Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Match Made In DreamWorks?

Wow, it has been a long time since I updated this thing. Yeah, life has been busy around here to say the least. Thanksgiving Break was good; we had T-day dinner with a family from our church and I definitely did the whole early-morning Friday shopping thing. I went to bed about 1:30 Thursday night and got up at 3:45am. I was about number 200 in line at Best Buy when I arrived there at 4:25, but I was able to get the two items I was there for (an external hard drive and a cheap spindle of DVD+Rs). Then I was about number 12 at RadioShack for their 6am opening and was one of the seven people who managed to get the $10 Bluetooth Headset (normally $70). I need the hard drive so I can backup my Tablet’s hard drive; if it ever crashes I’m dead because my class notes and pretty much everything else is on it. My cell phone doesn’t support Bluetooth, so I can’t use it there, but I’ve found it’s great to use with Skype on my Tablet. It also works as headphones for the Tablet, so I can sit here at work and have sound without bothering any of the patrons, then, if anyone calls me on Skype, I can answer the phone and walk around the library and talk without being changed to the computer with headphone wires.

Anyways, I wanted to share with you a (not so) little Photochopping project I’ve been working on. No, that’s not a typo, Photochop is another term for “Photoshopping” a picture (aka, editing a picture in Adobe PhotoShop or a similar program), but is typically reserved for more dramatic changes to the picture (like changing backgrounds, faces, or creating an entirely new photo from several others to make it look like a single picture, etc) than just the typical tweaking one does to clean up a picture or remove redeye.

The inspiration for this project is my close friend and #1 apprentice Tiller (a frequent commenter on this blog). Several years ago I was watching the DreamWorks film Shrek and realized that Tiller has a strong resemblance in appearance, voice, and even personality to the character of Shrek. It was a strong enough similarity that I felt like I was watching a movie about Tiller instead of a purely fictional character. While just showing you a picture will never help to convey the personality similarities or at times nearly identical vocal mannerisms, you should at least be able to see some of the facial resemblance from this picture comparison:

Then, a couple of weeks ago I was hanging out with Amy and Tiffany from Mer’dith (I was there to study for an exam, but I’d finished my studying already) and Amy noticed a resemblance in appearance between Tiffany and Princess Fiona. As soon as she said that, I Googled “Princess Fiona” and we did a comparison. I guess the simplest way to describe it is to look at Fiona as having exaggerated versions of some of Tiffany’s facial features. Take a look for yourself:

So, inspired by these two similarities, I decided to make a picture of them together: as ogres. The problem is that they’ve never met (outside of one phone conversation during Operation Alpha). This is where the Photochopping came in. I had to get a picture of Tiller that was of sufficient quality to work with and was the right pose so that I could add her next to him. For her, I used the picture you see in the comparison above. I wanted to make the background a landscape from the movie (maybe the hill overlooking Duloc?), but there weren’t any high resolution pictures of that on the net. So instead I decided to make it a “touristy”-type picture, so after evaluating pictures from many famous landmarks (Mt. Rushmore, the Eiffel Tower, DisneyWorld, etc), I finally decided on the American side of Niagara Falls.

I first set to work by changing her hair color to be similar to Fiona’s hair and adding the ears so that they look like they’re actually attached to her head instead of just to the side of her hair. Then I went over to Tiller and wasted 6 hours trying to do the same thing (I wanted to give him the same color of brown hair that Shrek had in his human form in the second movie, but I couldn’t find any pictures of that online and my efforts to blend it all when I finished just didn’t work), simply put, his hair is just too short. So I decided our “Shrek” was going to have dark hair and facial hair and had to revert to an old saved version to undo those 6 hours of work on him. It took me a couple hours to figure out the right way to change his skin to green, but eventually he was finished.

Tiffany was a much greater challenge because there’s a lot of digital noise in the original picture of her. You don’t really notice it in the shot I posted above that much, but when I tried converting her skin to green it really looked bad. It took me many, many hours of trying out all sorts of different tricks to try and clean it up and eventually figured out the result you’ll see in a few seconds. Sadly, it came at the expense of sharpness and overall quality that Tiller’s picture has after the ogre-conversion. Oh well. Then I sized them to scale and added the Falls background and did the final touchups to make it look like they were in the same place at the same time and the lighting is reasonably close to the background lighting. That was especially hard for their faces because the original light sources are from entirely different directions. Anyways, after all that explanation (and hours of work), here is the final product:

One side note before I close this post. Before you go attacking me for how mean doing this to them is, keep in mind that they both have great senses of humor and love the result. They have now decided to make it their Facebook picture (Tiller’s is up, hers isn’t yet), and to get “Facebook married.” For those of you who don’t have the Facebook, it allows you to set your current relationship status in your profile and have it link to your significant other if you are in a relationship, so it’s become a fairly common joke to list yourself as “married” to a friend of yours even (especially) when you don’t actually have a romantic relationship with them. Anyways, I have homework to work on and I need to study for my 727 Simulator final tomorrow night, so I have to go. Hopefully I’ll be able to update again in a few days or during Dead Week.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Operation Alpha

The following post details the events of Operation Alpha that are no longer classified (with certain details and identities omitted to protect those involved):

Alpha was conceived a couple of months ago as a part of a larger operation that went unrealized and was the first con to benefit from the new phonetic alphabet designator system (hence the ‘Alpha’ name). As you can tell from the fact that I’m already past ‘Foxtrot’ from an earlier post; I’ve been busy. I originally heard about the idea of wrapping all of someone’s stuff in aluminum foil on the internet a few years ago, but concluded that it’d be too expensive and too time consuming for me to do. Then the idea for a prank against Shane and Chip came along and I figured it just might be time for something like that. After some initial planning, we put Alpha on the back-burner until we could resolve some of the last few problems with the plot and waited for the right opportunity to come along.

The two largest obstacles (strictly relating to Alpha and not to the larger operation) were those of Chip and the spare key. When I went to visit Shane this July, he showed me where they kept the spare key to the apartment. When I took a moment during a recent stop at his apartment to confirm it was in the same place for Alpha, it wasn’t there. Turns out the “spare” was actually Chip’s key before he moved in at the end of the summer. The other obstacle was my apprehensions about pranking Chip. You see, if nothing else, I’m an “honorable villain;” I won’t do overly mean pranks (like tossing someone in the cold lake during Fall Retreat as I was accused of planning, although the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind and I wouldn’t do it if it had). Chip is more like the Big House guys, while he’s not quite as ruthless as them, he certainly doesn’t have the moral qualms I do about cruel pranks. So basically I was hesitant to pull Alpha against him for fear of opening a can of worms without the willingness to stoop to his level for the ensuing prank war.

Both obstacles resolved themselves at the same time that my opportunity presented itself a couple of weeks ago. I learned about a week before Fall Retreat that Shane’s birthday was the Saturday of Retreat, so none of us would be around to celebrate with him. So instead of getting their living room as originally planned, we changed the plan to just get Shane’s bedroom and call it a birthday “encouragement.” That also took care of those obstacles because now I could bring Chip in as an accomplice instead of a victim and he could conveniently arrange for the back door to be left unlocked to let us in. I talked to Chip the week before retreat and he reluctantly agreed (although concerned about retribution because his birthday is in another month).

Because Shane’s birthday was while we were gone on retreat, we decided to postpone Alpha for a couple of days and conduct it on Monday. Sunday night, to keep in character of what I’d normally do if we weren’t planning anything and to alleviate his fears that anything was up, I arranged for everyone at Prayer and Praise to sing Happy Birthday to him after the meeting (yes Shane, even that was premeditated). Monday afternoon Chip announced to Shane that Bob and Jeanette Manning would be coming over and all of them were going out for ice cream to celebrate his birthday later in the evening (I’d called them earlier in the week and after agreeing to let Bob spend the night in my room and arranging for Jeanette to stay with her sister Kathy, they enthusiastically agreed to help). Now, I think it best to just give you a running timeline of the night:

I left dinner to head to WalMart to buy a dozen rolls of 75 sq.ft aluminum foil and Sharpies to write on it with (my trunk was already loaded up with masking tape, saran-wrap, and as always, duct tape) so that we’d have the supplies needed. As I was coordinating the last minute details over the phone, one of the main members of the team had to drop out because of an unanticipated set of homework to be done that night, so I had to search for a couple of replacements (that one individual had been trained well enough to be worth a couple untrained accomplices).

I picked up Chris Lindsay from her tango lesson and took her back to Windsor so she could change and so that we could go to Mer’dith to pick up Tiffany (one of the last minute recruits). I’d tried to call Tiffany to tell her about what was going on, but she wasn’t in her room and I don’t have her cell number, so we were only able to find her on a tip from Bekah as to where she was studying. We found her in one of the little side-rooms lining the Mer’dith lobby studying for an exam the next day, talking on the phone with her Mom, and blissfully unaware anything was going on. I promptly grabbed the phone out of her hand and announced “Hi Tiffany’s Mom, this is Shawn (we’d met once before), I’m going to kidnap your daughter for a few hours this evening.” After explaining I needed her to help with a prank and promising I wouldn’t charge ransom (because they “didn’t have any money”), she endorsed the kidnapping and wished us luck. We then promptly left to meet “the others” (identities withheld) at the “Rendezvous Point” near Shane’s apartment.

We met with “the others” and after parking a ways away from Shane’s apartment, we hiked through the light rain around the back of his complex to approach his back door without being spotted. Then, after identifying their apartment and glancing in the window (trying not to be seen) to see if they were still around, we hid around the corner of their shed and waited for them to leave.

Shane, Chip, and the Mannings all left for ice cream in Chip’s truck. We gave them a few minutes to get out of the neighborhood (and turn back in case they forgot something), and then attempted to open the back door. As it turns out, Chip had left the back door unlocked as planned, but accidentally forgotten to unlock the screen door! After a minute or so of pulling gently (in hopes of it being loose) and examining the lock to see if I could pick it (I couldn’t without damaging the screen), we were afraid the plan had failed. I decided to give the door one last pull (harder than before, but not enough to break it) and it decided to come open for us (turns out the latch that holds it closed on the doorframe is just a cheap metal piece that snapped in half rather easily). After mutually agreeing with the team that we’d replace it later, we entered and got to work.

Except for the ceiling, blank parts of walls (but including the closet door, hung pictures, windowsill, and light switch), and floor, we covered everything in his room:

The Bed (mattress, bed skirt, pillows, sheets, and we folded the blanket nicely and put foil in the folds to look like it was completely wrapped in foil):

Chris working on the bed:

The pictures on the wall (covered with new pictures drawn on the foil):

Tiffany working on the closet door (we wrote “Happy B-Day” on it in giant letters):

The bookshelf (every picture with a new picture drawn on it, every pill bottle, every knickknack, and every book individually wrapped (and hidden behind the sheet of foil you see so that at first he’d think we were lazy and then discover the truth):

The desk area (chair, desk, computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, cordless phone, speakers, joystick, every pen individually wrapped, every piece of mail, junk mail, discarded envelopes on the floor, everything. Funny side note: the computer mysteriously started playing classical music after it’d already been wrapped up, so we decided to leave it playing and turn up the volume when we left just for style points):

I answered a call from Bob Manning’s cell phone and the other end was silent. This was the pre-arranged signal that we had 10-15 minutes before their return. Obviously, it would have been a bit of a giveaway if he had said something because they were all in the same car together. We also had another pre-arranged signal “Abort!” which would have been a silent call from Chip’s phone (Shane’s grandfather wasn’t in the best of health and we didn’t want him to get bad news and then go home to find a no-longer-funny prank in his room, so we’d have cleaned up as much as we could as quickly as possible and cleared out). The good news was that Chip, Bob, and Jeanette had bought us almost exactly the 1.5 hours I’d asked for and my estimate was spot on; we were just putting the finishing touches on the room. We quickly cleaned up our discarded empty foil rolls (we ended up using 8.5-9.5 out of the dozen we’d brought), turned up the music on the computer, turned out the lights, closed his bedroom door, and left. I then immediately sent Chris, Tiffany, and ‘’the others” back to our rendezvous point to wait for my return.

I took up post around the side of their apartment building behind a garage structure that would block me from view of the parking lot but would allow me to see the apartment’s front door when I leaned around the corner. After waiting for about 10 minutes, I saw Chip’s pickup pull up and park. As I crouched in the mud I saw the four of them walk up to the apartment with Shane in the rear. Chip unlocked the door and went inside, followed by the Mannings and, I thought, Shane. Nope, no such luck. As I dashed around the corner of the building to try to make it the 25 yards to Shane’s window before they got to his room, I saw that Shane had paused outside the front door to look in the window to his dark room and wonder “why’s my bed so shiny?” The good news was he was fairly focused on what he was looking at and I spotted him in time to stop and duck back around the corner without being spotted. Then, I thought I saw him go in and the whole scene repeated again (he’d just moved a couple of feet closer to the building. He finally went inside and I started recording with my video camera as I made my dash towards the window.

The link below is to an MPEG4 AVI video file detailing what happened next. The video starts with me running along the side of the building (you can see the trimming on the wall) and then looking into Shane’s dark window. After a few seconds, the door opens and Shane, Chip, and the Mannings walk in and see what’s happened. Notice how even Chip is surprised at all that we did. You’ll also notice a small aluminum foil figure of a guy standing on the end of the bed; I later learned that after this was all over Shane and Chip took some pictures of him posing like that guy in front of the bed (I’d put them up, but Chip hasn’t given them to me yet). Chip makes a comment about the music playing and points towards the computer, so I duck the camera away from the window for a couple of seconds to avoid being spotted (the glare on the inside of the window should have protected me, but I didn’t want to risk it). A few seconds later Chip looks at the window, spots my camera, looks around another few seconds, announces “good job,” and turns to look directly into my lens. After looking at me for a second, he turns to Shane and tells him to “wave at the window” (the traitor). Shane looks; I panic (thinking I’ve been spotted, although he’d only have seen the camera because I was off to the side and aiming by looking at the LCD), turn off the camera, and RUN!

I dashed around the side of the building and ran for all I was worth to the other end of their line of buildings to avoid being spotted. At the same time that I started running, Shane “bolted” (according to Chip) for the front door, but was held back a couple of seconds by Chip’s sudden bear hug. I returned to the rendezvous point and showed the video to the others (much laughter ensued).

Then came the task of throwing Shane off the case. We had Chris call from her cell phone (a number he didn’t have):
Chris (in a very high-pitched girly voice sounding remarkably, if unintentionally, like Amy Schott): “Hi, is Shane there?”
Shane: “That’s me”
Chris holds out the phone and all the girls speak in unanimous girly tones: “Happy birthday Shane, Windsor loves you!”
Shane (very confused): “Hi, ladies…”
Chris (in girly voice): “Have a good night!” and hangs up.

We spent the next 15 minutes or so debriefing over what went well and what didn’t (and generally just patting each other on the back) and then split ways. I took Chris back to Windsor and then walked Tiffany back into Meredith because she’d forgotten her key. This proved advantageous because I realized as we were standing in the Meredith lobby that she’d need some alibi to give to Bekah for why I needed to get a hold of her earlier. On a flash of inspiration (and to much laughter from Tiffany), I announced “DTR! Ok, you can tell Bekah that I needed to get a hold of you so we could DTR, because I was concerned you might read something into my earlier prank on your birthday (see the post on Operation Foxtrot) and wanted you to understand that I just see you as a friend.” Actually, this was a two-birds-with-one-stone moment, because I had been concerned I’d need to have that sort of conversation anyway, this just gave me a humorous context to have it in.

The next morning Shane called about 9:00am and demanded to know what part I had in what was going on. I did a beautiful job of playing dumb and when he asked what I’d done the night before “I went to work, dinner, then I met up with Chris at Windsor, we walked over to Meredith, saw Tiffany, and hung out for a while.” All true actually; I just left out the details of how long we hung out, that we didn’t stay at Meredith, and that there were others involved. Shane: “well, I guess that’s two names I can scratch off my list.” Hook, line, and sinker. He then spent the next 10 minutes telling me all about what had happened and how “they” had wrapped everything, expounding on how all the books were wrapped, the pens individually, and even spent several minutes talking about how a discarded envelope from his junk mail had been wrapped and put right back where it was on the floor!

Later that afternoon he cracked my alibi by calling Chris’s number back from the night before and asking “who is this?” when she answered. She said “Chris Lindsay” before she realized who was calling and that immediately set a lot of doubt on our collective alibis. She called me in a panic and I immediately set to work on “spin control,” modifying our alibi to account for the fact that Chris had left earlier (I did drop her off first, after all) and I’d then had my DTR with Tiffany (allowing her to leave and go join the Windsor girls for the prank while I was at Meredith unaware of what was going on). That modified alibi would have worked beautifully, except for the fact that while I was on Skype with Tiller (my main evil apprentice) working out the final details of the spin control, he showed up at my room and fed me some bluff about calling Tiffany’s roommate to ask what she’d been doing the night before. That’s why I’ve been able to use our three names throughout this post, because we’ve already been identified as part of this.

As of now, a week and a half later, Shane has officially given up on his investigation because he’s “run out of clues” and “has no idea” who “the others” are. He’s also promising no retribution, but I’m not convinced I can believe him on that. Eventually, and I’ve left it up to “the others” to decide when, we’ll reveal their identities to him.

Ok, one last picture to close out this massive account of Operation Alpha. While we were in Shane’s room, I “borrowed” Chip’s tripod and used my camera’s timer to take a group picture. To protect the identities of “the others,” I’ve used my editing software to mask them out of the picture. I hope you’ve enjoyed this unprecedented look into the plotting of one of my pranks (as I laugh when I think of all the stuff I left out or the fact that this wasn’t even one of my “Legend” level jobs)!

Friday, November 11, 2005


Good news! This morning I passed my Multiengine Checkride! I'm now a Commercial Instrument Airplane Single- and Multi- Engine Land Licensed Pilot. I had to report to the airport in a shirt and tie at 6:30am to do the final preparations for the 7:30 exam with only 3 hours of sleep under my belt because I'd been up late studying for the oral portion of the exam. The oral went very well and the flight did also, except for one not-so-small mistake. The good news is that the examiner decided that because the rest of the checkride had gone so well, he wouldn't fail me for that mistake. So I made all the required calls to friends and family to tell them the good news and promptly skipped my other two classes today to sleep.

In another bit of good news, I'm almost done with the Operation Alpha post I've been promising. I've decided to tell the story the same way I would if I was telling it to you in person and took a half hour to explain the details. I guess I didn't realize how much can be said verbally in a half hour because it's turned out to be far longer than even I was expecting! Feel free to scan it or just look at the pictures if you like, but I know some people wanted the full account so I gave them a lot of it (but there's still a lot I left out).

Hopefully I'll be able to upload it, the pictures, and get the video link working sometime tomorrow or Sunday. Tonight is Crusade (they're showing the film "Beyond the Gates of Splendor") and a massive party at the Big House. Reportedly the Big House guys haven't had a party this big (invited all of Cru, the Navs, and IV) since before I came to Purdue, so this should be quite an occasion. Tomorrow is our last home football game and an outreach tailgate for the guys in Cary. Anyways, I actually have some real work I have to do around here (I'm at work in the AvTech Library) before I close up for the night, so I g2g.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Alpha Soon

Well, I'd hoped to get the update on Operation Alpha up today, but it's turned out to be pretty long (complete with pictures and a video) and I'm afraid it won't be ready before I get off work tonight. The good news is that it will give you guys an unprecidented look into the planning and execution of one of my larger scale (but still not "Legend"-level, the highest order of my plots) pranks. In two other quick bits of news, my parents returned safely home (and very tired) yesterday from Romania. Also, my Multi-Engine Checkride is now scheduled for Friday morning at 7:30am with Prof. Larry Gross as the examiner. Word on the street is that this is the easiest checkride I'll ever have to take, so I'm fairly optimistic about it.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Fall Retreat (Warning: LONG)

It has now been a week and a day since I returned from Crusade’s annual Fall Retreat. This year we moved to a new location, a small conference center on Lake Placid, IN, because we have officially outgrown the place we’ve had retreat at in previous years. I think the max capacity of the old conference center was around 200 (which we overfilled last year) and this year we had 370 students plus staff. In case you didn’t already know this: 370 is A LOT of people to have on one retreat. That being said however, it didn’t feel like that many and there’s certainly room for more at this new conference center.

I was originally planning on driving myself (~2 hrs) or catching a ride with other Cary Quad guys if my car wasn’t needed, and neither option panned out. My car wasn’t needed, and because I wasn’t going to get off work until 5pm on Friday, all the Cary guys would be gone before I would be available to leave (turns out a couple of cars of them left late, but can’t plan for that). So on a tip from Chip (oooh, that rhymed!), I called Bekah and secured a ride with the Meredith people (or “Mer’dith” or “Merrrdith” as they’ve taken to calling themselves).

Then Friday rolled around and, as always, things got complicated. Not too complicated, I just somehow messed up my neck at some random moment (I think I was getting out of the car) and needed some help from Chris so that I wouldn’t leave for retreat in pain. Because of my work schedule and her classes and tango lessons, the only opportunity for me to see her was to rush home from work to grab my stuff and then speed walk (I’d jog but there was no practical way to do that with my duffel bag, laptop case, and sleeping bag in arms) over to Windsor as a detour on my path to Mer’dith. She was able to work on my neck (and somewhat painfully because she had to rush) for a few minutes and it was apparently enough to make the difference.

After meeting the Mer’dith people in the hall lobby (and quietly slipping a small rubber gecko into Tiffany’s pillowcase), I piled into Mike’s car and we left for Lake Placid. We missed check-in before the first session started, but we were able to make good enough time to not miss any of the meeting itself. Our speaker this year was Rick James, an author on staff with Crusade who was the main speaker at Big Break a couple of years ago and I was very impressed with. After the session and our first meeting with the D-Groups (discussion groups, think of them like mixed-gender small groups designed to help people connect with others at the retreat and give them a time to ask questions/share what they’ve learned) I was able to secure some tent space with Brandon Shafer (a Cary guy) and almost help Chip prepare Encouragement Boards for the people he didn’t previously have pictures for. I say “almost help” because I had agreed to help set up his computer so he could edit the pictures and print them, but by the time I got all my stuff from the various Mer’dith cars (spread all over, of course) and dropped it off at the tent, he was already all set up. Oh well.

One of the nice things about being out in the middle of Nowhere, Indiana is that on a clear night the stars are absolutely beautiful! I wandered out onto a small dock on the lake that gave me some space away from the trees so I could look up and saw the milky way, Venus (brighter than I’d ever seen it), the Pleiades, Orion’s Belt, and I think I might have even spotted Andromeda (but I’m a little rusty on some of my astronomy, so I’m not sure). The water was very still, so when I took a picture from that dock of the dining hall across the lake, the clarity of the reflection was amazing. Then I took the same picture from the same spot Saturday afternoon and did a little fancy editing that replaced the daytime-water with the nighttime-water for a cool effect (sadly, the coast is very straight, so it looks at first like I just have a top/bottom split going, but if you look closer you’ll see the night water follows the coastline):

During the course of the night, I soon learned that somehow that weekend had suffered a fluke of Indiana weather, because for just Friday and Saturday nights it became really cold, but the weather was back to normal when we returned to Lafayette. I figure my sleeping bag is rated to around 45 degrees (that’s only a guess, it doesn’t have any labels that tell) and Friday night got down to 27 degrees. Basically that resulted in me waking up shivering or even outright shaking several times trying to stay warm (my friends who had the good “mummy bags” slept quite comfortably though). The second night I piled on just about every layer of clothing I’d brought (not a lot, considering I wasn’t expecting to get very cold and packed light) and used my duffel bag to seal off the top of the sleeping bag so that I’d have a more “mummy bag” like experience and it helped, a little. I still was very, very cold by morning.

Saturday went by very quickly, between the morning session (and fighting sleep during Rick’s talk because I’d gotten so little due to the cold), the D-Group Olympics (featuring such games as a relay race while tied to others with saran-wrap and the towel flip, where everyone stood on a small bath towel and had to flip it over without stepping on the ground, which we almost succeeded at by stacking people up on each other’s shoulders and becoming very *ahem* friendly as we clung to each other for balance). To clarify “friendly,” I’ll mention that my forehead was on Ara’s cheek the whole time, Anna (who was on my shoulders) said that her head was pretty much embedded in Tomas’s stomach (he was on Ara’s shoulders) as she leaned in towards the center of the group for balance, and Allie (on Nate’s shoulders) clung to the whole group to keep our weight in the center. Here’s a couple of shots from the relay race (sorry, I don’t have any pictures of the towel flip, but a friend will hopefully give me some soon).
Ara and I:

Allie and Anna:
I spent the entire Free Time and Dinner Time (minus food for me) shooting and editing the videos for the Cary Guys’ skit during the Talent Show that evening. I won’t be posting any of the videos from that because they require too much explanation, but the whole thing turned out pretty funny. During the skit I had to sit in the sound/projection area and run our stuff off my laptop instead of being up front with the guys because we were having codec problems. Here are a couple random pictures from the show:
Amy was one of the MC's:

The Mer'dith Guys (doing Matrix-style special effects):

The Mer-dith Girls:

Amy and Keri (the Talent Show MC's):
Then I spent most of the night (literally) working on Encouragement Boards. For those of you who don’t know, E-Boards are small poster-boards that each have a picture of one person from the retreat and their name and are posted on the wall of the main meeting room. The idea is that you go around and write encouraging little notes to people you know, which can be anything from “Hey, you’re pretty cool” to, well, practically a whole letter to that person, all depending on what you want to say to them. The problem with these big retreats is that if you know any real fraction of the people there (say, a quarter), that results in a LOT of writing to do. I’m guessing I wrote on between a fifth and a quarter of the boards there (and tried to say something personal instead of giving everyone the same bland, generic message), so it took me a long time. I started work on the A’s around 11pm and eventually called it a night (with about a dozen left over for the morning) in the middle of the N’s around 4:30am. I thought about staying up just to finish those last dozen or so, but by then my brain was beginning to shut down from exhaustion (making personal notes hard to create) and I knew some of them would be relatively long. Poor Bob Mann, here he is just starting to work on E-Boards for the first time on the retreat about 3am:
I got about 3 hours of cold sleep and somehow had energy the next morning to keep awake through the morning session and finish the E-Boards just in time for the retreat to end. The ride back to Purdue with Chip was cool because we hadn’t been able to hang out much lately and had a lot of deep topics to talk about. Right after I got back to Purdue I had a couple of free tickets to a musical performance at Elliot Hall called “Blast!” (think of it as a Stomp spin-off of sorts; lots of really cool percussion music), so I offered the second ticket to Chris and we had a great time (and got some good planning done for Operation Alpha, my next post after it was over).

Yeah, so all that just to describe one weekend. Uff-da! Quick note: most of the Romania team is now home (my parents don’t get back until later this week) and apparently everyone’s doing well. So thanks for your prayers for them. I don’t know when I’ll be able to get the post on Alpha together (Wednesday afternoon, hopefully), but I promise you’ll love the pictures.