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30 April 2009

HCC in China: Day 3

Thursday was a pretty exhausting day, but well worth it. That's why I'm writing this on Friday morning.

Day 3 – Thursday 30 April 2009

We started our Thursday with a wonderful breakfast at our hotel, featuring some of the best of Western and Eastern breakfast foods. We ate up, because we knew we had a long day ahead of us. The group made its way to the north gate of the Forbidden City, now known as the Palace Museum. After learning about some of the history behind the museum, we began to make our way through the huge area, entering in traditional style through special gates constructed to keep out Chinese vampires.

The northern section of the city was a residential area, while the center section, home to the Hall of Supreme Harmony, was primarily ceremonial back in the days of the emperor. We were lucky to have seen the external ornamentations that had been newly refurbished last year for the Olympics.

The sheer grandeur of the area was striking. It seemed that every time we walked through one gorgeous area of the city, we would pass through a gate that led to a bigger and more impressive area, saving the best for last. So take a word from us: If you ever visit yourself, start at the back (north) gate.

While there, we met many visitors from more rural areas of China who were not as familiar with foreigners such as ourselves. One group, whom we were told is from Shaanxi province, was particularly eager to meet us. We left one of them with a unique gift from his visit with the American tourists: a Tootsie-Pop.

After our visit was over, we passed through more gates until reaching the front (south side), which borders Tian Anmen Square. We were told that the picture in the middle is of Sun Yat-sen, who is regarded as the father of Modern China, and that the picture is only in the square at the national holidays, 1 May and 1 October.

After lunch, we made our way to the Temple of Heaven, where immediately upon entering, we saw many dancers. After many of us danced amongst ourselves (and even with some of the locals), we found some musicians and singers as well. Apparently, many of the folk who come here are retired, and so they just spend their days hanging out in the park. How wonderful is that?

Though the main attraction for us there was the Hall of Prayer, we couldn't escape the local charm.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel before dinner and the alumni reception, which was hosted by the CEO of COFCO Wines & Spirits (which was selected as the exclusive supplier of wine for the 2008 Olympics), Mr. Ning Gaoning, a graduate of Pitt's business school. A few of us went out afterwards; among other things, we saw many of the embassies that are in our area of Beijing, and then we came back, truly tired from all the walking, for a great night's sleep.

There are many more pictures to show… you can see many of my favorites from Day 3 here.

Coming up: Today (Friday), is Labour Day here in China. We will visit the Beijing Zoo, Summer Palace, and a jade workshop, before heading to the Olympic Park for pictures. We will conclude the day with our first concert at the Central Conservatory of Music in conjunction with Beijing's Financial Street Choir.

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29 April 2009

HCC in China: Days 1 and 2

Days 1 and 2 – Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 April 2009

It has certainly been a long day. Well, a long day-and-a-half, to be fair. And I am really tired.

To keep things simple on my end of things, I'm going to link to a few pictures at a medium resolution throughout my narratives, as well as a few more at the end. I do hope you'll take the time to view them.

After staying up until about 02:30 in New York on Monday night (Tuesday morning), the guys in my room decided to get a little bit of rest before waking up around 05:00 for final preparations. We took the 06:00 hotel shuttle to JFK's Terminal 7, and met director John Goldsmith there. Check-in was surprisingly quick, and many of us were completely through security before 07:00.

Since our flight wasn't scheduled to leave until 10:10, we had some time to kill in the terminal. After grabbing breakfast, many of us just hung out around the various shops and the food court, while others stayed by the gate.

Finally, it was time to board. And at 10:41 EDT, we finally took off and began our 8068-mile (12984 km) journey to Hong Kong. In order to fight jet lag, we were wise to immediately adjust to Hong Kong time, but that made it a bit weird when the staff were bringing around "brunch" an hour later at about 23:45 HKT.

By 01:00, the cabin lights were shut off so that we could get some rest. And from having stayed up much of the night before, it was much-needed. Taking the polar route was a lot of fun, too. We flew over northern Greenland around 04:30, and by then the lights were on again and people started milling about to stretch and to get their blood flowing. "Lunch," as they called it, was served at 06:30, and then the whole process was repeated again with a mid-morning nap, more stretching, conversing, and the like.

We landed in Hong Kong at 14:25, which was a little bit disconcerting, as our boarding passes instructed us to be at the gate for our connecting flight to Beijing at 14:35. At Hong Kong's airport, they don't really make airport-wide boarding announcements; rather, they have people with signs that inform passengers of what's going on. It was a little bit frustrating being told that it was final call for our flight immediately after going through security, but we hurried along. We all made it okay, and were off again by 15:36, albeit a half-hour behind schedule.

While most people I talked to said that the 15½-hour flight to Hong Kong was tolerable, and was operated in a manner that helped them adjust well, our three-hour flight to Beijing was, for all intents and purposes, a simple domestic flight on a Wednesday afternoon. It was rough for a few of our crew, but all-in-all, everyone's doing well. Because we hadn't eaten since 06:30 (and had no time in Hong Kong), the meal served at 16:30 was received quite eagerly. We landed at 18:26, queued up into a big alphabetical line for passing through immigration and customs, and before we knew it we were gathering our baggage and heading off to the buses.

Dinner was held at the Jin Tai Fulong Restaurant, and while we weren't always exactly sure what everything was, we were, for the most part, adventurous, and tried a lot of it.

Upon arriving at the hotel, most people took right to bed due to exhaustion from the 30-hour marathon that was Days 1 and 2. I found it very interesting when being given my room key, though, that I am in room 444, due to the negative connotations the number four has here in China. It's basically akin to getting room 666 or 1313 in America — while it's really just a number, it still doesn't leave you with the greatest of feelings.

You see, the word for "four" (sì, ) is very similar to the word for "death" (sǐ, ), with only the tonal inflection being different between the two. And since the Chinese are very superstitious when it comes to numbers, many hotels avoid the number four altogether.

Apparently this hotel thought it would be just as well to give the "room of death" (which is actually quite nice) to non-"four-fearing" American tourists. Yay.

You can see more of my hand-picked images from Days 1 and 2 here.

Fun fact: In case you couldn't guess, Beijing is still very proud of its hosting the 2008 Olympic Games. Later this week, we will visit the "Bird's Nest" and the "Water Cube," two of the most recognizable venues built for the Games.

Coming up: On Thursday, we will have tours of Tian Anmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. We will finish the day with a reception for local alumni of the University of Pittsburgh.


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28 April 2009

HCC in China: Day 0

Well, BEDA wasn't a complete failure. I did succeed in blogging nearly every day for the first half of April, just not the second half. But it's okay. I had more important fish to fry, like finals. Yeah.

But, I'll be making up for it to some extent by posting daily for the next two weeks. Yeah, in case you haven't seen the countdown that's been in this blog's sidebar for about the last two years, or if you haven't noticed the big banner that's been at the top of this blog for the last month, I'm going to China with the Heinz Chapel Choir. And that's a pretty big deal.

Although I was already planning on doing occasional blog posts here anyway, Pitt's Music Department have asked me to blog daily for their site, and so I jumped at the chance! Since the Internet in China can be finicky, the idea is that I'll be posting both here and there, so in case anything goes wrong with posting to one site, we'll have the other. So remember to check back daily for updates… and with that, we'll jump right into it!

Day 0 – Monday 27 April 2009

My personal journey began at about 05:30 this morning, doing some final packing before heading out to Pittsburgh International Airport, catching a late-morning flight to New York's John F. Kennedy airport. The tour departs from New York tomorrow morning, and everyone was finding their own way here, so it was a pleasant surprise to find some other choir members on my flight.

The rest of the day has been fairly leisurely here. Because China is 12 hours ahead of Pittsburgh, we'll be pretty jet-lagged when we land in Beijing on Wednesday evening. So, I used my fatigue from waking up early to take some strategic naps during the afternoon — the Chinese night. After heading back to the airport's food court for our last state-side dinner (a classic all-American McDonald's meal), we came back to the hotel to play a little bit of pool. I played one round, which I was surprised to have won.

Now, we're approaching the wee hours of the morning here in New York, but the six of us in my hotel room are staying up and active. We'll be on a plane by 10:00, and we can sleep then. It'll be sixteen hours to Hong Kong, then another three-and-a-half to Beijing, where we'll start our tour. So, it will be a long, but fun trip.

Obviously, since I'll be on planes or in airports for 24 hours straight, the next post won't be until sometime Wednesday (EDT)… from Beijing!

N.B.: Uncle Dave, our plane is scheduled to fly over Cornwall, Ontario at roughly 10:46 EDT on Tuesday. I'll be sure to wave.


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14 April 2009


I really don't have much of anything to say today. I must point out that it is getting markedly more difficult to come up with creative titles for these posts. And no, I don't mean "tacet"; that would be the verb. "Tacit" is the adjective. Sometimes musicians' words for things cloud our perception of the actual unadulterated words themselves. So I just wanted to clear that up.

The weather was gorgeous this morning as I walked with Will to the post office to mail my tax return before swiping an extra meal pass for him to join me in Market Central for lunch since I have such a surplus. But I'm down to eight passes with ten days left to use them, and I have plans in the works for getting rid of another extra, so I should be pretty much okay.

But anyway, back to the weather, it was gorgeous when I walked into my 13:00 class and it only started to be gloomy when I walked out at 14:15 (so obviously sometime during my class). This morning, we had nice sunshine, but still several bright clouds that kept the sun from being too overbearing. To me, that's about as close to a perfect day as you can come. And although I wasn't able to enjoy it much, I made sure to do so while I was outside.

The China trip with the choir is shaping up. We leave in a little under two weeks now, and we just got what will probably be the final pre-departure version of our day-to-day itinerary, complete with times of things instead of just what's going on each day. I'll have to look a bit more closely into that, again for an important reason that I haven't yet mentioned here.

So, that leaves us with the following (thankfully short) list of important things I haven't yet mentioned here, which I will need to write about this week:

I should add that if you already know the "answers" from talking to me, please don't spoil them for the rest of my dear readers. It'll all be revealed in due course. I've got to let the suspense get to them a bit first. ;)

If it weren't the week before finals, I'd just keep writing about both those topics now and give you a "normal Tim"-style blog post. But this is also BEDA; I've got to have some content up my sleeve for slow days, right?


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13 April 2009

Nuclear Engineering

First, a couple brief tidbits from today:

  • Today we had elections for ΚΚΨ. My Big Brother, Mike, won the presidency for 2009-2010. Congratulations!
  • As it turns out, my short time in Girard was overstuffed with things for me to do, and as such, my father forgot to have me sign my tax return which he prepared for me while I was there. So he sent it to me and now I have to go to the post office tomorrow. Yay for walking to the post office! Yay for exercise! Yay for setting a dozen alarms for a simple task, lest I forget to do it!
And now I turn to something that I don't think I've mentioned here before. (That's another reason why BEDA is helping me out a little. Even some relatively important things have gone completely unmentioned here.)

There's an undergraduate Nuclear Engineering certificate available here at Pitt that I've been thinking about getting. You see, to have anything nuclear at the undergraduate level is rare, let alone a whole certificate. So it's, you know, probably a good idea, since I actually like the class I'm in now. Unfortunately, I only heard about the program this past fall, and so I'll have only taken one of the three classes by the end of this term. The other two are only offered in the fall semester. And this is where the problem comes in.

They are all night classes, and although I took a night class opposite band this past fall, it was only one night a week and it was over at 19:55, so it wasn't so bad. In order to complete the certificate, I'd have to miss both Tuesday and Thursday nights completely, and that's when the band does most of its work.

So, when registration came around in March, I had registered for just the Thursday class in Fall 2009, and had talked to the chairman of the program to see if there was some way I could take the remaining class in Fall 2010 as a post-graduate if I should remain in the Pittsburgh area. I was somewhat okay with this option, although to be honest, I still wasn't completely satisfied and would have liked to have been able to complete the certificate this year.

But apparently, so many people signed up for the Tuesday night class that there is no more room. So to make room for the increased demand, they've opened up a Wednesday night section. And there's no band on Wednesday nights. Hooray!

There are a few things that aren't wonderfully desirable about that, though. First, that means that I have all five of my evenings taken up (although I'll have almost completely free mornings, so it will just take some extra motivation). Secondly, it will put me right back up at 18 credits instead of the 15 credits I was planning on taking... and none of that counts ensemble participation. Thirdly, my schedule is quite densely packed, due partially to when the classes I need are available, but also under the consideration that I'll be living 1.6 miles (2.6 km) off-campus next year. Unfortunately, you can look to the image at left and see what that extra class will do to my Wednesday schedule. Not pretty. Sitting in lecture from 12:00 until nearly 21:00, without so much as 15 minutes for a meal? Eek!

So my next step is to see if I can maybe move my Music elective or my EngLit requirement to a different time of day, preferably as late in the morning as possible. Like MWF 11:00-11:50 would be perfect. But I know that's a lot to ask, considering it was hard enough to get into those sections as it was. I'm a senior... isn't early scheduling supposed to work to my benefit?


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12 April 2009

Easter Crash

Not saying I don't like Easter candy and the sugary goodness that is associated with in, but boy, can it make you feel like crap, too. Rather than having my normal two meal day, I've been grazing all day today and now I can tell.

I'm back in Pittsburgh now for the last week of classes, but spent most of today with my father's side of the family. Specifically for me, this meant Grandma's homemade spaghetti (among other wonderful foods), which is a wonderful treat I only get to enjoy a few times each year. But there were also lots of sugary candies, and even though I exercised quite a bit of restraint, I still probably had too much and I now lack almost all energy. Hopefully I'll be better in the morning and able to operate normally, since this is not the week I can afford to be lethargic.

Seeing my family was nice today, too. My cousin Juliana is going to be seven in May, which is hard to believe. She really is growing up quickly.

Speaking of growing up, since I was in Grove City on Easter for the first time in three years, I was able to participate in Measuring Day again. I haven't grown all that much (which was, frankly, to be expected), but I am squarely 5 feet, 8 inches (172.7 cm) tall, about an inch and a half (4 cm) taller than in 2005. My brother is 5 feet, 8.5 inches (174.0 cm).

And now I must sleep. I don't think I'll be eating much chocolate for a few days...


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11 April 2009

Home, Sweet Home

I'm now at home in Girard, typing on the family computer. My brother David is talking to me about something related to FM radio presets. Ah, it's good to be home!

I got in around 22:45 Friday night, and will be leaving after church tomorrow to see my dad's side of the family for Easter before heading the whole way back down to Pittsburgh for my last two weeks of classes. Well, one week of classes, one week of finals. My last class ends at 12:00 next Friday, 17 April, and then I've got finals on 17, 20, and 24 April. I leave for New York on 27 April and for China the next day. I won't be back here in Girard until 12 May, a month away. And I haven't been here since my birthday back in January. So yes, there's been an element of homesickness these last few days.

Mom and David came to Pittsburgh to pick me up at around 18:30 on Friday, well after my OChem lab. We had dinner, and then we brought some of my belongings back home so that we'll have less to worry about in two weeks' time.

Then, when I got home, my mother and brother insisted that I watch an episode of the 1960s sci-fi comedy "Lost in Space" with them, which I had never seen before. And I must admit, it was pretty funny, as I'm sure those of you who grew up with the program would agree. But I also find it interesting to note that the series was set in 1997, so it is doubly interesting to see what people thought of the future back in the past. I'm sure some day we'll look back on our current "futuristic" notions with as much laughter.

But anyway, it was pretty much 24:00 when we finished the episode, and everyone was tired, so there was no blogging to be had. My apologies for not writing, but I'm still not doing bad on BEDA overall. And besides, I've seen half my readership in the last 24 hours anyway!

This morning, my mother called to schedule a haircut appointment for me, only to be told that the best time was pretty much right away. So she woke me a mere half an hour before the appointment. But we got there and my hairs are now cut.

It was also good seeing Barb and (most of) her family today as well. It makes me glad that I finally get to spend Easter with family again. In 2007, I went home for Palm Sunday weekend to see David's school play, and I had a huge group project to finish for the following week. In 2008, I was en route back from Denver after the Pitt Men's Basketball team lost late Saturday night. We landed in Pittsburgh at 05:17, and I got to my dorm room at 06:45, at which point I promptly fell asleep and slept through every Easter service in the city. So it's really nice to be home this time, even if it's only for about 48 hours.

And now, I'm tired again. All of the Easter food (and candy) is getting to me already. Ugh. To bed with me.

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09 April 2009

A Day of Remembrance

Today was a mediocre day. And as far as the week has been going, that's great. The best part, though, is that I'll be home in less than 24 hours celebrating Easter with my family, and then it won't matter anymore! Er, at least not until Monday.

The memorial for the three City of Pittsburgh police officers who were killed on Saturday 4 April was held today. Chancellor Nordenberg volunteered to host it at the Petersen Events Center, which certainly had ample seating capacity. Fifth and Forbes Avenues were closed for almost the entire day. Thousands upon thousands of police cars from all over the area (and even some from farther) used most of the roadway as a triple-parked parking lot. Walking down the street, there was quite a sense of melancholy, even just from the silence of not having cars whizzing by. The many people lined up along the street with American flags waiting for the procession only added to the poignancy.

Although, from a logistics standpoint, I was a bit surprised by the University's decision to continue operating normally. (Apparently, I'm not the only one who thought this, too.) Practically all of the major thoroughfares on campus were shut down for much of the day, public transit was spotty at best... I'm surprised they didn't cancel classes, although I'm sure they carefully weighed their options before deciding. Perhaps the fact that we're only a week and a half from finals had something to do with it, too.

After classes, I had quite a nice time talking outside with Will for about an hour, something I haven't done in a while. It really brought a smile to my face, and was one of the more enjoyable parts of my day. It certainly helped that the weather was beautiful and that everything was so quiet and peaceful.

I'm sort of realizing why I like the idea of blogging every day, or at least blogging often. In the past, I've only blogged about "important" things that happened in my life. And too often, the things that "affect" me the most are negative, by their very nature. It's really refreshing to take note of the positive things that are happening nearly every day, to reflect upon them, and to be thankful for them. I feel that that's something I haven't been doing as often as I could have recently.


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08 April 2009


This evening was Third Degree for ΚΚΨ.  We have six new Brothers now.  Amongst everything else that's been going on in my life, I was glad that something so positive was scheduled to occur.  I helped read part of the ceremony, which was a nice change of pace for me.  A good time was had by all.

Sadly, not everything can go perfectly.  Those of us who were reading had a brief run-through rehearsal this afternoon, and I walked all the way up to the band room in Trees Hall only to find out that we were meeting in the Cathedral of Learning.  Thankfully, there was a shuttle waiting to take me back down just as I left the building.

As a consequence of being late, I was a little bit rushed to get to my evening class, Fundamentals of Nuclear Reactors, for my exam.  Fortunately, the exam itself was about as simple as I could have expected it to be, and the professor even said it was because he didn't want to spend hours upon hours grading everything.  So it was one of those, "put your answers in the blanks, and if it's wrong, then I'll check your work"-type exams.  And it wasn't bad.

I have my ChE 0401 presentation tomorrow morning.  Sadly, though, our ChE 0401 report isn't coming together as well as I'd like it to, but it's out of my hands.  I had assumed that since we've all done this at least three times before, everyone would know how to communicate with their team members.  Unfortunately, though this is true for most of my teammates, it is not true for all of them.  And I regret that I dropped the ball as far as emphasizing strong communication from day one, and now it's irreparable.  But it's also over after tomorrow.  So that's fortunate.

And that's about all that's going on here... I will post about Tuesday's troubles at some point, but I have an OChem report to do tomorrow night, so it might not be until late Friday.  But it is important.  Just know that everything's already much better.  Thanks for your concern.

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...What Shall Be.

I did post briefly at 23:48 EDT on Tuesday saying that this would be late. For the benefit of BEDA, that much is reproduced below:

I know it will take until far past midnight to write about all of the stuff that happened today, so I'm posting this so that I have something. In fact, I may just wait a day to post because there's so much going on it's not even funny.
In short, though, I am going to wait... well, sort of. I suppose this does count. But the bottom line is that I've dealt with too much crap for one day, and the last thing I want to do right now is blog about it. Anyone who has spoken directly to me in roughly the last 12 or 13 hours has known how rough Tuesday was for me, far beyond my normal "oh, this sucks" gripes that lack any substantial meaning.

Although I'm trying not to conflate separate issues, it's just been one blow after another all freakin' day, and right now, I just need to lie in bed and walk amongst my thoughts, assessing where I am in dozens of facets. This is something I do occasionally... sometimes too often, which leads to breakdowns... but sometimes not often enough, which can lead to crap like this. In the end, though, it always makes me stronger. It just doesn't seem like it at the time.

Mind you, not everything that happened Tuesday was ostensibly bad. It's just that everything took on a negative connotation from before it even happened. That's why I need to step back and assess. Because I truly believe that things aren't anywhere near as bad as they seem at face value at this very instant in time, and that anything bad that remains will blow over soon. I just need to mull it over a bit. And if there's anything I've learned in this whole blogging thing, it's that mulling things over for a night can be a wonderful thing.

If there's one thing you can do, it's praying for me. To steal an analogy from a professor this morning, we're near the end of the term, and I just need to sprint that last 100 meters. The problem is that I've been running the last six miles, and I'm burning out. Pray that I find the strength and the willpower to continue to do what needs to be done. I'm trying to remain positive, but I definitely need God's help at this juncture.

And of course, if I haven't made it abundantly clear already, these are all short-term issues. Some will be solved when I wake up in the morning; others will take a couple of weeks. But this is not a long-term, life-changing event. Yes, it may eventually evoke change in my life, but I really just need to get through these next couple of weeks with enough sanity leftover at the end to reassess and move forward from there.

Again, I get the feeling that all of Tuesday's events just conflated themselves and that, when viewed separately, most aren't anything to be upset about at all. It just takes time.

I'm inspired by Jane Henkels' recent post on Holy Week, short and sweet:
Ah, this most blessed week of the year. So far it has been loaded with suffering. It's only to be expected. Embrace the cross, y'all. Just do it. It makes the resurrection that much sweeter.
Well, if that's the task, so be it. I'll be off now; I've got a lot of sorting out to do.


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07 April 2009

We Shall See...

Even though it's after midnight, this does not fall under the category of "fail."  I was not expecting tonight's ΚΚΨ meeting to run until 23:50.  As such I've only just gotten back and so it's still Monday as far as I'm concerned right now.

We had a lot of normal business to attend to tonight, but moreover, we have a lot of people running for office in ΚΚΨ for 2009-2010, which is truly wonderful.  But it also meant that there were a lot of people giving speeches tonight, and answering questions from the Brotherhood.  For some of the more contested positions, questioning sessions lasted up to ten or fifteen minutes per candidate.  And that discussion is wonderful; I'm truly glad to see so many people excited to take an active role in the organization.

However, despite starting our meeting at 20:00 instead of 20:30, we still cut it precariously close to the building's lockdown time of 24:00.  After a few hurried remarks at the end, I made a carefully-worded motion to "suspend all remaining business and adjourn the meeting," since we actually did have some (comparatively unimportant) business left on the agenda.  Thank goodness the actual elections themselves are next week.

ΜΚΥ elections are tomorrow, by which I mean later today (ugh!), and I'm running for reelection as Webmaster for 2009-2010.  We shall see how that goes, but in any case, I don't think it will run as long as tonight did.  ΜΚΥ tend to be less discussion-oriented than ΚΚΨ anyways, which is both good and bad.  And that's why I love being a part of both organizations.

I was feeling a lot better today, though still not up to last week's par.  We shall see if that trend continues, or if today was just a fluke.

Also, the second ChE 0400 exams were graded and they were much better overall.  I realize I haven't mentioned my qualms about the first exam on this blog before, and that is for a number of reasons, not the least of which has been time.  But let's just say that personally, I more than doubled my score exam-over-exam.  This is not something that should normally be able to occur.  The class average also increased by factor 1.45.  Again, we shall see if future data warrant future discussion on this matter.

As for everything else that happens Tuesday, in keeping with my favorite words from the last few paragraphs... we shall see.

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05 April 2009

Aches and Pains

Twelve minutes left in the day. Why do I keep doing this to myself?

Today, it's because I just came back from dinner, which was only late because I couldn't move from the chair at my desk which was only because the achey back and scratchy throat I had yesterday have turned into a headache, congestion, rnnny nose, achey legs, achey arms — the works. I hadn't eaten in ten hours and I still almost couldn't finish my dinner. That's bad.

I took some acetaminophen right before I left, but it hasn't kicked in yet. Hopefully I'll be able to sleep well tonight, as said aches and pains have caused me to sleep for much of the evening. And hopefully I'll be able to be my normal mostly-functional self in the morning.

The concert this afternoon was alright. We had a few hiccups and the like, mostly because people were talking over directions from the director and generally not paying attention to his cues and the like. Although, even some of his cues were off. It seems the whole choir were having somewhat of a bad day.

As it's Palm Sunday, I picked up an extra palm branch from the church we visited in Uniontown, but I've yet to determine where to put it or what exactly to do with it here. I've had one in my bedroom at home for probably about twelve years... the same one, to be precise. So it's been a while since I've done anything with one of those.

It still hasn't completely sunk in that it's April, though. I mean, in a little over three weeks, I'll be in China, and I've been looking forward to that for about three years. But here it is. I've got my last really busy week of the semester coming up here, then the last week of classes, then finals. And that's it. I have to start doing all sorts of things around here to get ready to pack up, and yet it just doesn't feel like it's time yet, you know? Whatever. I should be "feeling it" soon. I hope.

Mother called and asked me if I really was going to be blogging every day in April. And yes, that is the intent, although I never committed to the BEDA project. As you can easily see, these posts have been much shorter than my usual fare here, mostly because I tend to start about 15 minutes before either midnight or leaving for wherever I'm going to be at midnight. So that's a fixed constraint. And it's kind of nice. Like those "freewriting" exercises in tenth-grade English. Wait a minute, those weren't nice...

But it is a busy week coming up, as I've said, so I may miss a day. And I won't be too disappointed, because this is still more than I've done in a while. As I said on the first, this is simply motivation, and not a requirement by any means.

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04 April 2009


Whew.  The "rock festival" today was fun.  All of these rocks were placed in a matter of about five hours.  I was there working from about 14:00 to 17:00, because of the ΜΚΥ lunch.

Once we had finished the "decorative pattern," there was extra gravel, so we patched potholes in Lou's driveway, too.  Unfortunately, the extra gravel was at the top of the driveway, and the potholes were at the bottom.  No problem.  We just had some people shoveling gravel into plastic buckets, some people sliding filled buckets down the pavement, some people dumping the buckets, and some passing empty buckets back up the hill.  That's one of the many advantages of having about 25 people helping out.  It was very efficient work.

As I said earlier, ΜΚΥ had its Fifth Degree this morning, and we now have three new members.  And before that, we had band recruitment, and we spoke to 16 interested prospective students (which isn't that bad for one of those events).  Gosh, that seems like forever ago.

Once I got back at around 19:10, I collapsed in bed.  I only arose about four hours later to write this and catch up on some emails so that I wouldn't get behind on all that.  I felt bad that I ignored my mother's phone call at first, but I am now having trouble feeling my arms.  At least, I told her, I won't be as physically tired after tomorrow's concerts.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention my cousin Ted's birthday today.  Twenty-three already; wow!

All in all, though, a productive day.  I'd love to have those more often.

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03 April 2009

So Much to Do...

Tonight is ΜΚΥ's Fourth Degree of Initiation. Tomorrow morning, at the Fifth Degree, we'll have initiated new members. That's always exciting.

Tomorrow is a busy day. Honestly, this whole upcoming week is a busy week. But tomorrow comes first. At 07:30, there's a band recruitment event at Pitt's final "Day for Admitted Students" of the year. At the Pitt Band table, members of ΚΚΨ basically talk to high school seniors who are prospective students about why they should join the band. It's really cool, despite the fact that it's really early in the morning (since it's an open "fair"-type thing that's before the actual event). But it's over by 09:00, and most of us usually go right back to sleep.

I can't, though, because ΜΚΥ Degree starts at 10:30, then we're soon off to a celebratory lunch at the Waterfront. Meanwhile, Brothers of ΚΚΨ will be making their way to the home of Lou, the band's operations manager, to help him out with a project. The double-brothers like me will join them after the ΜΚΥ lunch.

At Lou's house, we will be participating in a "rock festival." In the most literal sense of the phrase. In exchange for a modest payment to the fraternity and a lasagna dinner for everyone involved, we will be spending the afternoon moving a total of 25 tons of rocks and placing them in a "decorative pattern." So that will be a lot of fun, but also a bit of work. But there will be many hands... And then my fixed obligations for the day are done.

Sunday, I go to Uniontown with the Heinz Chapel Choir for a full two-gig day. I get maybe about a day's rest before gearing up for a Nuclear Reactors exam on Wednesday night, which is conveniently followed immediately by ΚΚΨ's final Degree, only because a Wednesday was the only day we could do it, what with the awkward placement of Easter this year.

Then it's a ChE presentation Thursday, a CHEM lab report Friday, and — what do you know? — it's the last week of classes. So that'll be fun.

Still no luck on the newest of the camera issues, which is giving me quite the sad face. I need a fully functioning camera before leaving for China, and that's only 25 days away!


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02 April 2009

Dapper Dan

Tonight was the 73rd Annual Dapper Dan Dinner and Sports Auction, which was held this year at the Petersen Events Center.  They invited a small pep band to play during short periods of applause, mostly while honorees were making their way to and from the microphone, much like the awards shows you see on television.  Except everyone was really close by, so they weren't kidding when they said that most times it wouldn't be more than five seconds at a time.

Anyway, it was a really nice event (despite the fact that the band didn't get to eat).  And there were many distinguished guests.  Pitt Women's Basketball's Shavonte Zellous was honored along with the Pittsburgh Steelers' Dick LeBeau and Mike Tomlin.  All three spoke.

I would show you pictures, but wouldn't you know it... the day after I finally blog about my camera being fixed, it starts acting screwy again.  Now, though it will turn on and remember all of my settings, it won't stay on.  Sometimes it will shut off after five or ten seconds, and sometimes after only a fifth or a tenth of a second.  In any case, it would not retract the lens; it would only suddenly seem to lose power and force a restart, which would only work every fourth or fifth time.

So taking pictures was difficult.  That's how things go, I guess.

The dinner did go a bit long, so I only just now got back from my own dinner (Arby's, since it's the only decent place open at 23:15 and I had a coupon).  That's about all that was interesting in my life today.


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01 April 2009


It's time for another little note to tell you how I've been doing for the last three weeks, I guess.

March Madness went well, for the most part.  The men's team was disappointing in New York, but you'll have that.  At least we didn't turn around and head right home; they let us stay in town for much of the next day.  So it wasn't a total loss.  If you haven't seen them already, I took some pictures on the trip.

And of course, that means: My camera is fixed!  Hooray!  I was right; it only took a watch battery.  It was a bit overpriced at the RadioShack I went to in Connecticut ($5.82 altogether), but I figured that's still way less than a brand new camera, and paying a 400% premium was worth it if it meant my camera could be working right away (but moreover because 400% was only $5).

And I have just realized I haven't taken a picture yet today.  This is a minor problem.  (Pause.)  Okay.  Sorry, I just really want to get the whole "halfway decent picture every day for a month" thing done sometime soon, and it really doesn't help if I miss the first day of the month.  February was ideal for that due to its brevity, as I mentioned before, but then the little mishap happened.  And it screwed up March in the process.  So here's hoping I can get back on track with that, because I like taking photos and it's spring and there are beautiful things all around and it's about time I finished this run-on sentence.

Much like my picture thing, I've now heard of several people who are attempting "Blog Every Day April," an idea that young adult author Maureen Johnson just came up with the other day.  A couple of my YouTube subscriptions are even taking it to the next level, replacing daily blogging with daily vlogging.

Now, I am intrigued and inspired by how much this has caught on (it even has a Twitter hashtag), but I'm not sure I want to commit to anything like that, given how Aprils tend to go around these parts and how much other stuff I've got going on.  But I figured I could at least write something today, and perhaps actually make a concerted effort to write shorter posts throughout the month.  (And yes, I know I've said this before, but I haven't had something like this as motivation.)

So here I am, having reserved the last 15 minutes of my day specifically to write this.  Or something like this, anyway.  We shall see if this continues, as I have come to the realization that with the bunches of stuff going on in my life, I actually do have a lot of things I can talk about.

A few quick notes about today, Wednesday 1 April 2009:

  • Today was George Bandik's birthday.  In case you don't remember, he was my OChem professor.  I tried stopping by his office for a quick visit before PChem this afternoon, but he wasn't in.  What a shame.
  • Google's April Fool's pranks were fun this year.  Whoever came up with the idea, kudos on coordination across so many Google products!

Apologies for not saying much of actual substance today.  We shall see if this continues... again, no promises. ;)


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