My Real Name (and Why I Stopped Posting So Often)

A wise man once said, “I have a dream.”

Another wise man once said, “Those who start blog posts with famous quotes are uncreative losers who deserve to rot in a room full of pre-teen girls discussing Justin Bieber’s eyes.”

And that’s what this post is all about: a dream, an uncreative loser, and Justin Bieber’s eyes a blog.

If you’ve ever read our about page, you know that my real name isn’t Phil. You’ve also probably figured out that I’m not a two-dimensional, comically-white-skinned guy with hair that doesn’t extend past the shape of his head. And if you’ve gotten that far, you’ve also likely realized that I’m actually a blue-toed Amazonian frog with a laptop and a WiFi connection.

Okay, fine, the million dollar question: who am I? And why did I use a pseudonym in the first place?

Let’s start with the last question first.

The Pseudonym

I started this blog with a pseudonym for a few reasons.

First of all, when I began High School Humor Blog, I had no critical acclaim as a humor writer*. I didn’t want to attach my real name to the blog until I was sure that I could write at least one almost-mildly-funny joke every now and then. That way, there was no pressure and I was free to write without worrying about how funny it was. Which, in turn, allowed me to develop my writing and enjoy it more. Now, about 200,000 words later, I’ve become a bit more confident (or deluded) in my humor-writing ability.

*Thankfully, now I’ve got loads of critical acclaim; lots of people like to criticize my writing and make a claim that it sucks.

Secondly, writing under a pseudonym ensured that I never had to worry about anyone I know reading this and then deciding that I am rambling, clueless, unfunny writer. That all may be true, but I like to think I do a pretty darn good job of hiding it when you meet me in person.

Thirdly, by using a pseudonym and fake picture, I allowed you all to imagine whoever you wanted, although I’m sure I’m sixty times more attractive in real life than the Phil of your dreams.

Now I know what you’re thinking: those are all brilliant reasons to use a pseudonym. So why would I stop and reveal my real name?

The Name

Well, for a few reasons. (Different reasons, however, than why I used a pseudonym, although I think there are only like eight reasons that exist in the world total, so I’m using them all up).

First of all, I’m proud of the content of this blog, and so I have many fewer scruples* about tying it to my real name than I used to.

*Scruple (n): a Danish pastry, sort of like strudel meets waffle.

Secondly, and mainly, the reason I have posted less this year is partly that I’ve been busy, but also partly that I’ve been writing a slightly more serious (slightly is the key word) column for my local paper every 3 to 4 weeks. Which means instead of publishing it here, it gets published in the paper, and you never know it exists. And so, by tying my real identity to the blog, I can offer you a few past columns of material you’ve never seen before.

Thirdly, I’m dabbling in all sorts of comedy and continue to do so, so if any of that ever appears in a format that you can get online, I can offer you that as well. I’m not going to go into specifics on anything, but it’ll leave me many more future options and decrease the likelihood we go a long time without posting.

And so, without further ado, I give you my real name:

J. K. Rowling

Okay, just kidding. Sorry. I hope you didn’t get too excited. (If you have no idea why I just did that, and think I’m a mean, terrible person, check this out).

My real name is actually Joel Kwartler (so at least the “J. K.” part wasn’t a complete lie). Pronounced “Kah-keh-car-keewar-whattheheck?” or “Quart-ler” for short. You could Google me and try to stalk me, but you won’t have much success—I don’t have a Facebook page (aside from the one for this blog), a Twitter, or even (gasp) a MySpace account. I know, I know, I’m not even on VHS, whatever that is. (For those of you who remember him, Ted–the other guy who wrote a few posts for this blog years ago–would prefer to remain Ted at this time.)

Since it’s probably unfair to leave you with a name and no face, here’s a picture of me:

I'm the guy in the center, between the nobody on the left and the invisible dude on the right.

I’m the guy in the center, between the nobody on the left and the invisible dude on the right.

Now that I’ve broken my cover, you’ll probably want to know a few things about me. Here’s what I’ll tell you:

  • When I was very young, a man came up to me (supposedly a family member) and screamed that he stole my nose. It took me a second to realize it, but he actually stole my nose. What you see in the picture is a prosthetic replacement made out of his thumb.
  • I know a man with one leg named Smith. The name of the other leg, if you’d care to know it, is Frederick.
  • I can bench press 4,562 lbs. “Lb” stands for “little bug,” which weighs approximately nothing.
  • My teeth have spent five years of their lives in jail. Some people call that “braces.” They’re on parole now.

Finally, you might be wondering what the future of this blog will hold. But before I get into that, I’d just like to thank you all, once again, for taking the time to read, share, or leave spam comments written in Greek about Russian pharmaceutical products. It means a lot.

So, the future. I’ll be a senior in high school this year, meaning I’ve still got one year to continue writing as an authority on high school. Also, that column for the local paper will continue, but (unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) with a less demanding schedule, meaning I can focus a bit more on writing for this blog. The past few months have shown me I can no longer make any promises as to the exact frequency of posts, but I’ll do my best to post as often as possible. As for what’s going to happen at the end of this school year, well, I haven’t quite figured that out (if you’ve got any thoughts on what High School Humor Blog should become once I’m no longer in high school, they’re always welcome).

That’s about it, for now. Keep your eye out for an updated “about” page. (For those of you reading this by email or feed reader, I’ll mention it in a post when I update the about page).

Also, now that you know who I am, if you ever do meet me in person, you have only two options: go stark raving mad about how much you love this blog, or compliment me on my prosthetic nose.

3 Disturbing Trends of Summer Homework

A funny pic about summer homeworkFor those of you unaware, there is such a thing as homework over the summer. I doubt that’s news to you. Even if you didn’t get any, I’m sure your peers did, and, if your peers are anything like my peers—which they should be, since I’m using peers informally to mean “the teenage population of the entire world”—you heard about it via social media.

Perhaps it was a status update that said, “Too weak to pick up this novel, even tho the main character is also named Derek. Somebody pls jump start my motivation,” or a tweet reading, “Ugh reports to do, but there’s sun. #CanYouSpellSummerYeah! #summer #sumer #summar #NoSrslyHowDoYouSpellSummer. Btw just hooked up jumper cables and shocked Derek into motivation. I think. #orHesInAComa”; either way, I’m sure your friends made it all too clear.

See, summer homework is perhaps the silliest type of homework, mostly because of its name, “summer homework,” which implies that it’s homework you’ll do over the summer. As anyone who has summer homework can tell you, that’s simply not true.

Most summer homework is completed on the last day of school, before you melt into a summer blob of sleep and food and it becomes too much effort to even open both eyes at once, or in the wee hours of the morning before the first day of school, when it is also very hard to keep both eyes open at once.

Now, my fellow peers, this used to be fine. After all, you know what they say: “It’s all fun and games when someone loses an eye.” Used to be fine, that is. But there have been some very disturbing trends in the field of summer homework.

Technology

We all know technology is great; without it we wouldn’t be able to do things like text friends, Facebook message friends, tweet friends, Instagram friends, maps friends, iBooks friends, Safari friends, or socialize using of any of the other phone apps you may have.

The problem with technology arises when teachers get their hands on it. History has shown us countless examples of why this is terrible for students:

  • June 28th, 1914: Ms. Smith, on vacation in Bosnia, accidentally confuses her new camera with a bystander’s pistol, and, trying to get a “good shot” of the parade to take back to her history class and lecture about primary source documents, accidentally shoots Archduke Franz Ferdinand, plunging the world into war. This war will later become the focus of thousands of future homework assignments.

  • December 3rd, 1997: Mr. Phillips, trying to connect his “Ethernet” to the “Internet” using a “Butterflynet,” catches fire from the electrical charge. He stops, drops, and rolls down the hall, trailing flames and catching the beautiful wood lockers on fire, causing $400,000 in damages. The FDA, reacting to the damages, requires that schools now use ugly metal lockers, ignoring the fact that they often jam, pinch fingers, or dent.

  • December 31st, 1999: Scared that Y2K bug might pester her students during upcoming midterms, Mrs. Johnson covers her classroom in concentrated DEET, creating a need for her students to take midterms in gas masks and rubber gloves.

  • April 14th, 2002: Mr. Arnolds learns about educational DVDs, and never teaches or gives a lecture again. In an attempt to avoid death by boredom, his students start playing “fantasy backdrops,” tracking and placing bets on the appearances of specific bookshelves, books, and plants that appear behind the interviewees.

  • February 17th, 2012: Although she has the flu, Mrs. Davidson has her unprepared students present anyways, grading from the back via FaceTime.

Maybe you found those examples funny, but I can tell you that I certainly didn’t. I’m not exaggerating here—there’s a teacher who’s reading this, right now, and thinking “Huh, I need to go to the store and pick me up some DVDs and FaceTime, whatever aisle they keep that in.”

Actually, the problem is that most teachers know how to use technology, including FaceTime. And this is ruinous to the normal completion of summer homework. Nowadays, you can’t just wait until summer is over to do your homework; thanks to the internet, teachers can make you do it by whenever they say.

History essay? Email it in by August 1st. English discussion? Use an online forum that closes two weeks before school starts. Group biology report? If he wanted to, your teacher could literally get on Google docs and follow your cursor, making comments like “can you type any faster?!?!” or “missed a comma there, and there, and there, and three of them there, and one at the bottom, and two in that sentence, and one in the sentence you used the wrong ‘its’ in.” I would not be surprised if, sometime in the next few years, your teacher starts hologramming himself into your bedroom at 5 AM, shouting at you to “wake up, chop chop, you’ve slept long enough; you’ve got a 600 page novel I’d like read before you eat breakfast.”

Amount

Unfortunately, not only has summer homework slowly gained stricter deadlines, but it also has grown in quantity.

Four years ago, only the toughest AP classes (of which, if you’ve been following this blog for a long time, AP History of the Cheerio is one) carried summer work. These days, it’s not uncommon to hear about homework being assigned for study halls. Okay, actually, that’s still uncommon, but you know what I mean.

Where do you think the phrase “at least it’s not rocket science” came from? Rocket science was the only class with summer homework.

And, as it creeps ever closer to world domination, summer homework is assigned at younger and younger grades. Lend me your ears, peers, because the day incoming seventh graders have to write a 100-word essay about what they’re looking forward to about junior high school (for which there is only one word, “nothing,” because junior high is brutal) will be a dark day for our society.

Social Acceptance

Back in the booming 50’s, nothing was acceptable. Communism? No way. Music that’s faster than five beats per minute? Let me show you the door. Someone wearing a fedora with suspenders and crocs? It was legal to shoot them. So, you can imagine, summer homework was unheard of.

Even in the early 2000s, you could tell someone you had summer homework and they’d reply, “Homework? In the summer? That’s ridiculous! You know what I mean? Ludicrous! You get me? This is nonsensical! Understand? Outrageous! Hear me? That’s preposterous! It’s ludicrously preposterous! Know what I’m saying? It’s outrageously ridiculous! I’m outraged! I’m raging out! I cannot believe it.”

Nowadays, tell an adult you’ve got summer homework and they’ll just say, “Yeah, so? What else is new? Wait—don’t tell me, I want to guess. Next you’re going to complain about having that teacher/hologram wake you up at 5 AM every morning. Deal with it, kid. Consider yourself lucky. Back in my day we didn’t have holograms. Heck, we didn’t even have 5 AM.”

And this is why, just like fast music and fedora/suspenders/crocs combos, summer homework will slowly permeate all parts of our society.

But should we care? Summer homework isn’t nearly as bad as regular homework, which doesn’t even get a specific name because there’d be too many to keep track of (fall homework, winter homework, weekly homework, daily homework, due-six-months-later-just-to-keep-you-up-at-night homework, etc).

I say we should. Because when summer falls to homework, you’ll have to spring just to winter through it.

Yes, I’m back. I am so sorry to have left you post-less for two months. Stay tuned; an explanation is coming, and also a—well, you’ll just have to keep your eye on the blog.

In the meantime, you probably noticed Google’s feed reader shut down, and if you still haven’t replaced it and wanted to (so you can stay updated using this blog’s RSS feed), I recommend Feedly. If you think RSS stands for Really Scary Spiders, then just ignore that previous sentence. And don’t look up, just back away slowly.

Creating A Better AP Test (Part 4): the AP Number Labels

This is the final installment of our “Better AP Test” series. If you’ve missed the first three parts, you can catch them here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I promised I’d cover them: the infamous AP sticker book. Yes, for those of you not aware, you actually get a small booklet with 18 or so labels on a sticker sheet inside.

What’s the problem with that, you ask? Isn’t using a bar-code sticker sort of a good idea? DON’T YOU LIKE STICKERS?! WHO DOESN’T LIKE STICKERS?!

So, let me just say: yes, it is. It’s an absolutely brilliant advancement that I’m sure speeds up scoring and also removes entirely the need for students to bubble in anything. Since you’re probably dead-tired as you read this, let me redirect you to that last part: “removes entirely the need for students to bubble in anything.”

I mean, after you’ve bubbled in your info once, and it’s tied to your label, why do you still need to bubble in your name, school, grade, date, blood type, etc. on every test you take? Shouldn’t the label solve for all that?

Now, you might argue that if you use the AP number label and bubble in your name, it helps prevent scoring errors. And you’re probably right. But, really, if you can’t manage to place a sticker in a clearly outlined and labeled box, then you probably shouldn’t be taking an advanced placement test anyways.

Conclusion

Well, that concludes our 4-day series on reforming the entire way we take AP tests. While I’d love to hang these 95 (minus 91) theses on the door of CollegeBoard come Halloween, CollegeBoard’s security would probably keep me from getting too close. At the very least, however, I’ll leave you with this: the tune to “Yellow Submarine,” stuck in your head for a week.

Of course, if four posts in four days wasn’t enough for you, you should check out the greatness we posted last year in May.

Creating A Better AP Test (Part 3): the Atmosphere

This is part 3 of a series on creating a better AP test. If you’re just tuning in, or missed a post, you should read the first and second parts, well, first and second.

While turning the AP test process into a live musical would go a long way into making it almost bearable, that isn’t the only reason you become instantly depressed as soon as you sit down in the testing room. Another problem is the general atmosphere.

Normally, for any other test, you’d sit in a familiar classroom, sitting close enough to your peers that you can make jokes about how little you each studied. (“Dude, I went home and slept for six hours! Then I woke up, and went to bed! I’m so ruined for this test.” “Man that’s nothin’, I went home and actually un-learned half the info, then ate seventeen burgers, and then partied with my pet bird all night. I’m totally gonna fail hahaha.”)

For AP tests, however, you’ll sit alone at a table or desk, far enough away from your peers that a cruise ship, and half the Atlantic Ocean, could fit between you.

Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing as far as anti-cheating policies go, but it makes it pretty lonely and depressing.

Obviously, then, CollegeBoard should take a page from the “How to Keep Dental Patients from Screaming Every Six Seconds: For Dummies” book. If you’ve ever been to a dentist’s or orthodontist’s, you’ll notice they’ll have seasonal decorations all over the place. Sure, they’re usually left over from a season or two ago, but as they drill that tooth it’s still nicer to look at smiling, sunglass-wearing suns rather than plain gray walls as the snow piles up outside.

I mean, CollegeBoard isn’t exactly poor; they’ve got a literal monopoly on the AP test business, SAT market, and oil industry*. Surely they could afford to buy some crepe-paper and paper cut-outs to decorate the room with. The only downside I can see is that some students might try to hang themselves with the crepe paper during the FRQ section, but that’s why they make crepe paper so flimsy.

*Surprisingly, few people seem to know this. Perhaps because some people don’t think it’s true.

Tomorrow we’ll post the final installment to this earth-shattering series, and the part you’ve all been waiting for: the AP Number Labels. (Update: it’s been posted.)