Scott Bradner: A tech travelogue from the road

It is hard to think of column topics on a good week; it’s especially hard if one is in the middle of a vacation. My wife and I are on an eight-day trip around southern California, driving all the way from Los Angeles to Monterey, then to the Colorado River and back. During the last day, in between sightseeing stops, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with some insightful topic when it suddenly hit me that many of the things we have been seeing remind me (in some distorted way) of things going on in the world of technology and the Internet.

Today, we stopped in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., to see the London Bridge. Here is something that was a technological marvel when it was built, was then declared outdated by the people it was designed to serve and was finally transported with great care to be installed in a location where it serves no actual function. This seems to be the perfect logo for those people who want to “improve” the Internet by adding ATM flow control to IP.

We have spent most of our driving time, nearly 2,000 miles so far, on small, two-lane roads. We have been very lucky because, in spite of driving “aggressively” relative to the speed limit, almost all of the time we were alone on the road. We only had to deal with a few of those special twits that, having decided how fast they want to go, somehow contort that into saying that it is how fast everyone should go and engage in whatever blocking necessary to be sure that this is the case. This type of person is genetically predisposed to drive recreational vehicles or serve on state utility commissions.

There is some neat stuff in this part of the country. We just went through Joshua Tree National Park, named after a tree that looks like Picasso’s idea of what a tree thinks it should look like – an explosion of limbs going in all directions, sort of like Enron’s multitude of divisions.

We stopped at the Hearst Castle, a monument to ego and veneer in that the core concrete skeleton is crude and unfinished and covered with a skin that makes it look impressive. We also went through Sequoia National Park with the amazingly large trees that, when they fall, are often hollow. As you might guess, both of the latter also reminded me of Enron.

We stayed in Death Valley, which is an all-too-obvious symbol of the high-tech drought we are going through. But it should be noted that Death Valley is not all that wide, just a few miles – you have to insist on travelling north to south to be in the valley for long. Let’s hope that our path through that valley is the short one.

Bradner is a consultant with Harvard University’s University Information Systems. He can be reached at