Sunday, December 31, 2006

No Resolutions Here...

Being the nerd that I am, I'm spending New Year's Eve fixing my blog! Well, it's pretty much fixed now that the pictures from the earlier posts are showing, but I've still a few things to do to make sure they stay there.

I hope this blog post finds you well; I'm doing great myself. I had a really great Christmas, and was surrounded by enough good people to distract me away from the fact that I wasn't home, although the sheer novelty of spending a solid 10 days with Caitlyn is probably the main reason I had such a good time.

Forgive the sentimental tone of this post, but I have just spent the last half hour skimming over my blog while listening to The Fray, so I'm reflecting on what a great couple of months I've had here in these United States. As great as the initial few weeks were, things just keep seem to be getting better - which bodes well for this coming semester!

I'm going to get back to work on making sure those pictures stay where they're supposed to, so I'm going to leave you, and wish you a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sully & Air-travel don't seem to mix well...

So as I write this, I'm shooting the breeze in Minneapolis International Airport, waiting for Caitlyn to pick me up, and forgive me if this post is a tad pointless (implying the others are pointful?) but I had to share the lastest bizarre thing that happened me.

I flew out of Orlando with AirTran Airways, because they're good and cheap. I had a creepy old lady next to me who communicated with me by squinting her left or right eye at me, and a pilot to my right who kept interrupting my MP3 listening pleasure to critque our pilot's flying methods; apparrently during landing, we came in "way too hot". There were also a pair of drunken rednecks just one row of seats behind me, and whenever they spoke(/squawked), the whole area smelt of cheap whisky for some moments afterwards.

Despite this, it was an alright flight - even though I was seated in the back of the plane again, the drone of the engines wasn't as woeful as the NWA flight last month that I whinged about, and some of what the pilot next to me had to say was very interesting.

Anyways, back to this 'bizarre thing'. I was the victim of... Well, I'm not quite sure what I was the victim of, so I'll just tell the story. When we were getting off the plane, one of the highly competent and very pleasant air-hostesses was saying farewell to each of the passengers. The white gentleman in front of me passed to a greeting of "Have a happy Christmas, Sir". The white woman behind him walked by to a cheery "Merry Christmas, Ma'am." The troupe of small white kids go by, accompanied by their parents, and the hostess stoops over the children, saying "be good now boys, and Santa might be good to you!"

It's my turn. She turns towards (white) Sully says "Happy" and trails off. She smiles at me, takes a moment to recompose herself, and completes the sentiment "... whatever it is you guys celebrate!"

I couldn't believe it. "Whatever it is you guys celebrate"? The white wrinkly hags behind me got the Christmas-flavoured greeting, but I wasn't good enough for it somehow! I mean, how foreign do I look exactly? Of all the farewells, I was the only one who got the politically correct version, which is upsetting, seeing as I'm not the most politically correct type myself.

Obviously, I'm not as bothered by this as I might be letting on, but other than my fairly obvious accent, I don't understand why I was singled out!

I should have asked her, shouldn't I...

Oh yeah, and in other news; AirTran broke the handle off my bag.


The End of the Road(Trip)

Maggie, her brother Jordan and I arrived in Ocala, Florida last night shortly after 6pm. Jordan drives a pickup-truck with a very small cab, and the six hours or so was a tight squeeze. Seems Jordan is a knowledgable chap, and he seemed to know plenty about pretty much every major geographical feature we passed... Still didn't take my focus away from the buttaching, but it helped! We did stop about four and a half hours into the drive, and that inital moment of my feet hitting solid ground was sheer ecstacy; the pleasure shot up through my body, starting with my feet, and ended with the involuntary smile on my face... I looked like quite the pillock.

Today was fun; we went to Silver Springs, and rode around in glass bottomed boats, looking at 'gators, and other 'critters', while I took a load of nature-footage on my camcorder (which you won't be seeing for at least another three weeks, since I decided to leave the gadgetry to put the footage on my laptop behind... probably a blessing)!

This photo was taken on our way out, so it's darker than all the others, but it's nicer than the photo I didn't take going in, so feel free to settle for this one.

The Alligators at the park were pretty cool and pretty dull at the same time; they'd lay perfectly still, hoping not to be noticed (let's ignore the fact that they're in a friggin' enclosure), and watch you with their eyes while not moving a muscle. I was offered the chance to go "'Gator huntin'" with Jordan, but that didn't work out, which didn't upset me too much, as I'm not sure how I'd have fared with the 'boom stick' part of the operation, where after tiring out your prey for a few hours, you finally drive what is essentially a stick with a shotgun shell on the end that explodes on impact into the reptile's skull. I'm pretty sure I'd have set my moral compass aside and done whatever was expected of me, just for the purpose of exploring this bizarre sub-culture.

This picture shows Maggie pouring me a half-glass of Egg-Nog; that strange substance I hear so much about from American TV shows, but know little about... Being the curious type, I thought I'd give it a whack.

This picture right here says a lot of things. It really captured the moment. For some reason, as soon as the ridiculously viscous, sickly sweet 'nog entered my mouth, I instinctively began chewing, so discombobulated were my senses. I'm pretty sure that the look shown here on my face is the exact moment I was thinking "On my next bowel movement, I'm going to crap out a cake!"

It was one of those things I had to try, I suppose - the rather paltry 100ml or so that I drank is still repeating on me, but I also put away an ungodly amount of Ribs earlier on (I like the southern cooking). I should also point out that I also got to eat quail while at Maggie's aunt's house. Unsurprisingly, it tasted just like chicken, maybe a little more chewy. My vigorous gnashing at this white meat prompted a warning from Maggie's stepdad; "you should be biting down very gingerly on that; you don't want to break your teeth on one of the pellets we shot it with!" I wouldn't even dare describe it as an acquired taste; it tasted like cheap, chewy, crap chicken, but of course, that's not the point - it was a great taste of culture!

Speaking of which; I'm going to end this post with another look at the culture here down south; in case you hadn't noticed, Maggie's family seem to have quite the interest in hunting, or as they call it; huntin'. Well, I'm sure this deer feels honoured that his sacrifice served the following noble purpose this Christmas.

"Ho ho ho" indeed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Comatose Gluteus Maximus

I spent about thirteen hours in a car today.

Driving from Pittsburgh to... some place in Georgia (I'll update this with a specific placename as soon as I remember). My ass is still numb from the affair. Other than the all-around stiffness, it was moderately painless; I played my DS til it went dead (wasted too much battery the night before playing Tetris online against Japanese people, but that's another story). I was able to plug my laptop into the cigarette adaptor, and during that time I wrote the below blog post, listened to a lot of music, and sterilised my testicles by subjecting them to the extreme heat coming off the harddrive.

So now I'm at Maggie's aunt's house - she's got seven dogs (no really), and each one of them took great delight in sniffing my crotch (I think they can smell the roast my laptop cooked up in the hours beforehand). The husband and wife pair are very hospitable, and the novelty of hearing them say things like "y'all" and "lollygagglin'" still hasn't worn thin, so I'm hoping I get to converse with a few more locals... That probably won't happen though, as tomorrow, Maggie and I leave for Ocala, Florida, where I'll spend the next two nights with Maggie's dad and stepmom! The journey should only take around 6 hours... *sigh*

Anyways, so for all of those who were curious as to whether this semester would be my fabled 'semester of glory' or not, to you I say;

"Four point oh!"

Arlight, enough smug gittery for one day. I'll try to take some pics of anything cool I see over the coming days, and then I'm going to get on with enjoying my Christmas!

Some Differences

As promised the other day, I thought I'd write up what I observed in terms of noteworthy differences between RMU and UL's way of educating the Sully. I will stress the point that I'm comparing one University with another, and these are not expected to reflect on either country as a whole!

So I suppose I'll start with the most important bit; the classes themselves. At RMU, the students are responsible for selecting and registering for their own classes, many of which are dictated by their major; their other selections are what they're most interested in. New Media and English in UL (my course of study) is quite rigid, and one is lucky to choose between two electives (opting for the lesser of two evils in many cases). This semester, the courses I picked were Study of Rhetoric, General Psychology, Audio & Radio Production, and Writing for the Media. Picking the courses myself helped a great deal in keeping me interested in what I was doing, and it also reflects my strong interest in writing and general media production – in a sense, what I was studying here is what I hoped New Media and English would be.

The timetables are organised in such a way that you have 50 minute classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Tuesday and Thursday classes weigh in at 75 minutes each. There are also 150 minute night classes once a week, of which I took one. This timetable system is nice – instead of having to commit a five day timetable to memory, you need only worry about two days. Not a deal-maker, sure, but it's appreciated! Furthermore, there were no tutorials, but rather the University offered a free Tutoring service to any students that needed it.

The classes I had were much smaller affair than what I'm used to at UL. I'm pretty sure that there wasn't a class that had more than 25 students in a traditional class-room style setting, which made for a more intimate learning environment than UL's large lecture halls. Every teacher knew my name. In fact, most teachers knew everybody's name, which again, is nice. I got on better with all four of my lecturer's than I have any lecturer at UL. This can be partly attributed to the fact that I'm the novelty foreign exchange student who has a wildly different take on certain matters, but is moreso because of the interest the lecturers seem to take in their students. In Rhetoric class in particular, there was a class discussion almost every day, and while many weren't quite as incendiary as I'd have liked, from the perspective of a foreigner, it was a great way to see some of the crazy things that people think and say here. The lecturers are generally more accessible, which is good and bad – good because approaching them outside of class times is a casual affair, and speaking up in class is never an issue, it's also bad because of the amount of arse that some people waste the lecturer's time with during class.

One thing I didn't like at first was that there was a lot of homework given. I don't mind homework, but when it's as inconsequential as some of what I was asked to do this semester, I begin to consider it busywork. Granted, there were no crippling amounts of work asked by any one lecturer, but my sloppy time management saw everything piling up at once, so once every week I'd stay up late working on clearing the backlog. This 'a-little-and-often' approach is actually a nice idea, as having to write one to three short essays a week is much nicer than what often happens back home, with (at times) unrealistic amounts of readings being prescribed as homework, with one major essay/project due in a semester; all of which seem to collide.

The assessment here is fair. Like I said; 'a-little-and-often' is the name of the game. The hefty essays I've had to write in UL often amount to 40-50% of my grade, with the rest sitting on a single exam. Two opportunities to show what you're capable of is a piss-poor system, in my opinion. Continual assessment involves less stress for all involved, and also assists the learning process, in my opinion.
I've never received the kind of positive appraisal I get here. My Writing for Media lecturer told me I should be a writer, my Radio-Production lecturer wanted me to submit an editorial piece to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and my Rhetoric lecturer praised every essay on the occasions we spoke after class, with simple statements like “I really like how you...” really compelling keep doing better.

I think I'll talk about the 'social' aspects of college life and other matters such as housing arrangements for another day, because I don't like these posts to get too hefty, but it'll be here soon, and roughly 15% less mind-numbingly boring!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A world gone mad...

I was out doing a bit of shopping (and getting a terrible haircut), when I stumbled across the following book;

That's right kids, fat people, in their ever-increasingly desperate quest to shed a few pounds, are now turning to other fat people for advice!


Friday, December 15, 2006


Had my last "exam" [see below] a few hours ago, thus ending an amazing semester (the word 'amazing' seems girlish and I feel odd using it, but I'll stand by my word-choice), and I'm feeling good!

Since I'm done, I think I might indulge in a bit of comparison between my experiences here at RMU, and compare it with an average semester at UL, just for the sake of it (it interests me, and I don't give a rat's ass what you people think!) I won't be doing this today, however!

Those who conversed with me in the opening weeks of the semester know that I had a great enthusiasm for this being my one 'semester of glory', in which I got straight As and came out with a QCA of 4.0. Well, as my social life picked up over here, that compulsion to excel faded somewhat, and I just tipped away at my normal pace, not doing things until the very last minute, and generally doing just enough to get by.

Well, my grades should all be online by Monday, which is cool, but for the time being, here's a screenshot of how I'm doing so far!

Before you start to say "Sully, you conceited bastard", please hear this; I'm a mediocre student. I believe in my ability to write well, and stretch the knowledge I have, but at UL my results are generally shadowed by those more studious or interested in the course than I am. This semester, I picked my own classes based on what I was specifically interested in, and I seem to have retained a great deal of what I've been taught. This semester, despite not killing myself, I think the only class I didn't receive an A in was Audio/Radio production, and this can be explained by my "leave-it-to-the-last-minute" antics leading to rushed Audio features and sloppy production values...

Sunday I leave for Florida with Maggie, and next week should be fun, and it'd be even better if Monday saw me receiving some good news.

Will Sully get his 'Semester of Glory'? Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Random Craving #2

Another day, another project being completed with moments to spare! But the last few days have also seen the resurgence of that feeling of wanting something that I know I won't get here in the States! This one, randomly enough, is me wanting to get in my car, on my own, and drive around for a bit, while listening to some music!

So bizarre things from home that I can't get my grubby mitts on are popping into my head now and again... I won't dare say it's homesickness, but I'm sure that it's happening for a reason. Could be something to do with the fact that as it stands, it doesn't look as though I'll be going back to that Emerald Isle until late April at the earliest, owing to the fact that I've decided to stay on another semester, and my Visa expires this month.

People around here are also talking about spending Christmas with their families a lot, which reminds me that it's the first Christmas I'm gonna be spending away from home (which is an exciting prospect, to be honest, because I want to see how the yanks do it). I'm nine days shy of heading out to see Caitlyn again, which should be a lot of fun, and all I have to worry about in between is one measly "exam" (I say 'exam' in quotes, because it's an open-book test, and we have unlimited time... That's right - limitless)!

Maggie has offered me a chance to see some of the country, by joining her on her unholy voyage to Florida. I'm not quite sure how much time this entails spending in a car, because I refuse to look up the distance from Pittsburgh to wherever the hell it is in Florida we're going! I'll take my camcorder along so I can record anything interesting I see along the way, and my DS shouldn't be too far from my person, should my mind begin to numb from the boredom. Should be a make or break experience for mine and Maggie's friendship (the smart money's on the latter)!

Since I've cleared the backlog of project work (how I don't know, what with the dangerous levels of chronic procrastination I've been afflicted with), I can take it easy for a few days, so I'm going to use this time to watch a few episodes of Scrubs, ring the folks at home (I don't get to do it quite as much as I'd like), and maybe start paying attention to my physical appearance again (as I sit in front of the computer, my hair is scruffy, my face is sporting a heavy fuzz after five days of not hearing from my razor, and my t-shirt, hilariously enough, has little brown stains on the front, from where I dropped crumbly bits off the chocolate covered pretzels I was eating, and neglected to wipe them away before they melted on - so dedicated was I to making my deadline)! I might also go back and fix the pictures at the start of the blog, but all that uploading seems like a lot of work at the moment.

For no good reason, here is a picture of Dermot that I found on my computer, and felt like sharing with the world... What a girl's blouse, eh?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The View from C5

A quickie for ya; this is what I'm can see from my room at the moment.

This snow and blistering cold is actually quite useful because I'm nearing my 30th consecutive hour of being awake; since I sacrificed my sleep last night to hit my deadlines today, the perma-erect nipples are the only thing keeping me sharp. My busy day went quite well, despite my lack of slumber. Started off with me making a presentation to my Rhetoric class on a Catholic mass. It was supposed to be a 'cultural breakdown,' but since I winged it and was deulsionally tired, it turned into a ten minute lecture on why everybody should be agnostic. I won't indulge myself with much hyperbole and poetic license (because my buddy Krampe was there, and I know she reads this!), but I will note that for every ten Relgiously conservative types I successfully pissed off, I got a glimmer of admiration from the two people in the class who could kinda, sorta, just maybe understand where I was coming from, which kinda made it worthwhile, I guess!

Next I had my last Audio/Radio class, where we recorded postulation on Global Warming for our Prof's radio show (I honestly have little recollection of this; it's likely I fell asleep while reading), and then I took a Psychology exam! Could be the delusion speaking, but I think I did pretty well... I'll keep you posted!

My plans for the rest of the day involve taking it seriously easy; I'm going to sleep for at least two hours, then eat, then vegetate for a few more hours until I can sleep again... At the moment, I feel as though I could last the rest of the day on the sheer amount of caffeine I consumed today as it is, but I feel a headache setting in, so I should nip it in the bud...

Just because I think it's funny (and maybe a little creepy), this is what the view from inside C5 was yesterday evening;

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Technical Difficulties, please stand by...

Knew it'd happen sooner or later - if you've noticed the blog is a bit more drab looking these days it's because the pictures were linked from my Bebo profile, and Bebo have since made them unavailable. Seems all they did was change the filename, so I might to and change every pic's filename (ugh), or maybe just re-upload them to the Blogger site (double ugh), whatever I decide to do, it won't be for a few days (I have a ton of homework, and I've procrastinated myself to a point of 'do or die'), so to distract you away from this, I'm going to just rely on my old tricks and show you a video that me and Mega made back in the day.

Here it is! I uploaded it to YouTube a few weeks ago, so if you've checked out my profile, you've seen it already, but now rewatch with the knowledge that it's my favourite!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

My Thanksgiving Celebration

I celebrated Thanksgiving with my newly girlfriended friend Caitlyn, (you read it here first, folks) just last Thursday, and y'know what? It was hands down the best Thanksgiving I've ever had.

I flew out the Sunday beforehand, getting to the airport ridiculously early because I believed the hype about the crazy queues and security measures in place. It was actually the quietest I've seen Pittsburgh Airport (and I've flown out of there a few times now), and the security guys waved me through, not bothering even to do the customary inspection of the mass of wires in my backpack. Lazy gits.

Since Caitlyn was working, I did some more sitting and waiting around in Minneapolis before being picked up, which was made quite pleasant by my trusty Nintendo DS and international call-card (since I had time to catch up with the folks at home).

So I won't really go into the details of the week that much; Cait and I hung out, got the shopping for the big meal done, and got the place ready for her parents, sister, and sister's 'man-friend'. We got up around 7ish on the Thursday morning so Caitlyn could start cooking the still-thawing turkey, while I just tried not to get in the way too much.

I have to say, I'm pretty impressed by Caitlyn's mastery of the domestic space. Granted, there were a few rough moments, like when she somehow managed to flick soggy turkey flesh into my mouth, or freaking out over the intestines that just kept coming out of our bird, but by the end, it became apparent that this was one tasty turkey that didn't die in vain.

Meeting the family was fun, since me and Caitlyn hadn't gotten around to making anything official by that stage, so rather than being her friend Sully, I was her "friend" Sully. I don't think I represented myself too poorly; I kept my BSing tendencies to a minimum, didn't say much that could have been deemed inappropriate, and didn't suffer through any awkward silences at all! I also managed to not get myself bitten or barked at by the three dogs that came, which is quite a feat for a guy like me (seems dogs can smell evil). Worryingly, this is also where I discovered that Caitlyn has one of 'those' voices that she uses when conversing with animals - y'know the one I'm talking about, with the baby talk and the lip-pursing, and the "hoosagooddoggie?"

Something about the whole thing kinda felt like a mini-Christmas. The three guys sat in front of the TV watching American Football and talking all kinds of 'man-stuff', while the girls prepared the eventual feast that was served up. When the meal started, we each went around, discussing what it was we were thankful for... I kinda wussed out when it came to be my turn, (second or third, I think) because I hadn't quite gotten a handle on what was 'expected', nor had I given it any thought, so they accommodated my brief-stage fright and came back to me last. Gotta say; it's a nice little tradition! It shows you what people are proud of, or grateful for, and when meeting new people, it's interesting to see what they hold as significant in their lives, and gives you a better idea of what and who they are, so ultimately you do feel closer to a person after sharing these thoughts.

We played board games after the dinner. I finished dead last in Trivial Pursuit. I didn't get a single point. It wasn't my fault, (of course) because I was capable of answering a lot of the general-knowledgey-type stuff that everyone else seemed to get, but then when it was my turn, I'd get some absolute bastard of an obscure American Sports question, or something equally ridiculous and obscene. There was nothing even remotely vague about the questions - I couldn't hazard a guess at anything I got, and even when I heard the answer, it still meant nothing to me! Sorry to spend an entire paragraph on this, but I'm absolutely traumatised by the fact that almost every time I was asked a question, I had to awkwardly mumble "Eh... I'll pass", followed by the other five participants taking their turn, with me able to answer a good 75% of what was going on, only to get another absolute prig of a question, as the vicious cycle continued...

Next we played Scattegories, which was much more forgiving, and since my vocabulary when dealing with things that don't annoy me is quite limited, all I can do is mention the game and move on!

I had a great week, and I wasn't a bit happy to be returning to Robert Morris (which is odd, because I always look forward to coming back after a few days away - as my Niagara Falls post will ascertain), and now I'm more or less counting down the days before I can head out to the state of Wisconsin again (another vicious cycle? Only time will tell!)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sweet Jesus...

Sorry to be so lazy as to just post in a video from YouTube, but I had to share this one.

Britney Spears is an idiot. Yes, I know we all knew that already, but it actually upsets me a little to realise the extent of her stupidity. Quite honestly, she has the mental-age of your average five-year old child, but at least a five-year old child would be able to articulate itself in a more coherent, less irritating manner.

If your brain can't handle the solid three minutes of stupidity, I recommend you at least skip to the last thirty seconds, where Britney discusses the concept of time travel...

I've been distracted enough; next post should be about my Thanksgiving!