Ventura after the rain

Today was one of those days that reminds us of why we put up with the expense of living on the California coast. There's nothing quite like Ventura on a blustery day after a spring rain.

Leaving America?

During the 2004 election, I was a graduate student in history, and I was amazed at the level of hysteria I found among my colleagues, both faculty and students, surrounding the re-election of George W. Bush (of whom I am no fan). Several people I knew, who were highly knowledgeable about history and who should have known better, made grumbling remarks about moving to Canada (a nation of which I am quite fond). I said at the time that this nation has survived wars, depressions, assassinations, and the presidencies of Franklin Pierce, Warren G. Harding, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter, and that if you have so little faith in our society, people, and government as to abandon it because you don't like the results of an election, then I for one welcome your departure and would like to encourage you in your emigration.

Something similar applies here. If you have so little faith in our nation that you would seek greener pastures in Third World nations and elsewhere because of fear, loathing, and what appears to me to be an unjustified panic, then please do so. You see, my part of the country, California, is getting kinda crowded because of all the people from around the world who want to come live here, and we could use the extra space. Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.

-—My comment on Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con blog at

Commuting photo

Commuting home on a Friday in SoCal can actually be quite nice, as long as you know the right back roads to take…

Another kind of identity theft

When you say "identity theft," most people will immediately associate to the theft of Social Security numbers, bank accounts, credit histories, and other mostly financial items. But in the age of the Internet, one's identity is also tied up in Facebook profiles, domain names, email accounts, Twitter handles, and the like. What would happen if a domain registrar stopped responding to your communications? What if you no longer had control over your Google account, your MySpace page, or your personally registered domain--the very items that make up your Web identity?

These aren't just idle questions, and over the past few years there has been a growing movement to redefine how Internet identity is handled and how you control access to it.  Groups such as Identity Commons and OASIS have been at the forefront of establishing new and open standards for web identity, the purpose being to ensure individuals' personal control of their identities.  To this end, a few years back, there was a minor sensation surrounding something called an "i-name."

To make a long story short, i-names (read the link for more) were supposed to be a way to pursue the goal of improved control of personal identity on the web, with some interesting features. Most of the supposed benefits of the new technology have yet to materialize, but there were two nice things that i-names provided almost from the start.  First, i-name providers made a fairly spam-proof web contact form available to all i-name holders, making it possible to put a contact link on a web page without it becoming a spam conduit. Second, they provided a basic web forwarding service, so that even the technically challenged could set up easy-to-remember web links that were persistent and completely controllable.

The price was reasonable, so I signed up with, the original i-name broker and, as far as I know, the largest.  It's been of minor utility, but worth the small annual fee involved to reserve my preferred name (plus a few variations) in what might end up as a significant technology down the road.  It's also been pretty much stress-free. It's there, I use it occasionally, and don't have to think about it when I'm not using it. Until recently. I knew it was almost renewal time, so I logged on to check my renewal date. Sure enough, there it was:


Just as I expected, my renewal was coming up.  It very helpfully directed me to the renewal page, so I proceeded.


I was stunned to find that while my i-names were nearing expiration, renewal was "not available at this time."

Huh? This made no sense, so I dug around some and found that had not allowed registration in at least a month, perhaps longer for all I knew. This was weird. I went to the front page, where the founders of 2idi, Victor Grey and Fen Labalme, have their contact links displayed:


I had corresponded with Victor before about a minor glitch, so I clicked his link and sent him a message through his 2idi contact page. No response. Nothing. Okayyyyy… After a couple of days, I did a quick search and found what I assumed was his 2idi corporate email address on Alexa:


I fired off a quick email, the old-fashioned kind.

Still no response.

Feeling somewhat irritated, I decided to switch gears and try to contact Fen Labalme, the other principal listed on the site.  I sent him a message through his 2idi contact page (I know the contact mechanism is working because I received a couple of messages through mine recently).

After a couple of days, no response.

Now feeling very irritated, I thought of calling the phone number given on the Alexa page above. But first, for the hell of it, I dug up the address for Neustar, the company that runs the XRI registry that oversees i-brokers such as 2idi. com. I found a link to the email address of their i-broker support group, and fired off an email to them asking what recourse registrants such as myself have when their broker seemingly ceases to function. I didn't expect much, but a day or so later I got an email saying they were attempting to contact the responsible parties.

That was a couple weeks ago.  So far, I've heard nothing.

Finally, I tried calling 2idi's phone number, and left a voice mail.  It has been a couple of days now, and I don't know if I'll get a call back or not. But there is one thing that I do know.

I know that when you are trying to promote a new technology, especially one that does not natively interact with the prevailing one (i.e., the DNS system), you had better make a very compelling case for it, and you had better get the early adopters on your side--and once you get them, you had bloody well better make sure they're happy, because nobody, and I mean nobody, is chomping at the bit hoping for something to take off that produces strings like*department.  It may make sense when you know the syntax, but it looks like freaking algebra, and the whole point is not to complicate but to simplify. Although, it must be said, such a string will resolve to an "i-number" that looks something like this:


Oh, yeah. That's much better. Lord, have mercy…

So now, when what the identity activists need is something compelling, something simple that just works, something that makes your life easier, what they've got instead is something cryptic that is so broken that the major provider of the service is dysfunctional and not responding to requests from new and existing customers who are trying to give them money in order to do business with them.

And this leads me to my next point. In the matter of identity, trust is everything. The entire point of a technology built on the concept of identity is that it can be trusted. When the oldest and largest purveyor of that technology effectively ceases to operate in any normal fashion, that trust has been irrevocably shattered, and the path to widespread adoption has suddenly become much steeper and rockier, so much so that continuing along the same path is probably pointless.

I, for one, have decided to stop trying. I own several domain names, I have a blog, I have a tumblelog, I have accounts on Twitter and Facebook and the like. It's hard for me to see what significant benefit I'm going to derive from continuing to pursue this matter, particularly when my domains are all less expensive and much more useful. I don't mind supporting new technologies that might be beneficial down the road, but there's a limit, and that limit has now been reached.

I-names are dead.

(If anyone from or the XRI community would like to respond, I welcome  your comments and will publish them in their entirety. However, given my experience to date, I eagerly await what I fully expect will be an echoing silence.)

Update 2009-03-13: A message sent to Drummond Reed, co-chair of the OASIS XRI and XDI technical committees, shortly after this was posted produced a reply last night via email. Mr. Reed said that the relevant authorities were "well aware" of the situation, that it involved "a change of business direction" for 2idi, that they were within "a few days" of a resolution, and that he had cc'd Victor Grey and Fen Labalme so that I could be sure they received the email and to give them an opportunity to respond to me directly.  To his great credit, he further specified that "it has been suggested to Victor and Fen by many of us that remaining silent to their own customers is not, as you mention, the best way to engender trust."  I should think that would be self-evident, but at least there is someone reinforcing that point.

Also, in the wake of Mr. Reed's email, a follow-up email to Neustar's support people generated a response, in which it was suggested that Neustar could be of help in transferring my i-names to another registrar.  I appreciate the thought, but at this point it seems most prudent to wait and see what develops in the next few days.

Also, for the record, neither Mr. Grey nor Mr. Labalme have yet responded, either directly or indirectly.

Commute photo

All in all, not a bad view to have on my Friday commute home.

Declaring Facebook bankruptcy

In 2004, Internet legal eagle Lawrence Lessig hit upon a novel means of dealing with an increasingly unmanageable email load. He declared “email bankruptcy,” letting his correspondents know that he was becoming buried under a load of messages in his inbox, and that if something was truly pressing they should resend it, as he was going to delete all unread messages in order to get some breathing room.

I know the feeling. I'm pretty good at keeping my inbox clean, but since my wife's mother fell and was hospitalized at the beginning of February, my wife and I have been kept busier than ever seeing to her needs, and as a result I've been slowly accumulating a variety of “requests” in my Facebook account. Anyone who's been on Facebook knows what I'm talking about—“Kidnap” requests, Starbucks requests, snowball fight requests, etc. Unfortunately, my online time has been more limited than usual, and quite honestly when I do get the time I'm more likely to want to spend it working in my own garden (i.e., my own homepage/blog) rather than in someone else's (such as Facebook). After all, I own what's on my own page, whereas Facebook is increasingly asserting control over whatever is uploaded to their servers. This is not to say there's anything wrong with spending time on Facebook if you enjoy it, but when time runs short, there are decisions to be made.

Therefore, I'm declaring “Facebook bankruptcy.” I apologize in advance to anyone who feels slighted by this, but there's simply no way I'm going to have the time to answer all the various requests that have been accumulating. You're all wonderful people, and I like you, but my time is in short supply right now (he said, looking at the pile of unwashed laundry) . I'm sure you know how it is.

Furthermore, I'm going to be taking a little break from Facebook, starting now and lasting until Pascha (Orthodox Easter), on April 19. As we enter the period of Great Lent (which starts a week from today), it's appropriate to take a step back from one's usual activities to focus on other matters, and I intend to do just that to the extent that I can. I'll also be reducing my activity on my own blog and on Twitter. Just letting you know—it's nothing personal. I am, of course, always available via email, and if you're a friend you have the relevant address.

Meanwhile, I wish all of you the very best, and a blessed Lent for my Christian friends. I'll see you in April—and you're all cordially invited to join me at the midnight Pascha service at St. Herman's Orthodox Church in Oxnard, California. :-

Trying something new

I've realized that while I may not have the time to sit down and write a long blog post too often, I am constantly posting stuff through Twitter and the like, and it would be nice to aggregate it all together.

So, I'm going to experiment with a "tumblelog" for a while. I'm not sure if or when it will become my main blog, but it's a lot more likely to have actual content. You can find it at Currently up: a really cool example of 21st century East German television. Yes, you read that right. Go check it out.

In a world where the Berlin Wall never fell

I love counterfactuals, and here's an example of why. What if East Germany still existed? What would 21st century GDR television look like? Here's one man's take on how the German Democratic Republic (in German, Deutsche Demokratische Republik or DDR ) would start its broadcast day, and it's astonishingly well done. Be sure to watch for the historical montage at the end, with Walter Ulbricht, the raising of the GDR flag, and the World Clock and TV tower from the Alexanderplatz. Frighteningly good stuff.

(And, before anyone gets upset, I'm not trying to glorify East Germany. Yes, I know the GDR was a brutal Communist dictatorship. I know that well--not only am I a trained historian, I saw the GDR with my own two eyes in the 1980s. None of which takes away from the fact that the person who did this video did one hell of a job.)

Closing the file

Wow, looks like it's been kind of quiet around here. Lots going on, and where have I been? Oh, around, here and there, dealing with life and watching as our once-vaunted economy slides into a morass of depression that no amount of Prozac is going to fix. You'd think I'd be chomping at the bit to get my thoughts down.

You'd think that, and you'd be wrong. For whatever reason, I just haven't felt like writing much in the last month or so. Maybe it's post-holiday letdown, or maybe it's just that I feel like it's time to slow down and decompress. We had a hard-fought election campaign, and now that our new President is in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue I feel no small sense of relief. The world isn't any kinder, and our economy isn't any sounder, and maybe I'm just being naïve, but I'm confident in our new President. He's a bright man, and I hope he succeeds. For the sake of all of us, he needs to.

We've seen lots of changes happen in the last few months, as anyone with a 401(k) can tell you. I've survived layoffs at work, a tanking retirement plan, and I'm watching as the unemployment rate begins to skyrocket. There's talk that deflation may be happening, and I'm enough of a history buff that I read the newspapers, magazines and blogs and think hard about the 1930s. I'm grateful that my monthly gasoline bill is down below $300 for the first time in ages, but I'm nervous about what might happen with our monthly income. There are no guarantees, and like everyone else, I'm starting to wonder what the future holds. When I was a kid, I remember what it was like to climb to the top of the slide at Conejo Community Park and look down that long expanse of metal. Now, at 43, I'm looking down a long slide of a different kind, and I can't see the bottom, which is scary. I just hope I don't have to ride it all the way down. Or at all.

But change happens, and all you can do is roll with it. This is a long-winded way of coming around to my main point, which is this: I'm shutting down the blog. More precisely, I'm renaming it, refocusing it, and moving it to new quarters. “The Lazarus File” was an echo of an online re-branding that was perhaps less well thought-out than it should have been, and it's become fairly obvious that it's time for change here as well. I've already moved my homepage and reassumed my old Twitter and Jaiku handles, and this blog was the last thing left on my list. It's time to go.

So come over and take a look at my new blog, which you'll find at <span></span> (see update below!). I'm not yet sure what the title of the blog will be; nothing quite as good as “The Lazarus File” has come to mind. But I'll think of something, and I'm open to ideas if you have any.

And now, The Lazarus File is hereby closed.

Update (2009-02-24): My blog, called The Larry Channel, can now be found at

New Beginnings

Hi. If you've never been here before, welcome. If you've followed a link from my old blog that led you here, welcome back. This is the latest iteration of my somewhat neglected blog.

You're probably wondering why I've gone to all the trouble. The answer is simple: geekiness. I'm a hopeless geek. If there's something new and different, I have to try it, and I have to try it in all possible forms. Basically, I'm never happy with the finished product, so I keep looking for ways to improve it.

The last time I tried to improve it, I hit on the idea of re-branding my online persona, using the baptismal name I was given when I was baptized and chrismated into the Orthodox Church. Since Larry Anderson is a fairly common name, and Lazarus Anderson is not, this seemed like a stroke of brilliance to me, at least initially. As time wore on, however, it became obvious that there were a few problems with it.

First, outside of my priest and a few people at my parish, nobody (and I mean nobody) calls me Lazarus or knows me by that name. This means that I was forever explaining to people why I was writing under a name that most of the world regards as not my own (even though, technically, it is). While the notion of a nom de plume is a fairly common one in the literary world, it doesn't work so well in the world of the Internet, where people look for names they know, unless you're looking for anonymity*and then, one's real identity usually emerges anyway. Just ask Fake Steve Jobs.

Second, it's long. Using lazarusanderson as a Twitter handle sounds fine until you've tried to type it in using the keypad on a Razr. I've always wished for a shorter name, and that ain't it.

Third, it fairly screams Biblical. If I were writing about exclusively Christian themes, it would make sense, but I'm not, and as time passes I find myself less interested in writing about Christianity and Orthodoxy than I am in writing about technology and the web. This is probably because I am painfully aware of how little I truly know, and I don't feel I should be presenting myself as some great Orthodox sage when in reality I am struggling along just like everyone else. I am not an expert. If you want to know about Christianity, read the Bible, or the Philokalia, or Fr. Alexander Schmemann, or Jaroslav Pelikan. Or better yet, go to a church and experience it firsthand. Anything I could write would pale in comparison.

On the other hand, Larand has been kind of a trademark for me for a very long time, as anyone who knew me during my McDonald's career can attest. For the abbreviation-challenged, it combines the first three letters of Larry with the first three letters of Anderson, and it's nicely compact and easy to type on practically anything. Hence my Twitter handle, larand, and the address of this blog:

So, it's back to square one. I'm Larry Anderson, and this is my blog. While nothing is set in stone, I plan to stick around here for a while. You can also find me at my homepage, which as of now is Thanks for visiting.