A Hypocrite’s Guide to Not Wasting Time

If time is money, then I have wasted a lot of money.  credits to David Michalczuk on Flickr
If time is money, then I have wasted a lot of money. credits to David Michalczuk on Flickr

If you’re reading this, you honestly probably have better things to do that would be more productive, but you’re already more than halfway through this sentence so too late.

Disclaimer: I am probably the most unqualified person to be giving tips on how not to waste time.  Like this would be the equivalent of a criminal telling you how not to break the law.  But if you think about it, most criminals probably have a reasonably thorough understanding of the law, they just choose to break it.  Similarly, I have a pretty solid grasp on the concept of time management, I just choose to use it very little.

So here’s a list of a bunch of things you should not do if you want to use your time wisely.  (Incidentally, it’s pretty much a list of things I’ve done this weekend.)

Don’t think that you have time to finish something later.  You don’t.  And even if you did, you know that you’re not gonna do it until the very last possible second so you might as well get it out of the way now.  Plus, it leaves room for error.  And believe me, I need a lot of room.

Don’t sleep so late.  You’re gonna wake up past the time when normal people eat breakfast, you’re gonna eat lunch at the wrong hour, and then you’re gonna wanna take it easy for the next couple hours because I mean, come on, you just woke up, and boom it’s 8 o’clock and it’s dark outside and you’re just gonna spend the rest of the night thinking about how your life is a mess rather than get anything done.

Don’t forget to prioritize.  If something’s due online or requires the computer, do that first. Because it’s easy to finish worksheets in the car, but hard to type up an essay.  Getting ahead on other stuff (like sleep) may feel good at the time, but it’s not going to help you when you realize in the middle of second period that you forgot to do your history homework.

Don’t start a new TV series.  This one’s mostly for me.  I DON’T CARE HOW GOOD IT IS JUST DON’T DO IT.

Until next episode,

Mad Hatter


A Questionable Week

credits to +Angst on Flickr
credits to +Angst on Flickr

This has been one of those weeks that feels like a bunch of stuff is happening while nothing is really happening at all.  It’s weird.  So, I’m just gonna list all the stuff that has mildly to extremely interested me this week.  Insert awkward transition here.

SBAC Testing

If you’re a junior in high school in the United States, you might have had to wake up on Wednesday and Thursday to face two hours of this fancy new Common Core testing.  It supposed to be some sort of critical thinking alternative to normal standardized testing, probably because there can be -gasp- more than one right answer. And I feel like I should applaud the government for their efforts or something, but I’m just gonna say that I really hate taking tests on computers. Like, I don’t like reading off a computer screen or trying to highlight things by clicking the options menu or pressing buttons on their insanely small calculator. Most of my discomfort is probably just due to the fact that I’m extremely irritable in the morning, but I do prefer old-fashioned test booklets, where I can crease the pages and underline as I please. But that’s just me.

Applying for Everything Under the Sun

This school year is coming to a close, so that means preparations have already started for next year. I understand the necessity of this and all, but I really wouldn’t mind a break every now and then. Like can’t I have time to situate myself before I even begin to think about whatever ensuing madness is going to rear its head next year? I guess not.
Here’s what’s already been determined about next school year (which, weirdly enough is still this year, but let’s try not to think any more about the passage of time than we need to.) I heard back from the UCI Cancer Research Program that I applied for and they “regret to inform me” that I did not make it in, through they “strongly encourage” that I reapply next year.  I was talking about it with some of my other friends who didn’t make it in, and we were all disappointed, but not as disappointed as we’d thought we would be.  Maybe it just hasn’t sunk in yet; that’s always a possibility.  Or maybe it was a different kind of disappointment.  Right after I read the rejection email, I said to my friend who asked me how I felt, “I don’t feel it in my head, I feel it in my stomach, if that makes any sense.”  I think it does, at least to me.
On a happier note, I did get accepted into Link Crew, which I am especially excited about.  Link Crew is this program that takes place about a week before school starts, where all the incoming freshmen are herded into an auditorium and then sent in small groups to their Link Crew leaders, upperclassmen who are supposed to explain to the freshmen what they can expect from high school.  I’m really looking forward to this because I have this unexplainable love for underclassmen.  I think they’re afraid, but unafraid at the same time.  And some of them are just really funny.  Or maybe it’s the fact that they haven’t been corrupted yet.  Who knows.  Unfortunately, our band director is not pleased that such a large chunk of upperclassmen are participating in Link Crew.  He’s worried about how we’ll be missing days of band camp, and that’s understandable, though I really wish that he would be more supportive of us pursuing extracurriculars outside of band.  But don’t even get me started on that rant.
Apart from those two things, I’ve also applied to be a board member on Medical Society and a section leader in the band. And that’s another thing.  With every single student in high school being expected to overachieve, it’s really starting to make me question my own motivations.  Like I feel like it’s messed me up.  Before this, I could try out for things simply because I wanted to do them.  But now, there’s always a part of me wondering why I’m really doing this, who I’m really doing this for.  Is it something I want to experience or something I think I need to put on a college application.  All my decisions are tainted with this underlying doubt that I’m no longer doing things for myself.  And I hate that.  Almost as much as SBAC testing.

Rethinking all my life decisions,

Mad Hatter

P.S. I was also gonna talk about TV shows and Catcher in the Rye, but the tone just got increasingly serious, and I couldn’t shift it back.  Maybe next time.

School, Stress, and Not So Much Sleep

credits to David A Ellis on Flickr
credits to David A Ellis on Flickr
A community is more than just the collection of people within one’s vicinity. A community is made up of people who support you, who offer advice and encouragement in your every endeavor, even the ones that seem far-fetched or downright insane. For me, that sense of community is found at Fountain Valley High School. I’m lucky enough to attend a school that is home to a number of diverse interests and activities – from field hockey to marching band – yet still has a feeling of unity among students and staff alike. But despite how much I enjoy my school’s community, there are things I wish I could change.
Though it might not seem noticeable from a quick stroll through the halls, there is an immense amount of academic pressure looming over us as students. It becomes increasingly apparent as AP season nears and teachers increase both the density of content and workload assigned. On numerous occasions, a friend will complain to me about her lack of sleep while another will stress about a looming deadline. During lunch, we all swarm to our phones the moment we hear the SAT scores have been released, and we’ll huddle together in groups studying for a test next period. Often times, I’ll wonder to myself why we find this necessary, why we feel the need to panic and cram for an exam, why doing homework at five in the morning has become second nature. The obvious answer occurs to me. We’re all worried about getting into college because we’ve been taught from an early age that higher education is the only path to a bright future. But there’s something more than that. I think a lot of the time my peers and I feel like we’re defined by the letters on our report card, that we’re only as good as our GPA allows us to be. And this mentality is the thing I wish I could change.
If I was less shy and knew more people, I would let everyone know that they are creative, wonderful, significant human beings. I would tell them to stop worrying so much about the future because they are capable of amazing things right now. I would look them in the eye and tell them that they matter. And I know that I probably can’t divulge this information to strangers I see during passing period, but I want them to remember that these four years don’t define the rest of our lives. There’s really no easy solution to changing the way that we think, the way our brains are wired as students placed in an education system built on competition. But the best thing we can do is support each other. Study together the day before a test and go out for frozen yogurt the weekend after. The most important thing we can do as individuals is support someone else. Because that is the foundation of a community.

The Halls Are Alive with the Sound of Music

Displaying 20150405_101543_resized.jpg
                                                                                             some Easter festivities

Ah, there’s nothing better than a Sunday night and the comforting knowledge that you have no responsibility to wake up to tomorrow morning.  (Let’s not mention the piles of homework I’m hopelessly behind on or the number of AP tests I should be studying for.)  Even before the weekend, while I was still moping my way through school, I could feel the salvation of spring break coming nearer and nearer.  Just one more week, just one more day, just one more class.  And now it’s finally here.  And things have been going pretty well so far.

I’m gonna start with Friday because my mind starts going into weekend mode once it hits Friday anyway.  Friday was really cool because the orchestra does this thing called spring grams where they go around the classrooms and deliver cards and leis to people, in combination with a performance of a prearranged pop medley – on spring instruments, of course.  I love being able to hear violin across from my Spanish class and I also find it really amusing that my friend has to drag her cello through the halls (they draw the line at the string bass).  And this was pretty much the inspiration for the title of this blog post, which really only references this paragraph, but let’s just move on.

I think Saturday was a weird transition day because it’s technically the beginning of spring break, but you already had Friday night and you know Easter is tomorrow, so you just kinda shrug your shoulders and let the passage of time do its thing.  Most of my Saturday was probably spent making plans for Sunday.  That and finding out how to do card tricks from my cousin and the assistance of the internet.  After that, I spent the rest of the day doing who-knows-what and sleeping very very late knowing full well that I would have to wake up early the next morning.

I woke up groggy but with the happy realization that it was Easter, so my cousin and I rushed out to the neighborhood park where they set up festivities every year.  We did some arts and crafts, ate quite a bit of barbeque, and snuck a couple of plastic-shelled eggs into our bags before heading home.  Then we took my dogs on a really spastic walk, I lost miserably at Battleship despite having been at an advantage for the first half of the game, and we practiced our card tricks while sipping on various fruit-flavored beverages.  And now I’m here and I’m typing this blog post, too tired to find a way to incorporate a rabbit hole pun into my story about Easter.

My apologies for the characteristic incoherence,

Mad Hatter

Progress Report

book pic

After months and months of deciding what was going to go into the book, we are finally in the stages of laying out the pages and ordering the physical copies.  It’s pretty exciting, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.  I spent a couple class periods figuring out how we were gonna group our essays together, and now we have to choose what illustrations we want to add, what fonts we want to use, and what we want our back cover to say.  Plus, I haven’t titled, um, any of my essays, so I think I should probably get on that.

The site we’re using to make our books is blurb.com and it has a ton of different options for making books, most of which are pretty affordable.  But one thing that’s a little difficult is the program they require you to use to layout your book.  It’s called Bookwright, and it’s kinda tiresome to have to transfer all your text from a different source (don’t even get me started on having to convert all the Word documents to Google docs), and you have to format the margins and everything yourself, instead of the borders being pre-laid out.  And if you make one mistake, it’s such a pain to have to go back and reformat everything.

Besides all the stuff I just mentioned, we still have to double check all the essays we’ve inputted, finish laying everything out and make sure it’s the right number of pages, format our back and front cover, insert all the illustrations and give credit where needed, write a dedication page, and fundraise to buy and distribute the books.  Sorry, this post kinda just turned into a list of complaints, but I know it will all be worth it in the end.  We had our own poetry books made in sixth grade and I still remember how amazed I was to be holding the copy in my hands and open it to find the words I had written myself.  I can’t wait to feel that again.

~Mad Hatter

Some Sort of Storyline

I think we’ve all been taught to believe that our life is a collection of moments, and with each passing milestone, we get to put a little check next to our imaginary list and continue on the path waiting for the next big thing.  I mean, I’m pretty sure that’s how they made the board game.  But what happens in between those big, defining moments?  Lots of stuff.  You have a conversation with a friend, make your mom her favorite meal, pet a couple dogs.  Really cool things.  But somehow we don’t put as much value in these little moments as we do the more obvious things, like our high school graduation or our eighteenth birthday or our first Christmas away from home.  And it’s just weird because those “big days”, in the big picture, are such a small portion of the life we live.  Our lives aren’t really like the TV shows where something new and exciting happens every episode and we get to look forward to the season finale.  It’s more like that book that’s kinda hard to read because the author has spent way too much time describing what the protagonist does in her free time even though it has nothing to do with furthering the plot.  But while we’re certainly the protagonists of our own stories, I don’t think we’re living in our own novels.  If anything, we’re probably living in those journal pages that you see on Tumblr with the messy scribbles and the random poetry with the occasional breathtaking illustration.  Wild and unpredictable and just an overall mess.  I’m sure we’d all like to believe we all have some sort of storyline in mind, but in the end, we might just be hoping for a good plot twist.

One structure I’ve found interesting is these things called intercalary chapters.  They’re chapters that drift away from the main story, but somehow manage to find a way to relate back.  And I think the time between our milestones are a little bit like that.  They might not seem super important to our story now, but they really do matter.  Because the story wouldn’t be the same without them.

~Mad Hatter

A Night and Day of Play

stick with the program

So a while back, my English teacher announced to the class that we would be participating in the Day of Play, basically a whole class period dedicated to some good old-fashioned play.  He gave us permission to break out the board games, the basketballs, and even the Nerf guns (so long as we wore goggles).  My table group and I got caught up in a pretty intense game of Disney monopoly.  Needless to say, there was a lot of yelling, quite a bit of haggling, and my continuous questioning of why no one would land on the yellow properties because ohmygosh did I need money (or wishes, as they call them in the Disney world, which actually has a pretty disheartening effect because no one wants to lose 500 wishes).  The bell rung all too soon, and as we put away the castles and wishing wells, we were all pretty pleased with ourselves.

And then last Friday, I went to my friend Jackie’s high school for her class play day.  Jackie goes to this super small high school that could easily be driven past (which my mom and I actually did) and has less than a thousand students.  We’re talking small, all-girls, traditional Catholic school.  And every year they have this event where each grade presents a play.  They design the set and costumes themselves, and the seniors this year actually wrote their own play.  It was nothing short of amazing.  And the acting was on-point – especially the male characters.  Give a girl a beanie and an eye-shadow beard and she will own that stage.  All four plays were really well-done; the freshmen play was centered around a talk-show host interviewing internet-famous cats, the sophomore play was based on Lewis Carol’s Through the Looking Glass, the junior play featured a talent show rehearsal gone wrong, and the senior play took the audience through a girl’s first day in a small, all-girls, traditional Catholic school.

The way I’ve related both of these experiences in my head (besides that they both involve the word play) is that each was something you might not expect to do in school, but was such a positive experience nonetheless.  Both are really good ways to foster creativity and teamwork and I wish we would get a chance to get outside our textbooks and do things like this more often.  I know that we can’t always spend a class period playing Monopoly and my school can’t force four thousand people to put together a play (though we do have a rocking theater program), but I can’t wait for the next crazy thing that one of my teachers decides to try.  Four hour weekend bio lab, anyone?  Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be awesome.

Playfully yours,

Mad Hatter

The Great Dress Debate

officialunitedstates:unclefather:babypinkacrylicnails:unoriginal-origins:swiked:katze-geht-meow:ijustloveyoutubers:trinititties:snacksandharts:swiked:littlewotsit:swiked:guys please help me - is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking the fuck outSo I just looked at this like, it’s blue and black obviously and all my friends were like no it’s blue and gold. Now I’m super confused, what is eyesight?</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>I see it as white and gold. My friend right here sees it as blue and black. I CANT HANDLE THIS</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>if that’s not gold my entire life has been a lie</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>I am seeing Blue and Black, how are people seeing it different? Is there some sort of mind sorcery happening here?! :o</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>Okay, wtfi just saw it as gold and white which was weird bc earlier it was blue and black so i thought maybe ye were fucking with me but i went to reblog and now its blue and black again?!1? I AM GOING TO CRY</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>My class just had a debate over this. Half sees black and blue, the other half sees gold and white. Someone please explain this…</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>WHAT IS THIS WITCH CRAFT</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>I see black and blue wtf how is anyone seeing white</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>I’m completely lying for notes but this looks like a hotdog. Reblog if you see a hotdog</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>i see the hot dog but did anyone else notice bigfoot in the back</p><br /><br /><br />

The debate over this dress is one of those weird internet phenomenons that we can’t quite explain, but we try to the very best of our ability to understand.  I came home on Thursday to a confused and indignant storm of internet comments debating over the color of the dress.  It took me an hour to figure out what was even going on or even to recognize that I had already saw the picture several times.  My initial reaction was that the dress was so obviously, irrevocably gold and white.  And then the color changed before my very eyes.  I was utterly appalled to perceive the fabric as black and blue, when I had so vehemently disagreed with such an opinion minutes before.  My experience left me questioning all that was true with the world, but it later gave me some sort of new breadth of understanding, as I felt like I could comprehend each side of the argument.

Now the effect of the dress going viral has been pretty extraordinary.  What originated as a Tumblr post soon made its way across the internet, and even onto the evening news.  I came to school the next day only to witness my classmates shaking their phones at each other to gather reviews of the controversial picture.  Even teachers made it a point to take their position on the color of the dress.  The whole thing was pretty unbelievable.  And now, just a few days later, it seems like the internet has returned to normal.  The hype has died down and barely anyone is even concerned with the original picture, unless they’re making a couple of memes poking fun at it.  The entire situation is almost satirical.  How could we all have been concerned with something so trivial, only to forget about it days later?

I think the outburst over the dress lends some significant commentary to human nature.  The reason why the picture became so well-known was because it was a dividing line.  You were either team blue or black or team white and gold (or some other poor, misrepresented minority).  It is in our nature to assume that what our eyes see is correct, and no amount of our friends shouting their opposite opinion at us can change our mind.  We are very convinced that our eyes cannot lie to us, and that our perception of reality is the truth.  When you look at the actual science behind the varying perceptions, things get interesting.  The reason most people see the dress as either gold and white or black and blue is a result of the principle known as color constancy.  Basically, it depends on what people interpret to be the source of the light in the picture.  For those who believe the dress to be lit with blue light, their brain subtracts the effect of the blue light and assumes the original color to be white.  People who believe the dress is lit by yellow light perceive the opposite.

The original image is in the middle. At left, white-balanced as if the dress is white-gold. At right, white-balanced to blue-black.
“The original image is in the middle. At left, white-balanced as if the dress is white-gold. At right, white-balanced to blue-black.” -wired.com                                                                                                                                                                 original image by tumblr user swiked




While a lot of people have found this whole ordeal to be pointless or waste of time, I actually believe it to be a valuable experience.  I find it so amusing that such a huge number of people contributed their opinion over something as unimportant as the color of some stranger’s dress.  In a way, we were united in disagreement.  It also shows how willing we are as humans to stick to what we believe is the right way to see things.  And it’s definitely not limited to a dress.  Humans are passionate beings, and we get caught up in debates all the time; we can only hope they lead to compromise and progress.  The situation also leaves room for criticism.  It’s a little frightening that the internet was dominated by the image of a dress when we could’ve spent that time talking about social issues, actual problems affecting actual people.

But overall, I think we should remember these last couple of days of weirdness as not just some crazy meme that took over the internet, but a chance to learn that our perception of realities can differ from other people’s, even if we’re technically seeing the same thing.  And we should try our very best to learn from each other, even if, at first, we don’t see eye to eye.

~Mad Hatter

School Re-imagined

Have you ever thought about how much time we spend in school?  It’s seven hours a day, five days a week, for at least twelve years of your life.  And what exactly is the point?  “Uh, learning, I guess.”  Yes, hypothetical reader, that’s what I would guess too.  School is meant to educate us so we don’t go running out into the world and blinding people with our ignorance.  But a lot of school is simply about preparation.  Preparing for the next test which prepares you for the final which prepares you for the next grade which prepares you for graduation which prepares you for college which prepares you for life?  How much of school do we spend just waiting for the next thing to happen?  Is looking so far into the future actually counterproductive to getting stuff done in the present?

Don’t get me wrong, I love learning.  I love walking into a classroom and seeing my teacher get unapologetically over-enthusiastic about something they really care about.  I love sitting outside with my friends at lunch as we exchange inside jokes and playfully make fun of each other.  But I hate when one of my friends comes to me and says that they slept four hours because of copious amounts of homework or a test on a chapter they just can’t seem to grasp.  I hate when someone says they’ll never be as talented as someone else or that they won’t get accepted by their dream school.  School is supposed to teach us academically, but it also provides an ultra-competitive, high-stress environment that is not at all conductive to learning.  I can’t tell you how many times my teachers have told us that they wished kids were less focused on grades and more about how much they actually understood what was being taught.  How they wished students saw homework as a way to supplement their learning and not something to cheat their way through to get those “easy points.”  I think there is something fundamentally wrong with an education system that puts every individual on a set path and expects everyone to succeed by the same methods.

So yes, the system is flawed.  But I can honestly say that I enjoy school because my teachers all make such an effort to make what we’re learning apply outside of the classroom.  Like learning a different language, how cool is that?  How amazing is it to have the ability to communicate your ideas to people who would have never heard them otherwise?  And biology.  That stuff is going on inside of you, right now and forever.  And the crazy thing is there is still so much we don’t know.  History!  Isn’t it great to know that there have always been people willing to change the world, to push for reform because they knew there was a better way?  English.  Just a couple days ago, my teacher put up a prompt that asked us if we could change school to accommodate our individual needs, what kind of classes and learning environment would there be?

In this kind of hypothetical situation, I think we would need to find the balance between classes that teach general knowledge and classes that teach about subjects you’re genuinely interested in.  Give students a chance to explore different majors and skills.  Have a class where you learn those random things that all adults just seem to know how to do.  Like how to file your taxes or what the heck is a 401k.  And then have classes that encourage creativity.  There is nothing like the feeling of satisfaction you get when you look at something – whether it be woodwork, pottery, a painting, or a poem – stand back and say, “I made that.”  And then I would have these one hour a week optional rant sessions where everyone could get together in the cafeteria and talk about everything they care about from the little things that bother them to the stuff that makes them question their existence and there would be snacks and bean-bags and everything would be okay.  We would stop worrying about the future and concentrate on the present.

the ideal learning environment

I hate when people refer to life after college or whatever constitutes adult life as “the real world.”  Yeah, there’s an obvious difference between what it’s like to be in school all your life and getting a job where you’re presumably and expert in your field and paid for your work and under a whole new list of expectations.  But I think we need to stop looking at school as a means to get somewhere and start looking it as a benefit in and of itself.  When are you ever going to being in high school again?  When are you ever going to have the chance to develop who you are while surrounded by a bunch of other people who are just as confused and plagued by hormones as you?  Not ever.  So we might as well make the most of it.

~Mad Hatter