Keep running

One of my favorite runs in the world is the loop along the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge — connecting MIT, Harvard, BU, and Back Bay, if you run the long version. That’s but a few blocks away from where yesterday’s attack happened.

I’ve never run the Boston Marathon. During the day, I was joking with a friend there about who was how far from qualifying. I didn’t quite say “there’s a challenge to compete on, let’s run it next year”, mostly because I didn’t think I’d be in shape to make that challenge — I’ve never actually run a marathon, and the few half marathons I’ve done were well above 2h. No way I’d qualify.

A few hours later, the news hit twitter.

We quickly established that some MIT-based colleagues who had been helping with the communication infrastructure around the run were taken care of. A former colleague who used to run the marathon wasn’t in town this year. That was good news. And then, the fog of terror: Was a fire at the JFK library related? (didn’t seem so) Had more bombs been found, or not (none found)? Had the cell phone networks been shut down? (probably not, also: probably a bad idea) Classical media didn’t do much better than the social media rumor mill. Some news sites were down, given all the traffic.

On the day after, the news is full of security taking over, and full of reactions and worries around the world. How can we make sports events secure?

And there is that urge to say something, anything, when one really doesn’t have anything to say — for example, this blog post.

Bruce Schneier has it right: keep calm and carry on. We mustn’t let fear take over public spaces, or our thinking.

Here’s hoping that, next year, the Boston Marathon will be even harder to get into, because more people will want to run it.

Book review: Kissinger, On China

Henry Kissinger’s “On China” is part historical and strategic tour de force, part personal memoir, part political legacy. It’s a book you must read.

Starting with a quick survey of China’s long history, Kissinger sets out to investigate the interaction between China and other powers near and far — from the barbarian management strategies practiced by the Middle Kingdom over millennia, through the unequal treaties of the 19th century, to the subsequent century and a half of turmoil, both foreign and domestic.  Kissinger is at his best as a writer and story-teller when he can mix strategy, history, personal memory, and the explication of diplomacy: The diplomacy and negotiation of the 1960s and 70s are at the heart of the book, and worth the read alone — both as an account of Chinese and US strategic challenges and eventual alignment, and as the story of careful negotiation and diplomacy, with all its absurdities and difficulties.

Yet, all that — and the subsequent material about the country’s stabilization under Deng and tense relationships post Tiananmen — is merely a foil before which Kissinger sets out, in the book’s epilogues, the strategic imperatives and challenges that the US (and the West more broadly) face in interacting with a resurging China today:

Both sides run great risks through confrontation; both sides need to concentrate on complex domestic adjustments.  Neither can afford to confine itself to its domestic evolution, important as it is.  Modern economics, technology, and weapons of mass destruction proscribe preemption.  The histories and economies of both countries compel them to interact.  The issue is whether they do so as adversaries or in a framework of potential cooperation. […] history lauds not conflicts of societies but their reconciliations.

Are we facing an inevitable conflict (as Germany and the UK might have before World War I, by some analysis), Kissinger asks, or can we manage to evade conflict, by recognizing what relationships, what histories, and what potential futures are at stake?

Over to

This blog started on self-rolled software (deservedly lost), then moved to Movable Type, then to posterous.  As a result of Posterous’ untimely demise, it’s now hosted on, but under a domain name under my control.

Two quick notes.

1. It was reasonably easy to redirect the URIs of the old Movable Type instance of this blog to its new version.  Wouldn’t it be nice if posterous at least gave us a chance to keep old links intact?  Alas, none of that.

2. Why  I originally looked for something self-hostable.  WordPress is reasonable blogging software, but sufficiently insecure that I don’t want to have to administer it. The paid, cloud-hosted service sounded like the right balance between ease of use, outsourced administration, and ability to just install the software myself and move on should I wish to.