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Shall I attack thee on a summer's day?

April 12, 2000

Hi all,

I have come up with this new concept which, I think, should be introduced immediately in the Boston Symphony Hall. The basic scheme is that, using a majority vote, a set of people can launch somebody else out of his or her seat. To achieve this, every seat should be equipped with a set of buttons using which a person can cast a vote against a certain other person. When the number of votes against one person reaches a certain threshold, then the seat under him/her disappears in a hole in the ground taking the culprit with it. The purpose behind all of this is to make sure that people who cough too much, sigh too loud, flip the pages of the booklet too aggressively or pick their nose get removed from the concert hall. I call this "Ditched by Democracy." and I have filed a patent at the US Patent Office. The same should be done in airplanes, although the consequences of being ditched are more severe. It might actually be tough to get that patented, but I'll sue them if they don't let me.

I am really stunned. I have gone to three concerts by now and every time there were at least 3 or 4 obnoxious people around me who would just ruin my pleasure. It was clear that I was not the only one who was thinking about severe punishments. I think it is an evil, perverse conspiracy. The same conspiracy that made it snow on Sunday while I got sunburnt on Saturday.

I was at a party last weekend. It was a so-called "Blue Party". Lights were blue, drinks were blue and everybody had to wear blue clothes. Apart from that, there were a few other remarkable things going on. The first thing to struck me as utterly exceptional was the sheer amount and type of women. Especially the type, but let me not elaborate on that. A friend of mine had a very simple explanation for this phenomenon: "this is a HBS party (Harvard Business School). All of these guys will be millionaires in a few years. That attracts a certain type of women." But I wasn't going to elaborate on that. Most people tried to get drunk as fast as they could, probably in a desperate attempt to forget where they were. One lady, for example, started undressing men. Not all the way, but enough to provoke extreme (positive) reactions from these men (and the crowd around them).

Besides of being interesting from a social point of view, it was exceedingly boring. A friend of mine compared it to going to a forest: you don't know anybody when you come in and you don't when you leave. It took me minutes to recover from that remark.

My research. To attack or not to attack? Shall I attack thee on a summer's day? An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, an attack for an attack. The best defense is an attack. On the 7th day, God couldn't do a thing because he was under a severe Denial-of-Service attack. (Years later He came up with this brilliant excuse that He only took a break and even forced us to do the same. THAT is organized Denial-of-Service on a large scale.) My life revolves around attacks. I have had some discussions around here about my idea. Basically it comes down to the philosophical question: "Is it a better defense to build a thick wall around yourself or to build a thick wall around the attacker?" I say it's the latter (i.e. isolate the attacker), but most people don't, partially because it's much harder to FIND the attacker than simply isolate yourself. I will just try to build both walls.

While trying to solve this, the basic problem is the following: whatever mechanism we come up with to defend the world against Denial-of-Service attacks, how do we make sure the mechanism itself is protected against Denial-of-Service attacks? It's the snake biting its own tail. It's Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem laughing at you right in your face. It's that drawing of Escher where 2 hands are drawing themselves. It's killing Bach by throwing a harpsichord at him. It's me getting crazy. The horrid answer is: you can't. You can not add a new mechanism that can not be exploited in some evil way by the bad guys. In other words: everything you add is a new tool for the bad guys to be bad with. It's like having a rope in your house in case you have to strap your kid to the ceiling when it's being naughty. The mere fact that the rope is in your house enables your kid to strap YOU to the toilet when you least expect it. This strapped-to-the-toilet thing is my sad conclusion of 2 months of extensive scientific research. It's too early to give up, though. One possible solution that I am now exploring is using (some would call it abusing) existing protocols and software to IMPLICITLY send signals between computers, thereby INFERRING the state of the other end of the connection. In human consumable terms: when you call your mother and she doesn't pick up the phone, you can infer a few things from that. She can't hear the phone, she doesn't want to pick up the phone, she can't pick up the phone, her phone is broken, she's out, the PTT is messing up, your phone is broken or you have dialed the wrong number. Half of these problems can be eliminated by: using another phone, calling at a time when you KNOW she has to be there, etc. By using simple techniques and some interpreting, you can get to know a whole lot of things. The funny aspect about this example is that it is very close to what I am actually doing. My mother is usually at home when I call her, though.

I have some bad news.

What some people feared, others hoped, some predicted and what I flatly denied a few e-mails ago WILL happen: I'm going to stay here a little longer. Don't dig my grave yet, though. I'm coming back to Amsterdam in September 2000. I will graduate and hop on the airplane back to Boston. I will probably go back to the US in December 2000 or January 2001 depending on how fast I can graduate and some other things I need to take care of in Amsterdam.

There is good news, too.

If all of this is really going to happen then I will come back to the Netherlands once per month for a few days. For some of you that means I will see you as often as usual, for others it means that I will see you less, but I WILL see you. You can't get rid of me THAT easy. The whole point of me flying back and forth is to see family and friends and to remind myself that I do not wish to live in the US, because I really don't.

There is more good news: I'll be back after no more than 1-2 years. Promised. I can hear some people think: "yeah, yeah... sure..."

The reason for all of this is that I'm going to co-found a company with three other guys. Very exciting. I see it as a relatively risk-free way of improving my résumé, gaining experience in getting a company off the ground, being involved with an exciting adventure, being intellectually challenged to the point of pain and, last but not least, trying to get a ride on the craziness that is currently ruling the market. Spell I-n-t-e-r-n-e-t and the way the world sees you changes to the point of financial absurdity. Welcome to America.

A few days ago I gave a party. It was a so-called "Pancake Party". Lights were pancake, drinks were pancake and everybody had to wear pancake clothes. No, I'm kidding. I invited some friends over to let them eat Dutch pancakes. Americans call them "crap", but what they mean is "crêpes" (which is French and tastes less like shit). American pancakes are different from Dutch ones; I make them every Sunday morning for my roommates. They are smaller, more fluffy and are to be stacked on top of each other (the pancakes, not the roommates). They should be eaten with maple syrup which, I was told, drops from trees.

Out-of-interesting-topics error.

Bye,

Thomer

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