The Roomba Revolution

by Connor Brandt, senior writing coach

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Elon Musk, a visionary of our time, is well known for his warnings on the dangers of artificial intelligence. He is very much worried over AI taking over our world, and is actively implementing measures to counteract this future. He clearly isn’t the only one with this fear; many famous movies, like Terminator, The Matrix, and even Wall-E, all feature big, bad AI with their technological prowess and legions of robots as the antagonist. Why is it so commonly held that, in the end, the robots will become the masters, if not the annihilators? Perhaps the answer lies within that very word.

Like many of our words, robot is one that someone just kinda made up because they felt like it (who knew it was that simple to make new words?). Playwright Karel Čapek first coined the term in his play R.U.R, which stands for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots), after his brother suggested the term. While “robot” doesn’t find roots in any English word, it does have roots in the Czech word robota, meaning drudgery or serfdom. So, basically, robot means slave.

 

So, that might be onestrike against robots, but what about the play? It can’t be that bad. For one, while close enough, the robots in R.U.R. aren’t exactly the same thing you’d think of as a robot. They are closer to the replicants of Blade Runner or the hosts of Westworld (though, even if they aren’t exactly robots, things still don’t always work as intended). So what happens in the play?

 

(Spoilers ahead for a 98 year old Czech play)

 

Humanity creates these robots and uses them to perform all kinds of menial tasks, from secretary work to factory production. What happens when they tire of this existence? A new civil rights movement? Peaceful coexistence? World peace?

The robots rebel and purge the earth of all but one human.

 

That’s a pretty big second strike. We’ll let that count as two strikes.

 

It’s no wonder why people are so alarmed about the advancement of AI and robot technology. Aside from the Man v. God, Creator v. Creation dynamics, the work that introduced “robot” to our vocabulary features them killing us all! Before AI could detect your face, before robots vacuumed our floors, before we interconnected any device we could in our homes, the first action robots committed was the effective extinction of our race.

 

Next time your roomba hits something, don’t laugh at it. Maybe you’ll be spared when robots come for us all.

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Why Music Consumption Matters… and Why it Doesn’t

 

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by Sophie Hicks, senior writing coach

Music is one of the few things that unites people, and it is one of the best ways we can transport ourselves into other times and places. I personally have very limited musical talent that extends only to about a decade of grade-school piano, so I turn to music listening as a means of getting my music fix. Listening to music might not have the same gratifying effect that playing it does, but nonetheless it’s an important part of my life and the lives of most people. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how we choose to listen to music.

Clearly, we live in the era of streaming. The 2018 Global Music report showed a 41% increase in streaming revenue, which is pretty significant. Fewer people downloaded music last year, and even fewer purchased it in the physical form (like CDs or records, if you remember those). It’s sometimes surprising to think that even in my short lifetime I’ve gone from having to purchase a single song for $1.69 on my iPod shuffle to being able to listen to entire albums for free on my computer. Even before that, the only music I knew of came from a CD player and the old 8-track player at my cabin. It’s kind of crazy that we once purchased just a few songs at a time when now we have every song imaginable at our fingertips.

And it makes sense that we like streaming, doesn’t it? Why pay for something that you could get for free? Well, this question is actually more complicated than you might think. Streaming posed a highly ethical dilemma amongst avid music consumers as soon as it became a thing. Because artists made just one tiny fraction of a dollar for each stream, and immediate sales following album releases were a lot lower on streaming platforms, many notable musicians (like Taylor Swift and Thom Yorke of Radiohead) refused to release their work on the platforms. Just a few years later, though, they’ve released their work on Spotify and Apple Music and streaming in general has begun to prove itself as a not-so-bad way for musicians to make money.

Incase you are as unfamiliar as I was about how the whole money-making piece works, it basically goes like this: for each stream, the streaming service will pay an artist a tiny bit of money. And because streaming has almost completely annihilated any other way of listening to music, artists have begun to reap the benefits of streaming since, well, it’s essentially the only way people listen to their music. It especially evens out the playing field for lesser-known artists. So, it’s fair to say that streaming is becoming an increasingly valid way to listen to music despite its complicated history.

Seeing as music consumption has already changed so much in the past few decades, it’s fun to think about what might happen in the future. Live music remains strong, so it will be interesting to see how the worlds of live music and streaming (which seem polar) begin to collide and maybe even combine (virtual reality, anyone?). Whatever happens, it’s clear that music will always continue to change and will always surprise us. It matters how we consume music, but at the end of the day music is just music. No matter how we listen to it in fifty years, it will still be a good indication of what our culture is like and what people believe in; and, at the end of the day, that’s what the purpose of music has always been.

Hark Thee! It’s National Talk Like Shakespeare Day

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by Anna Geldert, sophomore writing coach

You may have missed it, but this past Tuesday (just two days before Poem in Your Pocket Day!!) marked a very important day in the history of the English language. So gather up your “wherefores”, your “alases”, and your “thees” because April 23rd, mine cousins, is National Talk Like Shakespeare Day!

William Shakespeare was born in 1564. Throughout his lifetime, he came to write at least 37 plays and 154 sonnets. To honor the legendary playwright’s birthday, April 23rd has been named “National Talk Like Shakespeare Day”.

Many of you are probably moaning inwardly right now, thinking back to the struggle of reading Romeo and Juliet in your 9th grade English classes. But be not afear’d! Talking like Shakespeare is not actually as difficult as it may seem. Below is a useful key to help you out with some common Shakespearean phrases:

 

  • Thou— you, when “you” is the subject of the sentence (as in, “Thou art wonderful”)
  • Thee– you, when “you” is the object of the sentence (as in, “Shall I compare thee…”)
  • Art– are, present tense
  • Wert— were, past tense of art
  • Alas!– unfortunately, sadly
  • Thy– your, when “your” is followed by a consonant (as in, “Thy backpack”)
  • Thine– your, when “your” is followed by a vowel (as in, “Thine apple”)
  • Hark thee!– Hey you!
  • Cousins– friends
  • Wherefore– why, for what purpose (When Juliet asks “wherefore art thou, Romeo?” it translates to “why are you Romeo?”, referring to her conflicted feelings about falling in love with someone from the Montague family)

 

If this isn’t challenging enough for you, try adding some iambic pentameter. This sounds daunting, but it really isn’t too bad. The iamb part of the word simply refers to the idea of alternating between stressed and unstressed syllables, and penta means five. So each line written in iambic pentameter is just five sets of stressed and unstressed syllables as seen in the famous passage below:

 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date

-William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

 

Shakespeare also employed the use of rhyming couplets in many of his plays and sonnets, indicated by the underlined in Sonnet 18. He typically followed a simple AABB or ABAB format, rhyming the last words of each two lines in a row or every other line.

Personally, my favorites are the Shakespeare’s insults. There are no shortage of foul language used to badmouth an enemy. In Shakespeare’s world, if someone was being obnoxious you might call them a “lump”, or a “foul deformity”. The insults gradually increase, ultimately amounting to “Banbury cheese”, “three-inch fool”, and “frusty nut with no kernel”.

Hopefully with this explanation, you will be able to breeze your way both through English class and through National Talk Like Shakespeare Day! You can also stop by the Writing Center today, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, to grab a sample of Shakespeare’s work. Farewell, fellow sirrahs and mistresses, and good luck to thee!

 

National Poetry Month

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by Urmee Das, sophomore writing coach

Poetry! Whether it be the dramatic and lengthy epic or the short and funny limerick, it holds a deeper than surface meaning that other literature doesn’t. There’s something incredible about being able to communicate and understand themes through words without the general limitations. Poems hold a uniqueness that carries over to its readers. No two people read a poem the same way. What you think a poet is trying to tell the reader may be completely different from someone else, and that’s why it’s important!

Poetry makes us think. You might hate it in English class; our seemingly never-ending days of analysis may have created some bias against it, but it’s is an insider’s perspective into the poet’s mind! To read a poem without thinking about the hidden nuances is not only a disservice to the poet, it’s also a disservice to yourself. Use the words they gift you to interpret what you think it means. It’s almost like a voyage or a cruise. The poet is the captain, and you get on the ship for a trip that you can read, listen to, and feel. Follow the rhythm, beats, and sounds and you will end up with a better understanding of the world around you.

Take “The Ecchoing Green” by William Blake. He talks of Spring and the happiness that resounds with it. The first two stanzas provide examples of the “welcoming” of Spring, from the sun to an old man. However, the poem takes a shift in the last stanza. The sun sets and the fun ends. Spring breathes its final breathes and sinks beyond the horizon. Blake uses sensory details to call out to our ears, eyes, and nose. If you allow yourself to picture it, you truly are in a field, hearing bells and laughing with friends as Spring comes around, only to leave again.

 

The sun does arise,

And make happy the skies.

The merry bells ring

To welcome the Spring.

The sky-lark and thrush,

The birds of the bush,

Sing louder around,

To the bells’ cheerful sound.

While our sports shall be seen

On the Ecchoing Green.

 

Old John, with white hair

Does laugh away care,

Sitting under the oak,

Among the old folk,

They laugh at our play,

And soon they all say.

‘Such, such were the joys.

When we all girls & boys,

In our youth-time were seen,

On the Ecchoing Green.’

 

Till the little ones weary

No more can be merry

The sun does descend,

And our sports have an end:

Round the laps of their mothers,

Many sisters and brothers,

Like birds in their nest,

Are ready for rest;

And sport no more seen,

On the darkening Green.

 

What do you think when you read this poem? Do you think of the happiness of Spring, the joy that comes with Winter’s end? Do you look forward to the (hopefully) upcoming days of sun and full bloomed flowers and fauna? Or, does the final stanza create an importance in the true fleeting nature of the seasons; how does the word choice near the end instill a sense of hopelessness and a need to enjoy things while they last?

Reading a poem is an incredibly personal experience. When reading a poem, you’re led to think about meanings and choices that relate to you. What does this word mean? Why did the poet choose to use it? Is it supposed to symbolize something greater? This month, take some time to read or write a poem. Come visit the writing center for Poem in Your Pocket Day. Take time to enjoy this much beloved art form!

Fun at the Farmers’ Market

SeyoungBy Seyoung Lee, junior writing coach

After a seemingly never ending stretch of snow, ice, and inhospitable temperatures, spring is finally here! What does that mean for us Minnesotans? Picnics in the park, eagerly awaiting ice-out, and my personal favorite: farmers markets.

Farmers markets take place weekly all over Minnesota throughout spring and summer and always carry locally sourced produce. They’re an excellent place to go for fresh fruits, vegetables, and all sorts of miscellaneous goods. My favorite market is located just a couple miles down the road from our high school on Water Street in Excelsior. Weather you’re looking for produce, cheese, smoothies, or even bandanas for pets, this market has it all!

The Excelsior Farmers’ Market brings our community together and truly exemplifies the spirit of Minnetonka. Each week, crowds of people bustle from stall to stall to see the unique variety of products and enjoy the fresh air. People of all ages take advantage of the market, and their beloved canine buddies often tag along too. Live music echoes throughout the street, whether it’s the quaint folk trio, barbershop chorus, or the two young brothers who play piano and guitar for charity.

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Last year, I was invited to sell baked goods as a vendor which gave me the opportunity to experience the market from a different perspective. This was a highlight of my spring and summer because I got a behind the scenes look into an event I’d always looked forward to.

To be completely honest, it was hard work. It required lots of planning, filling out forms, and time. There were more rules than I ever could’ve imagined coming from the health department, city of Excelsior, the market itself, and even the fire department. It required staying up late and sometimes waking up early just to finish baking. On top of all that, I had to be very punctual so that the things I needed to get done didn’t interfere with the preparations of other vendors.

Despite these challenges, selling baked goods at the farmers market has been one of the most fun and valuable opportunities I’ve ever had. It’s taught me about organization, anticipating issues before they arise, and so much more. The connections I’ve made with regular attendees, friends who come to visit my stand, and camaraderie among vendors made the experience well worth it.

 

How to Stop Your Thoughts from Ticking Like a Clock

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by Kiana Yusefzadeh, sophomore writing coach

At this time of year, everyone is definitely in need of some rest and spring break could not come soon enough. Even considering the need to unload all our stress, whether it be through travel or simply having the freedom to wake up at noon, it can be most difficult to stop our brains. What I mean is that some of our minds never stop moving and thinking and the stress of everyday life cycles through our heads incessantly, like a clock that never stops ticking. Whenever a kind of burden is lifted of our shoulders, it’s not like there’s an off button that we can simply press to slow down our thoughts. If you’re like me, a break can create extra time slots that end up getting filled with stressful thoughts.You know that sensation, lying in your bed the first day you have off, nothing planned, and then defaulting to what our brains are accustomed to thinking of. In our desperation and search for calm, I have provided a few helpful tips that may be the key to the exceptionally peaceful break we all desire.

  1. Yoga/Meditation

Yoga is not only great for your health, but it also trains for mind control. Throughout a yoga session, the main goal is to keep a constant focus on your breath. If you begin to wander to other thoughts, all you have to do is remind yourself of the slow and steady rise and fall of your lungs; this is similar to meditation. When I first tried this it was extremely difficult to not think about other things, it’s so easy too. The beauty is the more you practice this technique, the easier it becomes. You can practice this over break and if it works well, you can even implement it into you daily life after break. This place of calm can easily be returned to once your mind grows accustomed to it. Also, yoga and meditation can be practiced anywhere because there is no need for a gym or club membership. In fact, you can be guided through these two activities with Apps such as Headspace and Calm (for meditation) and Yoga Studio and Asana Rebel (for yoga).

  1. Read a Book

    Getting lost in a book can really help to divert our thoughts quite literally to other worlds. We all know that feeling when you don’t even remember how long you’ve been sitting in that chair because you’re so enraptured in a story. If you don’t know what to read, ask some friends what they recommend. Maybe go to the library for some peace and quiet where you can sit secluded in a corner, just you and your book.

  1. Go Outside

We are all familiar with the reliable response of a parent when they say “Go Outside!” to their son or daughter who complains when they are bored. However tiring and obvious this answer seems, it is scientifically proven that nature improves people’s moods. As cliche as it sounds, take a moment to step outside and smell the roses. If your brain is spinning, a light breeze or soft sunray may be all there is to stopping yourself from spiraling.

  1. Organize

Towards the end of a break, it is quite normal to feel unproductive and that you’ve wasted time that could have been used to get ahead on work. Tell yourself that this time was needed and well deserved. Even so, it might be nice to have an hour or two dedicated to organizing your room, desk, computer, bags, drawers in your house full of miscellaneous items, etc. When school starts up again, you have a clean slate and a fresh start.

  1. Sleep!

    Many times school calls for late nights, sometimes for days on end. If you do any type of sport or have any kind of hobby, you need sleep to perform well in either; school or work also applies. Sleep should be a top priority and it is often pushed aside because of our demanding schedules. Try to good to bed early, even if you don’t have to wake up early, to get the optimal amount of sleep for your rejuvenation. Feeling overwhelmed can come from excess fatigue; you sleep more, you can find calm easier.

    Over break, I plan to try out some of the ideas listed above. I hope that you find these tips helpful and that at least one can help you reach an optimal sense of peace. Have an extraordinary spring break!

 

 

Speak Up and Listen Closely

by Steven Wang, sophomore writing coach

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In the fairy tale criminal justice system, the characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes are represented by two separate, yet equally ridiculous legal teams. Two of the three little pigs are presented by Peep and faced in front of the judge with the one and only Big Bad Wolf, recently blamed for the toppling of their homes. Rumpelstiltskin is forced to defend the Wolf in hopes of discovering the reason for his false accusation.

*cue the dramatic music*

Last week, my partner and I had the opportunity to represent these two legal teams in one outrageous fairytale court case. In the amazing world of speech, groups of speakers from different schools gather together on one early Saturday morning to present new worlds and experiences. These stories reveal topics ranging from comedic superhero fight scenes to profound discussions of social issues prevalent in our society.

The speech teams in Minnesota offer sixteen categories including Creative Expression, Discussion, Duo Interpretation, Extemporaneous Reading, Extemporaneous Speaking (international and domestic), Great Speeches, Humorous Interpretation, Informative Speaking, Original Oratory, Prose, Drama, Poetry, Storytelling, Program Oral Interpretation, and Impromptu. But, of course, our speech jargon condenses most of them into short, and nearly incomprehensible words to outsiders.

 

Preparing for these speeches has allowed me to develop both as a writer and public speaker. I’ve also become a highly skilled procrastinator with abilities to memorize six page scripts in one Friday night.

 

Sure, the academic skills are great, but speech is so much more than just speaking. The small, yet unbelievably close speech community has introduced me to some of my greatest friends. Nothing brings people closer than eating cheese pizza together on a Saturday afternoon and discussing both the hilarious and intense stories of the day. Each of us have made each other laugh hysterically and nearly cry at the personal and jaw-dropping stories we have shared.


Speech is not just about the public speaking, but is truly the expression of ideas in a community that I am so proud to love and cherish. So whether it’s a monologue, court case, or simple idea you thought of alone in your basement, don’t be afraid speak up and voice yourself because there will always be someone waiting to listen closely to your story.

 

Reading Reflection: Homegoing

by Sophia Hicks, senior writing coach

Yaa Gyasi takes her readers across generations and continents in the novel Homegoing, which is one of the most powerful books I’ve read. The story begins in Ghana about 300 years ago with two half sisters named Esi and Effia. Each holds within her a very different fate that prompts starkly different lineages and struggles: one is sold into the Gold Coast’s slave trade, while the other is married into a comfortable life with an Englishman in the Cape Coast castle.

Every chapter follows a character from a new generation, each with a voice entirely their own. Gyasi takes us into the world of British colonization and slavery, then to the Great Migration, the coal mines of the south, jazz clubs and dope houses of Harlem, and the realities of modern-day Ghana. History becomes tangible and sweeping in Homegoing, allowing readers to get a picture of a whole generation through the eyes of one character.

This book can be very heavy and tough to read at times, but lighthearted and joyful at others. Such a balance is a difficult one to be able to find especially when dealing with the subject matter of this novel, but Gyasi executes it excellently with her impactful writing. The fact that each chapter is essentially a new story keeps it interesting without confusing readers with the many characters involved. I personally loved this story and found it to be an enthralling escape into the lives of people very unlike me and unlike each other. It emphasized the importance of the individual in a whole history and really showed that every voice matters. If you’re a fan of historical fiction and memoir-type novels, this is definitely a book I’d recommend.

Microbeads! What are they good for?

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By Christian Hilgemann, senior writing coach

Microbeads may be small, but they pose a big threat to the environment. Microbeads are small plastic particles that can be found in many cosmetic products such as: body washes, face washes, and toothpastes. They are made of plastic and are typically less than two millimeters in size.[1] So, what are they good for? Some might say that microbeads help exfoliate skin, remove unwanted particles, or even just act as cheap filler, but I would argue that this mini menace is good for absolutely nothing.

In 2015, it was estimated that around 808 trillion microbeads went down American drains each day. 8 trillion of those went directly into waterways where they went on to pollute lakes, streams, and other bodies of water.[2] Microbeads are great at absorbing and concentrating other pollutants and toxic chemicals which becomes a problem when fish and other marine animals mistake them for food. Not only do the belligerent beads harm the animals that consume them, they also make their way up the food chain where they can eventually end up being eaten by humans with a taste for seafood.[2]

Luckily, some action has been taken against the use of microbeads. Most notably, campaigns by advocacy groups like the Story of Stuff Project led to a federal ban on plastic beads in rinse-off cosmetics which was passed in 2015 and took effect two years later.[1] While this is a formidable accomplishment, rinse-off cosmetics are just a subset of the many products containing microbeads. Detergents, sandblasting materials, and cosmetics that stay on the body are just a few of the remaining offenders.[3]

Right now the main problem facing further regulation of microbeads is the fact that we don’t even know which products contain the unpropitious pieces. While rinse-off cosmetics are fairly easy to investigate for particles, the diverse range of products that could contain microbeads would be impossible to thoroughly examine, especially because the FDA does not require that many of them disclose their ingredients.[3]

While currently, we can’t ban all microbeads outright, it is still possible to make progress through legislation. The next logical action for the US Government is to require companies to disclose whether their products contain microplastics. This would be an easily implementable way of making progress towards a full ban and would give consumers who care about the environment the freedom to avoid harmful products.

Hopefully, we can get even closer to banning the fallable fragment because what are microbeads good for? Absolutely nothing.

 

Works Cited

[1] “Plastic Microbeads: They’re Bad. But Together We Can Stop Them.” The Story of Stuff Project. Accessed March 06, 2019. https://storyofstuff.org/plastic-microbeads-ban-the-bead/.

[2] Bushwick, Sophie. “What Are Microbeads And Why Are They Illegal?” Popular Science. December 23, 2015. Accessed March 06, 2019. https://www.popsci.com/what-are-microbeads-and-why-are-they-illegal.

[3] Kaufman, Alexander C. “Obama’s Ban On Plastic Microbeads Failed In One Huge Way.” The Huffington Post. January 05, 2017. Accessed March 06, 2019. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/obama-microbead-ban-fail_us_57432a7fe4b0613b512ad76b.

 

the place to bee: Bellecour

By Becca Schumacher, senior writing coach

If you’re looking for the perfect, whimsical study spot with incredible food and a charming aesthetic, Bellecour in downtown Wayzata is the place to bee. You can’t possibly go wrong with this classy French bakery and restaurant.

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Although the only thing I tried at Bellecour was a macaroon, I can say with full honestly that it may have changed my life. The fresh macaroon had a perfect sugar shell with the slightest crunch and sugary jelly inside. The rest of the menu was tempting, with desserts like Creme Brulee and fresh baked croissants. Bellecour’s bakery is certainly worth a visit. 5/5 bees.

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aesthetic

Although it might be a long time before I have the privilege of visiting Paris, I can assert with all the confidence of someone who has watched two whole French movies that Bellecour has the atmosphere of an authentic French cafe. In all seriousness, the aesthetic of this restaurant is lovely. I particularly loved the mural on the wall of the cafe area. 5/5 bees.

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study-ability

Bellecour offers both a cafe and dining area. Although the restaurant is beautifully decorated and the dinner menu is tasty, I recommend sticking to the bakery and cafe for your studying needs, as the restaurant tends to be busier and a bit loud. The cafe, however, is set up perfectly for writing that English essay or finally finishing your math homework, with secluded tables and a quieter atmosphere. 4/5 bees.

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