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26 June 2006


Okay. First almost full day on campus as a student. Eek! So anyways, greetings from the Litchfield Towers at Pitt.

So, I started the day off by getting my student ID or "Panther Card." Sure, they cut off my picture at the neck, but it expires in 2011, so I only have to deal with it until then. I'm just a little mad I specifically wore a nice shirt (long sleeves on a muggy day, too) just so that little bit around my shoulders would look nice with the blue and gold color scheme. If you look at the picture they took, you can tell I was wearing a dark shirt, but you have no idea what color. Oh, well.

Then I went to audition for the marching band, and after my parents talked to the director for quite some time about nostaglic stuff, I played a little bit of stuff for him, and got in. Yay! While I was in the office, one of the junior trumpeters called the director about something, and he asked if he wanted to speak to one of the new freshman trumpets (i.e., me). So, I chatted with the guy for a few minutes, he congratulated me, and I'll see him in August. That was about it.

So then we had quite a bit of actual programming for students after that. I met my advisor, and I have a 20-minute appointment at which we have to hammer out a schedule. It'll be rough, but fun. Then it's music placement tests in the afternoon so I can get a head start on a music minor.

That's about all the news from Pitt right now. We'll see what happens later.


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20 June 2006

Salutatory Address

Salutatory Address
to the Girard High School Class of 2006
8 June 2006

Good evening, Mr. McClelland, Dr. Tracy, members of the school board, administrators, faculty, teachers, distinguished guests, family, and friends.

It is truly an honor to be standing here tonight, presenting to you the results of one last writing assignment, after everyone else has finished with their schoolwork.

For almost my entire life, I have dreamt of this evening. All throughout high school, June 2006 has been the endpoint of any long-term plans or goals I had had. Suddenly, the time is now and my entire world has been shaken. Many of you sitting in the audience are probably wondering where the last eighteen years have gone as you've watched your loved ones grow up. You're not alone. Even I can't help but feel as though this moment is surreal, a dream, and yet it's not. Life goes on, tomorrow will come, and as the dawn rises, the students on this stage will join me in beginning our first full day as graduates of this fine school.

We are here tonight at an event called a commencement ceremony, a celebration of sorts. Why, then, did so many people bring boxes of tissues to wipe the tears from their eyes? What makes tonight any more special than any other night? The answer lies in the meaning behind the title.

When I think back, it's likely that I first heard the word "commencement" when my parents were probably talking about my then-babysitter's graduation. I'll bet I was amazed by it. Do they even make words that long? What is a commencement, anyways? Tons of questions would soon flood my young mind. After asking, I'd find out the simple answer to what we all now know: that a commencement is a ceremony such as this that celebrates the end of studies in high school.

Of course, it's evident that a commencement is much more than that, but I was only a child, and the definition I was given satisfied my curiosity at the time. But over the course of the next few years, I heard this twelve-letter word being used in some other ways. I don't remember exactly how it was used, but it probably had something to do with the recommencement of some foreign war or the commencement of yet another season of baseball. Surely there must be another meaning to this word.

I realized that every time I heard the word "commence," it referred to some sort of significant change; after a "commencement" occurred, something was completely different. Over time, from how I had heard the word used, I eventually came to a conclusion: a commencement must be an ending! Boy was I in for a rude awakening when I finally checked Webster's! It is, in fact, quite the opposite, which struck me as interesting. Why are we here celebrating the beginning of something? Just what are we celebrating anyways?

Yes, we have finished thirteen years of schooling, but more importantly, we are embarking on the rest of our lives. Some of us will soon become the college Class of 2010, while others will jump right into the workforce. Still others will go into tech schools or business schools, or enter the military and the armed forces. We will all live our individual lives, but decades down the road, when we retire from our jobs, what will we have to show for it? What can we do to become a better generation than the ones before us? We can start by pledging to make our own individual mark on the world by always conducting ourselves with utmost integrity, striving to be honest and good in everything we do.

Let's face it, though. As an individual high school student, it is difficult to make a difference in the world around you. It is not impossible, only difficult. It makes sense, though, because we are still learning. Even while our quest for knowledge continues beyond this day, commencement marks a transition into a time when our contributions to society become more apparent. We become people with a more active voice in the world. How will we use that voice to give back to our communities? Will the contributions made by the Girard High School Class of 2006 be made in a positive way, or not? As Mrs. DeMarco, our middle school guidance counselor would say, "the choice is yours."

We must be cognizant of our faults, acknowledge them, be accountable for them, and work towards doing better the next time around. In fact, we can easily extend the values of integrity outside the classroom and the workplace, and into the realm of daily life, both now and in the future. We must remain loyal to our friends, true to our family, and respectful of others.

There are some teachers I can think of who have exemplified such good character, coming into school at 6:30 every morning to prepare the best lessons possible, and staying after school as many as four days a week to help their students. They don't have to do this, but they see it as part of their job, sacrificing their time to go above and beyond the minimum requirements for the sole benefit of people like you and like me.

Imagine that you have a broken-down car. You keep pouring money into it, fixing it up little by little, hoping to get it to be drivable. How happy would you be if the time finally came when you could drive it down the road? How disappointed would you be if it ended up never running at all? This is what teachers deal with all the time; they invest their time and energy into each one of us. Some of us live up to their expectations. Others don't. Yet, no matter what, when the next bunch of students comes, they do it all over again with the same enthusiasm, because they trust that their effort will not have been wasted. For this, they deserve our sincerest gratitude and thanks.

It makes you feel special, knowing that there are people who care so much about your future that they are willing to invest their time in you, time that they could be spending pursuing their own interests. We should all be eager to hold up our end of the bargain, living up to their expectations and ultimately making their investment worthwhile. We must, then, strive to be honest and good in everything that we do. Absolutely nothing short of this is acceptable.

And now, since I am just another obstacle standing between my classmates and their diplomas, I leave them with a challenge: as you move your tassels to the other side of your cap and take your first steps in the next stage of your life, I challenge you to always act with integrity. Make the people of Girard proud. Make the world proud. You can contribute to making the world a better place by doing great things in an admirable and respectable way.

Thank you.

©2006, Timothy J. Parenti. All rights reserved.


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14 June 2006


Okay. So now that you know how much fun baccalaureate was, it's time for me to talk about graduation.

My last day of school was certainly fun. I started, once again, in my first period independent study, only this time I was blogging, which I finished during second period. My Calculus teacher actually approached me during this time regarding putting my name on a plaque for the American Mathematics Contest... six times. Yes, that's right. Once for each of the two years I had the high score on the tenth-grade version, one for each of the two years I had the high score on the twelfth-grade version, and once for each of the all-time school records I hold on both.

Fourth period was uneventful. My AP Government teacher, who actually teaches seventh-grade World Cultures, didn't even come over from the middle school, so I just found another class and watched a movie with them. That was cool. Then came third period, band and choir, with lunch in between. That was wonderful; not much to do but sit and enjoy it. I just had a couple of last-minute errands to run around the building, and that was that. Oh, and I started chewing a piece of gum toward the end of class.

School let out at 12:35, two hours early, but I had to stick around. I had talked to the senior English teacher about practicing my speech in the auditorium to get accustomed to the acoustics. So after running into the principal, who informed me that he had been waiting eight years for me to be out of his hair and that I should leave already, I found her at the faculty barbecue that was being held after all the students had left.

We went into the empty auditorium, closed the doors behind us, and after taking the gum out of my mouth and setting it aside, I gave my speech. Somewhere around the middle, I saw my father, who had come to the school to see the band director, peeking in the auditorium door. He claims he was just wondering where I was, but I really think he wanted a "sneak peek" at my speech. I don't blame him.

When I finished, the teacher simply raised her hands up in the air and clapped. Okay, I think I can do this now. I thanked her for listening, as by then, the food at the barbecue had probably been well picked over.

I then went to my locker with the piece of gum, opened it up, and stuck it in a corner. Why? Simple. Back in the eighth grade, when I was taking a math class at the high school because I had exhausted the middle school curriculum, I needed a place to put my stuff. The principal assigned me a locker there, and when I opened it I was greeted with a butterfly sticker next to a little note, scrawled in pen by a previous owner of the locker. It read, "Treat this locker good– It was good to me. Add gum before you leave it."

So naturally, after five years of not having any trouble caused by my locker whatsoever, I had to add gum. And I hardly ever chew gum. But I did anyways.

I finally got home around 13:15, which gave me more than enough time to jump in the shower and get cleaned up before my grandparents came up for the big event. We soon went to dinner at a very nice restaurant just outside of town. It was very good. A wonderful meal just before an event like that.

Then came the big moment. Graduation. Whoa.

The ceremony went well. During the ceremony I was awarded the National School Choral Award and a $500 scholarship in memory of a former math teacher who died of leukemia. Then, before I knew it, it was time to give my speech.

Another big whoa.

I was practically shaking at first, the tassel on my cap started attacking my face as I used many animated gestures during the seven-minute speech. It really didn't seem like seven minutes, though. When I got to the part about it being surreal and feeling like a dream, it was surreal, and it kind of felt like a dream. By the time I got to page two, though, I had confidence in myself, and I just let the rest of the words flow. It felt good.

Then the superintendent made some short remarks, and it was time for the diplomas already. Eek! I couldn't believe it, and I'm sure that not many other people in that room could either. By 21:41, we were presented as the Class of 2006, we moved our tassels to the other side of our caps, and many people popped party poppers and threw their caps in the air, despite the warnings on the bag saying, "do not throw this cap in the air." Ladies and gentleman, high school graduates.

After a flurry of photo ops that lasted a good forty-five minutes, and a bouquet of flowers from my girlfriend, I retreated to my house, where both sets of grandparents, my great-grandmother, and the rest of my immediate family had a little impromptu celebration, complete with sparkling white grape juice and cute pictures from my earlier years, including the one where I tried to fit six cheese curls in my mouth. Yeah, forgot about that one...

After my family left, my mother took my to my girlfriend's aunt's house for a little bonfire she was having. That was fun. I spent a couple of hours with her and some of her friends, then I had to head home.

The only problem was, it was 01:15. My mother wasn't about to stay up that late just to drive me home. So I had to walk. I heard a train go by. Luckily, it wasn't going by on the tracks I had to cross, because that would be a pain, waiting for a train while traveling on foot in the middle of the night (as if it's not a pain to begin with).

Walking down the almost deserted street, I felt like a drunk (not that I know what that feels like). But seriously, I was a bit disoriented from the events of the evening. I mean, I graduated. That's not something that happens every day. Add that to how tired I was, and I was stumbling about a little bit. But it was okay. I got home and slept in my bed, ready to start a new day...


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08 June 2006


So, yesterday was baccalaureate, my last full day as a high school student. It's amazing how reflective I've gotten over the last week or so. No, not shiny reflective, pensive reflective. Anyways, I decided that since I have about two and a half hours left in school, I'd better do my best to chronicle what little I have remaining.

I'll pick it up about mid-morning yesterday, because my first period independent study (which is completely done) consisted of me just sitting at a computer, like I am right now. Not overly exciting.

Second period was AP Calculus, a class that consisted of entirely seniors except for one junior, so naturally, I was the only one there. Because I actually care about attendance, even on the boring last days of school. Anyways, I found myself wandering around the room, so I decided to wander across the hall to the Spanish teacher, who also didn't have anybody to watch. I had a nice, long discussion with her. It was very sentimental.

She's always been friendly to me, even though I took three years of French. Last year, about this time, I helped her take posters down from her wall that she couldn't reach for the same reason, I was bored because I was the only one in Calculus. She thanked me by giving me her copy of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, which she said she got at a yard sale for a quarter or something. Besides, she was done with it, so I could take it.

Right now, I'm kicking myself for having not read it last summer, because the movie seems really cool. But I will read it this summer, because you have to read the book before you see the movie, right? I mean, that's what I did with Pride and Prejudice. Ugh; don't remind me.

Anyways, somehow this year's talk got onto the topic of my graduation speech, and then it drifted to how what teachers do is often greatly misunderstood by students. It's not that they are intentionally hard on students or that they want to see them fail. Rather, it is exactly the opposite. They don't want to see students fail in the future, so they prepare them for all that lies ahead. She talked about a student who had received straight A's throughout elementary and middle school, then got a C in her class freshman year. She got a call from the kid's parents, and she basically told them that this is high school. It's where you're supposed to find out what you're really good at and what you're just okay at.

Having wanted to be a teacher for a few years, and still wanting to be a professor eventually, it was touching to get this "inside look" at what it's like to be a teacher. She said she was sorry that she wouldn't be at graduation because she'll be flying over the ocean with her husband for a "third honeymoon" in Germany and Northern Italy. None of that touristy stuff, just taking it easy. She said she will probably be over the ocean at the very moment I'll be speaking, and that she'll be thinking of us. So that's kind of cool.

After that, with a few tears in my eyes, I moved on to third period, which was graduation practice. It went very smoothly, except they still ran things the hard way. After the group picture was taken with everyone in their caps and gowns (or as our advisor would say, "cap-n-gowns"), they decided to do the individual pictures for those who wanted them before the actual practice. So the rest of us had to sit and wait.

At the end of practice, which went well, they decided to have us recess from the stage, then come back into the auditorium to claim our tickets for the event. Many people complained because we were already sitting on the stage in something very close to alphabetical order, which was how the tickets were to be handed out. It would have been easier that way, but I didn't care.

I was also handed a Mathematics and Science Award from the Air Force Recruiting Service. Great; more advertisements. They would have given it to me at graduation if they didn't have about twenty others to give out to anybody else they really, really wanted in the Air Force. That would take too long.

They handed out the tickets, and my family got front-row seats, partly because I'm salutatorian, partly because my father is president of the Music Boosters and he has a scholarship award to present... one that I applied for. Wouldn't that be funny if I won it?

Graduation practice ran long, for the reasons mentioned above, so I completely missed my own lunch period. So I went to choir and asked our director if it was okay if I left when the bell rang to begin third lunch. She responded, "Oh, you don't have to ask me that anymore. You're a senior. As far as the school is concerned, you're not even here today." And then she used one of those weird clichés, saying, "The world is your oyster. Enjoy it."

Oyster? What is that supposed to mean? I can understand "you are an oyster and the world is your ocean," but the world being my oyster? That doesn't even make any sense! But I found this site today, which enlightened me, although I still think it's weird.

After school, my piano lesson was probably the most productive one I ever had. Not. But it's okay. When you go to the same house every week for nearly twelve years of your life, you develop a special bond. So we basically just talked about life, and got reflective again. She told her wonderful stories about her past, and I related some of my own anecdotes. I think in that hour, my brother and I played a grand total of three songs. And she's still getting paid for it, but to me piano lessons have always been about more than just music. And that's just something special. It will be sad in August when I have to leave it.

Baccalaureate started at 19:30 and I can now officially spell the word correctly without trying to put an extra e after the l. That's what French class did to me; I want to make it look like l'eau, because, you know, water's good for you.

I have been to other baccalaureates in the past, for various reasons, and ours was nothing like them. And not in a good way. It was utterly pathetic in my opinion. First, let me reproduce the program for you:

Processional - GHS Bell Choir
"Heilig" - GHS Chorus
Yesterday & Today
"Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal" - GHS Chorus
Recessional - GHS Bell Choir

Hmm. I didn't know that the bell choir and the concert choir were even supposed to perform the same things they did at baccalaureate in 2005. Heck, I didn't even know they were supposed to perform at all. That was because they weren't.

My mother wondered where the band director was (he said he'd be there), but figured that he probably saw the blatant misprint (or complete oversight) in the program and was too embarrassed to stay. I wouldn't blame him. Imagine the flak he could have caught if he'd stayed.

So without the music, everything else took a grand total of 21 minutes. That's right, we were out of there at 19:51. This was due, in part, to the brevity of three of the four students' speeches, and the rapidity with which all of them spoke.

Some of it was funny. Our class advisor made a point of telling everyone he was lowering the microphone twice for two of our shorter speakers. One kid stumbled on the word "Israelites" and said "is-realities." Another completely lost her last note card among the rest of them, and we had to wait a few seconds for her speech's grand finale.

But other than the invocation, the benediction, and one of the speeches, it was not very religious at all. I guess times have changed. I just really wish it would have been like the Class of 2005's baccalaureate.

Then we went to my grandmother's house and ate pie. And I didn't realize it had peanut butter in it until I was halfway through it. Oh, well. It wasn't half bad anyway.

So that was yesterday. Today school lets out at 12:35. Right after that, I'm going to go into the auditorium, close the doors behind me, and practice my speech with the podium and the microphone. Yay. Then it's getting cleaned up for dinner at 17:00 with my family, both sets of grandparents, and my great-grandmother, who apparently didn't even know she was invited, because there wasn't a ticket in the graduation announcement we mailed her. She didn't understand we hadn't gotten them yet. The ceremony starts at 20:00, and in about twelve hours' time, I'll be a graduate. Wow. It's all gone so fast.

Congratulations to my friends and acquaintances at Bethel Park High School for completing another year. Wish me luck on my speech tonight.


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06 June 2006

The Day of the Devil?

Today is 06 June 2006, or "06/06/06." The apocalypse? I doubt it. Probably because in some parts of the world, it's already 07 June. Or could it be that this same thing happened 100 years ago and the world didn't end then. Nevertheless, I'm glad I live in such a time when dates do weird things like this, because numbers interest me like that.

Despite the fact that I like how numbers are logical and stuff, they especially interest me when they randomly do something cool, as on "04/05/06," when I noted that I turned 6666 days old. Which reminds me, that wasn't the only senior skip day that our class tried to get away with. Dozens of seniors skipped on 25 May to go to Cedar Point in protest. To protest what, you might ask? Allow me to explain; this goes way back.

Every eighth grade class before us went to Cedar Point. The Class of 2005 messed up on their eighth-grade trip somehow and made the administration really mad, so we were not so lucky. Instead, they slapped together something at the last minute: a day trip to a local athletic club. Pathetic.

Well, the senior class also used to go to Cedar Point, but mostly due to shifts in administration (i.e., the middle school principal then is the high school principal now), this wasn't going to happen anymore. I'm sure that's not the only reason, but that has to be a factor. Needless to say, many seniors took matters into their own hands and skipped to go to their favorite amusement park.

I did not. Honestly, I don't really care for Cedar Point. But then again, I'm not much of a roller coaster guy, or even a ride guy. I prefer to keep both feet planted firmly on the ground, thank you very much. Sure, people tell me I need to "live a little more," but I'm just fine, thank you.

Anyways, those who got caught going to Cedar Point got caught up in this whole fiasco dealing with In-School Suspensions (ISS). Since there weren't many days left, and since finals were these last few days, they split the suspensions into parts: some people were suspended for one class period each day for four days rather than one whole day. But one thing was the same for all of them. They all had to serve a full day today, 06 June, the day of the senior class trip.

I don't blame them for protesting really. I mean, we actually took a vote on a class trip. We voted to go to Pittsburgh on 15 May to go on the Gateway Clipper and then see a Pirates' game. The only problem was that the Pirates weren't in town that day. So why not do the intelligent thing and reschedule the trip? Beats me.

On 03 May, a class meeting was called. I was in the middle of the AP Calculus BC exam, but I heard afterwards that it was basically held to say, "Sorry, we're not having a class trip." There was uproar, I'm sure. So they decided to take the money and buy us all tickets on a one-and-a-half hour cruise luncheon on the Victorian Princess in Presque Isle Bay. The food wasn't that bad, but only half a day? The whole trip was a little disappointing, but it was better than nothing, I guess.

Meanwhile, the skippers were in ISS wearing T-shirts they had made up especially for today. On the front, they said "Senior Class Trip 2006," and on the back, they read:

Tickets to Cedar Point: $27.50
Gas to go: $30.00
Bail and car impoundment: $8,400.00

Sitting in ISS with all your friends: Priceless
Yeah, some people had a little too much fun and couldn't leave the state of Ohio for a while. And I know there was one other item, I just can't remember what it was right now. Anyways, they didn't even really sit in ISS all day from what I hear. They just couldn't go on the officially sanctioned trip. Oh, well. I got free food and they had to pay for their trip, plus I got 7 extra credit points in AP Government the day they weren't there. That sure helped me hang onto my A. It pays to be in school.

Which brings me to my grades. Straight A's again for the third quarter in a row. It would have been four, save for the 92% I got in AP English Literature first quarter. Meh. One lousy percent away from a nice little asterisk next to my name in the honors banquet program. Oh, yeah, and a small trophy, too.

Only two days left until I give my salutatory address, which still is not finished. Oh, well. It will all work out fine. It will be lovely.

And on one last totally unrelated side note, this is post number 67 on this blog. Thankfully, it's not number 66; today has had enough sixes as it is.

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05 June 2006

Fed Up Addendum

Addendum to "Fed Up," 03 June 2006:

Well, there is good news. Here's an excerpt from an email I got from the Pitt School of Engineering earlier today:

Dear Class of 2010,

As many of you found out the hard way this weekend, our server was down the entire weekend. I apologize for the inconvenience and frustration which I know that this caused for many of you.

Two pieces of good news: 1) the system is up and running again; 2) we have also extended the deadline for testing to next Monday, June 12.
So I don't have to worry about finishing all the tests by Wednesday anymore. I can focus instead on finishing my graduation speech for Thursday night, or as I prefer to call it, my "salutatory address." It makes me feel special.


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03 June 2006

Fed Up


That's something I've been saying a lot lately. And it's not because of anyone in particular, it's because of technology.

Yesterday, I had to present my lovely PowerPoint presentation for Physics II, which as you might recall, I took as an independent study. So I saved my file in the school library downstairs right before the actual class met because, like any other student, I waited until the last minute to do it. I also emailed it to myself as a backup.

So I go upstairs to the physics room and I see all the physics students whose company I missed all semester (at least for some of them). But since I actually have my own class going on at the same time, I'm anxious to get out of there. So imagine my surprise when I walk into the room, lo and behold, someone else is already firing up their presentation, even after I asked the teacher if I could go first so that I wouldn't have to wait around.

No big deal. They started following some order they had set up, and they squeezed me in at fourth. So I logged on to the teacher's computer as me to access my files. Click "My Documents," and nothing shows up. Great. This is one of those weird computers that doesn't look on the server for people's files. No problem; I emailed it to myself, right?

Wrong. The download of my 600 kB file (not very big for PowerPoint) took three minutes, even on the school's super-fast connection, and the entire class watched the progress meter on the projector screen, counting down the 3.5 kB/s download, which last I checked was slower than I usually get on dial-up.

And then when the file was supposed to open at the end of the download, it didn't. The computer just sat there, doing nothing. Wonderful. So I told someone else to go, while I went to another computer to try and save my presentation on my jump drive. Fine. Except when I got back, every single other person went, and the last person before me was still talking when the bell rang. I sat through an entire 80-minute class for nothing.

I just got up and left for their lunch period, which isn't usually my own. So I found someone who would listen to me as I ate my pizza, and that was that. The teacher told me to come up later in the day during his plan period. So I did, and although my jump drive didn't work on his laptop (for whatever reason), I could download the file I emailed to myself at 85 kB/s this time. Weird. And aside from that, I saved it to the Desktop and it actually opened. It's just a shame that none of the students got to see my presentation, but honestly, would they really have cared?

So now I'm trying to do my online placement testing for the University of Pittsburgh School of Engineering. Except their server is down, and I have to finish this by 07 June. Of course. So I'm doing this instead. Oh, well.



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