Thursday, December 18, 2014

On the Rank of Eagle, and How I Got Here

[Note, I'm typing this in a second period study hall....]

So last night I had my Eagle Board of Review. I explained it to my non-scouting friends, teachers, and, well, about everybody non-scouting, as this: it's a two-hour (give or take) review and panel interview. For the first half hour or so they review the paperwork - all of my rank advancement stuff back to when I joined, the project paperwork, and the other pertinent documents. "They" is a panel that I have picked of either scouters or people I know (in this case 4 scout-related (one troop leader, one district advancement chair, one former district advancement chair, and a district commissioner) and 1 non-scout related (one vice principal)).

They review my paperwork, and then bring me in for questioning. In prior board of reviews they just go down the list of requirements and ask about them (when did you tie this bowline or whatever?) but I knew this was bound to be different - it's the last one effectively. They asked things in sections, but what threw me off a bit was after the usual (oath, law, slogan, etc) was that they started asking about me. And not just about me, but about the things I do outside of scouts. Having the Vice Principal and someone representing a volunteer group you're in gives them a list of things you've done. So they went down the list.

Then came the scouting questions. They asked about my experiences and merit badges and points of the scout law and ten thousand other things you could have probably Googled but the point is that if you've made it this far you really shouldn't have to. Talking about yourself is a strange thing. I'm not a big fan of myself (actually I find me kind of annoying), but I did the best I could in answering. Which is what they were after, I guess.

I had been told for years about the horror stories of Eagle Boards. What I had gathered from it was this: they were intense, long, and very thorough. While that held true, I found myself relaxing a bit after the first section or so of questioning. I picked a relatively tough board, but they all knew me from something. One of the most important things, I think at least, that can be gathered from organizations is networking.

I had also been told horror stories about how long it took to deliberate after the questioning. For the review of records and deliberation I wasn't allowed to be present, which I understand. Strangely enough, the "green room" for us was the room in which I had all but two boards of reviews in. So I sat down expecting a wait. Five minutes later, Mr. Y (the troop representative of the board, and probably my biggest mentor throughout scouting) appears in the door (I'm thinking that something didn't match up, there was no way it was that quick) and says "I cannot say whether the smoke from the Vatican is white or black." So I follow him back into the room, and they put me at the front (again) and Mr. Ellenberger (the district advancement chair) says: "Congratulations, on behalf of the board we'd like to welcome you into the ranks of Eagle." And that was that.

To say it's an amazing feeling is an understatement. I've been working up the ranks since I was in the first grade, so in a way this has been 11 years in the making. To everyone, and I mean everyone from Mr. Y to the other leaders to anyone who had a part in the project to my amazing family and friends (and girlfriend) who have listened and counseled me through this process, thank you. It takes a village and I am very very grateful for mine.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Funeral, A Wedding, and an Eagle Project: The Past Month

So I haven't posted in a LONG while. Sorry.

On October 26th, 2014 I gained a guardian angel and lost one of my most dear relatives and friends when my paternal grandmother passed away. I will give this the proper post it deserves in a little while, just not now. But following that was a viewing, a funeral, and then reality.

I went to a wedding last weekend in Meadville. Or at least we stayed in Meadville. If you've ever been to the Cochranton/Meadville exit off of 79, you know that you have to go through a swamp in order to get there from points south. That's the kind of place Meadville is - kinda cool, yet kind of far removed from reality.

We were there for the daughter of my mother's best friend's wedding. It was a lovely ceremony, and lasted all of 15 minutes. I took somewhere near 100 pictures for a project my mother wanted to put together. I like photography without a set list of things to accomplish, but I am also realistic enough to know that when I'm given an assignment for this to go a step further than my computer that despite what the client (in this case my mother) says about having no agenda, they have an agenda. So I did my best to read minds and attempt to be everywhere and nowhere. We'll see how that goes.

On November 10th, I finished a project I had been working on for over a year: The Carlynton Sign Project. Mr. McAdoo signed off on it yesterday, so I feel safe saying that with the exception of some more paperwork I am done with this.

I crunched some numbers and realized that all told 35 people volunteered on the project contributing 120+ hours of community service to the school district. That's just time dedicated to working on the project, not the planning and scheming and phone calls. To say I was happy to see the project finished and to see people's reactions to it and to see that signature is a grotesque understatement.

So many people worked to make this thing a reality and I have lost so much sleep over it that I'm very happy to finally take a step back and think, wow, I did this thing. We were given a budget of $500 and accomplished what we came to do - rehab, replace, and landscape the Carlynton Sign. We put new capstone in, cleaned, painted, mounted banners to and landscaped around this thing and I think it's safe to say that it looks much better than it did.

You be the Judge:

So thanks again to everyone who had a hand in this project, from Mr. McAdoo and Mr. Loughren and the School Board to Jeff and Nick who randomly helped us clean the brick to any and all of the volunteers who took time out of their schedules to make this crazy idea a reality. 120+ hours. Nuts.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

This Has Been Alexander Popichak Speaking For The Carlynton Marching Band

Yesterday was the end of an era for me, it was Senior Night at Carlynton and with that, my last football game with the band.

Three years ago I signed up to be the announcer of the band. Since then, I've attended football games home and away, and more band festivals then I knew existed. It was a blast, honestly. What started as just something to do became a part of my life, and the gaining of a family I never expected. It was because of this that I was able to do three years of homecoming court bios, senior nights, a year of soccer, and emceeing three band festivals.

Last night I was given a gift by my section member (the section of the sectionless) Abbie (best friend to my girlfriend and all around amazing band manager) an awesome gift - a decorated hatbox for my crazy marching band helmet as well as a bag of Three Musketeers.

I again read (this time half) of senior night -  for my seniors, the class of 2015. Then it was my turn to have my name and biography read as I walked down the field. It was the first time I had ever walked down the middle of the field that I can remember, and I was met at the end by Mr. Obidowski, Mr. Loughren, and Mr. McAdoo. It was surreal to say the least. The band cheered, and then I was back to whatever it was I was doing. Back to the student section for one last time to cheer on one last Carlynton Loss.

We lost, but we cheered anyway. I hung by the band one last time with the people I had grown to appreciate, the people that had taken me in as their own.

I wrote two weeks ago about living in the moment, and about taking it in. I did, and it was fantastic. Nothing was different except the beginning and the end. I took along with me to the box Sara and Cassie. They had never been there, and I offered to any senior the chance to go. So I did my thing, and I added one thing to the end of my regular script:
"Thank you for supporting music in our schools, Thank you Mr. Obidowski and the entire Carlynton Marching Band for an amazing past three years as your announcer. This has been Alexander Popichak speaking for the Carlynton Golden Cougar Marching Band. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO COUGARS!"
And that was it. They played Seven Nations' Army in the stands one last time, I must note, but that was the end of my band announcing (career?). Clay, Sara, Cassie, and I went to Kings and ran into a waitress that we had the night prior, and it was weird and surreal and wonderful.

Friday, October 10, 2014

I'm Gonna Fight Em Off, A Seven Nations' Army Couldn't Hold Me Back

It's a Friday Night and usually I don't post, but I found myself having enough time to do so. It's been a strange week, but a good one. I'm also wearing my duck shirt, so there's that.
My favorite part about traveling week to week with the band over the past three years has been the music and the atmosphere. You really can't duplicate either, you're only in high school once and each game only happens once. I don't care that Carlynton is 0-6 on the season, they're still fun games.

Anytime they can, the marching band plays music - in between first downs, after kickoffs, after scores, quarter breaks - basically if there is a break in the action, there's music. By far my favorite stand tune is Seven Nation's army. It has this crazy deep bass riff, and, just listen to the song:
Anyway, I really like this song, and the band does it really well. Why am I telling you this? A while back, my senior adviser/WCHS adviser/Midsummer director/general advice-giver Ms. Longo told me when I was talking about realizing this is my senior football season to enjoy it, and take it in. She's right, there's no way to really capture these things (yes I have videoed the band playing Seven Nation). You can try your best to relive it, but in the end this is it, this is the time you need to own, and this is the time you need to live. So that's what I'm doing. 

I don't want to get sentimental, so I haven't done much to record it for that reason. I know that down the road I won't have anything to connect me to it, but I also remember what happened in NYC 2009. I was so focused on capturing it all that I didn't really live that moment. My exciting story comes from the thing I didn't capture: nightfall in Times Square. They say memory is unreliable, but I'd much rather have a memory to go off of where I lived and where I felt infinite than some passive documentary footage. And so it goes.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

We Live On Front Porches and Swing Life Away

I haven't written here in a while, and I'm beginning to think that in some very removed sense I've been living like they did in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I've reacquired a group of friends who are forcing me to live, something that I haven't really done much of in being wrapped up in the mundane comforts of my own invented reality.

Friday was Homecoming the Pep Rally, Homecoming the parade, and Homecoming the game. The pep rally was a technical nightmare as it usually is, but it was the last time I have to do that. Homecoming the parade was pretty cool to watch, and (some of the best/edited) pictures are up on Flickr ( 

Then came the game. As a bit of background, I've announced homecoming halftime festivities for the past two years (since 10th grade). I have, because of a plethora of reasons, consistently screwed up every year either in order or by completely neglecting something. As a result, they sent up a teacher with me this year to have a line of contact between the box and the field. And this year, for the first time that I can remember, I nailed it. That was a fantastic feeling to say the least. Afterwards, a group of us friends went to Kings' Family Restaurant for a round of general foodstuffs. 

Then came the dance. This was the Perks of Being a Wallflower part. Clay, Dan, Mikaela, Sara, Natalie, Cassie, Jarod, and I descended upon Hannah's house for picture taking and general pre-Homecoming festivites. In other words, Dan, Clay, Jarod and I stood in the corner and talked about infinity until we were summoned by the rest to pose here, smile there, look there, such wind, etc. Then Sara was kind enough to give Clay and I a ride to the dance. We pulled up to the high school listening to a Billy Idol song on WDVE (why that was I'll never get, but it happened, and was perfect) and charged the building with the wind blowing and it was ridiculous but amazing.

The dance was quite lovely, what with the moshing and convincing Dan to dance (direct quote: "I missed three hours of reading Locke for this?!?") and more moshing and I can't dance for the life of me but it was again fantastic. We helped clean up, and I tore down the industrial light and magic with Clay and our magic box on wheels. 

Afterwards the group of us went cosmic bowling until half past midnight, and the whole thing was surreal - being surrounded by a group of people you're probably closest to for the past five or six years and being on top of the world. 

*cues cliche voice*
I guess at different points in our lives feeling infinite means different things. In Calculus, we're taught that infinity is just a concept, something you can never reach that's more or less just a stand in for something either really large or really small. It's something you can't quantify or manipulate (sorry Mr. Kozy, it's just easier this way) that I've always been fascinated with. You never get there, but you know it's there and can, if you want to and make it seem like it, get pretty close. But you have to initiate it, and keep it all in perspective.

That night, with those people, was amazing and was the closest I felt to happy and on top of the world that I have experienced so far in life. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

And It Was A Great Feeling

So today I went to an application workshop at Point Park. Basically, you drop off you transcript, fill out their application online, attend a Q and A session with students, and then take a tour. The goal? By the end of three hours, they have an academic decision (based on your transcript and that sort) for you.

We began in Lawrence Hall's lobby, proceeded to the ballroom, and I ate a chocolate muffin. This has no bearing on anything, but yeah, I ate a chocolate muffin. Filling out the application was quite simple, even if it was on a Mac (turns out I can actually use those if I try...). It's now submitted and floating on a server somewhere downtown.

After the application, we made our way through the campus tour. I was there with my father (who hasn't been to Point Park for any reason) and mother (who accompanied me in October when I went the first time).

There's something to be said about the feel of a campus. There are campuses where you feel that you're being immersed in the grand tradition of academia, and there are campuses where you feel like you're a part of some other grand tradition (go sportsball!) or that you're surrounded by just your major. There are campuses where you feel isolated and others immersed. I decided early on that I didn't want to go to a university simply for the sake of going to a post-secondary institution. With High School, you don't get much choice in the matter and more or less just participate enough to get by or accomplish whatever multi-tiered goal you established at some point.

I want to go to a university that felt like I was going to be a part of something - a part of the real world with the bonus of being educated and being essentially weened into that real world.

I've visited RMU, CMU, Pitt, and Point Park. At CMU and Pitt I felt the grand academia, and at RMU I felt just a bit too isolated. Point Park, being in the middle of the city and simultaneously being an actual campus just seemed to fit. So I went back again just to check, and I felt so welcomed, like I was wanted. As a person that is rarely 'wanted' for much of anything, feeling like you belong is an amazing feeling.

So then we went back to the Lawrence Hall lobby where they had letters waiting for us with the results of our academic acceptance or whatever. I went up to the table (last name P-Z) and asked the nice gentleman for my letter. I gave him my name and started to spell it when he stopped me and said, "I remember your name. Not a weird one, but not generic. It was fun looking over your transcript". I didn't know what to say honestly, so I said thanks, asked if I could open it (which was the whole point) and then, well:
I AM ACCEPTED WITH A SCHOLARSHIP OF SEVENTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR! So in that moment, all the ACT nonsense, scholars classes, AP credits, SAT Prep Classes, SAT taking, all of it suddenly materialized into something amazing and tangible and so worth it. And in that moment, I felt comfort, genuine joy, and for once it just clicked, and it was a great feeling.

Am I committed? I can't, really, yet. Am I applying elsewhere? Probably. Is this my first choice though? What do you think...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

To Stand In the Shadow of Giants

In May I visited the World Trade Center Memorial for the first time. I never really saw what stood there, I just remember the images of what was and what happened. You really can't get a sense of just how big these two towers were until you go and see. My sense of size came from rehashed television images and satellite imagery and that sort.

To stand at the corner of the footprints of the buildings; it hits you all at once. It's a quiet place, even if it is in the middle of New York City. Then you realize that there are rows of names running the perimeter. It's impressive, and hard to process. I could do nothing but pray the whole time I was there. And that was that, standing in the shadow of giants.

Friday, August 22, 2014

And I Can't Fight All Your Battles for You

Those are from the lyrics of "Away Frm U" by a group called Oberhofer that was in an Expedia commercial or something. Interesting little song...

So this week I (finally) started the physical work on the Eagle Project. Sent out the call to arms, and 10 people answered Monday night, and we began by taking out the old:
It was a beautiful night to start...
A Concrete Capstone in Mid-Air!

So we took out the Redwood Sign to reveal...
Yet another sign!
So that's what it looks like right now - caution taped, moldy, and very much de-constructed. The plan was to get the electrical work in and then get it capped Saturday
This is Andrew Smith - Eagle Scout, Amazing Electrician, and friend. He's gone above and beyond, you can contact him at
Wednesday I took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

And Thursday I got sick. At noon I drove Matt to band practice, came home and sat on the couch with a fever and chills for two hours, picked him up, and grounded myself for the night. And then I slept 13 hours. And so anything I had planned for this weekend went out the window as I've been sidelined.

Last weekend my brother had the same thing, for about four days, and self-diagnosed it as hand, foot and mouth disease. Following this trend, I should be back Sunday. I hope. But until then I'm on the mend. It's really frustrating because it takes away my depth perception (so I'm sort of wobbling around) and so I can't do much except for type here and wait until it passes.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Windowpane Makes a Show of Rain

That's from the chorus of the song "Reply" by the Spring Standards.

Last Friday I was again at a Riverhounds game and last Saturday I was again at a house concert to again see the AMAZING Spring Standards. I try and not be bitter about terms and conditions, but to save my own ranting/you having to deal with that I will not comment about the Riverhounds game except to say we won, and took a selfie with a camera guy (because we're nerds).

I can, however, talk about the Spring Standards. Basically, we were invited again by my aunt and uncle to listen to the Spring Standards live and acoustic. They were great as always and I have more music now after acquiring two CDs from them.

So this week was about squaring away summer work, Eagle project stuff, and some other miscellaneous things that came along the way. I have a date set for the Demolition work on the sign, Monday. Stay tuned, and I should be able to share more on it, but as for now I know that Monday we're removing stuff and smashing some stuff... this should be interesting.

I'm taking this as a lesson in brevity as I can't think of anything more really and cutting it off here. I start senior year in about two and a half weeks and quite frankly I'm nervous. I'm more nervous about getting summer work and this eagle project done before the first day than I am for senior year itself. I don't know.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

And I Would Drive One Hundred Miles...

[A note: I wrote this on 8/1/14, but for some reason (probably because it's disjointed) didn't post it. So here it is.]
Yeah, don't tell me, I know those aren't the lyrics. I don't care.

Recently I was going through my SD cards (the cards that I plug into the camera to take pictures onto) and realized that I take a lot of pictures. As a side effect, however, a lot of the pictures I take don't see the light of day. For the vast majority of them, it's perfectly fine -  I think I've taken something like eight or nine thousand pictures since the acquisition of the D90 - but for others it's kind of sad. I'm doing my best to take the ones I want to save, edit them, and post them to Flickr immediately.

When I post to Flickr, I inevitably get lost in the thousands and thousands of pictures up there, and I'm always inspired, and always wondering how do they do it? But that's another story for another time, how photographers make the pictures they post. Most of the time though it's Photoshop or Lightroom.

There's something satisfying about letting a creation free into the unknown as 'done'. So my updates to flickr and everything else are giving me that.

I've also been given creative license to write the script for this year's halftime show. It's the end of the two-week band camp already, and so I sat and wrote the script last week. It's very simple, and we follow the same pattern every year:
[Ladies and Gentleman please welcome the Carlynton Golden Cougar Marching Band!
The band is under the direction of...] and then I proceed to list everyone on staff. I've timed myself down to about 37 seconds last year with enunciating every director, section leader, dog, cat, and even me. It's an interesting process. Then I announce the drum majors, and finally what the show is.

Here's last year's:

It donned on me in writing this script that, again, this is my senior year. I am writing the script for my last season. I'm trying to wrap my mind around it, but I don't think it'll hit me until the band festival, or maybe during the last game. Nevertheless, I don't want to dwell on it too much. I want senior year to come as it will: if it will be fast, so be it, if it will dilly-dally, then let's savor it.

This year's show is Batman, and in writing the script I have to explain the differences between the three batman themes (they sound different, but you can't just say 'Batman Theme' because in name they're the same, so I have to source it [TV series, Movie, New Movie]).

Friday, July 25, 2014

Start It Out, There's Nothing New

Those are lyrics from the Indians' "Oblivion" from the TFiOS Soundtrack. There aren't many words that are usable from M83's "Wait", but yeah...

The issue with self-policing is that the only authority you are answering to are yourself. It usually works because, at least in my case, your own guilt pushes you to do what you wanted. Well, I skipped a month - the guilt was there but the time/days to post weren't. So I apologize. Sometimes my own life gets in the way of recording it. As the title suggests, there isn't much new to record. Except that I have a car now, but it's not new.

I am now the proud owner of a 1992 Ford Tempo. It was my [paternal] grandmother's, but she doesn't drive anymore and it was in need of an alternator and some other little things. My parents, being awesome as usual, had it fixed up for me by our mechanic (who is the father of a kid I was in cub scouts with... fun fact - thanks again Bill!) and turned over to me. Enter the task of bringing it from legal to comfortable.

All told, I cleaned out roughly a garbage bag and a half of things that had either worn beyond use - umbrellas that crumbled, a sun shield that was falling apart - and others beyond use - a Valvoline engine check invoice from 1994, napkins, and used windshield wipers. An assistant to our mechanic graciously cleaned some black gunk off the side of it, and all I had to do was wash the exterior, vacuum the interior and go through the trunk. The car probably hadn't been driven since 2007ish - believe it or not, it only has only 26,200 miles on it! It runs really well, and was well kept - exactly the way I intend to keep it.

It's a 90's car in every sense of the word - manual windows, cassette deck, these sort of terrifying automatic shoulder seat belt things that try to strangle you when you start it - but I love it. It's a 4-cylinder engine, so it's fun to drive - sort of like a golf cart controls - but has the safety and stability of an American-made steel framed amazing.

The stereo system is also quite good, this coming from someone who has run a variety of sound systems, and because it has a cassette deck I can use an adapter to play my iPod over the system - if my brother would let me play my own music!!! [Sorry, he likes to control it and I've just about had it after two weeks here...]

This is indeed a new start, but nothing in essence new. I'm thrilled to have a car, and a grandmother who is okay with this all, and all I need is to name it...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hopeless Wanderer: Hold On To What You Believe (Yeah I've Used that Title Before)

So the past week has been a blur, as is par for the course anymore. Some things seem to be falling apart while others that I expected to crumble have built themselves up.

Crumbling? This'll be the downer, but there is something better after, so yeah. A church is the people, not the building. But it helps to have a building. We still have a building, but things like the plumbing are slowly coming undone. We have it fixed now but it's kind of like that kid kicking the back of your seat -  you know he's there, but he still kicks to let you know he's there. It's a reminder to appreciate it. Perhaps it's just a dismal way of looking at it, but that's the way I see it right now. Perhaps it's merely teenaged cynicism.

Now for the happy part.

I can now say that I have an Eagle Project proposal done. And that proposal has been signed by everyone. I talked about this last week, but it wasn't really official yet. I had to approach the school board.

Approaching the school board was simultaneously the most relieving and terrifying thing I've done for this project thusfar. Basically, I stood in front of the school board for about 15 minutes and explained my project, and fielded questions. I was well prepared from years of sitting in the back filming these types of meetings, as well as the dedicated checking and double-checking of our assistant principal. What it came down to was this: I had a vision, I wanted to make that vision a reality and what stood in the way were the approvals and a money gap. I asked for some money for landscaping and permission to use it, which I got. Unanimously.

If I weren't in my scout uniform and in front of the board and on camera, I would've just screamed. This thing that we've refined and refined and refined is going to happen. After months of prepping for this, it happened and now we are moving forward with it. So what did I do? I thanked the board, and promptly left the room, and celebrated. Then I talked with the assistant principal, and again screamed. So I'll keep up to date here on the progress, but honestly, this is great.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Keep The Earth Below My Feet

So It's Summer. With summer comes the changing of the guard - from the class of 2014 to the class of 2015. Notice the title of the site? Yeah, that means us.

It is surreal to think that the class of 2014 is graduating. They were always 'that grade ahead of us' that I never liked on the whole. Over the course of the past few years, I was fortunate enough to meet a large portion of the class, and am glad to call a few of them my friends. Nevertheless, time marches on.

I have been within and without since finals, and that is mainly because of the combination of finals cramming and getting these approvals for the Eagle Project. After nearly 6 months and over a dozen meetings with the Principal/Assistant Principal, the first, preliminary paperwork is approved by them. I can't talk much more than that yet, which is kind of frustrating because I like being relatively transparent here, but I still have approvals to go before anything moves forward. Such Paperwork. Many Unwow.

Over the course of the first week of summer (7 days) I was back up at the high school three times. The first was graduation, because it was indoors (read: auditorium, and I work auditorium events). When I got there, however, they informed me that it was outsourced, the boards were moved, and there was no place for me to go. So I snuck into the LGI control room, turned off all the lights and watched from there. It seems like a lot of issues in my everyday life could be fixed with simple communication. Oh well, such is life.

On Friday, two days after getting out of school, a few friends and I went mini-golfing, and then harassed Greg at his place of work, Dairy Queen. It felt a lot like one of those scenes in a movie, you know the ones, where you're playing music, laughing, and having a good time. The music of the night was everything from whatever the heck the 'Church Clap' is to Mumford and Sons' "Below My Feet". I've learned to really like that song. Not exactly sure why, but it (followed by the Monster Mash) provided the soundtrack to our adventure.

Here's to Summer, and here's to getting everything done and SENIOR YEAR.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Of Bucs and Ducks Part Two, with Some Stars

Thursday night I was fortunate enough to be able to watch The Night Before Our Stars, the TFiOS premiere thingy. For the unaware, TFiOS is The Fault in Our Stars by the great JayScribble, a man who I was fortunate enough to meet while he was writing the book that became the bestseller and now amazing movie. Going in, I wasn't exactly sure what to think: it was a movie done by a not-crazily-star-studded cast about a book that was pretty deep. The amazing team at 20th Century Fox brought it to life though, and it was probably the most faithful and best executed book-to-movie translation I've seen. That being said, I still haven't seen many movies.

Friday afternoon we received a call from our aunt (yes, the one who introduced me to JayScribble, KDKA, The Spring Standards, and the list goes on) who tells us she has four tickets for that night's baseball game against the Brewers. Section 20. So I googled a map of the ballpark and realized these were behind the dugout seats. That established, donning a giant rubber duck shirt, and using my knowledge of bus schedules, we [being my brother and I] added Tyler Smith of Carlynton Tech to the mix and began the adventure.

Public transportation is always an adventure: they are usually late, and always a bit hectic. Friday was no different. I had told Matt and Tyler to bring exact change because it makes life easier. Tyler brought exact change: $2.50 in quarters. He's never been on a Port Authority Bus before.

We make our way to Gateway Center in the midst of the Three Rivers Arts Festival. I want to go back and see what's there, perhaps that can be an adventure next week? Irrelevant, T time.

We made our way onto the T and to the North Shore Station right outside of PNC Park. After a bit of trial and error with the ticket booth, and security* we made our way into our beautiful ballpark. It was a free shirt Friday (where, in case you couldn't tell by the name, they gave us free shirts) sponsored by of all places, Point Park University. C'est un signe.

I have been to PNC park a few times for various reasons, and every time I am struck with just how beautiful that place is, and how clean it is for being a sportsball arena. After meandering about trying to figure out where section 20 was, we made our way to our seats. We were escorted down, down, and down some more. I was half expecting to be kicked out or something, but no. Three rows back from the dugout.

The View from my Seat... Gotta Love Pittsburgh

The game was fantastic, the city amazing as usual, and who sat in front of us but Frank Coonelly, the freaking PRESIDENT of the PITTSBURGH PIRATES. My brother convinced him to take a picture with us:

That's me, the big dork on the left, and FRANK COONELLY on the right.

Apparently Seth Meyers was at the game because he is a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. Seeing as anything was possible, I sent him this tweet:
and its followup:
I received a bunch of texts during this game because, apparently I was on ROOT sports' coverage of the game with my duck shirt twice. Later on, I was tagged in this by my aunt:

Seth Meyers didn't come, but it was still a fantastic night. There were fireworks, loud noises, ballpark fries, pierogi races, and to top it all off we had fantastic seats. The Bucs won, which I chalk up to wearing my Duck Shirt to the game and some spot-on pitching by Brandon Cumpton.

Thanks to our aunt as always, to the his All-Yellowness the Giant Rubber Duck of Pittsburgh, wherever he may roam.

*Every time I go through security which was a lot in NYC, I am paranoid because I always have some metal on me. It's usually a belt buckle or something strange like that, but I never seem to be able to make it through a metal detector on the first try without forgetting like a quarter or something strange like that. The people at these places are really understanding and kind, but I always feel bad that I'm slowing the process and making their lives harder by wearing a belt or something stupid like that.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hopeless Wanderer: No Real Way Out Or In

There are few worse feelings than being caught in the middle - and that's of anything really. Caught in the middle with no real way out or in. It seems when I'm there I end up digging myself deeper.

At school, people have been telling me that this is the end - the end of junior year, the end of WCHS as we know it, the end of a lot of things. I can't bring myself to believe that, honestly. Yeah, it may be the end of an era, but it is simultaneously the middle of another, and the beginning of a new one.

To the theme of this year, yesterday we debated what it means to exist, and what corruption is. Now, we weren't talking about how governments get corrupt, we were talking about the corruption of people. As with anything, the follow up is naturally: what does corrupt even mean? What does an uncorrupt individual look like? And then, Jake said the thing that shattered the glass ceiling: knowledge is corruption.

I have written this post over three or four times. I could list a litany of reasons why, but ultimately it boils down to a lack of time, lack of creativity, and a fear. I can't exactly explain what that fear is, but I know it exists and hasn't been the best.

I'm hitting the publish button on this one because I want to be rid of it. See you Friday.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Good Morning Carlynton, it's Wednesday (Okay it isn't but just go with it.)

NOTE: The NYC pictures are up on Flickr!

These past few weeks have been, well, crazy. Mostly in a good way, but also in the oh-my-goodness-I-have-to-take-the-APUSH-test way. So I apologize that I took a two week hiatus there.

A week ago I was in New York. Well, I mean, it was technically New Jersey where I stayed, but that doesn't matter. I'm calling it New York. Deal with it.

I can't say it enough, I love New York City. I'll keep it to a minimum of moderately humorous anecdotes.
  • My favorite part of the whole trip was probably when I got off the bus about two blocks away from Times Square and it was pouring rain. When you've brought along your DSLR you have to improvise some sort of cover. My weapon of choice? a cut-out Post-Gazette bag over the lens attached with a rubber band. I'm glad I did. (See right, click for larger)
  • The whole trip began with a tour of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, it was foggy that morning so we didn't exactly get to see the city itself. It all worked out though, it came across like a sheet, and read pretty well on the pictures. We circled Liberty Island for a while and realized at the last minute we had pedestal tickets through the tour. So we essentially sprinted to the top of the pedestal, took a few(quick) pictures (we had to be back at the boat in 7 minutes), and then sprinted right back down. Sounded a lot simpler writing it out than it did doing it. Great view, so worth it.
  • Fog made another appearance when we went to the top of the Empire State Building. A great view up there of - nothing. But then of course the fog cleared once we got to the bottom. Luckily, it was an elevator ride up and not a walk up. 
  • We saw The Lion King in the Minskoff Theatre and it was all in all, a great time. 
  • We spent a total of about 20 hours in New York. Not nearly enough, I want to go back sometime, but at least I have 800 something pictures of this adventure. More to come on Flickr and as I think of it.
  • Before I go, I want to attach the "Taxi" picture:
  • I did a lot of random photography - aimlessly hitting the shutter button without lining up the picture - which yielded a bunch of pictures of the side of Tyler Smith's face, some light poles, and this beautiful image. I took all of the colors except for that of the taxis. There are SO many taxis in NYC it's ridiculous, but I thought this would be cool. Want prints? contact me. 
So that's my New York Trip, and I know I left a lot of things out, and this isn't my usual post style, but this hasn't exactly been a usual week for me. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

So We Beat on, Boats Against the Current, Borne Back, Ceaselessly, into the Past

I finally got a chance to watch Baz Lurhmann's Gatsby. I'm not going to write a review on it because, let's be honest, that has been and overdone.

April and May are probably the two busiest months of the year. Tomorrow is the Carnegie 5K, and I have an SAT prep class afterward, and then running tech for Mr. Carlynton. I think it is times like these where you just 'do' without thinking much about it. 

What do I mean about that?

Last week, among other things, I scrambled to put together a resume for English class which will eventually be a part of my senior project(!) and I realized just how much I do. I don't mean that in some arrogant look-at-how-wonderful-I-am but rather in the wow-I-should-probably-stop-to-breathe-here way. I rarely make impulse decisions, but I take comfort in repeatedly doing something.

Tomorrow's Mr. Carlynton will be my second event of this caliber and probably my 20 or 30th event with Carlynton Tech. I was talking with a friend of mine and I realized that with the start of my senior year brings the start of the 'last' designation. I am fine psychologically with being in the middle of doing something, but I'm not sure what happens when those things stop. 

If you keep yourself busy enough you don't think about that - honestly, you don't think much about the scale or impact of what you're doing. You just start, do, finish, and move down the to-do list. But what then? What happens after that finish? I'm not sure. And I'm not talking just tech, I'm talking everything habitual. 

I don't know, I was out of ideas and out of time on this one. I'm in the middle of a spiraling of sorts - life. And to take a break for a second may seem appealing, but what happens when I do that? I start thinking about it all... and that leads to some really scare metacognition and listening to strange music. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Vote for Me! Or Not.

I've no doubt blogged before about not being in control, but I feel that at least once a year (usually during the week leading up to Easter) I am reminded that I am not in control. Usually I consider it all some form of divine intervention, but to those less inclined to go along with that take it as a coincidence of human will.

I ran for president of the senior class. The fourth estate and politics don't usually mix well, but it was worth a shot. I ran a minimalist campaign, putting up roughly 25 posters around the school and talking to people face-to-face. This took place from last Friday through Thursday. Thursday afternoon they announced the winner - not me. Which honestly I'm okay with. My friend Greg put it into perspective for me - do I really need something else to do and to organize?

Backtracking a bit, Tuesday I turned 17. They say that you're supposed to be wiser as you reach certain numbers of spins 'round the Earth, but honestly it's all arbitrary. I grow wiser with every conversation with people, and every book I read, and every blog post I half write and want to pitch. I feel no different from 16, or 15 for that matter (but I have a license!). I've said about three times that day that only two things matter to me on my birthday: that my family is there, and that there is chocolate cake*. 

That was the day my (paternal) grandmother came back from rehab following a knee replacement, and we had that chocolate cake over at her house. She and I are pretty close, so it was nice since I had seen her all of thrice since the start of the year. 

It is much easier to say that you know you're not in control, but it's a different thing to acknowledge and deal with how that actually works. We finished cake and got the call that she needed to go back to the hospital for something else. Because that's what she needs. Less cake and more hospitalness.

I guess that's what I love about Good Friday - it is something that usually is constant. The conversations and clothes and all the stuff that doesn't really matter changes, but in reality nothing changes. I'm fairly sure this is the second to last (or third) Good Friday that I'll be in Slickville for. But I can't dwell on that - after all, I'm not in control. 

*Okay, so once upon a time there was this coffee shop in the plaza just over the Carnegie-Scott border called "For All Seasons Cafe and Gifts" owned by a guy named Andre. Anyway, we used to go there after a day at the pool or in Scott or at church or whatever and I'd get two things. The first would be a smoothie (I wasn't a coffee drinker [I was like 10!] so I usually got a creamsicle smoothie) and the second would be a piece of cake. He called it "death by chocolate" and you could get a refrigerated piece on a plate or to go. This cake was THE BEST CAKE. Anyway, For All Seasons closed in 2011 or 2012 over some rental dispute or whatever and I was cakeless.

But then my mother figured out where it was from - and that you could get this Death By Chocolate cake. So last year I asked my mother to find this cake and have it for my birthday. We ate it at the rehab facility my grandmother was at at the time, and from then on my two conditions were set. Family and Chocolate Cake. For now.

Happy Birthday Matt (though you don't read this... Oh well)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

As We Stumble Along, We're Off to See The Wizard

Complete Side Note: We pass Franklin Regional on our way to Slickville every Sunday. My heart goes out to them, I have no idea what they're going through but I admire their strength and resolve during this whole insanity. Stay Strong, FR.

So this week I did something I've never done: I saw two musicals two nights in a row. On Thursday I was at Bishop Canevin for their Drowsy Chaperone and I was at Carlynton for their production of The Wizard of Oz. Some background: the first Carlynton show I was in was Drowsy two years ago, and Oz was the first Carlynton Show I've had no involvement in since 2011's 42nd Street where I was an usher. 

Canevin's version of Drowsy was fantastic, and I may be biased because I know the show so well, but it was so nice to hear the music flood back. There's something to be said for watching a live show with a live orchestra, and to know the show word for word. I went for that reason: I never really saw Drowsy live because, well, I was in the show. 

On Friday I went to see Carlynton's The Wizard of Oz, which was AMAZING. Everyone (Clay, Greg, Maggie, Natalie, Mikaela, Andy V, Dave, so many more, all of you!) was great, and the show was technically done well. Overall it was an amazingly enjoyable experience, and everyone involved should be proud.

It donned on me Friday that I haven't actually sat through a production in the auditorium seats in about three years. Generally, I am either on tech for something, or I'm on stage for something. In one sense, it was nice to sit back and have it all handled, and have a seat that was assigned.

In another sense I was totally and hopelessly lost. This is my kingdom: this is the auditorium we clean, maintain, and do the best tech work we can. What can I say? I'm a control freak. I enjoy being a cog in the wheel, not the one reading the watch.

It wasn't necessarily bad that I wasn't a part of it, it was just strange not being a part of it all. After it all, I still (stressful as it always is) prefer the lighting stand or stage manager's stand to being in the audience. It's just how I am.

Saturday I took the ACT at Canevin. Another first: I've never been in a Canevin classroom until then.

I hope to get something out for Tuesday (Mon Anniversaire) or Friday (but you realize, this is going to be one crazy week for us... If I don't, Happy Easter to you all!). 

Friday, April 4, 2014

After Four Years and 14,000 Pageviews I Still Can't Consistently Title Stuff

Usually I am listening to some music while I write these, but I'm in a library so I don't posses that luxury. That music becomes the title, which I usually relate back to whatever I'm writing about. Unlike what Jamie just told me, I usually title first.

I'm at that point in the school year where everything is moving at hyper speed but the school day. As a result, you've begun to despise everyone around you while simultaneously the workload quadruples. If I miss a Friday (as I did last week... I don't usually skip whole weeks but I couldn't get a draft off the ground), I apologize, but that's why.

I'm also in the middle of planning for my Eagle Project. You'd think that redoing an outdoor sign would be a simple planning process and the challenges would stem from my inability lack of experience to do any sort of construction. Turns out it's the opposite. The goal is that by June I have something in stone and we start work.

And it's at this point the bell rings.

After this, and about a gap of ten hours, I'm back at it; typing away. I want to acknowledge that this site hit the 14,000 mark within the last week or two. I have to stop looking at these numbers. I spent a day working the numbers and if all goes on the track that it has been, I'll be at 23,000 or so by June of 2015. So that's cool. But really, why do I care?

I changed my across-the-emails signature recently. I noticed that a bunch of teachers and professionals I email have some deep and profound quote dotting the bottom of their signature. I've had this quote at the bottom of mine for a while now:
"I can't imagine a person becoming a success who doesn't give this game of life everything he's got" – Walter Cronkite
I haven't really talked about success here, and I think there are two reasons for that: 1) I don't know that I truly understand what success is and 2) with all of the metacognition I've been toying with, the question usually goes into a why does society put such an emphasis on success? So I've decided to think about it for once. Webster is interesting with how it defines it. It first reads "the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame" and then "the correct or desired result of an attempt".

Why do I say interesting? If you recall from the latest installment of me gushing over F. Money Bojangles' Gatsby, I talked about a sense of superficial sense of authority. The rich have power merely because they have a wealth of resources. If success is measured by wealth or fame (which in a capitalist society makes the most sense) then we're all doomed. The rich merely get richer and the famous breed fame, leaving success to those who we respect and beyond that an oligarchy of sorts. Which I personally think is a bunch of baloney.

I prefer that second definition, or at least the inclusion of "desired result". Success is something defined by someone actively striving for something. What is the desired result of me writing here week after week? That's for me to define. Honestly, at this point it's to become a better writer, not necessarily to gain a following or gain accolades (in the past three weeks alone I've been added to four or five lists on twitter of "top bloggers" or "top designers". WHAT DOES IT MEAN?).

So again, thanks for following along, and joining me. Nothing personal, I'm just not sure why you're there. Nevertheless, I'm thankful you're there (a 60+/week readership is a great motivator).

One week from now I'll be in the audience of Carlynton's The Wizard of Oz. This is a show which, depending on the next two days, I might be assisting in the lighting design. Because you know I can't stay away from these things.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Dangerous Idea... Almost Makes...Sense

I've been listening lately to the soundtrack for Baz Lurhmann's The Great Gatsby. It's an interesting soundtrack, produced by Jay-Z including everything from this Jack White cover of a U2 song (Love is Blindness) to a songs from Andre 3000, Florence and the Machine, and a bunch of music you wouldn't expect to work together but it does.

This week has been quite stressful, and from about Tuesday on I've been sleep deprived. What have I learned? I have made it pretty far with what I want to do, yet I have miles and miles to go before I sleep (see? I can't even be original I've stooped to stealing from Robert Frost for heaven's sake!*).

Stress is an interesting thing for me. I produce some of my best work under deadlines and under crazy stress, but if I get past a certain point I just stop. Stop everything. It's really counterproductive, kills my grades, and drives those around me (family and my few close friends) into maddening confrontation. But unfortunately, like I said, I do some of my best work in my dizzying solitary stress circle.

Dizzying solitary stress circle? I like that, but it seems like one of those "writings of a madman" you'd see painted on the walls in a comic-sans-esque manner.

In Physics this week, we watched one of those Mechanical Universe videos. According to our physics teacher, these were originally on laser disk, and then migrated to VHS tape, and now is on DVD. It always (and I mean always) starts in a CalTech lecture room with the same guy explaining some physics concept and it fades off to some voiceover lady with 80s echo-synth background explaining math derivations. Every time they go to have some historical background, they cut to these historical dramatizations of Newton just creating things, and Keppler as a mathematical wanderer, and it goes on.

It was through this sort of bizarre historical dramatization that I learned that Newton went insane. Like, literally insane. Now I'm not sure how they determined this, or how he became insane, considering he was a solitary individual who was obsessed with math, gravity, and how it all coexists (I think he was insane the whole time, just good at hiding it...). Newton was brilliant, but he was still crazy.

In completely unrelated news, I am in talks with WYEP and Reimagine Media to start a podcast. We have already recorded at least one episode of it, but we are in the process of finding a home for it. Hopefully in a weeks time I'll have a link where you can listen in.

I'm in the middle of planning my eagle project as well as about ten thousand other projects. Sorry it's not all that coherent. Though I love writing, and I love posting here and talking with people (who never comment) about stuff I write about here, I have to have my priorities straight. My posting schedule and sanity suffers immensely for this.

*See what I did there? I cited the source, sort of.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Now There’s Green Light in My Eyes

So last week I finished F. Scott Fitzgerald's (affectionately known to some of our English class as F. Money Bojangles) The Great Gatsby. Generally, I don't like classics until long after I've read them, but Gatsby struck me as endlessly intriguing. I know I'm not of the bourgeoisie but I was still able to identify with Gatsby in the simplistic analysis of the American Dream - or rather, as I've come to understand through a study on the wealth gap, meeting with Occupy Pittsburgh** and others is the American Fairy Tale.

What I think I identify most with is the idea of invented social inequality, and Nick Carraway's fantastically broad pronouncements. We have to take his word on everything because he is the first person narrator, but I find it interesting that for once I can look at a narrator as attempting to be objectively transfixed with everything.

I'm (obviously) no literary genius, and I don't pretend to be but I think this piece is a great conversation starter on the topics of the wealth gap, lust, and built up personas. One of the lines that particularly stuck out (there are so many, but this one is the one I can quote off the top of my head):
There are only the pursued, the pursuing, and the tired.
This applies to love, wealth, success, and I'd go on but the beauty of this statement is that it can be applied to pretty much anything. It's a basic observation about human existence, and for some reason I'm fascinated by this.

I really like this book for that reason: nuggets of things that may not actually be that profound (I'm 16, not some time-honored critic*) but make you say "hmm..." after you read them. Within and Without.

At this point though, I'm feeling quite tired. Have a nice week.

*Another theme of this novel, and prevalent throughout many of Fitzgerald's pieces is the emphasis we put upon superficial authorities: celebrities, scholars, etc. to the point where they are no longer a person but rather an idea. We only allow time-tested authorities to sound off on certain things. We are only allowed a choice of certain giants to stand upon the back of, it seems. The best example of this objectification/idealization is the Petrarchian lover. You fall victim to being in love with the idea of being in love or the idea  of the other person to the point where they are idolized, they are no longer a person but an idea of perfection.***

**No idea what I'm talking about? Here: and here:

***JayScribble's book Paper Towns contains one of my favorite quotes: "What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person". A person is only a person [that is the extent to which I'll comment on the whole Alex Day thing, and I felt it fit with this post. Anyway, yeah, Gatsby.]

Saturday, March 8, 2014

R-S-P-E-C-T or Something Like That

I usually title these things with lyrics of music I've been listening to, but I couldn't come up with anything new. What I did instead is play off of the president's flub (Yes, it's an intentional typo... I know my QC is bad here, but cut me some slack!).

This week has been a whirlwind of projects and adventures. The senior project was introduced to us (the countdown to Senior Year has begun. I'm not sure I'm okay with this...) and I began serious work on proposals for my (hopefully) Eagle Project. Carlynton's Senior Project isn't a service project but rather more of a research project into careers and the sort.

The main idea of the senior project is to establish "Where You Are" and "Where You're Going". It's a graduation requirement for everyone, so it isn't some sort of metacognitive thing to be psychoanalyzed, but if you've been reading regularly for any amount of time, I don't do well with taking things at any face value.

This week has been about progress. There's something fulfilling with being in the process of doing something. Today I was at the station and we spent roughly an hour in the studio messing with the recording suite just brainstorming. We decided we want to start a podcast, but after we bounced from topic to topic, and were just doing something. It didn't matter where it was going or why, but it was nice to be in the midst of some collaborative.

During weeks like this I'm not usually able to do much reflection or come up with something entertaining, witty, or whatever it is that usually takes this place on Fridays and Saturdays (I'm opening the window because I feel one day is a bit ambitious...)

Nevertheless, in two weeks I may appear in a podcast. Whatever comes from this I will let you know and pass along any links that may be of use.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Hopeless Wanderer

[Note: This may get a bit, um, deep. Or at least deep to me. I wrote the bulk of it Friday night, added some Saturday, and am finally getting around to posting it now. This is fair warning that I delve into church (no I'm not going to preach to you), my childhood, and mostly incoherent thought]

This past Sunday we had a church annual meeting.

There is a major difference between thoughts and someone else voicing those thoughts. At least with me, I feel there is a certain amount of control that comes with keeping thoughts bottled up, but once those are voiced, once those are brought to 'reality' it becomes a whole other thing to deal with.

I've often voiced that I am an 'idea guy' (it's even on my about page) meaning that I am usually able to think logically through things, but when it comes to actually doing those things I usually freeze up. I always seem to have an excuse - no time, too many other projects, whatever. 

This all works fine in my little bubble, but when it comes to the real world, this doesn't work so well. I recognize this and I'm trying to work past it, but certain things (mainly my mission to earn my Eagle Scout) have suffered and I really have to become more decisive and more impulsive.

But back to the whole idea-versus-reality concept. I've written numerous times about this, but I don't think I've ever touched on this thing that I'm going to call the idea safety gap. This meeting discussed the possibility of closing, or rather selling, the church.

Let me clear this up: at this point it's only a possibility. In all probability any move will be made in the next year or two, but by the time anything is finalized I'll (hopefully) be in college. But that doesn't really matter. It's a major part of my growing up. 

I've often been told that a church is the people, not the building. Which I totally agree with, but at the same time, I have grown attached to both the building and the people. More so the people, but since I'm technically at this point attached to my father (the priest) I go where he does. 

If Slickville goes away, if the church itself closes fully (I don't know this will go down, but there are a lot of possibilities here) and he is reassigned elsewhere, I don't know how I'll deal with it. I know there are other churches, and I know there are closer Orthodox churches, but Slickville is my home. I know I'm always welcome in Carnegie, and usually welcome elsewhere, but I grew up going to the church 40 miles from my house. It's my family. 

Thus starts a series... not sure how many parts or how frequent, but I plan to post once in a blue moon, or maybe even start a side blog, because this isn't my usual content here...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I Can Show You What You Wanna See And Take You Where You Want To Be

UPDATE: I figured out why Rick Sebak was in the Southside. Find out more here:

I really should've just waited a day.

Today I went to WYEP, which was quite routine. I usually get a ride from my father, but he was only able to get me there today, which was alright. It was a nice day and it had been a while since I last took public transportation.

Taking public transportation here in Pittsburgh is always an adventure (If you don't believe me, follow @PGH_T_Party) and today was no different. I usually pick up the 51 from the South Side downtown at the corner of 12th and East Carson. Today, the lights at that intersection weren't working because a transformer caught fire there.

Needless to say, I was assuming that this would set the bus schedule back a while. So I waited, and looked down East Carson waiting for the 51. About ten minutes goes by, and who do I see walking down the sidewalk toward me but some guy that looks like Rick Sebak.

Rick Sebak (for those of you who don't follow public television/need a brush-up on yinzology) is a television producer for WQED here in Pittsburgh that is known for his scrapbook documentaries (he invented the genre) about local and quirky things ("Breakfast Special" "A Hot Dog Program" etc.). He also follows me on twitter.

Anyway, I'm watching this guy and East Carson, and then I realize that it is Rick Sebak. I say "hi" but honestly I'm a bit starstruck (seriously, making documentaries in this style is one of my dreams after, you know, being Scott Pelley or Charles Osgood). We talk briefly about the weather and he goes to his car, which is being blocked by a bunch of motorcycles. At this point I see the 51 in the distance. The motorcycle dudes move their motorcycles after talking to Mr. Sebak for a minute or so. And then they pull out at this intersection. Up rolls the 51, me with fare in hand. And so keeps going the 51, past me.

So Rick Sebak drives away, and the bus decided I wasn't worthy enough to get on it. I look around to see if I'm getting punk'd or something, I'm not.

The 48 pulls up, and lets me on. The 48 and 51 take the same routes from at least 20th and Carson into town, so I'm alright. Due to construction though, I had to walk an extra ten blocks than normal to get to my transfer. Which gave me an excuse to walk through Point Park's campus. The campus isn't like a college campus though... it's a collection of five or six city blocks making the whole city its campus. </Point Park Gushing>

I make it onto my transfer bus stop as it is rolling up to the corner. As if it was planned.

Friday, February 21, 2014

And it’s a Long Way up When You Hit the Ground

This is from Imagine Dragon's "On Top of The World" which is an amazing song by a band that can play very well acoustically, which you should totally check out sometime after you're done reading this post.

This week in English we have been talking about Modernism, which has left me floating down the path of meta-cognition and identity and art. Metacognition (which chrome is telling me isn't a word... meh [meh is also not a word]) metacognition is the idea of thinking about thinking, which after a week of thinking about thinking and streams of consciousness, it's just... weird.

Anyway, this week has been a smorgasbord (spellcheck saved me on that) of information, events, and assorted nonsense. I now have a graduation/commencement date (per CSB) of June 12, 2015. Which is crazy to think about, 476 days away crazy. I'm extremely excited yet at the same time quite terrified that that is the amount of time within which I need to take the SATs, ACTs, complete a FAFSA, apply for scholarships, and of course apply to all of the colleges I want to.

So this, and so much more has been running through my mind. I've been listening to a lot of lectures, acceptance speeches, and the sort lately. I am listening to John Green's lecture at Kenyon, and have listened to Bob Schieffer's acceptance speech of the Walter Cronkite award for Excellence in Journalism, as well as what I offered earlier from Neil Gaiman's "Make Good Art" speech and his concept of "Art is Never Finished, it is Just Released", and so many other things.

This is rambly, but that's because I'm not exactly coherent. Thinking about thinking does that to you.

Stuff I've been listening to:

"I'll never really know what it's like to be you. I will always see you in the context of myself" -
John Green's Kenyon Talk:
Journalism is not about scratching the surface, it is about going beneath the surface and finding the truth — Bob Schieffer, in his acceptance speech for the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism

Friday, February 14, 2014

If That's What You Wanted

That's the title of the song used in the trailer for the John Green Movie The Fault In Our Stars. I like the song, and the trailer, and the book, so you should check all of those out in the reverse order I listed it in...

It occurred to me that last week's post didn't properly publish. I pushed that through earlier today, so check out that below.

This week was rather uneventful. On Monday we had to deal with the aftermath of Friday's talent show, meaning the Video Lab was in shambles (cameras, tripods, mics all unplugged and had to be set up again... which didn't happen), I was sick, and I had to play referee between management and visual directors, and honestly deal with it being a Monday. Which was an interesting combination, which culminated in me being quite miserable.

But that morning I was forced to do something I rarely get to do: read the announcements solo from the office over the Public Address system. I probably sounded as miserable as I usually do, but I actually enjoyed it. It reminds me so much of audio recording at the station, and of recording the "Welcome" thing in the video lab. This has led me to ambition (which is usually quite scary when it comes to me because, well, JSVH, BBC 2 1/2, need I go on?) which has led me to want to do a podcast. I want to do a podcast talkshow sort of thing with my friends. We'll see how this goes, if anywhere.

The rest of the week was uneventful; I dabbled in a bit of photography again today as I have been lately. In doing this I've realized that sunsets in winter in western Pennsylvania are amazing. Actually, sunsets in general here are great. I plan on posting some of the pictures I've taken up on the Flickr shortly.

Also, I wrote an alternative post to this one over on the secondary (yet semi-identical) blog here: It's on Valentine's Day, and humanity... but I promise, it's not that profound.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

It's a Switch Flipped

I didn't post yesterday. I was spending roughly 10-11 glorious hours (continuously... this count started at 11, you'll see why later) at the high school auditorium, working lights/stage management of the Crafton talent show. It's a crazy process. I was there until 10:30 PM (EST), so I didn't get around to blogging. Sorry.

My Friday began (as most Fridays do) reading the morning announcements. Afterward, we went to the cafeteria (after my Pre-Calc teacher told me I shouldn't be in class, that I should leave, and more importantly leave his room alone) to prep for the Pittsburgh National College Fair held at the convention center downtown.

After riding a bus, going up some stairs, and through some doors I was immersed in roughly 400 booths full of colleges, universities, vo-tech reps, and assorted insanity. Well, sort of.

On paper, there were 400 booths. Alex really was interested in four*: Point Park, RIT, Syracuse, and St. John's (Queens, NY). But neither St. John's nor Syracuse were present; the reps apparently decided to not show up. So with roughly an hour and a half to kill, I spoke with Point Park about admissions, and RIT about stuff I didn't learn in the mail. And then I wandered about. 

What I learned is this: the colleges that send stuff in the mail are irrelevant. What I've found most useful is to seek out who has programs I am interested in, and who is relatively local, and seek those institutions. This led me to talk with George Mason and Ohio University. Just another adventure.

So back to the talent show. It went quite well, and we had a chance to test out the "Welcome" announcement I recorded on Monday. It's a pretty generic thing I wrote to be played to give me time to dim the house lights at events:
Welcome to the Carlynton Junior-Senior High School Auditorium. We ask that you please silence all devices at this time. Thank you and Enjoy the Show!
I had my brother (who was on master sound yesterday) play it like ten times for me before anyone showed up. I am such a nerd. But seriously, isn't it cool to be able to say that this is your recorded voice, played before [now pretty much all of the] events [I highly doubt musical will use ours; they record their own]? Just me? Okay.

Either way, the talent show went pretty well considering we had no real run-through and I lost control of the light board twice during the show. It's a lot of set-up, and a lot of cleanup, but at the end it is so worth it. And again I am so thankful to be at a small enough school where I can do auditorium things as often as I do.

*I narrowed my list down to those four colleges using the College Board's BigFuture tool. I doubt that St. John's is real, though. And RIT is the only one that gave me MAJOR sticker shock**

**I consciously realize that deciding (or rather society/academia/the job market deciding for me) to go to college is going to lead to me being in debt for the rest my natural life. If that doesn't do it ($30-$40K USD PER YEAR?!?!?) something else will. I accept that debt will be there, but I am trying to draw a line at nothing above total Cost of Attendance (getting there, tuition, room, board, etc.) at $50K per year. RIT has a Tuition + Room + Board rate of roughly $42,000 dollars (or so the admissions guy told me, per College Board it actually looks like $47,677). Compare with Point Park's program's rough COA around $38,600 (Per College Board). I don't think I can justify that. This whole college/money/what to do with my life thing is quite terrifying, which is why I generally don't blog about it.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

You May Select This Title, or Select One of Similar Literary Quality

I've been trying to start less often with the standard "So [insert start of post]" because honestly, it's not necessary. I first started thinking about this when Greg Joseph of the Clarks brought it up at the selection meeting of Reimagination CD, how he was trying to start less spoken sentences with "So." From there I started analyzing it, and it turns out that I do that a LOT, and it's really hard not to.

And yes, I realize this is a Sunday. I write when I can and how I can.

I want to talk about two things: the first being my research project, and the second being the adventure at the station. I'm doing a research project for English on the concept of 'literary merit'. Specifically, my paper is going to try and argue that YA fiction, specifically the case of John Green, has literary merit. In researching this, I've found a lot of differing viewpoints but mainly the question by these 'scholarly sources' is this: is literary merit and thus are merited to be required reading limited to the classics? This has been something I've been ranting about for years: who sets up what we read? why do we read what we read? and of course, what is the point of it all?

The answers aren't simple. <rant>* The education system in America as it exists today is a broken and crazy system. People who argue otherwise have not seen NCLB implemented, and have probably not talked to a teacher lately. The question I have is this: is society able to adapt to a group of strange people standing on the backs of giants, or do we have to all be of a certain classical mindset on the backs of certain giants? </rant>

Yesterday we met at the station with the ten acts that will be contributing to the Reimagination CD. The thing I love about working with Reimagine is that we start really small - meetings with four or five people -  but when it comes to the projects we work on, we do huge things.

Here is what a ten artist/ten track compilation looks like sitting in a room:
May not seem like much, but it seems pretty impressive to me. We enlisted five or six producers, the GM of WYEP, and we're having it all recorded/mastered at a professional facility, Church Studio in Carrick. But the thing I am continually amazed by is how something goes from talk to reality, it's an amazing process, and I'm so glad to be able to be a part of it.

I won't go into much detail because everything is just starting at this point, plus I don't have much detail at this point. Nevertheless, it is looking like the next few months are going to be good.

*This is a nod to HTML tags. Before anything can begin, it must have an opening tag, and then when whatever code or style or whatever is done, it must be closed. Thus, the rant has an opening and closing. I don't even know what I was saying there...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Ben Franklin

In a stunning turn of events, I didn't use song lyrics as a title. Mostly because I can't find a song disjointed enough to describe my week.

Monday I got a filling. Back at my regular appointment in December, my dentist noticed that one of my teeth had cracked or chipped or something, so he decided it needed fixed. I was escorted into some dentist-operation room. He told me that it wasn't deep enough for me to need numbed, so he just started drilling. It was really weird, because I knew I was supposed to be feeling something but I didn't. Nevertheless, that's done and over with.

Tuesday I learned sports reporter extraordinaire Bob Pompeani (this only makes sense if you are from Pittsburgh and watch KDKA) was coming to honor one of my friends, Conor Richardson, with the Extra Effort Award. I learned that he would be coming the next day, and it was an auditorium event, so it was on Carlynton Tech turf. We were able to set the stage (major props to my brother/sound guy Matt for putting up with my annoying nagging about sound checks) and the event went on without a hitch.

I ran lights, and when I am at the helm, I am hyper-sensitive about the entire auditorium's lighting. When an outside door opened, I was about to go down to shut it before thinking "oh, that's just our auditorium adviser" before realizing that that wasn't Mr. Pedersen, but instead Bob Pompeani. Conor was honored (which you can see the feature here: and it was great.

I helped tear down our setup and ran into Mr. Pompeani in the process. He was an amazingly nice guy, and complimented our stage work. I didn't introduce myself except as "Marie Popichak's nephew" but he recognized me from twitter, so that in and of itself was pretty cool.

Remember how I said this week was disjointed?  Yeah, I wasn't kidding. So is my thought process....

Tomorrow I go to the station (weather permitting, because it is looking like January 7th temperatures all week...) and square away some things with Reimagination 2014. Insanity. Plus there are 12,920 pageviews to this site, so within the next few weeks I'll break 13,000. I don't think I can fathom that.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

There’s an Endless Road to Re-Discover.

So it's Wednesday. I don't post on Wednesdays. But this has been an interesting week of exceptions so far, and I have a story to tell.

On January 14, 2014 I took my driving road skills test and passed. I have a license to drive cars (and anything under like 26,000 pounds if I'm not mistaken).

So this adventure all started after school that day, when my mother had arranged to pick me up outside of school and take me down to the DMV. There are a wide variety of people who are in the DMV at any given day (I've been there a few times before, for Photo ID's and some other things) and Tuesday was no exception. I sat in the corner and waited for the gentleman to call my name.

He took me out, and we went through all of the standard in-park operating-your-vehicle things. Then off to parallel parking world. Now I'll be honest, I practiced with my mother a good 20 times parallel parking. It became one of those things like when you're a little kid, and you've just learned to do something, and then you ask every cat, dog, fish, and bird if they've seen you do it. I did it over and over, and parallel parked a little bit of everywhere.

So I went to the spot, and parked. He said I had three adjustments, and when I geared in to drive to adjust, he stopped me and said "you're in the spot, works for me." Not good for my OCD, but hey, he's the examiner. Then I went out onto the road. I'll spare you the details except potholes. At the end, I was nervous beyond anything, and my (terrible) parking job reflected that when he said flatly "Well, you passed." What followed was a back-and-forth "should I straighten out the car in the spot" "no".

From there it was a whirlwind: I sat in a new section of the DMV, they called my name to get a picture (which someone named Alexandra heard as her name, so that was fun). I signed up to be an Organ Donor, and then continued until I was red-flagged for not having my parent approve that. Irrelevant. Bottom line, I was handed my Driver's license and promptly freaked out.

I'm walking out of the DMV with my mother talking about what happens next (insurance, driving timeshares, etc) and I tell her where I parked. We go over there, and make it to the row before our car. And for some bizarre reason we both stop and watch this guy pull out of a parking spot, pull back into it, and then back out and forward. What followed I still don't know what to say about. It's one of those bizarre things that will live forever in my mind.

He went forward and CRUNCH. Right into the back bumper of the tank. At which point I notice three things: 1) this guy was taking his driving test 2) he had the same examiner and the kicker 3) THIS IS THE THIRD TIME IN THREE MONTHS THAT SOMETHING BIZARRE HAS HAPPENED TO THE CAR. Like, first the Baltimore accident, then a deer (I didn't blog about it because it was pretty anti-climatic) and now this.

I don't understand it. Originally I blamed my poor parking job, but then the examiner informed us that he had told the dude taking the test that he was going to hit our car and he still proceeded forward. I felt bad for the guy taking the test, I know how nerve-wracking it was. Nevertheless, I had just got my license and just started laughing at this point.

But seriously, I think I'm drawn to bizarre car adventures. It's never our fault (this is probably the freakiest of the three incidents), but I'm always there. It seems like when I'm near the car, bizarre things are drawn to me. Exhibit A: The goats.

So that's it: I have a license, there was a freak accident at the DMV, and goats. Oh well. I will probably post again Friday, but this was just too strange to wait. Here, have two pictures:

Friday, January 10, 2014

But Hold on to What you Believe in the Light

Earlier today I was in my fifth period study hall reading through old post titles. It struck me just how much over the past year I've titled posts with music lyrics. Just a thought.

A note before the post starts: This is the week before midterms. I don't think I'm sane, but then again, when I am like this I can sometimes do my best work.

What I want to talk about is two things that may or may not be words: hypotheticality and intentions. Take that, for example. I wrote that non-word (my editor is giving me the magic red squiggles) in my weekly planner as a potential blog post. It seems anymore that we need something to strive for, or to have some path in place before we justify a destination.

It seems to me that spontaneity has gone from a desirable trait to something construed as irresponsible. Why does it seem this way to me? I live in a relatively self-contained bubble: my goals are set forth by some mythical curriculum committee of wizards or whatever for me to figure out in a calculated way. I understand how you arrive at an answer or destination or milestone or what have you is important. But does it lose its importance when it's carefully plotted out? When everything is expected, when everything is painstakingly explained, or planned?

I think it does. I think above the destination and above the specific route one takes to wherever they're going is what happens to stop that route.

I have four favorite photographers (they may argue with me, but I call them photographers) as of now who are: Dan Winter (Winner of ReimagiNATION 2013's Art Division), Brad Knabel (Carlynton Marching Band Resident Photographer), Dave DiCello (Pittsburgh Photographer; master of HDR) and Kate Kinley (really hard to describe. She does a lot of conceptual photography, and has a flickr and blog, both of which you should check out). The common thread between all four of them is that they take pictures of spontaneous life.

Life consists of those moments that aren't posed, that aren't the ones that you want to put in a resume, or on a college application. It's the stories of how you heard about that scholarship, or the parking ticket you got outside of that school, or that girl whose books you helped pick up in the hallway on the way to some class that make life move. I've never been fond of portrait photographers for this reason exactly. Life is more like an instagram picture than a school portrait.

I ask people (mainly at school, but elsewhere too) all the time what it is they plan on doing, where they are going, and more often than not do I get the response "someplace else". This troubles me a bit because they appear to think they have explored everything that is here (here being Pittsburgh). And I don't think that's true either. I want to explore things, and when I can't, I want to reexamine what I already know. I don't know, random thoughts.

If you are interested in checking out any of the photographers I mentioned above, here you go:

If you are one of the people I mentioned above and want me to delete the link, please let me know, like now. I don't want you to sue me or whatever, just email me at alex dot popichak at gmail dot com.

Oh, and the Spring Standards are playing Mr. Smalls (of Tally Hall adventure fame) April First. This is not a drill.