9/11: Never Forget

"Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our tallest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. We will not tire, we will not falter, we will not fail." ~George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States

The tragedy of the September 11, 2001 attacks is not lost on us - we will never forget the thousands of people who perished during those attacks: from the victims in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the airliners to the first responders on the scene saving as many people as they can. And to those first responders, I would like to express much gratitude for your service and sacrifices. It must have been very difficult and psychologically damaging to deal with a tragedy of such grand proportions as this. But your sacrifices and service were not in vain at all.

The Transportation Security Administration was founded two months after the attack and, according to PBS NewsHour, this included "stricter guidelines on passenger and luggage screening" and "an ever-changing array of machinery and procedures were introduced to scan for weapons and destructive items". Also according to PBS NewsHour, airplanes fortified their cockpit doors, and some airliners dropped first-class cabin curtains. Overall, these changes, among others such as the PATRIOT Act helped to improve air transportation and national security.

May the families of the victims be blessed with love and peace in these times of grief and despair. It's hard to lose loved ones, and we grieve over the loss of them - that is normal, and human.

As a nation, we will never forget the tragic events of 9/11. As George W. Bush said, "We will not tire, we will not falter, we will not fail."


Take a Break from Social Media

We need to take time away from social media, because clearly these sites are detrimental to our health and our online privacy. Sites like Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat are programming our minds to check for notifications, to check for likes or views or retweets or comments SUBCONSCIOUSLY - it's has become a psychological need.

A lot of us have low self-esteem because we tend to isolate ourselves to our cell phones and outcast ourselves from the real world. We don't think highly of ourselves, so we look to social media sites like Snapchat and Twitter and Facebook and Instagram for a sense of validation from others, a sense of validation that we're good people.

Social media is detrimental to our online privacy - every photo you post to Instagram, every post you make on Facebook, everything you Tweet, everything you post on social media makes you vulnerable. You post too much information about your likes, your hobbies, your places of residence - that information can be used in identity theft schemes and your accounts can be hacked into. Hell, you shouldn't give away your mother's maiden name outright - that is most often a security question on account with two-step authentication. Of course it's common sense not to post your physical address, your bank account details, your passwords to websites. But oftentimes we are too willing to reveal more about ourselves, and we inadvertently give away details that could be used against us or used to hack into an account of ours.

So how do we solve this? By taking a damn break from social media. There's books to read, friends and family to hang out with, opportunities to volunteer for a charity or a church - you could do anything in the real world and become a productive member of society.

Social media is turning us into zombies.

A Dying Cosmic Wish - A Short Story

Based off of an r/writingprompts prompt by u/ImtheGirlinthevid
It has been more than two years of constant transmission of data from her spacecraft back to Earth, which was millions upon millions of kilometers away at this point. She knew what she was getting into when she signed up for this. She knew it was a one-way trip to the infinite darkness of space, and she knew she was going to perish from either loss of oxygen or lack of nutrients from the liquified food that she had been provided at the start of her journey - yet Sarah doesn't regret any of it.

Sarah's spacecraft was equipped with a camera and several sensors, the same specifications as the James Webb Space Telescope launched in the days of yore. The spacecraft had constant, yet very delayed communications with the Kennedy Space Center. It would report Sarah's vitals, the oxygen levels inside the craft, the data collected by the camera and its various plethora of different sensors - all on a delay of a few months.

Now at 782 days into the journey, Sarah was beginning to realize that her time was coming. She had less than a day's supply of liquified food, and next to no water. And as the oxygen supply dwindle, the emergency red lights began to flash.

She rose from her cushioned control seat and took a couple steps towards the viewing window into the unknown. She gazed in awe and ecstasy at the view of distant stars, and briefly thought about how much of the universe humanity still had to explore.

Sarah started to choke, suffocate. The dwindling oxygen levels were causing her to become lightheaded and dizzy. She fell to the floor, gagging and gasping for the air that was no longer there. Her vision faded to black, and she was gone; lost to the cosmos.

For her entire life Sarah strived to be an astronaut; she dreamed of worlds not yet discovered, and all she would study in her free time was astronomy and the sub-topics associated with it. She was just about eight years old when her father introduced her to the study of the seemingly infinite universe - now she's perished at thirty-eight years old, doing what she was most fond of and appreciated the most - exploring the vastness of space.

Must-Have Software for Windows 7/8.1/10

A lot of people may need some software tools to help them with productivity, time management, accessibility, and so on. This list is not comprehensive but it is a basic list of software programs that you may need to make your experience on Windows a little bit easier and more efficient. I'm not sponsored by any of these products, by the way.

  1. F.lux – Strain your eyes at night no more, as this free program makes your screen adapt to the time of day and limits the blue light that emanates from your computer screen. This is recommended for Windows 7, as 8.1 and 10 already have a Night Light feature built-in that does the trick.
  2. LibreOffice - a good and working alternative to the Microsoft Office productivity suite, with the same programs.
  3. OneNote - in my opinion, it is a good note-taking tool for school and college. There is an online version and a Windows 10 app.
  4. Malwarebytes - this is a freemium (free but with priced premium features) antivirus program, and one of the best ones out there.
  5. uBlock Origin - available for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Edge. It is better than AdBlock Plus in that it blocks all of the ads and pop-ups a website has, and doesn't accept payments from advertisers for exceptions unlike ABP.
  6. Google Translate - available for Chrome only. The official Google Translate extension, which can translate text on a webpage via a tooltip when highlighting text.

Let me know in the comments of this blog post if you have any recommendations that should be added to this list.

Thanks for reading! :)

The End of the Universe - A Short Story

"What do you mean?," I nervously asked Arya, the designated assistant that had been implanted into my brain at conception. 

"Connor, no need to be afraid," she replied, sensing that I had grown anxious and weary at the mere thought of the universe coming to an end, "Portum has been a dying star for millennia now. Stars don't last forever."

Portum - the only star in the universe as we knew it as every other had either become a black hole or a supernova. The name Portum meant Haven in Latin (I never thought we'd be using a long-dead Earth language trillions of years after the planet itself had perished) because it was humanity's last safe haven. The founders of the Sapiensia colony I had resided on chose that name for that one and only reason. I knew that the end of the universe was near and I was going to be alive for this - after all, I was only 346 Earth years old and humans nowadays could live for upwards of a thousand years. Even with that in mind, however, I still couldn't help but panic constantly. Arya, before I could even exhibit the slightest symptom of a panic attack, administered a slight medication that would calm me enough to act properly without inadvertently causing any damage to my surroundings - I never do well under stress.

I asked my question with a bit of hesitation: "How long do we have?"

Without missing a beat, Arya had pulled up a timer on my retinal display, which usually contained measurements of vitals such as heartbeat and stress levels as well as contact information for people of the Sapiensia colony, all of which I could summon and communicate with through telepathy. The timer had displayed, among other time measurements: 30 Earth seconds. 

I had already departed Sapiensia for a short trip to a nearby asteroid to extract materials that now seemed useless in the face of the death of the universe. I was thankful enough to have said my farewells to them, but I didn't realize they would be final.

"Arya, rotate the vessel around so it faces Portum," I commanded. I didn't need to state a reason because Arya could always read my mind for it. And within the blink of an eye, the viewing window in front of me displayed the giant red star as it was slowly shrinking. The star was supermassive, to the point where Sapiensia was not even visible to my eye without activating visual zoom.

Portum was shrinking, and I could feel the vessel I was in shake as a result of the sudden decrease in energy. It was solar-powered - as soon as any vessel like mine ran out of power, it would sputter, deactivate and send a constant stress signal to the nearest colony for about 7 Earth years. My vessel will engage in that process, but there will be no point in sending a stress signal...because we'll be dead by then.

The vessel shook uncontrollably, as if I was going to be sucked out of it or it was going to detonate. I sent my last telepathic message to Arya, with one word followed by instructions to administer a heavy shock to my brain that would kill me.

One word: Godspeed.

And everything went dark.

9/11: Never Forget

"Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our tallest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. We will not ti...