Sleep Deprivation Is Not Your Friend (A Speech)

A little while back, I unveiled my true identity on this blog. I mentioned that it was partly because it would allow me to offer you other content, content that would be impossible to hide behind the two dimensional cartoon-face drawing that represented the pseudonym of Phil. Here is one such bit.

The premise of the speech is simply to entertain with a serious undertone. So, without further ado, I give you a link to my After Dinner Speech. (It begins at 55:37 into the OSAA’s video and is about seven minutes long.) You can find the hilarious, amusing, entertaining, poignant*, funny speech here.

*It’s not actually poignant. You should know me well enough by now to have figured that out.

The Great Water Bottle Debate: Which Type is Best?

(click image to zoom)

(click image to zoom)

Everyone knows you need three things to survive: food, water, and a smartphone.

Food is easily portable, thanks to bags, bowls, and the corners of your upper lip. Smartphones are equally easy to bring everywhere in your pocket, though if current trends continue, next year’s smartphones will require pockets big enough to hold a small floor lamp. It’s no surprise, then, that early humans quickly figured out a way to cart water around, with the use of water balloons. This, of course, led to the invention of the water pistol, the water mattress, the waterfall, and, about fifty years ago, the water bottle.

To give a brief history of the water bottle, it was originally fairly plain. It was made of hard plastic. It was round. And, like many cultural favorites from the past—asbestos, cigarettes, jitterbug dancing—it gave you cancer. I think it had something to do with the plastic slowly seeping into the water over time, though it could’ve also been the fact that everything ever manufactured gives you cancer.

Of course, nobody wants to drink water if it kills you, so the entire nation stopped drinking water for a brief six-week period in 2003, until they came up with: a plastic water bottle. Apparently one that does not cause cancer. Metal water bottles also gained popularity at this time, mostly because they were heavy, solid things you could use to defend yourself from zombies, hammer in nails, and, in a pinch, hit fly balls.

Some of today’s water bottles resemble the bottles of old, whereas others look more like a portable, self-contained missile-defense system.

Now, teenagers have an inherent need to rank everything from colleges to hairstyles to colleges with the coolest students’ hairstyles; water bottles are no exception. Walking down a high school hallway, you can often catch phrases like “Dude, that’s an awesomely cool water bottle,” or “That water bottle is so dorky it’s making my suspenders uncomfortable.” If you want to be cool, you’re going to need the coolest water bottle. The question is, which type to pick?

Stainless Steel

The stainless steel water bottle is usually fairly boring on the outside. On the plus side, stainless steel is impossible to stain, and very hard to steal.

The upsides to the steel bottle are few but important. To begin with, it’s metal, meaning it will probably take a very long time for scientists to discover it gives you cancer. As noted previously, it’s very sturdy, and probably illegal in certain European countries. It’s also terrible at insulation. If you live in a cold place, your water will always be very cold, and if you live in a hot place, you could always use it to hard-boil eggs on the way to school.

The biggest problem with the steel water bottle is that it is so plain, even when painted. Also, they have yet to come out with transparent steel, so you can’t see how much water is left inside without using thousands of calories of energy to unscrew the cap, which makes you thirsty.

Perhaps most annoyingly, stainless steel water bottles are easily dented and not easily un-dented, or indented, or trident-ed, or whatever the opposite of dented is. This means that after a week of hard use and drops, your water bottle only stands up looking like The Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Reusable Plastic

Plastic water bottles are an incredibly hot market sector right now. You can get them with filters, with volume labels, with straws, with flip-tops, with pop-tops, with flip-pop tops, and (get a load of this) with tops.

The sheer variety of the plastic water bottle selection is a major plus. If you like the futuristic, I’m-the-one-who-took-all-the-water-from-Mars look, the transparent plastic gives all sorts of options. Many of the most popular plastic models of today started their careers as displays in prestigious modern art museums, in exhibits poignantly titled “Gift Shop.”

The downside to the plastic bottle is that its washing instructions are usually more involved than building a small fission reactor. You can wash the bottle part cold by hand, or with the dishwasher’s “fragile” setting. The top can only be washed in hot water or sterilized by staring intently at it for twenty seconds without blinking. The straw part can’t be washed with any water (it’s very bad for the straw to get wet), but if you want to CAREFULLY rub the outside with a piece of raw chicken, that’s okay as long as it’s very dry raw chicken.

Oh, also, the plastic might eventually give you cancer. But that won’t be a problem; you’ll be too busy admiring your high-tech high-fashion bottle to ever remember to take an actual drink.

Disposable Plastic

The disposable water bottle is popular only because it comes pre-filled. It can be found naturally growing at the base of fronds on genetically modified palm trees near mountain springs.

The only plus to using a disposable water bottle is that is not a huge loss to lose, so if you’re skilled at losing things, this is the bottle for you.

Otherwise, there are endless downsides to disposable water bottles. The first is that it’s bad for the environment. You’re the one causing the pacific basin to turn into the pacific hot tub. You’re the one leading to the extinction of species that are probably much cuter than you are. Furthermore, these sorts of bottles crackle when you drink from them, which is annoying, unless you do it many times during a difficult math test, which may cause students to scream and run into the nearest wall.

Glass

Glass water bottles are more a fashion statement than functional bottles. Glass, after all, is as fragile as Justin Bieber’s self-esteem.

Nevertheless, fashion is obviously a plus side. After all, without fashion we wouldn’t have useless pieces of cloth men tied around their necks, or those British Royal Guards with the fur hats, and civilization would probably have collapsed years ago without them.

Otherwise, glass is not a good choice of water bottle, especially for sports or anyone carrying a few tons of textbooks who might suddenly buckle and crash to the floor at any moment.

A brief note on glass jars used as water bottles: don’t. Not unless you’d be willing to keep your jams and pickles in egg cartons and your orange juice in Tupperware. Exactly.

Each water bottle has benefits and drawbacks, meaning it’s truly up to you to decide. It depends on how much you value appearance, function, or a broken piece of glass. And remember, first ask your doctor if water is right for you.

Being sick is another reason to always carry around a water bottle, since it’s important to keep those flu viruses in your nose hydrated. And if you are sick, then you probably want to check out How To Be Sick, published this time last year. Want to know how to be sick the “sick” way? Of course you do.

The Only Guide to Senior Portraits You’ll Ever Need

SeniorPhotoTooMuchSmile“Senior photos” are about as intelligent as “dog baths.” If you’re going to spend forty minutes washing something, then why put that time towards an animal that will immediately head for the nearest pile of mud, compost, or bird-scattered worm guts?

Similarly, if you’re going to spend hundreds of dollars on a photographer and prints of yourself, you want to make sure you do so at the age when you’re covered in the maximum amount of acne, have disproportionate body measurements, and have a personal style you’ll look back on with a mixture of hatred and disbelief.

In other words, senior portraits are a venerated high school tradition. Perhaps the real reason is we like to feel good about our appearance. After all, the most popular interior decoration is a mirror. And with senior photos, you’ll be stunned by how you look, from the moment the photographer breaks out the camera until the moment you see the first photo, at which point you’ll be even more stunned by just how average you appear.

But don’t worry. There are many tested tricks that you can use to elevate your senior photos from “Clip Art” to “Getty Images.” And, having gone through a session of these senior photos myself, I can tell you exactly how to perfect your portraits.

The Backgrounds

The sort of background you choose for your photo should reflect your true personality. For this reason, many students like to choose a brick wall.

Aside from walls, the most popular backgrounds include a wide-open field of grass, a wide-open body of water, a wide-open grove of trees, or a wide-open can of beans. The general idea is that you want to emphasize that you are the only human being for miles. You want to follow the theory established in car commercials that if your car is the only car left on the face of the earth, it must have, by default, the best handling and lowest APR financing.

But if you’re looking for a more creative background, try to think about your central character traits. Are you brave? Hop inside the parakeet enclosure at the zoo. Daring? Take a picture on the edge of an unusually high street curb. Indecisive? Carry a section of brick wall to a wide-open field.

The Poses

Once you’ve decided upon where to stand, you now need to figure out how you want to stand.

Once again, you can turn to your older peers for inspiration. And while both genders may pick similar backgrounds, at this point distinct differences between boys and girls begin to emerge.

For boys, the most popular poses are sitting and standing. If you’re trying to send the message that you are the ultimate cool, the beast of the swag, the sickest of slicks, and the chillest of flames, then you could…lean…against…a …wall. Now I’ll wait while you recover from your amazement at the creativity of high school boys.

Girls, however, use a much larger variety of poses. A popular pose is bashfully looking downwards and to the side. Basically, you’re trying to appear relaxed, but you are actually concerned that the ground beneath your feet is about to give way and swallow you up, just as it did to all the other people who were in the now-empty wide-open field. Another pose you’ll probably see is the “head tossed back laughing” pose. The real goal of this pose is to highlight the beauty of someone’s thyroid gland. And, of course, you can’t forget the “lying on the ground with hair splayed” pose. This is a great pose if you want to illustrate that popular look of being a plant growing out of the ground with your hair as the roots.

But if you really want to differentiate yourself, you should work hard to come up with a creative pose. Take some photos looking at a brick wall. Splay your hair out—in space. You could even showcase your inner mime, and pose inside an invisible glass box.

Picking the Right Photographer

Although you may not realize it until you’ve reached your own senior year, senior photo photography is a viciously competitive market.

The first thing you’ll notice is the sudden number of your classmates that have become student reps, all handing out business cards. The idea here is that if a photographer can take photos of a better-than-average looking rep and make them look better-than-average, they can take pictures of you that make your acne look better-than-average. Heck, the photographer could probably take photos of a toad and make it look better-than-average!

What you should actually look at comes down to both cost and ability. Find the cheapest photographer with a digital camera, make sure they have enough manual dexterity to push a shutter button, and hire them. Alternatively, you could try to start a “senior photo selfie taken at arm’s length, with 80,000 Instagram filters applied” trend.

Sharing

The purpose of a photo is to be admired. So you need to have a multi-pronged propagation strategy as soon as you get your photos.

First, submit them to the yearbook. Then, put your favorites on Facebook. Make sure to tweet one for “#myfacemonday.” Have your parents put them on “email,” whatever that is. Print vinyl banners of the photos and have a biplane fly them around your town. Tuck them under windshield wipers at your local mall’s parking lot. Mail copies to your elected representatives. Here, there is no such thing as “too much.”

Conclusion

Regardless of your perspective on senior photos, I assure you that they will be better than school pictures. And yes, there’s probably some deep theme about “it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, but what’s on the inside.” But if you’re so embarrassed by your photos that you want to make sure no one sees them, and eat the prints, well, then they’re inside, too.

Since I don’t want to leave you stuck on that paradox, though, think about this instead: whether you’re genuinely happy, or simply amused by the ridiculous-ness of the senior photo process, you will always be able to find a reason to crack an embarrassingly awkward smile for your picture.

If you’re less concerned with senior portraits than the upcoming holidays, you might want to check out How to Handle Horrible Holiday Gifts, published at this time last year. To be prepared for whatever unexpected gifts the holidays may bring, you may want to read this invaluable guide.

3 Things You Can Do To Look “Cool” Without Checking Your Phone

Look Cool Without Your PhoneCell phones are constantly improving our communication with each other.

First, you could call. Then, you could email back and forth via Blackberry or other fresh produce. Next, you could drop calls. After that, it became possible to send and receive texts. And now, using the iMessage app on an Apple or other fresh produce, you can watch an indicator telling you when people are typing a reply. Soon, our phones will advance to the point where they can text each other without any input from us, allowing us to socialize with upwards of a hundred people all while doing homework or sleeping.

It’s no secret that teens spend a lot of time texting each other. But it’s also no secret that half the time we appear to be texting, we’re simply looking at our phones to avoid interacting with people around us, or avoid looking alone and uncool. And in that way, cell phones have also harmed our communication with each other.

Why fake texting someone? Well, we’re teens. We are undergoing more awkward hormonal transformations at any one moment than the entire Kardashian family combined. Any number of bad things could happen if we looked up. We could open our mouths and grunt embarrassingly at the last second as someone passes by, forgetting how to use our tongue and making a sound not far different from a cow’s moo. We could nod to someone, but if we time it badly and they aren’t making eye contact, it’ll just look like an invisible man punched us in the forehead. We could even wave, but since we’re not used to the length of our arms, there’s always a risk we could poke an eye out.

Pretending to text, however, comes with its own problems. For example, to fully mimic texting, you probably open your message app and start typing randomly. Which is no big deal, of course, until you accidentally press “send” out of habit, leading to conversations that won’t end well:

You: a;sdklewe9t4nbj apd-e-tjqej cjdpfaisjdf

Friend you accidentally texted: ??

You: Sorry. I sent that to the wrong person

Friend: Oh, cuz that message makes sense if I know what you’re talking about.

You: It was also an autocorrect.

Friend: Sure, sure, happens all the time when I type “a:dkdlwwe94tnJ adew-wer-efioj apoidf” and my stupid phone corrects it to that

You: It was also in a different language.

Friend: Cuz lots of languages intersperse Arabic digits in their words.

You: It was also in code. It was also censored by the NSA. It was also intercepted by aliens. Then the NSA censored it again. And then for some reason it ended up getting sent to you when I meant to send it to autocorrect.

Friend: …

You: *to a different friend, not send it to autocorrect. But it was also an autocorrect. To a different language.

Friend: You should see a head doctor.

Additionally, this means you have to get out your phone, even if your hands are already full of books, a lunch, or a sports bag. Plus, if you pull out your phone every time you pass someone you don’t know, you’ll drain the battery faster than you can say, “Dude, I do that all the time and have no battery problems.”

Thankfully, there’s a better way to look cool and nonchalant when you’re standing or walking all alone. In fact, there are three.

Tie Those Shoes

This is first on the list for a reason; it has so many benefits over staring at your phone. First of all, it allows you to get low, meaning that if you do look up, you’ll only have to make eye contact with people’s knees, which are usually less judgmental than people’s eyes.

Secondly, it lets you show off your shoe tying skills. It proves to the world that mommy doesn’t tie your shoes. No, you’re a big boy. (If you really want to show off, you can also quietly sing the alphabet at the same time.)

Finally, it also draws attention to your shoes. And, if you’re truly a teen, your shoes are neon, casual, or casually neon. This proves how laid back you are, and, if you’re lucky enough to have exceptionally neon shoes, can also blind any passing people so there’s no risk of them seeing your face when you get up.

The only thing you have to watch out for is those times when your shoes don’t have laces, although pretending to tie laceless shoes is probably no more embarrassing than pretending to text using a wallet.

Push Those Cuticles

If you’ve ever received nail clippers, a Swiss army knife, or some other multi-tool, a popular feature is the “cuticle pusher.” Now, I have absolutely no idea what a cuticle pusher is. Looking it up on the scholarly database called Yahoo Answers, I learned “it’s for exactly what the name says.” That wasn’t helpful. I don’t know what cuticles are, and I can’t imagine why you would want to push them around.

If I had to guess, “cuticle” is probably just a name for a slow-moving beetle (it rhymes), and you’re supposed to push them along to help them on their way. I don’t know how that correlates to nail clippers, but then again, you can also buy healthy salads packaged with dressing more caloric-ally dense than a chunk of limestone, so maybe things aren’t always marketed as well as they could be.

The point is, if you have a cuticle pusher, and you know what, where, or who cuticles are, and also when, how, or why to push them, you should totally make use of this skill. Not only does it give you a reason to avoid looking at anyone around you, but it also shows off how brilliantly intelligent you are, that you know the proper use for a cuticle pusher.

Drink That Liquid

Perhaps the second-most common way of avoiding any human contact is to use a drink. Most high school students get a full, restful twelve hours of sleep, total, every two to three days, so it’s not uncommon to see people sleepily sipping a thermos of coffee or tea. The best part is, if you time it right, you can sip just as someone passes next to you, giving you an excuse to tilt your head back and look up at the ceiling.

But while this may be a common and easy technique, it comes with a few potential issues. For example, if your drink is still burning hot when someone walks by, you may have to spit it out all over your shirt. If you’re really slick, you can do that again once or twice and try to start a trend—or at least make it look like you meant to ruin your outfit, because that’s how much swag you’ve got and how YOLO you are—but most people won’t think of that in time.

Furthermore, you’ll eventually finish your drink, and while nobody sauntering by will notice a fake sip, if you’re standing around in a crowd, eventually people will wonder how you’ve taken 3,238 consecutive sips from a twenty-ounce cup.

Final Words

While you might prefer to use your phone as an excuse to avoid appearing alone or awkward, it isn’t always the best option. But even tying shoes, pushing cuticles, or drinking coffee aren’t the best options, either.

Sure, it might seem better to try and avoid awkward human contact at the time, but you’ll enjoy life more if you simply look up with a smile and greet those around you, even with only a moo. Heck, maybe you can ask the next person you see if they know what a cuticle is.

If you’ve already figured out that it’s more fun to meet new people than fake texting, perhaps you’ll be more interested in The Most Effective SAT Study Plan, published this time last year. Because you can’t spell fun without “S,” “A,” and “T.”