Monday, September 28, 2009

Catch-up and Minneapolis, Day One!

Sorry for the critical lack of updates. I've been extremely busy and hectic. The main problem is that I'm simply too tired at night to update, which sucks. But I have to update at night, or else other things can happen after I make my post, which would also suck. So it's kind of a catch-22.

Also, this was supposed to be posted yesterday.

Nothing of real note happened on Thursday, aside from the fact that I was yet again really, really happy that I was in University Band.

About that class: I'm finding myself playing things that I never thought I'd be able to play well before, despite purposefully leaving my music in one of the cubbies in the music room and not practicing it at home (which I'm not allowed to do anyway). One of the songs we're doing is this rather fast march in 6/8 time; because no director wants to conduct in six, they conduct in two instead, rendering the eighth notes as triplets (and the notes are bridged together in groups of three to help this). So it's a rather fast march with eighth notes that are rather fast triplets. And yet I didn't have any problems with it. Hell, I'm not having many problems at all with all of the music, despite the fact that I've only had a few weeks with them, tops.

I think this is partly due to the fact that, no offense Durango High concert band, I'm in a group with people better or as good as me, which kind of rubs off. Our rehearsals sound absolutely wonderful, even though it's practice and we may not be playing the song absolutely perfectly. I always feel extremely happy when I play with this group and I feel really uplifted after rehearsal.


On Friday, something bizarre happened. After getting back from the obligatory high woodwind sectional (there was no marching band that day), I came back home and got on the computer. Strangely, G.I. Jane wasn't around, and I hadn't seen her all day. She mentioned something about training somewhere over the weekend for ROTC, but she didn't mention anything about leaving on Friday - I was under the impression that she was leaving on Saturday, not Friday . This posed a problem when I exited my room to go to the bathroom and found myself locked out of my own room. The instant I closed the door, I found out what I did, because I caught a fleeting glimpse of my keys hanging around the inside door knob as I did so.
That really, really sucked. I sat outside of my door for a while, cursing my luck, because none of the RAs seemed to be around to let me in. Eventually, after about half an hour or so, two girls from a room three doors away from mine passed me on the way to the first floor and asked what was going on. After telling them what happened, they said something along the lines of "That sucks...wanna go to Wal-Mart with us?". Of course, I accepted, because I will seize the opportunity to go shopping for stuff I need if I have transportation to the store. At Wal-Mart, I was able to get a down jacket (for $15!!!), which I chose after I asked them if it was thick enough to be a viable winter coat and big enough to fit things under it. I also picked up some flossers and, of course, my obligatory Poke'mon booster pack. Legends Awakened series, got a holographic Kyogre and a Groudon (finally!). I opened the packaging before I thought about taking a picture, so you'll never to see it whole in my hands, haha.


Geez, I've been wanting to get this and Groudon for ages now! Also, sorry for the blurriness.

When we got back, though, none of the RAs were around. We tried to fix this by killing more time somewhere else. Every Friday and Saturday night, there is an event that goes on at the Memorial Union by the name of Nightlife, in which movies are shown (that's how Sam and I saw Up and Star Trek a few weeks ago), crafts are made, and general fun is to be had. Tonight, one of the things they were doing was painting flower pots and getting our own plant.


Recognize the art direction?


Inspired heavily by Okami. See, there's a Guardian Sapling right there, and the sun...


Here's the plant I chose. Reminds me of Vegas.

...of course, I realized yesterday that I have no idea what to do with it when I come to Las Vegas in the winter.

When we got back, the RAs were still not back yet. A good hour was spent trying to call anyone, but to no avail. The Residence Hall Director for this dorm had left her phone in her room - this I found out after trying to call it while I was standing outside of her door and I heard it ringing. And no one else was picking up on the other phones, despite me calling them at least seven times.
Which left me out of luck. I spent the next two and a half hours working on a five-hundred-piece jigsaw puzzle that the dorm was collectively working on in passing in the lounge. When one of the RAs was finally found, it was midnight. At that time, I was too damn tired to make a blog post like I originally planned, especially since I had to get up at six for the Honors trip, the first day of which happened yesterday. More on that now.


Yesterday, we started our trip in Honors. My day started with me getting up at six in the morning so I could get ready and pack. I wanted to leave at 7, but ended up leaving at 7:30. Oddly, my suitcase seemed as full as it was for the Texas Tech trip, despite the fact that we were only staying in a hotel for one night and the bus ride was only five hours one-way.
It was really foggy as we left, which was a sight to behold. There is no fog in Las Vegas, only crappy air quality caused by cars and the like and dust because of construction.

Remember that Neon Genesis Evangelion boxed set that my friend let me borrow? I finally put it to great use on the bus. Granted, I could only watch four or so episodes (23 or minutes long each) before my battery was close to death, but it was damn worth it. Sometimes things that are famous or popular are overrated, like Halo. But other times, it's easy to see why it is so. Case in point, Evangelion, which is unbelievably freaking awesome as of the ninth episode I've watched (out of 26 or so). One of things that stuns me about it is how great the animation is - especially since this was 1994 and they really didn't have ultra-advanced computer programs to animate for them. The animation is unbelievably fluid. I also like the characters - say what you will about Shinji, but I really don't see the "emo kid" stereotype that people always foist upon him in popular culture. JUST BECAUSE HE HAS MENTAL PROBLEMS DOESN'T MEAN HE'S EMO, OK? LEAVE SHINJI ALOOOONE!

...

Also, the Evas? Freaking awesome. Giant biomechanical monstrous humanoids...so damn cool.

I also started noticing some similarities between Evangelion and Persona 3, to the point where, instead of thinking that Persona 3 was one big seinen anime homage, it's one big Evangelion homage. Psychologically messed up protagonist? Check. Periodically spawning masked mega creatures that are the bane of humanity? Check. Protagonists are the only characters that can kill said creatures? Check. Said weapon to kill said creatures induces psychological trauma? Check. Psychological and religious motifs? Check. Protagonists have parent issues? Check. Main character's "weapon" goes berserk and tears apart the first enemy it faces? Check. See the pattern? That's why so many people like to post "Personagelion" videos on YouTube.

Speaking of Evangelion...


Amusingly enough, this is actually better than the anime, despite coming out after it. Furthermore, it's actually left-to-right.

One of the first things we did was go to this place called Uptown or something along those lines. I think it's an old-school shopping district.


Old-school.


You can vaguely see the McDonald's there.


Look at those fluffy clouds. Wait, what do you mean "what fluffy clouds?". THOSE RIGHT THERE, DUMMY.

There was this store called BookSmart, which was this small bookstore in Uptown with a manga section that had a lot of older and harder-to-find titles in it. Like Evangelion, which I luckily found while I was over there.


It was apparently established in 1992, which makes it only one year younger than me.


Look at how nice the interior is! It has a basement, too.


A reaaaally blurry picture of the English-translated mangas on a shelf. If you squint, you can see Neon Genesis Evangelion Volume 5. It's practically right in the middle.

There was also a bunch of manga in their original Japanese. Too bad that there was no Persona manga, though. Can you say "bragging rights"?


No, I can't read 99% of that. Too many kanji. Fifth from the left, though, spells "Kyararii Fiaku" in katakana (at least, if I'm reading it correctly from my crappy little picture), which means it's supposed to spell something that's not Japanese. Too bad I can't figure out what that something is.

After checking my bank balance online via my phone, I bought the damn manga (they didn't have #2, they only had #1, 5, and 6) and headed to the local GameStop. I've had my eye on Poke'mon Battle Revolution for the Wii for a while now, and as a souvenir, I wanted to finally get it. So I did, but not before agonizing over Muramasa: The Demon Blade. I want that game so badly - it's like Odin Sphere (which was one of my favorite games, and was made by the same developers as this one) on steroids with Metroid's exploration and Okami's art direction. Baaaah. But I really wanted Poke'mon Battle Revolution, too, because I wanted to kick the asses of random people online and test the skills of myself and my EV-trained Poke'mon - plus, it was cheaper.

After standing around for a little bit, we got back on the bus and headed to the hotel, which happened to be next to the University of Minnesota's (a huge hockey rival of ours) gigantic outdoor (nyeeeeeeh! *sticks tongue out*) football stadium. We only had twenty minutes, so I took the opportunity to switch out my bright red jacket with my more form-fitting black one and plug in my laptop so it could charge.
Oh, I've yet to tell you why we're going on this trip in the first place, right? Well, the main reason is because we're seeing The Importance of Being Earnest in an actual theater instead of simply reading it. Secondary reason being so we could go to what was currently our next destination, Chino Latino, which is a rather over-the-top restaurant.

Let me elaborate.

The interior of this place is impressive, for one.


The outside of the place, looking in.


Inside, looking at the downstairs.


Those are all candles.

We were all grouped together at large tables that were close together. Since there was about forty of us, special arrangements were made. Basically, in succession, they brought out an assortment of appetizers, dinners, and desserts for each table. Three appetizers, three dinners, two desserts.

While we were waiting for our food, the guys and I at the table (there were just guys at this table besides myself, heh) just talked about random stuff. It was funny, because anytime the conversation switched to anime, only me and one other person could actually have a conversation about it and follow it. Which resulted in a ban on it. Nevertheless, it was pretty cool getting to talk to people comfortably.
When the food arrived...


Appetizers! Wow, my mouth's watering just looking at this.


SEAFOOOOOOD!

...let's just say that it was very good.

Especially notable was the dessert. Specifically, the one where there was a flaming bowl that you would use to roast marshmallows on wooden stakes. Ok, ok, so we were supposed to make s'mores, but when you're someone who has NEVER had a roasted marshmallow before, none of the other stuff matters. The macademia nuts were yummy, though.


Yuuuuummmm. Boys being boys, they opted to burn the wooden sticks after we finished the food. For fun.

After we got the last of our food, we also got fortune cookies. Except these fortunes were the most mean-spirited little suckers ever. Someone literally got one that said "This was made in a country where child labor isn't illegal." I got...


Fuck you too, fortune!

...of course, I demanded a new fortune. There were two extra fortune cookies on the table and I got the last one. I opened it up and got...


WHAT THE FUCK?!

...onto a new subject. To see this play, we went to this huge and completely confusing theater (named the Guthrie Theater).


Here's the ticket.


Twice.

According to the program we got...


It's very...flowery.

...Lady Bracknell's actress guest starred in Star Trek at some point. She really does look familiar, I wonder where I've seen her.


Recognize her?

The acting was great, and the humor of the play makes a LOT more sense and is actually funny when actually played by actors. It was suitably overdramatic. The only thing that could've made it better would've been if Patrick Stewart played someone. Oh, it also helped that we had really, really good seats.


Keep in mind that my cameraphone does NOT have a zoom feature.


Other people in the theater.

I mean, REALLY good seats.

Afterwards, we went back to the hotel room, and we had all the free time we wanted, despite it being 9 PM or so at the time. I was too energized to sleep, but too tired to make a competent blog post. Not to mention that the internet there was really, really slow. REALLY slow. Dial-up slow. Also, I found out that the entire CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS has its own Wi-Fi network. There was literally a network called "city of Minneapolis". I couldn't connect to it, though. I think the distance was too great - I was on the 6th floor, after all.

Around midnight or so, I finally went to sleep. And that was the last event of that day.

Next post will have the second day!

...on a miscelleaneous note, Minneapolis has a lot of really nice bridges, and Las Vegas would go green with envy at how nice their downtown is.


Yeah, it's slanted, so sue me. I was on a BUS.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Just so ya know...

...I'm working on the really, really long and elaborate post about the past few days. I'll probably post it tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I have Windows 7!!!

So today, I sat down with some of my anime club buddies at a table during lunch. Over time, I mentioned that I couldn't install Windows 7 on my computer without wiping my stuff. One of the guys, a total computer geek, told me that I could back everything up using my extra space on my hard drive, via making a new one, or a "partition". After showing me where I could manage my disks (my laptop was with me), I went home and looked up online how to do this.

It worked. All my stuff was backed up. Then I went to band, came back, took my laptop with me to anime club, and installed Windows 7. It took a while, but it went well. I copied back the stuff from the partition, and nothing seems to be lost except for a few pesky .dll files that didn't copy over, rendering some programs, such as Avast and iTune, useless. Since I can re-obtain those programs online, all is well.

...well, except for the fact that the computer ended up backing up my stuff in a new folder called windows.old. Why the HELL did I go to all that trouble to section off a part of my hard drive to back my stuff up when the computer backed them up anyway?!

Just now, I merged the partition (called the "S" drive, for Silver) into the C drive again, thereby wiping it clean. Meh. At least I have a backup folder on my computer (renamed windows.old to "backup").

As for the operating system itself, I like it. It's much easier to connect wirelessly to the internet, the new design is sleek and less cluttered, and I've already noticed that it runs faster. I'm not a fan of the "Documents = Document Library" thing, though. Other than that, I like it.

Oh yeah, in anime club, a friend of mine lended me his PLATINUM EDITION Neon Genesis Evangelion DVD boxed set. EVANGELION. I finally get to watch it!!!

...I also pwned the anime club president in a Poke'mon battle.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bah.

Ok, I'm part of the MSDN Academic Alliance, simply because I'm in Computer Science. This has allowed me to obtain Windows 7 Professional for free. The problem was that the file I obtained for it was a .iso - basically, something that had to be burned to a disc first. Another problem - said file was 3 gigs. There isn't a disc I possess that can hold that much.

So I went to Amazon.com, ordered a 3-pack of Maxell 4.7 gig DVD-RWs, and waited.

I got them today. I created a restore point on my computer (on BOTH of this thing's drives), then burned the .iso to the disc, everything was rosy.

And then I tried to install Windows 7. It wouldn't let me. Some sort of stupid thing about how I can't "upgrade" my Windows Vista Home Edition Premium to Windows 7 Professional, and instead, I'd have to wipe everything off of my computer and THEN install it. Ok, I said, I can back everything up.

WRONG.

I found out, while trying to copy my documents over to a 4.7 gig DVD-RW, that my video folder ALONE was 14 gigs. And, of course, I have nothing that can hold that much, nor do I have enough DVDs to spread them out and THEN back up the rest of the shit on my computer.

So now I can't install Windows 7, and I bought a few DVD-RWs for nothing. Thanks a lot, Microsoft.

Before I really get started...

I HAVE THEM.

ARISATO'S HEADPHONES.


They can cure cancer, make Chuck Norris green with envy, send Jack Bauer running away screaming, and can be used to help defeat that pesky death god living in the moon.

...of course, it also helps the sound on these babies is freaking awesome.

Remember how my old "new" headphones broke? The cord snapped when it got caught on something?


Good luck breaking a braided cord, suckers!

Yeah, you can tell I'm really happy.

Now, onto the events of Sunday and Monday.

On Sunday, I performed at an optional band performance with about (sadly) twenty other people at this local car dealership called Rydel's. Why? Because they were the ones who pretty much gave us our truck. Technically, it's theirs, but we don't pay a dime on it. That truck brings all of our big and heavy instruments to our games and to rehearsals that are at "our" field, which is pretty much every marching band rehearsal until later October.

I was one of four clarinets, there were two trombones, a tuba, a tenor, two bass drums, a snare, two tenor saxes, and three or so trumpets, counting my band director. We wanted more people to come, but they didn't. Bah. On the other hand, it makes me look good.

On Monday, it was a normal school day, except for the fact that I had tests in Space Studies and Computer Lab. The Space Studies test was open-book and open-notes, and I had spent the night before getting the last of the notes typed up before importing all of the rest to a Word document and printing it out the following morning (a whopping 23 pages...though it's in outline format). The fact that typing up the last of the notes helped me memorize them helped me on the test, and I was one of the first people to finish. It consisted of "true/false, but justify if false"; unfortunately, all but two were true. That's fine by me, I loooove justifying my answers. The short answer was easy, too.

The computer science lab, surprisingly, was not. I can finish a lab in twenty minutes, tops, but I spent the entire two hours on this, partially because this was something I had never done before.

Basically, the program has to make a pyramid of asterisks show up after the user enters in a number for how many rows it has. The problem is that asterisks can only be "string", or normal text, variables, thus making them much harder to format in terms of spacing, than number variables, because math operations won't work behind the scenes for them. For instance, the pyramid adds two stars per row; if they were numbers, I could fiddle around with the variables behind the scenes and add a "+ 2" somewhere, but this won't work with a string variable.

I was able to get the input to work with the looping (piece of cake) and get the right number of stars to show up (it's the number the user inputted, squared), but I couldn't format it. Luckily, the fact that I was able to get those two things done meant that I at least passed with a C. I still don't know how other people did it, though. I want to find out, rargh!

And then I walked home and promptly went to sleep. Because my brain and eyes were fried.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

More band.

Yesterday, we played at East Grand Forks High School (in East Grand Forks, Minnesota!) for a football game that, ironically, didn't involve EGFHS at all. Instead, it was the Sacred Heart Eagles vs the [something] Blue Devils. We ended up rooting for the Eagles since their 20-something band was playing with us. Literally, "Fight on Sioux" became "Fight on Eagles", and the portion of our fight song when we usually go "S-I-O-U-X! Go Sioux!" became "E-A-G-L-E-S! Go Eagles!". The poor high schoolers next to me were so intimidated until I told them that I was a newbie, too. I was actually playing the part of the "cool college band student"! Wow!

Unfortunately, it seems that the color combination of purple and gold is cursed, because the poor Eagles, whose uniforms were aforementioned color combination, got their asses handed to them on a silver platter (30-to-0 was the score when we were leaving after halftime). According to the clarinet player next to me, this is usual! Talk about deja vu.

We played pep band tunes during the first and second quarters, then did halftime, which was awesome, thank you very much (my legs hurt so badly now, though). After halftime, we left, which I was happy about since I was already tired and hungry (unfortunately, extended dinner at the dining halls only goes Sunday to Thursday). There was enough time between getting the cases off of the truck so we could put away our instruments and getting on the bus that I was actually able to get my case and hat box, put my clarinet away, and get completely out of uniform before getting on one of the buses.

Speaking of the bus ride back, after a big rig pulled up next to us and our members on the bus urged him to honk his horn, someone got the idea to shout in unison out the window anytime we passed someone on the sidewalk. One of those people happened to be outside of my dorm at the time; apparently, Sam actually heard us in our room! It was pretty damn hilarious every time we did it, I was practically rolling around in my seat in hysterics.

Then one of the drum majors gave me a ride back to the dorm, I took a shower, and promptly collapsed into my bed.

For once, I slept like a baby.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Band.

eu⋅pho⋅ri⋅a (n.) -
1.) a feeling of happiness, confidence, or well-being sometimes exaggerated in pathological states as mania.

2.) the feeling Silver gets after rehearsing in the University Band.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Normal, normal, normal.

We learned pregame in Band today, which basically consists of us high-running onto the field, followed by us forming a whole bunch of letters on the field while playing three fight songs.

At the end of Anime Club, I basically talked to this one guy - rather, I rambled. It was pretty awesome meeting someone else who liked Ghost in the Shell!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Normal, everyday life.

I've fallen into a routine now, and I'm happy about it.

Also, this morning I found that someone had printed out Lolcats images and taped them to the outside of the bathroom doors. It's pretty funny seeing "FOR THE THIRD TIME, CHEESEBURGER NO PICKLES!!!" on the way to taking a shower.

Monday, September 14, 2009

W00t!

I finished my computer science lab in twenty minutes today. I think I know now what I like so much about coding: the satisfaction that I feel when I get the damn programming to do what I want it to do. Part of the whole thing is the problem-solving, figuring out exactly how to do it. I think my prior experience with HTML and CSS helped me out big time, because I have enough experience with the whole trial-and-error mindset necessary to come up with solutions to these problems.

And that's pretty much it. We were inside for Marching Band today, and we played a lot of music. My lung capacity and sound input were hindered by my still-hurting ribs, but at least I wasn't in complete agony like I thought I would be.

One more thing:



WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!

Seriously, it was just a mosquito bite two days ago. I have to get my shot this week, I don't want to be held up because of this stupid thing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Boring day.

My ribs hurt a lot less, but I really didn't do much today. Washed the sheets, watched the mind screw of a movie I had to see for Honors...

Aaaand that's it. Pretty much. Nothing else.

Yesterday's stuff - TODAY!

I can't seem to stay on track in terms of posting daily.

Yesterday, my ribs were hurting to the point that I really couldn't do much of anything. I basically sat around, playing Okami all day. Beat Blight and got the Catwalk power, BTW.

They were showing Star Trek at the Memorial Union for free, though. Since G.I. Jane had never seen it and I had been wanting to see it again, we went. It was aweeesome.

And that was it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

And now today's stuff! Today!

Not much to report, really. Other than that my intercostals (muscles between your ribs) hurt a LOT. I think I overexerted myself in University Band yesterday - we played this piece that was slow and went for five minutes non-stop. Slow pieces are always really difficult because you have to control every aspect of your sound...hence the hurting muscles. Paaaaaaiiin. Itai itai itai!

In Okami, I progressed farther in the game and got to Sei-An City. Got the Seven Strike, and introduced Sam to one of my personal favorites, a character named Rao who is often referred to by Issun as "busty babe". For good reason.

And if you're wondering why I haven't mentioned anything about 9/11, it's because I can't eloquently say anything about it, unlike the guys in my blogroll.

Yesterday's stuff

Yesterday was uneventful, as always. I only had two classes yet again.

I DID, however, have an assignment from Computer Science Lab...despite the fact that we didn't have any computer science lab this week. I conveniently found this out the day before it was due. Basically, I had to create a program in Python that could calculate someone's grade for five assignments when the grades and name of the person are inputted by the use. I really enjoyed coming up with how to code it and and debugging it.

After University Band, I did some heavy-duty taking care of business. The verification of my identity for my Pride card so I can use the left over financial aid money? Done - I went to the library and scanned both sides of the card, saved it on their computer, uploaded it to the company's website, e-mailed it to myself as an attachment, and promptly deleted it (as in, sending it to the Recycle Bin and THEN hitting "delete").

Being charged $40 for my immunotherapy visits at the on-campus clinic? Took care of that, too - I called Tricare, and they said that I shouldn't be being billed.

Co-pay on my meds increasing? According to the guys at Tricare, that's normal.

And except for the scanning, I did all of this while doing my laundry.

My wireless mouse came in today. It is freaking awesome! It's made by the same company that made the optical mouse I was using before I switched.

In Okami, I kicked Orochi's ass and got the Tsumugari. Yay for giant sword!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Well, shit.

My new headphones broke today. I was on my way to the bus from Space Studies, when the cord caught on something and snapped. Wonderful.

In band, the president of the college and his wife came to thank us for our performance at Texas Tech. It was pretty cool!

And then we had hockey sign-ups. It made me late for my ACM (a student organization for programmers) meeting. I got there when they ended it, basically, but I got to hang out at their office for a while and talk to a few of the guys there. I'm pretty much the only girl in that club...

It was awesome being able to talk about video games and such and have people actually know what you're talking about! I had to leave at 7 to go to Anime Club, though, which was thankfully in the same building. As usual, it was fun as always - people were making hilarious snarky comments and such, too.

We watch three anime series, one of which is Pretear, which is a series in the magical girl genre created by the same person who came up with Sailor Moon. And it's just as, if not MORE, ridiculous than Sailor Moon. Actually, scratch that, it's more over-the-top ridiculous than Sailor Moon could ever hope to be. Lemme put it this way: hot guys (okay, four hot guys and three kids) who fuse their souls with that of the heroine to become outfits with magical powers. No lie. And it's just as suggestive as it sounds - the anime has all sorts of innuendo...in the English dub. IN THE ENGLISH DUB. THE DUB WHERE THINGS LIKE THAT USUALLY GET CUT OUT. Oddly, there was also cussing, too.

Of course, pretty much every anime is based on a manga, and Pretear is no exception. And it seems that this poor author, Jun'ichi Sato, is cursed or something when it comes to anime adapations of her series, because just like with Sailor Moon, the Pretear manga is totally different than the show.

The manga and the show differ even more than that between the Sailor Moon manga and its respective show. The only way the Sailor Moon anime could be as different as its source material as the Pretear anime is from its original manga is if the creators of the anime replaced a few of the Sailor Scouts with different characters. I'm not even kidding. This one really, horribly effeminate character, whose true gender I couldn't even identify until his voice popped out of his mouth, wasn't even in the manga to begin with; his design was entirely different, with an entirely different personality. Only his power was the same.

Let's see - in Pretear anime, a la Sailor Moon, the main character fights monsters to save the world. In the manga, not at all. Instead, the creatures who created monsters in the anime instead take advantage of people's dark feelings and possess them because of them in the manga. And the innuendo? Non-existant in the manga. The characters are deeper in the manga, the love interest is far less of a Mamoru Chiba (you might know him as Darien) clone in the manga, and-- ya know what, let me just shorten this. EVERYTHING ABOUT THE ANIME IS DIFFERENT FROM THE MANGA EXCEPT FOR THE CHARACTERS. Furthermore, the manga is superior in every way, shape, and form to the anime. The heroine in the manga is even more kickass, who, instead of being ditzy like Usagi (again, you might know her as Serena) in Sailor Moon, knows martial arts in her normal life. She literally punches her soon-to-be-love-interest in the face the first time they meet. That's the equivalent of Sailor Moon getting pissed off and kicking Tuxedo Mask across the room in the first chapter.

...oh yeah, in case you were wondering how the original Sailor Moon manga is different than the anime, I'll rattle it off for you:

- Tuxedo Mask has no powers (including rose-throwing), and actually helps Sailor Moon fight instead of being a Deus Ex Machina or completely and utterly useless (see: the Sailor Moon Super S movie, in which he gets his ass kicked in the first fifteen minutes and spends the rest of the movie lying a bed unconscious; by the way, this isn't even important to the plot).
- Princess Serenity (using the English dub names since that's what everyone's familiar with; her name in Japanese is Kaguya) kills herself in her past life because of Prince Darien's death...when he DIED PROTECTING HER IN THE FIRST PLACE. Lack of logic, much? Furthermore, her suicide inadvertently causes the fall of the Moon Kingdom, because her mother couldn't entirely focus the power of the Millennium Crystal due to her grief.
- At a later point in the manga, the cat Luna takes them all to the ruins of the Moon Kingdom on the moon, where there are remnants of their superpowerful technology left, including a hologram message left over from the Queen of the Moon Kingdom and a sword that Sailor Moon can use.
- The sub-villains of the first season were good guys in Serena's past life; they in fact were Prince Darien's underlings (?!?!?!!!).
- It turns out that the huge kingdom of Earth and the Moon Kingdom were at war with each other. Serenity was the princess of the Moon Kingdom, Darien of the Earth Kingdom.
- The past version of Beryl was not only in love with Prince Darien, but she killed him because she was jealous.
- The REAL villain is an entity that came from the SUN.
- Sailor Venus was a decoy Princess until Serena was able to become strong enough.
- All of the sub-villains get killed with one hit (including Jedite and Nephrite), always when the newly awakened Sailor Scout wields her powers for the first time. I'm not kidding, Nephrite dies because Sailor Jupiter struck him with a bolt of lightning, Jedite burns to death at the hands of a newly awakened Sailor Mars. Also, when they die, their bodies turn back into gems.
- Tuxedo Mask dies and is then re-animated by Queen Beryl as a bad guy. The latest point I got at in the manga is when Sailor Moon kills him by stabbing him in the chest with her sword. Since this is Sailor Moon, he's going to inevitably come back.
- Darien is in high school ("I'm a perfectly respectable high school student!", he says rather irritably after Serena asks him why the hell he's in a school uniform), not college.
- Tuxedo Mask's alliance is portrayed as extremely ambiguous, with Luna asking him repeatedly whose side he's on - the answer? He doesn't give a shit about anything except for the location of the Millennium Crystal so he can get his memories back - at least, initally.
- At several points, the baddies kill a whole bunch of ordinary people, but Sailor Moon is able to bring them back to life using the Millennium Crystal.
- Sailor Venus can communicate to Sailor Moon through her arcade game. This is also how Luna gives the Scouts their new gadgets: by rigging the game so that a certain score, obtainable only by a Sailor Scout playing it, gives them out as prizes. Also, Luna's secret high-tech base is under the arcade.
- Darien finds himself becoming Tuxedo Mask when he falls asleep, as if he was sleepwalking - also, his actions in this form are not going unnoticed by the local police.
- Queen Beryl was also reincarnated and re-awakened when her reborn human form, an archeologist, accidentally rediscovered the ruins of the Dark Kingdom (again, from the FUCKING SUN!!!!) in Antarctica.

Yeah, reading the original Sailor Moon manga that the first season was based off of was both fascinating and highly disturbing. What do you mean that silly Tuxedo Mask isn't useless or totally cheesy? WHADDYA MEAN MY CHILDHOOD HERO KILLED HERSELF IN HER PAST LIFE?! They might as well be different series, for crying out loud. From what I've read of the later manga, though, it appears that the later seasons of the anime (such as the Hotaru/Sailor Saturn arc) were much more faithful to their source material. [/tangent]

Ok, off to bed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

...and I'm back!

I don't feel nearly as shitty as I did yesterday, thankfully.

You might notice that the pictures are actually showing up now. This is because before, I linked directly to my pics from the Verizon website, which I quickly found only showed up when I was logged into said website. I solved the problem by saving the images on my computer, then uploading them on Photobucket. So, yay, pictures!

Ok, now I'll talk about the events of our final, 24-hour bus ride.

On Sunday, I got up at 8 or so and took another shower, because I knew what was coming and I wanted to reset my "grime clock", if you will. And then I left to kill some time and see what their free breakfast was like. It was awesome. I had a danish or two. Yuuuum. I was reminded of mom while eating breakfast because the TV in the room was on HGTV, her favorite channel back when we actually had TV.

We left the hotel at around 10:30 in the morning. Pretty much everyone was still dead, myself included, so we slept for a while. We stopped for lunch in a small town in Texas, I don't remember the name of the place. I went to Dairy Queen because I just HAD to pick up a Blizzard. To make sure I got some actual food, though, I got three chicken wraps before.



Wow, everything really IS bigger in Texas!

And then I got my medium-sized, thin-mint-Girl-Scout-cookie-with-Reeses-M&Ms-and-Oreos Blizzard and ate it on the bus before we left.

And then MORE DRIVING! I was still pretty dead at this point, and I was wondering why I had such a bad headache; lactose intolerance affects the stomach, which at the same time as my headache was feeling hot and angry at me for daring to consume ice cream. It doesn't give people headaches. I also had a sore throat, too, and it was getting annoying.

Instead of sleeping, I just listened to my iPod while looking at the scenery outside, but something was off. When I listen to music, my mind thinks a lot and my imagination goes wild; in other words, I effectively brainstorm ideas for a concept I want to someday put on paper or possibly 2D or 3D computer animation. However, this was just not happening at the moment. All my thoughts were extremely disjointed and I was pretty much brain-dead, which was unusual and frustrating. So I basically spaced out while looking at the window. My eyes caught some fleeting glimpses of faraway power windmills, but that was pretty much it. Boring, boring desert, with me wondering why the hell anyone would choose to live in a tiny town out here.

I slept some more after that, and then we arrived in Dodge City, Kansas, where we stopped for lunch. We were near this place called Boot Hill, not sure what significance it has, but it was pretty historical, given the buildings and the fact that the trolley was pulled by horses.



Old school.

I was feeling especially shitty at this point and didn't possess any appetite. Instead, I wanted to go to the nearest convenience store to get some medicine. Many band members headed over there, too, to get stuff like soda and other junk food. One of them had found out that they sold...



PINEAPPLE SODA.

Yeah, pineapple soda. Never heard of it. Sounds like something that would come out of Japan or something.

I bought two boxes of Tylenol Severe Cold medicine, which listed Headache/Sore Throat as the first damn thing it treated on the box. It cost a pretty penny. I also got a large bottle of water, too.

Walking back to the bus, I found myself feeling increasingly out of it and dizzy. As soon as I got on the bus, I took my medicine.

I took the opportunity to take out my Nintendo DS and train Kala-Nemi the Espeon to Lv.50 (he was Lv.46 at the time), since I figured that the batteries would last the rest of the trip now. About four or so more hours later, we stopped again for dinner. Again, I lacked an appetite, but I was feeling a bit better than I did in Dodge City.

I went to the local grocery store to see if they sold Poke'mon cards, found that they didn't, but to make up for it, I bought some heads for my flosser, since I was running out. In the distance, I could see a Wal-Mart about two blocks away - Wal-Mart always, always sells Poke'mon cards. They may not have the older packs, but they sell Poke'mon cards. Before going there, though, I went to a Bank of America ATM (oh, how I've missed you so!), which had the added bonus of being inside a little building the size of my dorm room, to check my balance. I did all by myself, mom!

Then I walked the two blocks to the Wal-Mart. I had forty minutes left, so I wanted to get there in 10 maximum, but I found myself getting there in five. My intention was to go in-and-out quickly, but this was foiled by the fact that there were only five registers open, all of them filled with people who had a shitload of stuff. Since even my mom had issues with the self-checkout, I opted to wait in line with my booster pack. And then I paid for it and got back to the bus with ten minutes to spare. I took the opportunity to open the booster pack and check what I got.



One of the more recent ones, though it was the oldest series the Wal-Mart had.

I actually got two holographics in this one, one of which being one of my least favorite Poke'mon in the entire game:



Luvdisc is in the Never-Used competitive Poke'mon tier for a reason.

Seriously, Luvdisc is one of the most useless Poke'mon in the entire video game series. No lie. I was hoping it'd get an evolution in the fourth generation, but no dice.

The other holographic was one I already had, but still awesome:



Shiiiiiny.

Upon getting home, I found that, despite being the same card in the same series, this holographic Origin-form Giratina card was different than the one already in my album. The new one was holographic in the background of the illustration, while the one in my album had the rest of the card being holographic. Pretty weird.

We left the town, and it was now entirely night. Since there was movie on the DVD player that I wasn't interested in, I decided to pull out my laptop and watch some Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. GOD, that anime is so cool, and deep, and thought-provoking. It helps that it has a heroine with a badass level comparable to that of Samus's, plus cute adorable giant robot spiders (called "tachikoma") that have voices and personalities of five-year-olds and wield machine guns. I got through three episodes (about an hour and a half's worth of awesome anime) before I had to shut my laptop off because the battery was going to die.

I played the DS a little bit before going to sleep. Since the person who sat beside me was sleeping in the aisle, I put my backpack next to the window and slept with my back against it, preventing a bad crick in my neck from showing up. I think I slept about four hours or so before waking up and opting to train Kala-Nemi again. We stopped briefly in Sioux City for gas, then got on the road again. And then I fell asleep again.

When I woke up, the sun was coming up, and we had stopped in Watertown, South Dakota, for breakfast. McDonald's FTW. Again.

The rest of the time, I played my DS and finally got Kala-Nemi to Lv.50 before arriving home. I was feeling like shit again, even worse than before, so when I got home, I took my last set of pills (two of them last four hours), took a shower, brushed my teeth, and took a nap at two in the afternoon. And then I woke up feeling very, very shitty. I noticed that I had a harder time focusing on a single thing online, instead bouncing from tab to tab.


When I woke up today, though, I felt much, much better, which is extremely strange. My nose was still stuffed, and my throat was a little sore, but I wasn't so brain-dead and out-of-it like I was yesterday. This morning, there were thunderstorms, with actual thunder and stuff. I went to pre-calc, found that no homework was given out last class (YESSS!), which I missed due to being in Texas, and I stayed for about half-an-hour afterward to take the quiz I missed. It was only three problems, but they were ones on inequality topics that I wasn't too good with even when I was talking Algebra II last year. Completing the square to make a circle equation? Not good at it. Factoring? Never been good at it. Still, I tried my best, and I think I did pretty well. While I was taking it, it really started to storm outside. I was on the third floor of Witmer Hall, taking the test, and during its duration, peals of thunder that shook the floor and my ribs happened. I was so damn happy.

Unfortunately, it was pouring outside, and I didn't bring a jacket because it was drizzling when I came to class. I ran to Memorial Hall, thankfully not that far away, for lunch. Since University Band didn't start until 3:30, I treated myself and took as long as I wanted. The lady who scanned my card so I could get in thought my D20 necklace was a Men in Black reference to Orion's Belt, which was around the neck of a cat or something named Orion in the movie. I haven't seen the movie since I was eight or so, and I all I remembered about it was that it had GIANT FUCKING COCKROACHES in it. Funny thing is, while I was getting my salad, ANOTHER staff member thought it was a MIB reference, too!

When I got home, I found that I had a plethora of e-mails in my inbox, all from my assistant band director (in fact, one of the e-mails started out with "I'm just going to bug you all afternoon."

One of them contained things people said in e-mails sent to my band director regarding our performance in Texas Tech...

Mr. Brooks:

As a Tech alumni and fan, I want to send out a big Thanks to you, your staff, and your students for coming to Lubbock and performing at the game Saturday. I know it was a long trip and takes a lot of effort to move that many people.

Your band is excellent and performed well. They also showed a lot of class and enthusiasm which is something we could use a lot more of in college athletics.

I wish you and all of UND the best!


As an alumnus of both the University of North Dakota and Texas Tech University, I was at the game Saturday night in Lubbock, Texas. I was the manager of the Football team back in the late 70's and early 80's and was proud to wear green. I also am a season ticket holder for Texas Tech football even though I live in Houston, 500 miles away.

Being the lone Sioux fan wearing green on the west side of the stadium, I wanted to pass along that I received a number of comments from Texas Tech fans that they thought the band's performance was very good and that they were impressed with the band. Tech fans would know a good band as the Goin' Band from Raiderland a few years back received the Suddeth Trophy, given annually to the country's best Marching Band. I would hope some day that the Pride of the North could earn that same honor. Congratulations on a job well done.

Back in my day, I believe it was 1978, the University started the Marching Band and I remember them practicing on the Memorial Stadium field. They did however have some growing and learning pains. At a halftime performance for the North Dakota Agricultural College (NDSU) the band took too long on the field and an overzealous referee flagged our team for a 15 yard penalty. We had to kick off from the 25 yard line but we prevailed and beat the Bison so the 15 yarder did not cost us the game. I have always loved a marching band on the field as it would always fire up the team.

I do have one question. I noticed that the band was playing what I thought was "Deutschland Uber Alles" after the game. I know that the bell tower clock chimes that song at various times during the day. Can you tell me the reason why the song was played. I really like it.

Again, great job, and keep it going.


Mr. Brooks, I am a high band director from Abilene, Texas. I wanted to let you know that I and my students were very impressed with your band. The show was great. It was marched well and the sound was great. Hope you have a safe trip home.
Mike Lunney. Director of bands at Wylie High School.

I just wanted to say thank you and great job last night at the game in Lubbock. We really enjoyed the performance by the Sioux Band. They had a wonderful sound and your half time show was enjoyed by everyone in the stands around us.

We understand how hard it is to travel for something like this - costs and all. Your team played strong and we hope your guys did not sustain any bad injuries. Your band ROCKS!

All of our best to your school and band!


Mr. Brooks,

Yesterday I was at the Tech game with my husband & daughter and I just wanted to tell you that we thought your band did an excellent job! :-) Being band folks (myself an alumnus from U of Arkansas & my husband a Texas Tech Grad) we were impressed with the performance, how classy the band was during band practice before the game, and how much fun the band had in the stands. I think it was awesome that your band came all the way to Lubbock and carried themselves very well!

Best Wishes to your bands on future travels and a great year!


I love how they keep saying how the band is classy when our drumline was hurling insults practically non-stop.

There was also one about hockey band, and the fact that we could sign up for the games online now. As a first-year, I can only sign up initially for 7 games total, but once everyone has filled their quota for games, it'll be a free-for-all. I want to sign up for all of the women's and men's hockey games - apparently, they're fun as hell.

I soon left for University Band, which was fun. We played an arrangement of The Firebird, which was one of my favorite pieces of music ever. When I was on my way out, the University Band director actually thanked me. That's never happened before!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sick.

I feel like complete and utter shit. Because I'm sick.

On the other hand...



HOLY SHIT IT'S NEW ARISATO ARTWORK. THE POWER OF THE SEXY BASTARD COMPELS YOU!!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Gah.

The pictures will be fixed when I get back. For now, however, it's 2:10, I'm tired, and I want to go to sleep.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Texas, baby!

YES, a post finally posted and written the day everything happened!

We left early in the morning. There was a lot of fog and it persisted until the sun was up for half an hour or so.

We were originally supposed to stop in Plainview (which our hotel also happens to be) for lunch, but stopped much earlier, in Amarillo, IIRC. My lunch was at Sonic, and the majority of the band members went there because there aren't any in Grand Forks and they love Sonic. I felt sorry for the people working there, because all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a huge group of people came to eat there, and the workers really had to scramble. A moment of hilarity was to be had when the waitress taking all of our orders asked if we were paying separately or all together; suddenly, people were asking our assistant band director if she stole our band director's credit card so we wouldn't have to pay. Amusingly enough, our band director actually came around about half an hour later and everyone started joking about how he was going to pay for all of our food.

I got a cheeseburger and fries, and then later on a Sonic Blast with Butterfinger (to make up for the lack of Butterfinger shakes at the Black Bear Diner Mom and I went to before I left for college).

We were back on the road again afterwards. About half an hour in, I saw this rather bizarre sight:




Part of me perceived this as a big "fuck you" to all non-Christians in the area.

And I thought North Dakota was religious.

After an hour or so of more driving, we arrived in Lubbock, Texas, home of Texas Tech. Upon getting off the bus on campus, I found that the climate was like Las Vegas, except nicer. The wind didn't feel like it was coming out of a blowdryer.

The members of the Texas Tech marching band were very nice to us. After our rehearsal in their practice "field" (really a parking lot with all of the markings of their football field), we got to socialize and mingle with them for a little while, after they got us coolers full of otter pops. What was funny was that I was talking to this one trombone player, and then three other guys showed up to talk to me, too. I felt kinda overwhelmed, actually.

Oh, they also brought us catering from Jason's Deli. They only have one of those in Las Vegas, and their food is goood. While we were eating our food, we got to see them practice. They are freaking HUGE. Bigger than UNLV, bigger than all of the high school marching bands in Las Vegas, and way bigger than 127-including-Dance-Team us. Their show is The Planets, by Holst, the show my high school was originally supposed to play last year until I came to pick up my instrument and found that we were doing the Russian Impressions show instead. Oh, and while I was eating, I nearly got attacked by a squirrel. The damn animal popped up out of nowhere and ran frantically like crazy around and through me and few other band members sitting down, eating lunch, until the damn thing found the nearest tree and shot up it.

After that, we got on the buses to get to the stadium, in full uniform, with a POLICE ESCORT. Cop cars around our buses, cops directing traffic, motorcycle cops following us. Which was good, because school spirit runs high here. As our buses have our school's name on it, we got quite the angry stares from the Red Raider fans. We on the Dance Team/Drumline bus replied by waving at every single group of people we passed, regardless of what team they were for.

Their stadium's architecture was reminiscent of Sam Boyd Stadium's in Las Vegas, except that it was a lot bigger - the final tally of people that attended the game was around 47k. Unfortunately, all but about 200 of them were Texas Tech fans. We had our little island of green among the huge sea of red. Insults were being hurled at our football players when they came on the field pre-game, but we got our revenge chant-wise later on, with stuff like "Aggies rejects" and some more...obscene stuff, mostly insinuated by the drumline, who were sitting right behind us clarinets. I was facepalming a good amount of the time.

Halftime was...strange. I actually don't remember very much of it, other than that I was pissed off that my clarinet didn't seem to be as loud as it usually was. The thing I remember most about halftime was getting to and from the sidelines. There were seats on the edge of the sidelines, albeit about six feet up. While getting onto the sidelines on the front of the field, there was this little kid in Texas Tech gear was holding his hand out through the railing so he could get a high-five from the band members (us, from UND) passing by. I think everyone was pretty focused on what they would do during halftime, because they kept passing him by without doing anything. Well, this kid looked like he was seven, with an almost ecstatic and hopeful look on his face and his mother encouraging him, so I raised my hand and gave him a high-five as I was passing by. While waiting for the second quarter to actually end, I could just imagine the kid gleefully telling his mom that he got a high-five from a marching band member. It made me really happy. Maybe he'll foster an interest in music later on.

Getting off the sidelines, the same thing happened, except it was with MANY kids this time around, all in Texas Tech gear. A good amount of the band members and I gave them high-fives (though it was a bit difficult, considering how short I am).

After halftime, the Texas Tech band was nice enough to send over coolers full of Powerade and water, and then, later, a basket with candy that we passed around. At the end of the game, they came over and thanked us for coming. Nice guys.

In the fourth quarter, since we were going to lose (final total was 38 to 13), the drum major took the drumline's suggestion of "leaving our mark" in the stadium by having us play the "beer song".



You thought I was joking, didn't you? WRONG!

The part not shown in the picture is the part where we sing "In Heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here, and when we're gone from here, our friends will be drinking all the beer!" Loudly.

Speaking of loudly, one of the senior band members was in one of the tunnels on the opposite end of the field, namely, the one closest to the Texas Tech band. When he came back, he said that when both of the bands were playing at the same time, he heard us (who are on the other side of the field from where he was) over the Texas Tech band. The same phenomenon happened when I was in high school - our smaller, AA band would often play noticeably louder than some of the AAA bands in the competitions.

A final note about the game. Playing at college games is different than playing at high school games. At a high school game, you'd play during one of the rather longer waits between plays, and never when the other band is playing. It's not like that here. We play after EVERY play, other band be damned. It's very fast-paced, but exhausting.

After the game, we got on the buses and drove for about an hour back to Plainview. Upon getting out of the bus at the hotel, I found a cute little toad. Of course, Jocelyn found out and then grabbed it for herself, while squealing.

And now I'm typing this. By the way, if you're wondering about the lack of pictures in this post, it's because my phone was spending most of the day in my pants pocket, sitting on the bus, since I was wearing marching pants most of the time.

This one time, on a band trip... (now with pictures!)

(this was typed up yesterday, but since I didn't have internet, I couldn't post it until today)

Sorry for the lack of updates! I've been on the road for the past 29 hours or so, on my way to Texas Tech with the band!

We left yesterday at 5:30 P.M.. Because of the doctor's appointment I had to schedule for my allergy shots (which takes at LEAST 20 mins because I have to wait that long after getting my shot to make sure I don't have any severe reactions), plus the fact that I resolved to shower right before we left, I had to run around like a headless chicken getting everything packed at the last minute because I was too damn exhausted the night before. So far, the only things I've forgotten consist of exercise shorts to wear under the uniform pants and a power strip. Everything else seems to have made it - my black shoes, black socks (albeit the shorter ones, as I later found out - d'oh!), Pride shirt, gloves, extra reeds, my uniform in its garment bag (packed in my suitcase, to boot!); laptop, phone, Nintendo DS, games for said DS, and iPod, all with their respective chargers; five sets of clothing; all of my shower and hygiene maintenance items; a hand towel and a body towel (I got flak from my roommate for packing that); my Rayquaza Poke'mon card tin for card storage; and a shitload of snacks bought at the convenience store that as of now I've still yet to really touch much of, which is good; all were packed and are with me, thankfully.

We had three tour buses, complete with "University of North Dakota" on their sides.



They have our school's name on it and everything!

The bus ride yesterday wasn't too bad. I had to be on the drumline/Dance Team bus because the other buses were out of room; it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The girls were nice to me, and were doing their homework, too (the girl next to me was doing her Chemistry homework). I got all of the homework I could do done (reading Tom Stoppard's Arcadia in its entirety, reading Orwell's Politics and the English Language [which was done in Pre-calc], cutting down my music so it would fit in my folder). I then got to play on my DS for a bit and call Mom to tell her my status and to ask her to look something up regarding a newly hatched Poke'mon (the Lonely nature gives 110% to Attack, but what stat does it cut down to 90%? The answer, it later turned out, was Defense).

Around 9 or so, we stopped in Watertown, South Dakota (?) for food. McDonald's FTW. It was kinda cool, getting the freedom to do things by myself. Of course, I got the number 7, large, like I always do, right, Mom? I felt sorry for the people working there, though. There were only three of them and then all of a sudden a hundred or so band kids come in for food at the same time, plus the drive-thru.

Sleeping on the bus was difficult, in part because I had the snacks in my backpack in the front pocket, making it outright painful to use it as a makeshift pillow. After taking out all of the snacks and stuffing my jacket into the main compartment of the pack, I finally got to sleep, especially since my seatmate was sleeping in the aisle, freeing up the seat next to me and allowing me to sleep with my back against the backpack and window.

And I found out that even on the road, I still dream about Persona 3. Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. The latest game I'm playing is Okami, and yet I'm still dreaming about Arisato kicking Shadow ass with Thanatos. WTF.

After about half an hour of sleeping, I woke up and found that we were on the outskirts of Omaha, Nebraska, which was kind of bittersweet and strange. Y'see, last summer, my dad (who lived in Omaha at the time) and I took a little road trip when I visited him. We used the exact same highway we were using yesterday to get to Grand Forks. So using that same highway and ending up in the same city where my dad used to live was kind of a strange, almost sad feeling. Even recently, I have to catch myself when I talk about him, because I find myself saying that he lives in Omaha instead of in England where he and my sisters live now.

It was a very, very good thing I was awake, because shortly after leaving Omaha, the bus slammed its brakes. I found myself wondering why the UND bus ahead of us was getting closer and closer without us slowing down enough until he slammed the brakes and promptly woke everyone up. Why did the driver slam his brakes? Because we were pulling into a rest stop. Gee, thanks. At the rest stop, aside from going to the bathroom, I took the opportunity to use the information touch-screen in the lobby to pull up weather warning data. Nothing for the counties of Nebraska. Yay. On one hand, no bad weather meant a higher probability of survival; on the other hand, I had yet to get a decent thunderstorm ever since I came to Grand Forks to attend class.

Well, later on, I got the thunderstorm I wanted. The thunder and lightning woke me up, in fact. It was pouring outside, and considering the little stunt the driver pulled earlier, I was a bit nervous about going what was essentially 75 in pouring rain in a freaking tour bus.

I fell asleep and woke up right as we were stopping for breakfast at the local convenience store and gas station, around five or six in the morning, today. I had no clue about where I was until I was on my way to the bathroom and saw a map for Wichita, Kansas hanging on the wall. It was still cloudy and drizzling outside. I resisted the temptation to get a Frappucino (almost a tradition when I travel now, ever since that road trip with Dad, in which I pretty much got one every time we stopped somewhere) and got two breakfast sandwiches instead. Hey, I was hungry. I had to throw away the second one in the middle of eating, though, because I quickly lost my appetite for some reason.

Which was a very good thing. Not three or so minutes after getting back on the bus after finishing breakfast, it started pouring, plus thunder that shook the parked bus. I felt very sorry for the people who went across the street for food.

The bus ride afterwards was pretty unremarkable until we got to Enid, Oklahoma, the home of Vance Air Force Base, as the billboard greeting us proudly proclaimed. We stopped at was called the Oakland Mall for lunch - total heaven, because we essentially got two hours or so to do whatever the hell we wanted.



Oddly, the mall was pretty deserted...for a mall. Since I was still generally full from breakfast, I decided to get a peach smoothie from a shop in the food court called "America's Best Cookies" or along those lines. Best. Goddamn. Smoothie. EVER. The person who made it asked me where I was from. It was pretty cool getting to associate myself with a college band now.



Okay, okay, it was Great American Cookies. Whatever.

There was a GameStop there, and I went in solely to look. I found that the PS2 version of Okami was now being sold as a Greatest Hits title, despite the fact that it utterly bombed sales-wise (then again, Odin Sphere didn't sell all that well, either, and still got the Greatest Hits moniker). This meant that the game was being rereleased and the copies were being sold for $20 new. It's one of the many reasons why it's smart to buy the console at the end of the console generation instead of picking it up the instant it comes out.

Still talking about the GameStop, I eyed the DS Lites enviously solely because of their superior battery life to my DS (which actually hasn't been too shabby as of late), nevermind their smaller, more pocket-suited size, brighter backlights, better buttons, and the plethora of accessories, such as carrying cases, custom styli, etc. that are available to them. $125, despite the release of the DSi. Baaaaah. I can buy a brand-new PS2 for $99.

After leaving, I wanted to finally find some damn Poke'mon cards that I've been wanting to pick up as souvenirs. I went to the nearby Blockbuster, which didn't have them; out of guilt for walking in and asking for something they didn't stock (unlike in Las Vegas), I bought a pack of Twizzlers. Haven't had those for a while. After that, I went to the Big K-Mart across the street and found the cards I wanted. Not only did they have cards, they had the older ones that I hadn't been able to find in Vegas for months. Secret Wonders and Stormfront (which I picked up solely because the series had been treating me very well with each pack).



Tah-daaaaah!

The cards in Secret Wonders pack were kinda "meh", though it contained some species I didn't have in my album, such as Wormadam (Grass type), but the Stormfront pack delivered yet again, with the awesome gem of a holographic card that had to have been some sort of super-special thing, since its number was 102/100. What was most striking was the illustration of Charmeleon, which instantly struck me as one I've seen before, except better art-wise. The illustration was a remade version of the oldest Charmeleon card, which I have. I was really wowed by that card.



The super-rare-awesome-chocolatey-fudge-coated-mega-super-card. The old Charmeleon card, which I have back at home, is next to it for comparison.

We left for Woodward, Oklahoma, and I fell asleep. We got to their only high school, where my band director graduated from in 1988, as I later found out. The weather was like Las Vegas except with humidity and with wind that didn't feel like it came out of a blowdryer. Much sweating ensued.

Dinner was at the local park, titled "Crystal Beach" because there was a lake nearby. There was also a water park, which the Dance Team took advantage of because a bunch of them actually brought bathing suits with them, something I didn't consider while packing. I sat around with the Baritone section leader, Jocelyn (not sure if I spelled this right), and her friends and talked about random things. That is, until Donnie, one of my friends in the band who happens to play video games and is in the Varsity Bards (and is in practically every single damn picture the Arts Center has of them hanging up), came over with a grasshopper in his hand, which Jocelyn, who likes creepy-crawlies (like that tiny little toad at the end of band camp), stole it from him in the blink of an eye and started petting it, poking it, and generally trying to make it do anything except stand there, motionless, on her hand like it was doing at that moment.



What a cute widdle grasshopper!

There were also cicadas at the park, and I got to see their molted shells on a tree.





Pretty cool, huh?

Dinner was homemade brisket, which I've never had before, alongside a homemade (!!!) cinnamon bun. Yummm. I talked with the girl who is from Phoenix, Arizona (can't remember her name, sorry!), generally about how shitty both Phoenix and Las Vegas is in general (they apparently have a lot of similarities) compared to Grand Forks. The residents of Grand Forks, for instance, don't walk around with their pants around their knees and spit everywhere like the people of Las Vegas.

We drove back to the high school to change into full uniform and perform, and we got to change inside the school. The hallway, which had bathrooms, also happened to have posters up with pictures of all of its graduating members for certain years. One of these was 1988, and a whole bunch of people were crowded around it. Wanting to know what's up, I came over there and saw one of the most laughably traumatizing images in recent memory:

My band director with a spiked mullet. His face looked almost exactly the same as it does today, sans glasses, but GOD, the mullet. Which was spiked on the top of his head. GAAAH.

I even took a picture of it.



Ok, it's hard to see, but still nonetheless traumatizing.

Getting into uniform was kind of an ordeal. The jackets open in the front, but you have to undo half of the twenty or so buttons in front in order to even get to the zipper. Add to that the fact that I needed to adjust the hat I never really wore and cut the tips off of my gloves. Add to that the fact that I was running late to begin with. I ran to one bus, put away my (very sweaty) change of clothing, took out and put together my instrument, ran to the bus I actually rode in, dug around in my backpack for scissors, and was really, really happy that I had four years of experience in this kind of stuff, because it only took me a few minutes at most to cut the tips of my gloves off, accurately, without measurement. About this: only the clarinet players have to do this, because we're the only marching instrument with holes that the fingers have to cover. Even the flutes have keys. The tips of the gloves jam up the metal ring-like keys around the holes and prevent me from playing anything lower than my lowest C (not that low) and higher than a mid B-flat. In other words, it screws up my range and my playing.

It was really freaking hot inside that uniform. We performed, it wasn't my best, unfortunately, but still pretty good. Every performance of The Pretender, I like to make a point that putting me, a freshman, on first clarinet part was the right choice to make by loudly hitting the highest C in the clarinet's range with no squeaks, thank you very much. It always makes me pumped near the end of the song.

On that note (no pun intended), I am surprised at how much I've improved in terms of sound production in such a short time. I started out with reeds of 2 1/2 thickness, which I played on all last year and was convinced that I couldn't do any better. Then after having issues playing loudly enough with 2 1/2, I switched to 3s, which use more air and are thus harder to get sound out of, but has better sound quality. Now, I find myself wanting to get 3 1/2s because I feel that I can't play as loudly as I want without squeaking because the reed can't keep up.

After our performance, we got to hear the Woodward band play the national anthem, and I was surprised at the quality difference between us and them. Let's just say that I could hardly hear the melody of the anthem while they were playing it. Was that what I sounded like in high school?

Afterwards, we got on the buses, still in uniform, so we could go to our hotel room. I'm kinda miffed about this place. It has no internet, which means that I have to post this a day late; they also only had two towels for a room supporting four people (HA, take that, Jane, I totally needed my towel!). Apparently, one of the rooms of the band members had wasn't even made up yet.

Better than trying to sleep on a bus, though.