Sunday, April 26, 2009


With another semester over the question becomes: what have I learned? Of course, many correlate learning with the grade received. Unfortunately, this is often a fallacy. Getting an A doesn't mean that you've learned more than in a class where you got a C. In many instances the grade is being seen as more important than the learning. This is hurting the goal college means to accomplish, and is breeding a generation of test-taking paper writers without social skills or real-world experience. Yes, grades do measure some sense of accomplishment, but they do not always measure actual knowledge or skill. As grades are released the head-scratching begins, and many judge their success on an A-F scale.

Last semester, I got two B+ in very different classes. In fact, one was the class which challenged me the most and I learned the most, while the other was the class that was least helpful and I learned little in. However, on a transcript this means nothing. Even though one is in my major while another is a useless general education requirement (disguised as a writing intensive class). If this could be explained to future employers it would mean little, but it can't be so I'm limited to what my transcript shows and my gpa is. This hurts students who challenge themselves, since no reward is given for taking my difficult professors or more intensive classes. As a result, lots of students become solely focused on the grade and not the learning. The result? An attitude that says: "I'd rather get an A and learn nothing than get a B and learn a lot." In a business, results-based, world this is the norm, but college is supposed to stimulate thinking of another kind. If this fails, what hope exists for those who dare to be themselves? I would rather learn than "succeed" on a strictly gpa basis. I'm not saying that straight C's are good, they aren't, but what does a 4.0 mean if you learned nothing? It may get you a good job, but it won't keep it for you if you don't have the skills needed to do the actual work. There are lots of "book-smart" people, who can study for a test, but can't think on their feet, adapt, or interact in a normal way. I'd much rather get a few B's then know I learned nothing and got a meaningless 4.0. To me it would be embarrassing to tell people you got one if you knew it took no effort. Sadly, little figures to change as long as gpa continues to dictate "success." This semester will, once again, not be 4.0 material, but I have learned a good deal. I consider myself fortunate, and believe I'm getting a good education at Pitt. A 4.0 would be nice, but i'm not demoralized by not getting one. Unfortunately, with many more concerned with their future job and pay than learning this will likely continue.

I suppose that this is inevitable, but it doesn't make it any less unfortunate. Still, take what interests you and you'll learn a lot in. The grades will come with the learning, and if they aren't quite at the magic number it's ok. No one said good grades would be easy, but learning isn't either. It, however, is far more rewarding.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's about time

So I've been slacking, with my papers to write and all. Unintentional, and possibly, unavoidable. Anyway, here I am, now a junior. Halfway to there, wherever that is. It's hard to fathom, and harder to understand. I could write a million cliches, and I may, but hopefully I have something meaningful to say. Maybe even something summer can't take away...

People come and go. Believe it or not, but sometimes the timing is too good to be coincidence. I've waited for the unlikely, and then watched the impossible happen. Friends have become lost, only to reappear as friends again. This year I've reconnected with those I haven't spoken to in years. I learned that timing is everything. Even found out that some people like to work, and that I can't change things on my own. Finally I learned that not knowing is ok. I don't know what I want to be, or where I want to go, or anything after the next two years. All I know is that I'll be at Pitt. After that, I'm up for anything. Not concerned with what I'll make, where I'll be living, or if I'll go to grad school, get a job, etc. I'd live in Pittsburgh in a second, but if I don't I'll survive. I don't have a set age when I want to get married (just definitely not while in college), a set number of kids I want to have, or the kind of car I want to drive. No idea what my type is, because I've fallen for: blondes, brunettes, dark hair, even a red head or two. Really any Christian would be great, in all honesty, and everything else could go from there. I've seen a little bit of good in almost everyone I've ever met. Mistakes have been turned into success stories. You're never too far gone for redemption to find you. This summer should prove that, at least I hope it does. Two years seems like a thousand. The respectable have turned into the fools, the fools into the motivated and gifted. It's been hard to watch people walk away, and I haven't replaced some of them. Maybe I won't. Fear is more powerful than most realize, it drives people apart. So to do: lies, greed, lust, pride, and discontent. Everyone is looking for their dreams in all the wrong places. Contentment is the impossible goal, the ghost that lies just out of reach. Somewhere in the noise I stop and shut my eyes.

I have no idea what's going to happen when I graduate in two years. It's hard to comprehend a life on one's own. Don't think I'm ready for the responsibility. I couldn't imagine being married at 22, let alone 20, it seems so young. Not ready to pay the bills, own a apartment/house, pay my own insurance. It's going too fast, and I can't slow it down. I wanna be back on the playground, riding my bike aimlessly, and without a care in the world. I'm tired of confrontation, heartbreak, and seeing broken people in broken situations. I've seen enough mistreatment, cold calculation, and senseless excess. What are we, what am I? Does anything still mean something, anything pure, or are we all broken? I want to trust, without preconditions or fear, and not worry about being hurt. There's no need for the cruelty, the malice, the survival of the fittest killer instinct. We can help each other, can't we? I want to work without thinking about productivity, numbers on a chart, or my pay rate. I need to do things for pure enjoyment, to reclaim my youth, my innocence, some sense of childlike wonder. Can I help without expecting some reward? How about doing things without thinking about how they benefit me? The dream that four years of college can change you, I still have it. This year I've met some amazing people. I wouldn't remove any of them they all occupy a place of importance. Unfortunately, some people have opted to remove themselves, which is out of my control. So I let it go, because I get busy living not dying. I've learned more than I could have ever imagined, and it isn't going to stop anytime soon. But I still feel that I could be doing more, my potential isn't being fully tapped. Thankfully, I've still got two years to go. It starts this summer. I'd love for you to be a part of the ride. For those I know well stay in my life, and for those I don't there's room. My four year goal: to be a better person and impact as many people as I can. It's been an ok start, but I could do better...and I'm trying to.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mistakes happen, so should forgiveness

The posts have been lacking recently, but this one has been coming for a while. In fact, this one may be the most difficult I've ever made. Tomorrow is Easter, and I'm not sure everything will tie in but I'm going to try. The analogies may be slightly off, although I'm not intending to justify actions. However, since I'm neither a judge or jury I hold myself to the same standards. We ALL need forgiveness, which is where I'm going to start.

I'm a sinner, and so are you, and your father, mother, brother, and everyone you've ever made. Mistakes happen. People do things they aren't proud of, and regret them after the fact. I talk before I think, I act before I plan, and I judge without merit. Unfortunately, man has bias toward certain actions. Everyone has a moral relativism that skews their perceptions. An idea that "I've done this," but "I haven't done THAT." Passing judgement is nothing new, but pride goes before a, often hypocritical and embarrassing, fall. We've all heard the stories of the preacher cheating on his wife, the anti-drug crusader with the pain medicine addiction, or the author who makes up his 'autobiography.' Mistakes, yes, but all essentially the same. Sure, certain people hold some things as more severe, but who are they to judge? Let's face it, we all, if left to save ourselves, would be headed for hell. Luckily, our mistakes are washed away and forgiven if we accept Jesus as our savior. Some nails, a cross, and 3 days saved mankind. We got the ultimate second chance without having to do anything. It didn't cost man anything: no money, no jail time, no sacrifice, and certainly not death. Those who believe, regardless of past deeds, have their slates wiped clean. That's right. If you were a murderer, rapist, any other sinner, you can repent ask Jesus to be your savior and you're forgiven. With the idea being that you will turn from your past actions, especially those who have committed crimes, and seek God's will. This does not mean that you won't have to live with the earthly consequences of your actions: jail time, fines, etc. However, in the eyes of the Lord you're just as much a sinner as the pastor, priest, or any other 'spiritual' individual. You've been given a second chance, you're loved, and yes you will still sin. Mistakes never go away, but they can becomes less frequent, severe, and likely to produce massive guilt. Jesus removes the guilt, the shame, and the death. Yes, all men will die, but where you spend eternity is a product of your soul. If you believe in Jesus' death, resurrection, and forgiveness from sins then you'll be 'alive' in Heaven, or if not 'dead' in Hell. Regardless, as long as you're physically alive it's never too late to ask for this eternal life, even if you've made a billion mistakes. Unfortunately, mankind seems incapable of removing stigma, as God does. I think we could, but I think a self-righteous sense of 'morality' gets in the way. A great irony perhaps, considering the way men force women into situations and the expectations they claim not to hold. Why can man not resist the urge to pass judgement and opt instead for understanding? I know I'm not God, and neither is anyone else, but we're suppose to imitate Christ. Most of us do an extremely terrible job, which encourages certain situations and problems to continue to flourish.

Disguised motives harm mankind, maybe more than anything else. This may seem biased in favor of women, but I'm not going to pretend this problem doesn't exist. Men on a routine basis force women into situations that later cause them to be judged. Much of this happens in relationships, the idea that "if you don't do this you don't love me." Not only does this play off fear and a position of power, it also is designed to induce guilt and a desired course of action. Things cut both ways, but mean tend to be more concerned with physical aspects of life. Usually this physical aspect is sex, which men force, either explicitly or through guilt, on women. As a result, many girls get trapped in relationships, because they fear that a guy will leave if they say no. Then when it ends the girl, rightly so, feels used, and is fearful to trust again. To make matters worse, an interesting dichotomy emerges. Some girls stop trying to find 'good' guys, because they feel like they'll be judged by them. While others keep hope, but at the same time continue to fall for the 'love 'em then leave 'em' types. After a while, no one is willing to give anyone a second chance. Forgiveness goes out the window, along with trust, respect, and the rest of what use to be there. Of course guys make the problem worse by being exactly who they're accused of being. It's interesting how guys are encouraged to get with and lie to as many girls as possible, while girls who do the same thing are stigmatized as sluts, whores, or other similar terms. Apparently, mistakes have different meanings, or may not even be mistakes, depending on who they refer to. In addition, to really make things worse many girls aren't offered encouragement, understanding, or the opportunity to change, just judgement and stigma. The cycle carries on, some girls withdraw and trust no one, others keeping trusting and continue to be hurt. Love is replaced by sex, and the idea that you won't get the first without the latter. Girls give in, because everyone is scared they'll die alone. Feeling regret, shame, or disgust comes later, and by then it's too late to take it back. It gets hard to change, because once you start doing something it's difficult to stop. Trust disappears and pain settles in. But there's still hope.

Just as Jesus gave us a second chance, a second life, people deserve a second change. I will not judge, because I'm guilty of judgement myself. One mistake is no more severe than another. Guys need to stop making so many, if they ever want to find a girl. Any guy who forces a girl into something is part of the problem, never part of the solution. True love, care, and devotion come from sacrifice not force or will. Guys who truly care will not force things on girls, they'll respect them and take their own will out of the picture. Those who trust you won't judge you for your past, or assume it'll become your future. Mistakes happen, and it's never too late to change or follow a new path. It's hard to trust again, but it becomes easier when you try to first. We all need rescuing, and Jesus has done that on the cross. Unfortunately, some seem to have forgotten that they aren't perfect. Temptation comes in a multitude of forms, and resisting is never a simple process. But it's possible when we seek to do Jesus' will and not our own. Put your will behind the will of others, we are here to serve not be served. Guys that are all about themselves deserve to be unsatisfied and alone. If a girl says no, a guy should respect that regardless of his will. Disguised motives will shine through when given time. Honesty should be fundamental, not a courtesy or something that has to be asked for. I make my own share of mistakes. All I ask is that someone can accept my own faults and weaknesses. I won't judge you, if you don't judge me. This is how things should be. Girls deserve a higher standard of guy, who won't treat them like property, a conquest, or complete crap. We should be something worth trusting, that won't judge, and isn't looking just to 'score.' Everybody needs a second chance, a little bit of love, and some honest compassion. Girls don't give up, there are guys out there, yes they're real, that can restore your trust. If God can save us, the most undeserving beings, then we can give our own a second chance. Happy Easter everybody!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

North Carolina wins it all

Last night North Carolina capped off their season by winning the Men's NCAA Basketball title. UNC was the #1 preseason team, and many assumed they would win the title. The Tar Heels didn't disappoint, as they finished their season with a 34-4 record. In the title game they dominated Michigan St. Up 55-34 at halftime, the Spartans never closed the gap allowing UNC to handily win. With a final score of 89-72, North Carolina won their 5th national title. This was the second for Roy Williams at UNC, and seemed to be destined when last year's player of the year Tyler Hansbrough agreed to come back for his senior season. Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, and Wayne Ellington all had great tournaments. Ellington was named the MVP of the Final Four. With the victory the Tar Heels became one of the first teams in recent memory to begin and end the season as #1. As the NCAA Tournament concluded, analysts were already looking towards next year. However, until draft declarations are made it's far too early to make predictions. Here's to a great season.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

National Championship

So it comes down to this. After an action packed 4 weeks March Madness is into April and almost done. The National Championship game is tomorrow night. Before I give you my pick, first I'll recap the Final Four action. Then I'll let you know who I think will cut down the nets at Ford Field.

In the first game #1 Connecticut took on #2 Michigan St. The Spartans were essentially playing a home game, and looked fired up. A close first half produced a 38-36 Spartan lead at halftime. In the second half, Michigan St. pulled away for the 82-73 win. U-Conn only made two 3's, and just didn't look like they wanted it. Although Michigan St. was played in front of a very pro-Spartan crowd. With the victory, Michigan St. reserved a spot in the final to face... #1 North Carolina. The late game saw #1 North Carolina face off against #3 Villanova. Few expected to see the Wildcats in this game, but Nova had played extremely well in the tournament and was pulling for an upset. However, UNC made sure this wouldn't happen. The Tar Heels held Nova to 5-27 shooting on 3's, and 32.9% overall shooting. Down 49-40 at halftime the Wildcats never looked comfortable. North Carolina coasted in the second half to the 83-69 victory. The Tar Heels made 11-22 3's, although their mediocre free-throw shooting 59.5% could have cost them in a closer game. With the matchup set, here's my prediction for the final.

#1 North Carolina vs. #2 Michigan St. Both teams are balanced, but Michigan St. is a better defensive team with UNC the nation's second leading scoring offense. The Spartans only allow 62.9 per game, but UNC averages 90.2 on offense. However, UNC's defense (72.8) allows roughly Michigan St. offensive average (71.9). Keeping that in mind, it will be fascinating to see if the Spartans can contain the high-powered Tar Heel attack. If Ty Lawson has a big game the Spartans will be in trouble. Michigan St. is playing in front of a highly favorable, essentially hometown, crowd, but will it phase the battle tested Heels? Tyler Hansbrough came back specifically to win a national title. For that reason, and with superior athletes, UNC will be cutting down the nets. It should be close, but Michigan St. is going to fall short in this one. Final score: North Carolina 80-75. Tournament MVP will be Ty Lawson. This is my pick and I'm sticking to it. Tune in at 9:21 to see how it goes down!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Guitar Hero (solo edition)

So, it's been a while, but this installment will rock your face off (literally). I love the guitar, specifically when electric, but the instrument in general. In fact, the only thing that I enjoy more than a brain-melting solo is a cute girl singing so beautifully it gives you chills. However, that's for a different day. Right now I'm going to dive right in, and attempt to explain why some bands, and their guitarists, deliver some of the most amazing guitar work you'll ever hear. This isn't in alphabetical order, or by most amazing, because they all are fantastic in some way. To get things started, the greatest guitarist to ever live: Jimi Hendrix.

Hendrix revolutionized the guitar so much that his effects are still being felt. Rock, blues, jazz, you name it, Jimi probably played it. I could write a whole post on his guitar playing, but for the sake of space I'm going to limit each artist to three solos. Yes, even the master of guitar only gets three. Alright, here they are with album (in parenthesis):
1) Voodoo Child (Slight return)-(Electric Ladyland)-My favorite solo of all-time this one has it all. Jimi's masterful use of the wah-wah pedal to begin the song makes this instantly recognizable. It isn't one solo either, it's multiple blasts of earth-shattering feedback. However, the main solo is beyond description, and is so awesome that you should just go listen to it. NOW! Not to mention that guitar shifts from speaker to speaker in several places, which creates a really amazing sensory effect.
2)Machine Gun-(Band of Gypsies)-This is THE guitar solo. Jimi makes his guitar sound like a machine gun, among numerous other things in this song. A rather lengthy solo, Hendrix does so much with it it's unbelievable. More impressive than any jam band, and with way more feeling.
3)Are You Experienced?-(Are You Experienced?)-The toughest choice, as Jimi has so many excellent solo, Are You Experienced? has one of the coolest effects in any solo. Backwards guitar, which gives an extremely distinct and memorable sound. In reality, Purple Haze, Foxey Lady, Axis: Bold As Love, and numerous others could have also appeared here. Now going with a style more in the format of a list, please welcome, Led Zeppelin.

Led Zeppelin is my favorite band EVER. With that out of the way, Jimmy Page is an out-of-this-world guitarist. He, like Jimi, still is extremely influential. This is why picking just three solos is so difficult, besides the fact that everyone in Led Zeppelin was amazing. Even so, solo number one is...
1)Dazed and Confused-(Led Zeppelin)-My favorite non-Hendrix solo, Page really knew how to stretch this one out live. Often with pieces of other songs spliced in to create one giant guitar epic. Also, Jimmy made use of a violin bow for part of it, which creates a tone and eeriness unlike any other. Blazingly fast, for the time, this one made all the kids go crazy.
2)The Rover-(Physical Graffiti)-This is still one of the greatest riffs I've ever heard, but the ending solo is fantastic. Page keeps playing, a simply killer lick, as the music fades out. The tone is fantastic in this one.
3)Stairway to Heaven-(Led Zeppelin IV)-Ok, I caved. I wasn't going to put this one on here, but it's simply too good. Playing his famous double necked guitar, Page spawned a million future guitar heroes with this one. The build up to the solo is epic, and when it gets unleashed, you get chills. Beautiful every time. Other standouts: Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, Since I've Been Loving You. The bios are taking up too much room, but the next band doesn't need one their name says it all: Metallica.

Metallica. 'Nuff said, Here's the solos.
1)Master of Puppets-(Master of Puppets)-Brutally fast, bursting with passion. If you wanna blow someone away, put this one on and stand back. Speed metal at its best.
2)One-(...And Justice for All)-Kirk's guitar sounds like it's at war. Based on the book, Johnny Got his Gun, this song is an epic. The solo confirms it, as the song is ripped apart, much like machine gun fire does to a body in war.
3)Seek and Destroy-(Kill 'Em All)-Really anything from Master of Puppets could go here instead, but this solo is pretty awesome for their first album. Go check it out. Too many other Metallica songs have amazing solos, so I'm not going to list any additional ones. Next up, Pink Floyd.

Pink Floyd. Simply revolutionary. Dave Gilmour is the man, and here are the moments of genius.
1)Comfortably Numb-(The Wall)-Easily one of the best solos of all time. The one is amazing, and it drips with passion and feeling. You can hear the guitar wail on this one, as the song fades out. Amazing.
2)Money-(Dark Side of the Moon)-Beginning with a jazzy feel, this quickly speeds up. By the end the guitar is yelping, and keeps going higher and higher. A fantastic slice of guitar from an awesome song.
3)Any Colour You Like-(Dark Side of the Moon)-You haven't heard one like this before. Gilmour harmonizes his guitar, he actually played two, in this instrumental track. However, the solo is killer, as his the guitar in the whole song. Time for some Pearl Jam.

Pearl Jam
1)Alive-(Ten)-A rather lengthy solo, this one helped to put them on the map. Mike McCready makes use of the wah-wah pedal throughout, as the guitar changes several times. A crowd, and personal, favorite this one brings it every time.
2)Life Wasted-(Pearl Jam)-Excellent solo from their most recent release. As Pearl Jam marked a return to the roots for the band. This one, like World Wide Suicide, grabs hold and doesn't let go.
3)Once-(Ten)-This solo explodes and sets the tone for the rest of the record. Now some additional solos from some other amazing bands.

1)At Least That's What You Said-(A Ghost is Born)-Walls of feedback scream as Jeff Tweedy attempts to 'musically transcribe' one of his panic attacks. Distortion and who knows what else are on this one. When I first heard this solo I was terrified. Now it's one of my favorite solos ever.
2)Impossible Germany-(Sky Blue Sky)-A true 'guitar' jam. the dueling guitar solo is impressive. Nels Cline lends his considerable talent to this one, which sounds even more amazing live. This one is perfect for a summer drive, simultaneously rocking and laid-back.
3)I'm the Man Who Loves You-(Yankee Hotel Foxtrot)-A crowd favorite live, this one is awesome every time. It has a killer sound, and just barely beat out another personal favorite Spiders(Kidsmoke).

My Morning Jacket
1)One Big Holiday-(It Still Moves)-A simply amazing guitar duel. As Jim James and Johnny Quaid, who has since left the band, trade killer spurts of quick-picking. This one really brings the fire, and has a definite southern-rock vibe.
2)Lay Low-(Z)-Another fantastic two guitar attack, as Jim James once again brings the heat. You can feel the emotion in the solo, which is extended and expands as it goes.
3)What a Wonderful Man-(Z)-This soul kicks you in the gut. It's quick, powerful, and really awesome. Barely beating out Dondante, which is an absolute show-stopper live.

1)Paranoid Android-(Ok Computer)-Johnny Greewood and the rest of Radiohead are weird, but this solo is utterly fantastic. Distorted and bizarre Greewood is all over the place. This solo sounds like nothing else on the record, or in general, for that matter. It helped to launch Radiohead's super-stardom in the US and UK alike.
2)There There-(Hail to the Thief)-Another completely unique and unmatched solo from Greenwood. This one is fantastic live, and a true crowd pleaser. Listen to the tone, as the distortion seems to swallow itself towards the end of the solo.
3)My Iron Lung-(The Bends)-This solo is terrifying upon an initial listen. But the feedback and distortion among others grow on you with multiple listens. I'm not exactly sure what Johnny did with his guitar to get some of those tones and notes. However, it's definitely a solo I wouldn't live without, and here are some more...

Like A Stone-(Audioslave)
Out of Exile-(Audioslave)
Sound of a Gun-(Audioslave)
Welcome Home-(Coheed &Cambria)
Sick Sad Little World-(Incubus)
Most of the albums De-loused in the Comatorium and Frances the Mute-(Mars Volta)
Colony of Birchmen-(Mastodon)
Stockholm Syndrome-(Muse)
Live Forever-(Oasis)
Slide Away-(Oasis)
Morning Glory-(Oasis)
Fear of a Blank Planet-(Porcupine Tree)
Bulls on Parade-(Rage Against the Machine)
Killing in the Name-(RATM)
Sleep Now in the fire-(RATM)
Know Your Enemy-(RATM)
Suck my Kiss-(Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Can't Stop-(RHCP)
Don't Forget Me-(RHCP)
Torture Me-(RHCP)
Turn it Again-(RHCP)
Cherub Rock-(Smashing Pumpkins)
Geek U.S.A.-(Smashing Pumpkins)
Bullet With Butterfly Wings-(Smashing Pumpkins)
X.Y.U.-(Smashing Pumpkins)
Slaves & Bulldozers-(Soundgarden)
Let Me Drown-(Soundgarden)
Black Hole Sun-(Soundgarden)
Suite Madame Blue-(Styx)
Forty Six & Two-(Tool)
The Pot-(Tool)
Say It Ain't So-(Weezer)
Cold Dark World-(Weezer)
Seven Nation Army-(The White Stripes)
Black Math-(The White Stripes)
Ball and Biscuit-(The White Stripes)
You Don't Know What Love is (You Just Do as You're Told)-(The White Stripes)
I'm Slowly Turning Into You-(The White Stripes)
Catch Hell Blues-(The White Stripes)
and I'm sure many more, which I'm missing or can't remember.

Either way, these are some of my favorite, and, what i believe to be, greatest guitar solos. Go check 'em out, or, if you have, enjoy what you've got.