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21 January 2007

Life in the City

Well, the last couple days have been interesting. Allow me to elaborate.

I was doing errands on Friday, and having checks to deposit from my birthday and Christmas, I went to the bank, because it's the logical place to go. Well, I'm standing there in line, standing, standing, and this guy comes up behind me. A normal occurrence.

Then he starts talking.

I initially write him off as another annoying person yapping on a cell phone at any and all times, but then I realize that nothing he's saying is making any sense. Well over 90% of the words he was saying were completely unintelligible. I had heard about these people in Psychology last term, and I knew there were some in Oakland.

It seemed as though he was telling the same story over and over again, which must be a horrible way to go through life. But it was "mumble, mumble, mumble," for several minutes as I was able to creep up to the front of the line. The person in front of me was visibly uneasy, and she wasn't even standing next to the guy!

As time progressed, I was able to understand a few more words here and there, but not enough for me to have any clue what he was rambling on about. The most coherent collection of consecutive words I heard that could possibly be treated as a complete sentence were, (and I'm not making this up), "they got burnt by a prostitute n****r."

Ah! Life in the city! It just doesn't get any better than this...

And I really am not making that up. That wasn't just a Dave Barry reference.

So, like any other Friday, I finish at 11:50, and I have lunch: pasta. I mean, that place is good... Then I went to my Heinz Chapel Choir solo audition.

Now there's this beautiful Russian song that we'll be singing with an amazing baritone solo. Only problem: I'm a first tenor. I'd love to send even a MIDI of it to you all. Really. The text is from a poem by Alexander Pushkin:

Зорю бют...They’re sounding reveille...
из рук моих ветхий Данте выпадает,From my hands the ancient Dante falls,
на устах начатый стих недочитанный затих — On my lips a verse, half-read, falls silent,
дух далёко улетает.The spirit soars into the distance.
Звук привычный, звук живой,Ah, familiar sound, lively sound!
как ты часто раздавался там,How often you sounded there,
где тихо развивался я давнишнею порой.Where I quietly grew up in days long past.
Зорю бют...They’re sounding reveille...

But, alas, as I said, the solo was too low for me, and I was told that. And I knew that going in. My director said it showed a lot about me, though, still trying out. I'm hoping that's a good thing. And I hope whoever does get the solo does a beautiful job.

At 13:30, my service learning group had what was hopefully the last of our boring Friday meetings before we move on to actually collecting the data we've been "hired" to collect rather than sitting around a table talking about it because we don't have the instruments yet, and can't get them until Tuesday at the earliest. I'll definitely be posting some stuff about that here as things move along. Just not now. Oh my gosh, not now. We're currently making progress at a slow trickle and that doesn't make for particularly good reading.

I called my brother in the afternoon to wish him a happy 15th birthday, because I'm a nice brother like that, and I generally remember people's birthdays. It was a short call, because he had told me in an email that he was planning to make biscuits with one of his friends that day. Why biscuits? Beats me. My parents hadn't yet gotten home, though, so I haven't heard how the biscuit-making went, because it hadn't been allowed to start by that point. But I'm sure he had fun.

Which reminds me, yes, I set up David with an email address back on New Year's Eve. I'm sure he'd love to hear some belated birthday wishes from relatives, so if you're related to us, ask me, and I'll give it to you.

In that same email, David said, "It's okay; I forgot your birthday, too," in reference to what I had said earlier about the next event on Friday evening: the bandie dance! Or more technically, the Third Annual Pitt Band Senior Recognition Ball. Which is only third annual because they changed the name to "Recognition Ball" back in 2005. David was mad that such an event would be held on, of all days, his birthday, and I had to remind him that (a) hardly anyone here knows him or his birthday, and (b) for about 364/365 of the population, 19 January is just a normal day.

After the senior speeches, the awards ceremony, and the commemorative video and slideshow, there was about an hour left for dancing. And not many people stayed. But I stayed just to hang out with my friends, because everyone knows I don't dance. And yes, that was a link to my fourth blog post ever.

After the ball, some of my friends went to the ΙΒΚ party, and I did not, in favor of tidying up my dorm room (which in the last few days has become a mess) and sleep. Now, for those of you who don't know, ΙΒΚ is the social fraternity of the band, so... well, this will explain it...

I awoke at 02:22 Saturday morning to the buzzing sound of my cell phone going off. And quite literally, the three letters going through my head were "WTF?" But then it hit me. I knew who was calling. It was my North Carolinian friend from the band, Emily. Later, she gave me permission to post, word for word, the content of the voicemail she left me in the middle of the night:
Hey, there, I'm... really drunk, and you know this 'cause my accent has come back. So when you..., so when you get this tomorrow, you're gonna laugh because it's kinda funny... And, I just fell over and tripped over the fuckin' ledge, and fell over and scraped my knee, and scraped my hand, but I didn't fall over the house, so you can be grateful for that. But I did fall over and scrape my knee and scr... Oh my god! I'm about to fall again! But, you can be grateful for that. But I'll talk to you later, and you'll make fun of me for this 'cause I know you will. Alright, bye!
So, ha ha! Emily got drunk and hurt herself, and I didn't! Ha! Nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh-nyeh!!!

And that's enough making fun of Emily.

Also at the bandie dance, I saw some of the other freshman trumpeters that I hadn't seen in a while and decided I needed to keep in touch with them more, have lunch or something. So I added them to my ongoing Facebook poke war, which will at least remind me periodically to keep in touch with them. If you don't have a Facebook account and thus don't know what a "poke war" is, there's really no point to explaining it. It's silly, and that's all that matters.

So on to Saturday, which consisted of returning my marching band uniform (sob!) and receiving CDs of the pregame concerts for the year. Which will be fun to listen to because I actually have something that can play CDs down here now: my computer.

Then I went to the women's basketball game, where the Panthers held South Florida to 14 points in the first half, ultimately winning 73-48. That brings them to a 15-3 record (3-2 in the Big East), putting them 7th in the conference. Sunday's men's game pitting (6) Pittsburgh against (24) Marquette is conveniently opposite the Saints-Bears NFC Championship game. But they'll show scores on PantherVision during timeouts and such. They always do.

It was also the first basketball game in over a month to which I had worn my own pants. Over winter break, my mother had offered to do my laundry, but she neglected to make sure my khaki pants were in the pile to be sent back down to Pittsburgh. And when do I realize this? Half an hour before I'm to be at the first game after break. So after literally borrowing khaki pants from the band (the ones kept in the closet) for five straight games, I was elated when a package arrived in the mail for me containing my very own khaki pants. All in all, it just amounts to a $4.20 oversight: the cost of shipping.

Saturday evening was uneventful. Homework, nap, homework, Internet, homework. And a dinner in there somewhere. It doesn't really matter where. And now I'm blogging (early Sunday morning). Andrea sent me an instant message to be conversational shortly after midnight, but the conversation really didn't go anywhere. It's pretty evident from the transcript below that we realized this at pretty much the exact same time:

[00:19:44] Andrea: so
[00:19:45] Tim: ...
[00:19:47] Tim: lol
[00:19:48] Andrea: hahaha
[00:19:57] Andrea: talk about good timing
[00:19:57] Tim: good timing
[00:19:59] Tim: lol
[00:19:59] Andrea: hah
[00:20:01] Andrea: stop
[00:20:01] Tim: wow
[00:20:08] Tim: !!!!
[00:20:10] Andrea: haha
[00:20:13] Andrea: we're good at this

So that was fun. And mildly freaky. But whatever.

Sunday will bring double CHEM homework, because our section of the lab didn't meet last Monday while the other one did on Tuesday. Which also, to some extent means triple lab, because they did two short experiments last week. But they're being nice about it and are giving us several weeks to make those two up, because three labs in one week (let alone three lab reports) is not fair.

Facebook tells me that on Monday 22 January, four of my friends will have their birthday, which is quite a lot. Usually it's just one or two. But there will be four: one from choir, one from MATH, one from high school marching band, and one from FootSteps. I was curious and found that 22 January is tied for second to 31 May and 15 September, which each have five. One of the five on 31 May is Emily, which you may already know because I had to invent her half-birthday.

Classwise, for my relatives' sake, all is going well. I currently have 100% in CHEM and PHYS, which are the only two classes that have returned any grades yet. Exams don't start up until 07 February. Oh, and 38 days until I formally declare my major on 28 February. Eek! I go to a ChE open house on Wednesday 24 January to make sure I like it, I guess.

And with that, I'm going to have to conclude this oh so long post. Why do I do this? I don't know. But I like it. And I guess that's all that matters...

Random tangent: Can you say "snow"? Finally, oh my gosh, SNOW!!! Like, real snow. None of that little fluffy flurry stuff that these Pittsburghers call snow. Accumulation. That's where it counts. And the best part is, it doesn't stay for days on end and get all icky. It melts... just in time for new snow.


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12 January 2007

Frustrations Addendum

Addendum to "Frustrations," 10 January 2007:

I think I've figured it out.

Corey sent me a link detailing how to get Windows to stop nagging you to restart your computer every 10 minutes when new updates are ready to be installed. Despite having not received these nag messages, I tried it anyway Wednesday evening. On Wednesday night's shutdown, the little shield suddenly appears above "Turn Off" again, meaning that updates are ready to be installed. I specifically tell the computer not to install them when it turns off.

Thursday, all works well. Except when I come back from classes, my computer had hibernated, and during that hibernation it decided to install the updates anyway. So I finally got the nag that basically said, "Updates are installed; do you want to restart now or later?" And since I was working on something, I picked later, but the next time it popped up I was ready to shutdown.

Crossing my fingers a lot here.

It shut down nicely. It didn't act up or hang. Yay!

So when I started it up this afternoon, there was a Windows Media Player (WMP) icon on my desktop... one I didn't put there. And the one in my QuickLaunch bar disappeared. So I double-clicked the new icon and, voilà!, my WMP 9 had turned into WMP 11.

My hypothesis? It started downloading and trying to install this "important" update before I took the time to do the initial setup of version 9. Version 9 hadn't even been used yet, and something was trying to replace it. Well, somewhere in there I did set up WMP 9. And after a long and arduous process that resulted in many error messages over the course of this week, my computer is the same as it was before except it has WMP 11, and a little setting changed so Windows doesn't nag me as often.

And so long as it continues to work, I am content leaving things at that.

Random tangent: The other day as I was walking into the building in which I have my PS course, I saw a somewhat elderly man making his way up the stairs toward the entrance. Being a fast walker, I got to the door ahead of him and held it for him. As he got closer to the door, it was upon closer inspection that I realized this man, whom I didn't recognize from behind, was in fact my professor. Not that I wouldn't have held the door had I recognized him, but brownie points (even unintentional ones) can't hurt...


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10 January 2007


Mostly with my computer. Actually, no, not with my computer. With the stuff they make us install on our computers.

In my last post, I mentioned as an aside that the Internet in my room wasn't working. Now, the Internet's working fine, but my computer isn't. It's been this way since Sunday. Allow me to explain.

You see, in order to connect to Pitt's network, you need to install the stuff on a CD they give you: mostly antivirus, spam-killers, etc. But one nice feature is that they change the Windows Update (WU) settings. Rather than letting people (a) manually update their computer, or (b) be automatically notified of new updates but manually download and install them, PittNet sets the computer to (c) automatically download and install the updates, which literally gives the user no choice as to what to install when. Which sucks.

But what's even more frustrating is the fact that the installation of PittNet "greys out" this option so that you can't change it back after the fact. Lovely.

Anywho, mine is a new computer, which didn't come with much software, so I happened to be downloading Mozilla Firefox on Saturday, when lo and behold, WU saw that there were updates that hadn't been installed. So it downloaded them, and forced their installation on me upon the next reboot.

If you know much about computers, you know that installing too much in one reboot is bad for your computer.

So now every time I'd start my computer, I'd get an error message... the "always-on-top" kind that block your view of what you're doing unless you move them out of the way. But whether I clicked "OK" or "Cancel," the program causing the error (which is a very important program in the functionality of a Windows machine) would close. My CPU usage rate would then go up to 99%, and I could do essentially nothing. My computer was probably running Windows XP slower than an old 386 would. Which is scary, because the computer's less than a month old.

After a couple not-so-helpful calls to Pitt's Technology Help Desk, I called Corey. He came over Sunday afternoon, and noticed that as long as you kept the error messages open, everything still worked. So we moved them out of the way, and did some research. My understanding of the problem is that one of the updates is somehow a corrupt file (like it wasn't downloading completely), so we were able to fix the problem easily, mostly by just moving the corrupt file so the computer couldn't find it. So my computer worked all Sunday evening. But that didn't stop WU.

While I was doing my work Sunday evening, it noticed it didn't have the update anymore, so it downloaded it, and bang!, it quit working Monday morning.

So the issue isn't fixing the computer; we've done that once before. It's keeping the computer from re-breaking itself.

I sent another email to Corey, and he responded with something else that might work. I hope I can get a spare moment this afternoon to try it. Meanwhile, my frustrations have been calmed by the excess of birthday fudge in my room. Thanks, mom!

Random tangent 1: There can be more than one random tangent if I say so. More like if I feel like it.

Random tangent 2: Pitt men's basketball is back up to #7. And ESPN2's College GameDay program will be broadcast from the Petersen Events Center starting at 11:00 ET on Saturday 13 January. So between them filming stuff for that, a women's game, and a men's game that day, it'll be fun... but quite exhausting.

Random tangent 3: And the Lord said, "Let there be snow."


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04 January 2007

My Birthday

And now I'm 19. It says so on my Blogger profile. I've gotten a bajillion Facebook wall posts today. I hung out with friends. And the Internet in my room isn't working, so I have to blog from the Sutherland Hall computer lab... again. But this time, I really want to get this done by midnight so that the greatest day of the year can be represented.

It's no big deal, though. My friend Corey's actually working here right now. And he's cool.

And speaking of the greatest day of the year, the administrator of the Facebook group entitled what else but "January 4 is the greatest day of the year!" sent a mass message to everyone this morning. And since the group picture is a little cupcake with a candle on it, this was what I woke up to. Actually, no. My mother called me before my first class. But the cute little cupcake was the first visual representation that today would be a good day.

I don't know why I'm so tired. It must be going back to classes. And yet I have all this energy (that's probably sugar from the orange soda I had with dinner). I invited Emily and Jennifer (a.k.a. "Howdy") up to my room to give them birthday fudge and birthday Rice Krispies Treats. Then, once we started annoying my roommate enough, we moved to the other wing of the building and hung out in Howdy's room until her roommate came in with her boyfriend. Now I'm here, and on some sort of sugar high that prevented me from enjoying my birthday gâteau today. I shall enjoy it soon.

My mother and brother called me minutes before my birth moment and sang to me over the phone literally as I was signing Emily and Howdy into my wing of the dorm. Imagine trying to spell other people's names when all you're hearing is "Happy birthday to you."

PHYS 0175 and ENGR 0715 both went well today; not much to report there. And the first song we played in concert band rehearsal was Salvation is Created by Pavel Tschesnokoff. Most beautiful song ever, and this was an even more beautiful arrangement then what I'd been used to hearing (which was pretty darn beautiful). I have loved this song for years.

The only bad news is that the concert band's spring concert will probably be the weekend of 14-15 April, which already entails an all-day freshman conference (which is mandatory) and two Heinz Chapel Choir concerts (which are pretty darn close to mandatory). So maybe if I speak up, our director will be a bit careful as to setting the exact starting time of the concert.

Good news to balance that: The concert band tour is more or less set in stone for 30 April-01 May. Apparently last year's got cancelled for some reason, and people were disappointed.

Apparently Pitt's dining services have something in their system that alerts cashiers to your birthday when they swipe your card on that day. And so, being half Italian and having had pasta on my birthday for God-knows-how-many years, I went to have pasta for lunch. And the lady swiped my card, and then announced to everyone working there that it was my birthday. She then proceeded to ask me what I would like for my birthday drink. Um... Pepsi? I don't know; I hadn't even ordered a drink, and yet by eating lunch at the right place on the greatest day of the year, I had somehow earned a jumbo 32-oz. beverage.

But the surprise of that just made my day; it truly did. I don't know why, but it's the little things that count. Emily got me uncooked spaghetti and a self-made hollowed-out book for Christmas/Birthday. Unfortunately, the box of uncooked spaghetti can't fit inside the hollowed-out book, so my spaghetti-eating habit can't remain secret. Oh, well. :)

And I don't know how many people have told me I should go to Canada and drink today. I have class at 09:00.

Random tangent: Up two paragraphs. Is that the first emoticon I've ever used on this blog? Wow. Go me! It's my birthday, and I suppose that means I'm 19 now, aren't I? And no, that's not my cake above. And no, I didn't specifically look for a picture of a cake with my name on it. I just found it randomly. How appropriately random.

Photo Credit: Agape Christian Fellowship at Princeton University. Search result provided by Google Images.


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03 January 2007

Term 2074 Schedule

Ah, the first day of classes! And you know what that means: Schedule Posting Time! You've probably grown used to it by now. Anyway, here it is:

Class Titles and Credit Values
CHEM 0770 Honors General Chemistry for Engineers 2 4 cr.
ENGR 0082 Freshman Engineering Seminar 2 0 cr.
ENGR 0715 Engineering Applications for Society 3 cr.
MATH 0240 Analytic Geometry & Calculus 3 4 cr.
PHYS 0175 Basic Physics for Science & Engineering 2 3 cr.
PS 0200 American Political Process 3 cr.

18 cr.
Additional Participation
MUSIC 0612 Heinz Chapel Choir (1 cr.)
MUSIC 0631 Concert Band (1 cr.)

Classes begin 03 January 2007; final exams are 23-28 April 2007. No classes 15 January for Martin Luther King's Birthday Observance, or 04-11 March for Spring Recess.

And yes, that's right, I made the concert band! For my friends and family who would like to come out to a concert, I'll find out when those dates are and will post them here. As you can see, I'm also still in the Heinz Chapel Choir like last term. You may have noticed, though, that I am registered for neither ensemble. My scholarship covers 18 credits; any more than that, and I'd have to pay. And I'm sorry, but it's not worth $473/credit ($946 in this case, since it's two) just for some easy A's to show up on my transcript when I can have all the fun for free!

As for my actual academic classes, you'll see CHEM 0770 in the exact same spot as CHEM 0760 was last term. Same guy, same book, same time, same place. To steal a slogan from Staples, "That was easy." Not so easy is the four-hour CHEM lab on Monday afternoon. It was either that or Friday, and why would I put myself through such misery on a Friday? Actually, the professor just said today that the Friday lab session was cancelled due to low enrollment. So I made the right choice.

By the way, did you notice how awesome my Fridays will be? Of course, I'll be doing errands and laundry most of those Friday afternoons, but going into Spring Recess, for example, I could easily be back home in time for dinner.

PS 0200 looks like it'll be fun. And I thought there was a chance Emily had been slightly exaggerating the guy's coughing habits. Nope. I'll get used to it, though; I'll just think of it as an accent that's really easy to decipher.

As you can see, I had a PHYS 0175 recitation today before having had a single lecture. We did a little activity that tested our knowledge from PHYS 0174 for a participation grade. The TA seems nice and is relatively easy to understand, which in the Physics Department is quite an achievement. My professor for lectures subbed for my PHYS 0174 professor once, and she is quite knowledgeable. Chattering students in the lecture hall that day were quickly told to be quiet and were even reminded that she had been teaching here for many years and was, in fact, competent enough to present the material. Anyway, the course is Electricity and Magnetism, so we'll see how that goes.

If you didn't notice, MATH 0240 is a night class. I don't think the time of day will be as much of an issue as the frequency of the meetings. Last term, MATH 0235 met in some form or another five days a week (lecture Mon., Wed., Fri.; computing Tues.; recitation Thurs.). But all this Calculus 3 material will be dumped into my head on only two nights a week. Not exactly the best way to learn calculus, according to both my MATH 0235 professor and my prior experience with calculus in high school.

I obviously can't say anything about ENGR 0715 yet, and ENGR 0082 isn't worth mentioning since it's a seminar that only lasts until we declare our majors on 28 February. That's scary. I've been telling everybody who has asked that it would be in March, which felt a little further away. But even being the last day of February makes it seem so much closer. I will, of course, post any important news as it arises, and as my schedule permits.

And that's a look at what I've got ahead of me. I set the bar with last term, and my goal is to aim higher. It doesn't matter how much higher, nor does it matter if I even reach the goal. The point is, I aim higher. And if I do that, I will be satisfied.

Random tangent: Last I checked, Craig still hadn't picked up his "cookery book" from the gâteau escapade, which I will write about on this blog sometime soon, I hope. The problem is, I'm down here in Pittsburgh, along with the last piece of the gâteau, which I have decided will be my birthday cake. My guess is a couple phone calls on my part combined with a little proactivity on Craig's part (i.e., not sleeping in until 16:00) will do the trick.


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01 January 2007


That's right. Two double-oh seven. Sounds sort of... James Bond-ish. With a similar concept to last year's Photoshop doodle, here is my Photoshop doodle of the year.

I like seven. I think it's a great number. It's quite a nice number to end a year, save for the extra syllable we'll all be subjected to for the next several months. But just remember, "two thousand seven" has the same number of syllables as "nineteen ninety-nine" did, and no one complained then!

School is fast approaching. David goes back to high school tomorrow morning, and I leave for college tomorrow afternoon. Second semester, here I come! Let's make it as great as the first.

I tried out for Pitt's concert band before I left, and the audition results will be announced on Wednesday, the first day of classes. Rehearsals begin Thursday, which is my birthday... my first birthday away from home (sob).

Right now, my dad is making some shelving for my dorm room out of plastic milk crates we just bought at Wal-Mart and some plywood. Which'll be awesome because I've been finding horizontal space... well, hard to find. My brother has gone to bed in preparation for school. Mom and I are just starting to watch Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006), a DVD we rented, while I divide my attention between the movie and my blog. So not too much is going on here.

Just so you're aware, this is my 100th post on Randomness. And so it would be quite remiss of me to forget to thank all the people who have visited my blog in the last year. You're the reason I keep doing this. I hope that 2007 will be filled with many great things to come, and I'll be sure to blog about them as my schedule allows! So stay tuned for more exciting adventures from the realm of Randomness!

Random tangent: My brother got angry at my mother for getting sparkling red grape juice for our New Year's celebration rather than the traditional sparkling white grape juice we've had nearly every other year. Oh, well. My guess is 2007 will be just as good as 2006.


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