Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Let's See How Far We've Come 2015: The Year in Review

I did this two years ago, and missed last year because my computer was consistently on the fritz, but that makes no difference. 

For a year where so much happened, I posted the least amount of things (this makes 19) that I have ever posted in a year. It's a paradox really: when you do so much, you have less time to document what you've done, and so on your blog it looks like you did nothing. But as usual I digress. 

I did write a Christmas letter this year, and if you're interested, here's a link to it. My problem with it is its brevity. I needed to write it to fit on a singular piece of paper in 11 point Georgia which limits a year to a mere five or six paragraphs. So here I expand my narrative. Sorry about the rest of my family, but this is my blog... Let's do this! Sorry in advance for how frickin long this is going to be.

January brought my Eagle Court of Honor, along with the Carnegie Talent Show. I don't have anything else on my calendar, and honestly don't have my Eagle COH on the calendar, so that shows you how my state of mind was at that time. I did my job shadow at KDKA. I was also working for The Cougar Times at that point prepping the January issue.

February brought my venture to Dormont for the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I didn't give an annual Valentine's Day message (thank goodness. If memory serves me right, my then-girlfriend and I split that day anyways so....). I was in the midst of Senior Madness, which is what I'll call the first five months of the year. 

In March I bought an album (Hozier's self titled album which is still fantastic). I also went to a SHASDA dinner where we talked about the future of education. I was named to Trib Total Media's Top 50 Outstanding Youth Citizen list. Which is cool, but didn't come with a journalism job offer so... 

April brought with it my 18th birthday, as well as the Trib Total Media Top 50 OYC banquet. I went to the They Might Be Giants concert with Clay, and attended High School Musical the next day at Carlynton having sufficiently blown my eardrums out. I was also on the radio as a part of WESA's Life of Learning Education panel. And Troop 831's last ever Court of Honor

May brought a whole lot of school-related nonsense. I took my AP tests, and I went to Washington DC with the band. I also went to prom with some friends. And that was all fun. That whole whirlwind was reflected upon in a blog post linked below under "graduated form high school".

In June I graduated from high school. I also got my diploma. Along with it, I was awarded a $5,000 scholarship from Carlynton, which was pretty freaking awesome. I also began my journey at Point Park by attending the Pioneer Experience thingy.  I had my graduation party, and a lot of other stuff happened.

In July the world kinda stopped. I dropped off the face of the earth, and for a while was employed by GetGo. I'm not going to talk about that.

August began my new life. I went to the greatest city, Chicago, with my Aunt and mother. I had my wisdom teeth taken out, and a week later I moved into my new home in Thayer Hall with my fourth floor family. Later that month I started school, and was quite great!

There's a lot of stuff that happened in September. I started writing for the Globe, started a radio show on WPPJ, was elected to the United Student Government, and started working for the Post-Gazette. I also ended up emceeing the Carlynton Festival of Bands. Which was kinda great to get back in touch with my alma mater. There's no easy way to link blog posts, so here's the September archive:

October continued September's new adventures. I kept working for the PG, and was hired on as an assistant news editor for the Globe. On Halloween I invited my floor to my house for a campfire and passing out candy and such. 

November was more of the September-October Blur. I broke momentarily for Thanksgiving, was a part of Rock-A-Thon for WPPJ, and attended the Eagle Scout Recognition Banquet, as well as spoke at it. 

In December I finished my first semester of college ever. And I reflected a bit on that. I also began Christmas Break after helping participate in a 24 hour film festival with some friends. Here's what I'll say about my fourth floor family, and I already wrote it once: 
Besides that, I'm going to live in Carnegie [again] for a little under a month. While I'm excited to see my family again, I will greatly miss my extended family - those 22 goofballs I live with on this floor - and I'm also aware my family all work during the day, so perhaps I'll start writing a novel or something. I don't need a pastime, but I do need to learn how to take a break because since August 24 I've been running at a consistent 100 miles an hour and now I have no more highways to speed on, I'm relegated to back roads for a while.
So with that, I'm easing my way into 2016. Since August I've been going a hundred miles an hour, and during the break I eased it to about 65. Still not technically legal on a highway, but entirely okay considering where I was. 

Here's to a 2016 just as full of adventures, and just as much insanity. Why post today and not tomorrow? Tomorrow I'm going on a hike and possibly attending a NYE party with my high school friends. We'll see. I just had the time now before my shift at the PG. 

That Time I Served on an Eagle Board of Review: A Life Update

I last posted here 20 days ago, which at one time would be unacceptable, but nowadays life moves too fast for me to guarantee anything.

I've been thinking a lot about the past recently. Let me make one thing entirely clear: I don't want to relive, I just want to acknowledge. Anyways, I've been looking over the past year's worth of blog posts because this is the time of year where I write the Christmas, and I will make my annual "Let's See How Far We've Come" post later today, but as for now I want to evaluate where I am.

Two weeks ago I served on an Eagle Board of Review. To be entirely fair, I have never once served on a Board, and the last time I was at an Eagle Board was, well, my own almost a year prior. This was the last Board for Troop 831 because we couldn't recharter for 2016 with none members. I was asked because, as usual, this was a down-to-the-wire during-the-week case. They needed manpower that didn't have work on a Tuesday. But the symbolic thing in all this was that it was indeed that last board of review. And so everyone who was asked (and then some) appeared.

The maximum number of adult registered leaders who can appear on a board is six. Mike had six. They were Mr. Y (my mentor, and the man I credit with me becoming a more confident human being than I thought possible), Mr. Ellenberger (the district advancement chair commissioner dude, also an Eagle), me (you know me), my dad (you should know my dad), Mr. Fenton (a family friend of Mike's who knows him outside of scouts), and a personal favorite, Jake Urbanek. If you've followed my life for a long time, you know about Jake. Officially he's the camp director at Seph Mack in Indiana, he's also a junior at Cal U. Personally, he's been one of my best scouting friends and a huge influence on me taking on leadership roles and advancing full on to Eagle. We've been great friends ever since the April 2009 NYC adventure.

We realized a few things in us discovering we were both on the board: we were there for Mike's start in Boy Scouting (which was the NYC trip) and we signed off on his end. We were, progressively with the exception of Jake Seanor between Mike and I, the last three SPLs of Troop 831.

There was a lot of symbolism in that room: three Eagle Scouts, the old guard and the final guard of Troop 831, and we ended the troop with the pinnacle of scouting - seeing our last youth member make Eagle.

It felt hollow, our last Court of Honor. People shared their memories from a bygone era and mourned the lost of that which they left. I'm sorry I don't know the troop 831 of the 90s or 2000s, and that I barely recognize anyone that showed up. Here's my sidebar: yes it was a magical reunion of yore, but it was the mourning of something completely preventable. They mourned their memories of 831, not the 831 that held that court of honor. As the scouts from years past walked up to speak about their memories or advice or whatever, each one of them recounted memories and punctuated their speeches with a near-condemnation of the current administration for ending it. Here's the deal: we had 4 scouts legally and on the books. I saw this coming back when I was SPL: we lost our feeder pack because the cubmaster pulled the jenga blocks and while that's an excuse it isn't a good one. In 2010 and 2012 we needed to look at recruitment, not sustainability. Because without the first one, the second was and proved to be impossible. We reached out nowhere, and this grand network of alumni remained silent and detached until April 26th. That's the reality. It wasn't overnight, people just didn't join. And those of us that were there aged out.

So it's over. Well, the troop is at least. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I do know this much: we will go on. Jake, Mike, and possibly some other 831 alums plan on taking an alumni reunion hike in Settlers' Cabin tomorrow. Who knows where we go from there.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

We Were Dreamers Not So Long Ago

I have officially completed everything for my first semester of college, which is pretty insane. Unlike high school, the break surrounding Christmas in college separates semesters, which by hours is roughly equivalent to a year of high school, and in several ways it's just as exhausting. But at the same time, perspective must be maintained.

The reason people say college goes by so blindingly fast is that it truly does, but it also doesn't take as long as high school did, for the most part. Actually living and working in the same place on the same projects makes things go faster, and frankly boosts your productivity.

But now I find myself at yet another 'in between' place. I'm in between semesters, and by credits in between years, I'm just in between several things, but no real one place, you know?

For years I've avoided completing things like the plague because I was fearful of what would happen upon its completion. That fear stems from a spectrum of everything from lackluster final projects to the downright laziness of not wanting to start something new to a downright creative block. At the completion of high school, I had exactly this: nothing much to do, no real places to focus my efforts, and I'm desperately trying to avoid that same feeling of nothingness and (not necessarily counter-productiveness but like) un-productivity. So I've signed up for more shifts at the Post-Gazette, and I've made several lists of things to accomplish over the break. I'm also going to send Christmas cards because I'm a little old man.

If I'm bored enough they'll all be typewritten.

Besides that, I'm going to live in Carnegie for a little under a month. While I'm excited to see my family again, I will greatly miss my extended family - those 22 goofballs I live with on this floor - and I'm also aware my family all work during the day, so perhaps I'll start writing a novel or something. I don't need a pastime, but I do need to learn how to take a break because since August 24 I've been running at a consistent 100 miles an hour and now I have no more highways to speed on, I'm relegated to back roads for a while.

So you'll probably see more of me here as I ramble about different things. We'll see. So we beat on.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

One Year Later

Exactly one year ago today, I finished my eagle project. It was an insane effort, 35 volunteers contributing over 120 hours of service and believe it or not the project is still there. At least last I checked.

Because I'm sentimentalist trash, I'm going to put here what I put with the original entry:
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.
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.
I'm still insanely proud of the work that we accomplished, and the job I did organizing it. It wasn't the most impressive bit of handiwork ever attempted, but I take pride in having taken it on and having seen it through to completion.

Looking back (which I really shouldn't do...) at my posts and calendars and things from the past year or so I noticed (as I did in the moment) that the last year of high school was filled with several completions, but more importantly transitions.

Over my Thanksgiving break I will be a part of the program for the Eagle Scout recognition dinner. It's a chance to look back at an accomplishment, but the way it's worked out for me is that I'm looking with nearly a year's distance.

Without the character-building exercise that was scouting, there is absolutely no way I would be on the path I am on now. I'm looking actively for leadership roles to take on now, not avoiding them. In fact, when I spoke with someone in the office of Career Development (yep, PPU has one of those), she said in rebuilding my resume, I should divide it into categories: education, relevant experience, leadership, and volunteerism.

I have direction (well, sort of) because of my time with scouting, and in high school. I can't this early on if they actually accomplished anything more than building stuff that was built upon later. My studying habits haven't improved much, but that's fine. I'm able to quite quickly identify experiences that would potentially help me in the future. What will appear in that future is yet to be determined but I've also learned that that's perfectly OK: just keep rollin along and you'll be fine.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Confidence in you, Is confidence in me, Is confidence in High Speed

The title is a little bit of a throwback to Coldplay's 2000 album Parachutes, but it bests describes my life right now.

I don't know exactly what to write about this time around because life seems to move too fast for me to keep up a blog with anything that I'm doing. This week we are scheduling classes. Already this week I helped with the Globe, WPPJ, USG (dear me BUDGET MEETINGS), and I still have 2 days of school, 3 of the general week, and SATURDAY is Halloween. (Please pretend it's Tuesday, for my sanity...)

My friend sitting next to me suggested spontaneity as a topic. I ask people for topics, but rarely know where to go with that. Same here, but I felt the topic on a personal level.

I'm not spontaneous.

Spontaneity is something widely considered a positive quality, but try as I might, it's something I could never do. Perhaps it's the late hour but lest I have these mixed up, there is a difference between impulse and spontaneity. I will act on impulse, but sparingly. I understand I overthink everything and while sometimes I miss out on things, I've been doing better at streamlining the process. That's how USG happened, and the Assistant News Editor position happened - an impulse.

That all being said, I deliberate everything like crazy.

My mind is soup. Goodnight.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Angry Roads Pricked With People Rolling Forward Like Onions

The post title comes from a song we played on our radio show, Don't Let Me Die At Coco's, an obscure song that I have no idea where it came from.

We're almost halfway through the semester. So that means it's almost midterm season. And time flies by like crazy.

So last time I posted on here, it was part of an English paper. I try to avoid discussing things that I'm assigned to in class, but I felt it would work well as a crossover. We got back the grades on these things earlier this week (or maybe last week, I can't tell anymore how time passes because down here the sun don't shine and the lights always flicker with a 1 a.m. overworked glow) and as is usual the professor made some comments on the whole to all of us.

She said she liked the blog posts better than the academic papers. So I want to attempt to explain why that is. In a phrase, blog posts are more free form. They're our own. That's what our teacher said, and I tend to agree. But to digress a bit, I want to talk about how the education system strips us of our personality and then tries to force it back.

I always had a bit of an issue with writing English papers. We were told for years that we aren't qualified enough to have opinions on subjects, thus everything we had needed to be cited within papers. Once I figured out that bit, my papers let my sources sing. I used their collective voices to prove points I myself felt but was unqualified to have.

This year, our English professor is saying that our essays don't properly reflect our own voices in the same way our blog posts do. Duh. Here I am, freely expressing myself without worry about form or elevated language or making sure I used academically approved sources to prove points. In other words, it was my work as a confluence, but not truly my own working opinions, And she wants us to change that within an academic sense.

Cool. So how do I do that when I've been trained I'm unqualified for any opinions, and all academic papers must be on the shoulders of these untouchable scholars? And why? What relevance does writing an academically cited and categorized paper have for me? It doesn't. I create content that at some point may be put in an academic journal, and then your force the next group to use your paper for their papers. It's a perpetual fight to stay relevant: a self-fulfilling prophecy. Let me just write a newspaper article already.

Speaking of, I'm now the Assistant News Section editor for The Globe, Point Park's Campus newspaper. So that's kinda crazy and I'm really excited about it!

Monday, September 28, 2015

On Education and the Wealth Gap

If this seems a bit different than my average post, it's because it's for a class... Sorry for breaking the fourth wall (then again, I usually do that. I just never talk about why I blog. Semi-related: I don't think I've ever blogged specifically for a class.).

Anyway, I recently read an article by John Marsh in my English book about access to higher education and its relation to poverty. Interesting topic, in my opinion, but that's perhaps because I'm directly impacted by the whole higher education discussion, and I've thought a lot about income inequality.

Basically the argument is that access to programs to help boost enrollment/education don't do anything in the grand scheme of fighting poverty and income inequality. He argues that programs like his, the Odyssey Project, which are aimed at getting gen eds out of the way and giving people who wouldn't otherwise have access to higher education get a jump start, are ineffective.

I have no personal experience with such projects, so I researched the link between education levels in general with income inequality. The goal was to settle it, because frankly I thought Marsh's argument was pretty solid - education guarantees nothing except education. We'd like to think that the fairy tale of keep-up-with-education-go-fight-win is true. Unfortunately the data shows that just isn't true. Education, per the studies I researched [side note: if you're really curious, I found three studies that I used for these conclusions: one by Andreas Bergh, and Günther Fink, one by Ronald H. Carlson, and Christopher S. McChesney, and then one by the amazingly named duo of  Péter Földvári, and Bas van Leeuwen.] doesn't guarantee income increases beyond the standard of living/average wage earning. In other words, that bachelor's diploma is a life raft in the world of wages and anything below that is just bobbing in the open water.

The researchers found that the higher the education, the higher the wage (duh) but what it proved wasn't the case was that education causes any real upward mobility, just a promise of stability.

I point that out for two reasons: 1) it's important for the argument and 2) I'll be able to sleep tonight knowing that this expensive college adventure is worth something more income wise than the Carlynton High School diploma collecting dust on my mantle at home.

The research is solid, and found that the wage gap is a thing (duh), it's widening (duh, just ask the Occupy people circa 2012), and education cannot be considered a cure for income inequality. The one study concerned itself mainly with enrollment figures and public funding. In other words, aid programs not unlike Marsh's Odyssey Project but more tax based, did not boost enrollment. In other words, these programs are ineffective at getting people in the door, let alone having them succeed in their bachelor's, which as previously established, doesn't guarantee much of anything past an education.

Education is important, and knowledge (especially applicable knowledge) is extremely important but it isn't the cure for the financial social ills of the world. I want to say this much though, it could be used as an aid in combating a major social ill of the world: mass ignorance and stupidity. 

I didn't want to depress you entirely, but I wanted to impress this much: education shouldn't be used as a mass cure for poverty. It's a fairy tale that someone somewhere started to get policies changed to force people into education without questioning it. I say we need to question education, and the education system in general, but I've said that for years. I just ask that you not consider it a cure for poverty, because it isn't.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

On First Reference: To Write Home About

I'm beginning to understand a phrase I use sometimes: "nothing to write home about." It turns out I've been misusing it all these years.

I used to use the phrase to mean nothing notable had happened. While this is still true, it's not entirely true. Since moving on campus, I've noticed that my reports back home have to be short. As a journalism major, I've learned how to identify key figures in a story and give minimal background. These combine, and I find I end up cutting people out because first reference requires background.

As a result, there are a lot of amazing people who live on my floor and such that I interact on a daily basis with that I can't reference to other people without a lengthy explanation. I find that the best I can do is for each person give two adjectives to describe them best. Several come to mind: Talented, Creative, Beautiful in Every Way, Knightly, Business-Savvy, and the list goes on.

Anyway, these are people I absolutely love having in my life but without a lengthy explanation couldn't rightly explain who they were. So to anyone concerned about me, yes I have made friends.

Things move extremely fast here, mainly because (though I jokingly said this in high school) I actually live here. I can meet with people on the same day I first contact them, and have (Mondays are famous for this) several meetings in a day.

THE CLUB, an initiative where I am part of the development team, is going pretty well.

I have a show with two other people on WPPJ (670AM on campus, or or on the TuneIn App). The concept is called Sixty-Forty, and it consists of 60% music and 40% talk. And you can call in if you're crazy enough. Anyway, it airs every Friday from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. and you should totally listen.

I am a staff writer with The Globe and as I talked about in my last post here I'm really loving working for them. Having the title "Staff Writer" is pretty awesome, even if it was a typo in the last edition.

I am still loving working for the Post-Gazette, which has become a more entertaining venture than I figured. I work 9 p.m. - midnight on Fridays (which explains why I'm still up to a degree). Who appears in the cube across from me but my Journalism 150 (Journalistic Writing and Editing) professor. He apparently does this just for fun, to keep his foot in the door, and I got to talking to him during a lull about his background. He started at a community newspaper and at one point was working at USA Today before starting his own newspaper. A rather dumb business fluke caused the downfall of the paper, so now he teaches.

As we're waiting for the T to come, who appears behind us but my Journalism 101 professor - the reason I have the job. There I was, surrounded by faculty working for the same institution, and by this I mean the Post-Gazette, not Point Park. Which, I might add, is probably the best decision I've made probably ever. Let's see where this goes.

This has been a wild ride so far, and I'm so excited to just keep doing it all, to just keep living in the end. Ride along, will you?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Let's Make Mistakes for a While

So this is a very overdue life update. Like most overdue things, it's going to be frantically thrown together and sorta clunkily large. Clunkily is not a word.

Let's start in order. I'm involved with the Globe, which is the campus newspaper. I've written 4 pieces (three have been published - each on the front page - and I'm waiting for Wednesday to roll around for the most recent piece) for them and I'm finding I'm not too terrible at this writing thing. Just not here. If you want to read everything in order from the beginning (a piece on USG - before I joined USG), look here:

I was elected to the United Student Government here as the freshman representative for the school of communication, and I serve on the communication committee headed by my RE Emily (who is also USG's Press Secretary). Our first meeting? Budgets. Just my luck. USG is full of great people, and I can tell we are going to make positive changes in the PPU community.

I'm working with my friends Amber and Elise on a weekly radio show that debuts this coming Friday (9/25) on WPPJ. We're calling it Sixty Forty, because it's going to be 60% music and 40% not music. It's like half and half but with more music. Want to hear us play stuff? Download the TuneIn App or visit the WPPJ website here: or this direct link:

I'm also in real live print journalism! Kinda. I was hired as a freelance sports stringer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. On Friday nights I go to the PG's north shore offices and answer phones for two hours or so taking high school football summaries. It's a paid gig and I've found that it's really fun. And I also like high school football, so this is a good way of staying connected without being that alumnus that goes back to all the games.

Those are the major developments in my life at this point. People are fantastic here, and the professors are also pretty great. I've been keeping in touch with the people back home to a decent degree, but it's a bit hard. We're in our own little world here at Point Park - directly connected to the real world of Pittsburgh.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Straight Outta Thayer

I'm writing this in my dorm at Point Park University. That is one of the strangest things to be able to say after working so long to get here. But yeah, I'm now a freshman journalism major at Point Park University. And if you thought I was going to ease into the process and glide, you haven't been reading long this blog long enough.

It hasn't been the easiest transition but I'm loving it now. Classes are going pretty well and just today I signed up for probably 7 student organizations. I'm running for offices, and oh yeah I'm involved with the Globe.

Day one of classes there was a pitch meeting for the Globe. I took an assignment due that night - take some pictures of Monte Carlo night. Wednesday the Globe came out and sure enough one of my pictures is on the front. Mind you I have no proper training (yet) but there it is.

College is full of adventures and amazing friends so far. I spend most of my time in my 4th floor home or with my friends up on the 6th floor. I haven't had much time to write here, but a pretty great account of one of our misadventures is here: It's written by my friend Elena, who decided to cut me out of her version of the story (when you read "Cara" read it as me...).

But nonetheless I am alive and thriving here at Point Park. The people are amazingly nice and I have like no free time to write here or make this make sense. Sorry about that. Maybe things will settle (HA!). Nonetheless, I hope to keep you all up to date on the goings-on here.

Friday, August 14, 2015

And I would Fly 500 Miles...

So it's been a while. Hi! I'm not dead. I'm down four wisdom teeth and almost moved out for college, but other than that not too much is different. I'm still me, you're still you, right? Right.

So last week I traveled alongside my aunt and mother to one of the greatest cities in the world, Chicago Illinois. I know what you're thinking: the midwest? Why? I'll tell you why: THE BEAN.

Okay, I'm kidding, we didn't fly a third of the way across the country just to see a bean, even if it is a majestic stainless steel sculpture of awesome. We did a heck of a lot of cool stuff in not a lot of time. That Wednesday morning we flew out from Pittsburgh International and landed at Midway around 7:00 AM Central. Time travelling (or traversing time zones to be more accurate) is an amazingly cool and disorienting thing. Especially when your wristwatch refuses to get with the program and change from EDT to CDT, but that's a whole other rant.

We took the Orange line into the Loop, which in hindsight is about the size of Downtown Pittsburgh. Plus: it's walkable and flat Minus: you walk way more than you realize and are exhausted by the end of it. But oh well.

That first day we went to Millennium Park (Home of the Bean), the Art Institute of Chicago (Home of a friendly cashier who made me realize I have a weird accent when it comes to saying the word "pin" versus "pen" as well as home to American Gothic and other famous art such), Giordano's Pizza (home of amazing deep dish pizza), the Briar Street Theater (home of the Blue Man Group), and then the Club Quarters hotel (temporary home of us). We got up around 4 AM Eastern to fly out, which is 3 AM central and finally got to the hotel to sleep around midnight central, or 1 AM Eastern. It was an exhausting but amazing day.

Day two was just as busy. I had amazing french toast at Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe on East Randolph. We took an architecture boat ride through the city of Chicago along the Chicago River. We also stumbled upon, and longtime followers of my blog will appreciate this, THE 2015 CHICAGO RUBBER DUCKY DERBY! They had a giant (not really) rubber duck and launched THOUSANDS of them off of a drawbridge and it was amazing and seriously the ONE time I go to Chicago we just so happen to find a ducky derby. (Confused yet? Click Here...). I took a detour to the Chicago Cultural Center (home of a GAR hall with an awesome dome and another hall with another awesome dome), another pilgrimage to the bean because THE BEAN! and that evening we travelled north to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs take on the Giants.

I'm not a Cubs fan, and I'm not a Giants fan. I am a self-diagnosed stubborn Pirates fan. So it's really weird going into a ballyard you don't know to see two teams you A) don't really care about and B) don't know really at all to watch them play. But it's Wrigley Field so you have to. So what are you to do, root against the home team? If you ask the random sea of Giants Fans around us yes you do. Or you could just cheer for everyone without worry because it doesn't matter.

Unless of course you're worried about the Buccos' Wild Card Chances. Which, after seeing the Cards series I suddenly am...

Three years ago I read a great book about Chicago and the 1892 World Fair. It's called "Devil in the White City" by Erik Larsen. Good Swedish name, though I doubt he's Swedish. Anyway, the worlds fair took place on the same plane longitudinally as Midway Airport (Midway = Midway Plaissance).. Most of buildings from the amazing worlds fair that debuted Tesla's Alternating Current and, you know, the Ferris Wheel, have burned to the ground. They all have, except for the Palace of Fine Arts. It was fireproof (a marvel of its time) and now houses the Museum of Science and Industry. So on the third day we trekked south in search of the Worlds Fair. I didn't realize how freaking huge this place was until I got there. It was overwhelming and amazing (both in architecture and size and the cool exhibits they had there - I sat in a combine harvester!) and so I wandered about a bit, and before catching the Metra north ran all the way around the building (which, much to MSI's credit, they've kept intact from the 1893 detailing) to look out over Jackson Park, a place I must explore next time I'm in Chicago. Because it's beautiful and haunting. Exactly as I hoped it would be. The world nowadays has no real place for worlds fairs - innovations are debuted on large stages and in keynote addresses by men in turtlenecks, but it's important to realize that there was a time where you had to travel to see the new. It wasn't just beamed at you or around you, you had to get your ticket, hitch up a wagon or train to see the impressive marvels of technology.

The rest of our last day in Chicago was spent wandering about the Navy Pier, which jettisons out into Lake Michigan complete with (of course) a ferris wheel, and some interesting oddities including the studios of WBEZ (this American Life, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, and most other awesome things to come from Public Radio) and a museum dedicated to stained glass from Tiffany & Co.

Standing at the edge of the Navy Pier overlooking Lake Michigan is nowhere near as inspiring as looking out over the Atlantic Ocean from Bethany Beach, Delaware. But much like the rest of the marvel that is Chicago it forces you to compare and to examine. The city was planned after a fire, and has three layers, so the top layer - what us tourists see and the wayward streetgoers do - is always clean and pristine. Below is the through traffic, and below that is trash collection world and the trains. Chicago as a whole is planned to the T, and is a constant experiment of pushing higher (inventing the skyscraper) and more practically than you could think possible.

In conclusion, I love it there. It's too dang flat for me to even begin to compare it to my beloved Pittsburgh, but at the same time there is something to be said for flying in and seeing the city far beyond a sunrise summer haze over Midway.

Chicago is an inspiring place that forces you to think about human possibility. How the hell do you eat this gigantic deep dish pizza? Why do so many people flock to the bean? How did a city known for slaughterhouses and fire rise from its bloodied messy past and become an awesome and clean metropolis? It's a wonder of its own, and I've never experienced anything quite like it.

I give all credit to my amazing Aunt and Uncle who made this possible. For my tolerant mother for letting us drag her around Chicago, and even to a baseball game (I love it, she hates it) and to the giant rubber duck, to which we owe credit for all awesome and dorky things.

You just knew I'd find some way to circle it back to the Giant Duck....

If you'd like to see any of the pictures I took of this trip, I made an album on Flickr like usual:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Whirlwind

I'm writing on a Sunday. Which is weird. I didn't even really sleep in, which while not being weird, but I'm home, which is. Nevertheless, hi. How are you? I haven't written here in a while [since graduation] so here goes nothing:

So you graduate. You pick up your diploma and report card and that's it. It's an incredibly strange feeling to be "done" with something. To me, a person with a constant stream of unfinished projects, it's unsettling, but what choice do you have? So what did I do? That night, I invited some of my friends from high school over to my front porch and we chatted. More people came, and by the end of it, it was 1 in the morning. Then came the parade of graduation parties. I'm a broke college kid, so I can't exactly contribute the money people contribute towards grad parties or whatever, so I do my best to attend every one I am invited to, and share some time.

Graduation parties are very strange traditions. For the most part, the graduate is trying to greet and send off people as they come in and out. The goal, I guess, is to get a chance to speak a bit with everyone. But in reality, the attendants don't actually get to speak with the graduate much. They just kind of show up, say hi, eat food, chat a bit, and then, I don't know, in my case it was usually appear at another grad party. And so if you're in attendance, your best bet is to go with someone you already know so you can talk to them, and then visit with the graduate as much as their schedule allows. This was the philosophy for mine about a week ago. I visited with everyone, that was my point. I cared only that they ate food (because there was so much and like that's what people do) and that I talked with them. Family and the sort insisted on giving cards and while that was nice, it was successful in that I got to talk with everyone in one place for once. It was nice. Exhausting, but nice.

This past Thursday and Friday (25th and 26th of June if you're as lost as me) was spent at my future home, Point Park University for their orientation. What I've found is that anymore colleges have stopped calling their orientations orientation, and Point Park calls theirs the "Pioneer Experience" which I guess hold true. The attendees of PPU are Pioneers, the mascot is the bison, I don't get it but I don't have to. And boy was that an experience. It started mid-day and I wasn't back in my overnight dorm until 1AM. I met several awesome people, and from the time I walked on campus I was pretty okay with spending more than one night there, but like it only lasts two days so I have to wait until August.

The cost of higher education is absolutely insane, and while I don't think any amount of fancy schooliness can justify the pricetag, at least from what I've seen so far Point Park does the best to start you working on your major and in the field now. This was extremely important to me from the start of the college search, and I feel like I made the right decision. Or the best, considering how high and dry we are left after high school. We'll see if it stays that way, but for now, I'm excited and looking to the future with optimism.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Graduation: Go Pick Up Your Diploma

I am neither the valedictorian nor salutatorian, in fact I think I'm like 10th or 11th in the class, so I don't get to give any speeches at graduation. Frankly, if you read my Eagle speech, it's not that much of a loss. Nevertheless, since this is my house and my soapbox, I'm going to say some stuff about graduation and the sort.

The way I see it, it's poetic that the commencement diploma distribution is a lie. We're called up one by one, shake hands, and receive a "diploma" that in reality is just a holder. In order to get the diploma that goes in that holder, you have to go back to the gym to pick it up. So why is this poetic?

Education, or at least public education, is often looked at as a free ride, something that's handed to you. It really isn't. Well, success isn't at least. See, the only thing they hand to you are the bare bones - the four required English classes, the three maths, the very basic classes. And even then, you just have to pass.

The poetry is this - in order to succeed, you have to take another step - you have to go to the gym, or like go and do stuff above and beyond - to actually accomplish something. That's been my experience at Carlynton these past 13 years. The school will support you in whatever you do, but in the end your success depends upon the opportunities that you take advantage of. If you take no action, in the end you just have a diploma holder.

I don't have any deep and profound wisdom for anyone - after all, I'm only a recent high school graduate - but I do have this one quote I found a few years back. It's a quote from the autobiography of Walter Cronkite that I read in the 10th grade, and I've used it as my email signature ever since.
I can't imagine a person becoming a success who doesn't give this game of life everything he's got
That's it, you just have to give this crazy game of life all you've got. Take opportunities, meet awesome people, and just keep doing things. It's cliche to say that this is just a beginning or whatever sunshine rainbow quote you usually hear at these things, but I guess it's true. In a less abstract sense, it's the beginning of your own choosing. The last thing you do as a high school student is to walk out of here and pick up your diploma to put in that holder. But that's also the first choice you make as a high school graduate.

So don't forget to go pick that up, you earned it.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

And I'll Tell You All About it When I See You Again

It's been a long time since I last posted, life has been moving at a ridiculous pace and I haven't really had the time to write much outside of AP English and Gov work.

Last week I finished high school, and tomorrow I graduate. WHAT?!

Last time I posted was in April, so here's a whirlwind update, the next post should be a reflection on graduation and all that.

At the end of April I was on a panel at WESA about the future of education and its relevance from the point of view of a student. It played May 6, and you can check it out here: It was interesting being behind a mic talking about a subject that I felt passionate about but also being EXTREMELY LIMITED in how much I was allowed to talk so I had to make what little I said count. You can listen for yourself. It was overall a really enjoyable experience.

A week after the forum (May 5th) I took the AP Calculus Exam. It was, in a word, INTENSE. The reason I took AP Calc was that my teacher said I could do it. I was, and am, pretty skeptical, but I took the test, and in about 25 days I'll see if I actually could. The next day brought AP English. Again, intense, but I took it because I was essentially told to. We'll see. AP Gov was the most manageable, and that took place a week after AP Calc.

Standardized tests are less a true test of knowledge as they are a test of endurance and stamina. How long can you concentrate on this task you've worked all year (and in some cases several years) towards. It's intense, there's a lot of pressure but you do it and it's done with and at the end you might just have college credit for it.

The weekend following that brought the band trip to Washington DC. I made the t-shirt design for it, which was a project I somehow completed in the midst of AP madness, and the rest of it. But yeah! DC was okay. I'd rename it the King's Dominion and oh, yeah, there goes DC trip. We were in DC for about five hours total. The Saturday was spent at the Kings Dominion amusement park. I'm not really a fan of amusement parks, but whatever.The following day I did get into DC and saw Arlington, the National Mall (which I really want to visit again because WOW AMERICA), the Air and Space Museum, and several other things. If you want to see what all I was able to capture in like 5 hours, check out my flickr:

L-R: Cassie, Jarod, Makayla, Natalie, Mikaela, Dan, Clay, and Half of My Face
L-R: Dan, Me, and Clay

The following Friday brought Prom (yes, this list keeps going....). I had gone back and forth about going to prom, and I did actually ask Becca (long story behind that, but for both our sakes I'm glad it worked out the way it did), and I did end up going solo, and I had a blast. It was a LONG night though.

 The following Wednesday brought the Gettysburg 2015 Trip. I've been to Gettysburg 4 times now, so I have a good grasp of what went on there, but I went anyway with my class, to see the (actually pretty great) pictures from then, check out the flickr album here:

Somewhere in there was a chorus concert, the band banquet, and the last Court of Honor for Troop 831 ever, and like a whole mess of other stuff, but that's the shortened version.

I took my finals June 3rd and 4th. June 3rd also brought the senior recognition assembly in which we get our caps and gowns, and several (okay, like 30) awards are given out. It was long, and painful, but I have my cap and gown now, and I received recognition for several things (morning announcements, AP courses, I was awarded a Carlynton Federation of Teachers Textbook Grant, the OYC thing). But above all else I was privileged to be awarded one of the inaugural Maggie Scholarships. The amount? $5,000. After grants, and federal loans, and all that jazz, MY FIRST SEMESTER OF POINT PARK IS PAID FOR!!!!!!!!!!

Guys, I can actually go to college and for the first half of the year I don't have to worry about it. I'm still stunned.

Up next? Graduation reflection.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Blue Canary in the Outlet By the Lightswitch

Hello there! I'm alive! Senior year is one of those things that just seem to speed by and take all of your time. That isn't much of an excuse, but again I've been living my life.

I turned 18 on April 15th, and got to thinking about what that actually means. It doesn't mean much fun things, but here's a list if you're keeping track:

  • Register To Vote (check)
  • Sign up for Selective Service (check)
  • Buy a Lottery Ticket (check, and no it didn't win :P)
  • Sign for medical/legal stuff (check, unfortunately)
  • Drive past 11 (which honestly I'm rarely awake past 11 so....)
I'm sure there are other things (before you say tobacco and strip clubs, just stop) but that's what I made the list of. So family came over (it was weird not having my grandmother there, but I have a feeling she was... I'm not into that whole supernatural stuff, but I'm aware it exists) and we had cake and spaghetti and went our merry way. 

April 16th brought the They Might Be Giants Concert with Clay and my Aunt Marie. Well, Aunt Marie drove us there, but Clay had wanted me to come since they announced the concert. TMBG is a band that has been both quite largely followed and quite obscure. They've been around since the late 80s/early 90s and have a rather unique, quirky alternative sound I love. It was "an evening with" so they were their own opener. All in all, it was a great concert and they played for nearly 2 hours. Many thanks to both Clay and Aunt Marie for making that happen.

April 18th brought High School Musical. I can't say too much really (partially because I was partially deaf that day, and the other because I'm a cynic) except there were two main reasons I was there: Dan Doyle (The Actuary Gigabass), and Becca. I wanted to support my friends (mainly those two) and so I did. 

April 23rd brought a mock senate (which was fantastic!) and the Trib Total Media Dinner Thingy. I was named one of Trib Total Media's Top 50 Outstanding Young Citizens for the South and West Region. I don't talk about these sorts of things much, but this is an exception. Those who were selected were invited to a (really fancy) banquet out past the Airport. It is extremely rare that I feel REALLY out of place at social functions. I was surrounded by AAA and AAAA schools, and the tops of those schools, so it was intimidating and strange to say the least. They stuck us in the back corner of the room (and I think that's a good thing, because we were with a family from Chartiers-Valley who spent the whole night feeling like the riff-raff) and gave a lovely dinner that due to my illness I couldn't really taste. All in all, it was a pretty okay night, and I have a neat little certificate to go with it.

April 24th brought the Senior Project. As a graduation requirement, students in our district are required to complete a project detailing their profession of choice. It involves completing research on the career, doing a job shadow, and it culminates in a presentation and interview on a selected day. That day was the 24th, and my panel consisted of an elementary teacher I didn't know, my kindergarten teacher (yep, he got to start and end my high school career), and one of the high school computer teachers (I wrote a story about his sports marketing class for The Cougar Times). I passed, I think, but the kicker was I had lost my voice. I have been sick effectively for the past week (it's finally been diagnosed as a sinus infection and is being treated) and lost my voice entirely the day of the presentation. So I was lucky enough to whisper the entirety of my presentation to my panel....

This coming Tuesday I am going to be on a student panel about education at (WYEP-owned) WESA. As I said, we'll be talking education: the past, the present, and the future. They will record our little panel and then broadcast it at a later date (you better believe I'll be posting a link when I get it!). The panel itself will start at 7PM, and if you'd like to join us just register here:

Upcoming events include: the last Court of Honor for troop 831 (ever) is tomorrow, the doom and gloom church meeting is tomorrow, and no doubt fun stuff awaits us next week. 

Until next time, I'll see you on the radio 


Saturday, March 14, 2015

We'll Name Our Children Jackie and Wilson and Raise 'Em on Rhythm and Blues

Hi! Long time no write. The title is from Hozier's "Jackie and Wilson" on his album which I bought yesterday and IT IS FANTASTIC! This is going to be quite disjointed. Sorry.

These past few Fridays I have been out and about with friends, and Saturdays have been spent for the most part doing assorted nonsense. Sundays are never good, which means I've neglected my blog for the past while.

It's really strange to be doing things on Friday Nights, especially with friends. For the longest time I've been the type to prefer a night in to anything else, but I have (some people may say FINALLY) come out of my shell. I'm now proposing to go out, and to get people together doing something. I guess that's what senior year does to you: the freeing from caring about consequences leads to more leaps of faith. Or something profound like that.

I'm going to try and run quickly through the latest developments and the sort so in the future I can look back and say "I didn't post because..."

  • SHASDA Dinner - fancy dinner with administrators from area school districts where they invite once a year students from each district for a forum about education and the sort. Two main points: technology is coming to our classrooms and we should try and get on that as opposed to hoping it'll just wash over like a wave, AND I've found a new line about standardized testing that was met with applause (like really? since when does Alex Popichak get applause for things he thought of on his own. I usually get C papers for that) that new line being: "I think we should start building the test to fit the curriculum as opposed to trying to jam a curriculum to fit a test". Who accompanied me to this dinner? None other than our assistant principal. 
  • Trib OYC Top 50 -  I was nominated for an award and invited to attend a dinner. Every year, the Tribune-Review sponsors an award called the Outstanding Youth Citizen award and they take nominations from schools and individuals for the area's Top 50. I am honored to be named one of the Top 50 in the West division. The winner of gold medals will be announced at the dinner, as will the winner of a $5000 scholarship. The dinner will be held in April and I have to get working on that scholarship app...
  • Operation Alex Pays For College  - has commenced, and I'm working on trying to find a way to pay for college. The Point Park University Presidential Scholarship and Opportunity Grant are amazingly helpful, and after federal loans I'm down to a commitment roughly equal to room and board, which is manageable. When you think of how absolutely insanely expensive it is just to get a degree, I feel I am blessed to have worked this hard and get financial aid based on that. It's weird to be recognized for stuff, but I guess that happens? I don't know. How to be humble without being a jerk...
I think that sums up some of the bigger stuff. I don't know. Sorry if this was a disappointment to all three of you who read this...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

This Message Brought to You by the Junior Chamber of Commerce Players

I plan on writing three posts: This one, one on Valentines Day, and another on my Eagle COH... We'll see if that actually happens.

So this past Saturday brought me a multitude of increasingly bizarre things.

I began the day at the Espy Post giving tours. I began about 10 minutes early by request and stayed almost 40 minutes late because there was a steady stream of people. What the library had neglected to tell me was that there was an article about the post published in the Tribune-Review the week prior. When publicity hits, people appear out of nowhere. They also had someone shadow me as I did my tours. By 'they' I mean the library executive director so there's that.

The next part of my day took me to Greentree for an ecumenical service for scouts. Generally the first Saturday in February is reserved as Scout Sunday, but for some reason this year they had it on a Saturday. It was held in an LDS Church. I've written about denomination and religion on here before, but if you were to place it on a spectrum of old-timey ancient philosophy to newer ideas, we are pretty far from one another.* The Orthodox haven't changed much of anything in 2,000 years and relative to that they're pretty new-age. But that's okay, just not what I'm used to.

I changed groups of people and then things got weird.

That night a group of us decided to go to the Hollywood Theater in Dormont to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show with a shadow cast. Let me make three things abundantly clear: 1) I had never seen Rocky Horror before in any capacity 2) I wasn't exactly sure what it was about past what I gleamed from IMDb and had seen in Perks of Being A Wallflower 3) I had decided when I saw Perks that I wanted to see this eventually, and I wanted that to be the first time I saw Rocky Horror in any capacity.

So that's exactly what happened. We showed up quite early and took up the first row, danced with the shadowcast, and it was amazing. The show started at midnight and by the time I got home it was 3 AM (and got back up at 745 for church), but it was totally worth it. It was wacky, inappropriate, and downright fun. The group that does it call themselves the Junior Chamber of Commerce Players ( and do a fantastic job of shadowcasting it (Granted, I've never seen shadowcasts before, I've only seen casts in plays and musicals, etc). If you don't know, they play the film up on the screen while the cast acts out the show on a makeshift stage in front. This is complete with costumes, outrageous props, and impromptu dialogue.

It was again one of those surreal, fantastic experiences that I entirely recommend to anyone willing to have a fun time. They have a set of rules, and the first rule (per their website) is: Rule #1. This show is about fun. If you're not having fun, you're doing something wrong. And that's true, it's a whole lot of fun. AND IT WAS ONLY $8! So go.

I noticed when I was doing the bit of research to write this that I'm apparently on their homepage. Cool.
Yep, That's half of Clay, Me, Elliot, Abby, and half of Alec on their page...

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Something Shiny

So I finally have my computer working. Sort of. Basically I reinstalled the OS and started over. Not really an answer, but alright, whatever.

It's a requirement for the graduation project at Carlynton to either do an interview or job shadow. I thought it would be a lot more beneficial to do a job shadow, so I decided to ask my Aunt Marie (of John Green, KDKA fame) if she would ask around KDKA and see if anyone would be willing to let me shadow them.

I want to break here and say honestly: I had no idea what I wanted to do really. I just knew I wanted to go into journalism of some sort. I was open to shadowing any form of reporter, editor, or whatever. My aunt suggested feature reporter Dave Crawley and he agreed.

So this past Tuesday I went on a job shadow. Dave Crawley (we learned after like a half hour of twiddling my thumbs at his desk) apparently was on vacation in Columbus, so I wandered into the 9 am meeting with no one to really shadow.

The 9 AM meeting is where the 4, 5, and 6 o clock news truly starts. Reporters converge in a conference room and the assignments are handed out: reporters take stories, and photographers are assigned to those reporters fitting the need (ie if they need a live truck versus a regular van without the mast). Following the meeting (which was actually pretty fun. I've heard horror stories about morning meetings, but these seem pretty chill) I went back to Dave Crawley's desk. His desk is across from Heather Abraham's desk, who was working on a piece for sweeps and was explaining how that process works. She's a morning reporter and is a very kind person answering a lot of my strange questions. His desk is also next to Lynne Hayes-Freeland, who started talking to me about what was going on. I asked her if she'd be willing to have me shadow her for the day, and she kindly agreed.

Her assignment for the day was a follow up on the previous day's story about guns at a Propel charter school. She was looking for a direction to take the follow up, seeing as both suspects were in custody and no official word had come from Propel about changes (or lack thereof) to their security policy. So she looked at another angle - the parents.

She reached out to different people and waited for a response. In the meantime, one of the news director people took me aside and showed me how the microwave/broadcast trucks get from really tall mast to television screens. Basically, there are towers in every nearby county that they beam to, and with those towers they can either take in the live feed, or record their video packages.

I then talked to a producer (she was producing the noon news, which was about a half hour away) who showed me the insane program that connects assignments to reporters and anchors and directors and basically the thing that makes the news run. Each story has a spot, a source, and a script to accompany that. It's a lot of moving parts and she says for the noon news she starts at 6AM scripting.

Since we hadn't heard back from anyone about the gun story, I was then taken to the control room to watch the noon news. About 3 minutes before the broadcast, Ms. Hayes-Freeland told me that there was good news, and bad news. Bad news was that we had to go interview someone. Now. The good news was that I could watch the 4, 5, and 6 o clock news from the control room.

I met up with her and the photographer (who fittingly enough is the father of a former scout in our troop) and we went to interview two parents with two separate opinions.

When we got back to the station (around 2 at this point) we had nothing to do but wait for the stuff to upload to the server, so I took a lunch break. When I came back I listened to the footage we had and she gave me an assignment: see what sound bites I would use if it were my story. We picked entirely different clips from the same footage. Interesting.

She shared her script for the story, and then introduced me to an editor, Kenny (not editing our story, but something for the 6). I spend about half an hour with him and he was about to hand me the reigns (which I honestly didn't have a clue how to use the final cut/premiere/after effects hybrid) when I was tapped to watch the 4 o'clock news from the control room. I watched the 5 from the telepromter/camera operation area. All in all it was a fantastic day, I learned a lot about the industry ("you do realize this is a dying field" - I was told this at least three times) and saw a newscast from start to finish. It was amazing and kinda confirmed that this is what I want to do with my life.

So again I'd like to thank my aunt, Ms. Hayes-Freeland, Mr. Colabine, Kenny, Erin Shea, and everyone else who made it possible for me to have this experience. It was the most exciting day of my week at the very least.


The Teleprompter Deck

Look at All Those Monitors (Control Room)

The View from the Teleprompter Deck

The Robotic Camera System

This is the KDKA 5 O'Clock News Pano

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Eagle Speech

So my computer has been on the fritz as of late, so I haven't been able to write much lately. I even wrote a year in review, and it didn't save... I'll eventually post some copy of the Christmas letter.

I'll also write about my Eagle court of honor, but for now, as promised, here is the original text of my response speech:

Before I say anything, I want to thank every one of you for coming this afternoon. So I’ll go alphabetical by row… They say it takes a village to raise someone, and I’m really thankful for mine.

To my parents, thank you. For everything. I don’t say too much in the way of thank yous but I appreciate your support more than you could ever know.

To those who helped with the Eagle project, or those who helped keep me sane during the Eagle project, I could never have made it this far without you. Same to all the scout leaders and scouts and teachers and library people and of course my friends.

Okay, so now that I’ve thanked everyone, I want to talk a bit about what I’ve learned. First, to new scouts: keep with it. The way I see it, there are three types or reasons to be in scouts. The first is the to advance and get on with my life. The second is the scout who wants to learn something. They don’t necessarily care about advancing, but they’ve committed themselves to doing something worthwhile and learning something. The third is the scout who starts because they want to get something out of it and along the way advances. If you’re expecting me to say that the way I approached it was right, well, I’d be lying to you. I vividly remember Mr. Jones’s comment of “in the next month if you don’t get first class I’ll have to kick your ass” and Jake’s of “Come on man, I need to get out of this position, advance already”. You need to do whatever is best for you. But to do that you have to find who you are somewhere along the way, and scouts is a great mechanism for that. It’s circular but true

Something I’ve learned along the way is that no matter what you choose to do, people will be there to help. You just have to find them. People are very quick to point out that there is something wrong with what you’re doing. If you’re lucky, they’ll tell you what’s wrong. However, you are going to need to seek help in order to get help. So don’t be afraid to ask.

So why bother with it - the scouts, the projects, the service, the meetings? I got an email once out of the blue from a newer scout. It’s dated October 31, 2012. It said in part:
“Alex, you are such a role model to me for scouting. And Everything else. You NEVER and I mean NEVER give up . I hope I have the willpower and determination to do anything I'm allowed to do. It's amazing,”

He had no idea at the time but I was going through a rough patch at that point where I considered stopping my involvement with anything. I was in the 10th grade, sick and tired of school, scouts, and people in general.

I Printed it out, wrote “Why you Keep Trying Anyway” at the top, and it’s been hanging up in my room ever since. That’s why you keep trying, because sometimes you do make a difference. Yes, you have to learn how to finish things, but if you never start a project it’ll never be completed. While the shiny awards and things are great, what matters is the work you do and whether or not it makes a difference. I hope that what I’ve done has made a difference, and I again thank you for being a part of this insane and crazy ride. Thank you for coming, I’ll shut up now.