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14 October 2006

Stressed, but Happy Panther

It was on this day in 1911 that the Pitt band first formed. So I guess that makes it Pitt Band's 95th birthday, huh? That's pretty cool. Anywho, today was an interesting day, and interestingly enough, I spent a good portion of it with the band!

We performed for the Fort Ligonier Days Parade, which, if you didn't know already, is a pretty big deal down near Ligonier. The only downside was that we were to step off dead last, and no one told us this ahead of time.

So we warmed up at 10:50 for an 11:00 stepoff, thinking we might be stepping off shortly thereafter. Wrong. We waited and talked, talked and waited. After a while, I started playing random Christmas carols on the trumpet. But we stepped off at 12:25. Yeah. It was a long parade, not in terms of how far it went, but in terms of how many people were in it.

After we were done, we played a mini-concert in the street. We each picked up a boxed lunch (although they were in plastic bags, not boxes; wouldn't they be "bagged lunches"?). Then we boarded the buses and went back to Oakland.

Earlier, we had been assured that we would be back in Oakland by 15:00, most likely sooner. This was good, because I had to leave Oakland at 15:30 for a Heinz Chapel Choir concert in Uniontown. Except at 15:00, we were still miles away from Oakland. Looking at the map, it would have made much more sense for me to find some way to get from Ligionier (A) to Uniontown (C) directly, without the stopover in Oakland (B).

Finally, at 15:45, we arrive, and I'm panicking. I misplaced the choir's phone contact sheet, so I had no way of contacting anyone in the van that was supposed to take me to Uniontown... until I had a "Eureka moment" and became resourceful. I opened the email that had the van lists, and then logged on to Facebook and quickly scanned each person's profile for a cell phone number. Finally, I found one.

Ring, ring. Hello? Yeah, I'm supposed to be in your van; have you left yet?

"Um, yeah. We heard you had another way of getting there, so we didn't bother waiting for you."

Nice. I was so lucky that one of my fellow trumpeters had overheard my lamentations on the bus back to Oakland. He was getting a ride from his parents to his home, which was in that direction. I was fortunate that they were so willing to let me hitch a ride. Sure they had no clue exactly where in Uniontown we were going, but that's why I took the time to print out directions from Google Maps.

So I finally got to the church where we were going to be singing at 18:15, the concert being at 19:30. Granted, I'd completely missed the "logistical rehearsal" where they figured out who was going to stand where and all that, but I just told the people on either side of me to nudge me frequently in the proper direction. And it all worked out.

But I was wondering how my high school band was doing in competition on my college band's birthday. When I finally got back home, I was pleased to be greeted with two messages on the answering machine, both with loud cheering in the background. The first was from my girlfriend:

"... I advise you to call me ASAP if you want to hear how we did. Oh, my God. ..."

The second was from my father, two minutes later:

"Hi, ... it's Dad. Just wanted to let you know Girar..."

I was disappointed that this second message got cut off, because obviously, I wanted to know. But I called my girlfriend and she told me that they swept in every category. I was happy; that hasn't happened for Girard in a while.

So I am now a stressed, but happy Panther. And very tired. Hence the substandard writing style. Oh, well. I'm also an apathetic Panther right now.


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12 October 2006

Observations 1-50

It's hard to believe it's been almost two months since I left for Pitt. Obviously, college life is very different from high school life. But there are some things that even I wasn't expecting. I think it shows that even in these seven weeks I've learned a lot. In fact, 50 things come to mind right now (although, actually this list was compiled over several sessions).

So with this post I'm starting yet another series, although this one will hopefully be the most prevalent over the next four years, as I've been getting new material for it almost daily. And no, I'm not stealing an idea from a friend, although he hasn't blogged much lately. This is a series based solely on my observations, both of myself and of others. And what would such a series be without humor?

I'm expecting some comments on this one. But please, reference the item number(s) in your comments so that I know what you're talking about. So, in no particular order, here's a semi-random synopsis of things I've learned at Pitt so far:

1. Don't even think about wearing new shoes to band practice, no matter how much you want to break them in. This is especially important on days you practice the pregame show (highstepping in heavy shoes, ugh!).

2. If a loud, annoying security alarm is going to go off in a computer lab, it will happen when you're trying to concentrate on writing the most difficult paragraph of the assignment, and it takes the lab technician five minutes to contact someone who knows how to disarm the alarm.

3. When the alarm pauses for two seconds, everyone in the vicinity smiles and breathes a sigh of relief, then they grumble (and some mutter obscenities) when it turns back on again.

4. It then takes the lab technician another five minutes to actually disarm it, after which the entire population of the computer lab applauds him, though he probably should have been able to deal with the situation quicker.

5. Sometimes elevators go mute. Not intentionally; they just forget how to go "ding" on every floor.

6. Some people enjoy writing Greek letters (such as ΣΑΕ) in sidewalk chalk all over campus, along with catchy slogans meant to encourage people to join them.

7. Other people like crossing out such Greek letters, replacing them with new ones (such as ΣΧ), modifying the slogans into more offensive sayings in order to dissuade people from joining the original group of chalkers.

8. Still others like randomly walking up to such modified letters, adding Roman letters (such as S) in front of them to make them look like English words.

9. Completely ignoring the chalk wars, other letter combinations (such as ΠΛΦ and ΔΤΔ) are taken to the next level, being written on buildings all around campus, including the Petersen Events Center, the Litchfield Towers, the Book Center, and PNC Bank. This from the Pitt Police Blotter:

Tuesday, September 5
12:13 a.m. - Individuals marking the walkway and buildings with chalk near the Petersen Events Center were given a warning. The incident was cleared.
So, it's very important to be mindful of where you're chalking.

10. The University will pay someone to scrub such chalk letters (and their respective slogans and web URLs) off of such buildings. Because apparently that's vandalism. And apparently, vandalism is generally frowned upon.

11. Sometimes, professors will leave the room saying "1, -1, 1, -1, 1, -1, ..." to demonstrate an infinite series as they go out into the hall. Then, when they return, they'll complain about how exhausted they are. Well, wouldn't you be if you'd just gone to infinity and back?

12. If someone is wearing a shirt that says "ΚΚ," and something they're carrying in their left arm is blocking the third Greek letter, don't assume it's someone in the band (which would be ΚΚΨ). Chances are, they're from ΚΚΓ.

13. Likewise, if someone is wearing a shirt that says "ΚΨ," but something is blocking anything before that, don't assume they're in the band either, because there is an ΑΚΨ.

14. As an excuse to promote dorm unity, Residence Life will give away free food in the lobby in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

15. Such free food will be distributed on 13 September, even though the month isn't observed until 15 September.

16. Some "heritage months" (see above) start and end in the middle of the calendar months. Why? To be different. We're promoting diversity here!

17. You can make all the resolutions you want about eating healthy today, but if the salad bar closes at 20:00, you may still have to settle for a burger and fries. Besides, salads don't typically make the best dinner entrées. Just eat one for lunch tomorrow and you're even.

18. If you're running toward a shuttle bus stop, about 50 yards away, and the bus pulls out as you're running, it probably left early. This automatically means that the next one will be late.

19. There is a difference between Milano's Pizza (3606 Fifth Avenue) and Pizza Milano (1302 Fifth Avenue). I'd elaborate on all the subtle differences except I don't know them, seeing how the latter isn't in Oakland. Regardless, I'd still like to try it out someday, and see how it compares. I wonder if their cheese falls right off the slice...

20. Don't skip lunch on a Monday. Because that just screws up your meal plan for the whole week.

21. If you're on the first floor, no matter how many times you press the "1" button in an elevator, it won't go anywhere. The same goes for the floor you live on. And yes, since those are just about the only two buttons you ever press, it's easy to do... repeatedly!

22. Everyone whose birthday falls in August or September automatically gets it shoved to 17 September, just because it's easier to celebrate the whole dorm's birthdays a couple months at a time.

23. Contrary to popular belief (or at least Mrs. Dilworth's), it is possible to walk the streets of Oakland for an entire day without running into a parking meter or a light post. In fact, thousands of people have repeated this stunt day after day for months and even years at a time. It's truly amazing. Someone should write a book about it.

24. The gas coming out from the manhole covers isn't poisonous. If it were, we'd all be dead by now. Come on, this is college, not 24; it's probably just steam!

25. Actually, that was #24.

26. Some choir songs don't make sense without the solos. For example, here are the first 68 "words" to my "background" part for Lennon and McCartney's Yesterday:

Doo, doo, doo, doo doo, nm (×32), noo noo, nm nm nm noo, noo noo, noo na na na, ah, na na na na na ah, na na na na na na hanging over me, yesterday, doo doo.
You get the point.

27. The soloists are extremely glad they don't have to sing all this nonsense.

28. It is totally worth walking all the way down to the Litchfield Towers Lobby to put Panther Funds on your card so that you can save the 25¢ a load on laundry. Besides, who wants to carry quarters around?

29. The elevators in Benedum are evil. Enough said. But I'll elaborate. The doors try to close several times, but when the buzzer goes off and the little number above the door starts blinking, get in or get out, and fast! The doors are closing no matter what. You wouldn't want to be sliced in half now, would you?

30. Murphy's Law has a corollary that applies to salads. It is easy to make a heavy salad (e.g., 10 ounces) at the salad-by-the-ounce bar, costing you more than you were expecting. But the next time, your salad is so light (e.g., 7 ounces) that you have to buy a snack item on the side just to get the full value of the meal block. The lesson: you will never have a perfect salad; deal with it.

31. They'll overcharge you for anything here when they can: ordinary first-class postage costs 49¢ in the Towers Mailroom, instead of 39¢ anywhere else.

32. Expect the unexpected, but don't count on it.

33. It's interesting to note security guards' reactions when greeting them with "Good morning," at 00:30. Some just shrug you off as a geeky nut. Others quietly acknowledge that you are, in fact, correct. Still others think it's the most amusing thing they've heard all night morning, and will be laughing hysterically for the next five minutes.

34. Some days you just have to eat a super-fatty personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut; nothing else will satisfy the craving. Fortunately, these days are few and far between.

35. No matter how far behind schedule you are, if your professor is in the same elevator as you, you haven't missed any material. Plus, it's a good opportunity to carry a conversation with him. After all, you've got 10 floors, and the elevator is so crammed that it's going to stop on every floor between 4 and 9 on the way (and even 12 after you get off).

36. If you can get the whole way down the same elevator after class without having to stop for other people on their way down, you have been generously blessed by the amazing grace of God.

37. It's quite difficult to walk down the street and eat at the same time, especially if you've got a drink in one hand and are trying to pay attention to traffic and objects around you (see #23).

38. It is always 4:33, at least according to the clock above the picture of George Hubbard Clapp's head in Clapp hall. And you know he's right, because he looks important.

39. Never pass up free food, even if you have way too many meal blocks to use.

40. Thirteen meal blocks per week is way too many for any sane person. Some would even argue that 11 or 8 are too many. But that's just them. As for me, we'll see how things go in future terms.

41. Occasionally, a pigeon will thrust itself toward your face. Not intentionally. It's just that someone else scared it away from them, which just happened to be toward you.

42. When referees reviewing a play at a football game are arranged in such away that the letters on the back of their uniforms spell "FUB," it is perfectly appropriate to scream the fictitious word repeatedly at them. In fact, it's expected.

43. Simply laying a receipt in the path of the elevator doors, rather than throwing it away, is one of the most inconsiderate things you could do, especially if you just walk away. Because the elevator senses the receipt in the doors' path, it refuses to close them. After a while, it starts making an annoying buzzing sound (à la #29), but it still doesn't close. And the whole time it's stuck on the same floor, reducing elevator availability and increasing elevator queues for the whole wing.

44. Some security guards know you by name, and even though they see your smiling face and carry a friendly conversation with you every morning, they still swipe your ID card every time you go through the door.

45. Other guards have never even touched your card, waving you through while saying, "G'head, man," simply because you look familiar to them and you pass through the doors frequently enough (although for all they know, you could just be a frequent visitor, with good or bad intentions). And that's all they ever say to you. Ever.

46. Suddenly for one day only, the aforementioned guard does start swiping cards, and then he's never seen again. Spooky...

47. It is difficult to get in on the required departmental research experiments for Intro to Psych because apparently they're posted late in the day, so people who don't have marching band who are constantly checking the site snatch up the good appointment times on the good experiments. I guess I'll have to become more like them.

48. If an online homework assignment is due at 21:00 on Sunday, there will be plenty of posts on the discussion board... after 17:00 on Sunday. Sorry, fellows. I'd have loved to have helped, but you just procrastinated too much!

49. Take a spare French fry and put it on an escalator heading down. It's fun watching the spud try to escape. Trust me.

50. When you're done watching the spud, pick it up and throw it out. Because a fried potato wedge caught in an infinite loop of the dirt from people's shoes gets pretty gross after three days.

Comments are encouraged, but please, reference the item number(s).


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09 October 2006

A Stunning Turn of Events

So, I was sitting in Physics (PHYS 0174) today at 15:00, waiting for the exams to be handed out. Both TAs were there, and all the students were ready to take the test.

Except our professor is in Japan this week.

And his replacement never showed up.

The TAs made a few phone calls, although I could safely assume that they didn't call our professor directly because (1) he was in Japan, (2) he probably didn't sign up for the super-ultra-international plan on his cell phone, and (3) it was 04:00 Tuesday morning in Japan.

About ten minutes in, a student asked one TA what was going on and if we were taking our test or not. The room suddenly became hushed for her response, "I don't know." There were cheers for the brevity and yet accuracy of this statement.

A few minutes later, the other TA came in and said we'd wait five or ten more minutes just in case someone decided to show up. Some students raised concerns because they had a calculus exam at 16:00. They were told not to worry about it. How reassuring.

By 15:20, he came back in and said, "Obviously, there is no exam here." No one knows when we'll be taking it, and one can only hope that the substitute professors that were lined up for Wednesday and Friday actually show up, so we don't just sit idly for twenty minutes, only to leave.

Well, that's enough of a rant. But wasn't that a stunning turn of events?


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