Learning About the Middle Ages (and Avoiding Depression)

I’m sure you’re aware that it is incredibly difficult for teens to learn about anything, period.  Heck, look at simple grammar rules.  Most teens still don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re,” including you’res truly.

But there are certain subjects that take extra effort to master.  Such as medicine, where you need to spend thousands of dollars on medical school so you understand how your patients feel when they pay thousands of dollars for treatment.  One of these subjects, as you may have gathered from the title of this piece, is the Middle Ages.

What’s wrong with the Middle Ages, you ask? What’s right with the middle ages? Famine, plague, death, repeat.  It can be very depressing, especially because it shows how stupid you are, that you don’t know what words such as famine, plague, and, possibly, death mean.

So, having studied these wonderful Middle ages myself recently, I thought that I was fully certified to ramble on about anything distantly related to the study of the middle ages.  For instance, did you know that if the black death had been named by the corporate world, it would actually be the Off-White Minor Affliction? (You’ve got to love big corporations, what with ‘downsizing’ for ‘You’ve lost your job but we will provide the cardboard box’ and ‘uncatered’ meaning ‘There won’t be doughnuts?!?’).

I think the first thing to remember when learning about the middle ages is that they were, after all, only the middle ages.  For all you know, the beginning ages or the end ages may be more pleasant.  (Discussion question: what are we living in? The ‘now ages’?).

Also, it wasn’t as if there was mass communication during these ages.  Many people were spared the feelings of worldwide suffering because there were no social networking sites to share things such as ‘whole town jus died in locust famine’ or ‘my plumbing* isn’t sanitary enough’.

*Plumbing here referring to the ditch in the street outside your house, or, quite possibly, the ditch in the floor inside your house.

Finally, the Black Death only spanned about 50 years, so it really only affected, at maximum lifespan, 14 generations (avg. lifespan=3.5 years, unless you died before that).

If you are still depressed, I suggest you make fun of the history book.  For instance, the deaths of 44% of the population in one area is known in my textbook as a “fascinating history.”  The other problems with my textbook that take my mind off of the actual learning/depression include a lack of bolded words, long words, and the fact that the typist’s “enter” key must have been dysfunctional, choosing to work only every 40,000 words or in a place where a paragraph break makes no sense to the average person.

In conclusion, I’m very thankful I don’t live in the middle ages, and you should be too (unless you are between 37-60 years old, in which case, make up your own bad joke).  Honestly, I’m not sure how I could’ve coped, what with “reduced caloric intake,” “Edward I’s incompetent son,” and “The province of Languedoc,” which are somehow related and all terrible and awful things.  I’m sure your smart enough to figure it out, because you’re textbook won’t explain it.

The Complete Teenage Guide To Bowling With Friends

the bowling pin that won't fall downBefore I start, I want to clear something up about my misleading title: you should not go bowling with friends.  Ever.  Rolling your friends down the slickly-oiled lane and then, amazingly, still not getting that one pin that won’t fall down results in bad things, such as fewer friends and black eyes.  Instead, I recommend you go bowling with bowling balls.

However, this doesn’t mean you and some friends can’t go bowling.  In fact, if you are in the mood for a contact sport that’s fun, athletic, slightly dangerous, physical, and macho, I recommend that you play some football.  Then you can use whoever’s head pops off during your football game to go bowling (so, yes, I guess you could go bowling “with” friends)(this would probably be something like, “C’mon, Billy, stick your tongue out and knock down that four pin!”).

Honestly, bowling can be a terrific sport, as it combines all the elements of the perfect sport: winning, score, winning, a ball, winning, injuries, and winning with dramatic injuries.  I know that I personally have won many bowling games despite the fact that I, according to both WebMD and myself, broke both my wrists and my jaw at the beginning (in an injury attributed to “Getting the Bumpers to Go Up/Down/MOVE ALREADY!”).

There are a few things that you should know, though, when it comes to bowling with friends as a teen, so, of course, being an expert bowler who has yet to roll a gutter ball* I figured I could compile a few of them here.

*with the bumpers up-although I’ve known some people to bowl fast enough that the ball jumps the bumpers.  I’ve rolled many gutter balls with the bumpers down, but only wusses play with bumpers down.

The first thing you should know is that the bowling shoes are sized according to the Nordic shoe scale, where sizes were seven times lager than normal so you could smuggle a battle-axe past the raiding-boat security official in your shoe so you could raid small villages.  With that in mind, adjust accordingly.

The second thing-and this is hands down the most important thing you can do to ruin/enjoy your bowling experience-you will need to do is choose a theme.  Oh, man, because if you choose the wrong one your friends will all jump and yell at you and you’ll try to hit some of the randomly functioning buttons on the bowling-computer console, and the only thing those buttons will do, when hit frantically, is transmit your personal information to Somali forgers.

So, some advice for choosing a theme:

  • Don’t choose a theme with pink (for boys)
  • Don’t choose “No theme”
  • Don’t choose “80s theme”
  • Don’t choose with your eyes open

If you take that advice, than your theme will be perfect, unless of course it isn’t.

Now all you need to do is pick a bowling ball.  The average bowling ball weights, in pounds, are: 6, 8, “Who Do We Appreciate?!”, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 523, and unmarked.  If you are willing to take a gamble, go with unmarked, definitely.

Also, I know (from personal experience) that you, as a teen, will gravitate toward a ‘6’ to see if you can bowl fast enough to break the sound barrier (because bowling alleys aren’t loud enough for teens-have you heard how loud we play our music?). However, bowling alleys have wised up to this, and make the ‘6’ finger holes too small for you to fit your fingers into (unless you bowl using your right pinkie finger, left pinkie finger, and right pinkie toe).

As a side note (still from personal experience), you won’t break the sound barrier, although you will break just about everything else, including the employee(s) of the bowling alley.

All right! You’re finally set to bowl!  Before the first person goes, cherish the moment/turn, as this is the last turn anyone will bowl with an unbroken machine.

Yep, that’s right.  After the first turn, regardless of the score, your bowling machine will now break.

You will notice this because the score machine will give you all perfect 300’s, the little metal barrier won’t come back up, and the machine will slowly vomit pins, dropping from the top, until at least 90 pins have formed a pile on your lane (I’ve no idea how this works, because no lane has 90 pins.  I suppose the bowling machines are working together and gaining intelligence. [Prime scary theme music]  Look for “Attack of the Bowling Machines”, upcoming, in theaters near you.  Rated PG-13).

When this happens, you have two options.  You can hit the reset button, or wait a bit.  If you wait a bit, the machine will get out of the way, and you can enjoy bowling against 90 pins (thereby getting more than your money’s worth).

Regardless of what you choose, it will be impossible for you to avoid a bowling employee eventually coming down, walking up the lane, and disappearing in the back.  They won’t actually fix the machine, because, if you ask (from personal experience), the employee will reply, “I dunno, dude…I’ve never…never seen it do this before…Weird…Never seen this before, no idea how to fix it…Well, yea…I wish this idiot writer would stop trailing off all my sentences, making me seem like I was clueless…”

Then, the second time your machine breaks (on the second turn, usually), a second employee will try to fix it.  They will disappear behind the back longer, for a long time, and then even longer, and then just when you expect their mangled dead body to be pressed down onto the end of the lane in the shape of 10 pins (I’m getting lots of ideas for “Attack of the Bowling Machines”) like some bad reality crime/horror show, they’ll reappear and tell you the same thing (“I dunno…never…STOP TRAILING OFF MY SENTENCES, STUPID, RIGHT NOW…”).

Basically, that sums up your bowling expe-OH! WAIT!

I almost forgot to talk about the graphics (remember, your theme that was so important).  In between every role, you will see themed graphics on the computer monitor telling you what number of pins you knocked down, using non-related objects such as bi-planes, swords, fire, and a bike pump (I’m not kidding).  The graphics will be fun to watch until the second frame, where they will be re-used and become old.

Also on your TV screen (heck, might as well make this an even longer post) will be the bowling instructor from planet Zorkex.  I’m going to assume that everyone on planet Zorkex has perfect physical control, as the TV screen animated bowling instructor will only tell you where you need to hit the pins to knock them all down.  The sub context is clearly that you can easily hit wherever the computer tells you, being a perfect bowler, but that you are too stupid to know where to hit the pins in the first place.  Duh.

Now I can say, “Basically, that sums up your bowling expe-,” as this post is finally completed.  So, what are you waiting for? Grab some friends, grab some ESPN cameramen, and go bowling!

3 Sections of the Driver’s Manual That You Need To Know

Teens have a reputation for being good drivers.  After all, if you look at the stats, teens are less likely to accidentally hit their own children pulling out of the garage, less likely to forget where they parked (in the fire lane), and more likely to take shortcuts through agricultural fields in 4-wheel-drives (thereby saving the taxpayers the average cost of road repair/per usage).

However, in recent years (starting in 1912 with Model T Fords), teens have somehow failed to make the rest of the population realize just how awesome our driving skills are (“Look, Papa! I fixed the ox’s ribs right up! Almost like the Ford never hit ‘im!”).

In an effort to remedy this, and possibly get banned from driving for the rest of my life, I figured I would draw to your attention some very useful and interesting tips I found in my State’s driver’s manual.

The first point I think doesn’t receive enough attention is:


In a direct quote, here is what you need to know:

“Never discharge a firearm, bow and arrow, or other weapon on or across a highway.  Only police officers in the line of duty are exempted from this law.”

First, obviously, is the really important part about the bow and arrow.  I think that is a warning of a nearby escapee, because if I saw somebody with a legitimate bow and arrow shooting at cars on the highway, I would assume the nearby asylum had a jailbreak.

It doesn’t matter, though, because if you read the whole two-line paragraph there is no penalty, aside from the fact that it says never and you could be shot from the other side of the highway by a police officer.

The second thing I want to bring to your attention is:

Overlength and Overwidth Loads

Overlength and overwidth loads have become an increasing problem due to a rise in obesity rates, which is why I would like to highlight this passage:

“A red flag, at least 12 inches square, must be shown at the end of any load that extends four feet or more beyond the rear of the bed or body of a vehicle.

Loads may not extend more than…six inches beyond the sides of the right fenders…[or] more than four feet in front.”

To start, I don’t understand the red flag law.  It seems that adding a square foot of red cloth to the end of a load makes it even longer and more unbalanced.  In fact, this is likely the reason, if the load overbalances, that it falls off and causes an accident.

Also, I think that we should ‘learn from history,’ as somebody put it, and make regulations to solve obesity (especially childhood obesity).  I’ve no idea what the penalty would be, but I imagine that the rules would be: “The stomach/belly may not extend six inches beyond the sides of the right fenders or more than four feet in front.”

Then all we have to do is convince people to buy smart cars, killing two birds with one stone!  The thinking is that smart cars have smaller fenders, forcing people to lose weight, and they are also good for the environment (so maybe killing birds was the wrong expression-I really meant to say two birds in the bush is better than one in the hand, environmentally, unless a stone falls on the bush, in which case you should bash whoever came up with those sayings over the head with a carved-stone bird).

Another vital section of the Driver’s manual is the part about:

Freeway Vehicle Trouble

As quoted:

“If you have vehicle trouble on a freeway, move to the right shoulder or emergency stopping area as soon as you can…If you stay with your vehicle, a police patrol will stop to help you when they come by if they are not on another call.”

The reason I pulled out this section for your notice is because it plain and simple makes about as much sense as my history textbook.

If you have vehicle trouble, how are you supposed to get to the right shoulder? The only reason you’d ever stop on a freeway is for something serious enough that you wouldn’t be able to move the car at all.

I suppose this, just like my history textbook, hasn’t been updated since 1905, so back in ‘the day’ you could just borrow the donkey of the person passing you on your left and tow your car over to the side of the road (donkeys, like your grandparents, were faster in 1905 then they are now, so it is plausible a donkey was passing on the left).

Secondly, if you do make it to the right shoulder, you’re doomed anyway.  A police patrol will not stop to help you ever, because they will always be on another call, namely the “Required Freeway Accident to Hold Up Traffic and Fill Up the Evening News so You Don’t Get There On Time.”  This is why all the abandoned cars you see on the side of the road are from at least the 80’s, as people lose patience after 23 years.

With these three sections in mind, along with some advice from my English teacher, who said, “Always look for connections,” I’ve got one more piece of information for you:

“If you have an oversized load of bow-and-arrows marked with a red flag and there are no bad jokes in sight, then you can certainly dump your load and give somebody else freeway vehicle trouble thus causing you to be shot by a donkey from the other side of the road who is exempted from sticking six inches over his fender.”

So, if you’ve had your driving lessons and passed the driver’s quiz then I highly encourage you to keep these four things in mind to make for safer driving.

The Actual Process of School Pictures

One-two-three-smile!  Four-twenty-five-hike! Seven-eight-nine-cannibalism! Of these three phrases, which would you rather be hearing? Personally, I’d rather be tackled by a 458lb linebacker or stuck in a room with a sociopathic number than be at school pictures.

To start, school pictures take place at school registration, so you’ve already got a bunch of bad things, including long lines, many fines, and – something else rhyming and unpleasant, um, let’s go with – intrusive-species vines.

But, to add to that, there is the whole process behind school pictures that is poorly thought out.

The Forms

In today’s society, nobody is who they say they are, especially if they are on TV or their name is Smith.  Thus, you can’t get your picture taken unless you fill out a form.  Thankfully, though, the only identification needed on the form is filled out by yourself, so you can make up whatever you want.

However, you also need to purchase pictures.  That’s the optimal business model, in my opinion: convincing the school to use your company and then making additional profit.

Regardless, you will have many options.  In your first category, you’ve got the ‘retouching’ options, which can all be done in Photoshop but will nevertheless cost you at least $324.

Then you’ve got your picture packages, which allow you to decide at what size you think your head is and order pictures of that size (sizes range from wallet photo to 17×13); if you are rolling in money, though, you can just buy the ‘every size sampler package’ for $32,299.99.

Finally, you’ve got your background color choices, which, by business regulations, all have to be colors that you’ve either never heard of or are at least 8 letters long.  Average choices include: cerulean, aquamarine, sapphire, amethyst, puce, doctor’s-office-pea-lime-mold, and absence of pigment (gray).

The (Fourth) Line:

If you were here for the school registration, you know that this will be the fourth line you will wait in.

This line is incredibly stressful, due to the mirrors, free combs, and parent volunteers whose only job is to make sure you don’t actually benefit from the mirrors or combs (using a pre-written and approved script of about four lines).

Here’s how it usually goes:

Parent Volunteer: Do you have your form filled out?

You: Yeah.  [Pick up comb and muscle way into mirror].

Parent Volunteer: Hey! Don’t push!

You: Sorry [Somebody else catches you off guard, pushes in front of mirror.  You try to comb your hair in a window.]

Parent Volunteer: Here, let me help [Styles your hair into a 1980’s trend].

You: Um, no thanks [try to fix hair].

Parent Volunteer: Make sure you don’t put that comb back in the box.

You: [Momentarily distracted] Okay. [Go back to combing hair].

Parent Volunteer: Do you have your form filled out? [You don’t answer]. DO YOU? [Grabs and shakes you, messing up hair].

You: [Trying to escape] Yes!  I Do! [Push away, go back to combing].

Parent Volunteer: Hey! Don’t push! [You ignore parent volunteer].  Here, let me help!

You: No! Don’t! I’ll put the comb back in the box! [Dangle comb threateningly over plastic box].

Parent Volunteer: Make sure you don’t put that comb back in the box!

You: I’ll do it! Or you’d better let me comb my hair!

Parent Volunteer: Well, do you have your form filled out?

You: [Give up] No, I never filled out my form! [Break down into tears, grabbing kid next to you for support].  *Sob*.

Parent Volunteer: Hey, don’t push!

You: [Momentary resolve] That’s it.  [Take comb, drop in box, and walk back to front of line].

Parent Volunteer: NOOOOO! [Dives into comb box, impaling self on plastic combs.  Arises with a fistful of combs, and many others are stuck in clothes, hair, etc.  Runs, wild-eyed, out of scene, shouting:] MAKE SURE YOU DON”T PUT THAT COMB BACK IN THE BOX!

As you can see, it’s no wonder that many teenagers find picture day to be stressful.

The Posing

Once you make it to the front of the line, you will be met by photo assistants (three levels above parent volunteers), who will ask you to sit on some dangerously stacked crates.

If you look down, you will see tape on the ground, which is where you should place your feet.  Your feet won’t be in the picture, nor will your legs or lower torso, but it gives the photographer a feeling of power.

To further that illusion of ultimate control, you will be told to turn your chin (“a little more”) until you’re feet are on your left and your chin is on your right.  Here the thinking is that the skin on your face will be stretched so tight that it will be physically impossible not to smile.

If you are lucky, they will take the photo before a parent volunteer shows up to see what’s holding up the line, and who will also offer free combs to the photographer.

The Student ID

When you finish with your photo, you will receive a freshly-printed card with your photo, name, and number on it.  Your card will also have a bar code, telling you the resale value.

You can use this student ID to check out library books (which you will forget to return and consequently rack up enormous fines), buy lunch (which will likely give you a digestive disease scientifically known as “I’m not feeling too w-BLAAARGHGHGHH”), or pick simple locks.  It doesn’t really matter, though, as you will likely lose your student ID before the end of the day.

Picture-Pick-up Day

After seven months, you will receive your picture envelope.  Even though much of the envelope is solid, your embarrassing picture will be visible through a plastic window.

This leads to the spread of the contagious disease known as “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine-Hahahaha! That’s your picture? You look like a Wildebeest!” or YSMYAISYMHTYPYLLAW, for short, as it is known in the medical community.

It is impossible to escape this embarrassment, no matter how hard you try to pretend that the big white envelope sticking out of your backpack is just your lunch, so I’d recommend trying to convince your parents to pay for overnight delivery instead (only $45,620 more and will arrive in 9-37 days).