NSA Scandal and Edward Snowden

A forgotten quote from the founding father of USA's constitution.

A forgotten quote from the founding father of USA’s constitution.

I am sad to say but I am losing trust in Obama and his administration due to the recent NSA scandal. Being an ex-hacker I have always been concerned about my privacy and there was a time when I used to communicate with my online peers only through IRC and Skype. Skype was the best IM available since it not only encrypted every messages but the executable itself was encrypted providing best stealth from all kinds of honeypots, etc. attacks.

But sadly after Microsoft acquired Skype, this is no longer the case. One of the architects of the once-heavily-encrypted-protocol called Skype revealed that Skype has moved from the peer-to-peer architect (which in fact provided the security from wiretapping) to a server based architect. Unfortunately, this means all messages can now be aggregated and logged, etc. It is difficult to say why Microsoft went this route. Was it because to comply with US government’s demand or was it a business strategy to move from peer-to-peer model to server based model so that they can provide more robust uptime through state-of-art hardware rather than depending on some guy from Ukraine or Poland with a PC that acted as a supernode for the Skype?!

It is very sad to see what George Orwell predicted in his novel 1984, would become a reality in my own lifetime. Even if I did imagine this was a possibility, I always had a communist backed government in my mind. And not a freaking democratic government like USA! Honestly, after reading that US government has declared Edward Snowden as a traitor and a spy, I am bewildered at the irony – USA charging Snowden with espionage charge while they were themselves spying on Americans and other countries all this while without anyone knowing. How is this difference from what China has been doing to its people?

There was once a time when America used to the first one to offer asylum to such revolutionists, activists, whistleblowers and oppressed people from other countries. Now Snowden has to seek asylum in other countries for trying to do the right thing – telling the truth about how our human liberty is being held at stake in the name of stopping terrorism.

Harry Potter fans knows how this goes...

Harry Potter fans knows how this goes…

I have seen some people arguing that they don’t mind if their government is tracking their activity or phones or emails – they are not doing anything wrong so they don’t have anything to worry about. But that argument is so flawed that it needs to be explained.

If you have actually read what Communism is and all its aspect, you will find yourself actually appreciating the idea, albeit, on paper. The fundamental problem with Communism is the concentration of power in the hands of few – in this case – government. It will just take a small group of people to corrupt and devastate the entire country because of the power they can hold. Now a very similar concentration of power is showing up through this NSA scandal in US. How long do you think it will take someone to corrupt himself or herself and abuse this vast amount of data that they have out there?

Did you know that Hitler did not become a dictator overnight?! He legitimately rose up the power through his political party and made sure that when he exercises his dictatorial powers, he does it legally. And then everyone knows how he segregated his own countrymen into a master and slave race and various other such classifications. I am not saying this is what is going to happen again. All I am saying is that the ingredients for such a recipe is out there. What if an elite fanatic goes absolute batshit insane and decides in order to stop terrorism some group of people needs to be eliminated or quarantined?

I am just so glad that Hong Kong let Snowden leave the country when USA demanded Hong Kong to extradite Snowden for the espionage charges. HK government cited that USA did not follow the legal process completely and as such they have no reason to stop Snowden from leaving the country.

Since the documents provided by the US government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR government has requested the US government to provide additional information … As the HKSAR government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.

Snowden is now seeking asylum in Eucador and I am glad to read such a statement coming from Eucador’s foreign minister –

Eucador’s FM Patino stressed that the Ecuadorian government puts human rights above any other party’s interests. Patino also said it is “paradoxical” the person who revealed alleged rights violations is being “persecuted.”

“It should be asked, who betrayed whom,” Patino stressed as he questioned the correctness of calling Snowden’s leak a “treason.”

“Is this betraying the citizens of the world, or betraying some elites that are in power in a certain country?” the Minister asked.”

I do wish the world knows that giving up your liberty or sovereignty just for the sake of stopping terrorism does not make any sense at any level. The erosion of civil liberties is something to be guarded against not because of the perception of an immediate threat, but because you won’t recognize the value of those liberties until you have been deprived of them and discover you have no recourse.

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The Red Wedding – Game of Thrones

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Something happened last night. I am in a shock. Shock from watching the episode S03E09 “The Red Wedding” from Game Of Thrones. Distraught, disgusted and probably devastated.

My reaction was similar to what Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) experienced when he saw “The greatest magic trick ever“.

A lot of people cry about the insane shock values some films and TV shows portray, but this is different. Have you ever said to yourself while watching an intense drama/action/fight/horror scene like – meh, the hero is not going to die no matter what! Well, this episode will just make you question everything in your life – Why? why did I even? What just happ..? How can he jus..? My life is suddenly hollow…

Having watched thousands of movies and TV shows so far in my life, I can almost predict the twists in the plots. But this episode was a complete mindfuck….so much that I am still in my bed whereas I should have been in my office right now. And I am not exaggerating.

How can they all die? He was the goddamn king of The North. The only one that I felt can kill the Lannisters and the White Walkers. Whhhyyyyyyyyyyy?

Nevermind the real life civil protests currently happening in Istanbul. The Red Wedding is far more gruesome & intense. This what George Martin (author of the book on which the TV show is based) does to you. The emotional investment in his fantasy world of Westeros seems greater than the real world of ours where a government is oppressing its citizens and a hurricane is causing devastation in another corner of the world. Like I said before, my life seems hollow right now.

I think I should get ready for the office now. When a fictional story affects you so much – does it mean that it is the most beautiful piece of literature or just that I am escaping too much into the fantasy world neglecting the real life problems of our own world? I…..dont……know ¯\(°_o)/¯

Also, today I learned, this was the chapter that sold the idea to adapt the book into a TV show. HBO and the producers decided to make the show so that they can film his particular episode! And each episode has a 6 million dollar budget! Amazing.

Here are some of the reaction videos captured by people who had read the book and knew about the red wedding but others didn’t. My best reaction is from a twitter post that went something like this – “Remember when your really really nerdy friend was depressed 13 years ago? Well, watch the red wedding episode and you will know why.” I think that sums up. If a 60 minute episode can affect me so much than you can only imagine the minute details the whole chapter must have describing everything in detail.

If you haven’t seen this show, then I would suggest you start or read the book.

This is how I spend my Sunday

I came across a wonderful post by Manali titled – “How do you interpret this picture“. At first, when I looked at the picture I just thought – “Oh snap! not another crybaby”. But when I read the post it was about interpretations – so my mind wandered. I haven’t played this game in while so I thought to myself let’s take the challenge and come up with my interpretation. So after about 30 odd minutes of jumbling lots of thoughts, here’s what I replied –

How would YOU interpret this picture

Photo shamelessly taken from Manali’s blog.

Many are hurting for love, while many are suffering from a love that hurts”.

The picture simply depicts a heartbroken end – an end that deeply hurt someone. When we go through such experience it is not too uncommon to find ourselves wishing for a meteor to destroy the world *right now* and wipe us out of the existence.
In this case, too, the person who was hurt was deeply in love and have gotten betrayed.

The rose, beautiful as it is, has thorns too. It represents a character who simply has the most breathtaking and admirable beauty on the surface with some dark and terrifying secrets underneath. But like those thorns on the rose, the dark secrets can be known when you try to look at the person beyond the radiant beauty.

Some people do look beyond such dark pasts and accept the person unconditionally. It is not easy to say if the person is being foolish or best lover one can ever have. The dilemma is always there…ringing inside your brain or whispers falling into your ears. Yet, you gather strength and do what you want to do – love the other person with all your heart.

You understand her, she understands you. Or you think you understand her or she thinks she understands you.

And then the betrayal. Maybe the rose finds another bee or the bee finds another rose. “Maybe a guy with an Audi who is good to you 40% of times and acts like an asshole 60% of times.

You were holding the rose safe in your hands and now you find yourself in such a shock that you involuntarily grip your hands harder and the thorn hurts you. But still the pain isn’t overcoming the pain that is in your heart. You want to scream. You dive into the pool and reach the bottom to let that scream out. Still the hurt is unbearable. “The shattering of a heart when being broken is the loudest quiet ever”.

Then you see a hope. The only way to reduce the emotional pain is the physical pain. You take that blade and cut your wrist. You cut your wrist to tell your brain that the pain from that thorn and that pain in the heart must be forgotten. But does it?

You have lost. Lost every sense. Lost every emotion. You die. Die inside. Broken. Shattered. Fade to black.

Disclaimer: This is work of fiction and any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Or is it?

Not exactly a masterpiece of art but had fun writing it rather than being lazy on the bed on a Sunday afternoon. Wait, wasn’t Sunday created for exactly that purpose?! *face palm*

This.

Just being dramatic.

Most Astounding Fact – View, Listen and then cry with happiness

Neil DeGrasse Tyson shares the most astounding fact about us, atoms, stars & universe.

When I look up at the night sky, and I know that, yes, we are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up — many people feel small, ’cause they’re small and the Universe is big, but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars.”- Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Seriously, how can you not?

Seriously, how can you not?

I have seen this video a thousand time now. I have it on my laptop, I have it on office laptop, I have it on my cellphone, I have it on my iPod, I will soon be having a poster too. I don’t know what is so mesmerizing – the voice or the fact itself or the music? I think it is a perfect combination of all three.

Seriously, my body, my mind, my every cells, my every atoms feel absolutely awed when I reflect on that fact. Somehow the image I get whenever I hear this is of the most beautiful night sky I saw when I was in Hinkley, California. I went to live on a ranch amidst the great Mojave desert and experience a side of America that I had never thought about. Penny, the owner of the ranch, had picked me up from the Barstow Greyhound bus station and we drove for about 30 minutes till her ranch at Hinkley.

When I stepped out of the car, I looked up and told her – “This is the most number of stars I have ever seen with my naked eye!”. She replied, “Do you know why that is?”. Why? “Because there are less people on this side of the world. We are in the middle of Mojave desert and welcome to the Aquarius Ranch!”  🙂

 

Aquarious-Ranch

One of the domes at Aquarius Ranch, Hinkley California

 

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Sigh!

Sigh!

 

Irreplaceability

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A few weeks back I saw a beautifully scripted film called Adaptation written by Andy Kauffman.

The film is basically an attempt by Andy to adapt a book called “The Orchid Thief”. He has so much trouble adapting the book into a movie that he ends up weaving his troubled attempts with the story from the book. Lots of fiction within a non-fiction (reminds me of everyday Life itself)!

In the book/movie there is an eccentric character named “John Laroche”. His passion for orchid flowers moves the author so much that it makes her realize what it is really like to be passionate about something in life. He was really crazy about orchids – so much that he knew almost all the species and sub-species of it with their scientific name!

The author states “I suppose I do have one unembarrassed passion. I want to know what it feels like to care about something passionately.” Hence the book.

But halfway through the film something bothered me. Actually, not bothered, but something that re-confirmed what I have myself felt a lot of the times. But we don’t generally want to accept or share about such a thing. Halfway through the novel we learn that orchids weren’t the first passion of John. Long ago he was very passionate about fishes. And when the author asks what happened to it and then John replies:

"Fuck Fish" - John Laroche

“Fuck Fish” – John Laroche

John Laroche: Then one morning, I woke up and said, “Fuck fish.” I renounce fish; I will never set foot in that ocean again. That’s how much “fuck fish.” That was 17 years ago and I have never stuck so much as a toe in that ocean. And I love the ocean.

Susan Orlean: But why?

John Laroche: Done with fish.

And with that he moves on to his next passion – orchids. And then later to pornography!

I wasn’t sure at first how to react to such drastic changes. But then later I thought we do the exact same thing hundreds of times in our own life too. We hold something dear to us, feel proud, feel passionate about it and then just like that one day it goes away. We move on.

This made me think more and more specifically on people that come and go. People get replaced in our life just like passions got replaced in John Laroche’s life. The people we feel passionate about get replaced one day or the other.

Friends get replaced.

Lovers get replaced.

Pets get replaced.

Parents too get replaced for some.

This brings me to the topic of this post – Irreplaceability.

I am not going to touch the subject of replacing one’s family member. I strongly believe that no matter how messed up your family or how dysfunctional it is, the sense of irreplaceability will always be there even if you don’t want to express it.

But on the other hand I am unsure about the other people in our lives. If you are old enough than you have seen and observed and went through the process of replacing friends, lovers, relatives, pets, etc. At one point we make promises to ourselves and to others to stay close forever but on a long enough timeline only a couple of people end up with you. Everyone else gets replaced.

I am trying to understand why we choose to replace someone who once was so dear to us. Hence this essay.

One reason that comes to mind immediately is lack of staying in touch. I believe this is primary reason that “affects” our school friends. Once you move on to something completely else including moving away geographically, then the emotional distance keeps getting larger and we eventually replace the school friend with a person who we are interacting with on a daily basis.

Next is emotional investment. I believe this primarily affects the lovers, ex-lovers, friends who get friend-zoned, etc. You get attracted to a person and start an emotional relationship. But when things don’t work out, one or both will start distancing away. We start coming up with millions of reasons to stay away, not stay away, etc. etc. etc. Yet, at the end, it is nothing but us realizing that the emotional investment is not paying off and so let’s move on.

There are other interesting reasons too – betrayal of trust, impulsive-based decisions, introversion, jealousy, etc. In our lifetime, we will probably experience each of it.

Another interesting aspect of this is something we all have almost experienced. No matter how flawed your friend is, you just don’t seem to get yourself away from that person. But if you observe carefully, the reason might be just that you have not found a replacement. The day you do find another friend, lover, pet, etc. you will start drifting off. So on a long enough timeline, everyone is replaceable.

So this brings me to the following conclusions:

  • On a long enough timeline everyone and everything is replaceable.
  • The only way to avoid replacing someone is to do anything and everything you can to avoid getting replaced yourself from the other person’s life.

If you find yourself disagreeing with point 1, then obviously you are doing point 2 well enough with your real-life partner.

There is also a wonderful quotation from Coco Chanel: “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.

Please understand I am not trying to rationalize or theorize here. The problem in doing so would be simply because humans are irrational at nature. One cannot label this behavior on everyone. This short essay is just a reflection on an experience which we all humans will go through no matter where you live or your age, etc.

Well, this is all I have to write about on this topic. Hope this provides a reason to reflect on your past or present experiences related to irreplaceability.