Server is going down

This website is being served off of my computer (a laptop). At the moment, I need to take it to the library to use the Spanish dictionary in the reference section to write up a translation of a couple of paragraphs of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Which means the server needs to go offline.

Luckily, thanks to my homebrew mirroring system, this page will stay up,
but the links will mostly not work.

Fear not: I will return.

Fact of the Day #2

Of all the Norse languages and their descendants, including German and by extension English, Icelandic is the only one to have retained a complete system of declensions and cases. Indeed, it is estimated that the language has changed so little that it would be possible to converse with a Viking from the year 1000. That is, if you knew Icelandic and could find a Viking from the year 1000.

Courtesy of Jesse, my lab partner.

Oh, speaking of which, you can download my lab report here.
But you really shouldn’t; it’s boring and pointless.


I got an e-mail last night shortly before bedtime listing who would be members of the squad for the year. Ten names were listed, and I checked and double-checked them. I was not on the list, and as such was thanked for my time and effort and invited to keep rowing occasionally, when a cox could be ‘sorted.’ I was dismayed. I hadn’t heard anything about any cuts being made, and I had been told to report to practice tonight and tomorrow morning without any conditionals.

I went to bed but lay awake thinking about what I would do now that I wasn’t rowing. Should I join the Ultimate Frisbee team? Use my free weekends to tour England?

After about twenty minutes it finally clicked that the e-mail had been sent to the novice team, and I had received it by accident. My name wasn’t on the list because I wasn’t ever a member of that team.

It kind of makes me wish my weekends were free so I could tour England, and that I didn’t have to wake up at 6 AM tomorrow for practice, when I have a weight circuit starting at 8:30 tonight, and I have to complete a spanish->english translation and a huge lab report by tomorrow. Speaking of which.

First Rehearsal

I just had my first rehearsal for Cadenza. It was truly bizarre. I think a comparison is appropriate:

Chorallaries of MIT: Rehearses 6 hours a week minimum.
Cadenza: Rehearses 2 hours a week (maybe 4 some weeks this term).
Chorallaries: Arranges all own music
Cadenza: 50% bought arrangements, 50% made-up-as-we-go-along from listening to other a cappella groups’ CDs.
Chorallaries: Command structure includes more posts than there are group members
Cadenza: Has a president, but no one else. No music director. Oh, and never any conductor; group tries to synchronize itself.

I could go on, but I think the statement is pretty clear.
I need to get back to work, but before I do, a note. I left my battery recharger at home, and I was looking for fresh batteries for my camera. Digital cameras perform terribly with alkaline batteries (standard AAs have too much internal resistance to supply high peak currents) but run forever on lithiums.

I don’t think there’s a single box of Energizer e2 Photo Lithium AAs in all of England. I searched Cambridge high and low, and ultimately just bought a double set of plain old Duracell.

Oh, and Duracell batteries in England have a pink bunny on them! That provided some very serious cognitive dissonance for a few moments in Sainsbury’s. The bunny does not have a drum, and it is clearly not the same bunny, but nonetheless… The few Energizers I located had no bunny. There’s got to be a good backstory to this.

Comment Spam

So, as Mom helpfully pointed out, I’ve got comment spam. This means that some disreputable business (in this case an online casino) is using the open comments form at the bottom of each post to do free advertising of sorts for their casino. It is my impression that they do this in order to boost their rankings is Google, by placing a link back to their site in each post (Google ranks websites in part by how many links there are to that site in other pages, as an indicator of how much other “webmasters” value that site).

I’ve set up a filtration system which should stop that effectively, at the cost of making it very difficult for you to make posts about casino, poker, or phentermine.


I was going to post all weekend but I was working so I didn’t have a chance. I’m writing up a lab report for my Phase-Locked Loops lab, which is going pretty slowly, which is better than not going at all. This morning I was going to post before rowing (at noon) but the network was down. As it turned out, the entire Cambridge University network was down. I have just discovered that this was a planned, 7-hour outage, from 8-3 on a sunday.

You would think they would give some advance notice, or do it at less busy hours.

Anyway, I should get back to work, which is a good feeling, or at least a comfortable one. Not having any work to do was making me feel seriously out of place.

Yay MIT.


There are lots of spiders in England. I think you can see it in the literature; Charlotte’s Web is English, right?


It has been pointed out (by none other than Paul) that I have failed to actually note what I’m taking in Cambridge. Here ’tis:
Physics Part II:
Relativity, Electrodynamics, and Light
Thermal and Statistical Physics
Advanced Quantum Physics
Experiment 1

Spanish Part 1A Option B==Part 1B Option A:
Use of Spanish
Spanish and Translation

That’s just for this term (Michaelmas Term). Next term (Easter Term) I haven’t quite decided yet.

More rowing

Had another crew practice this morning. It was impossible getting to sleep at 9; I think I’m an even lighter sleeper when it’s really too early to go to sleep. I ended up having to switch which way I sleep on my bed and cover the LEDs on my laptop (too much light in the room).

Walking out of the college at 6:20 or so, I looked up and saw Orion against the perfectly black sky, which stopped me dead in my tracks until I realized that I hadn’t seen any stars since I’d been in Cambridge, owing to clouds. By the time I got to practice at 6:37, it had clouded over completely.

Also, as I was just biking away at, say, 6:25, I saw the captain of the team hurrying back in his suit. There had been a crew formal last night (I missed it), and it appears he was just returning. He was at practice on time (6:45). At practice we waited around to see if we had eight oarsmen, which we didn’t because one of our men had gotten too drunk last night to make it. Descriptions of the formal centered around the verb ‘to sick.’

With only seven non-novice rowers available, we did 3x2k@24 (I don’t know if that’s proper British notation). It was interesting: my lightweight American style stroke has about 3 times too much body swing for this (heavyweight English) team.

That’s about all for news that I can think of. I’m going to have my first supervision this afternoon; more on that after a word from our sponsor.

Rowing started!

So I said I had my first rowing practice before, but this morning was my first real rowing practice. It ran from 6:45 to 8:45, 15 minutes longer than normal, owing to a traffic jam on the incredibly narrow river. We rowed essentially all the way up and down it; virtually from one lock all the way to the other. I suppose it is possible for an eight to go through the locks; I don’t really know. It’s pretty long. We basically went one way for 45 minutes and the other way for 45 minutes, almost entirely all-8 steady-state.

I had no idea what the coxswain was saying:
1. There was a speaker system, but he basically wasn’t using it and when he was it was still really quiet in the bow (I was in bow)
2. He had an especially hard-to-understand accent
3. He was using terminology that I’ve never heard before.

The result was that I could occasionally pick out a word or two, but I never had any idea what was going on. I just watched the guys in front of me and hoped for the best. Which mostly happened, sometimes not.

Interestingly, the British refer to the two sides of the boat as “bow” and “stern”. Not the ends of the boat; those are also called bow and stern. They consider port-stroked to be the default, and as such refer to the port side as the stroke side and the starboard side as the bow side. This would be vaguely sensible if they were so foolish as to row only port-stroked boats, but this morning we were out in a starboard-rigged boat, with the result that I, in bow, was on stroke side, and stroke was on bow side. Crazy.

Oh, and practice got out at 8:45 and I had class at 9, so I left immediately and went straight to class without my books in my rowing gear. I broke every traffic law on the books on the way there and was still 5 minutes late to lecture (which I’m glad I didn’t miss; it was cool), and since I had two in a row I just sat there, smelling like crew, mostly not getting funny looks. Ah well. It sounds like rowing will be MWF mornings, which, conveniently, are the mornings I have 9 AM lectures.

I mentioned duct tape earlier. I had bought duct tape with the intent of using it to connect the rear bike light left in my room by a former occupant to my bicycle. I finally did this last night, and it seems to work quite nicely. The ugly ugly holster fits snugly over the seat, pressing the light against the bottom of the seat and pointing it more or less correctly. Now all I need to do is figure out how to make the seat stay up and get a mudguard or two.

Oh, and I had my first Spanish Translation class today, where the professor basically made fun of me.

What a silly idea, a chemist or whatever-you-are in a Spanish class. Do you think you’ll be able handle it?

I must say, the approach to translation was impressively rigorous, eschewing cognates in favor of phrases matched for intent and ‘register’. It’s not how I’m used to translating, and it sounds like fun.