A Reflection on (Unwanted) Classes

After I wrote The Futility of Some Subjects, something interesting happened. I’m actually starting to like my geology class. I know I’m probably the only one. Everyone else in class is either falling asleep or their facial expressions make it seem like Bambi’s mom just died.

Although I still believe that any kind of advanced math is a waste of time (unless your future career requires such math), I agree that there is some value in being exposed to subjects you wouldn’t immediately choose.

While I’m not going to become a geologist, I did enjoy picking up the 30 pound meteorite that fell down from the heavens sometimes in the 1800s. I also enjoyed learning, or rediscovering, the beauty and the complexity of our planet.

Perhaps a better approach for future educators would be to not force a specific number of physical science course on unwilling students, but instead present those courses as options. Furthermore, perhaps they can present those courses with a short intro video, or some sort of interactive element in the website. This can get the students excited and even interested about courses they may have not thought of at first.

Dreadful Paywall

I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a while. The one thing that has stopped me is the respect I have for The New York Times. However, after this post, titled Emmy Winners Mostly Fall Behind TV’s Paywall, that changed. Essentially, the Times writer laments that most TV shows, such as Breaking Bad, won’t be seen by millions because they’re not on network television.

Of course, the writer fails to mention that the Times also blocks their content from millions of readers after their 10 free articles per month is up.

Is there a way to bypass the Times paywall? And is this way legal?

Yes and yes.

All you need to do is download the anonymous Tor browser. What Tor does is that it allows you to surf the Web anonymously, that is without the prying eyes of hackers and the government.

But it also has another function. It changes your ip address, which is how the Times knows when you reach your limit.

Basically, your IP address will always come up as if you’re in a different country. So, after you install the browser and you connect on the Tor network, you can open The New York Times.

After your 10 articles, all you do is “Stop Tor” and then click on “Use a New Identity.” (See below)

Tor

Then reconnect to Tor and you’ll have a brand new ip address. That means 10 free articles. Repeat as many times as you like.

Thanks to Edward Snowden for all the wonderful privacy tips.

Rebel Leader

“We want Burger King!” We yelled in unison.

I was 11 and my two cousins were about the same age. We had just left Cuba a few months earlier. We had left a country where the food was rationed and burgers were a luxury if not a thing of legend.

“You’re not going to eat there!” My aunt replied. “We made dinner so that you guys can eat at home!”

In response, me and my cousins locked ourselves in our room, and in the tradition of many Cuban political prisoners, I decided that if our demands were not met, then we wouldn’t eat at all.

“We’re on strike” I said softly, with tears in my eyes. Then I slammed the door and climbed onto the top bunk bed. My cousin Yinet was up there with me. Danay was on the bottom bunk, but was also firm in her belief. No Burger King, no food.

It wasn’t as if we never ate there. As a matter of fact, we had just had dinner there only a few days ago. But in our youthful stubbornness, we needed to eat Burger King that night. But to be honest, my reason for organizing the strike was more than a desire to eat a cheeseburger, minus the pickles.

A few months earlier, I had not only left my friends and my country, but I had left behind my parents. For legal and complicated reasons, they weren’t able to leave Cuba. The day of my departure, I remember being kissed and hugged by both my parents at the airport. And even though I wanted to say that I loved them and I wanted to cry, I felt numb. I wanted to prove to my dad that “men don’t cry,” an adage that I had been told all my life, which only confused me when I saw a few tears in his eyes.

In Cuba, you have to walk from the airport to the plane. That is, you’re actually walking on the runway. I remember walking in a single file, following my aunt and uncle. My two cousins and my great grandmother were also with me. Before I stepped inside the airplane, I did what most Cuban exiles in front of me did, I looked back, not only to catch a glimpse of my parents, but to say goodbye to the island. Our destination was South Florida.

Now, a few months later, my numbness was shattered and a wave of regret and emotion had come over me. Had I chosen the right thing? I missed my parents very much, but I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my feelings with anyone and I didn’t want to cry in front of my cousins who were girls. So, I made my stand with the Burger King issue. When I cried that night, I wasn’t thinking that my aunt and uncle were being mean, but I was crying for my parents. It was a charade. It was a ruse, just like the Cuban Revolution.

But unlike the Cuban political prisoners, many who have died of hunger strikes, my aunt finally gave in. They would drive to Burger King and buy us dinner. My uncle did warn us that if we pulled a stunt like that again we would go hungry that night. I’ve never seen him so mad, so I believed him.

Later, as I ate my cheeseburger, I felt a bit better, now that I had unchained my deep emotions and allowed myself to cry. Sometimes a good cry is all that the soul needs.

Breaking Bad Wins Big!

So, Breaking Bad won big at the Emmy’s last night! The show won for best drama once again. Bryan Cranston won his fourth lead-actor Emmy. Aaron Paul won his third award for best supporting actor and Anna Gunn won her second. Breaking Bad is still one of my favorite shows ever (if not my favorite) and I’m very excited about its continued success.

Here are some earlier posts that I wrote about the show. Some may contain spoilers:

Breaking Bad: The End

Breaking Bad and Christianity

The Music of Breaking Bad

A Writer’s Superstition

I recently read an interview with John Green where he said that when he’s working on a novel and people ask him what it is about, he’ll lie to them. He’ll say zombies, or something else completely different. And then I remembered that many years ago, I read that Gabriel García Márquez did the same thing about his novels in progress.

And it turns out, that I do something similar. I don’t lie to people, I just don’t tell them what the story is about. I only tell a few people, like my wife or a close friend and that’s it. In the past, when I have enthusiastically told many people about my novel in progress, I have never finished it. And even though I’ve never been a superstitious person, I am in this particular topic of writing.

I don’t know what it is. It could be that subconsciously you feel the pressure that too many people are expecting you to deliver a flawless product. Or it could be that once you tell too many people about the story, the magic is lost.

So then, I started thinking about writers and their weird habits and superstitions and here’s a list for you. I got them verbatim from The Odd Habits and Curious Customs of Famous Writers.

-John Steinbeck, who liked to write his drafts in pencil, always kept exactly twelve perfectly sharpened pencils on his desk.

-Truman Capote wouldn’t begin or end a piece of work on a Friday, would change hotel rooms if the room phone number involved the number 13, and never left more than three cigarette butts in his ashtray, tucking the extra ones into his coat pocket.

-Agatha Christie munched on apples in the bathtub while pondering murder plot.

-Alexandre Dumas was also an aesthete: For decades, he penned all of his fiction on a particular shade of blue paper, his poetry on yellow, and his articles on pink

Click on the link above for more interesting anecdotes.

What about you? Do you have any superstitions that are particular to writing or how you write? Share them with me!

The Futility of Some Subjects

This post is probably influenced by my lack of desire to attend school today, but there is some unbiased truth to this.

I understand the need for basic schooling, that is, essential math, reading and science, etc. Sorry highschoolers, but you’re stuck. However, once a person reaches college, things should be different. If I’m studying Mass Communications, why am I required to take a Geology or any other natural science class?

Will I ever use Geology or Calculus in my line of work? No, never. And I know that because I actually work in the same field that I’m studying for. No one has ever said, “Hey Israel, can you tell me what kind of rock this is? I’m not sure about its age in relation to its surrounding.”

That has never happened.

So, I think forcing students to study subjects that are in no way related to their field of study is a complete waste of time and money. This is even more true in our digital age where I can learn about Geology (if I wanted to) by just performing a Google search.

The system needs to be changed!