Don McLean once said that he was never going to explain what he was talking about when he wrote American Pie. Bleaaaah. In the interest of creating an accurate historical record (i.e. helping me remember WTF I was writing about when I go back and look at this file 10 years in the future) I respectfully disagree with him when it comes to my versions of his songs. This song describes the events I witnessed and was part of during my time at the University of Maryland, College Park from 2000 through 2004. So here goes...

wow... this turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would be!


I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized
assistance while writing this song.
Students at the University of Maryland are asked to write "I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized assistance on this examination (or assignment)" on every exam and substantial assignment they turn in. This honor pledge pisses off a large number of students here.
A long, long time ago
I can still remember
When I first drove up to Denton Hall
Denton Hall was my dorm freshman year.
I didn't quite know what was next
Had no idea what to expect
So I thought I'd go watch some football
At the welcome-to-campus talk they gave us tickets to the first home football game. Tickets were free anyway, but you normally had to go pick them up at the student union. I wasn't much for football at the time but decided to go to the game anyway, and discovered I like watching football games... when I have some connection to the team.
But our team that year was really bad
Watching them play made me very sad
They fired the coach that season
They certainly had good reasons
Ron Vanderlinden was the football coach during 2000 and his record was pretty lousy. Athletic Director Debbie Yow canned him at the end of the season. Ralph Friedgen came on board as the coach the next year and turned the program around.
I can't remember if I cried
When my calc exam got a sixty-five
Integration by trig substitution killed me in Calculus II in college just like it killed me in AP Calculus in high school.
But I sucked it up, went back inside
And watched tuition rise
It's a college, so of course, tuition goes up, and it goes up every year, and sometimes it goes up more than once a year, and it always goes up faster than the rate of inflation.
So bye, bye, there goes all my free time
Self-explanatory.
Now I've gotta walk back home except I'm scared of the crime
Every few weeks during the semester there would be an armed robbery on or around campus. Considering the campus is effectively a city of 40,000 during the day and a town of 10,000 at night, and is located within a larger city in Prince George's County, MD, which is not the nicest place to begin with, this level of crime is to be expected. However, the robberies usually occurred in spurts, which caused students and the campus newspaper to get worked up over 'crime waves'. Whatever.
I wasted half an hour in the dining hall line
The university had two main dining halls to serve the approximately 10,000 or so on-campus residents, which would result in large crowds at peak times.
But I know that things are gonna turn out fine
I know that things are gonna turn out fine
It rhymes. Besides, my basic operating principle during my time at UMD was "My life might suck today, but none of this will matter at this time next year."
Do you like to watch TV
Eight hours of sci-fi a day you'll see
Because your roommate tells you so
My roommate freshman year, who shall remain unnamed to protect the, ahem, innocent, watched sci-fi on TV for about eight hours a day. I don't like television, and I especially don't like bad television. So of course there were a few conflicts.
Do you think Ryoko's hot
She's a cartoon, dammit, of course she's not
Ryoko (the one with the blue hair) is a well-endowed female character in the anime series Tenchi Muyo which happened to be on the Cartoon Network during that year. My roommate watched it and I happened to enjoy it (hey, the show was pretty damn funny.)
I'm getting out of here, I have to go
Sometimes I had to just get away from that accursed television.
Well I'm writing linked lists for the umpteenth time
And it still is crashing on most every line
Computer Science I, where I learned the same stuff I learned taking the computer science magnet courses at Blair High School. Nuff said.
Take a break, go watch the game
Man, that Duke loss sure was lame!
The Duke University Blue Devils are the primary basketball rival of the Maryland Terrapins and the twice-yearly games between the two teams (one home, one away) get the campus really worked up. My freshman year, the Terps were up on Duke by about 10 points with one minute to play and ended up blowing the lead, letting Duke win. The fans went berzerk and threw bottles and other trash at the Duke bench, conking the mother of one of the Duke star players in the head, before going outside to make general mayhem. This lead to a sportsmanship campaignby the university authorities.
Testing wind turbines in fast-moving air
Could have built ours with a bit more care
We saw the blades fly everywhere
My ENES 100 (Introduction to Engineering Design) group project was to build a wind turbine that drove a water pump. Our structure was six feet tall and featured a three-foot rotor. I was lazy and neglected to predrill one of the screw holes in the rotor hub, causing the wood to crack. The wind turbines were tested in front of a industrial exhaust fan that produced something like a 30 MPH wind. After a couple of minutes of testing, where the rotor was spinning at high speed, there was a big SMASH as the hub broke in two and the pieces of the rotor went flying all over the place. Luckily nobody was hurt, but after that, they made the students stand back from the test area as the TA turned on the fan. From the next year forward, everybody's ENES 100 project had to fit in a xerox box and they've been stupid things like solar cookers and weather stations. I like to think that it's all my fault, but that's me being egotistical. (The real reason is that there was not enough room to store all the wind turbines, so they cluttered the hall of the building where ENES 100 was taught, which caused the fire marshal to get angry.)
And watched tuition rise

I started singin'
Bye, bye, there goes all my free time
Now I've gotta walk back home except I'm scared of the crime
I wasted half an hour in the dining hall line
But I know that things are gonna turn out fine
I know that things are gonna turn out fine

Now for one year we've been on our own
Making prank calls to the blue light phones

Our campus has blue light phones all over the place that you can use to call the campus police in an emergency. Many of them also have keypads and you can use them to make on-campus calls and even off-campus calls (you have to enter your phone PIN, though, so they aren't free.) I discovered with a friend that if you call your campus voicemail and leave a message from one of these phones, when you check your voicemail it says "message from extension whatever" and then you get the number of the emergency phone. You can then call the phone, and it will automatically pick up and you can talk to whoever might be standing next to the phone at the time. "Help! Help! I'm trapped inside this phone!"
But that was just the start you see
We watched the terrorists on the news
September 11, 2001. Two weeks into my sophomore year. Not a good start.
Then a big tornado came blowing through
Your dorm's closed, sleep in the CRC

About two weeks after September 11, a tornado struck the edge of campus, passing right over my dorm. Tornados are an infrequent occurance here in Maryland so it took most of us by surprise. I was in class at the time so I missed all the fun, but when I returned to my dorm it looked like a war zone and they wouldn't let us go to our rooms and eventually herded us all outside. I walked to the subway station and went home, but people who stayed on campus were told to stay in the Campus Recreation Center until the dorms were reopened, which took a bit of time while maintenance checked for damage to the roof. Additionally, one dorm had a gas leak.

Unfortunately, two students were killed when their car was picked up and smashed by the tornado.

The ticket lines made the students scream
The line for tickets to the Duke game formed a few days before tickets were given away. During this and other ticket distributions during Fall 2001, the mob often rushed the doors as soon as they opened, causing some people who were near the front of the line to get shoved aside and not get a ticket. It was not a pretty scene.
When we won the riots were quite obscene
This was the year of the sports riot, when after almost every big game students went down to Frat Row, often carrying the goalposts from the football stadium, to burn things. Since our football team was having the first winning season in a long time thanks to new coach Ralph Friedgen, we rioted after quite a few football games. We also rioted after the Duke game, and after we won the NCAA basketball national championship. The sports riots created all sorts of bad press for the university, causing the authorities to step up their sportsmanship campaign.
Comcast was annoyed
Cause their cable lines got destroyed
During the riot after the NCAA championship, students built a bonfire at the main intersection in downtown College Park in addition to the usual bonfire on Fraternity Row. Maryland State Police, firing pepper-spray paintball guns, eventually dispersed the crowd, but before that happened the bonfire damaged some Comcast cable television lines that had the misfortune of being in the intersection. The TV news reported it cost several hundred thousand dollars to repair (which I think was inflated...)
I learned to use my scanner well
I purchased a RadioShack Pro-94 police scanner a week or so after 9/11 and with all the events during my sophomore year I had a lot of chances to use it.
Investigation of alarm bells
When the PG County Fire Department gets a call for a fire alarm sounding in a building, it gets dispatched as "investigation of alarm bells". (These days it's often just dispatched as "bells".) We had a few false fire alarms in my dorm that year, plus, we had one time when some ^$%!%#! broke the head off the fire sprinkler of their room, flooding half the third floor and the floors underneath it before maintenance came out to turn the sprinkler off. Luckily I was on the fifth floor.
Yes, we survived the year from hell
And watched tuition rise

Self-explanatory.
I started singin'
Bye, bye, there goes all my free time
Now I've gotta walk back home except I'm scared of the crime
I wasted half an hour in the dining hall line
But I know that things are gonna turn out fine
I know that things are gonna turn out fine

Helter skelter in a summer swelter
It's a white van, quick, go find some shelter
Might get shot while pumping gas

For a month or so during the fall of 2002, the entire Washington D.C. metropolitan area was being terrorized by John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, the infamous Beltway Snipers. They roamed the countryside in their decrepit Chevrolet Caprice with a sniper position set up in the trunk, shooting people dead. They shot a kid playing outside his school and a bus driver getting ready for his morning run, but their favorite target was people filling up their cars at area gas stations. It got to the point where gas stations had barriers set up between the station and the road so that people wouldn't be afraid to buy gas.

The original news reports said that police believed the shooters were driving a white van or a white box truck, because there was a white box truck near many of the shooting scenes. That's because there's white vans and box trucks all over the place around here. Needless to say, this caused many false alarms.

On the snow days it was time to play
Tried to sled on a dining hall tray
It doesn't work, you end up with a wet ass
We had quite a few days off school due to snow during winter 2002-2003. Many people stole trays from the dining hall and attempted to use them as sleds. It didn't work too well - you usually fell off. The problem was so bad that the dining halls now lock up all the trays and dishes during snowstorms and serve the food on styrofoam plates instead.
Now the Commons showers were mighty cold
The privately-run South Campus Commons apartments, where I lived during the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 school years, often experienced trouble with the hot water heater. This did not make the residents happy, considering we paid $600 per person per month for rent in a four-bedroom apartment. We expected things to work.
And probability was hard I'm told
Nothing causes more confusion
Than the Gaussian distribution
I dropped ENEE 324 (Probability for Electrical Engineers) after failing the second exam. I retook it a year later and passed by the skin of my teeth. That class bllloooooooooooowwwwwwwsssss.
That Ehrlich fellow's quite a kook
Bob "Multiculturalism is crap" Ehrlich, the Republican candidate, was elected governor of Maryland in 2002, defeating former lieutenant governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Ehrlich ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and promoted slot machines at the racetracks as a way to balance the budget. He cut funding for the university by quite a bit, and as of May 2004 his slot machine plan still hasn't gone anywhere.
Print your ticket go to see Duke

After the ticketing fiascos the previous year, the university worked with a contractor to move the student ticketing system for basketball and football online. You would go to a website to register for tickets, then print out barcoded tickets which were scanned at the arena. Your attendance was tracked and you earned points for each game that you went to. Tickets to oversubscribed games were awarded through a lottery, and more loyalty points got you more entries in the lottery. Therefore, if you went to the early-season games against lousy teams, you had a greater your chances of getting a ticket to the sold-out later-season games against folks like Duke.

Incidentally, after cutting our funding, Mr. Ehrlich had the nerve to show up at the Duke game. The crowd was evenly split between cheers and boos.

Then 10-19 to clean up puke
I was a driver for the campus shuttle service starting in Spring 2003. 10-19 is Shuttle radio code for "return to the bus depot." You 10-19 to clean up puke when one of your passengers has had a little too much to drink. Thankfully this only happened to me once.
And watch tuition rise

We started singin'
Bye, bye, there goes all my free time
Now I've gotta walk back home except I'm scared of the crime
I wasted half an hour in the dining hall line
But I know that things are gonna turn out fine
I know that things are gonna turn out fine

And there we were all in one place
Working on a demo at an army base
Looks like the network's hosed again
During the summer of 2003 I was an intern for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. Our group was preparing for a big demo to take place at Fort Benning, Ga. at the end of the summer. I spent a week at Benning, while most of the full-time staff in the group spent five weeks at Benning. Connectivity issues with the wireless network almost ruined the whole thing, but we somehow managed to pull it off. Of course, nothing worked until 10 pm before the big day, and nothing worked the day after either. But the demo impressed the audience enough that we get to do it AGAIN... each summer for the next five years. w00t.
A hurricane took the power out
For four days we did scream and shout
Cause Pepco is the devil's only friend
Hurricane Isabel blew through the Washington area during fall 2003, wreaking general havoc all over the place and leaving several hundred thousand area residents without power. My building, which is on campus but privately managed and therefore not connected to the campus power system, was without power for four days. The campus proper had power thanks to Trigen-Cinergy Solutions' on-campus power plant. Grrr. Pepco, the local utility, had the worst performance of any area utility company in restoring service after the storm. This being the Washington area, investigations naturally followed.
The fans were doing the scan and leave
So-called student basketball "fans" were requesting and printing tickets to the early-season basketball games, going to the games, having their tickets scanned, and then turning around and leaving without watching the game. This got them attendance points, increasing their chances of getting tickets to later-season games. Many of the early season games sold out all the student tickets, yet the student section was half-empty. This was a perversion of the whole attendance point system which was designed to reward those who supported the team during the early season. increase their chances of getting Duke tickets. After a few scathing editorials in the campus newspaper, this practice became less widespread but still continued to some extent.
But the basketball team won the ACCs
After a lackluster start to the season, our basketball team (with just one senior starter) won the ACC tournament in a series of three games that all went down to the wire. This resulted in our first sports riot since the NCAA championship, but it was pretty tame.
Football's on a roll
They won the Gator Bowl
Friedgen's football team made it to the 2004 Gator Bowl, the first time in a long time (ever?) that a Maryland team had played in a New Year's Day bowl game. We mopped the floor with the West Virginia Mountaineers.
And as the bus drove off into the night
You can't see a boob on the radio, right?
I saw the driver laughing with delight
I had a Sunday night bus shift during Spring 2004, which meant that I listened to the Super Bowl on the radio. Therefore, I missed the whole Janet-Jackson-wardrobe-malfunction thing and found out about it when I got back to my room and fired up Mozilla to go over to washingtonpost.com and read some news.
And watched tuition rise

He was singing
Bye, bye, there goes all my free time
Now I've gotta walk back home except I'm scared of the crime
I wasted half an hour in the dining hall line
But I know that things are gonna turn out fine
I know that things are gonna turn out fine

Now it's almost time to go
Leave this campus that we know
See what Real Life will throw our way
I hope that you have made a plan
To get a job while you still can
Before India takes them all away
Overseas outsourcing of technology and engineering jobs is a concern on the minds of all of us graduates right now as we head out of school and hunt for jobs.
In the study rooms the students crammed
Getting ready for their last exams
They didn't do the reading
Just don't get caught cheating
In the week leading up to finals, the Student Honor Council sent out email reminders and took out full page advertisements in the campus newspaper reminding us of the school honor code and the consequences of getting caught committing academic dishonesty (i.e. cheating.)
We turned our finals into toast
Diplomas coming in the post
We caught the last train for the coast
While I'm not planning on heading for the beach now that college is done (I'm heading for the mountains of Shenandoah National Park instead), I imagine a good number of other people are planning on hitting the sun and sand.
And watched tuition rise

We were singing
Bye, bye, there goes all my free time
Now I've gotta walk back home except I'm scared of the crime
I wasted half an hour in the dining hall line
But I know that things are gonna turn out fine
I know that things are gonna turn out fine

Jesse Kovach
5/11/2004