Friday, October 23, 2009

Higher Education

I would like to take this opportunity and say a very big thank you to the educational system.
See, I spent most (actually, all) of my childhood being taught at. From kindergarten to twelfth grade I was sitting in boring little rooms, some with cheerful pictures of letters, being lectured at by stern men and women.
Some of the classes were boring, some were interesting. Some of the teachers hated us (the kids) and most of us hated most of them (there was always one kid who loved his/her teacher. Fact of life: there's a freak in every crowd).
I worked hard at some subjects (the interesting ones) and slacked off the rest. I goofed off at recess and played pranks on others (teachers and students alike).
Tangent: One of the funniest things we did in eleventh grade.
See, the school had added on a new floor, on top of the building because we needed more classes. The seniors were never there anyway, so we were the first to move into the new classrooms.
These classes were now four stories up, and had nice big windows. To prevent us from falling (jumping?) out there were three, sturdy metal bars running the length of the windows, covering about half. We very quickly took to sitting on the window ledge, with our feet dangling four stories up and our arms resting comfortably on the bars.
One day my friend came to school with like, 10 rolls of Scotch tape. I'm still not sure why. Anyway, we wanted to see how strong Scotch tape is (tell me you've never wondered about this). So, we preformed experiments using the tape, a series of increasing weights and the convenient bars on the windows.
Our first weight was the empty plastic garbage can from our class. It was full, but we took care of that.
We attached the tape to the garbage can and pushed it out the window. We slowly unspooled the tape until the can was a nice height above the parking lot, and then wrapped it a few time around one of the metal bars and cut it.
It held.
We left it there for a few days, to see if there was any fatigue in the tape. There was none.
We then proceeded more quickly. We tried a full garbage can (that upended on the way down, too bad) and quickly arrived at chairs.
We decided that those heavy metal chairs with the plastic seats and backs were the limit, so we started hanging out as many as we could.
From outside the building it looked pretty cool. Six or seven chairs suspended at random heights, supported, apparently, by nothing (the scotch tape was clear).
One of the staff would come periodically to the classroom and tells us to take them down, and we did, but put them back promptly enough.
And then, one fateful day one of tape strands broke and the chair plummeted to the ground.
That chair was hanging fairly low, just outside the teachers' lounge window on the first floor, so it only fell like 5 feet. But it landed on the hood of the principal's car.
No actual damage to the car, just some scratched paint, but we got into a hell of a lot of trouble. Also, one guy almost fell out the window laughing.
Back on topic now.
Anyway, one of the most important things I got from school was not a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to learn (I got that from Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Scientific American, Wired, Discover Magazine and the like) but a high school degree. This meant I could go to university.
And that meant that I could learn all kinds of cool stuff and important life skills.
Like, for example, this week I learned about port mapping, SVN, proxies and VPNs
See, the public wifi broadcast by the university blocks most ports, and they only open the ones they think about. So torrents is (of course) blocked, but that doesn't bother me too much.
What bothers me is that IRC clients are blocked. Therefore I had a real incentive to learn about this stuff and fix the problem.
So, I would like to thank the school system. If it weren't for them I would never have tried to hack a network.
Also, if my principal is reading this, I'm sorry about your car, but it's your fault for instilling curiosity about the natural world by making the classes so boring.

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