a No-Pilates Zone

This is exactly why Santa Monica was a great place to grow up, but why I have no desire to live there again.


That warning the other day was among hundreds that have been issued in a culturally tumultuous crackdown by Santa Monica officials against violators of a city ordinance, rarely enforced till now, that bars congregating on traffic medians.

The target is increasingly loud, littering and generally intrusive groups of exercisers who gather from dawn until dusk along the Fourth Street median. The ocean view, the air and for some the architectural spectacle have transformed the area into a huge outdoor gym rimmed by multimillion-dollar homes.

In the last six months, park rangers, dispatched by the Santa Monica Police Department in response to complaining neighbors, have stationed themselves on the corner of Fourth Street and Adelaide Drive during much of the day, at the ready to break up any unauthorized kickboxing. “I agree with the residents that they should not be rousted out of bed by a professional gym instructor at 6 in the morning saying, ‘One, two, three, four!’ ” said Bobby Shriver, a Santa Monica city councilman (“Recently re-elected with an even greater margin than I won by last time!”), who lives on Adelaide Drive but says he did not request the enforcement.

Since the patrols began, the city has issued eight citations for the flouting of the median law — the fine is $158 — and has given warnings, which are generally heeded, to about 600 people a month.