Monthly Archives: September 2004

People!

More students seem to have arrived. I met two third-years in Science and Engineering today, which was nice. I’ve started eating meals at the college cafeteria, which is convenient since I still have 0 pounds, awaiting the creation of a bank account, which is awaiting the Fitz freshers fair on Sunday where bank advice will be given. In the mean time, I’m running up debt on my Fitzcard of which I can have up to 200 pounds. Lunch tomorrow will be free, provided by CMI, and I expect to eat breakfast and dinner here. Saturday lunch will be trickier.

-Ben

The shower works

The shower works well. Surprisingly, there is enough room to shower without great difficulty. Conveniently, the water temperature is easily controlled over a wide range, and there’s plenty of pressure. That’s a lot more than I could say for the Simmons showers. Other exchange students in different colleges have confirmed the superb water pressure.

It must be a British thing.

I went on a tour this evening. Conclusion: Cambridge is old.
-Ben

I’m in England!

I spent Tuesday preparing for my trip. I bought a very large amount of travelers’ cheques with which to open up an account in cambridge. I packed intermittently, whenever an item appeared that I had forgotten to pack. Everything was going very smoothly. I was washing a pair of shorts I wanted to bring when I started looking for my wallet. I couldn’t find it, and eventually I realized it was in the washing machine, at which point my heart sank.

My passport was in that wallet.

I dried out the contents of the wallet as best I could, spreading them out on wax paper and pointing a hair dryer at them, putting one card that seemed like it would survive into the microwave. The passport was very soggy. It was still wet when I had to take it through the airport, and even going through customs in England this morning. I got a lot of strange looks, and a recommendation that I replace the passport before trying to use it to enter the U.S.

On the plus side, I did get to execute an experiment I’d been wanting to do for a long time: take a barometer on board an airplane. I’m sure I could look up the pressure drop, but I was interested to measure it myself. However, most barometers (or at least the heirloom hanging on my wall at home) are too big. So I arrived at the airport barometerless. After some thought, I bought a pack of trident gum and a bottle of water, plus a clear straw. I had a pen on me. As soon as I was in my seat, I started chewing a stick of gum and opening the bottle of water. I dipped the straw about halfway into the water, then stuck the gum on top to seal it. The seal was excellent. I marked the spot on the straw with the pen. Then I waited, holding a complimentary newspaper over my contraption so as to hide it from any terrorism-aware cabin attendants. (I let my seat-neighbor in on the whole thing.) Then, at what appeared to be cruising altitude, I made another mark where the water was.

Result: The air column had expanded about 25%, corresponding to a cabin pressure of 0.8 atmospheres, assuming no temperatures effects (to which this design is quite vulnerable). It was easy and fun. If you have a boring plane flight coming up, you should distrust my results and do it yourself. Heck, do it twice, once on the way up and once on the way down, to see if there’s drift due to leakage or evaporation.

When I got to England I had to navigate a complex 3D maze to find the rest of the Cambridge group, which shortly went out to our bus. Unfortunately, it turned out that the bus did not have enough cargo space for 37 people-years-worth of stuff, so a second van had to be called, which meant that we stood around outside the Heathrow terminal for 2 hours before getting on the bus. The bus drove almost directly to Fitzwilliam college, where I was dropped off. I went to the Porter’s Lodge, where a porter handed me a key and an ID, and directed me to my room.

My room is essentially unremarkable, except that it contains a full bathroom crammed into a space less than half the size of the miniscule Simmons Hall bathroom. No, I am not exaggerating. This is accomplished by placing a showerhead directly over the sink and mirror. I will determine shortly if it is functional or not.

There’s not much else to report, at least not in words. The college is beautiful, or at least very well kept. It seems large enough but not huge. It is just right.

-Ben

Last Night in North America

Last night for a good long while anyway. I finished packing today, only to find that I’d packed all my belts, and it was going to be too troublesome to get them back out of my bag. So I’ll fly beltless. I’m taking two bags, the larger of which weighs 58 pounds, which sounds a lot lighter to me than it feels to lift it. Luckily, this was about the time when I was planning to get back in shape. Wonderful.

I’m taking antibiotics in my checked luggage, for reasons that I don’t entirely understand. I expect I’ll just throw them out. I wonder if there’s a safer way to dispose of antibiotics that doesn’t release them into the ecosystem.

The workmen came! They came late, and left early, but they seemed amiable enough in their gruff way, and declared that they would have tiles in the bathroom by the end of the week. I guess my parents will have to send me pictures. Except that I’m taking the digital camera…oh well.

I’m dragging vast quantities of shower supplies, mostly because we are members of Costco, where everything is available only in Vast and Extra Vast sizes. I can supply my floor with conditioner.

Not much to say, except that I’m feeling…anticipatory. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

See you in England.
-Ben

At Home

I think I must be excited to leave, because I accidentally left one of my friends an IM saying “tonight’s my last night in North America.” Which it isn’t. Tomorrow is my last night in North America. Tonight is nothing of great interest, except the night before the workmen who were supposed to be working on our bathroom for the past six weeks but instead refused to return our (i.e. my parents’) phone calls are actually coming back in. We’ll see.

Did I mention the saga of our bathroom? I should do that. Here it goes:
About two and a half years ago, we noticed a big nasty stain in the family room ceiling below the master bath. Since the house was shortly going to have exactly two people in it, my parents were in no real rush to get it fixed. They had been considering various sorts of renovations for a long time, and this seemed to be their chance. So the meditated on their choices for two years, and eventually came up with a plan. They would rip apart the master bath and the surrounding rooms and create a master suite, with a much larger, fancier bathroom and a lot of stuff. They called in workmen, who with great efficiency demolished the old master bath and began construction.

During the plumbing process, one of the workmen was standing on the floor joists putting in pipes when he lost his balance and put his foot through the ceiling of the room below, making an enormous hole that is directly over my head. A few minutes later, they tested the pipe running over the hole, which was not properly sealed, and poured water through the large hole in the ceiling the room below. Later that week, they failed to seal another pipe, which leaked onto the ceiling, creating more unsightly brownish stains.

Once the major plumbing was done it was time for tiling. After a process too complicated for me to describe, involving multiple returns and a growing friendship with the tile clerk at a nearby home improvement warehouse, the bathroom floor and wall tiles arrived, at which point the workmen vanished. After a few weeks my parents grew anxious and called them, only to get no response. Repeated calls either got no response or a promise to arrive by Tuesday, which inevitably failed to occur. Eventually, my mother devised a secret plan. She invited them to dinner.

Like all of my mother’s bizarre schemes, this worked perfectly. At least, they showed up to dinner. Tomorrow we’ll see if they show up for work.

New topic.
A lot of stuff has happened since I got back. It’s been Yom Kippur, which means lots of dressing up and going to temple (except the temple has way too many members for its building, so it appropriates the middle school auditorium) for services a couple of times, and eating tasty tasty food with friends, including one or two who I hadn’t seen in a long time. Then today, for no particular reason, we had a family reunion. There’ve been at least 40 friends and relatives through this house in the past two days.

I also had to complete my assignment for this inane CMI-CI-M seminar (don’t ask), one of the inane results of which you can see here.

Second Post

I was planning to post yesterday and thus make a good habit of keeping this blog very up-to-date. Unfortunately, I ended up staying up until 2 AM working on my lab report. This was due mostly to a serious lack of Physical insight about the incredibly inane “lab” that we’re doing for the CMI CI-M class (don’t ask. Just don’t). At any rate, after much fighting with LaTeX and grappling with GNU Octave, and Gnumeric and OpenOffice.org Calc, I finally completed half of a draft of this stupid lab report. A report which is due in final polished form in 10 hours.

Ta-ta for now.
-Ben

First Post!

Today I had my first CI-M seminar prep for Cambridge. Ohh, so boring. At least they gave us free-food. When you have to stay up until midnight writing their stupid Literature Review of an article that is a literature review, then walk back to Fenway, shower, sleep, and wake up in time to walk back and be there by 9 AM, free breakfast is a great consolation. At least I got to meet the mysterious Amanda Frye, whose name sounds distantly familiar to everyone and who is the other MIT Physics major headed for Cambridge.

It’s taken me some serious effort to get this weblog up and running, but, hey, that’s what happens when you try hosting dynamic content for the first time, and if it ain’t a learning experience what’s the point?