The unfair valley

I usually go on field trips for one reason: getting out of class, and food. Since it’s May, as a Senior, I hardly have anything going on in my class. So, I went to Valleyfair to hang out with my friends, and eat food. I’ve never really been a fan of rides, so that might have been a huge factor in my experience.

Basically, going to Valleyfair was probably the worst decision I made in May.

Despite the strange weather pattern, I thought it was right to dress lightly. And I was right, as it was very warm and humid. And yet, I didn’t think to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, or even a hat. I was constantly looking for shade, as having very fair skin means I get burned easily.

Even if we did decide to go on rides, the lines were very long, and in mostly unshaded areas. The arcade was a ripoff, with heavily inflated prices, and as we were told by the staff themselves, paid out very little.

That seemed to be a recurring theme among the park – high prices. The “theme” of the park was capitalism, or at least, unchecked capitalism. I brought $48 with me, and used it all up on about 4 things. We had lunch at a little 50s-style burger joint place. It looked cool, but that was all – the cheapest meal, a cheeseburger and fries, was about $13, and didn’t even include a drink. The malt I ordered was $6, and didn’t even come in one of those retro cups! The fries were unsalted, and I had to cover them in salt, pepper, and ketchup to make them edible. The burger itself though, was okay.

Drinks were very expensive; the cheapest being $5, with no refill. Near the end of the day, I bought a soft pretzel, which was $7, and for an extra $1, got a small drop of cheese sauce. The pretzel was so salty that I was desperate enough to buy one of the $4 drinks from a vending machine. I was out of money by this point, but my good friend Alex let me borrow $4. The machine itself was finicky and took about ten minutes to buy a single drink.

So, when you become a senior, don’t come to the Unfair Valley, a testament of capitalism unchecked.

Dependence

The week that the Seniors turned in our iPads was strife with technical difficulty. We were all short one more device, and on top of that, the Internet was acting all goofy. Sometimes it didn’t work, sometimes it did. Having no internet for even just an hour really set us back. All of this happening made me realize how dependant we are on technology.

I have always been extremely grateful for my iPad. I have terrible handwriting, and having the tablet really helped me take notes and write things. Having no smart phone until September last year, this also was just really great to have on hand. To look something up, I didn’t need to go on a computer, and for the longest time, it was against the rules in my house to use more than one electronic device at once.

And now, having it removed, it made me realize how much I relied on it. Every morning I would sit down and read about world news and other things. I also used it to write not just for school work, but on my novel. I’ve probably written well over 20,000 words of the book on the iPad alone. In a way, the device was an extension of my brain.

And that worries me.

200 years ago, local journalists just wrote things down. I at first thought I wouldn’t survive in that field with my bad handwriting, but I write far faster than I think. With all this information from the Internet, maybe that’s why I think so fast? I am writing this down on a piece of technology, and you will read it on that. Even if I printed this out, the text would have been made by computers, which is still technology. But then again, isn’t pen and paper technically a technology?

Are we already cyborgs?

WW3?

If you remember, back before the break, I had published an article trying to give hope during these bleak days. At the time, the news cycle was all about the Trump/Russia investigations. It was pretty boring compared to now.

But then everything changed when the United States attacked.

Or, more precisely, the United States attacked the Syrian Government in response to the chemical attack against the Syrian people. Donald Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at an Airbase in Syria. The airbase was also used by Russia. Perhaps Trump did this to try to convince people that he “totally didn’t work with Russia?” While Russia-United States relations had been warm, Russia then condemned the attack. However, most of the world agreed with Trump, and soon, people panicked.

I remember the day it happened. It was Thursday of spring break. My dad was out playing poker with his friends, and my sister was at an Anime Convention. My brother and I were home alone; I was working on an entry for a contest and my Brother was probably having a rave in his room. It was about 7:30 pm when my mom got home, and she suggested we go out to eat. We decided to go to one of our favorite restaurants.

Right when we walked in, before we were seated, I looked at the TV to see something about Trump. I thought, “What has that idiot done now…” until I looked closer. It showed the missiles flying through the air, one after another, lighting up the dark sky. I must have only looked at it for 6 seconds before we were seated.

While I ate my burgers and fries, I looked at Twitter. People were making jokes about WW3. Someone even said something along the lines of, “While we’re at it, can we wipe out that ****** Kim Jong-Un? Who wants to grab literal and metaphorical shotgun?” #WW3 was the top trending topic.

And now, they might get their wish. In addition to the Syrian situation, the U.S. and North Korea are getting more aggressive towards each other. Mike Pence says that the U.S. will no longer be “strategically patient.” Even China, who Donald Trump hates, is working on trying to contain the North Korean conflict. Japan and South Korea have been discussing evacuation plans. If WW3 does break out, it will probably be NATO, Turkey, China, South Korea, and Japan vs Russia, North Korea, and Syria.

All in all, pretty scary.

Hope

The years 2016 and 2017 will probably live on as infamous years in history books. Lots of bad things have happened. There have been numerous terrorist attacks, the Western World has been engaged in a sort of cultural civil war, and a Cheeto was elected President of the United States. Harambe was killed. Celebrities were dying left and right. Climate Change brought on the hottest months on record. Right Wing Populism had a massive resurgence with rioting against an overly politically correct left, and there was an influx of refugees from wars these people created.

But I am not here to talk about that. You see, news is a product, just like food or mobile devices. You are essentially paying someone to watch a source – such as the war in Syria or one of President Trump’s signings – and give a summary. It’s too dangerous to fly out to Mosul and interview a member of ISIS about their views. Similarly, it’s boring to fly out to Washington DC and hear Trump talk about mining for an hour.

And people buy what they like to hear. News is a product, and they sell it to a certain type of customer. Breitbart sells to disenfranchised white teenagers, and BBC sells to everyone. They all cater to a view.

And while the world is depressing, it is also amazing, magical, and wonderous. Human beings can be needlessly cruel, but they can also be mind numbingly brilliant.

A Russian company 3D printed a 400 sq ft house in 24 hours. AIs can accurately predict people who are about to commit suicide, so clinics can help them. Robotic bees will pollinate crops. There will be birth control for men. Smart glasses change aperture automatically to make you see farther. Green energy is cheaper than fossil fuels. There will be a universal income. Super sponges have been developed that can absorb toxic spills. Uber has made self driving cars. New gun holsters force body cams to record when their gun is drawn. Elon Musk will make humanity a multi-planet civilization. Tesla is now worth more than Ford.

So to you, I say, the future lies with people like Elon Musk.

For more information about the brilliant things listed above:

http://mashable.com/2017/03/03/3d-house-24-hours.amp

https://news.fsu.edu/news/health-medicine/2017/02/28/how-artificial-intelligence-save-lives-21st-century/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2120832-robotic-bee-could-help-pollinate-crops-as-real-bees-decline/

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/07/successful-male-contraceptive-gel-trial-brings-new-form-of-birth-control-closer-vasalgel

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/these-smart-glasses-adjust-your-vision-automatically-180962078/

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/solar-and-wind-power-cheaper-than-fossil-fuels-for-the-first-time-a7509251.html

https://news.fastcompany.com/tag/universal-basic-income

http://sciencenewsjournal.com/newly-developed-nanotech-super-sponge-removes-mercury-water-less-5-seconds-make-effective-toxic-cleanup-lakes-possible-future/

https://www.recode.net/2017/3/16/14938116/uber-travis-kalanick-self-driving-internal-metrics-slow-progress

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2017/02/axon-signal-sidearm-automatic-body-cam/

https://www.inverse.com/article/27353-elon-musk-donald-trump-qu

https://electrek.co/2017/03/27/tesla-tsla-valuable-ford/

 

Snow tubing

Being a senior is very fun. It has been a very relaxing year. I don’t have to worry about math or science anymore. I’ve never had to do anything in Study Hall. I thought my senior year was going to be my most stressful year, but it was the exact opposite.

Being a senior comes with many responsibilities, such as becoming an active citizen, but it also comes with many benefits. We have a lot more freedom than other grades, like being able to have late starts and early releases. Also, to reward us for making it this far, we have senior field trips.

The senior field trips are organized by the student council. Since the student council changes every year, this means the senior field trips change every year too. So far this year, there have been two trips, with another planned for spring.

The first field trip was in November. I had not paid much attention to the trip, ignoring the announcements, until about two days before the permission slip was due. I realized, “Hey, I get out of school, and there might be good snacks!” The first field trip was to a roller skating rink. I never liked roller skating; it just wasn’t my thing. So, basically, I just sat around eating junk food and looking at memes. It was fun, but none of my friends were there.

After the trip, I questioned my friends on why they weren’t there. I told them about the nice food, like giant soft pretzels and cheese curds. We agreed to do the next field trip. In fact, one of my friends constantly berated me, asking if I had turned in the permission slip and if I had the money.

Then, due to global warming and climate change, the trip was canceled due to lack of snow, as the second trip was snow tubing. We were disappointed, as that meant we had to go to school. But it was rescheduled, and we went.

Much like the first trip, I didn’t actually do the activity; I instead just hung out with my friends in the bar. We had soda, split a pizza, and joked around. I liked it. I got out of class, had some pizza, and played a few games, all in the company of my friends.

Programming at HPSH

ianHighland offers a wide range of electives. Electives can be used to explore studies outside the core curriculum. Electives offered are anything from sports and journalism, to photography and programming. I am here today to talk about one particular elective: computer science with Mr. Peterson.

Back in my Junior year, I took computer programming as an elective. I liked my experience, as I thought the class was fun but simple, and Mr. Peterson was a great guy. The class taught me how to use Scratch and Google Sketchup, and unlike a lot of other classes, he gave us a lot of creative freedom. Most assignments had an end goal requirement, like “have it multiplayer” or “draw a house,” but anything else was up to us. We could decide what kind of multiplayer game it was, and what the details of the houses were.

Perhaps the reason why I did so well in the class, was because I had experience in programming and model design. As a kid I had always been very creative and loved Legos. Eventually, I turned to video games, but my creativity stayed the same. In games like Minecraft and Garry’s Mod I could explore and interact with my own creations; which is a wonderful, godlike experience.

Then I found LittleBigPlanet, a game that gave a limited range of tools that, if you knew your stuff, could create almost anything. The game is primarily a platformer, but I have seen people create shooters, RPGs, mini games, full length movies, anything and everything you can set your mind to, if you know how to make it.

How the programming in LittleBigPlanet works is a lot like Scratch; how you place and hook up modules to activate things. It is as complex as you make it. If I want to make it so that when the player grabs a button it turns on a light, I place an object called a “grab sensor,” and wire it up to a light.

I can make the same concept more complex too. Like if I want it to be that only certain characters can grab the button, and make the light turn on permanently, I can add a tag sensor and hook that and the grab sensor up to an AND gate, and hook that up to a counter set to 1, so when a certain player with a tag grabs the button, both conditions are met so the AND gate sends out a signal, activating the counter so it is at 1/1 and permanently sends out a signal to the light.

I have used this system to create some pretty complex stuff, like a character stealth system, movement speed of characters, etc.

So, if any of this sounds interesting to you, or if you would like to learn more about programming, you should check out Mr. Peterson’s elective class.

The social commentary of Star Trek

A month back I was exceptionally bored of my usual routine, of playing video games. Much like the old, tired cliche of how a woman can look into a full closet and have nothing to wear, I had nothing to play. So I went on something I don’t normally go on – Netlfix.

Now, unlike most people, I don’t like Netflix. Or more specifically, I don’t like a lot of shows. I find them dull, boring, or uninteresting. A few of the shows I did like were The Walking Dead, The X-Files, Doctor Who – dystopian or dark shows with airs of mystery. I also like funny things, like W/Bob and David, a very funny but short series.

My most recent interest was shown to me by my mom, like The X-Files beforehand: Star Trek. Specifically, Star Trek The Next Generation.

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image taken from: p://jamesadomian.com/2014/08/

Now, I want you to know that I don’t plan on dressing up like aliens or whatever, speaking in made up languages…but what I liked about the show is how they blended social commentary into some of the episodes.

For example, one episode deals with the Enterprise hosting two factions very hostile only to each other. I saw parallels between the Soviet Union and U.S., and the Enterprise the U.N. At what point is it acceptable to interfere with the relations of two nations? At what point must you become the peacekeeper? These questions were asked in the episode, and were answered with the Enterprise’s Prime Directive – never interfere. And because of this, some delegates died, much like how people died in Proxy Wars like the Vietnam War.

Another episode is one where they find a planet where women hold all the power, and men are sexuallized and given jobs like secretaries and prostitutes. In the 24th century, humanity is truly equal, and the crew of the Enterprise find this display just as disturbing as the misogynistic past of the U.S. Is it justifiable to put men in this position just like women had been in the past? Is oppositely tilted balances true justice, or just another side of the coin?

Then another episode deals with a society where committing a crime in an area chosen randomly is punished with death. This creates a society full of pleasure and fun, with no crime or chaos at all, with death as the only punishment. Is killing criminals an effective deterrent to stop crime?

I have so far watched about three seasons, and find it fascinating to see the inspirations of some episodes in history and today.

Trump protests

This year has been a significant year. The United Kingdom left the European Union. Celebrities like Alan Rickman died. And then we had the political chaos of our election. Against all odds, Donald Trump was elected president.

This obviously sparked some outrage. Protests have been going on across the nation, with several here in Minnesota, such as the protests on I-94.

In Minneapolis, on Thursday November 11th, 2016, hundreds of anti-Trump protesters marched down Interstate 94. They managed to close it for more than two hours. Police stopped them from marching any further into Minneapolis. It was organized by a Facebook group called Socialist Alternative Minnesota.

Previous protests, like the one on Wednesday the 10th, were mostly peaceful, with the only bad thing caused by it being loud noises, probably hindering people’s sleep. 100 people were arrested.

Minnesota Public Radio visit

Last Friday, on October 21st, me and my good buddy Harley, both aspiring writers, went to the MPR headquarters in downtown St. Paul. I had realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to support myself as a fiction writer, so I thought about being a Political Scientist or a Journalist. My Uncle, Dave Kansas, invited me to a tour. He is the Vice President of MPR, and has published several books.

After being dropped off, me and Harley went through was apparently the back entrance. We went into the lobby, where we met the greeter, a man named Abdul. The lobby was an interesting mix of modern architecture. My Uncle came down to get us, and I introduced Harley to him.

We went up to his room, and offered us some candy from a huge bowl. There was a huge selection, including brands I’ve never seen before. While I did not take any I severely regret it now.

Up in his office, he showed us some metaphorical trophies before the real tour started. He had a political cartoon of himself, several famous articles he wrote back when he worked for the Wall Street Journal, a few posters. He then gave us a copy of one of his books, “The End of Wall Street as we know it.”

We then walked around, and he showed us the offices of many important people, and his army of researchers. I chatted with a few, desiring my interest in politics and fiction. A journalist told me that “it’s hard to tell the difference between the two in this day and age.”

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MPR editing room

Then we met Tom Weber, and watched live as the editing team worked on an interview. Due to a bureaucratic blunder, we were called down to the lobby to wait for my Uncle, who came 20 minutes later asking where we were. When that cleared up, we went to talk to Jade and later a woman in charge of a reading program, snagging a few books. After that we left.

I would have to say it was a pleasant experience. I am lucky to have connections in the industry I plan to go into.

Tailgating 2016

I am writing this article from the shadow of the schoolhouse. The smells of FFA’s grill, and school spirit fill the air. I am currently eating one of their cheeseburgers, supporting my school. The burger I would rate 4.0/4.0, having a perfect GPA.

In front of me is a booth for the HiWay Credit Union, supporting the Highland community by sponsoring the Photo booth. They are giving away candy, and I pick up a vanilla Tootsie Roll. Next to the candy table is the Photo booth. As I am here alone, I do not go in, but I have seen many groups of students enter.

img_0013Next, is some kids playing Highland Hopsotch, and the Thespian Society’s homemade cupcakes. While I think of myself as an adept persuader, I could not get one for free. I had a delicious vanilla cupcake.

Then there is the BSU booth, raising money for BLM. On its left is the Hockey booth, which kindly gave me some free garlic bread. They are here to support the Highland sports teams.

Next, is FFA, which stands for Future Farmers of America. Ms. Wedger says that you may still join, and the club educates its members about agriculture. Then is the Science Club, which is doing a raffle for some cool socks.

img_0014Now, for the most crowded booth, Model UN. They are selling coffee and doughnuts holes. They have meetings every Thursday. On its left is the Highland Park Dance Team. They dance at social events like this.

And now is the NHS booth, offering face painting. It was a big success, they say.

Next, was Student Council, selling spirit wear and candy. Then there is the GSA booth selling “walking LGBTacos.”

Then, there’s the “pretty cool” Anime Club. Next to it is Asian Culture Club, selling egg rolls. And then there’s Union Latina, selling tamales fast. And lastly, there is the Spanish Immersion booth, selling shirts to support it.

This was my first time going to an event such as this, and I must say, it was fun eating food. Some of it was free! I am surprised by my ability of persuasion.

Anyway, from what I can tell the tailgating was a huge success!