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Monday, November 29, 2004

Korea - any soul?

Arrived at 5pm in the swanky new Incheon airport – a new addition after the 1988 Olympics, in fact only a few years old. Gimpo is the Olympic airport – now used for Japan flights – same time zone, 90 minute flight to Tokyo.

Odd country – in the sense that there seems to be the enormous urban sprawl (upwards – 25 storey tower blocks everywhere, the famous MTUs full of broadband). Not likely to see the country during this trip – yet it’s the size of England with a population of 58 million.

Drove for 90 minutes through massive concrete jungle – me passed out on the back seat, my driver stuck in this megalopolis’ evening rush-hour. It’s like a mixture of Manhattan and Bangkok – the latter for the exotic people, food and script on the neon, the former for the concrete canyons. In the shopping malls, saw a ‘live’ computer gaming tournament – filmed in front of an audience of 200, for a satellite TV channel. Two professional players opposite each other wearing headphones, the audience watching the screens above their heads, the audience at home watching the same. Me? I just watched the audience watching the screens – very Derrida-like, post-post-post-modern…

We walked out after dinner – Marcel, Phil and our hosts – in the chilly evening, with a full moon. Our hostess got very red-faced from her allergy to beer, but insisted on drinking with us. East Asians don’t have the important enzymes to make beer metabolise – but still the sararimen drink like fishes.

Now it’s 4.30 – fell sleep at 12, woke at 3.30. It’s going to be ‘Lost in Translation’ today – it’s still only 7.30 pm UK time. As I’m not on til 2.25, and we’re not meeting til 12.40, maybe I’ll get breakfast at 6am, then sleep until 11. It’d be nice to go swimming too – very nice pool here at the Grand Intercontinental.

This is the World Trade Center – we might not see Korea at all in the next 30 hours. It’s massive and about 10 years old – less building since the 1998 crash apparently, but not much less. Phil’s on the 29th floor, me on the 7th – but the hotel must be 40 floors high. It reminds me of Stalin’s culture palace in Warsaw, so inappropriate and massive a symbol of a different and imposed culture – in Stalin’s case, Asian dictatorship and megalomania, in Korea’s case the capitalism of Manhattan that has been successfully grafted onto Asia.

Question: do they play online gaes because there’s nowhere to play outside? I saw some ‘golf courses’ that looked like driving ranges with greens – yet they lead the world in golf. I saw no nature, lots of chemical plants and mud flats on the flight in perfect visibility in the late afternoon, such a contrast with the emptiness of Siberia and Mongolia for hour after hour. The south and east have nature, apparently – next visit. It can’t all be as soulless as Seoul…

Absolutely shattered after sleeping 12midnight-3.30am, and then from 10.30 til 12. In between, swam, lifted weights including fabby love-handle vibration machine, and shanked a few golf shots.

Now at conference – fast approaching 6pm (9am UK) and Mr Sandman is playing on my eyelids. The conference finishes at 6.45 and then I’m being collected for dinner with Professor Kang’s students.

It’s been interesting – both for fellow speakers from Europe and Japan, but also for the Korean dialogue between government, CSOs and industry – they all distrust each other and govt is trying to impose a form of regulation, while continuing to call it ‘self-regulation’. But that’s a constant battle, especially in East Asia – Korea is a puddle of democracy in an ocean of authoritarianism – gvt renationalised ccTLD recently!

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Stade de France: All Blacks were 'extra-terrestrials'

According to the French team - frightening. From only 12-6 after 39 minutes, les Noirs scored 26 points in less than 20 minutes and looked like they could get 60 - it was France's third-worst ever defeat - and the coach said they werre his best players and gave everything they had...

Hard Day's Night: Paris and Korea

Off to Paris for a 22 hour road trip yesterday into today - for rugby - then off to Korea tonight for the Kinternet conference.

Just realised I need the 1830 bus - and Korea is 10 hours ahead so that I get on the plane at 7am local time. BUT I have the cunning plan to stay on Uk time for the next 3 days to avoid jetlag. Only problems are...

First, I left home 8.30 yesterday morning, to pick up Adam and drive to Claphma. 10am parked, met Wayne and Rob - our Kiwi contingent - and headed for Dover. Got there 11.45, got the 1pm ferry to Calais - arrived there 3.30 after a couple of beers on board. Rob and Wayne were All-Blacked up, Adam had an FFR jersey with le cog d'or shimmering proudly. (As he's just got very fit and played second row (!) for the Prison midweek, it's a less tight fit than previously).

So got to Paris and parked 6.30, into St Michel for a nice (slightly overpriced but that's St Michel) dinner - very good cheese and fois gras, good entree, very pleasant carafe of vin rouge. back for the game - and what a stadium! The 2012 Olympics must be at Stae de France - it's space age, clean lines, sensational spaces and views. I took a video of it all - whistling crowd, pissed-up Kiwis and a hammering for 'les bleus' by 45-6. 'Allez les noirs' might be an outside bet for 2007 - the French looked old, knackered and end-of-season - when they're starting and les Noirs should look like that. Jerry Collins was sensational.

Then back to Calais, into 'Eastenders' traditional aircraft hanger bordega, some Budvar and good wine, and on to the ferry. Got back to London 5.15, dropped Rob at St Pancras (got stopped for turning right against the traffic signal, Adam threatened to pull out his prison service ID if the cops annoyed us), and back to Oxford 7am.

So slept 4 hours til 11am - or 9pm Korean time. The next 2 days are going to be hard!!!

Raving Punter

Monday went to Argos to buy a few small things - came away with a £25 DVD player (all formats except DivX), a £45 DTT box from Echostar, 2 lava lamps for the kids, some more weights (temple of the mind etc.) and odds and sods.

The DTT box was difficult to install - firstly all the SCART leads, then it only programmed radio channels, then I got Beeb but no ITV/C4, then I got a new aerial out of the cupboard Tuesday and got a few more channels, finally got all channels, but it keeps breaking up and going to Audio Only. I find I only want to watch Sky Sports News and UK History - and for analogue channels prefer the reliable analogue signal via the video!

This DTT is only going to fly if they can boost the signal and that means switching off analogue - apparently by 2012, but maybe region by region?

I am a raving punter - after the flush of success from MOTing la Poderosa, I then got an upgraded phone to a megapixel camera - so expect more photos on the blog - except they will end up delivering when I'm in Korea (see above!). The Koreans have 3G and a 5.3Megapixel camera - ridiculous how far ahead they are. We'll see this week!

Spectrum refarming - EU Conferences chair

Wednesday and Thursday I was in London, attending the Spectrum Liberalisation and Trading Conference - kind of crowd where they say 'orthogonal' rather than 'tangental'.

It seems the big political decision over analogue TV 'digital dividend' is all-important for various uses - HDTV, DVB-H mobile TV, new digital muxes (see Raving Punter above), WiMAX etc.

Lots of cynicism regarding spectrum commons offset by a very bright DARPA project in software-defined radio that hops about from 30MHz to 3GHz looking for spare channels - a killer app? What do they know, they only created the Internet...

Anyway, possible head of steam behind an Oxford conference on digital dividends - I wonder if Intel and Nokia might be interested? Hoping to see Nokia in Helsinki in 2 weeks.

Saw Peter Crowther and Martin Cave - doyens of competition policy. Also there was John Higgins of Intellect UK, trade body for FEI, who is interested in some work on creative digital media business plans. Discussed it with Ian Brown - unusually quiet and I convinced him that, like me, he gets SAD in winter. Who doesn't?

Also saw Stanhope again in preparation for my Chinese day out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Napkins and Reichstag continued...

On Saturday morning, I stayed in couch (not bed, I was in a sleeping bag on Ralf's couch, more comfortable than it sounds, but not much:-). Then had lunch with Andreas Grunwald, old friend from our electronic journal IJCLP - who's just done a Council of Europe report on digital TV last year. Sounds like he found the group members as abtuse and old-fashioned as I did 5 years ago!

Anyway, three important items:
[1] Bernd Holznagel is on the road to recovery after his bypass op, coma, China hospital and low-altitude military flight - stories he can't tell because he was asleep - thankfully he's back to his old self mentally if not yet physically;
[2] Andreas gets married next year, his girlfriend was at PCMLP in 2002, and she works for Shroeder in the Reichscancellerie - so she could have let us in the Reichstag Friday also!
[3] Andreas will see the Munster crowd next month - told him to say hi and I'll be there next June - in sh'allah!

Napkins - last night Peter and Markus wrote the future of the Internet on a napkin in the restaurant - wonder if we can scan it for the web??? Not Starbucks, of course...

Starbucks Berlin and the Reichstag

Jeannette Hoffman reminds me that she still has the 'Starbucks ICT Memorial Napkin'.

This commemorates our bunking off the afternoon session of the UN ICT on Friday, to go sightseeing. It had smowed overnight, and the sky was a perfect blue Arctic dome - so we took off in the cold wind to walk Unter Den Linden towards the Reichstag. It being Friday afternoon, there was a big queue and we couldn't get in, so we used Starbucks to warm up as the sun set behind the Brandendurger Tor, and Jeanette counted the official cars for the Armenian president - 32 jet dark blue BMWs and Mercs.

When we got back to the Foreign Ministry, Oliver met us and said he would have let us in - Jeanette thought he'd taken off for the day. He told us they've reconstructed part of the Wall in the office building for Reichstag members - nostalgia gone crazy.

Apparently they only recreated the wall, not the guard towers, minefields etc...

Future travels

Note to self - slow down!

So Paris 27-28th November - riigbyyy!! See the All Blacks get crushed by les Blues (Argentina was a moment of lost concentration). Booze cruise city!

Soeul 29th-1st December - Korean ISPA - should be a lot of interesting events around that.

Chinese state regulators 8th-13th December - at London and Oxford

Tallinn - 14th December - Centre for Democracy and Technology

Helsinki - 15th December - Nokia Foresight

Barcelona - 30th December - neuvo ano!

Staying in Berlin

So I stayed with the extremely generous Ralf, who runs this:

Also there was Rik Panganiban, from CONGO (Conference of NGOs) in New York - talks a lot of sense and really gets civil society moving. he recognises the need for ever-greater inclusion, but also for substantive and procedural changes to make civil society punch above its weight in UN processes.

Good dinner Friday night with Markus Kummer - for the sake of completeness, I'll say that many WGIGs were there: Markus Kummer, Art O'Reilly, Peter from Siemens, Aysha from IIC, Vittorio Bertola, Avril, Bill Drake and his terrifically grounded wife and hangers-on including me, Bertrand de la Chapelle, Jeanette Hoffman (who runs the IG caucus). There was lots of Rubix cube matrixing going on, and lots of spam talk at my end of the table.

Friday and then Saturday over a beer at Heathrow met Denis Gilhooly - we're old friends from various places including Harvard 99-00, and we put the world to rights once more. Denis has stayed creative and relatively sane despite the lunacy of the process - he's one of the very few original thinkers, as well as shaking and moving!

Hope to see them all in Dublin! It was slightly sad not being able to stay more involved in the future - but my future is with Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and China - substantively about telecom regulation, the heavy lifting.

United Nations ICT Berlin meeting

Back from Berlin, where I attended the UN ICT taskforce global forum. It'a strange experience attending a UN meeting - lots of civility but almost no content at all.

They did agree three things: [1] to set up a Global Alliance to replace UN ICT next year, not least because some claim it might be perilously close to the $500,000 minimum funding left in the coffers; [2] to meet in Dublin in April to discuss education, with new Vice-Chairs (see funding gap) Brendan Tuohy of the Irish government and Art O'Reilly from Cisco; [3] to feed into the WSIS process, on Internet governance and funding mechanisms.

But there was no real movement on the two key issues; [1] a Digital Solidarity fund - which was buried under the table; [2] real empirical work on seeing how ICTs do aid development - and whether they really contribute to the NIEO-style top-down Millenium Development Goals.

So lots of talk and not much action, but the networking around the event was fun...more below!

About the blog

I travel far too much dealing with Internet governance issues, telecom regulation or just plain visiting friends. This is a selection of off-the-top-of-my-head postings...

July 2004 - last night of the summer school in Oxford - yours truly in contemplative mode... Posted by Hello

Berlin 2002 - Lena pointing out where she took the spire off the kirche Posted by Hello

February 2004 - Ivan, Nick, Star and Lauren - my last night as a resident in Barcelona Posted by Hello

June 2003 - gorilla in the mist Posted by Hello

Rusechlikon June 2003 - Lauren Hall from Microsoft has found a knife sticking out of my back - left there by the fashion police Posted by Hello

May 2004 - INET Barcelona - collecting a T-shirt for Dimitri Ylsilanti - the nightlife has caught up with me already Posted by Hello