Finding Beta Readers: Some Advice

So as many of you know, I recently finished a book. It’s a book that can be accurately described as, “X-Men, but in a basement.” And because I wanted to know if it was good enough to publish, I started looking for beta readers. Since then, I’ve swapped manuscripts with two people and received three in-depth critiques so far, of which I am grateful for.

(Side note: I also sent out a manuscript to three other people, who have yet to even make a comment on the document. Which makes me wonder: did they not like the book? Or have they just not gotten around to finishing it? Either way, if you’re one of these people, and you still plan on critiquing said manuscript, please know that the document you’ve got is now out-of-date. I’ve already received three critiques, after all, and I’m already returning to the revision stage. If you’d like to read the updated version, let me know, but I should warn you, it may take a few weeks before you get it.)

So, yeah, I’m basically a professional beta reader now. Not a big deal.

And as someone who’s critiqued many people’s work in the past and has been critiqued several times myself, I’ve got some advice to share. This advice goes for people sharing entire manuscripts, or for those posting smaller bits of writing at places like Destructive Readers. Really, if you want anyone at all to read any piece of your writing, this advice is for you.)

1) For the love of God, proofread your work first.

Let me tell you about the first person I swapped critiques with. She sent me the document, and after reading the few paragraphs I thought to myself. “Oh dear. What have I got myself into?”

It wasn’t just that the story itself sucked. That would be understandable. The problem was the typos. So many typos. At least one in every paragraph, and she wrote short paragraphs. Now, I am no saint with typos, as my readers can attest, but had this person clicked the “spelling & grammar” option, at least half of these errors could’ve been fixed.

This guy knows how I felt

And the thing is, this writer did a great job critiquing my manuscript, so it wasn’t like she didn’t have have a proper grasp of the English language. Instead it seems like she busted out a first draft and sent it to me without a second glance.

Don’t do this. Don’t make your reader spend so much time fixing something you could easily fix yourself. Because now instead of focusing on the story, the characters, the world-building, etc., the reader’s going to get bogged down on the little details. Plus, it’s kind of rude. It’s like if you ordered something at a restaurant, and the chef came out and just threw all the individual ingredients at you.

(No, it’s not like that? Alright, I’ll work on my metaphors.)

2) Don’t get defensive.

This hasn’t happened to me personally, but I’ve seen other people on places like “Destructive Readers,” (or even worse: on actual Amazon reviews of a self-published book), where the author got defensive and lashed out at the negative reviewer. Don’t do this. No matter how misguided or mean-spirited you think the critique is, say thank-you and move on. Because critiquing is not a debate. You’re not going to change the readers’ mind by telling them they “just didn’t get it.” 

I get that writing is a personal experience for most, and it’s easy to take things personally. But I’ve critiqued a lot of really terrible, embarrassingly bad stories over the last year or so, and not once did I find myself judging the person who wrote it. Most people are able to separate the story from its author, and are not going to think less of you for writing a shitty book. (Unless the book is like, aggressively racist or whatever.) They will, however, think less of you for not being able to handle criticism.

3) Remember, you don’t actually have to follow anyone’s advice.

You should still follow point #2, of course, but that doesn’t mean you should listen to every little thing they have to say. Sure, if more than one person points something out, it’s almost definitely worth addressing, but there’s been times where I looked at a beta reader’s advice and thought, “nope!”

Because sometimes, beta readers are wrong. Sometimes they simply have different tastes or opinions that don’t match the audience you’re aiming for or the vision you have. And that’s okay. It doesn’t take any validity away from their other points, and it doesn’t make you an egotistical jerk for not listening to that one part of their critique.

And because I only wrote this post to rant about points one and two, here are a couple of minor bits of advice that I will elaborate very little on:

  • If you’re asking someone to critique your story, make sure to actually tell them what it’s about, and how long it is.
  • One person sent me a copy of her manuscript where it ended mid-sentence. And I emailed her and said, basically, “Is this a mistake, or are you trying to pull off a Sopranos, here?” Because if it were the latter, that would be a pretty ballsy move. Not even The Sopranos was able to pull off a Sopranos ending. She responded with, essentially, “oops, my bad. Here’s the real document,” and sent me a version of the manuscript that was slightly more polished, and came with an actual ending. And I was pissed because I just spent two weeks pushing myself through a typo-ridden manuscript only to find out I’d been given the rough draft by accident.
  • So, don’t do that last bullet-point.
  • (And yes. That person was the same writer from advice #1.)
  • Okay, enough giving you guys advice, I’m just gonna rant some more. How the hell do you accidentally send someone the older copy of your manuscript, and not realize it at all during the weeks he spent critiquing it? There’s carelessness, and then there’s that.
  • I wasted two weeks of my life, dammit.
  • Okay, more like around fifteen hours or so of total work put in, but still.
  • Excuse me while I go chop down a tree.

Wow, so this post quickly veered off track. I’d like to end this post by saying good luck to all you writers out there, and I’d like to say thank you to those who critiqued my manuscript. You’re the best.

Goals for Summer 2017

Intros are stupid. Lets get down to business:

1) Get a quality tan.

Yes, I know. I said this before. But this time I’m serious. Remember that time I got a sunburn in the middle of the winter thanks to the light from my bedroom window? Well I’m already starting to use that to my advantage. Plus I’ve been vacuuming the pool on a near daily basis, and I’ll be visiting the beach next weekend. So mark my words: by the end of this summer, people are going to be mistaking me for a giant leather glove. I guarantee it.

2) Finish writing that book

I’m not going to tell you what it’s about until I finish it, but rest assured, it’s the Next Great American Novel. Or more accurately, it’s the Next Great YA Trilogy. 

I know what you’re thinking: do we really need another YA trilogy?

The answer is yes. We need exactly one more.

3) Confront my inner demons

This is a hard one, but a must. 

4) Watch all the TV shows and movies

There are so many good shows out there that I need to catch up on. Orange is the New Black, Veep, Game of Thrones, Curb your Enthusiasm, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Mr. Robot, Doctor Who. And then there’s upcoming movies like Dunkirk, Spiderman: Homecoming, and uh, that’s kind of it. I’m excited for Stephen King’s It, but that won’t be until September.

I don’t know if anyone’s gone out and said this definitively, but yeah: television is better than movies. A TV is like a novel and movies are short stories. And sure, short stories are cool and everything, but War and Peace would not have been the classic it is today if it were written at forty pages. This is airtight logic I’m using here, so don’t bother questioning it.

Image result for view from drop of doom great adventure

5) Go to some sort of amusement park

Did I ever tell you about my field trip in senior year of high school? The one where a hundred students in my class went to Six Flags in New Jersey, and they closed the place at eight o’clock so that it was only us and a couple other schools in the park?

Well it was awesome. We went on every single roller coaster in the park, and the lines ranged from short to nonexistent. There wasn’t even a line for Kingda Ka, and there’s always a line for Kingda Ka. The best was going on El Toro not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, not five times, but six times in a row, because there was nobody else in line. 

I understand that unless I have enough money to close out the whole park, the lines are never going to be this short again. I’m going to actually have to wait, like some sort of peasant. But you know what? I’m okay with that. I just to want to go on another ride that’s high enough for me to see the curve of the earth.

6) Read more often

Not gonna lie, I have not been reading as much as I should’ve lately. I blame TV and movies, for being more immersive while also requiring less imagination. No wonder people are reading less. Look what books have to compete with! (Don’t click on that.)

7) Be better with money

I have a tendency to waste money on food, and while yes, I do need food to live, there are a lot of more cost-efficient ways for me to go about this. Like I could get into the habit of cooking at home, or I could start mooching off my parents more. Whichever’s easier.

I also waste money on non-food items, like that $99 premium option for WordPress that has yet to pay off. Or those walkie talkies that I haven’t even used. (“Just use your phone!”) So I’ll try my best to stick to a budget.

8) Continue resisting the urge to shoplift every time I’m stuck in a long line.

The other day I was at a store called Leslie’s Pool Supplies, buying a pair of goggles. There was only one cashier in the store, and after ten minutes of waiting, the line had barely moved an inch. I look at the exit and see there’s no anti-theft scanners by the exit, and I think to myself: I could totally get away with stealing these goggles. After all, I don’t see any cameras, and none of the other employees are paying attention. Plus it’s just a pair of goggles, costs $8.99. It’s a victimless crime!

But I did not shoplift that day. Because as I recall, one of the ten commandments states the following:

THALL SHALL NOT STEAL GOGGLES FROM LESLIE’S POOL SUPPLIES

I’m paraphrasing of course, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it said. I’m almost positive, in fact, that those were the exact words.

I’ve had this urge before, but I never followed through, and I hope to continue not-following through for the rest of my days. Unless I decide to become a gritty antihero. In that case I’ll be stealing all the goggles I can get my hands on. 

9) Get beta readers

By the end of the summer, at least, I should be getting some of these. I was hoping to have a finished book to send to people last year, but I’ll settle for this August. Hopefully late July.

Let’s just say, I’m a little nervous. I’ve had people critique my work before, but only short stories or individual chapters. I’ve never had a whole book — especially one as important to me as this one — be critiqued before, and I am concerned. I’ll do it, sure, but it’s going to be a very stressful process.

10) Have at least one of my preferred political candidates win an election

Excuse me if I sound bitter, but every single election I’ve paid attention to thus far has gone in the exact opposite direction I’d hoped. In 2008 I wanted McCain to win. In 2012 I wanted Romney to win. I actually started paying attention to politics around 2015 and in 2016 I rooted for Bernie. He lost. Then for Hillary, who lost.

I’ve since been paying attention to the smaller, special elections going on, like the one in Montana, where the Republican candidate assaulted a reporter the day before. I thought, “the guy committed a violent crime, on tape. Surely that’s a deal-breaker for most voters.”

But Montana has a tradition of early voting, so a good portion of the population voted before that whole shebang took place. As for the rest of them? Well, partisanship is strong. And body-slamming is pretty cool. I mean, look at this shit:

 wrestling aamir khan dangal body slam mahavir singh phogat GIF

(no but seriously, that whole thing was very depressing.)

Today, there’s a special election going on in Georgia, between Jon Ossoff (D) and Karen Handel (R). By the time this is published, the results may be available, but as of now I’m still waiting for results, and I’m really hoping Ossoff wins. Mainly because 1. the attack ads against him have been all kinds of messed up, 2. the democrats could really use a win right now, 3. I like his policies, and 4. I’m not a fan of Karen’s.

I know this race doesn’t affect me directly, and there’s nothing I can do to change the results, but I’m including it as one of my goals anyway because it feels important. Plus, I needed to finish this list with something, and this was the only thing my brain could think up. Go Ossoff!

______________

So what are your goals for this summer? Or are you a normal person who doesn’t have goals for arbitrary periods of time? Either way, feel free to comment below. 

Things I Kind of Want to Do, but Not Really

I have a lot of goals for my life, and I rarely get to see them accomplished because, well, they’re not very good goals. Recognizing the good ideas and the bad ideas is an important things to do, but sometimes I wonder if that’s just an excuse I use to not follow my dreams. Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that. To start off, I kind of want to …

1) Give up soda.

I feel like a good indicator of how bad my acne is gonna be tomorrow is by the amount of soda I’ve drank (drunk? drunken?) in the past twenty-four hours. If I stay clear and stick to water? Dolphin-smooth skin, motherfuckers. If I cave and end up chugging a two liter bottle of Dr. Pepper? Well rest in peace skin, it was nice knowing you.

Plus, soda messes up your teeth, it leads to diabetes, alzheimer’s, and cancer. I think it’s safe to say that I would be a lot better off if I gave up soda.

So why I am not going to?

Because soda tastes like, really good. Okay? It’s bubbly, it soothes the stomach. It makes you burp, and if you hold in the burp it’ll go out your nose, and you’ll feel the CO2 from the soda travel through your sinuses. Not sure if this is good for you or not, but it feels cool.

Also, I must address this whole “soda is bad for your health” complaint with a follow up question. You know what else is bad for your health?

  • Heroin.
  • Meth
  • Crystal meth.
  • Bungee jumping without a cord.
  • Watching TV.
  • Sitting down for too long.
  • Standing up for too long.
  • Sleeping too much.
  • Sleeping too little.
  • Doing one handed pushups without ever switching to your other hand, because then all the muscle will be in one of your arms, which will cause you to constantly lean towards that arm as you walk, which leads to scoliosis, followed by paralysis and then death.

Compared to all this, soda doesn’t seem too bad. Besides, by the time I get diabetes, which I am, genetically speaking, bound to get anyway, those hardworking scientists will have already found a cure. So I should be fine.

2) Start a political blog.

I don’t know how it happened, but I am now one of those people who always wants to talk about politics. I have a lot of rants going on in the back of my head right now that I want to shout out into the void, and it would be cool to have a place where I could say them unabashedly, and hey, maybe someone will even people me to write this shit. I mean, I’m completely unqualified, but that hasn’t stopped anyone before.

So why won’t I?

Because every time I write something political, I always end up regretting part of it. Like that time I compared the 2016 election to a black guy being falsely charged with rape. Yes, I actually did that. Sure, I called myself out for it ahead of time, but I feel like someone definitely should’ve commented on that post and said, “hey, Matt. Knock it off.”

Oh well. I think I’ll only get political on this blog if it’s really important to me and I feel like no one else is talking about it. Or to unabashedly support Tammy Duckworth for president. (Hey, DNC chairpeople, you reading this? Do you want to get veterans to vote democrat? Because Tammy is your way to do that. She lost both her legs fighting for our country, while Trump weaseled out of Vietnam thanks to a stubbed toe. Think about the campaign ads you can make from that! They write themselves.)

3) Become an editor.

I’m talking about becoming the person who reads manuscripts and approves or disapproves them for a publishing company. (Is that called an editor? I’m gonna look into this more.) The way I see it, I’m literally being paid to read books for a living, which at the moment sounds like my ideal job.

So why won’t I?

To be honest, I may actually try to do this. I just got to look into it a little more, because I assume getting this job is a lot more difficult than I’m making it out to be. Plus, a lot of the manuscripts are going to be terrible. Though I suppose I could just stop reading if that’s the case. But what if there’s too many good ones, and I can’t accept all of them? And what if I end up rejecting the next Harry Potter and have to live with that lost opportunity for the rest of my life?

I suppose that’s a risk I’d have to take.


Now I’m sure if I were to think extra hard, I could come up with a fourth option to put on this post, but hey, good things come in threes. A post with four bullet points would be unbalanced and therefore, irresponsible. I suppose I could add a fifth point but I’m not exactly Einstein over here.

So if you know anything about becoming an editor, let me know. And if you want to pay me money to write about politics, let me know as well. And if you know of an alternative to soda that’s still bubbly and delicious, I would also be interested.

In Which My Procrastination Reaches Worrying New Heights

Image result for spongebob essay the

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. You see, I decided to buckle down on serious writing a few months ago, so I promised myself I wouldn’t blog about anything until I finished a complete manuscript. The bright side: I wrote sixty-four thousand words thus far. The not-so-bright side: I hit a wall. A big, ugly, brick wall that I have not been able to chisel my way through.

(Is that an overused metaphor? I feel like it is.)

So I came back to the same mistake I always make: I switched to another project.

I’ve found that the hardest part of a novel is not the beginning, or the end, or even the middle. The hardest part is that area before the climax, where everything has to be set up just right. Beginnings, meanwhile, are nice and easy. That’s the part where the readers have no idea what to expect, so you could just throw shit at them and they won’t even mind as long as it’s interesting.

To be fair to myself, at least this time the project I switched to was the sequel, instead of some unrelated story about identical twins selling gum, or about a group of kids who go back in time and are chased by evil time-travelling mercenaries with flimsy motives.

Anyway, here are some things I’ve been doing so far this summer, in my pursuit of not writing:

  • I signed up for the premium option on WordPress. It may be a waste of money, or it may not, but hey, I can get a full refund within the next twenty-nine days. So here’s hoping I don’t forget.
  • I switched the theme of this blog again. What does everyone think? I like it, but there’s no way to put in a side-bar. If someone wants to read an old post of mine, how will they find it? I’ll try and figure that out. 
  • I’m back at McDonald’s again, mainly working the late nights. I’ve been doing a lot of 7 PM to 3 AM shifts, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. On one hand, after seven  o’clock is where you get the most freedom at the job; you could snag all the fries you want and no one will care. But on the other hand, I do hate going to bed past three and waking up around noon every day. But on my third, grossly deformed hand: the seven to three shift goes by much faster than any other shift, because there’s so much to do and less people to do it. That sounds like a negative but it’s not. The more there is to do, the faster time flies.
  • I started watching American Gods, which has been amazing so far. I remember hearing that the show would go on for five seasons and I thought, “how could they stretch out one book for that long?” but it turns out I’m a fool for questioning the writers, because they’ve done a terrific job. 10/10, would watch again.
  • I also got into It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, which is kind of like Seinfeld, in that it follows a group of self-centered assholes who never learn from their mistakes. It’s hysterical, but Danny DeVito hasn’t even shown up yet. Where is he? I was told he’d be here.

Anyway, hello again, and thank you to those who’ve stuck around all these years. You’re the best. I know I haven’t been the most consistent blogger, but I do hope to get back into the swing of things here. At the very least, I hope you enjoy it while it lasts.

A Day in the Life of a College Freshman

Yeah, so I’ve done a few posts like this in the past, one in my junior year of high school and one in my senior, and I got to say, I think this is the most interesting one I’ve done yet. Mainly because it has foreshadowing in it, and also some seemingly unrelated events that come together in the end. Plus something happens to me that feels like it was taken straight out an episode of Seinfeld, so I hope you all enjoy.

(I also just want to clarify that a couple parts of this post (you’ll know it when you see it) are not things that happen to me regularly. So keep that in mind.)

7:30 AM 

I can’t keep hitting the snooze button these days because it annoys my roommate, so I get out of bed and make my way to the bathroom. I watch my step, just in case my alcoholic suitemate vomited on the floor again. He did not, which is a good omen. (“Today will be a good day!”)

7:45 AM

After brushing my teeth and taking a shower and getting dressed, I make the fifteen minute walk to my first class of the day. I would eat breakfast first, but the dining halls don’t open until eight o’clock, which is the same time my class starts. This seems like a rather large flaw in the dining hall system, but there’s not much I can do. Luckily my mom sent me a care package recently that included snack sized bags of trail mix, so I ate that on the way.

7:55 AM

I notice that my phone is only at around fifty percent battery, which is weird, because I could’ve sworn I’d left it plugged in at night. It’s still enough to get me through the most of the day, though, so I don’t think much of it.

8:00-9:30 AM

Differential Calculus. It’s a tough class, but someone’s gotta do it. It’s taught by a TA, who is always nervous, which is uncalled for because he’s teaching a subject that no one cares about. I try my best not to fall asleep.

9:40 AM

Sociology discussion class. I have to give a presentation today about the evolving workforce into today’s society, or something like that. (I kinda winged it.) The presentation was based around three questions that were supposed to be discussed amongst the class. But because it’s a Friday morning and no one actually seems to read the required text, not much discussion is had. That is, until the final one.

The final question I asked was “Is it okay for a company to breach a customer’s privacy, even if doing so will benefit both parties?” It was referencing the Amazon Echo, a device that may or may not be listening in on your conversations in order to sell you stuff. (It totally is.)

What followed was a surprisingly heated discussion between two/three guys who were complete pro privacy, against one girl who was like, “it’s not a big deal, guys. Relax.” I was mostly on the girl’s side until she started talking about how companies can’t invade your privacy unless you agree to the terms of service, because come on. Nobody reads the terms of service. Nobody. Anyone who claims to is a backstabbing liar.

10:40 AM 

I finally get to eat a proper breakfast. Pancakes, and scrambled eggs, and bacon! Nothing quite like bacon to put you in a good mood. Now, my next class is at 2:20, so I have two choices:

  1. I could go back to my dorm and get some sleep.
  2. I could go to the library and attempt to get shit done.

I choose #2, which would usually be the smart choice, the one my parents would approve of. But in this case it ends up screwing me over in a way that will be revealed soon.

1:30 PM 

I get some homework done, but it’s a Friday and the week’s almost over, so I’m not in much of a rush. I watch YouTube videos in the library, then I head back to the dining hall for some lunch. Now, here’s when something weird happens.

As I’m waiting in line for food, one of the cafeteria workers need to walk past me, and so I back up to get out of the way. In doing so, I accidentally step on the foot of the girl right behind me. “Sorry,” I say to her, and usually that would be the end of it.

But after I apologize and turn back around, I find myself wondering if I said “sorry” too quietly. The place is very crowded after all, and loud too, and I may have come off as more of a jerk than I actually am. After a minute or so, I turn back around, hoping that this is all in my head and that the girl behind me has already forgotten about it.

Yeah, no.

Instead she’s giving me the death stare, with her arms crossed, her nostrils flaring. To borrow a photo from one of my other posts, she looks like this:

I have no idea what to do. In the end I just turn back around, feeling her eyes on the back of my neck. I figure it’s too late to fix anything and the damage has already been done, so I get my food and get out of there fast.

2:20 PM

Chemistry. Generally speaking, this is not a fun class either, but I am sitting next to this girl from my high school, (let’s call her Jess) who’s a lot of fun to hang out with. She asks if I want to go to a frat party with her friends tonight, and I one-up her by asking is she wants to bring her friends to pre-game at my suite before going to said frat party. She says yes.

An explanation:

Pregaming is when you drink alcohol before attending an event or social function, so you’re already loosened up before you get there, and you don’t have to spend too much money on drinks. I’m not sure if this is specifically an American thing, but I feel like we’d be the only country where the teens are stupid to do this.

Two of my suitemates usually set up a game of beer pong around 8:30 on weekends, and I’m free to invite anyone I want to them. The more, the better.

Therefore, in this scenario: beer pong = pregame.

3:30 PM:

Classes are done for the day, and I head over to the marketplace for what is basically a second lunch. (Don’t judge me.) I make extra sure not to step on anyone’s foot this time.

4:00 – 7:30 PM

I’m back in the library, working on my novel. Will it ever get finished? The world could only hope. I do get a lot done today though, so that’s nice.

I also watch an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I’ve only watched four episodes so far and I must say, I really identify with this Larry David guy. It’s like we’re the same person.

8:40 PM

I get back to my suite, and sure enough, the pregame is on tonight. I text Jess to make sure she knows which dorm I’m in, and in fifteen minutes I go downstairs to let her and her friends inside. Once they’re inside I quickly drop into my room to plug in my phone, which is now at only 10% battery.

Now kids, the problem with beer pong is that if you’re playing it by the rules and are actually drinking the alcohol, it’s very hard to keep track of how much you’ve had. And then if you pour hard liquor into the middle cup, as we did, you may find yourself getting drunk much faster than intended. So keep that in mind as you follow me along for the rest of the night.

11:15 PM

We end up going to the frat party, but first I go back into my room to pick up my phone, and what do you know? It hasn’t charged at all. In fact, it’s actually gone down to 8%.

Turns out, the extension cord I plugged my phone into was no longer connected to outlet in my wall, which explains why my phone wasn’t at 100% this morning and why it hasn’t charged at all today.

This is unfortunate, but I’m not going to let it ruin my night, so I put the phone on power saving mode and go out anyway, figuring “hey, I’m with my friends, nothing bad could happen to me.”

11:45 PM

I’m at the party, where I manage to bump into seemingly every single person I’ve ever talked to at the university. I’m bumping into people I haven’t seen in months, people I pass by in the halls, people I only met during orientation. It’s like my life in college is a TV show and tonight’s the finale, so all the minor characters are popping up for their last hurrah.

I took exactly three shots over the next hour or so, and I did the math in my head:

3 shots + ? = ??? drinks in one night.

1:00 AM (ish)

Jess and her friends ask if I want to leave and go to a bar. I let her know I don’t have a fake ID. She says it’s cool, because she knows one that doesn’t check them.

We go to bar #1, which as it turns out, actually does check IDs, so we are not allowed in. So we walk to another one, and wait in a long line. For this bar, I only have to give the bouncer five bucks to get inside. I reach into my pocket, then check my other one, and oh shit I lost my wallet.

Yep, it’s gone. Where did it go? Well it somehow ended up on the floor at the frat house, getting stepped on repeatedly, long into the night. It was returned to me the next day with everything still in it, but as far as I know, it’s gone forever.

But no worries, Jess agree to lend me five bucks, and we’re allowed in.

1:20 AM

Gotta say, bars suck. I thought the frat party was loud and crowded, but in this bar you literally can’t move an inch without bumping into someone. People buy fake IDs and risk getting arrested for this? Makes zero sense. I get separated from the group, and after getting suffocated for at least fifteen minutes, I decide I’ve had enough and I make my way outside.

The journey back outside is a long and arduous one. I don’t know what “arduous” means but it sounds like an appropriate word in this context. I’m moving about five feet per minute because there are just so many people in the way. When I get out I take a deep breath of the cool, crisp air. Thank God I’m out of there.

I take out my phone to text Jess and let her know where I went, only to find out that that eight percent battery has gone down much faster than expected.

So now I have a dead phone, and no wallet, and I’m drunker than the average man. I’m also in the middle of a city I don’t really know, and it’s the middle of the night. Most of the people walking past me are college kids travelling in packs, but I see one girl by herself and I ask her if I could use her phone. I’m quickly explaining my situation to her, but I stop in my tracks once I get a closer look.

She recognizes me just as I recognize her. “Wait a minute,” she says. “Aren’t you the guy who stomped on my foot this morning?”

Gotta say, this is surprising. There’s at least thirteen thousand students at my school so I’d honestly never expected to see this girl again, and certainly not this soon. My gut reaction was to go on the defensive, which may not have the best decision. “Well I didn’t exactly stomp on it. It was an accident.”

Bruised Foot Girl, however, was not having any of this. “Do you have any idea how painful that was? I could barely walk afterwards!”

“Oh, come on.”

“Would you like to see the bruises?” She bends over, threatening to take off her shoe for me. “You basically squashed all the toes on my right foot.”

At this point, we’re both raising our voices at each other and making a scene; I’m getting all angry and flustered. “Look, I didn’t mean to, alright? I did apologize —”

“Oh yeah, thanks for saying sorry, it really helped with the healing.”

“Well what do you what me to do about it? It was a crowded room, you were standing right behind me—”

“Oh, so it was my fault?”

“What? No. It wasn’t—”

“I’m so sorry for standing in line behind you, sir. It won’t happen again.”

“Okay look,” I say, calming myself down. “I’m sorry I stepped on you, I felt bad about it and I didn’t know what to do at the time. I lost my wallet and my phone’s dead, so I could really use some help right now.”

Unfortunately, the girl is not in a charitable mood. As she storms away down the street she yells at me, “Maybe watch your step next time, asshole!”

1:45 AM

Yeah, so that happened. I end up asking someone else for their phone, and they’re a lot nicer about it.

After about ten minutes of sitting outside, Jess and friends get out of the bar, and we take a cab back to campus. I decide not to mention my run-in with the Bruised Foot Girl, because I’m not sure which of us was the jerk in that situation. (Was it me? I feel like it was me.)

2:05 AM

We’re dropped off near one of the dining halls, the one that’s open til 4 AM on the weekends. I don’t have my wallet, of course, so I just get a cup of water, chugging two cups in less than a minute. Turns out, I was a lot more dehydrated than I thought.

2:25 AM

I call it a night. I’ve already lost my wallet and gotten yelled at, and I feel like if I keep going, only worse things will happen.

2:35 AM

I am back in bed. It’s nice and cozy.


If there’s a lesson to this post, it’s that bars aren’t fun and people hold grudges. Also, if you plug your phone into an extension cord, make sure said extension cord is properly plugged into the wall, before you leave it unattended for over an hour.

It’s been a long weekend, guys. Thanks for reading.

Goals for My 2017 Spring Semester

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My spring semester of college starts today, and while my fall semester was fine, there were a few things I wished I’d done differently. And now that I have a good sense of what college is like, and how much of a workload I could handle, I’m going to start making goals for myself that will straddle the line between Reasonable and Overly Optimistic. Let’s see how it goes.

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1) Get Back to a Normal Sleep Schedule

Last semester I had to wake up early on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for an 8:30 Chemistry lecture, and I did not handle it well. Back in August I’d figured that this would be easy, considering how I woke up around 6:00 AM in high school and it wasn’t that hard. But as it turns out, waking up early in college is so much worse.

“That’s it!” I thought as I planned out my spring schedule, “No more early classes. I’m never waking up earlier than nine again.”

But I ended up getting screwed over by technical issues, and now I’m stuck with an 8:00 Calculus classes on Monday Wednesday Friday and an 8:30 Intro to American Politics class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So yeah, that’s rough.

And thanks to late shifts at Mcdonalds and nightly poker games, I’ve now gotten used to falling asleep around 4 AM and waking up around noon.

This is not a fun adjustment.

And yet, I’m looking forward to this. Because while I hate getting up early, I do love being up early. It’s nice waking up and having the whole day ahead of you. Plus the air smells nicer in the morning. Not sure why.

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2) Get at least a B+ in Chemistry.

Ah, chemistry. My Achilles’s heel, if you will. I got a C in it last semester, and I was pleasantly surprised to get it. I do hope to improve next semester, and the odds are in my favor this time because:

  1. My lectures this semester are in the afternoon, so I won’t be tempted to skip them so I can sleep in.
  2. I actually started to use all the extra resources available to me near the end, and it helped a lot.
  3. Hopefully, my TA this time won’t have a heavy, indecipherable accent. My last TA was a nice guy and all, (he didn’t even take points off when I handed in a late lab, God bless him), but he grew up in China and still has trouble with English. It’s understandable, considering that I took four years of Spanish classes and still can’t speak a word of it, but it’s frustrating when he has to explain important stuff to the class. I don’t know much about my new TA, but I know his first name is Brendan and his middle name is Patrick, so I’m gonna go on a hunch and say that English is probably his first language, (*fingers crossed*) so learning things should be a bit easier this year.

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3) Join more clubs

This is still going to be difficult for me, because three of the clubs I wanted to join last semester, (a book club, a sign language club, and a literary magazine thingy), were not only all at the exact same time, but also at the same time as my chemistry recitations. Chances are the same thing’s going to happen this semester too.

But I can still join the bowling club (turns out I’m good at it), as well as racquetball. Plus my school has a student-run website that’s basically like The Onion, and I would love to get an article or two posted on that. I think I could pull off satire. The key, as I see it, is to write about a completely ridiculous event as if its normal, such as this, or write about a completely normal event as if it’s extremely significant, like this. Or, of course, you can actually put some effort in.

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4) Be better with money.

Was I the best with money last semester? No. But did I learn from my mistakes and get better as the semester went on? Also no. This time, though, I hope to handle things better, and I won’t allow myself to make the same mistake regarding textbooks as I did last time:

Back in August I decided to save money for my classes by renting all my textbooks on Amazon for a cheaper price than was offered on the school bookstore. Look at me, I thought, saving money like a champ. This worked out fine for my Intro to World Politics course, but it backfired in math and science. Turns out, I had to get a code for an online site where 90% of the online assignments were due, and in order to get that I had to either pay $99 for the access code, or buy another textbook from the bookstore, because those were the only textbooks that came with the access codes. That’s two hundred bucks I’m never getting back. Do I sound salty? It’s my saltiness that’s making me sound that way.

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5) Check my grades as soon as they come out.

Sad fact: because I was so afraid I had failed chemistry, I did not check my grades for fall semester throughout the entire winter break. I just told my parents I had a 2.9 GPA, because that seemed to be on the optimistic side of realistic, and I spent winter break not thinking about anything school related.

Then I was told that if you failed Chem 107, you wouldn’t be able to continue with chem 108. Hmm, I thought, Maybe I should see how I did so I don’t get kicked out of chem 108 two weeks into the semester.

And so I checked my grades, and it was a lot better than I’d expected. C in Chemistry, B+ in Calculus, A in Intro to World Politics, and an A in my public speaking class. Not sure how that last one happened, (not false modesty; am genuinely perplexed), but I’m not going to argue with a good thing.

This semester, though, I’m checking my grades right away. ‘Cause there ain’t no way in hell I’m putting myself through that sort of stress again.


So, uh, yeah. What are your goals for this year? (School-related or otherwise.) And more importantly, does anyone know when Stranger Things is coming back? That show is lit.

In Which I Unexpectedly Get Sunburn in the Middle of Winter

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This picture is physically painful to look at. Ow ow ow ow.

So now that I’m back from college, I finally have a room to myself. While my roommate was fine and all, there’s nothing quite as nice as getting home from work and knowing that nobody else will be in your room when you walk in. And knowing that I had a whole private room to myself, I did the only logical thing a person would do. I started sleeping in the nude.

I don’t recall doing this before college, but now that I was back home I tried to take full advantage of this newfound freedom. No roommate, no clothes. That was my new motto.

I did this for several wonderful, dream-filled nights, and I gotta say, it has its benefits. It’s how God intended us to sleep, I’ve been told.

Then the other day, I’ve noticed that my skin felt irritable. I put a shirt on and every part of my back it touched seemed to sting slightly. When I put on my jacket, the fabric touching my arms felt just as bad. What is this? I wondered. Why does my skin hurt?

I went the next few days like this, the conditions only getting worse and worse, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Was I having an allergic reaction to something? Did God actually intend for us to sleep fully clothed, with this being his way of punishing me? I only figured it out when I noticed that my arms were much more red than usual. (Not sure how I didn’t notice that sooner.) I pressed my finger against my skin, and when I let it go it left a white spot that I gradually returned to the surrounding pink. And then the explanation all unfolded in my mind within a matter of seconds. It felt like I had reached the big reveal in a mystery novel, and suddenly everything fell into place.

The light from my window gave me sunburn. 

The way my bedroom’s set up, the sun shines right on me each morning. I usually like that, because it keeps me from sleeping in too late. Except the last few nights I slept in until noon, meaning the sun was roasting its way through my back, arms, shoulders and potentially my nether regions without me even considering the idea that it would be a problem.

Let this be a lesson to y’all. Never sleep naked, or you will be roasted alive. Or at the very least, close the blinds.

On the bright side, you know how I’ve often talked about my failed attempts to get a tan? Well here is my chance to be the tannest white guy at Binghamton when I go back on the nineteenth. I just have to sleep on my back one day and sleep on my stomach the other, switching back and forth. Keep this up for a few weeks, and I’ll be like a human leather glove. 

There’s a bright side to everything, people. Remember that as you go into the new year.

15 Rants, One Post

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Dr. Cox, the king of rants.

1

I get that a lot of bad things happened in 2016, but this whole “Fuck 2016,” meme is getting old. (It’s been old since at least November, I think.) And really, does anyone believe 2017 is going to be any better? If you consider Trump getting elected to be horrible, do you really think you’re going to hate a Trump presidency any less? And with the baby boomer generation dying off, celebrity deaths are only going to become increasingly common. It’s sad, but so is life, so get used to it.

2

We’re at that time where bloggers are listing their favorite ____s of the year, and I keep seeing posts where people refuse to give an explanation for their choices. For example, I’ll see a post like, “My Five Favorite Books I’ve Read this Year!” and it’ll go:

  1. Book I’ve never heard of.
  2. Book I’ve never heard of.
  3. Book I’ve never heard of.
  4. Book I’ve never heard of.
  5. Book I’ve never heard of.

This list means nothing to me unless you can tell me what the books are about, or at the very least, explain why you liked it. Otherwise, this post is a giant waste of time, and you should be ashamed. 

3

I hate how my interest in politics has slowly turned me into a bitter, resentful person, so much so that I even find myself hating Bernie Sanders, who I used to love. Like, I hear in the news that Bernie’s going to “fight back,” against a Trump presidency, and I hear him saying stuff like, “the revolution is stronger than ever.” And I’m like, “fuck off, Bernie. You’ve accomplished nothing. Go back to naming post offices in your tiny little state of Vermont.” I admit this isn’t fair, but I’m so burnt out that I have no interest in being fair until at least 2018.

(Oh who I am I kidding? I’m not burnt out at all, and I will always love Bernie. May his days be long upon this earth.)

4

Also, why the hell does my candidate never win? In 2008 I wanted McCain to win, in 2012 I wanted Romney to win, (although by that point I was gradually starting to transition into the kale-eating* liberal I am today, so I wasn’t too upset), and in 2016 I wanted Bernie and when he lost I started rooting for Hillary, who cramped up just five yards from the finish line. That 0 for 4. Now what are the odds of that? I did the math and it’s one in sixteen, or 6.3%, which is outrageous. Is this punishment for that time I accidentally ran over a raccoon? I think it is.

* Just want to clarify that I’ve never actually eaten kale in my life.

5

I hate when people use the word “indescribable” to describe something. It’s the ultimate cop-out for writers who are too lazy to put together a decent description. Especially bloggers. Oh, your delicious sandwich had a taste that was indescribable, you say? Well I can’t even begin to describe how angry that sentence made me. Now excuse me while I unfollow your blog and never think of you again. 

(As you can tell, I’m in a bitter mood.)

6

Why does time fly when you’re having fun? That seems like the least convenient time for such a phenomenon to occur. Why can’t it speed up during car rides? Or when I’m at the dentist? Now that I think of it, why does it speed up at all? Time should just stay consistent, alright?

7

Why the hell does Dunkin Donuts keep putting cheese on my bacon egg croissants? I always ask for no cheese, and while the cashier always gets it right, (“no cheese” always shows up on the receipt), the guy making it rarely does. As someone who works in fast food, I must ask, why is Dunkin Donuts in particular so bad at this? Is my order so uncommon that is throws them off? Or do they just not like me because I seem like the type of person who’d bash them on my blog? The world may never know.

8

I’m gonna call bullshit on the idea that if McDonalds’ had to pay their employees fifteen bucks an hour, they’d just replace most of their workers with robots. If they could do that, they’d have done it a long time ago. Twenty years from now, this might be a legitimate concern, and even then, I doubt it; people would boycott the store, the robots would be malfunctioning constantly, and all it takes is one murderous robot rampage to stop the whole thing in its tracks. Trust me, this isn’t going to be an issue.

9

Speaking of McDonalds’, creepy guys everywhere should know that the girl at the drive-thru window does not want to give you her phone number. Just take your food, say thank you, and drive away like a normal person.

10

I loved The Catcher in the Rye, but I find it unnerving when people praise Holden as a rebel; as someone who calls people out on their “phoniness.” This was what I was told about Holden, and after reading the book, I found myself wondering just how the hell anyone got that impression. For one thing, Holden’s an idiot, (that stuck out to me from page one) and his criticisms of other people are almost always shallow and hypocritical. Holden is whiny, stupid and spoiled, but the beauty of the book is that you empathize with him regardless of his many, many flaws. If you read the book and think, “Wow, that Holden kid is a real hero,” then there is something seriously wrong with you.

11

I hate when children are used as props to further someone’s agenda, whatever that agenda may be. Like this photo:

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Now, I am very much in favor of having more diverse books for kids to read, but there is no way in hell that picture is in any way authentic. You just know for a fact that an adult handed the kid that paper and told him to smile for the camera. Hell, I doubt that’s even the kid’s handwriting.

I’m not sure why this bothers me as much it does. I guess it just feels … cheap? Unfair to the kid? Manipulative? I don’t know, but I’m still OUTRAGED.

12

Why do people try to talk all authoritatively over things they don’t know anything about? In high school I took a college-level course in Environmental Studies, and while that hardly makes me an expert on the subject, whenever someone tries to lecture me on how climate change isn’t actually that big of a deal, it becomes immediately and startlingly obvious how uninformed they are. (“But we just had a really cold winter!”)

The same is true for the conflicts going on in the middle east. I don’t really understand what’s going on over there, and I can guarantee you that 95% of Americans don’t either. But that doesn’t stop some people from becoming sudden experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict whenever the topic arises. Unless you actually know what you’re talking about, don’t pretend that you do. Instead you might learn something.

13

What’s up with old people and drinking from the hose? (Bear with me on this one.)

As a kid, I’d often hear adults complain about how spoiled and pampered my generation is, and bragging about how, “when I was a kid, we drank water from the hose!” And I’d be like, “Cool. Would you like a medal, sir?” 

Because there is literally nothing impressive at all about drinking from a hose. As someone who did often drink water out of a hose during my childhood summers, I must say that it tasted no different than regular tap water. Albeit, a bit grassier. Did I think I was cool for doing this? No. Will I be bragging to my kids one day for it? Possibly. Either way, this whole thing is stupid, and now I’m thirsty.

14

I hate grass. It’s the most useless plant. Flowers look pretty and smell nice, trees provide shade and comfort, but what does grass do? It just sits there, like a total bum. Go away, grass, no one wants you.

15

I support Colin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the national anthem, but I have one question that has yet to be answered.

Let’s say that America listens to his message, and we collectively take initiatives to stop systematic racism and police brutality and bam! Everything is fixed. My question is: how would he know? It’s going to take at least a couple months for the statistics to come back to show that his protest was successful, which I could imagine being a bit embarrassing for him when he finds out. “So for the last month or so, I’ve been kneeling for no reason? Damn. And my knee is so sore now.”

(This has got to be the dumbest perspective anyone’s ever taken on this topic. Whatever, I’m tired, and I because of my relative obscurity, I can afford to say stupid things.)

That’s all for me. I gotta say, this wasn’t nearly as good as my last 15 rants post.

 

Something that Happened Years Ago That I Need to Get Off My Chest

Okay, so this is something that I never really talk about, because no one ever believes me when I tell them. I’m starting to doubt if everything went down exactly as I remember it, but I know that something definitely happened and I can’t quite explain what it was. Even all these years later, I still think about it at night when I’m lying in bed. I keep trying to make sense of it all; to find a rational, scientific explanation for what happened to me, and every single time I fail.

I don’t remember how old I was when this happened. It could’ve been anywhere from five to eight. It’s strange how I remember that night so well but I can never quite place it within a specific year of my life. Memory is weird like that.

Up until I was twelve or so, my family didn’t have an upstairs bathroom. If I ever needed to go in the middle of the night, I’d have to walk downstairs, through the dark, empty kitchen and into the dark, empty living room. 

There was a glass door in the living room I’d always have to walk by, that lead out to the side of the house. Usually the curtains were covering it but sometimes they weren’t, and because I always turned the lights on with every room I walked into, I could never see if anyone was outside, peering in through the glass door. All I could see was the reflection.

Those walks to the bathroom in the middle of the night were some of the most nerve-wracking moments of my childhood. I rarely heard noises, but I always had this feeling that someone was downstairs with me, like someone would be hiding behind the couch in the living room, or someone would be waiting outside the bathroom door when I came out.

When I was finished I’d have to walk all the way back, turning the lights off behind me as I went. I’d try to keep calm but once I reached the staircase I’d always break into a sprint, and I wouldn’t feel safe again until I was back in my bedroom with the door closed shut.

The walk got easier during the Christmas season, because that was when the decorations were always up. We had a Christmas Tree covered in lights in the living room with stockings set up around the fireplace. We had this weird toy with a foot-tall plastic Santa Clause, whose head moved around when you pressed the button on his leg. I think he was supposed to talk, too, but he never did.

It was the night before Christmas Eve when I woke up again, needing to pee. I turned on the lights as I went downstairs and walked into the bathroom in the living room. The curtains to the side door were closed this time, so I didn’t have to worry about anyone looking in. 

The bathroom had a fan that turned on automatically with the lights, making it so it you couldn’t hear anything going on outside. That’s the only good explanation I can think of for why I didn’t notice any noise. If it wasn’t for the fan I probably would’ve locked myself in that bathroom for rest of the night.

Instead I walked out of it, as usual, and I immediately noticed a few things were off. It seemed colder than it had been just a minute ago, and the curtains to the side door were no longer drawn. They’d been shoved to the side, away from the handle, and in the reflection of the door I saw something moving around in the kitchen. I saw the light of the refrigerator turn on and heard the sound of glass clinking, and when I looked in closer I saw a man in a large red suit.

I thought I’d be excited to see something like this. I’d been one of those kids that loved the Christmas season and whole-heartedly believed in Santa, but seeing his back as he rummaged through the fridge sent nothing but doubts down my spine. I think it’s because, for all my willingness to believe in him and for all the arguments I’d gotten in with classmates over his existence, deep down I knew that Santa Clause wasn’t supposed to be real. At the very least, you weren’t supposed to see him. 

I watched as he took some orange juice out of the fridge and chugged it straight from the carton. He gasped for air when he was finished and wiped his mouth, and when he walked over to the trash to toss it out he glanced at the side door and stopped in his tracks, and I realized right there that he had seen me through the reflection. It was the longest moment of my life. He stared at me through the door and I stared at him. He lifted his finger to his mouth and smiled.

He continued searching through the fridge and eating our food. As I watched I realized he wasn’t as old as Santa Clause was supposed to be. From his face he seemed younger than my parents, now that I think of it, and his eyebrows didn’t match his beard or his hair.

After a couple minutes he walked into the hallway, out of view. I heard a door close, and footsteps going downstairs into the basement. 

I ran back to my room. I wanted to wake my parents and tell them what happened, but I didn’t know what I’d say. I didn’t think they’d believe me. And most of all, I didn’t know what to think of the man who’d just rummaged through our kitchen. I kept going back and forth from ‘he’s Santa, he’d never harm anyone,’ to ‘he’s an intruder dressed up as Santa and he’s going to rob us and kill us in our sleep.’

I don’t remember sleeping that night. I remember sitting up in my bed and listening to the noises from downstairs. Occasional bumps and mutters, the creak of the side door sliding open and closed, and at one point I heard the sound of slow, heavy footsteps making its way up the stairs to the upper floor. The steps grew closer and closer, until I saw the shadow of the man from the light under my door.

For a moment, I heard nothing but the man’s breathing. Then he started yanking the door handle. Violently, up and down. I kept expecting the door to swing open at any moment, but it never did. He just kept shaking the handle. I sat perfectly still, terrified to move or to make a sound, and it’s at this point that I should clarify that none of this happened, and I’m just messing with all of you. I know that if I were to come across this post, the first thing I’d do is scroll down to the last paragraph to make sure this wasn’t a joke story, so I’m just going to continue from here as if these last two sentences were never written: after who knows how long, the handle stopped shaking and the shadow disappeared, and I listened through bated breath as the footsteps shrunk in volume and the man descended down the stairs. I heard the side door open and close again, and the house was silent for the rest of the night.

Nothing was missing the next day. Even the orange juice carton was back in its place. The curtains were drawn again, and everything in the basement was exactly how it had been the day before. I told myself the whole thing was just a dream, because I didn’t know how else to deal with what I saw. The whole memory’s been tearing at me ever since, and I’m glad I have an outlet here for me to get this off my chest. If anyone has any similar experiences, or they can think of an explanation for what happened here that would put my mind at ease, please comment below.

Just Legalize Weed Already, Geez

(Note: the subject of politics comes up in this post. I usually don’t get political on this blog, because the last time I did, I ended up jinxing Bernie Sanders and resetting liberal progress back a generation. Oops. Won’t be making that mistake again. While by the internet’s standards I managed to remain relatively bipartisan here, I still think I should give you a heads up. I also talk about drug use, so if that irks you, remember you were warned.)

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I’m going to let you all in on a secret, but you’re going to have to promise not to tell anyone, okay?

I have smoked marijuana before.

I know, this is tough to hear. I know you all thought of me a constant do-gooder, incapable of moral failure, so in order to ease the disappointment I wrote you all a poem:

I tried to resist, but I’m hardly headstrong
I’ve smoked with a joint, a pipe, and a bong.
I know giving in was the move of a fool
But in my defense, it made me look cool.

This isn’t helping, is it?

Okay, so I have no idea what the culture is surrounding pot for all my individual readers. I get the impression that most of my adult followers won’t care, but I could imagine some head-shaking from some of my younger readers.

I also understand, that as a Famous Blogger™ with an impressionable fanbase, it is my responsibility to encourage young people to make healthy decisions when it comes to drug use. Which, yeah, I’m not going to do that. Weed is cool, guys.

When you’re high:

    • Everything is funnier.
    • Music sounds amazing.
    • Bo Burnham is a god.
    • Falling asleep is so easy.
    • They say it kills brain cells, but they neglect to mention that it only kills the weak brain cells, so only the strong cells survive. These strong cells reproduce and create stronger cells, making you a smarter individual overall.
    • Not sure about that last point, but it sounds true. 

Now, when did I first get into bed with Mary Jane, you ask? Well it started near the end of ninth grade, where during lunch a classmate gave me a pot brownie without actually telling me it was a pot brownie. Then another day after school, a group of kids who always hung out on my street corner asked, “Yo Matty B, wanna do the ol’ smoke-a-roo?” I said “nah man, I’m cool.” And they said, “What’s the matter? You scared?” And I said, “Well I’m convinced, hand it over,” and I’ve been a pothead ever since.

[Disclaimer: none of that is true.]

Instead I just smoke occasionally with my friends, around once a week during breaks, and rarely at all during the school year. It’s usually after a poker game, which we play with real money, which is also technically illegal. In my defense, I’m Irish.

(I think I’m just going to blame my Irish roots from now on, every time I make a questionable decision.)

This has been going on for a while, and because I do it all in MODERATION, I have yet to see any negative effects. My short-term memory is no worse than it’s always been, it hasn’t led to any harder drugs like I’ve been told it would, and according to my latest doctor’s appointment, my lungs are healthier than they’ve ever been, which is just weird. There’s no reason for that.

That being said, I hope it’s legalized at a national level. Because for all the stigma surrounding the drug, it’s fairly harmless. Really, the most dangerous part of smoking weed is getting caught smoking  weed, and that doesn’t seem right to me.

750,000 people are arrested for simple marijuana possession in one year alone, which is something that could fuck up a kid’s life, unless of course that kid is white (like me!) or has rich parents (not like me).

(Kind of want to take a moment here to clarify that being white does not make you immune to the negative legal consequences of smoking pot; the odds are just leaning in your favor.)

The worst part is when you take a look at the people running the country, and their own history with drugs. Barack Obama has been relatively open about his history with pot in the past, and he’s also been in favor of getting rid of mandatory minimums and decriminalizing the drug, so he sort of gets a pass, although he hasn’t done as much as he could have.

And then there’s people like Donald Trump. I don’t have evidence of him smoking pot before, but if the debates were any indication he was definitely sniffing cocaine. And yet here he is, hiring an attorney general who wants to double down on enforcing those laws, and with a straight face says things like: “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Really, the only difference between politicians like Bill Clinton, who sort of admitted to smoking in the past but claimed “he didn’t inhale,” (sure), and the thousands of people put in jail each year, is that the politicians got lucky. They were lucky enough to not get caught. Lucky enough to have connections and money so they didn’t have to deal with the consequences that the rest of Americans have to face, thanks to policies they themselves have enacted.

DAMN YOU, FLAWED POLITICAL SYSTEM!

The bright side for potheads is that weed continues to be legalized for recreational use on an individual state level, and if it’s anything like how gay marriage was, it should be approved at a federal level after 37 states or so. #babysteps

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So what do you think? Should it be legalized? Should it stay illegal? And if you enjoyed this post, stay tuned for my next one: “Why the Hell Haven’t We Legalized Crack?”

No, Participation Trophies are Not Turning Kids into Entitled Wimps, so Shut Up About It

Image result for participation trophies
Okay then.

So as a side effect of the 2016 election, I’ve become increasingly involved in politics, and to keep my mind open, I’ve been trying to read from a varied number of sources. From liberal talk-shows, to conservative blogs, to moderate newspapers, to random angry YouTube comments. (Let’s not compare source validity, here.) And no matter what end of the political spectrum I’m reading, there always seem to be one issue that everyone seems to agree on: that participation trophies are the worst things ever.

Seriously, according to the internet, the worst things in the world are:

  1. Genocide
  2. Torture
  3. Participation Trophies
  4. Christmas Music
  5. Disease
  6. Discrimination
  7. Pop-up Ads
  8. Poverty
  9. Climate Change
  10. People Who are Bad at Parking.

In my humble opinion, number three is the one thing on this list that doesn’t quite belong.

“But Matt!” you say. “By giving all the kids trophies just for showing up, you’re teaching them that they don’t have to actually try in life. They’ll think life is just sunshine, roses and rainbows, and they won’t be prepared for the competitiveness of the real world.”

And I understand that reasoning. I believed it for the majority of my (not that long) life, mostly because that view had been drilled into me by so many adults, so many random people on the internet, so many teachers and relatives and fellow students. You know how many times I’ve been told that young people think they deserve to have everything handed to them? That this whole “Everyone gets a trophy” culture is turning kids into narcissistic, entitled wimps with unrealistic expectations and no real work ethic? Admittedly, not that often.

Still, it’s total bullshit. And it makes me wonder if the people arguing this have actually talked to children before, or remember what it’s like to be a kid. Because all the articles I’ve read on this issue seem to neglect one important factor: kids aren’t stupid.

Okay, kids can be pretty stupid sometimes. When I was five I believed that color didn’t exist until the 1950s, because everything filmed before then was in black and white.

But when it comes to certain things, like competition, they are not. You could tell a group of children that they’re all equal, that they’re all special snowflakes in their own way, but this isn’t a lesson that’s going to stick. Because they inherently know that it’s not true.

I got several participation trophies growing up. Quite a few of them, actually, not that it fooled anyone. I played baseball, soccer, and basketball up until I was around seven or eight. The coaches never really kept score, and there was no championship game or anything to see who the best team was.

But trust me, the kids knew. We knew which kid was always hitting those line drives and which kid couldn’t catch a fly ball if it landed in his glove. We knew which team was the the more obnoxious, douchier version of the Yankees and which team was the even sadder version of the Cubs.* And at the end of the season when we got a participation trophy, we didn’t think we were cool; we were thinking about how the obnoxious Yankee team got the real trophies, and how they were probably going out to get ice cream.

The last participation trophy I ever received was during my last year of Little League, and trust me, I was not proud of it. By that point, every kid my age knew exactly what that meant. My mom bragged about it to my brother as if it was an actual accomplishment, and the results were disastrous. My brother laughed at me the moment he found out, and then he told everyone else about it, who reacted the same way. Every day for weeks afterward, somebody from school would bring that trophy up, in that mocking tone that kids are so good at. “Hey Matt,” they’d say, “Congratulations on the participation trophy!” Then they’d laugh and high-five each other for the sick burn. It didn’t take long for me to get the ironic nickname of Athlete. As in, “Hey, Athlete. Heard you suck at baseball.”

In the end, I threw the trophy in the trash. I quit baseball after that, by the way, and I entered middle school with a very dark, cynical view towards life.

My point is that participation trophies aren’t the phony beacons of false hope we’re giving to children to set them up for future failure. Instead, whether intentionally or not, they’ve become our way of politely telling kids how terrible they are. And they know it.

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Edit: I know I’m in the minority on this opinion, so if anyone would like to go into a hardcore debate over this (or even just a softcore debate), feel free to do so in the comments below. It’s more than possible, after all, that my experience with participation trophies is not representative of most people’s experience.

*I wrote this post months before the Cubs won the world series. Don’t judge me.

In Which I Reevaluate My Life, My Blog, and Everything in Between

I’m back, motherfuckers, and I’m here to stay.
I’m bringing blogging back in a brand new way.
Yes, I know, it’s been a long time
But that don’t mean I can’t bust a sick rhyme!

…aaaaaaaaaaaaand that’s enough rapping for me. (Did it sound catchy in your head? I hope it sounded in catchy in your head.)

Image result for picture of the sea

So it’s been a few months since I haven’t blogged and I gotta say, it’s been a strange experience. 

Whenever a friend or family member from home would ask me how college was for me, I’d respond with two responses: “So far so good,” and, “it’s #lit,” and while both of those descriptions were accurate, I would never talk about the parts that weren’t so good, because I’m not that sort of person. I don’t talk about the things that truly bother me unless I can say it in a way that comes off as A. humorous, and B. not a big deal.

For the first two weeks or so of college, I had this constant pit of anxiety in my stomach. Sure, things went well — I very quickly found myself in a group of reliable friends, my roommate turned out to be perfectly respectable, and nothing embarrassing happened to me, as far as I can recall — but that feeling was still there. Every moment to myself I’d be reminded of it again.

It wasn’t homesickness, I don’t think. It was just this feeling that something was wrong. That I didn’t actually belong here, that this was all a waste of time, a waste of money, and that everything was going to come crashing down on me at any moment.

“But Matt!” you say, “what does this have to do with blogging?”

Well as you’re about to see, I’m going to talk about blogging again, and then try to awkwardly tie it together with my feelings towards college.

“Oh,” you say. “By the way, it’s disappointing that after all this time you’re still using the old, ‘hypothetical-reader-asks-question’ technique in order to transition to a new topic.”

Yeah, well, thanks for the talk.

. . . So during this time off from the blogosphere, I started thinking: why exactly had I started to drift away from my blog so much in the past year or two? I mean, back in 2013 I was able to successfully post every single day for the entirety of November, and as of July of this year, I couldn’t even maintain interest for a week. Why?

Image result for the letter Y

It’s because I’m a different person than I was in 2013, and I’m a different person than I was this July, and these changes will continue until I’m like, forty. Then I’ll just stagnate forever.

How am I different? Well for starters I think I’m becoming a more open person. The outer me and the inner me are becoming increasingly similar in real life, and that change hasn’t extended to this blog. Mostly because I haven’t been here. But also because I only really talk about the positive things in my life.

When I do talk about the negatives, I do it in a way that makes it seem trivial, unimportant, or I leave out the real problems.

Example: Remember how earlier this year I wrote a post about how I was failing Calculus, and cited my poor eyesight as the main reason? Well yeah, I did need those glasses, and getting them helped improve my life a lot. But I never mentioned those long periods of time through the last two years of high school where I couldn’t concentrate on anything; where an easy homework assignment would take me hours to finish, assuming I could even able to motivate myself to start it.

My parents would always see the report cards during these periods and they’d ask me if I was okay, and I’d always say yeah, and I’d get mad at them for assuming there was anything wrong with me to begin with. But of course there was a lot of things going on underneath the surface: I couldn’t stay interested for long in anything but TV and Reddit. I saw my grades falling and my odds of getting into any college shrinking, and I couldn’t bring myself to actually do anything to stop it. I kept thinking about how if I couldn’t handle this, how was I supposed to handle anything?

It would work in a cycle: I’d slowly sink into that mode where I mostly just slept and watched TV, and then something would snap me out of it, I’d try to salvage what I could of my grades by getting all my late work handed in, and I’d tell myself I’d never get that bad again. And for a week or two I’ll be fine, but then I’d feel it slipping and it’ll all come back, just as bad as before.

I probably should’ve seen a therapist, or have gotten some sort of help. That’s on the top of my list of “Things I’ve Never Done, but Probably Should Have.” Instead I read It’s Kind of a Funny Story, a book about a depressed teenager, roughly my age at the time, who almost commits suicide before admitting himself into a mental hospital. And while I was never nearly as bad as he was, I gotta say I was disturbed by how familiar his symptoms were.

I’m lucky in that I haven’t felt this way since high school ended. It went away during the summer, and I was so afraid that it’d come back hard during college, because that’s when depression and anxiety are the most commonly diagnosed. But it didn’t. Or at least it hasn’t yet. *fingers crossed*

You know what would have been nice, though? To have been able to talk about it on here. I certainly could have, and I even wrote a really long, detailed post describing how I felt at the time, but I never posted it because I felt like it was too much. It didn’t quite vibe with anything else I was writing. This is a humor blog, I figured, I can’t just talk about depression all of a sudden.

And during the last few months, I realized that I want to be able to talk about these things on here. I want to be able to write a funny post one day and write a serious one the next, and not feel weird about it. And recently it hit me that there was nothing actually stopping me from doing so; just myself.

So, yeah. I hope to be making the most of Winter Break, and I want to write a blog that has more of an emotional range than just bitter-sarcastic or happy-sarcastic. (Though let’s face it, I’m mostly gonna just joke around.)

There’s a lot of things I want to talk about, after all, so let’s see how it goes.