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20 April 2007

Out with a Bang

For those who didn't already know, today was the last day of classes here at Pitt.

As is custom in Dr. Siska's CHEM courses, he wraps up a little early on the last day in order to make something go boom. And so he did, but it took a while. The setup was liquid nitrogen in a capped 2-liter pop bottle standing in a shallow dish of water, all underneath an inverted garbage can, which can be seen behind the podium. After waiting a good minute or two, during which Dr. Siska made some general "wrapping-up" comments and wished us well on our finals, the moment finally arrived.

My classmate, Will, was only able to take 20-second videos with his cell phone, but fortunately the ultimate explosion was framed quite nicely by one in the series of several videos he took during those few minutes in the hopes that he would end up with a nice recording. I would, however, recommend turning the sound on your computer down the first time you watch this; you wouldn't want to blow out your speakers... or your ears. Then you can adjust it until you've felt as though you've gotten the "full effect." But you really had to be there.

Dr. Siska's words explaining why the explosion was taking a long time are a bit hard to hear in the video, so this is what he said (or at least something very close):

The makers of these pop bottles are very careful. That is, they make them very... very able to withstand very high pressures. Best of luck, everybody; I'll see you next week.

While setting this up, he also mentioned that "this falls into the category of 'do not try this at home,' ... or in your dorm." So I'm just passing along the warning for my less intelligent readers... that is, if I have any.

Last term he lit hydrogen-filled balloons with little bits of various metals on the tips in order to make custom fireworks of various colors. He's a fun guy, Dr. Siska is.

As for the rest of how things have been going, I'm finally at the other end of the massive 16-day tunnel that has been... the last 16 days (duh!). Even though finals are coming up next week (a quick post about that tomorrow), I told myself this afternoon that I'm not doing anything academic until 12:00 Saturday. And even if it only is for half a day, it's kind of nice.

What's been keeping me so busy? For starters, the DRS service learning project has taken up a lot of our group's time these last few weeks. First, on 05 April, we got an email from the writing center assigning our conference paper for the class (which we had repeatedly been told we were not going to have to write). It basically said, "It's due in a week [12 April], make sure to have all of your team members contribute, and oh, by the way, happy Easter." We really felt loved. We couldn't meet on our usual Friday and Sunday that weekend because of the holiday, so we met on Monday 09 April and Tuesday 10 April to wrap up our project and get ideas together for this paper, gearing up to present it at the Freshman Conference on Saturday 14 April. We'd worry about the client presentation on 17 April later.

Then, just as I'm about to leave for our meeting scheduled on Wednesday 11 April, I get another email from our professor, which among other things, said:

This year's timing of the Freshman Conference has been difficult in relation to the final client presentations for our class. ... [T]he quality of the final report and presentation is of highest priority. ... Your conference presentation can be a dry run for your client presentations so you can get my feedback before Tuesday [17 April]. ... With respect to the final conference paper, ... [the] deadline [is] extended until the last day of classes on Friday, April 20th. Thus you can focus you current efforts towards your final client report and presentation.

This email was sent only 25 hours before the paper was originally due. And it was completely reversing everything in the original assignment, effectively saying "don't focus on what you've been focusing on; do this instead for Saturday."

Angry as we had been right after we received this email, we coped and got through it all, little by little. The email also gave us permission to use both of the conference sessions in which we weren't presenting as group time to work on the rest of the project. So we presented our "conference presentation," which was actually a toned-down version of a client presentation, at 12:00 on Saturday, ate lunch, and then got straight to work on the actual client presentation for Tuesday. It was sad, but it needed to happen.

Because of the recently cloudy and gloomy weather, we didn't get all of the pictures needed for the online interactive accessibility map either. So those are going to be finished this weekend. Fortunately, our clients were so thrilled with what we designed that they were fine with giving us the extra week on the deliverables. Actually, the site won't go up until the summer anyway.

All in all, in the twelve-day period from 09-20 April, we met as a group at least once on every day except Sunday 15 April, which the others used as a homework day, while I performed two back-to-back concerts followed by dinner with the family. So this is why I haven't been blogging; I'm lucky I got my response to the Virginia Tech incident out when I did.

On top of this, I had the normal CHEM lab reports due on the killer Mondays, and a PHYS exam on 12 April, although why one would schedule an exam just a week and a half before finals makes no sense to me. I also had a few off-campus concerts with the Heinz Chapel Choir, one at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind on 10 April, and one in Oakmont on 14 April.

Speaking of the Heinz Chapel Choir, we had our officer elections for the 2007-08 Academic Year on Tuesday. And for an ensemble of 51 voices, you'd think that there wouldn't be that many officers. Apparently, the choir has an unspoken tradition of turning every conceivable job into its own officer position. Elections took an hour and a half on 11 different positions. And since people couldn't ever agree on anything, or in some cases just to follow tradition, it was decided that many of the offices would be filled by two people.

An example of where both barriers came into play was the much-coveted "social chair" slot. Apparently it's been run by two people for a while. This time, there were eight nominees, but a few pairs of nominees who were going to be living together next year wanted to run on a "ticket" with each other. It was decided that they could make such wishes known, but that ultimately people would vote for them as individuals. And of course, two people from two different tickets won, so as consolation, their "running-mates" were by consensus given "assistant social chair" status, since if they're sharing the house, they'll have to be in on the decision-making. So that's four right there.

In the end, we have 18 elected officers and co-officers for this ensemble of 51: a president, a vice president, a secretary, 2 co-historians, 2 co-librarians (of the music), a business manager, a personnel manager, a wardrobe mistress, 2 co-webmasters, 2 co-social chairs (and their 2 assistants), and then a new position that apparently was being resurrected after falling by the wayside in past years: 2 co-stage managers. It's ridiculous. But it made the odds of being elected that much greater. And if the appointments weren't controversial, the general consensus was to just "co-" you with the other person running. Which is how I came to be co-webmaster for next year. So there. Enjoy.

I have the feeling that I've been rambling, but I also have the feeling that I've forgotten something crucially important. But then again, maybe not. I've been used to having a lot on my plate, and now that most of it is wrapped up or wrapping up, it's a bit of a relief. But it'll be back to the books tomorrow!

Random tangent: I think I'll be alternating studying with room cleaning and packing for the next several days. Because both of them are really important right now.

Video credit: William Burroughs


Lexi Elizabeth said...

whoa. big blog. i wish i had that much going on in my life.

that thing sounds cool, but i can't watch it 'cause my computer is weird. i will if it ever works again, though.

good luck on finals, and i hope that you didn't hate the last 16 days too much. 'cause that'd be sad. stress is fun! hahaha

Tim Parenti said...

I do now remember that I did in fact forget something in this post. Fortunately, it wasn't crucially important. But it is timely and very deserving news, so I'll have to post it soon.

And there's a chance that many of you already know what it's about; you just don't know yet, because I haven't written it. Ha!

Anonymous said...

what's up for your summer?

Tim Parenti said...

I'm actually working on that post now.

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