Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Intolerable Acts

US Capitol Building, originally uploaded by Hey Paul.

Here is a copy of a letter that I sent my Senators and my Representative in Congress in regards to the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. We will see what happens…

Dear Senator McCain,
I am writing to you as a registered Arizona voter and concerned constituent about S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act. I urge you to vote "no" on the upcoming motion to invoke cloture on the bill.
Albeit well-intentioned, the PROTECT IP Act does not provide adequate oversight over measures targeted against alleged offenders, raising legitimate concerns about the Act's constitutionality. PROTECT IP would also effectively overturn critical portions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act—portions that form the legal backbone of the American tech industry. These sections (in particular, 17 U.S.C. §512) are what allow the start-up technology companies of today to become the Googles of tomorrow, creating jobs for thousands of Americans in the process. Lastly, the methods through which the PROTECT IP Act would combat copyright infringement are similar—and sometimes identical—in nature to those used by regimes with questionable human rights records. The impression that the United States created the "Great Firewall of America" would irreparably damage our credibility when asking them to remove censorship barriers that impede the spread of democracy and free enterprise.
The PROTECT IP Act is fundamentally flawed, as it would stifle the growth of our nation’s tech sector, would introduce due process questions, and would erode America’s position as a global leader. As such, it does not deserve floor consideration. Any solution to the piracy problem needs to consider the effects it would have on the Internet economy—a place where the United States has a clear competitive advantage. I hope you will take my concerns about this bill into account, and oppose this legislation by voting "no" on cloture.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ripping the fabric of space-time

IMG_0130, originally uploaded by Titoxd.

Sometimes I wonder why I take pictures, especially when I hear people close to me rattle off all the ways I lose money by taking them. Sure, I have to spend money to get the equipment to take them to begin with, and also have to spend money in storage, hosting, etc... However, that incessant ranting has become so prevalent lately that it has been difficult for me to feel comfortable taking as many photographs as I want to.

However, when I see pictures like this one, it reminds me of why I love being behind the lens. At their very core, photographs are literally snapshots in time.

The result of depressing the shutter button, at least in my DSLR, is an image file that stores information of the position and illumination of objects within a given number of steradians. However, behind the technical definition of photographs lies a deeper meaning. Camera sensors do much more than store the number of stray photons that strike a surface—they also store a snapshot of the emotional state of the person operating the sensor. A camera opens a portal to a particular time and place, allowing us to recall our thoughts, our companions, our experiences—in short, our emotions.

A photograph can thus can act as a portal through space-time, warping us to a time and place when memories where born. As such, I don't care if my hobby is expensive, as its opportunity cost is minuscule compared to the benefit I attain from it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Words of wisdom

Contrails below, originally uploaded by Titoxd.

A wise woman once said, "life is an adventure, live and love with no regrets." She is incredibly right. And I'll say, watching an airplane fly below me is quite an adventure...

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Dance of Life: Part 5

2011 UNLV Desert Challenge — IMG_9997.JPG
2011 UNLV Desert Challenge — IMG_9997.JPG, originally uploaded by Titoxd

The most fundamental similarity between dancing and dating is that they both are endeavors that require constant communication between two people. Both of them are undertaken by individuals who are striving to reach a goal neither one can reach independently. Both can only work when the goals of both partners are shared and laid out in the open. The result of both dancing and dating can be expressions that are unparalleled in beauty. However, they required hard work by both the guy and the girl.

No single person can carry a partnership: the task is too complex and the difficulty is too high. As experience has let me know, relationships with a material unbalance in the expectations from each partner will invariably end up in disappointment, even if it doesn't occur immediately. So if you are planning on getting into some sort of commitment, be it before the dance floor or before the altar, be extremely clear of what you expect from the other person, and of what the other person expects of you.

The Dance of Life: Part 4

2011 UNLV Desert Challenge — IMG_2640.JPG
2011 UNLV Desert Challenge — IMG_2640.JPG, originally uploaded by Titoxd

We've been trying to draw parallels between ballroom dance partnerships and partnerships outside dance, and so far we have drawn a few interesting conclusions. However, dance really has a lot in common with life in general. Let's consider another example.

If you have two professional dancers who are performing an exhibition, and they have never danced with each other before (such as what happens in a Jack-and-Jill contest), chances are that they will look pretty good. Their technique will be [hopefully] flawless, and they will entertain the crowd with their flashy moves and their acting. (Ballroom dance does require some theatrics every now and then.) However, while both persons will move a lot, chances are that the combination will not move the audience, as my friend Jee would put it. If there are any disparities in skill or talent, this effect is magnified, and it will seem at times that one member of the partnership is showing off his moves, making his/her partner look bad in the process. As such, the partnership acquires a subtractive character, as the result of the partnership is lesser that the sum of the dancers' individual skill.

On the other hand, a professional partnership who has been dancing together for a considerable period of time is capable of adding a completely different dimension to their performance. I have watched couples who, by virtue of knowing each other's strengths and weaknesses, are able to tailor routines to maximize the appeal of their dance simply by working with each other. These partnerships are additive, instead of subtractive, as they are not based in showing off flashy trash.

Some couples are able to use this communication so effectively that they completely hypnotize a crowd, simply by doing basic steps in a way that exudes the characteristic of the dance. These are the couples that have reached a level of greatness seldom found anywhere else. The couple seduces each other during a Tango, and seduces the entire audience at the same time. Alternatively, the couple's Rumba makes the public wonder what the dancers really did after the performance. Outside the ballroom, the same effects can be achieved simply by knowing your partner, being open about your needs, working off each other's strengths, and avoiding each other's weaknesses.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Dance of Life: Part 3

2011 UNLV Desert Challenge — IMG_2476.JPG
2011 UNLV Desert Challenge — IMG_2476.JPG, originally uploaded by Titoxd

We can gather even more insight into romantic relationships if we continue to analyze the interactions between males and females in the ballroom. A Rumba pattern we tend to do rather often here in the beginning ballroom classes is what we call the "Around the World" dip. (I am sure it has a technical name, but hell if I know what it is…) In it, the guy and girl are doing Opposition Breaks, and the leader intercepts the follower, traps her right leg between his knees, bends her over backward, and allows her to snap her head right in front of his face. If done properly, this move is amazingly erotic.

The keyword here is "done properly": Since the girl is shifting her center of mass backwards by bending over, the guy will fall forward into the girl if he just stands there and looks pretty—and trust me, girls don't like guys falling over them. To avoid the epic fail, the guy needs to provide the proper support to the girl by pushing his bottom backwards, which shifts his own center of mass in a way that retains the common center of mass over their feet.

If we think about it, the girl is taking a large risk while doing this pattern. Her head is backwards in a position where if she just allowed herself to fall, she would hit herself in the back of the skull, possibly injuring herself. The support provided by the male is what allows her to do this pattern safely, and offers her a reward for her risk, as she ends up feeling hot and happy. The guy then becomes a beneficiary of the sensuality that the girl exudes during this dance move.

In life, girls will take risks when they feel they have the support from the guy. If the lady feels unsupported, she will be unwilling to risk injury—be it physical, mental, spiritual or emotional—and will be frustrated due to the lack of rewards. That frustration will be directly or indirectly pointed at the male, which is in her view useless. Now guys, do we want to be perceived as useless?

The Dance of Life: Part 2

2011 UNLV Desert Challenge — IMG_2060.JPG
2011 UNLV Desert Challenge — IMG_2060.JPG, originally uploaded by Titoxd

It turns out that the similarities between dance, life, and even sex do not stop there.

One of the principal elements in ballroom dance is connection between the two partners. We practice connection by standing in front of the partner, touching the other person with slight pressure only at the sides of the palms, and asking the lady to simply try to retain balance. We then ask the guy to lean forwards and back with no discernible rhythm.

The beautiful thing about this exercise is that it works properly only when there is sufficient connection between the couple. If the girl tries to backlead, she will not be able to correct whatever perturbations he causes in the partnership's balance, and they will fall down. It takes following—listening with the body—to maintain balance.

In a relationship, a similar concept applies. It takes listening with the heart to maintain the relationship's balance, but in this case, the following must be in both directions, as the guy needs to follow the girl's lead as well. If a guy or girl does not listen to the other person's needs, the relationship is doomed regardless of the efforts made by the partner.