A look back at 5 years ago

This week, my wife and I are celebrating 5 years of marriage together.  At times we both forget just how much we went through to be together.  We met in Beijing, in the most beautiful hostel that I think either of us had ever stayed in– The Red Lantern.  http://www.redlanternhouse.com/

She was staying there with a group of friends, I was there with my good friend Billy and his wife Virgia.  We had been touring China from Hong Kong up and were a little weary from the long journey.  We had a plan to stay the night at the Red Lantern and then head up and spend the night on the Great Wall of China.  I had managed to arrange through the Chinese network the chance to do an overnight on the Wall and we jumped at the opportunity.

Except that I met Lili the night before– and had seen something very special in her.  To make a long story short, I decided to let Billy and Virgia have a romantic night alone on the Wall and decided to haul up the Great Wall, take a picture and haul ass back to the city and spend some time with my German friend.

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So there is the picture.  As you can see, it was COLD.  Winter like conditions in April.  Still grey everywhere.  Cold.  I hoofed it up to the top, been there, done that, time to go meet my wife– thank you very much.

The next day, we went our separate ways– only to meet up at the same Buddhist Temple.  This picture was taken from there…. Billy and Virgia had arrived back from the Great Wall– had an awesome time and we decided to go to the temple to see the big buddha on display– and Lili and her gang of Germans were also there. Here is a picture from that afternoon.

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The next 24 hours were really what sealed our first moments together– I invited Lili out to have a duck dinner with us at one of the “famous” duck restaurants in China. She agreed and we went and had a great time with it. After dinner we split up from Billy and Virgia and went to see what Beijing was like at night. We wandered over to a small monastery which overlooked this beautiful pond and talked through the night about everything. It was such a fun evening that we floated back to our hostel.

The next day we split up, she went her way and we headed off to Xian. We texted back and forth– I was lost inside of her. We made plans to see each other again as soon as possible– which took a month or so– keep in mind that we had to travel 24 hours just to see each other… Such a crazy time.

… and here we are… 5 years into a marriage. Marriage is tough– make no mistake. Raising children is tough. Keeping a family together is tough– but it really is the most important thing you can ever do. Remembering the struggles that we went through just to be able to see one another is something that I forget from time to time, which is why we celebrate these milestones– it gives us the opportunity to think about how lucky we are to find love in our lives.

lili first

The Snowden Snowball

For the last several weeks, the case of Edward Snowden has been taking over the national political spectrum and spinning off lots of stories as the US Federal government attempts to track down this “traitor”. The media and the government appear to be working in a “trusted partnership” with each other in keeping the public as up to date as possible of Mr. Snowden’s whereabouts, but they seem to have forgotten the message that Snowden was attempting to deliver– that all of our conversations and data are being collected and stored by the Government.
It is very interesting/mildy scary how the media spins the story of Snowden. The biggest question isn’t what is in the information that was leaked– but how someone has access to these files, which I believe misses the point (interntionally).
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/us/former-cia-worker-says-he-leaked-surveillance-data.html?pagewanted=all
This is a great example of how the media works to stay away from speaking of the specifics of the “leak”.
A first hand account from Snowden of why he blew the whistle:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance
This is a must watch and it should be noted that it is posted from the Guardian in the UK, but not published on any of the American media pages.

Snowden chronicles the reason for leaking this comes from an awareness that things he saw are actually specific cases of abuses and these actions need to be decided by the American public.
“Any analyst can target any person at any moment.”
When are you are subverting the power of government, that’s a fundamentally dangerous threat to democracy.”
“You can’t come forward against the worlds most powerful intelligence agencies. They will get you in a matter of time.”
“Even if you aren’t doing anything wrong– you are being watched and recorded. And the storage capability if being extended year after year. You don’t have to have done anything wrong. You can be attacked based on suspicion and be painted in the context of a wrong do’er.”

When I have spoken to people about this in the last couple of weeks, friends don’t seem to be shocked or really disturbed about what he has exposed.
“I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

It takes some time to get to the bottom of exactly what Snowden is trying to expose. The intial leak, provided by Snowden was tied to a top secret FISA (Secret Court) warrant for Verizon to hand over all phone records in the case of National Security. ALL PHONE RECORDS. Everyone.
This led to the discovery of “Prism”, a federal program that taps user data from Apple, Google and other companies: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data

So why is all of this so concerning? If you keep a clean record, than you have nothing to worry about? I think the issue lies here: Every site you visit and do business with, you agree to terms and conditions of the site– an agreement between you and the company you are doing business with. Within this framework, there are is an agreement over privacy– that the information/business you share won’t be shared without your expressed permission, etc. Well, that’s not true. These companies have been handing over your information to the government– which I would think the majority of Americans would have a problem with this information not only being collected– but stored for later use. Remember that porn site you wandered across? The federal government has it.
Sure, most of us have nothing to worry about– now.
Orwell was a little advanced with 1984. Perhaps it will be the reality in 2024.
The Big Brother we have to worry about now– is Brother Obama.