9/14: Science Department: Two subjects are better than one

Original article: http://www.elestoque.org/2017/09/14/news/science-department-subjects/ 

Make new friends, but keep the old.
One is silver, the other is gold.

For chemistry and physics teacher Emily Fitzgerald, the proverb applies a little differently: her “silver friend” is physics, a new addition to her repertoire of classes, and chemistry — as she is hardpressed to distinguish a favorite among these two “friends”, an old and gold subject.

“There are parts of both that I really enjoy. I think physics is really fun because you can do a lot of hands-on things and see it happening,” Fitzgerald said. “Whereas [with]chemistry, it’s really interesting to make models that can interpret what’s happening on a tiny, tiny level.”

The retirement of physics teacher Mike McCrystal encouraged Fitzgerald to request a section of physics from the administration as she readied herself for a second year at MVHS. Her fellow staff members had assured her the first year of teaching is always the hardest, but Fitzgerald’s case is an exception. Fitzgerald had taught six classes of chemistry her first year, but is now assigned four classes of chemistry and an addition of two physics classes. Double the subjects equates to double the work, as Fitzgerald phrases it, despite both subjects qualifying as a “science” and requiring similar skills of experimentation or making hypotheses.

“I think [physics is]a very intuitive subject so you can actually observe physics happening [if you]drop a ball and see it fall down,” Fitzgerald said. “But with chemistry, it’s not quite as intuitive, so I have to come up with ways for my students to see what’s happening even though they can’t see it in person.”

Before she even became a full-fledged teacher on the West Coast, Fitzgerald was all the way across the country in New Jersey, earning teaching credentials in both chemistry and physics. The former she earned in a rather unprecedented way: Fitzgerald was under the impression that her teaching credential program focused on chemistry, until she realized that physics constituted the bulk of material. She was quick to sign up for an additional, chemistry-centered course. Regardless of the past confusion it evoked, she is very grateful for the mishap, as it has rewarded her with valuable insight and experience in teaching two subjects.

There’s one slight change, however, Fitzgerald can’t quite adjust to.

“I’m still learning how to be [at]the D building which is always on the back of the school,” Fitzgerald said, “and the E building which is in the front of the school.”



9/13: Bubbling under the surface

This article is one of two published in Feature’s “Descent in the Deep” deep web package. View the full package here: https://mvelestoque.atavist.com/descent-into-the-deep 

Our consumption of technology is eternal.

Dawn to dusk, notifications and YouTube videos surge in a bellowing, merciless wave, flooding our eyes and ears with an onslaught of vibrant colors and noises. We retire to bed, lulled to slumber by the natural darkness of the night, only to be jolted awake by the artificial daylight of the computer monitor. The cycle continues, the soundtrack of our lives forever the repetitive ding of an incoming text and summer afternoons squandered away on social media sites.

Yet even as we spend every waking minute online, the majority of us never truly scratch the surface of the web. There lies a kind of technological underground unlike your typical Google Chrome or Firefox browser and shielded from the public eye: the deep web, and its shadier counterpart — the dark web.

According to junior Naomi Tai, a technology enthusiast, the deep web is unable to be accessed by regular search engines like Yahoo or Google.

“Most of [the deep web] is actually just data and a couple of them are websites that you have to use different browsers like TOR [if you want] to access them,” Tai said. “And it’s usually a bunch of shady business and whatnot.”

TOR (The Onion Router) refers to the onion router which is used to mask Internet traffic under blankets of encryption and uses its own form of an Internet Protocol (IP) address by using a .onion URL. But downloading TOR won’t make someone’s life easier by giving them specific sites; it is up to the user to find them on their own.

Unlike Tai, MVHS computer technician Brandon McArthur interprets the deep web as an infrastructure of the web and more organized than a storehouse for data.

“That means you can control who has access to your websites and your services,” McArthur said, “and so that can be good or bad.”

Graphic by Stuti Upadhyay.

Security is a constant priority, but there is a difference from sitting at home and using an electronic device than using an insecure network in a public space, like a coffee shop. Other people may be inclined to steal account information and assignments jeopardizing a job or a grade. But often most stores or school use a virtual private network (VPN) to create easy access

and provides security precautions like searching anonymously without being traced or keeping personal and personal information secure.

“Whenever you go to a website [VPN] encrypts it, sends it out over the router as encrypted, so nobody even knows what you’re doing,” AP Computer Science teacher David Greenstein said. “Whatever information you have and whatever comes back is totally encrypted because the only people who have the keys are you and the server that you’re paying way out there somewhere. So they call that tunneling, so that data tunneling essentially it’s a way of getting around systems.”

As a graduate student studying computer science, Greenstein was invited to work with the military on ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), a kind of predecessor to the Internet we know now. The network was established in 1969 as a testbed for networking technologies between niversity and research centers (Britannica.com). ARPANET was exclusively for the military, and public use was prohibited, but Greenstein had the privilege of experiencing the technology firsthand when tasked with “file transfer protocol.” He sent files through a network of computers connecting to over thirty universities. The government eventually shifted ARPANET from a military project to a public project, and it gradually evolved into the Internet as we know it today.

In the 1990’s, however, the deep web made its humble, benign entrance.

“[Internet users] were starting to put some secure stuff [online] and they had this security program called PGP [Pretty Good Privacy] that you could download,” Greenstein said. “The [creator Phil Zimmermann] got sued by the military and they were going to [go] after every person that owned a copy.”

Nowadays, PGP is considered a vital email encryption program, but its implementation and possession in 1991 — a violation akin to owning a bomb — garnered three years of criminal inspection after the program spread worldwide (Phil Zimmerman). The U.S. Government considered the program an “armament” and infringement of the Arms Export Control Act, a law ceding the President authority to manage the import and export of possible defense articles or services (U.S. Department of State). However, the government ultimately dropped Zimmerman’s case in 1996, and the result of his efforts birthed today’s deep web, of which PGP is a component.

“It was so damaging to the security of the United States,” Greenstein said, “[for the public] to own something that they couldn’t break into.“

The term deep web has a negative connotation, but what many people do not realize is that we use it in our everyday lives. Only small parts of it are illegal, therefore people have justifiable means of using it. According to Greenstein, over ninety percent of it is harmless and a majority is essential in everyday life, thus there is no driving reason for the deep web to be rid of. Common uses include webmail, of which PGP plays a role in security, online banking and also video on demand.

“A lot of [the deep web] is data based driven, so when you hit a site like Amazon you’re hitting a deep web,” Greenstein said. “It’s going to generate the page automagically for you, so the page you see is not the page other people see.”

It is the dark web — the sinister story within the story — one should steer clear of. It is a breeding ground of immoral measure, flourishing with black markets and bidding sites for illegal weapons or substances. Tai expresses her unwillingness to access the dark web with a “Hell no!”

Junior Naomi Tai checks her email for notifications. Both email and everyday online applications use components of the deep web for security and privacy. Photo by Helen Chao.

“Since it’s this shady business sometimes they can try to track you down,” Tai said. “And do like, I dunno, kill you if you don’t do what they want you to do.”

According to Tai, one of her acquaintances has had some interaction with “bitcoins,” a feature also used on both the dark web and surface web.

In order to buy or sell things online, people use bitcoins, a form of digital currency where transactions can be made without central banks and no single authority has control over them. One bitcoin estimates to a value of 4,609 US dollars. Tai herself knows of someone who has traded bitcoins before on the surface web, a perfectly legal action as it is not inherently tied to the dark web.

Accessing the deep web itself is not illegal unless someone gets involved in criminal or illicit activity, which is primarily quarantined in the dark web.

“No, I have no reason to be [on the dark web],” Greenstein said. “It’s like saying I’m going to go to the worst place in town where they have people that get stabbed and people get shot and I’m going to walk down the street to see what it’s like.”

Some people may come back out alive, Greenstein acknowledges, but he himself certainly wouldn’t take the risk to find out for himself. The newspapers he’s perused report of dark web users ultimately facing criminal court instead of their computer screen.

Greenstein is adamant he will never be one of them.

“I don’t want of your readers to be [on the dark web], either,” Greenstein said. “That would be a really really bad thing so if there’s anything that I can stress in this whole thing it’s that it is dangerous – it really is.”

AP Computer Science teacher David Greenstein surfs the web on his laptop. Many people use the deep web in their daily lives without even noticing it. Photo by Helen Chao.

9/13: A web of discussion

Original article: http://www.elestoque.org/2017/09/13/special/vergespiders/

With their spindly legs and beady eyes, spiders aren’t creatures we would usually snuggle in bed with. Instead, the sight of a daddy longleg elicits a flight or fight reaction: does one utter a bloodcurdling shriek and flee the vicinity, or grab the flip flop to smash the creature into a pulpy spider pancake?

Of course, a kinder individual would simply acknowledge him or her with a nod and leave the spider on its merry way.

Below, a spider hater, junior Evelyn How, and a spider lover, junior Carl Rosenthal, each share their contrasting experiences and feelings about these eight-legged creepy crawlies.

View the photo gallery below of Rosenthal’s spiders. All photos used with permission by Carl Rosenthal.

9/13: Phobia through the ages

Original article: http://www.elestoque.org/2017/09/13/special/verge-phobia-ages/

As children, we have all swept a cautious glance around the house when home alone. As the skies outside darken to an inky black, we wait in tense anticipation for the yellow searchlights of our parents’ cars to sweep across the windows. Some of us refused to be tucked in bed, sure that death was awaited us in the form of a hairy ogre lurking in the depths of the closet. The spider in the shower was sure to be our death sentence and the swimming pool was as deep as the Pacific Ocean, chlorine water ready to envelope and swallow us whole.

Nowadays, these fears litter our consciousness like dust from our childhood.

For some of us, however, our “fear” isn’t simply being scared of the dark; it manifests itself as agoraphobia, arachnophobia or claustrophobia. In this timeline, we’ll look at the development of the word “phobia,” an anxiety disorder in which the afflicted has a serious and extreme fear of certain situations and objects.

8/19: The business behind Business

Original article: http://www.elestoque.org/2017/08/19/special/the-business-behind-business/

Regardless of their passion for business, prospective DECA or FBLA members must take a CTE class(Career/Technical Education) to be eligible for club membership. Freshmen will typically take Principles of Business, an introductory course, and other students may take a Money and Banking or Java class, but there lingers still the underlying question of whether or not the class truly helps with the DECA or FBLA experience.Junior Urvi Shah is in her second year with FBLA, but is a one-year DECA club member who took Principles of Business freshmen year solely for eligibility in DECA. She believes this reason is applicable to most of her peers, as FBLA and DECA members amounted for almost all of the students in her Principles of Business class and she has noted similar patterns in her friend’s Money & Banking Class. There is a correlation between the class material and her DECA and FBLA activities, but she still considers the class requirement nonessential, citing its lack of significance or direct influence on her overall club experience. The class requirement may discourage prospective DECA and FBLA members who are exclusively interested in club participation.

Graphic by Helen Chao.

Akin to Shah, junior Brandon Ma also has experience with both FBLA and DECA organizations as a current DECA officer and second-year FBLA member. Ma, however, didn’t initially know of DECA or FBLA and simply signed up for Principles of Business out of personal interest. He believes the class requirement is logical and impactful, because it assisted him in both clubs — specifically on the DECA and FBLA multiple choice tests at conventions.

“A lot of [the test]is just memorizing a lot of content or concepts,” Ma said, “and that’s where Principles of Business is really helpful because it does give you an overview of like economics [and]an overview of how things work with the economy.”

He feels sympathetic for those unable to take a business class for whatever reason — resulting in ineligibility for DECA and FBLA — but ultimately believes the class requirement may be a “guard” against the lack of dedication he occasionally observes amongst the organization’s members. Some of the members are attracted to the social aspect of the conventions more so than the competitive essence of the club itself, opting to miss study or coaching sessions. Unfairly, extra time and resources for earnest and serious members are also potentially wasted.

“If people taking business classes right now aren’t very dedicated towards DECA [already]and that’s already like the very baseline requirement,” Ma said, “if we lower the requirement, there is going to be an even larger amount of people that [are]not trying to win [and]they’re just there for their friends.”

Business teacher Carl Schmidt, the advisor for both FBLA and DECA, stresses that the requirement cannot be disregarded regardless of student, parent or even administration complaints.

Funding is directly issued by the state government – uncoincidentally, they are also the originators and supervisors of the class requirement policy. If MVHS were to undermine the requirement, Schmidt believes it unfair to use the state money on the DECA or FBLA members who aren’t enrolled in his business classes, considering the money could be used for districts less fortunate than FUHSD.

In the grand scheme of things, however, Schmidt isn’t trying to limit the ambitious, high-pressure playing field for the students – be them prospective or full-fledged members – but strives to tilt it in their favor.

“If I can give our kids an additional heads up or little bit of a lift, why shouldn’t I do that?” Schmidt said. “Heavens knows they have enough challenges right now competing with everybody else to get there. Makes sense? Okay.”

Additional reporting by Katerina Pappas.

5/31: Teaching runs in the family

Right as he walks into his stepsister’s classroom, English teacher Randall Holoday cracks a joke about how people only contact him because he’s fellow English teacher Jackie Corso’s step-sibling. Since their parents got married when Holoday was in sixth grade, Holoday and Corso developed a close relationship, which continued due to their current jobs. The chances that the two step-siblings would end up not only working  in the same school and department, but also hold Team Lead positions are slim. Listen to the podcast below to hear the two English teachers talk about their relationship and their closely related jobs.

5/29 Special Report: Shoulderspeaker’s apprentice

Co-written with Karen Sanchez, Vivian Chiang, and Amanda Chan

They stand together outside the girls’ locker room, right in front of the lower field. His hands fly in front of him as he touches the speaker on his shoulder and then motions to the phone he’s holding in his right hand. The girl next to him listens intently, obviously focused, but also a little confused. Her own speaker, slightly smaller than his, is also slung about her shoulder. They talk until the bell rings, signaling the end of brunch and the end of their meeting. Walking down the path between the girls locker room and the fieldhouse, they part ways towards the C building.

He walks away, and for the first time in two years, his speaker stays silent. However, there’s still a rhythm in the air, music echoing not from his speaker but from the girl’s.

Senior Andrew Hsu has found his successor — a prodigy to carry on his legacy.

And despite terms that have been used in the past to name what he has been doing, such as “Music Man” or “Speaker Boy” — both gender specific terms he wasn’t necessarily fond of — he prefers the official title of Shoulderspeaker.

“Shoulderspeaker … is not just for the privileged people,” Hsu said. “It’s not for the person that everyone likes … it’s [something]everyone should relate to, and I think that’s why I wanted it to be Shoulderspeaker.”

Most know about Hsu, or have at least heard his music blasting through the hallways during passing periods. For some, it is a source of relaxation — a break from grades, competition and stress. For others, it’s entertaining. When he first began Shoulderspeaker, his primary goal was to unite the students through music and to make them happy.

“[MVHS] is a very negative environment,” Hsu said. “It’s very competitive and there’s a lot of negativity that’s associated with this school … Basically, what I’m trying to do is to use something that almost everyone enjoys and try to just make this environment and this negativity seem less vile.”

He first began to think about finding a successor when he realized how big the Shoulderspeaker role had become and was convinced the majority of the student body approved of his actions.

Hsu likens the self-confidence in being Shoulderspeaker to standing on stage and giving a speech one knows nothing about. Understandably, he considers freshman Shreya Patibanda as a stroke of luck who approached him herself.

“At first, I wasn’t very good at finding people that would actually do what I do,”  Hsu said. “[Because] it takes a lot of guts to play music really loud in front of a lot of people.”

Patibanda remembers being “mind blown” the first time she heard Hsu’s music because she never thought something as bold as this would exist; akin to Hsu, she commends the guts it takes to play loud music.

Before coming to MVHS, Patibanda was already wary of the school’s reputation as stressful and depressing and references how school spirit simply decreases after the welcome rally, pushed aside by fretful thoughts of academia and colleges for the rest of year.

“It’s not just about grades,” Patibanda said. “It’s about living your life to the fullest extent.”


Spotify playlist compiled by Andrew Hsu.

Patibanda came to know about the open position for Shoulderspeaker at Challenge Day. Both Patibanda and Hsu were present, and it was at this time Hsu announced that he was looking for a successor. Patibanda leapt upon the opportunity — to her, it was a chance to liven up the dreary school atmosphere. She immediately approached Hsu one day and expressed her interest in following his lead. She simply told him that she was going to be the next Shoulderspeaker no matter what.

They agreed to meet the next day, March 24, a Friday, to talk about what the role of Shoulderspeaker means. Patibanda quickly learned that being Shoulderspeaker was much more than just blasting music.

“First he shared with me a document … that’s a list of 15 things Shoulderspeaker should do,” Patibanda said. “The point was to play music that makes people feel lit. Another thing was that in addition to just playing music when you walk, you have to smile to others – it brings a more personal connection and it makes them happier.”

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Hsu and Patibanda strive to respect all the varying student opinions of Shoulderspeaker. As certain teachers are more conservative and sensitive about profanity, Hsu firmly emphasizes the importance in considering teachers’ different tolerance levels — especially for song selection, a considerably delicate and tedious process. He cites the weather, time of year and day of the week all as factors swaying song selection, with holidays like Christmas or Halloween bringing in more of a festive touch. For Patibanda, the student and teacher reception has been a little unexpected: rather than teachers, it is her fellow students who are startled by the profanity and who dissuaded her from playing particular songs.

“I walk into a classroom and then [the song has]swear [words]every five seconds,” Patibanda said. “And the funny thing is that all the students that are around me … [they]say ‘no Shreya, don’t play that song, you’re going to get in trouble’ but all the teachers are chill with it.”

Occasionally, students have confronted Hsu and Patibanda for “disturbing” people, yet Hsu genially dismisses the negativity, choosing instead to highlight the positive experiences the Shoulderspeaker has offered students and the grateful hands he has shaken — laughing, he remembers an anonymous student’s comment by the B building.

“She ran all the way down the stairs,” Hsu said, “and [came]around a corner just to shout that my speakers are sexy.”

He recalls a freshman who previously perceived the “high school experience” as a “kind of hell,” a degree of pessimism echoing Patibanda’s eighth grade self. Luckily, the freshman’s outlook immediately brightened after seeing Hsu and his speaker: there’s some good to find at MV.

“Winning hearts and changing opinions is definitely one of the most powerful things in the world,” Hsu said.