Sunday, January 3, 2010

Silver Sucks, Part 2

Moar stuff. Broken down into another post for your reading (and my posting) pleasure.

Sunday, 11/29/09:
Today was my first day (of two) volunteering at the local mission. Y'see, the Honors program is like a cross between an AP class and National Honors Society - you have to get volunteer hours. Since volunteering at the mission and serving food to homeless people was our class project, that was the main way we could get hours. Luckily, I was one of the very, very few people on campus, so there was space for me this Sunday. I got a ride from John, a guy in the morning class who also happened to sign up for this weekend. Believe it or not, downtown (where the mission was) wasn't too far away from the campus.

It was rather interesting. First thing I did was cut the ends off of asparagus that was to be used later on in the day. Second thing was helping make the pancakes - I basically flipped them. And then third thing was keeping a vigilant guard over the little bowls of peaches, because you had better take one and ONLY one so that everyone gets one (and then the extras can be taken once seconds are called), otherwise my boss Liz will come and scold you. What was interesting was that, unlike in Las Vegas, these people were, for the most part, well-made, if you will. They looked like normal people, except that, in their eyes, you can see that they're a bit more weary than the average person. According to articles we read in class the next week, in order to stay as long as you want at the mission, you have to shower once a day and wash your clothes, and make a constant effort at finding a job and housing away from the mission (furthermore, at night, you have to pass a breathalyzer test, otherwise you'll be denied admittance). What was nice about the whole thing (a whole three hours!) was that I found the little fuzzy feeling that had been missing ever since I had to stop volunteering at the Spring Valley Library every Sunday.

After getting back home, I didn't feel like walking to Wilkerson, so I helped myself to the chocolate I bought the night before, before heading out to Jamie's place because I heard that Rachel got another application at the bookstore without knowing that I already got one (but I spilled water on mine, so I needed another one anyway). Shortly afterwards, I left to go to the store and turned in my application, then went straight home.

Monday, 11/30/09:
In Marching Band, we practiced for the concert that we'd perform at the night afterwards. Called "ExtravaBANDza", it featured performances from both the University Band and the Marching Band.

...unfortunately, I happened to be in both groups. No rest for me!

It was very straightforward and easy, and I got out a little bit earlier than usual, so I opted to head to Computer Lab early and work on our final lab of the semester.

This was totally foiled by the fact that, as my TA said, "a grad student messed up" and caused the servers to go down halfway through the class. Now, this has to be a completely STUPID move on part of whoever engineered the Linux (or, "Penguin") lab, because ALL of the data, INCLUDING THE OPERATING SYSTEMS THE COMPUTERS WERE RUNNING ON, was on the server. At first, I thought my programming was giving Python issues because of all of the functions (read: huge chunks of code that could be "called" repeatedly throughout the program as opposed to having said code put in repeatedly, thus making the program shorter line-wise), because I noticed a one-second pause between me hitting the F5 key to run my program and it actually showing up in Python. And then the entire thing froze when I tried to run it, and I thought that I broke the computer...until it turned out that I wasn't the only one with a frozen computer, and those whose computers had NOT frozen weren't frozen yet because they hadn't tried to run their programs at the moment. NOT HAPPY.

Some good came of it, though - the fact that I got out of lab early meant that I got back to the dorm early enough to check my mailbox, freak out because I finally got that package slip, and run to the dorm across the street to get my package, which happened to contain my one and only Christmas present: Evangelion 1.01 - You are (not) Alone. Aka the first movie in the Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy, a remake of the Neon Genesis Evangelion series with less angst and a light at the end of the dark tunnel that is the depressing and disturbing end of the series. I didn't really have any time to watch it, though...

Tuesday, 12/1/09:
The weather gods decided that, since it was now December, that we should be getting our complementary snow now. The result was that it was far colder than usual and it was actually snowing outside. This is fairly strange, because everyone told me that there'd be snow on the ground by Halloween, and we hadn't gotten any (November was actually fairly pleasant). I found out the hard way that my normal setup of sweater-underneath-band-jacket wasn't enough to keep me warm.

At the same time this realization occurred, or a little bit before that, my iPod mysteriously disappeared. Now, here's the thing about that iPod - it is practically glued to my hip all day. I use it while I'm doing everything - packing up for class, walking or riding the bus somewhere, writing blog posts, coding, you name it. Unlike, say, my cell, I actually do use my iPod all of the time, everyday. So when it disappeared the instant I didn't have my headphones plugged into it (I was listening to something on the computer), I was both flabbergasted and not happy. After band rehearsal, I spent nearly my entire free time tearing apart the room looking for it. I still didn't find it. BTW, it is a blue second-generation iPod nano with a Hello Kitty sticker on it (courtesy of one of my friends from Japanese class last academic year) and is a little beat up. Why anyone would want it is beyond me, because the battery life is a little shot and the storage capacity sucks compared to the newer versions.

I was running out of time, so I had to get in my concert dress AND pack up my marching band uniform before Rachel was to pick me up. The biggest thing I was worried about in terms of the concert was the change between concert and marching band uniform. This required me to take off my dress, put on my marching pants, put on my marching shoes, and then put on the jacket over that. Here's the thing: that jacket is a pain in the ass to put on quickly. There is a crapload of buttons you have to...well, button, and all of this is on top of a temperamental zipper that likes to stop working when you're in a hurry. It would be my worst nightmare to miss the beginning of the marching band performance because I couldn't get into uniform fast enough.

The University Band part of the concert went well. The first song was American Fanfare by John Wasson, which was a piece originally composed for the Dallas Brass (BTW, we're playing with them next semester). Unfortunately, what would sound good being played by a quintet doesn't sound very good played by a full band; IMO, I found the arrangement a bit uninspired. In case you didn't notice, it's my least favorite of the songs we played.

The second song was my favorite, Tryptich II by Elliot Del Borgo, a completely creepy piece with a lot of percussion work and really difficult woodwind parts (lots of accidentals). To see what I mean, I have a recording here, the only professional recording I could find of it. For some reason, it's really, really hard to find it online.

The third was To Dream in Brushstrokes by Micheal Oare, a piece dedicated to two sisters who died in a house fire, one of which played the flute, the other playing mallets in the percussion section. Why it's called "To Dream in Brushstrokes" is beyond me - I would've thought it would be named "To Dream in Music" or something. Apparently, one of the percussion lines is totally ripped off of one found in another piece that those in the percussion recognized for some reason.

The fourth was Lone Star Celebration by James Curnow, which was conducted by a guest conductor who happened to be a student. A nice piece to play, but requiring a lot of endurance if you're a woodwind student, because you're playing all of the time with little to no breaks.

The last was In the Center Ring by Robert Sheldon, a piece that's about a circus, and is insane as a result. A fun, hectic piece to play (and listen to!). My second favorite.

After this, I had to practically bolt to the back of the stage and get my uniform on as quickly as possible. I got to my spot in the lobby with a few minutes to spare, thankfully. Our performance started with us coming from the front lobby to the stage through the audience isles, while high-marching, which is difficult.

We first played our first marching band show, the one featured at Texas Tech, which consisted of We're an American Band, I Don't Care, and The Pretender. That went well. And then there was Gimme Some Lovin', one of our trademark pep band pieces.

This started with one of our drum majors beginning the three whistles, only to be suddenly incapacitated by an "injury" that mysteriously affected both of them. And then someone was called up from the audience to "conduct" us (which didn't matter, since we knew the song so well that we could play it as a band with our eyes closed). It was pretty funny.

Then we played our second marching band show, which consisted of Caravan and I Just Wanna Celebrate, with Karn Evil 9 being added on. Everything went well...except for Karn Evil 9, at least, to me on a personal level. Here is a song that I've been playing memorized for months, that I played memorized perfectly at yesterday's rehearsal...only to blank out at the actual performance. Words could not describe how angry I was with myself.

And then the University Band joined us for the playing of the fight songs. Yay. Here's a fun fact about the fight songs: pretty much everyone has some sort of improvisation taking place in the fight songs. I thought I was the only one who looked at the actual music for the fight songs and found that, while what I was playing sounded and went well with the rest of the band, was completely different than the music. And then I found out that other people were doing it, too. It works because it sounds like part of the actual song, except it's not. But the audience doesn't care because it sounds good and they don't know what the original music looks like anyway. I think this spawned from the fact that we're expected to learn and memorize the fight songs really, really fast early on in the year, which results in people "filling in the blanks" with stuff that works, or memorizing it incorrectly but never finding out because it works with the rest of the piece and memorization means that you don't have music in front of you.

Afterwards, Rachel was nice enough to drive me back. It was her last concert of her college career, because she's graduating this academic year and University Band doesn't work with her schedule next semester.

Wednesday, 12/2/09:
In band, we came in solely to fill out our course evaluation. I bubbled in "strongly disagree" when prompted if the work we did was appropriate for the credit we received. NO, IT WASN'T, YOU BASTARDS. We get one measly credit for all of the work we do in Marching Band! ONE!

I got a mysterious text from Jamie asking if I was free Saturday. Turns out that she wanted me to come with her and her other friends (who are also my friends) to Space Aliens, a restaurant I've never been to, on Saturday. The time was thankfully before my hockey game, which I refused to take myself off of the list for because it's a Women's Hockey game and they needed all the help they can get. I texted back, saying that I could go.

More importantly, however, I got an e-mail from the Space Studies Department about a reception for Pablo De Leon, who netted a $742,000 grant from NASA for approval of his proposal, "Integrated Strategies for the Human Exploration of the Moon and Mars". The reception was taking place on the 9th...

Thursday, 12/3/09:
Since I didn't have University Band today, I actually had time to watch Evangelion 1.01: You are (not) Alone, the first of four movies (the second of which isn't out in the US yet, and the third and fourth aren't out in Japan yet) that retell the original show, Neon Genesis Evangelion; this one in particular covered the first six episodes. It was freaking AWESOME. As someone who watched the TV show fairly recently, it was interesting to see the little things that were changed (the Angels melt into blood when they die now), as well as an entire plot point later on, not to mention the improved animation (really, really obvious if you see some of the original scenes in the TV show right after you watch the movie - and the TV show was pretty good animation-wise) and condensing of the plot (the pacing of which was changed to fit the movie format), and call-forwards to things that show up at the very end of the series. Also, they managed to get the entire Japanese voice cast from the original show back on. Which was freaking AWESOME.

Right after I finished watching it, I was so pumped up that I was seriously considering to write the four essays I've been putting off for Honors on the spot. Except that I still had a place to go.

Tonight was the last International Night of the semester. I still needed a Cultural-Intellectual Event for Honors to write an essay about. This night happened to be about South Korea. What surprised me about the presentation was that people in South Korea actually want to reunite with North Korea, considering how many times North Korea has threatened to wipe South Korea off of the map. There were also many similarities with the Japanese culture I'm so familiar with (Seoul, for instance, looks a LOT like Tokyo, as there's a crapload of high-rise towers). Afterwards, they served food, which was very delicious.

This brings up the only issue I have with the Dining Centers here at UND - there isn't much variety. By "variety", I mean things pertaining to stuff like Japanese food. The only seafood they have is fish. I hate fish. They rarely, if ever, serve anything with shrimp in it, let alone other things like clams, scallops, or squid. Sushi is never served, etc.. You don't really notice this until you go home over the break or have some Japanese food or seafood.

Friday, 12/4/09:
Since I had time to kill, I opted to play and finish Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The Gerudo stronghold is still a pain in the ass.

Saturday, 12/5/09:
Today was my scheduled meeting with Jamie to go to Space Aliens. I came in my band shirt and jeans, with my laptop case from the Clark County Library District with my jersey, music, and clarinet (in its case), and she picked me up in front of the dorm.

The place is very strange and cool. There are things pertaining to the old-school aliens everywhere. The food served is the American stuff, burgers and ribs and the like. We met up with our friends, who took up three entire tables. At the table I sat at, I was asked to put together my clarinet by some very curious friends whose names I can't remember because I'm bad at remembering names. I ordered the boneless ribs, but because of the fact that I had to leave for hockey (and the fact that everyone else was going to a free concert at the Alerus), I couldn't finish them. Luckily, it was freezing outside; I got the remaining ribs boxed and it was allowed to sit in Jamie's car during the concert, before being put in a (most likely warmer) fridge at her house. Jamie drove me to the Ralph and mentioned a Christmas Party she was holding a week from today.

The Women's Hockey game sucked. It was painful to watch. I can't remember who we were up against, but they beat us - granted, it was only by one goal (IIRC), but they beat us. This didn't make it painful to watch, though, it was how we played that made it painful to watch. It was like our Women's Hockey team had been replaced by members of the Men's Hockey team or something, because they found themselves incapable of passing to each other.

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