Work hard and be kind

Published January 27, 2010 · Estimated reading time: 1 minute · Share your thoughts
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I didn’t pay attention at all to the whole the late-night wars occurring over the past month, as it didn’t affect any shows I watch occasionally: Daily, Colbert, Mercer, 22 Minutes and Youtube for the rest of precious funny moments. But I saw Conan O’Brien’s final monologue on the Tonight Show and thought it was absolutely lovely. My favorite quote of this yearCoco… and it’s still January:

“To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I’ll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

Honest, practical advice to not succumb to cynicism despite hard times. Nicely done.

Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi

Writing ideas in between lines

Published January 24, 2010 · Estimated reading time: 3 minutes · Share your thoughts
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XKCD Self Description

I try not to be overtly meta in this blog, but I think it’s a good idea to reflect on the purpose of what one is doing every couple of years. When I read the works of people who write well, I can’t help but envy them and wonder how they do it. Writing is really a love and hate relationship for me. Sometimes when I put my hands on the keyboard, it’s as though I’ve set a flame beneath a paper with invisible ink– words just appear, fluent and natural. Other times, words tear through my flesh and rip my fingers as they come out. The rest of the time, when I have a million thoughts and fingers too reluctant to write, the words remain like a knot in my throat.

During the writing process I have the singular obsession to achieve perfection. To ensure that every word is properly placed, that every sentence serves a purpose. After all that is done comes the self-consciousness, which strangely enough has become more prominent the more experience I’ve had. I begin to question– Is this well written? Am I getting better? But perfection, as the saying goes, is a moving target. So, while on occasion a piece goes into the recycling bin, I mostly end up revising until I am satisfied. Writing for me is not always a pretty process, but it is one that I find necessary… and it’s nice to look forward to that moment when the challenge has been overcome .

A couple of days ago I was looking at the statistics for visitors to my blog in 2009… London, New York, and Chicago topped a list of 5,233 cities, the majority of which I had never heard of before… Now while I’d like to flatter myself, I’m sure not all of them stuck around, but even twenty years ago you had to be an accomplished writer in order have any number of people actually stumble upon what you wrote. In the blogs that I am subscribed to, people produce content that is timely, thoughtful, and in many ways exceptional; but many are not writers in the traditional sense. Today all you need is access to the internet and passion. While writing has its own intrinsic value, to know that out of the thousands of people that pass by, one person will actually read and enjoy what you’ve written is both humbling and stirring. It boils the desire to write more, and to write better.

I’ve had this site for five years, and over the course of the 76 entries I’ve written, it’s been a great place to share my thoughts. So while I’m never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down… I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how to orient what I write here, and give it more purpose than simply the repository for my occasional musings. I think rather than stifling my creativity, refining the ideas on the blog may put some method to the madness and pave way for even better ideas.

Speaking of creativity, I found an amazing channel on youtube which contains exceptional and creative advertisements from all over the world. This was their most recent one:

Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi

Google vs. China: Cyberwarfare in a Brave New World

Published January 13, 2010 · Estimated reading time: 4 minutes · 8 responses so far
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Things just got a little more interesting in the world of cyberpolitics.

Google revealed today that they’ve detected a sophisticated attack on their infrastructure originating from China back in December, an attack which they say impacted more than twenty other large companies in various sectors. Specifically, the attackers attempted to access Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Google does not lay blame on any specific party, however, it does indicate that it is reconsidering its approach to China.

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn

Externally Google has been pressured by various NGOs and governments with respect to its approach in China since it decided to censor its search results in the country. A move which some claimed was antithetical to the Company’s mantra “Don’t be evil.” In fact Google along with other search results faced a US congressional hearing back in 2006. Nonetheless, many queries in google.cn continue to deliver this note as part of the results: ” 据当地法律法规和政策,部分搜索结果未予显示。” or “According to local laws, regulations and policies, some search results are not shown.” Until today, it appeared that the revenue from China outweighed the costs.

With this move, the pendulum has clearly shifted. However, many questions remain regarding how decision was arrived at and how it will play out: Whether the costs of operating in country have become too much compared to the net revenue (to the tune of 22 billion dollars in the second quarter of 2009)? Or if Google is simply finding its infrastructure too vulnerable in the country? Has Google returned core values with respect to freedom of information, or caved in to external pressure regarding China’s censorship policies? Will China comply with Google, or will they reach a compromise? And if Google does indeed pull out of the Chinese market will its place be filled with other foreign search giants like Yahoo, or will it set precedent?

This is really the first major news this decade about cyber-attacks. Cyber-attacks have become commonplace in recent years, however in this case the economic and diplomatic stakes are incredibly high. Beyond the scope of the attack on Google, and the battle of the nerds… cyberwarfare between nations is not such a remote possibility as the internet and information technology take a more prominent role in national infrastructures. The following is an excerpt from a piece I wrote late last year on the transformation of war:

“… Constructivism takes an optimistic approach towards norms and progress. However, while norms can change to ameliorate conflict among nations, they can just as easily bring an ever-changing face to war. Indeed the 20th century was witness to a shift in the paradigm of warfare that took conflict from the trenches into cities. The democratization of war was a shift in norms which instead of creating taboos of war, propagandized war. This led to even more destructive weapons and created a situation where wars were supplied by, and waged on citizens. It is possible that even if the killing of human beings as a part of warfare becomes taboo (to the extent that state-sanctioned slavery is today), war itself might evolve. Going back to the definition of war, it is an act that is a means and not an end; and certainly any act that engages two parties in aggression, and achieves the desired outcome by force may constitute warfare. For example, in a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on technology, cyber attacks are becoming increasingly threatening*. Equipment disruption, invasion of data banks and information highway can all be considered modes of cyber warfare. This type of warfare would not require massive troop mobilization; and it may not lead to civilian casualties, unless that is desired. But compromising critical systems in a nation could paralyze it and threaten its security. This type of warfare would have little resemblances to historic wars, however, it would achieve the same outcomes.”

*Hildreth, S. A. (2001). Cyberwarfare. Congressional Research Service policy paper.

Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi