Secondhand Smoking?

In late November of this year, air quality in Davis reached unhealthy levels, prompting many schools to cancel classes until air quality improved. UC Davis was one of the first to close its campus due to health concerns on Tuesday November, 13th.  While DJUSD closed campuses on Thursday of that week. What are the health effects of smoke, and why do they warrant closing down schools?

The fact is that particulate matter in the air can potentially be very dangerous, even with only short term exposure.Nathan Kwan, Da Vinci Environmental Science teacher, recommended that if you are bicycling in smoke you should try to get to your destination as quickly as possible without over exerting yourself. He also highly recommended purchasing a filtration mask.

The smoke made the air hazy and apocalyptic.

Two main types of mask seem to be popular, both produced by 3M: the N95 and N99. Their names reflect the approximate percentage of pollutants of a size .2 microns or larger, 95% for the N95 and 99% for the N99. While this is good, it was estimated by the EPA that around 50% of the toxic particles in the air were smaller than that and also more dangerous.

The smaller particles can penetrate much deeper in the lungs than the larger ones and pose a threat to both healthy and unhealthy people alike. Some side effects include aggravation and swelling of the lung aolia. While a very small percentage of the side effects are permanent or life threatening, the EPA’s top recommendation is to stay inside as much as humanly possible.

“Shelley; or, The Mother of Science Fiction” A Review

It has been two hundred years since Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley published her famous story “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus,” however it is often surprising how different people’s perceptions of the story are. From the fact that the monster isn’t named Frankenstein and could talk quite eloquently, to how Victor Frankenstein wasn’t a doctor, many details of the original story have been distorted by countless remakes. So, I decided to take a look at the original and find out what is at the roots of this horrific tale.

Frankenstein is a very interesting discussion of scientific license and a warning of deadly consequences of improper use. Consider that this came before the infamous “Manhattan Project,” where nuclear weapons were developed. Similar to how Victor is horrified by his creation, when the researcher Julius Oppenheimer saw the first atomic test he thought of this quote “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

This book is also beautifully written, with complex sentences and interesting vocabulary throughout. This format makes the book have a slow but building pace, allowing tension to gradually build up until the finale. However, it wouldn’t be honest of me if I didn’t mention my feeling towards the structure of the book. It opens and closes from the perspective of an arctic explorer who complains about not being able to meet any friends. I felt like this part was mostly just a framing device that ultimately doesn’t matter, because eventually Victor shows up and starts narrating the story from his perspective. Then, within that narrative, the monster shows up ands starts telling the story from his perspective. Lastly, the monster overhears some people in a cottage telling a story from their perspective. I just feel like all this complicated structure add only confusion and annoyance to my reading and nothing to the plot.

Throughout the novel, little sympathy seems to be given to the monster, and he is characterized as almost pure evil. Listen to this quote of the monster after he meets a Victor’s young brother William and finds out the two are related, “Frankenstein! you belong then to my enemy―to him towards whom I have sworn eternal revenge; you shall be my first victim”(Shelley 139). Many supervillains struggle to sound that evil on a daily basis. I kid, but I resent the monster’s characterization mainly because I see him more as a victimized child.

My greatest annoyance throughout the novel was my lack of sympathy for Victor himself. It is clear that Victor is intended to be the tragic protagonist of our story, and I feel for until the scene where he creates the monster. As previously discussed, he is horrified by his creation coming to fruition, and because of this he casts out his poor defenseless illiterate creature into a world that will never accept him. It was at this point my sympathy lay with the monster, the abandoned child, and not Victor, the horrible father. From this point on I felt like I must be reading the book wrong because how it tried to characterize Victor as the hero, when he was so clearly not, in my mind of course.

Look out William! Image from Frankenstein, The Ballet

Though I didn’t like this book, I do recommend watching the ballet. No joke, there is a Frankenstein ballet, it was made a few years ago by Liam Scarlett. I don’t know if there are any live performances, but you can buy a version that was taped at the London Opera House. It isn’t as good as the live performance, but it still displays a much more emotional and intense rendition of Shelley’s masterpiece. Although, you definitely are intended to read the book first since next to nothing is explained.

What’s New with California’s Net Neutrality Regulations?

On Sunday, September 24, Governor of California Jerry Brown signed a comprehensive net neutrality bill, marking the return of Obama era regulations on internet providers, however the Trump administration’s Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the bill for violating Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. As of 2015, the FCC had created regulations that ensured the internet remained net neutral, but those were almost completely repealed recently by the Trump administration’s FCC.

While the senate did pass a resolution too reverse this, it is uncertain whether it will be approved by the House of Representatives and the President. After successfully passing the bill through the legislature, Senator Scott Wiener, of District 11, says about the FCC repeal “when Donald Trump’s FCC decided to take a wrecking ball to net neutrality protections, we knew that California had to step in to ensure our residents have access to a free and open internet.”

However, the Trump administration’s Justice Department will soon take California to court over these new laws. The grounds for the suit is that under the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, Congress has the exclusive right “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;” and since the internet is a form of interstate commerce, California doesn’t have the right to regulate net neutrality.

Ajit Pai, current chairman of the FCC, added “Not only is California’s Internet regulation law illegal, it also hurts consumers. The law prohibits many free-data plans, which allow consumers to stream video, music, and the like exempt from any data limits.” It is true that California’s new laws would ban a service termed “zero rating” which is defined in the bill as “exempting some Internet traffic from a customer’s data usage allowance.”

Here to share her thoughts and opinions on this is Gretchen Connors, DVCA’s senior Political Studies/Economics teacher, who kindly agreed to interview on very short notice.

Ms. Connors first brings up that there isn’t a simple answer to the question of net neutrality, saying “For me, it’s a double edged sword of like.” She points out that competition leads to more innovations from corporations. And since they are viewed in Federal law as people, it’s really a question of “whose rights are you willing to infringe?”

On the topic of the zero rating ban, Ms. Connors hypothesized about the future effects of zero rating, saying “if I’m a new startup trying to break into this industry, I’m not going to be able to afford this zero rating … so you’re going to see monopolies and so down the road. … How can you compete against Netflix when you can’t even get the deal and get the zero rating?” Netflix is used here a possible candidate for using the zero rating system to become a monopoly.

Finally, when the DOJ’s claims that only the Federal government should be allowed to regulate the internet, Ms. Connors pointed out that buying products on the internet is technically an interstate transaction, and yet state taxes apply, and wondered “is this a stepping stone to attacking that issue too? … I mean that’s in theory kind of the same thing.” This could lead to the Federal Government taking more direct control of state tax laws.