Is it worth it to have an in ground pool in 2020?

By: Jimmy Somerville

Today I am asking the question: Is it worth owning an in ground pool in 2020?

Having a pool in your own yard is something many people desire and want. It can cool you down, give you something to do, you can play in it, exercise, chill, and there are many other things you can also do with a pool.

But everything comes with a cost, and pools are rather expensive, and are a pain to take care of. You also have to close the pool up and open the pool in the different seasons and other annoyances.

According to Homeadvisor.com the average cost of an in ground pool is an astounding $51,509, with basic maintenance needs of the pool adding on an extra $1,200-$1,800 yearly. Other utilities and repairs can also be an extra $2,000-$3,000 yearly. As you can see by these statistics, buying a pool isn’t cheap, whatsoever.

Now, what may surprise you, is that actually, my house does have an in ground pool, so my family does own one. In Minnesota, we use it from late May-early September, so we get around 3.5 months of use. During those months, we use it pretty regularly and often have pool parties.

Now, I don’t know how much of a financial burden this on my family exactly because I don’t know my parents salaries, and other things, so as a kid I obviously like having the pool and I think it’s worth it. But if you were to ask my mom if it’s worth it, she may say “No,” and if you were to ask my dad if it’s worth it, he’d probably say “Yes.”

To answer my title question then, it really depends on your own family because if you guys really like water and swimming, and you have a lot of money, then it’d probably be worth it. But if you aren’t into swimming, and don’t have as much money, it probably isn’t worth it. It all comes down to preference.

Quite a simple answer.

-Jimmy Somerville.

Mental health vs. Mental illness

By: Grace Blumer-Lamotte

I asked a freshman, a sophomore, and a junior what is the difference between mental health and mental illness.

The freshman said mental health is taking care of all 3 areas of your health, physical, mental, and emotional health. They said they weren’t quite sure what mental illness was.

The sophomore said that mental health is your emotional state, and how you feel at that specific time. They said mental illness is different from mental health because it is a problem that may need therapy or medication.

The junior said mental health is you being able to control everything that is going on in your head. It is focusing on yourself internally. They said that mental illness is ADHD, ADD, and more that they’re not aware of. 

What is the actual difference between mental health and mental illness? According to ‘Heretohelp,’ mental health is “Our emotions, our thoughts and feelings, our ability to solve problems and overcome difficulties, our social connections, and our understanding of the world around us.”  Mental health is allegedly just how you are feeling in the given moment. Ways to maintain a healthy mental health are to: exercise regularly, stay positive, get 8-12 hours of sleep, stay connected with others, and eat a balanced diet.

Also according to ‘Heretohelp,’ a mental illness is an “Illness that affects that way people think, feel, behave, or interact with others.” There are many types of mental illnesses such as depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, plus many more. Mental illnesses usually need a lot more attention, and they need a diagnosis from a medical professional. The people who struggle with a mental illness may go and see a therapist and get prescribed medication. Ways to cope with a mental illness are to: educate yourself about it, stay connected with friends and family, and seek support from a health provider.

As you can see, the students didn’t quite know what the difference between mental health and mental illnesses were. When I was done interviewing them, I asked them to educate themselves and others about the difference. They did so.

Now, after reading this, do you think you know the difference between your mental health and a mental illness?

Is it worth it to get a waterbed?

By: Jimmy Somerville

Today I am asking the question: Is it worth it to get a waterbed in 2020?

I have slept in a waterbed for around a year, pretty much every night, so I will be telling you if it’s worth it or not from my own personal experience (so this will be pretty much all opinion based).

First off, I got the water bed in Christmas of 2018 because I wanted it after randomly getting the idea of wanting one. My dad thought it was a cool idea and we never really told my mom until it arrived, which she was not happy about. We found a waterbed on Amazon for, I think around $50-$60 bucks, so pretty cheap for a bed.

Filling the waterbed up was no easy task, as my dad had to buy supplies from Home Depot in order to get the water from the bathroom sink into my bed which are probably around 15 feet away from each other.

Once it was set and situated, it was very comfortable, and felt really good, although it felt strange at first lying on it as water was moving around and I could hear it.

I believe it is noticeably comfier than a normal mattress.

One complaint I had is that we didn’t want to buy a waterbed heater because that would get expensive, so I layered the water bed up with a couple blankets and I still got slightly cold by the chilly water.

Eventually, I wanted to move out of my brother’s room into my own room, so I had to leave the waterbed, but part of the reason I moved was because my lower back started hurting, which I thought could be because of the water bed. Once I switched beds, my back did stop hurting after a month. It could’ve just been a coincidence, because it was never any serious pain but I think the water bed was at least a partial cause of the back pain.

To answer my original question, I do believe it can be worth it to get a waterbed because it is very comfortable and surprisingly cheap, but it can get annoying easily and it may have caused back pain for me, but actually, many websites say it is supposed to help relieve back pain, so who knows.

At the end of the day, I’d rather sleep in a waterbed over a regular mattress 4 times out of ten, so technically, I prefer a normal mattress. And we never bought a frame for the waterbed, so it sort of rounds at the side of it which I imagine made it less appealing and perhaps less comfortable.

Thanks for reading!
-Jimmy Somerville

For more information, please visit:

What is mental health?

By: Grabe Blumer-Lamotte

According to MentalHealth.gov their definition of mental health is, “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.”

If you experience certain mental health problems over the course of your life, your thinking, feelings, behavior, and mood could be changed. There are many factors that can lead to mental health problems, including: biological factors such as genes, and the way your chemicals in your brain work; life experiences, like trauma and/or abuse, and finally, any past mental health problems in your family. 

Some early symptoms, according to MentalHealth.gov, can consist of, “Eating or sleeping too much or too little, pulling away from people and usual activities, having low or no energy, feeling numb or like nothing matters, feeling helpless or hopeless, smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual, feeling angry, upset, worried, or scared, yelling or fighting with family and friends often, experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships, having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head, thinking of harming yourself or others, inability to perform daily tasks.” If you have any of these early symptoms I strongly suggest talking to a trusted adult about making an appointment with your doctor to talk about them. 

Everyday people that struggle with mental health problems are often told: that they are “faking it,” “it’s just a mental thing,” “that is something you decide to have,” and many more little comments that are very degrading to the mental health community. Making those comments not only hurts the person you said it to, but it also makes the mental health community less important. You are stating that everyone that has a mental health problem is just faking it and they can just fix it right away.

If you are in need of help the numbers given below could help save a life.

  • National helpline, 800-662-HELP (4357)
  • Child abuse, (800) 422-4453
  • Suicide Prevention hotline, (800) 273-TALK (8255)
  • Rape, Sexual Assualt, Domestic Violence, and Incest helpline, (800) 656-HOPE
  • Eating Disorder helpline, (800) 931-2237
  • Planned Parenthood hotline, (800) 230-PLAN (7526)

How to make better burritos 

By: Quentin Miller

Image taken from: Jason Bolte

So, you want to make a better burrito, well I’m here to explain the best ways to improve the way you craft it. This isn’t a specific recipe, think of it more as an overall guide of how you’re doing a lot of things wrong. 

Well, the first thing you’re probably doing wrong is the tortilla. If I had to guess, you’re using a really thick doughy tortilla, stand up right now and go look at the brand of tortilla you’re using, if it’s Mission you’re already not doing good.

You’re going to want to start with a much thinner tortilla with more fat; it makes it stretchier and easier to fold. If you’re homemaking tortillas, first, good luck, and second, just experiment with flour and fat combinations until you get something that feels right for you.

Next thing you’re probably doing wrong, you’re probably just making hamburgers wrapped in a tortilla judging off how much spice there is.

Now, I’m not going to judge anyone for using store bought taco seasoning, because truth be told it actually isn’t that bad. But, it’s far from perfect.

So, you’re going to start with chili pepper as the body of your seasoning, from there, you’re going to add the following ingredients to your preference 

  • Cumin
  • Garlic/onion powder
  • Salt and ground black pepper (you can add a lot of salt if you’re into that)

Also, you’re going to want to add cayenne for extra spice. If you’re too weak to handle some spice, substitute for extra black pepper.

Finally, if you want even more spice, add some hot sauce. You’re going to want something very spicy because if you drown your pan in hot sauce it’s going to be too wet. My personal favorite choice is “Desert Creatures: Black Widow’s Kiss.” I add about 6-8 drops of this into my pan while I mix the seasoning and meat (full disclosure, I have an extremely high heat tolerance and should not be the standard for how much spice should be in your food).

We’re almost done here, only two steps left.

So, the filling of the burrito is surprisingly not important. You can use any meat you want really, chicken and ground beef are really the only options people consider and that’s for good reason.

For ground beef, make sure you brown it to your preference, you’re going to want it pretty much 100% brown.

Next, for vegetables, just do whatever you want. I like just onion, but any pepper isn’t bad and some weirdos like avocado, just do what you want and make sure it fits comfortably in the tortilla.

Once again, cheese is just a preference thing. I love myself some ghost-pepper jack but cheddar is just fine. Really, any cheese with cheddar-like properties (ability to melt and texture/consistency) works fine. 

Last step, folding your burrito.

Now, I’m not going to actually tell you how to fold it; if you don’t know how to I don’t know why you’ve read this far on a burrito improving guide – you need to go back to the basics.

Now, after you folded the burrito in a stable way, you’re going to get the pan you warmed your tortillas on. Get it very hot and sear the top and bottom of your burrito, this’ll seal the fold and add a mouth watering light crunch to the tortilla.

Congrats! You’re done now, if you followed every step you will now have the most spicy burrito possible. If you wussed out on a few of the extra spicy steps, you’ll still have a considerably better meal.

A lot of these techniques require a lot of trial and error, so don’t expect to get the perfect burrito first try! Just keep trying and eventually you’ll be making burritos like a pro.

How to increase “happy brain chemicals”

By: Joxery Mezen Camacho

Our brain is full of many different chemicals that control and impact our nervous system. There are over 100 chemicals in your brain and every single one is important for your brain to function! I am going to talk about four important chemicals in our brain that can lead to an increase in happiness and how to increase them to help you get in a better mood! 

Dopamine 

The first chemical is dopamine. This chemical is meant to help motivate you to go forward and complete big goals and tasks! Dopamine is a kind of reward chemical and these are just a few ways to increase it: 

  • Completing a task (big or small)
  • Eating food
  • Filling in a checkbox 
  • Celebrating small wins 
  • Doing self-care activities 

Oxytocin

The next chemical is oxytocin. This chemical is what causes humans to be such social creatures! The feelings of happiness it releases during positive social interactions is something that drives us to be social! It also helps fight stress and improve your relationship! Here are a few ways to increase oxytocin: 

  • Playing with a baby
  • Hugging your family and friends 
  • Playing with a dog
  • Giving a compliment 
  • Opening up emotionally 

Serotonin

The next chemical is serotonin. This chemical is known as a mood stabilizer which can also lead to feelings of happiness! A few ways to increase it are: 

  • Getting bright light from the sun
  • Meditating 
  • Exercise
  • Massages 
  • Spend time in nature

Endorphin

The final chemical is endorphin. This chemical works to relieve pain and stress! A few ways to increase endorphin chemicals are: 

  • Watching a comedy
  • More exercise 
  • Eating dark chocolate 
  • Laughing exercises 
  • Essential oils

These four chemicals are very important and play vital roles in our brain. The ways listed to increase these chemicals are all natural and things anyone can try. Some may work better than others, so give them all a try and see what works the best for you!! 

For more information, please visit:

Piano vs. guitar

By: Annika Getz

I’ve been playing guitar and piano since I was young, and I recently asked myself the question, “which is better?” I’ve heard this question be asked before, and I thought I’d give my take on the topic.

One good thing about guitar is that it takes less time to learn the basics. The chords are easy to learn, and once you have four or five of them down, there’s a lot of songs you can play.

With piano though, you have to learn more to be able to play the same number of pieces.

However, with piano, there really is just more to learn. With guitar, you learn the scales and the chords and that’s pretty much it. Piano you learn that, but then you can work on playing with two hands, and doing more advanced work. This could be seen as a pro or con depending on who you ask, so it really depends on your preference.

Now, let’s talk about the specifics with both instruments. The scales are easier to learn on piano, since it’s just going up and down. Less basic chords such as sevenths and minors are easier to remember on piano, since you change the same thing every time, no matter the chord, whereas with guitar different things change. However, I find that many of them (especially sevenths) are easier to play on guitar.

Another thing to consider is that with guitar there are several ways to play one chord, since you can use Barre chords. This also could be viewed as a pro or a con depending on who you ask.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a simple answer to this question, as it really depends on the players preference.

It’s my personal opinion that piano is easier, so if you’re looking for a challenge I’d suggest guitar, but beyond that, I’d say to try both and see what works best for you.

10 tips to help with time management during online school

By: Joxery Mezen Camacho

Online school has forced a great change on all students and staff at Highland. This can be a challenging experience for all of us because everything is so new. So, here are 10 tips to help you manage your time and stay focused during online school. 

1. Get up and move!

Getting up and doing a quick stretch in between classes will help you decrease back pain from sitting around all day. It can also give your mind a break from classes and can also help wake you up which will help you stay focused during class! 

2. Move to different areas when working on different things

If you stay in a single area during your classes and while you do your work, you could get tired faster from staying in one spot. In order to prevent this you can have a designated area to attend class and a different one to do your work. 

3. Simply start your assignments 

One of the hardest things to do is to complete your assignments. A way to help you complete them is by telling yourself you’ll work on it for at least 5 minutes, and chances are that after you get going you’ll want to continue. In the end, you’ll either have completed it or at least gotten farther than you were before.

4. Avoid Burnout 

It’s okay to take breaks! In fact you should take them! Breaks can help you take time for yourself and help you stay balanced which avoids burnout which can affect you negatively. 

5. Plan out your days

Having a plan helps you avoid wasting time on figuring out what you should do first. It also helps you stay on track and lowers stress because you know that you’ll have time to finish the rest of your work the next day. 

6. Write down due dates 

Writing down due dates can help you have a better idea of the bigger picture which can help you create your daily plan.

7. Focus on one task 

When working on a specific task try to avoid multitasking and social media. This will help you finish faster and not get distracted as easily.

8. Split up assignments 

If you split up an assignment into chunks it can be less overwhelming and easier to finish throughout the days you have time to work on it. It can reduce stress because you aren’t taking an entire project head on. 

9. Have mini deadlines 

Having mini deadlines can help you avoid procrastination and stay on track.

10. Reflect 

Reflecting on how your week went and deciding to experiment new things can always bring good things. This is because everyone is different, so it’s best to know what makes you comfortable. 

Why it’s important for the young to vote

By: Jihan Ali

When the idea of voting is mentioned to young adults, they push it off or avoid voting because they either don’t understand the voting process or they aren’t educated in politics. Many people don’t understand the impact of voting and how it can affect who becomes president. It is important for young adults to learn the voting process and why it is important to vote.

Voting is having a say on who, or what, you want, and it is usually a choice to the people. In the U.S., adults are given the option to vote, and it is strongly recommended to people.

You may wonder why you see so many flyers and advertisements around you. This year is an important year to vote because the president is being chosen so the media is encouraging young adults to vote.

Many people are trying to convince young adults because they want Trump out of office. According to Wells and Goods, Trump won in the swing states by less than one percent. This shows that your vote matters even if you think it doesn’t because of the population.

According to Dr. Cobb, your vote has power and it gives you the right to choose who you want as your president. Voting is an opportunity that many people should do because American citizens have the right to have their opinion on who we want as president.

If you’re underage, you may be wondering what you can do. You should first learn about how voting works by doing research or asking your parents. You can also volunteer at a polling place, if safe, to help others and know how it works on election day. You can also voice your opinions by talking to peers or reaching out to people of age so that they can vote.

Make sure you vote if you can on Tuesday November 3rd.

Making distance learning easier

By: Annika Getz

The transition from In-School-Learning to Distance Learning has been a tough one, for parents and students alike. I’ve found that younger students especially are having a hard time. I know this because I have two siblings, both under the age of ten, and my block has a lot of younger kids.

Many parents are struggling to make Distance Learning work, but there are several small things that you, as a parent, can do to help your younger children adjust to this new way of learning.

One way is to go back to school shopping – just as if it were a normal year

If you don’t feel comfortable going into stores, you can just shop online. Get notebooks, and pencils, and whatever else your child needs. Make sure you do this with your child, that way it’s more meaningful for them.

When you do this, you may want to get things that your child doesn’t necessarily need this year, but would normally. Like pencil cases or binders. This also just makes the year seem a bit more normal.

Another thing you can do is set up study dates for your child

If they have any friends in their class, they can either do class together, or just do the homework together (with masks on obviously, and probably outside depending on what you’re comfortable with).

This obviously might not work for all children, as some of them would get distracted, but if you think it might work for you, then I’d suggest trying it. Not only does working with people feel a bit more like a classroom, but it also makes learning more fun.

The most important thing is to just be there for your child when they need you

They may not be able to actually go to school, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a good school year.

I hope some of these tips can help your family through these uncertain times.

Image taken from: (https://www.wnep.com/article/news/local/kroger-to-give-teachers-free-school-supplies-next- week/93-9fc6f63a-6388-4b70-90aa-a26fa5afa838)