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.

2/8 How To: Chinese calligraphy

Bored of watercoloring? Try Chinese calligraphy, known for its vivid and fluid brushstrokes! Chinese Honor Society met on Jan. 27 to paint fishes and Chinese characters, and officers also gave out traditional Chinese New Year candy to members. Scroll through the step-by-step pictures to learn how to paint your own fish!

Budapest (17) Budapest (18)

IMG_3538 (1) IMG_3540

Budapest (19)


Budapest (20)


Budapest (21)

  To make your own Chinese character stencil: search Google Images for “chinese character stencil printout,” print, and cut out. The character used in the picture above means “respectable.”






1/18 Special Report: Seven Sins: Wrath: Breaking point

He says he’s not usually tempted to kick chairs.

But the inbounder had failed to step up her “basketball” game — and lost it for the team instead. After the other team scored, she was required to take the ball out of bounds and throw it back in for her teammates to catch.

Things went awry.

She chucked the ball and it bounced outside the sidelines, untouched and completely missing the court. Her teammates’ hands were still flailing in vain. The opposing team received the ball and scored a basket. Unhappy and disappointed, Math teacher and basketball coach Martin Jennings had a discussion with her after the game.

You never do that, Jennings told her. At least don’t let the other team score.

Two games later, she made the same mistake.

Nevertheless, the chair crashed to the ground — jarringly loud — as if responding to his inner emotions instead.

Again, the ball flew outside the sidelines; the receiving hands flew up and faltered back down, empty-handed. And again, the opposing team received the out-of-bounds ball and scored under their team’s basket.

He kicked a chair. Lightly.

Doc Jan 18, 2017, 5-25 PM

Nevertheless, the chair crashed to the ground — jarringly loud — as if responding to his inner emotions instead. A referee ventured to ask if he was okay.

Physically, he was. He hadn’t swung his leg viciously and only meant to express his frustration; the resounding crash was partially accidental. Emotionally, he wasn’t. He was both embarrassed and disappointed in the team and himself.

Jennings apologized to the girl and the rest of the team.

“She wasn’t very happy, but neither was I. It was [a]needed [conversation],” Jennings said. “Apologizing is always a form of putting aside one’s pride. So is that easy to do? No, but the need outweighs the want. If I feel like I need to do it, I just do it. Whether I want to or not.”

Jennings doesn’t believe he’s learned anything from the experience.

“Don’t kick the chair? Don’t touch the chair with your foot?” Jennings said. “It’s nothing I didn’t already know.”

Besides the basketball scenario, he can’t think of any other instances when his temper spiraled out of control.

When keeping his temper in check, Jennings tries to keep in mind the young, impressionable age of his students. Angry responses may darken the student’s perception of the school year ahead — and perhaps the rest of their lives. Besides the basketball scenario, he can’t think of any other instances when his temper spiraled out of control. Fortunately, the inbounder continued to come to practice everyday.

However, he acknowledges there have been regrettable instances — much milder than the chair-kicking — when he could have responded better to his students’ actions. In the times he apologized, he believes students were very appreciative.

“I realize I’m as much a sinner as they are,” Jennings said. “Maybe a different kind of sinner, but just as much of one.”

12/13 Beats: New book added to World Core Curriculum

Next semester, sophomores in World Core will start reading “Waiting for An Angel” by Helon Habila, a new nonfiction addition to the curriculum. Taking place in Nigeria, the novel follows the story of a young journalist and his struggles during the 1990s, a time of political unrest and restraining dictatorship.

According to World Core teacher Jackie Corso, the book was first piloted last year by former World Core Literature teacher Hannah Gould and current World Core literature teacher David Clarke to see whether or not it addressed skills the teachers wanted to work on. According to Corso, the pilot went very well, and the whole staff decided to incorporate the novel into the curriculum.

“I’m excited to teach it,” Corso said. “It’s something new.”


12/7 Special Report: Applying Yourself

Taking Risks in Life

The following story is one of three in the Special Report package, written by yours truly. Originally, this college application package was to be published in the magazine, but things went awry. 🙂 However, this package is still just as beautiful online. 

Last year during volleyball tryouts, senior Theemeshni Govender tore her ACL, a ligament in the back of the knee that helps with stabilization. She spiked a ball and her feet had landed in an awkward position.

Over the course of the next 11 months, she would undergo four surgeries for her torn ACL.

Govender recalls her landing as feeling as though two things were sliding across each other. People helped her off the court, as she moved to the sidelines in extreme pain. However, after she eventually tried walking around, she found that the pain had actually lessened. She underwent a surgery for an ACL reconstruction, and certainly expected to be back on the court her senior year — a fitting end to her high school experience.

Presently, she is no longer leaping to spike volleyballs and perhaps, similar to many injury-affected athletes, the court may simply serve as a reminder of what could have been. A week after the ACL reconstruction, she was racked with high fevers and informed of an infection in her ACL. Govender underwent two more surgeries for the infection and was absent from school for two weeks, only to return with a tube in her arm — the only way for her body to consume her antibiotics was through her veins. Her antibiotics had to be administered every six hours, so her dad would come to school every day during lunch and administer the medicine.

Presently, she is no longer leaping to spike volleyballs and perhaps, similar to many injury-affected athletes, the court may simply serve as a reminder of what could have been.

During her third surgery, the orthopedic surgeon had inserted a tube into her arm, running across her arm and rests on the center of heart, and her dad would inject her antibiotics through the tube. The orthopedist had also “washed” out her knee to clean it of any of the bacteria from the infection, and she returned home from the surgery on the weekend, ready to return to school.

Govender remembers how naive she was after the surgery. Facing a stressful junior year, Govender didn’t want to miss any classes and considered immediately returning to school. Her parents were firmly against it and in turn, Govender was absent from school for an entire week. But, looking back on it, she’s thankful for her parents’ cautiousness, seeing as merely walking was already a challenge for her body.

When Govender returned back to school, she received a warm welcome. Her friends carried her backpack for her and teachers extended deadlines for the homework she had missed or excused her from particular assignments altogether. Govender continued physical therapy, even after she was able to walk. A nurse still visited her every week to re-clean the site around her tube, and she had vials of blood drawn for four weeks to make sure her white blood cell count was returning to normal.


Senior Theemeshni Govender types on her laptop. Many of Govender’s college essays reflect on her growth as an individual after tearing her ACL during volleyball tryouts in her junior year. Photo by Om Khandekar.

Her life seemed to be looking up.

However, when Govender revisited her orthopedic surgeon again in July, before the beginning of senior year, he told her she needed yet another surgery — her fourth. The graft from her hamstring that he previously inserted had stretched.

Staying ahead of the game, Govender had planned to start her college essays over the summer and center the prompts around her injury. She eventually fell ill to procrastination, but completed several essays before the beginning of the school year. At the time, she didn’t know she would need a fourth surgery, but still felt slightly uneasy about writing of her injury.

Her mother was all for it. The injury had and has definitely changed Govender, emotionally and physically, and her injury has affected her academic performance, and that in itself, to her mother, was worthy of colleges’ attention.

“Sometimes I feel like [colleges]don’t want you to talk about certain hardships, as they might not understand or they’ll be like ‘Oh it wasn’t that big of a deal,’” Govender said, “I didn’t want to underrepresent what happened, yet at the same time I didn’t want them to say like ‘Oh she’s using this as excuse for things that happened my junior year.’”

In lieu of simply stressing her physical situation, Govender ultimately pinpointed the emotional aspects of her injury, and wrote of the process — or roads — traveled to overcome these hardships.

And the bigger picture unfurled at the edges as she did so.

“The college [application]process definitely made me look at the entire process of my surgery and recovery,” Govender said. “Look back on it in detail. Every step.”

What with the intravenous medications and the four surgeries, it seemed as if the enormity of her struggles would always be crystal clear to her. However, to Govender, it didn’t seem that way.

“It’s almost as if after I recovered and I could walk again that had like pushed them [the past struggles]aside and forgotten about it,” she said. “But when I was forced to write about it, I was like ‘Wow, I can’t believe I went through all of this.’”

Regardless of the emotion concentrated in her writing, Govender said she doesn’t want to garner any sympathy. She’d never informed peers of her injuries unless they had asked specifically, and in essence, there had never been a driving reason for her to “re-travel” these emotional roads of her injury — until college applications. After all, Govender mentions, sometimes people dislike reflecting on their “past selves,” regardless if they have changed for the better or worse.

“The college [application]process definitely made me look at the entire process of my surgery and recovery,” Govender said. “Look back on it in detail. Every step.”

At first, Govender had reflected on her injury with resentment. Yet presently, in the middle of her senior year, Govender personally believes she has become much more resilient — not just physically, but emotionally too — and she’s ready to face any problem that arises in the future. She is still attending physical therapy and is just starting to jog — she hasn’t attempted running just yet. Even then, her jogging is assisted. While others’ feet may subconsciously pound the cement sidewalks, Govender can only jog with the aid of a trampoline.

“I want to take risks in life,” she said, nevertheless.