The Fiscal Cliff: A Guide For Teens

A Fiscal Clif BarIf you have done anything other than sleep over the past week, then you’ve probably heard of the fiscal cliff. You can literally be brushing your teeth in the morning, and your toothpaste will start talking to you about it. Then, before you can reply, your faucet chimes in with its sanctimonious opinion, and before you know it the shampoo bottles have gotten into a brawl over it.

Or, at least that’s what happens to me. That might be a function of me spending more time brushing my teeth than sleeping this past week, though. (No, I don’t take 3 hours to meticulously scrub every incisor, I, like a majority of you reading this, am just sleep deprived).

Regardless, because the Fiscal Cliff has hijacked every editorial section, editorial cartoon, and editorial editor (it has them tied up in a room somewhere), it appears that it is either a very important political issue or that it has simply grown arms, legs, and an ability to hijack things.

As teens, we pride ourselves on knowing absolutely nothing about anything, so needless to say none of us have any idea why the TV keeps droning on about rock formations. As a blogger, therefore, it is my duty to break your ignorance and ensure that you become thoroughly misinformed about this issue. I present to you “The Fiscal Cliff: A Guide for Teens,” a guide completely devoid of biased partisan politics, biased bipartisan politics, and biased bipartisan bipolitics.

How it All Started

The Fiscal Cliff, and all geological formations, really have their roots where this country started: Plymouth Rock. Plymouth rock was where the Pilgrims landed and made the Mayflower compact, forever tying government legislation to rock formations.

Now, after about 400 years of history and 1,300,000 pieces of legislation per year, the federal government seems to have run out of rocks. Just kidding. We’ve got plenty of stones, pebbles, and boulders in the Federal Reserve for situations just like this.

No, the real problem is something called the Budget Control Act, passed at some point in the last 40 years. Essentially, it stated that unless we controlled our budget, we would not control our budget. Instead, the Act would have control. Personally, I think this is brilliant: handing our government’s legislature powers over to nonpartisan inanimate objects such as pieces of paper, binders full of paper, and warehouses full of paper would greatly increase our government’s efficiency.

How It Didn’t Get Fixed

Unfortunately, the Budget Control Act was set to take effect soon after the presidential elections. This meant that most politicians spent the two to four years before the November elections trying to get re-elected, and thus they didn’t have time to deal with the budget. On the bright side, at least this re-election frenzy gave us entertaining commercials for a few weeks.

Then, due to articles 1-5 of the Constitution, which state that, “…the aforementioned government shall enact hereto any legislation which respectively takes thee government under fourscore years to complete…” the budget negotiations simply aren’t complete yet.

Why It’s Called the Fiscal Cliff

The Budget Control Act created certain spending cuts that would take effect unless other action was taken. Sadly, rather than calling them “The Spending Cuts That You Won’t Stop Hearing About for the Entire Month of December,” Congress instead named it, “Sequestration.” This name came from the roots of the word: seq, as in sequel, meaning the thing that comes after; uest, as in bluest, meaning the most depressing; rat, as in the rodent, meaning despicable pests; and ion, as in chemistry, meaning science-y. In other words, sequestration means that a group of scientifically genetically modified rats, all depressed, will come after a failure to fix the budget, and just blindly chew up random papers until enough expenditures have been gnawed into oblivion.

This, of course, was a concept too difficult for the common man to understand, and too juicy for the circling comedian-vultures, so they nicknamed it the Fiscal Cliff.

Does it Matter?

Arguably, yes; based on the news coverage it has garnered, one could assume the Fiscal Cliff matters. Teens, though, have the benefit of ignorance on their side, and so we could probably also argue that it doesn’t. It’s not as if our country will suddenly be overrun by Canada. And if it is, then think about the plus side: our pharmaceuticals will be less expensive.”

The real issue, though, is at the heart of the matter: our government takes and and uses a lot of money. Therefore, I think the solution, in the long term, is to use Monopoly money to pay our governments debts. Frankly, I don’t know why these so-called “smart” political figures haven’t already come up with this solution. It’s probably because private investors have a monopoly on Wall Street and Boardwalk and the government doesn’t want to lose.

What You Can Say

Now let’s say you’re in class, or at a family gathering, and, since you’ll be voting in a few years, want to appear intelligent and politically active. The topic of the Fiscal Cliff arises in the conversation. What do you say? Well, here are some pretty solid talking points:

  • I think we should all get parachutes and just see who survives the jump.
  • It’s really a cliff-hanger, ha ha.
  • Well, if sequestration happens, lots of stuff will then be affected. Like the entitlements reformed and an increase tax.
  • Honestly, if they would just arm-wrestle it out already we could all go back to talking about the newest Twilight Movie.
  • So, nice weather, eh?

Overall, I’m sure that the Fiscal Cliff is very important, and shouldn’t be taken so lightly. But maybe we should look on the bright side: I bet the view from up on the cliff is beautiful.

The long gap between this post and the last post is due to the common teen affliction of sleep deprivation. It hopefully won’t happen again anytime soon. But if you really need to read a post, our archives are always available.

Of course, sleep is rarely an issue if we have a snow day. And if you have any questions about snow days, then you might check out, “Snow Day FAQ: Frosty Answers Common Misconceptions,” published in December of last year.

The 3 Major Problems with Multiple Choice Tests

If you’ve ever taken a multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubbles test, then you know that you MUST use a #2 pencil to fill in your answers. If you’ve never taken such a test, congratulations: you probably live on one of those miniscule islands in the Caribbean that’s so small that if you accidentally have too much for dinner, the whole island sinks. You’ve never had to go through the mentally scarring experience of such a test. Plus, you probably have a nice tan.

My guess is that most of you have dealt with a multiple choice test, or MC test. Contrary to popular belief, MC test doesn’t stand for multiple choice test, but rather, Malicious Cruel test.

This acronym has nothing to do with the content of the test itself. You could be tested on the names of common household appliances, such as “toaster,” “sink,” and “plutonium centrifuge,” and still miss over half of the questions purely due to the format of the test.

The #2 Pencil

Let’s think about this for a second. You are handed a blank answer form. Then, you shade in certain bubbles on the answer form. How dumb does a scanning machine have to be to be unable to tell the difference between a blank form and a filled in form? Why is it that the machine only detects a #2 pencil?

Humans certainly can’t tell the difference between a #2 pencil and a #1.5 pencil. Who thought this was an important thing to incorporate into these machines?

Plus, when it comes down to it, nobody knows what #2 stands for. I’d guess that it probably indicates that these pencils were made for the 2nd best scanning machines. The best scanning machines could handle pencils, pens, and crayons, but we use the 2nd best machines, and thus, the #2.

Sensitive Machines

Even if you have a #2 pencil, that’s not always enough. If you can’t shade in the bubble itself to the specifications of a temperamental machine, then you will still get the wrong answer. This means you cannot mark your answers lightly, incompletely, with a scribble, with a bull’s-eye design, with imperfect uniformity, halfheartedly, unenthusiastically, or even apathetically. If you are not fully enthused when marking in your answers darkly, then you are certain to fail the test.

Erased Answers

The other problem with the bubbles is erased marks. Again, we can see that the machines are stupider than the humans*. On a written math test, if you wrote “x=4,” then erased the 4 so that you could only faintly make it out, and then wrote a much darker “5” in that same space, your teacher would assume that you meant “x=5.”

*I will probably be killed by a robot in 2040 for that statement.

For scantron machines, however, this simply blows their minds. If you present it with a very light, erased bubble, and a very dark bubble, the machine assumes that you think there were two correct answers. Thus, you get the question wrong.

Thankfully, the failure to recognize erased marks is only a recent development. Otherwise, well, just imagine the historical implications. “The Supreme Court ruled today, after carefully examining the constitution under a magnifying glass, that due to some obscure erased marks, citizens only have a right to ‘bare’ arms, that is, to wear tank tops or other sleeveless garments.”

With all of these problems, one would think that teens would have revolted against MC tests by now. Even with all of these issues, however, that line of thinking is incorrect: teens would never, ever do anything to get rid of MC tests.

Why? Because even though you have to bubble in your answers using more care than a brain surgeon, multiple-choice tests allow for guessing. On a history test, you may have no idea when Franklin Pierce was president. On a writing test, you might take a hilariously bad guess, such as “from 1414-1418.” But on a multiple-choice test, you automatically have a 1 in 4 (or 5) chance of getting the answer correct! Heck, you could mark “D” every time, and have a solid shot at getting a D!

So, even with all of their shortcomings, we should all be thankful for Malicious Cruel tests. I mean, at least our education system, which invented these tests, doesn’t have any actual influence over the future of our country, right?

As the impending doom of the so-called “fiscal cliff” approaches, you might be worried that our government is failing to do its duties. One possible solution would be to simply replace every official with a teacher, an idea explored in “If Teachers Ran the US Federal Government…“, a post published this time last year.

The Worst Part of Summer: Summer Homework

Don’t read the title of this post. Oh, you did? Sorry. Well, the good news is that I’m reminding you about your summer homework at the beginning of the summer, so you have about two months to try and re-erase it from your memory.

See, summer is not about school. Summer and school go together about as well as apple juice and potato salad*. The good thing is that summer and school are pretty much separate.

*No, I did not make that statement from experience. Mostly. Okay, maybe I did. It DOESN’T CONCERN YOU. MOVE ALONG.

Logically, then, homework, which is the worst part of school, should not exist during summer vacation, right? Obviously, you say. (Notice how you are unable to disagree with me when I’m writing. This is why I always win arguments – I talk for the other person and make them agree with me).

However, homework does exist during summer. For most AP and Honors classes, summer homework is the norm.

Now I’m sure you are aware why homework is bad. If you are not, you are either very lucky (having never had homework), very stupid, or lucky to be stupid, although that isn’t actually all that lucky (although if you were stupid it might seem lucky, which is stupid).

Summer homework, though, is uniquely bad for many reasons.

The Weather

Now, you either live in a place where it is sunny all the time, like Mercury, or you live in a place where it rains every single day except for ten weeks during summer, like where I live (in a cloud). In that case, your summer basically goes something like this:

You [sitting at a computer, doing an AP History study guide]: My brain is melting…[you glance outside] Wow, it’s nice outside. You can even see the storm drains – there’s no water flooding them! [Sigh] But I have to work on this.

[In the window: A frolicking (assuming birds can frolic) blue bird flies by. Then another bird.]

You: Ughh! Those birds are enjoying this weather while I have to do this stupid study guide on…Benjamin Jefferson? Huhmm, this must be some new stuff…

[In the window: A monarch butterfly flits by. You pause to watch it.]

You: No, gotta focus. Let’s see, George “Sacagawea” Adams was born in…

[In the window: A flock? Herd? Gang? Bundle? Of butterflies goes by, completely blocking out everything but the sun for three minutes.]

You: That was cool. I’ve never seen a rabble* of butterflies before.

[In the window: Just as your head turns back to the computer, the bluebirds return and land on a birdbath.]

You: I wish I could go swimming, too. Hey, wait a minute, I don’t have a birdbath outside my window.

[In the window: Birdbath disappears, and the birds perch on the windowsill and start singing summer songs that you hear way too many times on the radio in the summer, such as “Doo-wah-diddy-diddy-dum-diddy-dee.”]

You: I don’t believe it. Now I’m in, like, a Disney movie. That’s it [pulls out metal cuffs and chains self to desk.] I have to finish this. [Parts of your brain start dripping out your ears as you try to focus. Scene fades to black].

*I guess my subconscious is smarter than I am.

Some People Don’t Have Summer Homework

While I’m sure your esteemed colleagues and you are the geniuses of the school, and thus have tons of summer homework, I guarantee that no matter what, one of your friends won’t have any.

This means you will be subject for the rest of your summer to comments like: “Hey, want to go to the park with us? Oh, wait, I’ll bet your summer homework is more fun,” “Dude, I’m having a party tomorrow, but you can only come if you’re done with all your homework, ha ha,” “You have summer hoooommmeeeewooooorrrrrk. I don’t. Seriously, though, your summer will suck.”

The Homework Itself

Granted, most homework assignments are about as mind-stimulating as lying in a dentists’ chair while they drill your teeth. But certainly, there is a scale of how boring the assignment is.

Well, I’ve got some bad news: Thomas Edison is no longer alive. Oh, sorry, I meant to say that summer homework is on the lowest end of the scale. It’s reading, worksheets, memorization, and, in extreme cases of AP Honors Advanced Accelerated classes, water boarding as well.

Honestly, summer homework is terrible. So, while you spend at least a week this summer seriously procrastinating and doing your summer homework, know that you’re not alone. There are many others in the same situation. Myself, well, let’s just say I worked out a deal with my teachers so all I have to do is record myself drinking potato-salad-apple-juice. They agreed that as long as it’s unpleasant, it works as a substitute.

Also, we’ve added a new page to our site entitled “Suggest a Post.” If you have an idea or topic that you’d like to see written about, go to that page and submit it. More info can be found there as well.

Driving on the Freeway: A Guide for Teens

a speed limit sign (funny)“There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” is a famous quote from a great man. Although much of his greatness came from the fact that his middle name was Delano, which struck both admiration and fear in the hearts of his opponents, this quote still rings true.

However, this quote is also one of the most misinterpreted quotes of all time. People like to say this means that you only need to fear the emotion of fear. They, however, are wrong.

What FDR was actually saying was: “There is nothing to fear – but fear itself.” Now, instead of telling you to only fear the emotion, this quote tells you to be very afraid of ‘itself.’ That’s where I come in.

You see, having been blessed with a time-travel-read-minds ability, I can tell you that Mr. Roosevelt meant for ‘itself’ to refer to freeway driving. He changed that to ‘itself,’ an ambiguous pronoun, only because his speechwriters thought that freeway driving was too much of a polar issue.

Even today, this quote rings true for most teens. I mean, here you are, learning how to drive, scared of hitting people, cars, and squirrels, when you suddenly find out about the freeway.

Your first impression of the freeway can make it seem a bit daunting. Your second impression of the freeway will scare you more than the word ‘Delano’. This is because driving on the freeway means:

  • You have to go really fast
  • You have to change lanes while going really fast
  • You have to avoid hitting other cars while changing lanes and going really fast
  • You have to be surrounded by other cars going really fast and changing lanes as you try to change lanes while going really fast
  • You have to go really fast

The freeway can be scary. But it doesn’t have to be, if you follow this advice.

Avoid Traffic

One of the main factors of how scared freeway driving will make inexperienced teen drivers like yourself is the number of cars on the road. More cars=more things to hit or be hit by.

The easy solution, then, is to avoid times when cars are usually on the freeway! Some great times to drive with little or no traffic include between the hours of 10PM-5AM on weekdays and 3AM-10AM on weekends. Just plan ahead so you get to your destination on time. Another great time to drive is when the freeway is closed for roadwork, because then you’ll be the only car on the road.

Avoid Trucks

Trucks can also strike fear into your heart. After all, they are huge, block your vision, and can’t stop quickly. Not to mention that trucks weigh so much that if they accidentally flattened your car the driver would not notice. At most, he’d figure that he’d hit a pothole. Meanwhile, you’d now be two dimensional, or one-dimensional in worst-case scenarios.

A great way to avoid trucks is to post a sign at the exit right before you get on the freeway that says, “EXIT 34: FREE FOOD FOR ALL TRUCK DRIVERS.” Also, you can just drive a very low car, like a sports convertible, so you can drive under the trucks and not have to worry about being crushed.

Avoid Lanes

Lane changes. Normally a pain, they become horrific on the freeway. You are supposed to check your mirrors, look behind you, signal, and check your mirrors again, all while you are supposed to be looking forward and not hitting anything.

So, the easiest way to avoid lane changes is to avoid lanes. Only drive on the freeway if you are in the middle of the country where many freeways have only one lane. Otherwise…

Avoid the Freeway

The easiest way to avoid being scared of freeway driving is not driving on the freeway. Duh. That’s why Google Maps was invented, to help teens everywhere find alternative routes. Who cares that the estimated travel time takes an extra four hours? At least you’ll have a normal heart rate when you arrive.