I just wrote my essay for Spanish. I ended up writing 600 words for a 400-word essay; I hope she won’t mind.
I’m very proud of myself. It was an excellent rant, whether or not it was good Spanish. I’d post it, but I have a feeling I don’t have too many hispanohablantes reading this.


Pogies are special mittens for rowing, with holes in the correct places, allowing rowers to keep direct contact with the oar. This contact turns out to be necessary, and rowing in normal gloves is essentially impossible. I lost one pogie today. I think it must have fallen out of my pocket and into the river. Sad. Practice today felt very much like being the ball in a tennis game, bouncing off the banks. There are people who live in boats along the banks of the river, and I fear we may have angered them with our constant collisions.

I spent the hour before dinner wrestling with my bike chain (as mentioned in a previous post, it was, as the English say, buggered). I essentially ended up massaging it, and despite using plenty of paper towels, my right hand is stained dark. On the plus side, the chain now moves, and apart from a few stiff links (about 10%) it’s back to normal.

Bicycle grease is a most amazing substance. It goes on clear as water and comes off as black as black shoe polish.

Now I have to write an essay for Spanish. Happily, it’s on a very interesting topic: “Do you think that the birthrates in some European countries are worrying?”

Morocco Hitch

It looks like I probably won’t be allowed to go on the “Hitch”, as it’s called. It turns out that everyone is required to have an emergency contact in the UK, and hitchhikers under 21 must have that emergency contact be a parent or guardian.

I don’t have any parents in the UK.

Rowing time.


I had my first crew practice this morning. Being 7-seat is interesting; I’ve spent an eternity in the bow. One gets spined (when the guy behind you moves up too early and hits you in the back with his oar-handle) rather more often, but that’s not really a big deal. It feels different, but everyone knows that. Change is fun.

My bike wasn’t working, so I had to use my computer alarm clock (XMMS with the alarm plugin) to wake up early enough to walk to practice by 7:10. I timed it as a half-hour walk. Once practice was over, luckily very early, I put on my backpack and ran (in fact, jogged) to class at the Cavendish, which took 25 minutes and felt surprisingly good. From there I went back to Fitz to finish up Spanish homework and get lunch, to town center to hand in the assignment, then back to the Cavendish to work on my lab, and finally back home. MapQuest is being uncooperative, so I don’t know how far I walked.

As for my lab, I have pretty pictures:
Created with SciGraphica
This is a map of the field strength of the magnet I’m using for NMR. The data is inaccurate, and the conclusion suspect, but the picture is pretty.


I just got back from the Fitz/Queens Boat Club formal. I’d been to formal halls before, but never at Fitz. It was mildly interesting. I was mostly impressed by the sheer volume of the drinking. At my Cadenza formals everyone brought a bottle of wine except me, so it was 1 bottle per drinker average. They were about 2/3 gone, I would say, on average. This time there was over 1 bottle per drinker, and as far as I could tell they were all completely emptied, with men and women having about equal shares.

And now they’re all (except the Fitz 2nd boat, who is rowing in under 10 hours) going out to a club. And they mostly got a drink or two beforehand. Impressive drinking, all in all.

Wednesday nights are supposedly fancy-food night, which in practice, unfortunately, appears to mean fish/seafood night. The portions were small, at least for an American, and since I wouldn’t eat some of it they seemed even smaller. I did end up eating the fish in potatoes, though I did not especially enjoy it. All in all I’d say it was fun conversation.

I’m also making some headway in my lab, though not a huge amount. Digital oscilloscopes are surprisingly bad.


I have wasted this whole evening, basically.

The English have a different system for the classification of baked goods. Specifically, there exists a broad class called “biscuits” that includes all tasty, at least mildly sweet flat snacks. Cookies are the one subcategory that is known in the US, but there is another: “digestives”. I have not yet determined the exact significance of digestives, but it seems to tie into the British obsession with “fibre”, a label I can compare only to the American “Low-Carb” fad.

At any rate, digestives seem to be pretty tasty.


I attempted to do laundry and quantum today, and succeeded in doing laundry. I looked through the quantum problem sheet, but all the questions looked so imposing that I ran off screaming, more or less.

Fitz Buttery isn’t open on Sunday nights so I went to New Hall, with whom we have a reciprocal agreement (their buttery isn’t open Saturday nights). I expected dinner to go as it usually does there, sitting alone looking at the unusual architecture, feeling awkward. As I started eating I heard the girls (it’s an all-female college) next to me discussing something about reorderings of primes. I declared “I hear number theory” and moved in to join them. After a lengthy, enjoyable discussion about primes, movies, elevators, and the Cambridge Assassins Guild, they invited me to hitchhike with them to Morocco for charity this spring break, especially as every group is required by the charity’s rules to have at least one male member.

So I just might be going to North Africa for spring break.

As I was about to leave, I was stopped by another girl from New Hall whom I’d met on the bus to Heathrow at the end of last term. I only knew her first name, so I’d pretty much given up on finding her.

So that was a pretty good dinner.


Now that I’ve woken up again…
Play: The rendition of Romeo and Juliet was very entertaining. It was sold out, as were all showings, and I only had a seat because Tom had bought tickets two days ago. As it was, in order to get two seats together they were forced to put us at the extreme front-right corner. Luckily, the stage was only a little above knee height, so the visibility was actually quite acceptable. The choreography, costumes, and lighting most resembled a rave or music video, and so much music (especially techno) was used throughout the show that it almost seemed to be a musical. Although all the actors were Cambridge students, they managed to find an actress for Juliet who really seemed to be 14, her character’s age. Perhaps it will help convey the mood of the play that Juliet usually wore an “I


NY” t-shirt and pink skin-tight short-shorts. Actors seemed to enter and exit mostly perched atop rolling set pieces, especially the incredibly versatile bench/bed/altar/refrigerator, in costumes reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange.

Unfortunately, the play is burdened by its decision to preserve the original text, much of which can be understood only with a reference for 15th century idioms. To remedy this, actors must overdramatize sections whose emotional content is important but not obvious to the modern listener, and often simply gloss over those sections which are completely incomprehensible, speaking quickly and quietly just to get through them. The production’s solutions are sometimes clever, like having two subsequent scenes running simultaneously on stage, resulting in an incoherent jumble whose effect is achieved through tone of voice and gesture alone. In the end, the result is a little too melodramatic, with so much emphasis on the nonverbal that it resembles a pantomime. Which isn’t to say that it wasn’t great, ’cause it was.

What was the other thing?
Right, party.
So I walked to Trinity College, and then walked around Trinity for a while until I found Bishop’s Hostel. (“Hostel,” in Cambridge, means housing for students of a college that is a short distance outside the main college yard.) When I arrived I was the only guest except the party organizers and the birthday girl, which made me ask the question of who is the bigger loser: the person to whose party exactly one person shows up, or the one person who shows up? After an hour or so, more people began to arrive, and eventually there were a fair number of people. It was the best sort of party, with quiet music in the background, lots of food, and plenty of place to sit and talk, which is what we did.

Now: laundry+quantum


I have things that pass for interesting to say about the play and the party, but it’s late.
Sleep has precedence over blog. At least that shred of my common sense remains.