The Loss of Passion, From The Grapes Of Wrath

Before I start, please check out and like my new photography page Titus Wu Photography! One of my upcoming posts will be about my take on the art of photography.

As for now, there’s this passage from the novel The Grapes of Wrath that I want to share.

The houses were left vacant on the land, and the land was vacant because of this. Only the tractor sheds of corrugated iron, silver and gleaming, were alive; and they were alive with metal and gasoline and oil, the disks of the plow shining. The tractors had lights shining, for there is no day and night for a tractor and the disks turn the earth in the darkness and they glitter in the daylight. And when a horse stops work and goes into the barn there is a life and a vitality left, there is a breathing and a warmth, and the feet shift on the straw, and the jaws champ on the hay, and the ears and the eyes are alive. There is a warmth of life in the barn, and the heat and smell of life. But when the motor of a tractor stops, it is as dead as the ore it came from. The heat goes out of it like the living heat that leaves a corpse. Then the corrugated iron doors are closed and the tractor man drives home to town, perhaps twenty miles away, and he need not come back for weeks or months, for the tractor is dead. And this is easy and efficient. So easy that the wonder goes out of land and the working of it, and with the wonder the deep understanding and the relation. For nitrates are not the land, nor phosphates and the length of fiber in the cotton is not the land. Carbon is not man, nor salt nor water nor calcium. He is all these, but he is much more, much more; and the land is so much more than its analysis. That man who is more than his chemistry.. turning his plow point for a stone, dropping his handles to slide over an outcropping, kneeling in the earth to eat his lunch….knows the land that is more than his analysis. But the machine man, driving a dead tractor on land he does not know and love, understands only chemistry….when the corrugated iron doors are shut, he goes home, and his home is not the land.

When I first came upon this passage, my first reaction was something that was stirring inside my heart. The lyrical rhythm of this passage is sort of like the beat of a heart- a beat of something living, something alive. I love how John Steinbeck (the author) repeats the same words over and over again, but in a poetic way, and with the intent of emphasizing the concepts behind those words. His focus on detail and his doing it so beautifully are what makes him such an unique outstanding writer. For example, he talks about how the horse is “breathing”, “[its] feet shift on the straw,” and how its “jaws champ on the hay,” and all of this creates a vivid, living image for me.

But from the content of this passage, we see a dilemma that was being faced in the past and we so face now- modernization of farming versus the old ways of farming. Using technology versus working by hand. As we see in our everyday lives, the benefits technology brings are enormous- we can spread ideas and communicate faster than ever, we are able to access and create many things easier than ever, and we have made our lives much more comfortable because of technology. As stated in this passage, “…this is easy and efficient.”

However, there are drawbacks to these benefits, which Steinbeck laments, how “the wonder goes out of the land….and with the wonder the deep understanding and the relation.” Using the beautiful images of plowing, kneeling into the earth, and farming, Steinbeck is praising and mourning the deep connection between the farmer and his land. This concept I find fascinating, given I have never seen a farm before, but it reminds me of the same passion between a worker and his job, something that is so rare in this industrial world.

And then how Steinbeck breathes life into the land by comparing it to man, how the land is more than just its compositions. Where is this type of passion these days? I see almost none. By passion, I don’t mean having an interest or liking towards a subject, I mean what Steinbeck means- seeing the subject as life. When I write, take photos, listen to music, I see it as breathing, as an organism. But most people now just do their jobs for the money and nothing more, whereas with these farmers, they saw their land as their own family.

But was Steinbeck blaming technology? No. He was blaming the human greed behind all of it, and how technology has furthered that greed. Before the Industrial Revolution, everything was made by hand. Jugs, baskets, etc. and for those craftsmen, it was art. Once technology and the factory settled in, all of that was nearly eliminated. Why? Because technology made things easier, and thus, cheaper. And by wiping out craftsmen, it was also wiping out a way of art, a way of passion. “He goes home, and his home is not the land.”

But for me, it’s something else. My school is a very academically-strong school, but I feel for the wrong reasons. I ask a friend of mine, why did you join that club? He says, for college. Why do you go to college? For a good job. Why a good job? So I can make more money and have a happier life. In the end, it’s that want for money and for a wealthier material lifestyle. But I see that because of this, they don’t see the passion and the life between them and what they learn. They may achieve that materialistic lifestyle, but in the end, they’re giving up on so much more.

Steinbeck mourned the loss of this passion he was seeing. It’s so sad that it still exists today.

World Cup Fever

Football is becoming popular in the U.S. No, not the classic American football where players charge at each other, but football as the rest of the world knows it– soccer. The very same sport that was once regarded by Americans as boring and dull has now became the top-streamed game in the nation, even more than the NBA Finals, the Super Bowl, and the Olympics. Simply put, quoting Don Garber, head of Major League Soccer, “The country has changed. This is a new America.”

Team USA Soccer

Yes, it is indeed much different from the America only a few months back. In a Washington News-ABC poll conducted last June, only 28% identified themselves as soccer fans. This dismal trend, though, has stretched further back, where for most of the 20th century, America was adamant about not accepting soccer into its culture. The fact that an entire 90-minute match could go on without a single goal seemed unfathomable to many Americans. America did not just refuse soccer; America ridiculed it, calling it a slow game lacking drama.

With the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, all of this is changing dramatically. Thanks in part to Team USA’s unexpected captivating victory in advancing into the second round, the soccer tournament has garnered up to at least 18.2 million views from the US, the most views ever in American soccer history. As more and more Americans open up to soccer, they are beginning to realize that soccer is anything but lacking drama.

In fact, unlike any other American sport, it is full of passion. In a basketball game, when someone makes a shot, people cheer for a while, then forget about it to focus on what’s happening next, because the game is happening so fast. With soccer, the fact few goals are made per match makes every goal memorable and exciting. Every time a goal is scored, the players are shouting, hugging, and running around crazily, even if their team is still behind. The players and the audience remember how every goal was shot or blocked or saved, whereas nobody remembers a simple layup made by a little-known basketball player.

Emotions also tend to run higher in soccer than in any other sporting event, for as soccer fan and novelist Terry Pratchett once said, “The thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football.” Indeed, soccer is not just a sport to many people in the world; it is an essential part of culture. This truth is to such an extent that for many countries, a loss in an international soccer match is like shaming the whole nation to submission. For instance, current Team USA coach Juergen Klinsmann was once a coach for an Italian soccer team, and whenever the team lost, he couldn’t go out to a store or restaurant without being attacked by fans for weeks. Another example would be when four years ago in the last World Cup, Team Brazil was eliminated via penalty kicks, and numerous Brazilians blamed goalkeeper Julio Cesar. The only reason why Julio Cesar cried tearfully, after Brazil narrowly beat Chile via penalty kicks in this year’s World Cup, was that even after those four years, Brazil was still holding a grudge against Cesar. Nothing like this has been seen in America- even with American football, Americans forget after the game happens. Many other countries, though, still remember the soccer losses, even after four years.

Then there is the point of international competition. While basketball, hockey, and American football are mostly confined to North America, only soccer has the regular meetings between fiercely competitive national teams. It is this that fuels the passion of soccer not just in the game but outside the game as well– with the audiences. There have been reports of two opposing audiences competing with each other throughout the entire match as to which side could chant the loudest. Fans have been seen with crazy make-up, haircuts of the pictures of players, grandiose clothing and the most bizarre things just to show soccer support. Streets in many countries including the US have been crowded to an unimaginable extent just to cheer on the home soccer team. The degree of passion here is unparalleled to that of any other sport. To the many American soccer-skeptics, go try and watch a game of soccer, and you will enjoy the passion and realize that if anything, soccer is perhaps the most dramatic sport.

Many experts agree that soccer has indeed become a very popular game in the US. The question now is, is it here to stay? Already, among ages 12-24, soccer is the nation’s second most popular sport after baseball, according to a poll conducted by ESPN. If this trend continues, as it has been since the introduction of soccer to America, no doubt will soccer not just stay in America, but perhaps even thrive.

What K-Pop Taught Me

K-pop– I listen to it every day, but there was a time when I did not. Not just that, but I absolutely despised it.

My first contact with K-pop came during one of my summer vacations to Taiwan. Unfortunately, my cousin in Taiwan was a K-pop fan, which probably made me cringe at K-pop even more. When he first showed me a K-pop music video, my eyes bled only after the first few seconds, and I told him to shut it off. To me that time, K-pop was just a bunch of weird freaking guys with make-up on, singing some random jargon in Korean along with very weird dance moves.  It was unimaginable for me as to how anyone could love this malarkey. No matter how much my cousin pleaded me to listen to K-pop, I refused. It was just purely disgusting.

Zoom forward to last May, and a bunch of girls are talking about how awesome K-pop is while I’m just sitting there rolling my eyes. Just a few months back I still had the same opinion of K-pop: weird and barbaric. Until one day, while browsing Facebook, I saw a K-pop music video. I accidentally clicked the play button, and the K-pop started blaring out. Whether it was destiny or not, it also happened that my computer wasn’t functioning properly that day, so I could not shut off the music. All I could do was stare and listen helplessly at the music video.

As a result, for the first time in my life, I was forced to listen to K-pop for more than three seconds. I ended up watching the whole music video. Not with disgust, but with awe. Before I knew it, I was contacting other K-pop fans at school—the same people who I once thought crazy—and listening to more K-pop. I had just become the K-pop fan that I didn’t want to become.

I learned, though, that not all K-pop had dancing boys with make-up, and through that, I realized that I had been unfairly stereotyping the genre as a whole just from three seconds of a music video. Even then, I became gradually accepting of the common use of make-up by K-pop males—I realized it was just a different culture, however alien it may be to me. It also wasn’t jargon as I thought it was before. Most importantly, I discovered that K-pop was simply American pop, just in Korean. It was only because of that forced experience of watching an entire K-pop music video that I was made conscious of the unfair prejudice I had for K-pop.

This problem was not confined to just me but applied to many others as well. These days, when I try to introduce K-pop to my friends, I find the tables turned on me. I see them making the same false assumptions I made and applying the same stigma that I applied to K-pop. They do this despite having never even touched K-pop at all. It saddened me that everybody was repeating the same mistakes as I was.

It’s because I grasped the fact that this is not a K-pop problem at all. It is, more generally, the issue of prejudice, a problem that stems all the way back to the Jim Crow Era and exists to this very day now. We constantly judge things even before we delve into them, and as a result, harm is inflicted. There is harm in the aspect of the person prejudiced being emotionally hurt, but even worse is harm done unto ourselves, the one doing the prejudicing. If I had never accepted K-pop, I would right now be losing out on so much beautiful music. Similarly, if society prejudices constantly, it would be closing its doors to so much opportunity. We must all learn to be more open and accepting of new ideas, no matter how bizarre they may seem initially, for it is beneficial to us all.

I Hate My Image

I remember when I was a little kid, I would look in the mirror and observe myself.

And I would notice how on my face there were these two ugly moles, how the way I moved seem so disgusting, how my face seemed like a monster.  How my body was not the perfect body. How I was weak and pathetic. And everyday I see my own reflection or whether I see myself in a video or picture, I would cringe. I was and still am ashamed of how I appear, act, and sound, and I would always want to hide.

But I guess this is how most adolescents are like, right? Insecure. But it wasn’t just a sense of insecurity, it was more of a sense of self-loathing. Why am I like this? Why can’t I be different?

However, this deformation was easy to ignore. Everyday I avoid looking at the mirror or being in photographs and videos unless I had to. Whenever I did Skype calls, I would always make sure my webcam was off. As long as I was not self-conscious, I could live on fine.

But ignoring yourself is a hard thing when society and those around you point it out. During school one day, one of my friends was telling me how most people see me as a nerd who just stays inside the house studying all day. And the more I heard him talk about who and who says what and what about me, the more my self-loathing became actual loathing against others. For a while I began to think this whole world was against me and had a negative view of me. And I would become sad, angry, and downtrodden at the same time.

Even worse, the more I heard how most people viewed me, the more that image became my own self-image. Even though I know that it wasn’t true, in my mind it became true. As Nazi propagandist Grobbels once said, “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.”

This anger, though, soon resided away as nobody mentioned it anymore for a while. And I thought to myself, hey that’s how strangers think. At least I have friends who know how I really am.

Until this past week, over Facebook I was talking to one of my friends how in this team there wasn’t really anybody I could really connect to. And she replied: “you just dont know it cuz u keep thinking like tat and stay alone and never go out.”

To hear a stranger thinking that I am a fucking nerd who stays at home alone and studies all day and never goes out is painful enough, but to hear a friend tell me that directly…. hurts twenty times more.

And when she said that, I felt like someone shot a bullet through my heart. I couldn’t even feel anger anymore; the only thing I felt was extreme pain. And I thought that she was my friend.

But no, it gets worse. Just recently today, I was hanging out with one of my closest friends from middle school, who brought one of his golf friends along. And his companion was like, “No offense, but you look like a geek.” I was about to retort back, until I noticed on a glass wall, my own reflection. The monster I had tried to avoid for a long time. And I looked at myself, and what I saw was a geek. And so I just shut up and pretended to ignore.

And then this same guy kept on making some more comments at me on how I sounded like a fob, how he was surprised I even had a TV because I didn’t seem like that type of person, and all kinds of shit. But what killed me was how my very own friend also echoed his thoughts. But  I kept on thinking, yeah, they’re right, yeah, I’m messed up. And so I suppressed all this feeling and pretended like I was having a good time and I didn’t really care.

But deep down inside, I felt myself dying.

Maybe the lesson I should get is that I’m emotionally messed up. That I overreact too much. And you know, that’s what everybody fucking says. Over and over. You are messed up. One way or another. Emotionally, physically, etc. That I’m a selfish brat who thinks I’m at the top of the world. That I need to get a life. That I’m just a book worm.

All these lies have become truths in my brain, to the extent that my truths has become lies. I don’t even know which is which now. I feel so mixed up.

But one thing I know for sure: it’s very likely that my friends don’t know me. They don’t even understand me. They think wrong things of me, that even I think wrong things of myself. That in the process, not only am I hating the image they are giving me, I in turn unintentionally hate my true self.

“I….was sexually abused. And no one helped me because no one loved me.”

I’m barely coming out of AP Exams and I still have finals coming up. But even then, I want to squeeze in one post. So here it goes.

As some of you may know, I was depressed and was sent to a mental hospital by the police. I wrote about it in one of my previous posts and talked about my experience and feelings going on that time. But the thing is, it was only MY story.

A few days before I left the mental hospital, some of the people there asked me to share their stories once I got out. But I hesitated. For a long time. Maybe because I was still dealing with myself, or maybe because I wasn’t ready. But this burden stayed down there and gnawed at me. So today, I will share one of those stories. And I’ll begin with my roommate and friend, Aidan.

Aidan. I’ve only known him for a couple of days, but even now, thinking about him brings back a sad feeling inside of me. That I will never see him again. I remember when I arrived at the hospital at night, crying, still injured from the shock of being forced to stay at a mental hospital. I remember shuffling to my hospital bed for the first time then curling under the blanket, crying. I remember my mind going through my life, trying to figure out what went wrong. And then I remember, in the middle of my extreme sadness, I heard a big HELLLLLOOOOOO. I looked up to see who it was, and the first thing I thought was, get the fuck out man, can’t u see the state I’m in. To me, he didn’t even seem depressed or anything. He seemed like any regular hyper teenager. So I simply ignored him.

However, after a day or two, we would start talking. Just me and him, in the middle of the night, laying on our beds, staring blank at the ceiling. I found out he liked comic superheroes.  He was in love with this girl back home. He even wrote a love letter and planned to send it to her as soon as he got the chance. He was like any typical adolescent. Except for his past.

He was the younger brother of his family. And like any normal functioning family, he was a constant pest to his older brother. The only  difference was that his older brother was dysfunctional. One day, he recalled to me, when his parents were away from home, he pulled a prank on his older brother. What the prank was, Aidan never told me. But his older brother was furious. Furious to the extent that he pulled out a knife and cut Aidan at the wrists. He told Aidan that if he ever told their parents, he would kill him. Aidan was a little kid back then, so he  was scared and never spoke up. But this was only just the beginning.

The next time their parents were away from home, his brother came to Aidan’s room, dragged him out, and would constantly beat him up. He would get drunk and laugh at his younger brother, and then boast about the power he had over him. Day after day, it was constantly like this, and Aidan kept quiet out of fear. Sometimes, the brother only did little, like a heavy slap in the face. Other times, he would go crazy, such as making him burn his hand up.

But at one point, the abuse went from physical to sexual. Aidan didn’ t tell me much about this, but I knew what kind of sexual abuse he had gone through. And for him, it hurt, doing stuff he never wanted to do.

One day, though, his brother got caught, was sent to jail, and was never heard from again. As for Aidan’s parents, they divorced, only adding to his struggle. He’s never seen his mom since then, “and I miss her very much,” he once whispered to me, with those crying eyes. His dad sent him to a mental hospital soon after, but then he got out and returned home, only to see a new stepmom.

“I hate her, too.” He tells how everyday she makes him clean the whole house, and how she makes a big deal out of every little spot he forgets to clean.  And when he does get it right, he receives no compliment. “My dad used to support me a bit. Now, he doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t love me. And I thought he did.” And Aidan told me how his stepbrothers never did the work and it was always him. So one day, he  rebelled. Tired of everything. And the next thing he knew, he got sent away again.

“My dad says, oh I don’t want to do this Aidan, but I have to. And my stepmom, well she appears to be sad too. But I bet inside her shes smirking at me.” For Aidan, his parents don’t love him. And in turn, he chooses to not love them back. There was one quote from him that really caught my attention, and it was this: “My house is not my home. To me, it’s simply another place I have to be in.”

So for most of my time spent there, we just laid there and talked. We occasionally would get bored and play around with socks and paper airplanes. But between me and him, we had this new bond, one that I would always remember.

And so I remember right before I left the hospital, we shook hands. And he told me, “Don’t forget to plan that reunion, ey?” And I said I will, even though I knew not of a way to contact him. He has no facebook, no email , no anything. But I promised. And I remember when I looked back as my mom picked me up, I saw a smiling face waving bye at me. A face with so much pain underneath. And I still remember his face. Every detail. I still remember. And I plan to see that face again in the future.

Because my worst fear is that I will never see him again.

What Happened to the Poets?

If you don’t know yet, I’m in love with literature. It’s perhaps the only thing in life so far that I actually have a true passion for. So when I began watching the movie The Dead Poet’s Society just two days ago, I was awed. And I was inspired. For those of you who don’t know what the movie is about, it’s about this new English professor at this prep school in England who tries to teach these kids the beauty of poetry. And the way he teaches is unique and entertaining, but perhaps best described as beautiful. Because the way he speaks, the way he teaches, the way he quotes poems, is like honey dripping out of his mouth. It’s sweet, soft, and moving.

So this professor, named Keats, was back in his high school days part of this organization called The Dead Poet’s Society. Students would meet in this cave and reread poems of big poets like Whitman and Frost or they would present their own problems. And they would just sit there in the cave in a circle letting words flow out of their mouth and playing around with it. Just being artistically beautiful with it.

As I sat there watching this movie, thrills were being sent through my spine. I was like simply wow. Because I wanted to be a part of this. I wanted to be in this school of literature where poets, authors, novelists all come together to present, talk, and discuss about the beauty of literature.

And then my light bulb flashed. What if I could make a club just like this? And so I began a search for someone in my academically driven high school who shared this same passion with me. And the results- I felt like I was the last of a dying breed.

I mean, if you want to go find some math or science people at our school, you will have no problem. Like the majority of the students I know are those kind of people. Or if you wanted to find people who like to present, do speeches, do law, you also won’t have trouble finding them. But when I tried to find someone just one person who liked to write for the fun of it, for the beauty of it, for the sake of the art itself- I found none.

I did find a few people who were interested. And the closest I could find was this friend of mine who likes to write rap lyrics (which is a form of literature by the way). But overall, no success.

And so I asked- WHY. Why do I feel like I’m the only guy out here all alone. And so I thought.

And I realized. It’s because of the sense of economic security. Those people who do math and science and law usually pursue these subjects because they know for a fact a  good-paying job is out there for them in those fields. This is perhaps the only reason why I have still held on to engineering (I do think it’s cool though). But if you pursue literature, not really.

But you see, rather than having this discourage me, I became even more motivated. Because I realized that the majority of people who do pursue literature actually do love it. No one would take big risks such as those taken in the literature field if it weren’t out of love for it. Whereas in the other fields of math and science and others, there’s a big chance there’s gonna be a lot of phonies out there who do it just for the job.

So even if I am alone, I like it. It makes me feel unique. But I don’t want to keep this all to myself. I want to spread it throughout my school. I want to spread this beauty I see in literature. I want to create a school of literature in my high school. This is my goal, and may God help me achieve this before I graduate.

And a quote from that movie:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

My Struggle

As you probably noticed, I haven’t been blogging much. And so I am here to explain why- I have lost my motivation to blog. Really, I feel I have lost my motivation to do anything in life.

Before, I was a happy person. I learned for the fun of it. I felt smart, I felt confident, and I felt I could achieve anything in life as long as I worked hard and tried. This was the Titus that I was before.

Now, if anything, I wish I never had this happy past. You see it is sadder to see a great man fall then to see a person who has been failed all his life. That is why all tragedies have a tragic hero who experiences a reversal of fortune. And sadly, I feel I am the tragic hero of my own story.

I don’t know what specifically happened. All I know is, for one thing, I became increasingly dumber. I remember how before, I was quick to catch up on things. I learned quick and I loved it. But gradually, I have come to the state where I’m slow now. I can’t seem to think as well, and upon seeing what has happened to me, I am discouraged to think again. I feel as if my IQ decreased, and I can’t do anything to stop this downward trajectory. It’s almost as if I had a curse on my brain.

My love for learning quickly disappeared along with this. Before, I learned because I was passionate about the subjects. But one by one, this passion started disappearing. First, math. Next, science. Even literature, my love in life, I am sad to say it’s slowly dying away, too. And I’m looking at all of this, and it saddens me. It’s as if seeing a bright yellow flower with a potential to bloom suddenly go dark, petals falling off, and then shrivel up and die. Because now, I feel like I’m dragging my way through school everyday. I am only learning so I can get the grades.

Besides all this, I guess the most important thing that changed is my general emotional state. Everyday, I feel tired and sad. I try to be happy, but I just cannot. Because everything reminds me of my downfall. Of my once wonderful past, now doomed present. I wish I can still return to what I used to be, but that’s impossible. I’m stuck with this fate of failure. And I have accepted it.

So now what I live through everyday is this struggle against this fate. To deal with it. It’s hard battling against this dark cloak that seems to swallow up the sun, but nevertheless I try. I try just living through it. Just letting it take away the light from me and not making a big deal of it.

Yet, sadly, I still take it as a big deal, even though I try to let it go. I still feel that society as a whole thinks me a pathetic being who used to be great. And, sadly I am. Maybe I’m imagining things, but this is what I see.

A friend of mine later became sad himself, too, because of my depression. And it makes me depressed that I made him sad. So everyday, another part of my struggle is pretending to be happy. Pretending not to care. But it’s hard masking these feelings that are eating at my soul and heart everyday.

What makes me sadder is this girl. She’s the most beautiful thing or person or entity in this world. She’s like a god. But she’s pushed me back and sees me as a friend, and I know I have to accept that. And it makes me sad that I can never be with her, that I’m not good enough for her. Again, I’ve fallen.

And my family life. I never feel truly happy with my family. But I remember I used to.

Some people have asked me to don’t commit suicide, because I have had these thoughts before a long time ago. And of course I won’t. But I scoff at them, because I am already dead. Inside.

Your Refrigerator Can Be Hacked

I apologize for the lack of blogging this past month, and I will talk about this in the next post or so. Meanwhile, enjoy this interesting article from LA Times:

Simple Internet-connected devices can end up in complex online crimes

To keep an eye on his child via his smartphone, Marc Gilbert installed Internet-connected video baby monitors in his home in Houston.

One evening, Gilbert heard a stranger’s voice bellowing obscenities from the monitor. He disconnected the device after realizing that it had been hacked.

“I’m a pretty technical guy, and I thought I knew how all this stuff should be hooked up,” said Gilbert, who has written several letters to his congressman and other elected officials, trying to bring the security issue to their attention.

For decades, hackers have used the Internet to break into network routers, personal computers and advanced industrial devices.

But now, a whole new generation of often mundane, household devices is being connected to the Internet — and hackers are having a field day.

Thanks to smaller, cheaper processors, speedier wireless connections and the explosion of smartphones and tablets, it’s becoming easier and more affordable to digitally link just about any object — sports equipment, watches, light bulbs, washing machines, thermostats.

If you can think of it, someone has probably stuck a sensor on it and connected it to the Internet.

Like a PC, the devices have operating systems and processors. And when they are connected to the Internet, hackers can break in and seize control.

Manufacturers and consumers haven’t taken the same security precautions as they would with a PC, however, enabling hackers to turn seemingly innocuous gadgets into drones that can be used to spread malicious spam or launch a massive cyberattack — disrupting services or shutting down entire networks.

Even more frightening for many security experts is the prospect that the hackers could cause physical harm to people by shutting off thermostats, cars or even medical devices.

Such fears led doctors to turn off the wireless functionality of a heart implant in former Vice President Dick Cheney, out of concern that someone might hack it and attempt to kill him.

“It’s the Wild West out there again,” said Tommy Stiansen, co-founder of Norse Corp., a San Mateo, Calif., cybersecurity firm whose threat-detection team has discovered a wide range of devices being hacked. “The number of devices that have been compromised is staggering.”

Such attacks are expected to multiply with the proliferation of Internet-connected devices. By 2050, analysts project, there will be 50 billion Internet-connected devices, or five such gadgets for every man, woman and child on the planet.

Consumers for the most part are helpless because they usually have no idea their gadgets have been commandeered.

A home wireless router can be configured to provide some rudimentary protections, but most users typically turn on the firewall or anti-virus software on their PCs, thinking that would be enough. And as such the wireless router becomes an unlocked door of sorts for hackers to gain access to the household devices.

This year, Proofpoint Inc., a Sunnyvale, Calif., cybersecurity company, tracked a global attack that sent 750,000 malicious emails from more than 100,000 gadgets — including home Wi-Fi routers, TVs, DVRs and even a refrigerator.

“How do you update the software on your refrigerator?” Proofpoint Chief Executive Gary Steele said. “I don’t even know how you do that.” ….

These attacks aren’t limited to individuals: Businesses and large organizations also are getting slammed.

Norse and Sans Institute, an Internet security research and training firm, released a report last month that found Internet-connected devices in places such as hospitals, insurance firms and pharmaceutical companies had been infiltrated.

In addition to getting access to patient files and information, the attackers managed to invade radiology imaging software, conferencing systems, printers, firewalls, Web cameras and mail servers.

“What’s concerning to us is the sheer lack of basic blocking and tackling within these organizations,” said Sam Glines, CEO of Norse. “Firewalls were on default settings. They used very simple passwords for devices. In some cases, an organization used the same password for everything.”

In such instances, companies such as Norse will contact large organizations and try to alert them to the breaches. Some companies take action; others prefer not to deal with it. Although some breaches are also reported to law enforcement agencies, most lack the resources to deal with what they perceive as a relatively trivial crime.

As bad as things are now, security experts fear that these attacks may cross over into the physical world. Hackers could access an Internet-connected smart lock and open the front door to burglars or tap into a smart meter and turn off the heat in a home during the winter, causing pipes to freeze and burst.

U.S. regulators are starting to take notice. In September, the Federal Trade Commission announced its first settlement in an “Internet of things” security case. The FTC complaint said Trendnet Inc. had falsely advertised its security cameras and video baby monitors as being, well, secure.

According to the FTC, a hacker exploited a flaw in the cameras’ software, and that led to other hackers posting links to the live feeds of 700 cameras. These feeds showed babies sleeping as well as kids playing and adults just wandering around.

“I’m sure it’s slowly going to be addressed,” said Johan Sys, managing principal of identity and access management for Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “The same thing happened in the mid-90s when everyone was joining the Internet. They had the same security problems. Now we’re in that cycle again, and there’s going to be some pain.”

The “Physics” of History

Imagine building a house. Initially, all you have is wood, nails, glass panes, and a whole bunch of other materials just lying in random places. The first step is to somehow make a design to fit all those pieces together. Then, the builder actually starts working, by first building a base, and from the base he works bottom up. Through various techniques, a lot of work, and a lot of adjustments, the end product is one full house where a person can live in.

Scientists call this a reversal of entropy. The 2nd law of thermodynamics states that the natural order of things is to go from order to disorder. For example, the reason why every process generates heat is because the heat is the most disorderly of the energy forms for which other more orderly energy forms (i.e. electricity) can convert to. Or you can take a glass of wine. It’s easy to drop a glass of wine and watch all of it spill out and the glass shatter- that’s natural. But it’s near impossible to do the reverse of that.

However, in this case with the house, we see it going from disorder (a bunch of shit materials lying around) to order (one functioning house). Pretty much the reverse of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. And as all physicists know, to go from disorder to order, it requires an input of energy- as seen with the energy and effort exerted by the builder.

This analogy of the house is just like human history itself. We started off as a bunch of roaming primitives, but later came together to form one single unit- say a village. That right there was the first spark of the reversal of entropy- in other words, the first spark of history.

That was the first event. And each and every event that came after was another step towards a reversal of entropy. The formation of cities. The rise of a centralized government. The initialization of trade and commerce. A developing system of written laws. The Industrial Revolution, in its more efficient and unified way of manufacturing. The rise of the Internet. All these events helped in creating a more unified and less disorderly world. And all these events make up what we call now as history. It’s sort of like an arrow moving into a direction of orderliness- this is like history itself.

As mentioned, this direction towards orderliness requires input of energy. Where do this input of energy come from in terms of history? By the many individuals and groups that changed history. The kings, tyrants, inventors all were part of this input of energy. A anti-entropy reaction can only work because of an input of energy; similarly, history could only exist because of the many people that can allow it to happen.

World War 2 actually resulted in more order, such as the creation of what is now United Nations

Of course, people might point out to war events- how could these cause society to be more orderly? Wouldn’t it cause it to be more chaotic? The thing is, no. In fact, you could say that wars and bad events are like catalysts of this progression towards orderliness. A catalyst is an enzyme or anything that speeds up a reaction. This “reaction” here- history and its progression towards orderliness- has been sped up many times by bad events. Take the many conquerors throughout human history- they waged so many wars, but in the end, not only do they create a unified empire, but they also spread their own culture to other cultures and intake new cultures into their own.  Therefore, not only is it more orderly literally in terms of land controlled, but more importantly it is more orderly in terms of the exchange of ideas, money, etc. And all of this could be just from one big war.

Another way bad events serve as catalysts is because they force people to confront their problems which are making their lives disorderly and thus fix it, becoming more orderly. Another step into the direction of the arrow of history.

Pretty much, I am redefining history into this- history is the continual movement of the reversal of entropy. There may be some times in which disorder seems to dominate, but in the end, it all speeds up the general trend into orderliness.

Why Winter Olympics Are Less Popular

Recently going on is the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. However, in my 15 years of living, I am beginning to notice a pattern- there is never that same vigor and energy for the Winter Olympics compared to the Summer Olympics. Now, why is that?

1. History– We all know when the Olympic games originated from- during the old old days in Greece. However, only Greeks participated in it- thus only the Greeks got excited about it. The first international modern Olympics, however, would no doubt bring a lot of excitement. I mean, think about it- it’s the first time nations are competing with each other in which no war is involved, so there must have been extreme patriotism back then. Oh and guess what? The first modern Olympic games were summer, not winter, Olympics. Winter Olympics only came around 20 years after. Thus, from the beginning, all the main initial excitement has always been focused on the summer games.

2. Accessibility–  you can’t just go out in the middle of the street and start ice skating all of a sudden. But you can go out to the middle of the street and start playing basketball, soccer, or any of those summer sports. Pretty much, anywhere you go, even in places best for winter sports, you can play summer sports. Whereas with winter sports, one is restricted to the ice rink or places with snow.

Unpopular Sport of Luge

3. Mainstream popularity– let’s face it- the last time you watched a luge competition was probably the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. In between  2010 and now you probably didn’t even bother about it. Now let’s look at basketball- oh wait isn’t the All-Star competitions happening right now? In the middle of the Winter Olympics? Pretty much, we all pay attention to summer sports even when its a Winter Olympic year.

4. Time– the Winter Olympics take place around February. I’m still at school; most adults are still at work. If I have a freaking test to study for the next day, I’m not gonna watch the Olympics. Pretty much, the time the winter games take place in is merely inconvenient for many. We still have to go on with our normal lives and in turn, not bother about the games. Whereas with summer, why it’s the season of vacations! And why not when you’re free tune in at the summer Olympics? More convenience here.

Shani Davis

So what does this all show? One thing is that the appeal for winter sports is relatively low. Whereas most nations opt in for the Summer Games, a fair number opt out of the Winter Games. I would predict a slowly declining interest in winter sports, specifically sports like luge or bobsledding, yet I guess the only reason why these sports are still retaining a good amount of their appeal is pretty much due to the Winter Olympic Games itself. Second, winter athletes are paid poorly. The only reason why Kobe is sponsored like hell is because basketball is being watched almost daily, and thus Kobe has more fame appeal to take advantage of. How about people like Shani Davis? The nation only pays attention to him like for two weeks every four years. Very little incentive there for sponsors.

But I guess there is one thing that’s good about all this. Winter athletes are more passionate about their sport. Despite the lack of fame, money, and good incentives, these athletes still practice and work out everyday. They still compete and do it for the fun of it even if they know nothing as good as summer sports might come out of it.  Who knows if basketball stars really love basketball? Maybe it might just be the fame or money they like. But we all know that the little-known skeleton racer who places in a little-known competition is doing it for the sport.

On a last note, this year’s Olympics has actually made me more open to watching skating. The skaters are beautiful. But so hopefully will be my next post on the relation between the concept of entropy and the concept of civilization.