Saturday, January 16, 2010

Homecoming

Not that homecoming. Or that one.

For the past few weeks, I've been in Texas, with my mother. In fact, I helped her move there, in a harrowing three-day journey that I will elaborate upon in Silver Sucks later. It's been snowy and icy, but overall nice.

But time marches on, and, alas, I'm a college student. So the time came when I had to inevitably make my way back to the frigid realm of Grand Forks.

On Saturday, the night of which we had to head to a town around Oklahoma City, I was supposed to pack. So, of course, I spent the entire time playing Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and packed at the last minute.

After eating dinner, laughing at four guys trying to play Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 (emphasis on trying - the quote at the top of the Sonic 2006 article is from what I was watching), getting the stuff in the car, and walking the dogs, Mom and I began the first leg of our journey: getting coffee at the local convenience store. Mom took advantage of this to get $15 in cash for my cab ride, despite my insistence that it's simply not going to be enough for the cab ride from Grand Forks International to my dorm, as the airport is a good five miles or so outside of the outskirts of the town.

After she got her coffee and my cash, our real journey began: that of driving to Shawnee, Oklahoma, late at night. We passed the time by talking about random things and mocking the MORON behind us who was blinding us with his headlights. This bozo was clearly overcompensating for something, because he had FOUR headlights on the front of his car. Combined, this made him easily as blinding as a truck with his brights on. We had to duck our heads so that his lights wouldn't blind us via our mirrors. Even worse was the fact that the guy couldn't decide whether to go faster or slower than us - he'd pass us, only for us to pass him again five minutes later. Needless to say, his blinding lights were becoming old hat, very fast. We were thankful when the guy exited somewhere before Oklahoma City.

I was very thankful when we reached Oklahoma City, because the numerous amount of lights...lighting up the road was comforting. Unfortunately, the last part of our journey involved leaving Oklahoma City and driving, yet again, in complete darkness. It was very eerie, and as we passed the occasional house, signified by a single glowing light, I wondered how the HELL anyone could live out in the boonies like that. Granted, you were maybe half an hour away from Oklahoma City, but still, out in the middle of nowhere. Creeeepy.

After we got to Shawnee, Mom and I put our stuff down and promptly collapsed for three hours, before the awesome Friend of the Family drove us to the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City for me to catch my flight to Minneapolis.

After a tearful goodbye, I went through airport security, which is as entertaining as getting a root canal (not that I've ever gotten one, mind you). I had all of my video game consoles with me, and I had to take them all out, plus my laptop, so they could be examined. This was a massive, time-consuming pain in the ass.

This was nothing, though, compared to what happened after boarding. At the last minute, I had to have my carry-on checked in as planeside baggage. The freaking attendant informed me that my bag was too large to be a carry-on (bullshit, because I've never had any problems with it on the numerous flights I've had in the past), and gave me a pink ticket, saying "Don't do it again". Excuse me?! My carry-on was definitely within the limits of the container they had at the check-in counter - aka, the same one that Southwest and Allegiant Air uses. Furthermore, every carry-on seemed to be checked in as planeside baggage for this flight, no lie. The family of four with the rolling backpacks? Planeside. The businessman with a small suitcase? Planeside. I was pissed off because my carry-on had nothing but video game stuff in it, including my consoles. Luckily, my consoles were in the laptop case lovingly given to me by the librarians at the Spring Valley Library, so I brought that with me instead, but it still didn't change the fact that my games, memory cards, and controllers were inside a suitcase that would most likely be harshly handled by people (which is why it wasn't checked luggage in the first place).

Well, as it turned out, the luggage containers for the plane were tiny. The plane was definitely not a full-sized plane, though it wasn't a prop plane, either. What was awesome was that the plane, with all people aboard, still had empty seats galore, so despite having an assigned seat that was not next to a window, I got to move to a window seat. What was even more awesome was that we were flying out in ridiculously early morning, so it was still dark outside, and I LOVE seeing the lights of the city from the air. It looks so pretty!

After spending time staring out the window, I figured that I needed to save my DS's battery power for the flight after this, so I took out my laptop and watched episodes of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex until my laptop almost ran out of juice.

We arrived in Minneapolis early, which made me ecstatic because I always love having time before boarding for my flight and because it gave me more time to eat something using the $10 Friend of the Family gave me for food. It also helped that I've been to this airport before, several months back, for my freshman orientation.

After figuring out where my gate was (as they changed the gate for my flight to Grand Forks), I went to the nearest food court and checked out the restaurants. The only two restaurants cheap enough for my $10 was A&W and Quizno's. Since there was an A&W at the Old Main Marketplace at the Memorial Union back at the University, I opted to go to Quizno's, since I haven't eaten there in at least a year. While thinking about what sub to get, I came across who looked like a businessman who was also thinking about what sub to get. We both found the situation funny. Eventually, I chose the Chicken Carbonara and asked for a cup of water (since the price of a bottle of water was insanely high and would've put the price of my meal over $10). The businessman then also chose a Chicken Carbonara, because I did. It was funny. The sub was a regular size, which I assume is a footlong. I downed it in twenty minutes, then went to the bathroom, washed my hands, and made my way to the gate, where my carry-on would be checked as planeside baggage AGAIN (except I was actually expecting this, because it happened in June).

This flight, which was using a prop plane, was totally packed, because it was filled with UND students and faculty. I was actually seated next to an instructor in the music department, who recognized me as a musician because of my band jacket, and I recognized one of the students seated ahead of me from Honors. Unlike the last flight, where I was totally awake, I conked out as we were waiting for them to get the plane ready for take-off (de-icing, all of that stuff). I woke up while we were taking off, and I fell back asleep and woke up again when we were almost there. When we passed over the college, I could actually see my dorm, which was pretty awesome.

Because of excess fuel or something, we actually didn't land right away. This added another 15 minutes to our flight. After landing, I went to our ONE baggage carousel and got BOTH of my suitcases, while at the same time hoping that nothing was broken (turns out, something was - the BASTARDS broke off one of the zipper tags of my carry-on bag!). The girl I recognized from Honors, whose name slips my mind at the moment, got on the same taxi as me.

As we got on campus in the taxi, I noticed something horrible - there were walls of snow along the sidewalks and buildings! The snowmobiles cut paths for the sidewalks in what looked like three feet of snow. I asked the taxi driver, and apparently, they got 25 inches of snow alone in the same storm we had in Texas on Christmas Eve (and, for them, Christmas Day). Once I got to my dorm, my assertion that the $15 wouldn't be enough for the ride turned out to be correct - it was $17. Luckily, I still had change from getting that sub in Minneapolis, and was able to pay for it, sans tip (which I apologized for). Getting to the door with my two suitcases in tow was a pain because of all of the snow around me, preventing me from taking any shortcuts. I noticed that it was actually pretty nice outside (later, I found out that I missed the forty-below temperatures Grand Forks had during break), nothing like the absolutely bitter cold I was expecting.

After getting everything into my unlocked (WTF?) room, unpacking (during which my roommate, G.I. Jane, showed up, aunt in tow, with her stuff, before leaving to go out to eat), and showering, I promptly collapsed in my bed and took a power nap for three and a half hours. When I expressed my worries about getting up early tomorrow to G.I. Jane, she said that we didn't have class tomorrow - a fact that I remembered because they did that last semester. This was good, because I still needed time to recover.

After I got up, I made my way to the computer and got online, now having to use this program called SafeConnect instead of Cisco Clean Access Agent (which was buggy and I hated it with a passion). At the moment, I didn't know whether I found it worse or better.

The next day was just me vegging out and playing some more Zelda while G.I. Jane's boyfriend (as opposed to his normal "battle buddy and friend" status of last semester), Rivers, came over and watched me beat Arbiter's Grounds. Not much to really blog about.

The next day, I had actual classes. This I will elaborate upon in my next post, which should be in a few hours from the posting of this one (yeah, right, I wanted to post this one on Monday!).

Also, it would be nice if my posts didn't keep being bombarded with comments with Russian spam or Babelfish-translated sentences. Seriously. I have a hard enough time writing posts, let alone going through all of them and deleting bogus comments.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Music.

Don't worry, Silver Sucks (and its numerous grammatical errors that I don't feel like editing out at the moment) will come back in a little bit, but I wanted to post an actual post for once.

When I was a kid, my dad made "mix" CDs, or CDs containing a bunch of random tracks from his favorite albums, on his computer that he would send to us and let us listen to. My mom still had these, and when she first started up her laptop, imported all of them to her computer by way of iTunes.

Unfortunately, because of how old the CDs were, they came with the magnificent and creative titles of Track [insert number here]. This made trying to figure out just what the songs were impossible without listening to them first.

A few hours after flying in, I opted to fix that little problem, particularly because I wanted some of the songs, and I hated it when the titles and artists weren't correct or were in a crappy format (for instance, the song GameBox_Frozen_Lavareef_[WIP] was renamed as Frozen Lavareef [WIP] with GameBox as the artist before I ever put it on the iPod). To get the proper title and artist (if I didn't figure both out right away), I would listen to the song until I got a full verse in, which I'd type into the search in Songlyrics.com and see what would come up.

Using this time-consuming method, I restored the titles, artists, and albums of about 40 songs over the period of a few hours. And then I got sick of it and stopped.

There was the more pressing issue of getting the songs I wanted (even if they were named Track [insert number here]) onto my computer. One of the many reasons on my "Why I hate Apple" list is that, for a pretentious company that seems to preach simplicity (to the point of stupidity in the case of the iMac) in their products, they sure make it FUCKING HARD to put songs from an iPod on your computer. In fact, you can't do it via iTunes. Which is bullshit. Apple says that this is to counter stealing, but I highly, highly doubt it. For one, the vast majority of music stealing is done via downloads on the internet. For two, this STUPID limitation punishes people like me who share music with their family members and pay actual money to get that music in the first place. My dad has what looks like a hundred hard-copy CDs, and he bought all of them.

And by the way, the only reason why I have (or, rather, had - it mysteriously disappeared a month ago. :/) an iPod was because iTunes has the biggest selection of music and, until recently, Apple "protected" music bought from iTunes so that you couldn't play it anywhere else (Windows Media Player and my dad's Xbox 360 both couldn't play songs I purchased off of iTunes), which meant that if you bought it off of iTunes, chances are you could only play it on an iPod. Plus, I didn't know about any other MP3 players (this was back when Apple had a monopoly in this industry).

Anyway, I really wanted some of those songs on my computer. And when there's a will, there's a Google search.

Luckily, I have Windows 7, and Microsoft made it ridiculously easy to allow the viewing of hidden folders this time around. According to an article I found via Google, all iPods have a hidden folder for stored music. In hindsight, this makes sense - that music has to go somewhere on the iPod or else it wouldn't be able to play anything, and I'm damn sure that the iPod has more than nothingness and blank space on it. The music folder, predictably, has all of your music on it, and it all works, at least after I copied and pasted them into my music folder on my computer.

Unfortunately, not only do the majority of the songs have "Track X" as a name (so that's all that shows up in the info the computer has), but the filenames for them on the iPod consist of four random letters. So I had to do the arduous task of listening to each one to figure out if it's one I wanted.

The entire process of listening to the tracks, then naming or putting them on my music folder on my computer was both satisfying (finding a handful of Metallica tunes, a Rammstein song I've never heard before, Smooth by Santana, Flight of Icarus by Iron Maiden) and...dissatisfying (why the hell is there so much Led Zeppelin? *gag*).

So now I have a bunch of songs that I need to restore the names and artists of. Yay. Ya know what, when I go back home, where I literally have internet ANYWHERE on campus, I might just do a few songs at a time or something.

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.

Silver Sucks

Silver sucks. You poor guys have probably been checking my blog for the past several weeks, wondering when I was going to update, if I died, etc.. Here's my excuse: I was busy the days leading up to finals week, and the rest was sheer laziness. So here's some stuff I've been typing up.

Thanksgiving Week:
Sunday, 11/22/09:
Women's Hockey, us vs. Manitoba. We won 9-0. It was so bad that by the end of the game, we had people begging the refs to give them a point out of pity.

Monday, 11/23/09:
The only thing of note was that we had no Computer Lab. In fact, we had no lab assignments whatsoever (as they're usually posted online), so I didn't have anything to program!

Tuesday, 11/24/09:
Half of the University Band was missing. I guess some people decided to go home early. Slackers.

At the end of rehearsal, a friend of mine in the band, Rachel, a trumpet player, told me that some friends of hers were throwing a Thanksgiving party for the few people who will be on campus on Thursday. I agreed to meet them, so we drove to their house, which was on campus and five minutes away, walking, from my dorm because it was right next to the medical school.

There was a very good reason for this, because a good portion of the people who lived there were medical students (and Rachel herself was a medical student). The ringleader was Jamie, who was very, very nice. It also turned out that there were three or four Japanese girls there, one of which I actually greeted ("Konban wa!") and said goodbye to ("Oyasumi nasai!") in Japanese before leaving with Rachel. The entire time, I was saying that I was not good at it ("Tokui jyanai!").

Wednesday, 11/25/09:
I only had one class, and that class happened to be the earliest class on my list. So, despite the fact that I only had Computer Science, I still had to get up at 7 in the morning. There was only about ten people in a class of thirty or forty.

But more important was happened at noon. A few days before this, I got an e-mail talking about a luncheon in the Space Studies department, followed by some sort of lecture or something about "Investigating Relationships Between Sunspot Rotations and Energetic Events". The day before this, I got an e-mail saying that it was postponed to next semester, but they were serving pizza anyway. Since I wanted to build connections, I opted to go anyway.

The Space Studies department is on the fifth floor of Clifford Hall. Walking in, past the reception desk, at which the awesome Bev sits (she's the one that gave me the form to fill out for a Space Studies Minor and turned it in), there is a "lobby" room (later found out that this referred to as the "Reading Room"), if you will - there are two large bookshelves, filled with books and magazines on everything related to space, facing each other. In the middle of these is a long table with chairs, and hanging up on a wall facing this is a flatscreen TV set to NASA TV. While walking to this place, you will notice the variety of stuff hanging up on the walls - including, causing much internal squeeing, pictures from the prototype Mars suit project that led me to UND in the first place.

When I first got there, I was pretty much lost, because there was seemingly no one there. I thought there would be several people. Guess not. Then again, I did get there a bit early. One of the staff reassured me that I was in the right place, it was just that the food wasn't here yet. So, I opted to put my coat on a chair, grab a newspaper, and read it while waiting. Literally, about 30 seconds after I sat down, this professor by the name of Paul shows up with two guys in suits who look like government agents or something. Turns out that he was giving two guys from Commerce or something like that a tour of the department. I stood in the corner and smiled and listened the entire time, knowing that I was a huge n00b and better stay out of their way.

After this, I read the paper for a little bit before the pizza FINALLY arrived, which prompted the appearance of very important people and two grad students. This was a bit scary, since I was easily the youngest person there.

We talked about a lot of stuff - rockets (and why the Russian rockets failed so badly), whether vodka protects you from nuclear radiation (which eventually led to joking about a seminar on alcoholism in space), and classical music (the only Mozart Dr. Whalen likes is [spelled in English 'cause I can't spell it otherwise] The Magic Flute). Yeeeeaaaah.

Apparently, there's about twenty people in the Masters program in Space Studies, with around a hundred doing the same in the distance program. And it also turned out that I wasn't the only one who wanted to be an astronaut - one of the grad students, an anthropology major, said that he wants to apply to become a candidate, too.

All in all, I enjoyed it very much. After the two hours I spent at this very interesting luncheon, I took the bus to the book store so I could get an application and (hopefully) fill it out and turn it in. This was foiled by the fact that I forgot to type up my spring semester schedule and print it out, but even more by the fact that I had no idea when exactly Marching Band would meet; since there was no more football, there was no way we would have the three rehearsals a week we had scheduled. In the end, I decided to pack up my application and leave, and turn it in later. While I was filling out as much as I could on the application before I left, I saw my Honors teacher with a cup of coffee and what appeared to be a large stack of essays. Guess he was telling the truth when he said that he needed the essays as an excuse to not visit his in-laws.

Thursday, 11/26/09:
There was no school, and rightfully so, because the dorm and the campus were entirely DEAD. And my roommate, G.I. Jane, was at her relatives' place. And the dining centers were not open. I felt sorry for those that didn't have anywhere to go to for food.

It turned out that I wouldn't have to starve myself before the party, because one of the four people still in the dorm served a Thanksgiving lunch for us. While eating, the four of us talked about many things. The person who served it is in the band, but I'm really, really bad at names. Haley, who lives a few doors down from me, is a huge hockey enthusiast and often goes to our games - I remember her name because I already knew her before this event. And the final girl was someone I had never seen before (probably lived on the other, older side of the dorm, which has its own facilities, so we'd never cross paths), who hailed from Alaska and drove to Grand Forks through Canada after receiving her license a few days before. Talk about badass.

Finally, as night fell, I went to Jamie's place for the party. Now, when you think of "party on a college campus", I'd imagine that you'd think of orgies and drunk people. This was totally not it. There was no alcohol at all, and the people who came were very respectable. Again, I was the youngest person there - pretty much everyone was an upperclassmen or a grad student. We had a guy who was pursuing a Master's in Chemical Engineering, a Chinese couple pursuing Ph.Ds and their cute little kid, a couple of aviation students, a flight instructor, and several med and Japanese students. And I'm only covering the people I remembered - there was probably around thirty people there.

In terms of food, there was much of it, and it was very varied. There was turkey, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes (one dish of it had marshmallows on top), but there was also stuff like a slightly spicy dish with rice noodles, green bean casserole, and a salad with almonds on top (which meant that I wouldn't touch it - because picking out the almonds would've been too tedious). For dessert, there was pumpkin pie, ice cream, and some of the best homemade banana nut bread that I've ever tasted.

While people were socializing and eating, this one aviation student and I were playing "Chinese checkers" with the couple, and the little kid was kicking our sorry asses. Basically, it consisted of wooden tiles with what I knew as Kanji (Chinese characters that represent concepts or objects), and you had to match them, like Concentration, if you will. One of the characters I thought was earth (土) (and so did the flight instructor, who was in the process of learning Japanese), but turned out to be a different one because the top horizontal stroke was longer than the bottom one. It was the symbol for a guard or something along those lines instead.

Once everyone was done eating, we set our chairs in a circle and played a game called "Signs". Basically, everyone had a specific hand gesture (mine was the Vulcan "Live long and prosper"). Now, everyone was in a circle, with one person in the middle. One person would have the "sign" (think of it as an invisible ball). In order to pass the sign to another person, they would have to do that person's hand gesture, and the receiving person would have to do the "thrower's" gesture in response (the catch: once you signal a person, you have to signal that person and only that person, no changing, and you have to keep signaling them until they see you and "receive" it). The person in the middle has to figure out which person has the sign, so the game turns into one of trying to flash the hand signs behind the middle person's back as quickly as possible so they don't see you. Once the person in the middle figures out who it is, they sit in that person's spot, and the person who got caught was now the person in the middle. It's more fun than it sounds, and I haven't laughed so hard in ages.

And then we played a variation when someone was the "leader", who would do a hand gesture that everyone else would then do repeatedly, and the person in the middle would have to figure out who the leader was as they changed gestures. While I was the leader, my first gesture was a twirling of my hand in the air, followed by a straight downward "chopping" motion repeatedly. The flight instructor figured out that I was a huge hockey fan, because we do that after we score a goal in a hockey game (the twirling of the hand being the prep alongside a bass drum roll, followed by the downward motion directed at the opponent's goalie, while yelling "SIEVE!" with each motion).

I had a TON of fun, and I was surprised at how much I had, because I'm not that much of a people person. I called Mom up afterwards saying that, HOLY CRAP, I actually spent time with people outside of band or school.

Friday, 11/27/09:
I did basically nothing except stuff myself on leftovers. And watched a ton of Trigun (yes, I'm still trying to finish that boxed set).

Saturday, 11/28/09:
So here I was, watching Trigun on my computer, when I suddenly got a call from Jamie asking if I wanted to come with her and some friends to Target for some shopping. I obliged, because I did need to get some stuff - I ended up getting two packs of flossers, some long socks, and chocolate, because it was cheap. Jamie, Yoko, and Miriam were there for grocery and winter shopping.

Afterwards, we went to Old Navy, which in itself was an entirely new experience to me. My clothes hail from Wal-Mart (the vast majority of my clothing, which is Faded Glory), Ross Dress For Less (my $15 prom dress that was every bit as awesome as the $400 ones), and the local thrift store (all of my winter clothing). So being in an Old Navy was completely new. I found myself boggled at how expensive everything was over there - what wasn't on clearance (which was why we went there) was INSANELY expensive, such as designer pea coats for $120. You know what I could buy with $120? I could pre-order Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey AND Poke'mon SoulSilver AND get Muramasa: The Demon Blade and STILL have money left over. Granted, if I got that, I'd look like someone from Persona 3, but that is still ridiculous!

While Miriam was trying on pairs of jeans, I got a sudden idea while talking to Jamie and texted my drum major asking about the Marching Band rehearsals in spring, because my band director hadn't replied to my e-mail yet. Within a few minutes, I got a text back saying that they were generally only on Wednesdays when we DID have them.

After THAT, we headed to the Columbia Mall (across the street) so Yoko could exchange something, while I tried (and failed) to explain to Miriam what Trigun was. She DID know what Evangelion was though (after all, it's so famous in Japan that the Rebuild movies were released in theaters, while they're going straight to DVD here).

And then after THAT, they let me have dinner at their place. It was really yummy, despite the fact that it was leftovers.