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31 December 2006

An Amazing Year

Here we are in the last few hours of 2006. Midnight has already fallen over the entire eastern hemisphere and is rapidly approaching. I'd better make this post count. So I'll start by comparing this year to my expectations last year:

Honestly, as 2005 wanes, I hope 2006 will bring some exciting "firsts" into my life. I don't know what they'll be, but I'm really hoping they'll be fun.
This is what I wrote one year ago today in my New Year's Eve post for 2005. And for the most part, that's exactly what happened. With 2006 being the first full calendar year I've had this blog, I can actually go back and look at what I've documented... which is good, because I don't think I'd otherwise be able to think of much in time for the new year. Time to get reflective.

I started January by making a little something in Photoshop in honor of the year, and in doing so, opening the doors to the world of opportunities that awaited me. Four days in, I turned 18, which was certainly the first of many milestones. Actually, if you count December 2005, which is when I got accepted to Pitt, I was in the middle of a big stretch of "happy," which continued on 13 January when I received notification of my awesome scholarship. But, as always happens when classes are ending, the stress of finals and papers came on in the latter part of the month. So much stress, in fact, that I created a Wall of Shame to vent my frustrations. Thankfully, I haven't had to do that since.

February was an emotional month. I lost my girlfriend for still-unexplained reasons, and I met a new friend who helped me through my sadness. I reflected on the antics of other friends and escaped the threat of another Friday the Seventeenth. And of course, the Steelers won the Super Bowl. How great is that? Meanwhile, District Choir was preparing me for things to come...

March and April were probably some of the most fun months of the year, but they were also extremely stressful. It started with Region Band, where I missed States by one chair. Then Region Choir, where I made States. A few days later, we said goodbye to the cats we'd been babysitting, and before I knew it, my family was with the marching band in Florida, and I wasn't really able to practice my music for States while we were gone. But I ended up getting fifth chair anyway; quite an accomplishment! And amidst all this, I was switching Calculus books and finalizing my decision to go to Pitt. Missing all that school gave me a bad case of senioritis, but I stuck through and finished the incomplete work I'd had from the third quarter. And of course, I got measured on Easter, only to find that I hadn't really grown much at all.

May was madness. The first ten days were overflowing with blog-fodder so much that I wrote a huge post that got lost in the abyss of cyberspace, so I declared and celebrated a day of remembrance for it. Which reminds me, I'd better save this post right now. Anyways, I got a new girlfriend; I was a little worried about going off to college, though... she didn't think it would be a big deal. I wonder who was right.

June was a big deal. As I said last year, "For almost my entire life, June 2006 has been the endpoint of any long-range plans I have had." We had our senior class trip on 06/06/06, then baccalaureate the next day, adding gum to my locker, and by the time it hit me, I was halfway through my speech. Minutes later, I graduated. Preparations for college rapidly progressed after that, as I went down to Pittsburgh for orientation late in the month, which unfortunately was my then-girlfriend's birthday. This had been scheduled long before that, though.

I started July with a huge graduation party, and we celebrated Independence Day by watching my grandfather almost die while holding a lit emergency flare. Good times... But then I got really sick and started writing thank you notes. It's probably a good thing, though, because at least they got done.

And then August came. I got my driver's license, and then was thrust into college life. Things get sort of lumped together from here.

Throughout September and October, I learned a lot at Pitt: about myself, about others, and about life in general. There was lots of stress in varying shapes and sizes, but eventually I adjusted to the situations. Getting involved with the band certainly helped me there.

In November, I had another busy week, and my girlfriend and I finally broke up as a result. My streak of avoiding Fridays the Seventeenth had ended, but I don't have to deal with that again until August 2007.

And in December, I got my grades back, some pretty good numbers to show for all my hard work. The year came full circle with the arrival of my new computer, much faster and cooler than the now thirteen-year-old machine I mentioned last New Year's Eve, which still sits in our basement. And I finally got to see some family that I'd been missing... and some that I hadn't.

All in all, I really did do a lot this year. I loved 2006, but we're on the verge of 2007, and we must move on. You can imagine, however, how I felt as I sat in church this morning, and the substitute pastor said that 2006 was behind us, and that "we must bury it, approaching 2007 in a new way." Don't get me wrong; I'm very optimistic for 2007, but 2006 will hold a special place in my heart. But why wouldn't it? We shouldn't bury all of our past. How else would we learn from our failures, and enjoy our successes?

And so, before New York's ball drops in a few hours (and Pittsburgh's ball rises), let me say as I said back on the first day of this year, it's 2006 and I'm proud of this year, dangit!

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29 December 2006

PHP

Yay for PHP! It does some pretty cool things. And this'll be a rather geeky post.

I'm working on redoing the GHS Marching Band website, and part of that involves the capability for multiple users to post events to a calendar. And I don't want to have to set aside time every year or so to physically make the calendars for every month.

So my friend Corey and I got together this morning and, teaching me PHP by example, we made this lovely creation. It works almost perfectly, except for one little bug that'll be a bit difficult to fix. This will be the basic template on which we'll slap code to actually search for events in the database and more code to make it look nice.

It's not like I have a deadline or anything, although it'd be really nice if it were up by the beginning of May, when they first start rehearsals for the 2007-08 season.

Random tangent: So Craig, Laurel, and I will get together and attempt to make "butterscotch gâteau" this evening from an old English cookbook (and yes, everything's in metric). I have a feeling that this cooking experiment will warrant another post when all is said and done...

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21 December 2006

Gadgets and Grades

Well, I'm home! I've been home for a while, actually, but I didn't think that I'd be so busy doing hardly anything but relaxing. As I mentioned in my last post, I was leaving for Girard immediately after my PHYS final on 15 December. And that was just what happened; after the final, I trudged back to the lobby of my dorm to find my father sitting there waiting for me. My mother was using the bathroom. Oh, well.

But I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself. Something tells me this could be a long post. I started the day on Friday 15 December by waking up earlier than I usually did. The finals earlier in the week had worn me out, so I found myself unable to pack Thursday night. Trying hard not to disturb my roommate, who was on the third of three consecutive days without an exam (although he had two on Saturday), I started packing around 07:30.

After finishing most of my packing, I went to the Book Center to see if I could find some nice Christmas gifts for my parents. I did. And that's all I can say because they read this blog from time to time, and as such, divulging any further information would defeat the purpose of the surprise. I may write about it after the holiday.

I went to the Student Union and had a fairly early lunch before my exam started at 12:00. The exam was uneventful. I mean, it was an exam. And this puts me right about where I started. Great.

So we went up to my room, gathered my belongings, and left my roommate in peace. We were in the room for about 20 minutes or so, and I think he said a grand total of three words to us in that time. My mother later mentioned that that bothered her. Why? He just doesn't talk to strangers, that's all!

I think it was my father who mentioned the sudden increase in furniture in the hallways. Or maybe it was my mother. Or maybe I'm making this all up. In any case, I pointed out the "Lounge Furniture Amnesty" sign on the way out. Apparently at the beginning of the semester, one of the other floors came and stole chairs and tables and whatnot from all the other floors for use in their rooms. Needless to say, the other floors were not happy... to say nothing of the Resident Director, who posted the sign, which said, "Residents... will have an opportunity to place any hall or lounge furniture back where it belongs before Thursday, December 14th in order to avoid documentation and fine(s)."

Well, the furniture came back, but not a day sooner than it had to. I really think we ended up with more than we started with... but we only had it for about three days way back in August, so who can remember how much we were supposed to have?

Travelling up the Interstate, I was given my cell phone. And I got to keep it this time. On Sunday 10 December, when my parents came to see the Heinz Chapel Choir concert, Dad brought my cell phone down and let me play with it, but he wouldn't let me keep it during finals week. That was probably a fairly good idea. But now I have it, along with the stupid 30-second advertisement on startup and the free nights that start at 21:01 rather than 21:00.

But that doesn't matter. When we got home, my parents left almost immediately for a dinner party and dropped my brother and I off with our grandparents, who later took us to our great-grandmother's house to have dinner and watch General McLane play in the state football championship, which they ultimately won.

Yada, yada, yada. Next day.

My computer came. Need I say more? We fired it up and started installing programs to make it functional. And now you are reading my first blog post from this machine.

So that was exciting news, but certainly not interesting. Skip a few days, my brother goes back to school for the week. He becomes miserable, and there's little I can do about it but reassure him that it all ends on Friday. On Tuesday, my mother called from work for "tech support," wondering how to move a folder out from a folder on her computer. It was difficult to help her over the phone, so she said that I could help her when I came today.

Wait, what? Why would I be going to your workplace? Apparently, she signed my father and I up to help out with some Christmas caroling... without really telling us. It's a good thing I still hadn't made my plans to meet up with a friend. The downside, though, is that I can't meet with him until next week now, which is when all my cousins will be up for the holiday, which is when I'll be least likely to want to leave.

Speaking of which, Laurel and I made a blog for the Cousin Club. We figured it's about time. I must add a disclaimer, however, or she will never forgive me: It was her idea. I only take credit for actually making the thing work the way we wanted it to. And there's still more work to be done.

A couple more days pass, and with Pitt's new grade-posting policy, I was treated each night with another grade or two from my classes. Here's the breakdown:

CHEM 0760 Honors General Chemistry for Engineers 1 3 cr. B+
ENGR 0081 Freshman Engineering Seminar 10 cr. S
ENGR 0711 Honors Engineering Analysis & Computing3 cr. A+
MATH 0235 Honors 1-Variable Calculus4 cr. B+
MUSIC 0630 Marching Band1 cr. A
PHYS 0174 Basic Physics for Science & Engineering 14 cr. A-
PSY 0010 Introduction to Psychology3 cr. A

Yes, that's an "S" for "satisfactory" in my zero-credit seminar. Apparently I showed up enough. Anyway, when you do the math, that adds up to a QPA of 3.653 on 18 credits, which would put me on the Term List. And that's pretty darn awesome.

As far as the commentary goes on the above, I was really worried about CHEM. And I mean really worried; I thought a "B-" was my best hope. I was not anticipating a "plus" in either ENGR 0711 or MATH 0235, but both were certainly welcome. Apart from that, everything was as I expected. So in short, my finals must have gone better than I thought!

When I found out the good news, I told my out-of-town grandparents immediately, as they were, for the night, in town and staying at our house. Everyone was extremely happy. Except my brother. He had to go to school the next day.

Caroling at the hospital today (as mentioned above) was fun. And apparently I "mingled well" with the adults, blending right in. So that was awesome. Afterwards, I nearly finished my Christmas shopping, except for one gift, which I'll probably buy in the morning.

Random tangent: In women's basketball, (22) Pitt lost to (4) Duke today, 72-51. It's their first loss of the season, bringing them to a 12-1 record. But that's not the upsetting part. On the men's side of things, (7) Pitt lost to (15) Oklahoma State in double overtime, 95-89. I was watching on the ESPN.com Scoreboard as I was typing the end of this post, and it was very upsetting. They've now lost two in a row, and are 10-2 for the season. We'll see what happens now.

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07 December 2006

Term 2071 Finals

I will now be going back into my little shell for a week or so. Finals start Monday, which means I won't be blogging much until I get through them. I might get to write a little post on snow if I can find the time, but otherwise it won't be until Wednesday night or Thursday; PHYS won't take that long to study for. Then again, I wouldn't count on it. My finals week schedule is shown below.


I'll be returning home to Girard almost immediately after my last final on Friday 15 December. Have a great week everyone!

Random tangent: For anyone who wants to hear Friday night's Heinz Chapel Choir concert, tune in to the live broadcast on Pittsburgh's WQED-FM 89.3, or listen online, beginning at 20:00 ET. It's going to be great!

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06 December 2006

The Chancellor

He is to the University as God is to the universe. Or at least it seems that way.

And every year, around this time, he invites many distinguished guests to the Heinz Chapel for a private concert presented by the Heinz Chapel Choir, of which I am a member, followed by a reception in the Cathedral of Learning afterwards. It's a night that is archaically referred to by the choir as "the Night of the Living Dead," because apparently in years past, the guests thought that they were attending a church service, and not a concert. As such, they never applauded and kept a reverent expression on their faces the entire time. The year that the suggestion of applause was first made, only the Chancellor and his wife did so.

But since then, things have changed a bit. The Chancellor now actually makes a point of informing the audience in advance that they are attending a concert, and not a service, so that they feel welcome to appropriately show their appreciation for the choir's hard work. And people do applaud, as well as smile from time to time.

Now, it's rather obvious from the way I'm writing and from the timing that this year's event occurred tonight (the evening of Tuesday 05 December). The Chancellor gave his little speech to the audience, and then the concert began. All went well, and then it was time for the last set of songs. As I took my place on the little wooden box that marked my spot, I looked at the pew directly in front of me.

There was Chancellor Nordenberg.

For the rest of the concert, I was less than ten feet away from him. His presence was moderately intimidating as I performed in front of this very important person whom I had never met before. Had I fainted (if I were one to faint), and the little barrier had not been between us, my face would have been right at his feet... which under those circumstances would be the most appropriate posture in the world. So Emily can quit complaining about being put on the Jumbotron (although that's pretty nerve-racking, too). But at least those people don't matter; Chancellor Nordenberg does.

But he was certainly not there to judge, and that showed in his smile throughout the whole concert. Afterwards, we went to the Cathedral for the reception. Now, if you're one of those people who is reminded of Hogwarts every time they see the Cathedral's Commons Room, imagine it decked out for Christmas... decorated for the Chancellor's Holiday Reception.

And the food. It was amazing. There were huge cookies, gingerbread men, crackers, hot cider, punch, eggnog (non-alcoholic), pumpkin rolls, salmon, brie, and some other fancy things that I would not have been able to identify were it not for the little cards next to the platters that probably cost $6 themselves.

We ate and talked, and eventually someone suggested that we talk to the Chancellor, so we did. He has a wonderful sense of humor, and is an all-around great guy. And I did what I'd been waiting three years to do, ever since my old high school principal's retirement.

I asked the Chancellor if the name "Randy Newson" sounded familiar. He asked if he was sort of red-headed, and then he added that I probably couldn't tell anymore. I told him that Mr. Newson had been my high school principal, and he asked if he was a good principal. "Of course," I responded. Otherwise, I wouldn't have brought him up. And then someone brought up ghosts, and the Chancellor told the stories of the two campus ghosts, and how we didn't need any "fake" ghosts. He summed everything up by saying that we have a Rhodes scholar, a Marshall scholar, and two ghosts... we must be doing well! As I said, he has a great sense of humor.

So, to make a long story short, I finally was able to say "Hi" to Chancellor Nordenberg for one of his old college buddies. And on the slight chance that Mr. Newson ever reads this, he says "Hi" back!

And then I came back to the dorm, did about as much CHEM homework as I could stand, and then came down to recount my evening before going back to hitting the books. My guess is sleep will once again come around 02:00.

Random tangent: I went to the bank to cash a check today. Nothing came of it, but I realized hours later that I never endorsed the back of the check. I wonder what happens now...

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03 December 2006

Dream 3

It's been ages since I've posted a dream, and this one is probably the weirdest and most far fetched yet. And the best part is, this isn't the first time I've had this one. I distinctly remember having this dream at least once before, although it was before this blog existed, so I'll write about it now.

Dream 3: A Fishy Plan, night of 01-02 December 2006

So there were these fish. Four of them, I think; all different types. And this whole thing was sort of told from their point-of-view. So swim, swim, swim they go.

It's nighttime, and a sort of wintry day (although underwater, what does that matter?). And these fish decided that they were a little bit hungry, so what did they do? They went to a local fast-food restaurant of course. Sadly, however, this restaurant, although it was sort of reddish in color, was not a Wendy's, so these fish could not "eat great, even late" as they had hoped, because the restaurant was already closed.

So the swam, swam, swam some more, and they find the sub-basement of this restaurant (not the basement, below that). And because these fish are apparently stupid fish, they decide to go in, swimming through some sort of crack.

The structure of the sub-basement is awkward. It's completely circular, obviously filled with water, and the restaurant rests on a single round beam in the center. So the fish are free to swim around and around the donut-shaped expanse surrounding the support. And that's exactly what they do.

Then the little fish finds a stairwell leading up to the next level. As for why it's a stairwell, I don't know. It's not like the fish are going to stop swimming and sink to the bottom so they can physically walk up the stairs. But alas, the stairs are there. It's just one of the many anomalies one can find in my weirder dreams.

Mind you, these fish are really hungry. So of course they decide to go up the stairwell.

Bad idea.

The owner of the restaurant is there with a sort of sinister grin on his face. Rather than just saying "I caught ya" and turning them in for breaking and entering, he has other plans for these fishies (and it's not to fry them; they don't serve fish at that place anyway).

No, he scoops them up and keeps them confined overnight. Then in the morning, the fish awoke to find themselves being watched by hundreds of people (apparently, the tide went out and the restaurant was now above the water). The restaurateur then reveals his elaborate scheme.

The fish were now in a sizable container, and there were three more areas separating them from the rest of the lake. They were desperate to get out to see their families... and perhaps to eat, because they never did get that late-night meal they were craving.

In order to advance to the next area, the fish had to complete a task. In most cases, it was something like biting through a net. But the last area had a concrete wall at the end. And the fish had to win a game of Battleship for the concrete wall to open, leading them to the vast lake on the other side.

Meanwhile, a second concrete wall would constantly be closing in behind them. If the fish didn't complete the last task in time, they would simply be squished against the other wall and die. But that wasn't all.

In the basement of the restaurant, just above the new water level, the restaurant owner held captive all of the Olympic swimmers from the Western Hemisphere. How he got them, nobody knew. But that's not the point. The point was that their fate was directly tied to the performance of the fish.

As the concrete wall closed in on the fish, the water displaced would fill up the cell in which the swimmers were held. And at the moment the fishies would get squished, the cell would be completely full of water and even though they were the best swimmers in the hemisphere, the swimmers would drown. Of course, at this point, the "camera" of my mind immediately panned to the swimmers, who were frantically panicking for their lives.

Well, to make a long story short, the fish ended up completing all the tasks and winning Battleship with just a few short moments left. By opening the second concrete wall, the water in the cell rushed back out into the lake, and the swimmers were subsequently released. The restaurateur lamented the demise of his master plan. Not that he wouldn't be able to try again, because he wasn't arrested, despite the spectacle he made of the whole thing.

And the four fish were thereafter lauded as heroes, and of course they lived happily ever after, but they became ever wary of fast-food restaurants at night.

Random tangent: Didn't my last dream have something to do with tartar sauce? What a coincidence that is.

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01 December 2006

December Downpour

Couldn't let this one go. Leaving calculus to head back to the dorm it was literally pouring. See the radar image from about when I was walking? Not fun. Especially with sustained winds of 15 mph, gusting at 30 mph. Of course, from the west-southwest, which was the direction I started out walking.

Then, when I turned to the north to go up the hill, one of those gusts. There was about a centimeter of water rushing down the hill at my feet, rather quickly. I'd estimate it at about 2.0 m/s, based on estimating the time it took a leaf to travel down the length of one sidewalk slab. And for that much water rushing down, 2.0 m/s is pretty fast.

Not to mention water continued to pour down from above this whole time. I mean, there was a Severe Thunderstorm Warning. Of course it was going to pour.

When I got back to the dorm, literally every article of clothing I was wearing was soaked, except perhaps my belt. So I changed literally everything, except the belt (yes, I'm even wearing those new shoes mom's been bugging me about). At least the bad part of the storm has pretty much passed as I start my afternoon. And then it'll probably snow tonight! That's so exciting!

Random tangent: After refilling my prescription at the pharmacy yesterday, I realized that 30 days from today is New Years' Eve, two days before I come back here. So I wouldn't be able to refill my prescription until I came back. But if history is any guide, I'm pretty sure I'll forget to take my medicine at least three times before I run out... and then it's all good!

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