A Tiny Rant on Mail

Mail is broken. This is nothing new. RFC 822, after all, wasn’t the beginning of Internet e-mail, merely an attempt to fix it, which admittedly worked reasonably well for a while. But even with all the brokenness of mail, I wasn’t expecting to dig into my Postfix logs today to find that USENIX couldn’t send me mail because the firm they’ve outsourced to was too lazy to create IN PTR records for their nodes in the cloud.

Weihnachtsstollen (nach Memphiser Art)


In the back of the pantry at the house I grew up in in Memphis, there was always a stack of little plastic tubs of dried candied “fruits” of various colors (I say “colors” because the flavor was invariably “sugar”). My mother was never much of a baker, except at Christmas, when the baking would take two forms: fruitcake and stollen, both of which were filled with candied fruit. I’d try Mom’s fruitcake, the main ingredient of which seemed to be brandy, about once every five years to see if I was finally old enough to enjoy it. I never quite made it.

Stollen, on the other hand, was the main course of most breakfasts around Christmas. This was a bit odd in Memphis, doubly so because we didn’t have any particularly German ancestors; Mom just saw the recipe in a magazine sometime in the late 70s or early 80s and decided to make a tradition out of it. So I was thrilled when I moved to Switzerland and found out you could buy stollen in the grocery store at Christmastime. Almost as thrilled as I was disappointed when I found out that “real” Stollen is basically a marzipan delivery system.

On Repeatable Internet Measurement: Part One

I spent quite a lot of time in 2014 thinking about the following problem: if I hand you a paper that claims something about the Internet, based on data I cannot show you because I am bound by a nondisclosure agreement due to corporate confidentiality or user privacy issues, generated by code which is ostensibly available under an open-source license but which is neither intended to run outside my environment, nor tested to ensure it will produce correct results in all cases, nor maintained to ensure it is compatible with newer versions of the compiler, interpreter, or libraries it requires, what reason have I given you to believe what I say?

A Degenerate Binary Tree

A Degenerate Binary Tree

Shamelessly inspired by Alexander Calder, who I followed from Atlanta to Pittsburgh to Zürich, and inexpertly crafted from stuff I found at Migros, I present my first attempt at a mobile.

(And for those of you who have not yet heard, yes, this commission has a customer: we’re expecting a daughter in a few weeks. We won’t be boring the Internet at large with piles of baby pictures, though.)

The Measure of a State

This is going to make me sound somewhat more libertarian than I actually am, but here goes:

The most important duty of a state is its effective control over and responsible application of the monopoly on violence, delegated to it by its citizens, in the service of the protection of its citizens, and the protection of all people present within its territory.

All the other trappings of statehood — a currency, a post office, universal healthcare, the name of your state on a placard at the UN General Assembly, some transportation infrastructure of some sort, passports, some stamps you can apply to passports issued by other states, a national Olympic team and/or Eurovision Song Contest entry (as appropriate), a flag — are nice to have, but not really essential.

d’Schwiiz inerem Schiffli: Pfäffikersee

Lake Pfäffikon

So it hasn’t been all work: the weather (though it’s tragic today) has cooperated with my calendar on occasion, and I’ve had a few chances to throw the boat on the water. So this begins what I home will become an occasional series on paddling around Switzerland with a sea kayak.

The weekend before last, I decided to try out the Pfäffikersee (“Lake Pfäffikon”, though the lake isn’t really big enough to warrant a translation). At 2500m x 1200m, it’s possible to do a full roundtrip around the lake in about an hour without pushing too hard.

A quick introduction to IPFIX

I recently gave a full-day course on flow measurement at the University of Zürich’s IfI summer school. The course itself was more or less a stack of my current research interests stapled together; one product was a nice summary version of a tutorial on the IPFIX protocol (on which I’ve worked on and off for the past nine years), together with an iPython notebook on the subject. Slides are here, and the notebook is here.

Joining the IAB

Well, it’s official. I’ll be joining the Internet Architecture Board for a two-year term starting at IETF 89 in March. Among other things, the IAB provides architectural oversight of IETF protocols, which are surprisingly coherent given the nearly perfectly bottom-up nature of the process that produces them. I look forward to the challenge in meta-cat-herding.

On Vandalist Politics

Putting aside the discomfort of being an immigrant in a mildly xenophobic land, and the hypothetical ballistic solution to Switzerland’s _furr’ner_ problem, I’ll add my voice to the growing chorus of confusion and ask what, in reality, just happened. So here, translated into English, is the new Article 121a of the Constitution of the Swiss Confederation:

Article 121a Immigration Control

  1. Switzerland controls immigration independently.
  2. The number of residence permits for foreigners in Switzerland is limited by annual quota and a maximum limit. The maximum limit applies to asylum-seekers as well. The right to settlement, family union, and access to social services are subject to limitation.
  3. Quotas are to be defined to the advantage of Swiss citizens in the economic interest of Switzerland. Cross-border commuters are covered as well. The application of an employer, level of integration in Swiss society, and financial independence are especially influential criteria [in the decision to grant a residence permit].
  4. No treaty may be signed in opposition to this article.
  5. The details are a matter of law.

121(a)2 and 121(a)3 define the high-level framework for immigration control. For countries that do limit immigration, the arrangement here is not particularly controversial. “Limitation of social services” would be a dog-whistle to the right wing, were it not being shouted through a megaphone, and is predicated on the assumption1 that migrants come into the country for the welfare. But otherwise, so far, so good.

Insel Schweiz

In order to outline a more effective defense against Ausländer than the Masseneinwanderungsinitiative can provide, and with a deferential nod to Randall Munroe, I decided to do some back of the napkin estimates of what it would take to make Switzerland a literal island. tl;dr: it’s probably not worth it.