2012-03-24

Low

... Here they were, standing, facing each other, naked, eyes burning with desire.

But then, all of a sudden, his mind snapped. The herpes pimple on his upper lip brought to his mind that night. It seemed like yesterday.

The second pint of Guinness has just started to do some effect into his messed up mind. He has started to rave in Russian  — a language he never knew — to impress Tatjana, his companion — who wasn't even Russian, but he couldn't tell. And that's when it occurred to him to call her. She was still waiting for his call for sure. She wouldn't sleep before he whispered to her the words that turn her world upside down. He dialed the number. He couldn't hear a thing. The laughs, the music, the alcohol were deafening. He ran outside the fancy pub. He spoke incoherently. He could feel she was upset. "I cannot stop thinking of you." That was the only true sentence he spoke that night. He ended the call. Only then he realized he didn't tell her he loved her. But he did. That's why he couldn't say it anymore. That's why he shouldn't say it anymore. Things have changed a lot. Unfortunately, not the way he wanted them to. He gotta make a decision. But why now, while practically drunk and almost out of his senses? A decision had to be made. And drunkenness is a state of ultimate honesty — to oneself and others. He had decided to part, at the earliest chance.
She didn't sleep that night. He woke up the next morning, with a tender body laying next to his, and a head on his chest.

She came along to him, and kissed him. He barely kissed back. He caressed her, she fell into his arm, helpless, deluded. She was all his. He couldn't do it. He refused to do it. What excuse should he make?

"I'm out of protection. It's not a good idea. It's for your own sake," he retorted, shamelessly, hoping it would be the last lie he had to tell.

It was a matter of a few weeks until all it was clear. They were through. He was through. His feelings hadn't died yet. But he had to do it. It was his decision. It was the logical thing to do. And so it was...

Joseph.

2012-03-18

Neutrinos Are Faster Than The Speed of Stupidity

Icarus experiment. (Credit: Copyright INFN (Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare))
It was towards the middle of November, 2011 — dates are not my specialty (pun?), a (very) dear friend of mine and I have just finished our lunch. It was the usual: updating each others on work/life issues, enjoying a good meal, recollecting some old memories, chatting about other friends. Right until...
- Friend: *with a triumphant tone* Did you hear that Einstein was proved wrong?
- Me: Are you referring to the faster-than-light-neutrino experiment?
- Yes! That's the one! These scientists always making bullshit theories about the universe. Miracles like this always manage to humble them.
- *in shock, with a bitter tone* It's a bit of an old news, besides it's not a conclusive experiment and the team who obtained the result is actually not announcing a fact but requesting the scrutiny of the scientific community to point out if they have any errors in the experiment.
(Awkward silence moment)
- Friend: So you don't believe the result? But it's made by scientists, the guys YOU advocate!
- Me: Not until the evidence is conclusive.
Was I too staunch in my disbelief? No, not enough (in my opinion at least). Was I arrogant? I don't think standing for a reasonable point of view is considered arrogance.

In fact, March 16 2012: Icarus Experiment Measures Neutrino Speed: Even Neutrinos Are Not Faster Than Light (details of the paper in PDF format)

So, after all, the conclusive evidence turned out to be against the initial claim — luckily. But surely I am more than willing to admit the possibility of the opposite case, and accept a flaw in the current model we have for understanding things, and not give it some hocus bogus explanation.

But why am I mentioning this incident? Surely not for the sake of showing I proved a fellow of mine wrong about an issue in the scientific field.
To be noted that this friend of mine and I were raised in similar environments, and graduated from engineering school together.

I'm just exposing two different points of view in life.  One that places experiment, reason and evidence as sources for the truth. And another, which for the sake of unconfirmed inculcated  beliefs, is ready to abandon reason, and follow supernatural (in)evidence.

And who better than Carl Sagan to quote when it comes to this subject:
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan
The Universe is too vast, mysterious and humbling to allow ourselves to be the cause of its existence, moreover to allow ourselves to be disillusioned by outdated beliefs which are invalid and cause us to walk away from truth.

Joseph.

(P.S. The events of the encounter with my friend are a true story. Part of the dialogue was a bit modified, as in not to include the original wordings, but the ideas were preserved)

2012-03-11

Stop LIRA: The Lebanese Internet Regulation Act

Minister Walid "Internet Killer" Daouk
The Lebanese cabinet postponed on March 08, 2012 the discussion of the draft law for the regulation of electronic media, giving it more time to rewrite the terms of the act.

The proposed draft law caused some stir in the Lebanese blogosphere and social media scene.

Lebanon is known to be one of the few (not to say the only) countries in the Middle East region where freedom of speech is still in action (with lots of challenges though).

Following is a translation to English of the articles of the act propose by Daouk — hence DaoukA. (As per the published draft on Annahar website, and sorry for the terrible translation in advance)


Reasons
As Lebanon is a leader among the Arab states in passing laws and regulations governing media in form of publications, audio-visual and satellite transmission,
And as the quest to keep pace with current technological development is an essential and urgent target in the context of promoting freedom of expression, making access to information available and to raise the barriers and obstacles in front of the flow, access to and sending/receiving of information by modern communication systems,
And as the electronic media has taken an important position in the media space, especially in our country, and before the issuance of laws and regulations that govern how it works and reinforce it, and due to importance and growth of this technological development at the level of electronic media, it is required to issue flexible regulations and legal systems to keep up with this issue, sustaining it on one hand, emphasizing and maintaining the principles and foundations and diversity of cultures and beliefs and enabling everyone to deal knowingly and consciously with the abundance of information received and available quantity and quality,  on the other hand.
Bill for the electronic media 
Article 1: Posting by electronic means or other is free, no restriction is exerted on this freedom except in accordance with the laws in force. Prohibited is any publication by electronic means affecting the morals and general ethics, and related to gambling games. 
Article 2: By electronic communication is meant sending, receiving, publishing, diffusion, handling and storing of information, by means of electronic or electromagnetic waves or digital media or any other means, whether signals or writings or texts or sounds or fixed or animated images or combined together and re-used.
Article 3: Electronic communication takes place between the public and occurs through the circulation of information that do not have the character of personal correspondence, and its content can be made available to the public or any person upon request. 
Article 4: A website means the electronic information system which has clearly define name and address and data which the owner must deposit at the Ministry of Information in return of a receipt, with the requirement of providing the following information, namely:
A - Name and identity of the site owner, whether a legal entity or natural.
B - Name of the official manager — appointed by the owner, of natural persons — address in Lebanon and contact details, and represents the site towards the administrative and judicial authorities. And should fulfill the following conditions:
  • Possesses his civil and political rights, not convicted of a misdemeanor or felony.
  • Does not manage more than one website.
  • Does not possess judicial immunity.
Article 5: The owner of the site can be its manager, in case the above conditions are met. 
Article 6: Shall apply to workers in the electronic media sites the rules and regulations that apply to journalists, reporters and staff, whose duties are included in the Press Law 382/94. 
Article 7: Shall apply to electronic media sites laws and regulations governing the assets of published and broadcast advertising, publicity or promotion of an event or a product or a company or person, in particular those relating to property rights and literary property. 
Article 8: The press court is to handle all violations and legal disputes arising from electronic sites and their work. 
Minister of Information 
Walid Daouk

How does this law affect us?

In short, your online presence must be transparent to your government. Your content should be approved. And you're site is treated as a newspaper and is regulated by related archaic laws. Plus, you lose any right to express yourself once you are convicted.

The world protested the attempts to regulate the Internet by the American government.
What's worse about this law, than its technical inadequacy and obvious lack of knowledge about the medium in question, is the timing it's being passed.
The region has been boiling with revolutions (aka the Arab Spring) led by Internet social media activists. The world stood unanimously against the American government attempt to regulate American website and censor some of their contents.
All this, and yet we go against the global current of freedom of Internet and right to free speech, in a lame attempt to take over the Lebanese online scene and impose a "Big Brother" eye over the Lebanese Internet society.

How should we react?

Protesting. Like with SOPA and PIPA, we can make a difference by refusing similar acts by protesting in face of the (ir)responsible parties. Contact your representatives in the parliament. More awareness to the subject should be spread, in the means of blog posts, memes, protest art, flyers, etc...
Avoid hosting your websites on local domains. Although the law does it specify it directly, but this could be an effective measure.
Protect your privacy and anonymity by using effective tools (like HTTPS everywhere, Tor network, etc...).

Everyone has a role to play in this fight. This is YOUR Internet. Don't let the corrupt governors who have been destroying your dreams, to take away your right to a free and accessible Internet.