This article is a copy of my “Matrix Manifesto” assignment for my Media Literacy class. When relevant, I have linked to other blog posts of mine. Topics without links are likely to have some soon; I want to be thinking and writing about things like this more often.
Okay, I’ve been planning to make a post on web privacy for a while now, and I took so long because I wanted to put together something super-convincing, but I’ve about had it by now with Google Chrome have to get something out.
Chances are, you’re using Chrome while you’re reading this. If not, I congratulate you. Do make sure that you’re not using a Chrome-based browser that’s just as bad, though, because there are a lot of those.
Now, why am I so mad at Chrome?
Well, it all comes down to this: Chrome has a conflict of interest when it comes to privacy.
For the first time in a good while, I’ve released a completely new blog feature! Back in February, I did a redesign of the entire site from scratch with new (and better), but the blog got little attention and was mostly a recreation.
Now it’s time to start adding new things. And to start off what I hope will be a good run of features is one I’ve been considering for a while now: Emoji Reactions. Today I’m going to walk you through the new feature and give you a summary of my design philosophy when creating it.
This week’s post is a research paper I wrote this week on aliens. That’s right, aliens. My research papers tend to have a flair of the ridiculous (I’ve heard that my old teacher still talks about my paper on Religion in Space; maybe I should publish that one soon), and this one is no exception.
Back in November, I was experimenting with embedded narrative in a novel I was drafting. I mostly did it to fill up some space when I wasn’t sure where I wanted the story to go, but I ended up with some insights I found fascinating.
February 26, 2021 by Benjamin Hollon 3 minute read
My watch’s alarm never wakes me up. My old one would beep for ten seconds before automatically snoozing for five minutes. Even if I heard it, my brain knew that if I could endure ten seconds of noise, I’d have an extra five minutes of sleep. I could never find the motivation to get up and out of bed when I heard it. My new one is even worse: it beeps for ten seconds without snoozing afterward.
That’s when I started the search for a new alarm clock.
Why do grades matter to us? On the surface, they mean nothing. Grades are simply numbers (See The Tyranny of Grades). But on a deeper level, almost everyone feels emotionally tied to their grades to a ludicrous degree. We take these assessments of our knowledge and set them at the apex of the school system.
Now, don’t misunderstand me: grades aren’t bad. On the contrary, grades, when used for their intended purposes, can be excellent tools. Grades are meant to be compasses, pointing to things that need improvement.
Instead, grades have become the end goal instead of a means to an end. Society has placed the institution of grades on a pedestal as the ultimate goal of learning.
Out of this has sprung another unfortunate habit: grade comparing.
Why do people read? What motivation do we, as humans, have for perusing the written histories and fantasies of our predecessors?
For me, the answer is so self-evident that asking the question itself is superfluous. It's like asking, "Why do we breathe?" or, "Why do we eat?" Reading is something that I do naturally, almost spontaneously. It's not a matter of whether I read but of what I read.
"In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth,Anno Domini; 1620." - William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation
When you read The Mayflower Compact, does anything strike you...
For the last few months, I've been purposely avoiding writing about the topic that is most on everyone's minds right now: COVID-19.
Now, there are multiple reasons why I chose not to bring up this subject, the foremost being that I didn't take it seriously enough, but the reasons don't really matter. I didn't, and that's that. Now, however, I'd like to say a few words.
I don't think anyone recognized at first how much this epidemic would mean to our daily lives. I certainly didn't. In just a few short months, we've come so far that even thinking about how we used to do things feels odd to me...
One of the great misfortunes of life is that we often need help. We’re only human; no one can instinctively know how to brave all the trials and setbacks life throws at us.
Often, when we can’t hold our heads above water, we’re offered help, like a life preserver to a sinking child. Sadly, humans, in addition to needing help, often are too proud to accept it. We refuse that which we need so as “not to inconvenience” the one who offered it, not wanting to give in to our “selfish” wants.
Darkness has something about it that inspires fear. There's a quality of the unknown, of potential enemies lying in wait somewhere beyond the threshold of sight. Often our minds tend to create fantasies of monsters prepared to ambush us if we venture out into the void.
The darkness also seems to amplify fears that are already present. For example, in I Am Malala by Malala Yousafazi, her father says, "At night our fear is strong...but in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again."
What is it about the night that steals courage? Is there a quality of the darkness that lends itself to fear and uncertainty? Perhaps it is the feeling that time has stopped...
Some of you may know that I run a reading group online. I started it back at the beginning of November, and it's already passed a thousand members (that's more than seven new members per day). It's been so popular and has helped so many people that I thought I would take the next few posts to explain how they work and the thought process behind them.
My first reading challenge was "Slay the Bookwyrm." I started running this challenge before I created my own reading group, running it as a side challenge in someone else's group. It was a hit and helped so many people that I decided to dedicate a whole group to this type of challenge, a group I dubbed "Gamified Reading."
The idea behind the Bookwyrm Method is to hit your reading goals without letting your reading get in the way of other essential tasks you have to get done by dealing damage to an imaginary monster called the "Bookwyrm" (not a typo).
February 15, 2020 by Benjamin Hollon 5 minute read
During the second half of this week, I had the privilege of participating in the SEA Forensics tournament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This tournament was my first time doing Forensics (Speech & Debate) competitively, and I was nervous but prepared. I would be participating in two events: Oral Interpretation and Solo Acting.
Before I go any further, I'll explain what these events are...
February 08, 2020 by Benjamin Hollon 6 minute read
Every day, millions of students across the world go to school, sit through classes, and frantically study for tests, hoping to retain knowledge just long enough to pass the next exam before it slips through the sieve into the abyss of the forgotten.
Most students only remember the information they learn until the class is over and then forget it, relieved to be through with the ordeal.
But what of those who remember? (I will admit that they a small minority.) What of those who work hard through every class to remember everything, not only until the next test but to remember their lessons until they might need them in real life. What recognition do they receive, what reward for their hard work?
Recently, the case R v Dudley and Stephens, a legal matter that arose in 1866, forcing the court to decide whether Necessity is justification for Murder, was brought to my attention.
Here's the case: an English yacht, the Mignonette, was being sent to Australia, as it had just been purchased by an Australian lawyer named John Henry Want. Onboard were four men: Tom Dudley, the captain; Edwin Stephens; Edmund Brooks; and Richard Parker, an orphaned 17-year-old who had signed on as a cabin boy.
Everyone tells me that procrastination is bad for you, but I've never really felt the adverse effects of it. It isn't that I don't procrastinate; I do. I procrastinate about everything, even the things I do for fun.
For some reason, though, procrastination doesn't have the negative effects on me that everyone says it should. I never miss deadlines. No one realizes I'm lazy. I don't end up with much time wasted (or at least not more than people who play video games). I meet almost all of the goals I set for myself.
This contradiction between the expected and the reality got me thinking. Why am I immune to procrastination's harmful effects?
I thought it fitting to open up this blog by reflecting a bit on the ideas that I'm trying to put into it. As I was looking through quotes before creating this blog, one of the most significant concepts that stood out to me was that of seeing with your eyes closed, the idea that the most important things to notice are sometimes ones that you cannot see with your eyes. One quote that captured this idea was a quote from The Little Prince...