Designing a Better Inside Cover for Textbooks

Funny IdeaIf you get your textbooks from your school library, you know that on the inside front cover, there is a box that will define your life.

In this box are a few pieces of information. First, there is a spot for the names of the students to whom the textbook has been checked out to.

As an incredibly judgmental teen, you’ve already flipped to this part and analyzed each and every name. Do you know any of these other people who once touched the textbook? Was this the textbook of anyone famous? Uggh, you just hate how Martha Robinson dotted her “i” with a pink-highlighter heart. Yuck, now your book has cooties.

Hopefully, you’ve also added your name to the list to prevent your textbook from being taken, stolen, ransomed, kidnapped, abducted, or otherwise victimized by other students. This is very, very important, because if you lose your textbook, a number of terrible things occur.

If you lose your textbook, you’ll get stuck with a fine. Now, this isn’t just any fine. Your textbook with it’s rounded, worn down corners, peeling cover, written-on pages, and duct-taped spine is somehow worth, according to the school, $10,000,000. You will never be able to afford a fine like that, meaning you’ll always have unpaid fines, meaning you never graduate. And if you don’t graduate, it’s going to be really hard getting a job that pays enough for you to pay off that fine in your lifetime.

Also in the front cover is a chart for the condition of the textbook when it was issued, and another box for the condition of it when it was returned. There are a number of flaws with this system as well.

To begin with, the students are allowed to fill this section out. Who’s going to stop you from writing that you received and returned the textbook in good condition? Or, better yet, why not make yourself look like a kindhearted super-talented philanthropist? Write that the book was issued in “bad” condition, but was returned “new.”

Finally, the inside front cover is otherwise useless. You’ve got a name, a condition, and a lot of other junk that isn’t necessary. I mean, your school? What do these textbook companies think is going to happen? Are you going to leave your book in a classroom, at your assigned seat, with your name it the front cover, only to have your teacher think, “Hmm, I’ve found a textbook with the name ‘John Swanson’ in John Swanson’s assigned seat, immediately after I had John Swanson in class. I bet it’s the John Swanson at the school in a neighboring state, though—oh wait, thank god they stamped the school name inside the cover; this is clearly a textbook from this school”?

Prevent Theft

The name inside the textbook won’t stop a motivated thief. And the possibility of a $10,000,000 fine can turn even the most innocent and meek students into conniving criminals.

What we really need is a fail-proof system. This basically leaves you two options. The first is attaching a low-budget GPS or location device to the front cover, like a homing pigeon. This way, you will always know where the textbook is.

However, GPS devices can be shorted out and removed, and pigeons can be distracted, disoriented, or caged. Thus, this option is not 100% guaranteed.

A better idea would be to physically attach yourself to the textbooks that you will need that day. At first this sounds appalling, until you realize that we already carry our textbooks pressed against our back for a majority of the time.

So, simply attach a thick steel cable to the inside front cover of each textbook, with the other end being attached to an iron shackle around your rib cage. Sure, it might warp your torso, but no more or less than your backpack’s weight already does. I mean, if you’re going to be paying a chiropractor later in life you might as well avoid the million-dollar fines now.

Contain Useful Information

What if, instead of useless administrative stamps and info, the textbook covers contained useful information? It’s an earth-shattering idea, I know, but maybe society should start getting used to the fact that textbooks ought to contain some valuable information somewhere between those covers.

Now, I’m not talking about educational material. Nobody needs more vocab words or author bio pages. What people really need is advice.

For example, what if the inside cover was a running log of advice for the class the textbook is used in? So, if you’d just taken a hard test, you might write: “Chapter 3-4 test is brutal. Know the theorems. 3 people passed out during that test and somebody else’s brain exploded.” Clearly, you’d know to prepare for that test, as well as possibly bring in a bomb squad for your brain.

Honestly, I can’t see why we haven’t already implemented these ideas as students, aside from the fact that we have no voice in the textbook companies, can’t vote, can’t drive at night between 12 and 5 AM, don’t care too much, are too tired, and have generally stupid ideas, like using a plastic spoon as a catapult for small vegetables during lunch.

Regardless, I know what I’m going to do the next time I’m bored and find myself with my textbook. I’m going to flip to the front cover and look at the names, wondering why “Mitchell Hamstein” decided to write his name in both blue gel pen and pencil.

If you’ve been having some trouble reading the small print in your textbooks lately, then maybe you need to see an eye doctor. Or, maybe you just want even more High School Humor Blog goodness. Either way, you should read, “Torturous Eye Doctor Examinations,” published here last year.

3 Things to do with College Mail

Funny mail from a collegeFirst off, let me start off by offering you a slightly off-topic generalization off the top of my head that hopefully isn’t too offensive: nobody uses snail mail anymore. Nobody; not even snails.

There are always exceptions to the rule, though. Obviously, you don’t use snail mail, and neither does anyone else who is under the age of 93. However, some businesses, certain spammers, and Malaysian Trumpet Snails still use it.

Oh, and did I forget to mention, colleges. Colleges use snail mail.

It seems counter intuitive, right? Snail mail is the least efficient way to convey information, because it’s slow, you can’t get it on your phone, it takes a long time, you can’t get it on your computer, it’s slow, it’s not even close to fast, you can’t get it on your tablet, it can be delayed or lost, it’s slow, it doesn’t get places quickly, it’s slow, and it’s very slow.

These snail mail-using colleges are the same ones where you are supposed to be able to get a higher education. Maybe if the price of stamps would stop going up, tuition costs wouldn’t be so high.

Nonetheless, you’re going to end up with some college mail. And when you get it, you’re going to want to know what you should do with it.

Keep All of It

In 1-3 years, when you apply to colleges, you’re going to want to know the names of the colleges you want to apply to. This seems like a no-brainer, but since there are approximately 4,562 colleges, with new ones sprouting in abandoned warehouses every three minutes, you’re going to need something to narrow down the choices.

You could, of course, just go by which colleges are good ‘fits’ for your needs, on the basis of academics, extracurricular activities, location, or mascot coolness. But then again, that’s so rational that it’s giving you hives, ‘cause you’re allergic to logic.

And this is why you’ve kept all of your college mail. You’ll probably have about 5,342,211 pieces of it by the time you’re applying. That doesn’t matter; you aren’t going to apply to every college that sent you mail. Mail is simply the means to an end.

All you have to do is come up with some sort of criteria for picking about ten colleges to apply to. It could be that you apply to the colleges that sent you the most mail. Maybe it’s the colleges that sent you the combined heaviest amount of mail. It could be the colleges that sent you the most colorful mail in the month of March.

If you’re really smart, you might simply apply to every college that didn’t send you mail, because you don’t want to attend a school that’s so old age that it still uses snail mail. The criteria aren’t all that important. The only important thing is that you have used some sort of system to arrive at a narrowed-down list of colleges to apply to.

Read Parts of It

By junior year, you’ll be getting so much college mail that you will have had to install a stake to keep your mailbox from crumbling under the weight of it. You will have about four hundred boxes full of it. Sometimes, a special USPS-branded dump truck will simply have to pull up to your driveway and dump its load.

You cannot possibly read all of your college mail and expect to retain any sanity. So, you’re going to need a strategy.

You should always read the first line. How do they address you? Mr./Ms., first and last name, just first name, first letter of each name, a random letter from your first name? Now, how does that title make you feel? Take this into consideration when deciding which of your bajillion piles to place it into.

Next, skip down to the ending. Did the dean ‘sign’ it? The Director of Admissions? An intern? Do they have a cool name? Did they spell ‘sincerely’ correctly?

You might think these are humorous questions, but I kid you not, as I am writing this I am looking at a piece of mail from a college where just under the name where the occupation title goes, it says “Director of Admissio.” I honestly have no idea what ‘Admissio’ is, but it must be important, because this college has a Director of it. (You’re probably saying that it’s a typo, and that they forgot the ‘n’, but I assure you: these colleges know what they’re doing. They use snail mail, remember).

Look at the Pictures

Finally, you should also look at the pictures. If there are no pictures, assume that the college is already strapped for funds and that your tuition costs will be in the nine-digits.

If the pictures are in black and white, appreciate the effort, but don’t really bother. I mean, the text is in black and white too, and that already functions like a picture, since you didn’t bother reading it.

What you really care about are color pictures.

First, you’ve got your requisite pictures of students bending over a microscope or textbook. The key thing to look at is their mouth. If they’re smiling, then you should know that this was a staged shot (nobody smiles while looking in a microscope), and nobody at this college actually does any work. If they’re unhappy, then they are genuinely working, and working does happen at that college.

Then, look at the pictures of student life. Here, you want smiles, and not frowns. If people aren’t smiling, it’s because the picture is staged. I mean, when’s the last time someone shoved a camera in your face and told you to smile just as you were finishing telling a funny story to your friends, and you actually smiled? You want to go to the college with well-trained photographers, obviously.

Finally, look at the weather. If the sky isn’t blue, again, assume inexperience and poor planning (so this isn’t a place you want to attend). Even colleges located farther north than parts of Canada will wait for the one day every six years when there is a blue sky so that they can take pictures for their mail.

So, the next time you want to bash snail mail, just remember: colleges still use it. And then bash it twice as hard, because colleges are schools, and nobody under the age of 25 likes schools, homework, or sleep deprivation.

Again, sorry for the delay between this and the last post. (I was sick this week and had to catch up on some other stuff). If you’re angry about waiting so long, though, then maybe you should take some of that anger out on someone with a good prank. Perhaps you’ll want to peruse “A Better Set of ‘Kick Me’ Signs,” published this time last year.

Everything You Need to Know to Pass the Written Driving Test

If you can't see this picture, you're missing out

(click the image to enlarge it)

One of the more brilliant ideas that our government has come up with over the years is the driver’s knowledge (written) test. If you are going to let someone drive a car, then half of their assessment should definitely be based on a multiple choice test.

This is absolutely genius. I mean, driving is exactly like sitting in front of a computer clicking the mouse. You’re staring straight ahead with a bored look on your face, moving your hands to make the pictures in front of you change.

But wait, it gets better. You need to get an 80% to pass the test! Talk about keeping our roads safe.

For example, let’s say some hypothetical bad driver (who is statistically probably a teen boy) is taking the test. He only misses one question, so he passes. However, that one very difficult question showed him a “DO NOT ENTER” sign and asked him what it meant.

He had four choices. It meant: a) the driver should enter the road; b) that the sign maker was supposed to type “Do Not” and then hit ‘enter,’ but he misread the directions; c) that the driver should not enter onto the road; or d) that the driver should never again enter anything, be it a building, contract, or road.

Now, this hypothetical teen boy didn’t know the answer, so he did the smart thing. He realized that most people will guess letter ‘c,’ and he figured that letter ‘c’ was the answer that made the most sense. Therefore, letter ‘c’ must be a trick answer, so he guessed ‘d.’

Nonetheless, he still passed. But he’s not a safe driver. The next time he sees a DO NOT ENTER sign, he’s going to ignore it. Let’s say it’s a freeway off ramp. In a best-case scenario, he causes a twenty-five mile long car pile-up and makes the road impassable for a week. If it was during rush hour, then the pile-up could stretch as far as all the way around the world, so he is hit from both the front and back.

Suddenly, because this teen didn’t get 100% on his driver’s knowledge test, he’s in a terrible situation. As unlikely as it seems, this could happen to you. So, I’m here to make sure you pass your driver’s knowledge test with a perfect score.

The Signs

Lots of times, you’ll be presented with a question along the lines of “What does this sign mean?” These questions are your friend, because they are easy.

If you’re stuck, look at the color of the sign. Each color means something different. Red is prohibitive, yellow is a warning, orange is road work, vomit green is a carsickness hazard, and if you see sky blue you’re probably looking in the wrong direction. (That’s why McDonald’s chose yellow for their ‘M;’ it’s a warning that it’s bad for your health).

Another thing you can look at is what’s on the sign. In school, if the question was “Does the sign saying ‘Right turn permitted without stopping’ mean you can make a right turn without stopping?” it’s obviously a trick question. On this test, the questions can be that easy.

If the sign has arrows, they usually denote the road’s path ahead. Therefore, a sign with an arrow tells you that the road does not abruptly come to a stop at a cliff edge, but rather continues ahead (regardless of the curves in the arrows present, this is true). If you don’t see an answer dealing with a sharp cliff drop, assume that the question was poorly written and choose any answer with “full speed ahead” (since you don’t have to worry about driving off the end of the road).

The Speeds

The nice thing about speed limits is that they aren’t secret. Otherwise, life would be much more difficult. “But officer, Haley said that John said that Stew said that Barbara said that she’d overheard someone whispering this speed limit was 45!”

Sadly, on the written test (which, remember, is a terrific indicator of real life performance), they’ll ask you questions like “How fast should you go on a two-lane road with a double yellow line that climbs a hill in the middle of a city block next to a coffee shop drive-thru?”

There is no way to study for these questions. The only thing you can do is remember some basic rules, such as the answer is rarely more than a three-digit speed limit.

The Right-of-Way

For some reason, many people like to talk about how difficult it is to learn who has the right of way. However, it’s very easy to learn.

Basically, if you’re on the right, and you both got to a stop sign at the same time, you have the right of way. It’s not called the left-of-way, or the straight ahead-of-way, or even the curds-of-whey. It’s the right-of-way.

The only other rule is that the right-of-way goes to whoever is already on the road. If you’re turning onto a road, anyone on that road already has the right-of-way. This can get confusing, because sometimes the people with the right-of-way will be on the left. While this seems like it would cause the universe to just instantly cease to exist, I assure you, it’s okay.

The exception to any of these rules is that monster trucks, tanks, and the President of the United States will always have the right of way.

Congratulations. You know now everything you need to know, save the stuff I left out, to pass the driver’s written test. If you are still unable to pass this test, well, let’s just say your grades are probably more of a concern then your driving ability.

Last year at this time we brought you, “Learning about the Middle Ages and Avoiding Depression.” Yes, both learning and the middle ages are very depressing.

Readers: As a heads up, this year is the infamous junior year for me. I’m going to continue posting as often as possible, but posts might be a little farther than 2 or 3 days apart (like they used to be). To make up for it, I’ll try to make the new posts a little longer, as this one was.

3 Small Joys of Reading Textbooks

A funny textbook page

Click to enlarge

I want to set the record straight: I am not saying that reading textbooks is fun. Most people would rather do something else that’s more fun, like getting a cavity drilled or walking into a glass door.

There are, however, small things that can make reading a textbook go from the ‘I feel like I’m bleeding to death through my brain’ level to the ‘I can’t feel my toes’ level. To any adults reading this, that may not sound like a big improvement, but I’ll ask you: have you ever bled to death? Just how in-touch with your inner toe are you?

Long Headings

Most of the time, your teachers will assign you a set number of pages to read for homework. Because teachers want to make the pages easy to remember, they’ll often pick some nice round numbers, like ‘10-30’ or ‘100-500.’

Thus, anything that takes up space that isn’t text is a huge relief, and headings do this well. Usually, and tragically, they are usually only one line (or the size of three lines of text).

In special cases, though, you’ll be blessed with a three-line heading, such as “The Confrontations, Reformations, Social Situations, Trade Negotiations, Revelations, Stations, Nations, Affirmations, Appalachians, and Sensations of January 15th, 1350, to January 16th, 1350.” Sure, you’ll go brain-dead reading the next section, but on the bright side, it took you only ten seconds to read what otherwise could have been fourteen lines of text!

Familiar Pictures

Pictures, maps, and diagrams can also take up a lot of space. Sadly, this is often misleading. For example, a diagram of the Schrodinger’s cat idea may literally cause your brain’s anterior cortex to explode.

The nice thing is that sometimes, you’ll actually recognize the picture. This is very rare, because teens have basically no information retention. For instance, let’s say you’ve spent the last seven years of your life with a map of the US hanging in your room. You’ve seen this map up to six times a day, and know the exact color of each state (NY is yellow, NJ is pale red, etc). Then, you come across a map of the US in your history textbook. You are stumped. You’ve never seen this shape before in your life. What is it? Thankfully, the caption alerts you to the fact that it is a map of….I’ve already forgotten. Whatever it was.

Nonetheless, familiar pictures do rarely appear, such as the Mona Lisa, a cube, or a graph of the increasing average price of celery futures at a produce market in western Kentucky. This saves us the time of reading whatever could have been on that page.

Vocabulary Blurbs

In some textbooks, there are often vocabulary boxes in the margins, with a few words every couple of pages. This adds to your reading time, because, again, it lies in the blank margins.

However, vocabulary boxes have the power to make you feel smart, which is why they can actually be happy breaks from the material. You might be reading about the causes of the causes of the causes of the civil war, thinking it’s totally German to you (minus the angry, spittle-spraying consonants). Then, you’ll come across a vocabulary box*.

*If the vocabulary box also sounds like German, you might actually be reading a German textbook. A common mistake, especially on Thursdays, after days of little to no sleep. I suggest you put it down and see if you can find your history book.

The vocabulary box will start with a flashy title, like “Vocabulary for You!” or “Vocab Stop!” Then, it will have a word and its definition. Let’s say, for the sake of example, that the word is “war.”

No way! You know that word! Thanks to your childhood of violent video games (no titles needed) and violent games (such as Monopoly: Mexican Drug Lord version), not to mention violent toy soldiers and violent TV shows, you know what a war is! You feel brilliant! You must be a genius! Sure, you don’t even know what “vocabulary” means, but you knew the word inside of the box!

Textbook reading is awful, and it’s probably going to stay that way regardless of whether you read it on paper, on e-ink, on an LCD screen, or on a tattoo on your forearm. Thankfully, there are little breaks in the action, or should I say, little bits of action in the boringness that is breaking your brain.

Reading textbooks can get stressful. Sometimes, you just need a way to bowl – I mean, blow – off steam. And in that case, this post from last year should have you covered: “The Complete Teenage Guide To Bowling With Friends.”