In Which Intensity Takes On A New Meaning

As a special surprise for our new week, Nadia released a new crypto homework. Implementing the Coppersmith partial information attack using lattices (discrete additive subgroups of \mathbb{R}^n (better not to ask)). While the actual code wasn’t going to be long, taking the time to understand the material would detract from time spent on our projects, and other assignments.

Machine learning lectures had lessened in intensity and increased in interest. However, with the project deadlines looming, every spare waking moment was dedicated to improving our score. The gist of it was given the text of advertisements, predict house prices for a bunch of homes being sold.

To add to the intensity, the algorithms final was two weeks away and we were still learning new material! More than that I had a lot of doctors appointments scheduled that were taking valuable time away.

On the rehearsal side of things, that night was long. First was a few hours of Glee Club and then a few of Choral Society. The intensity was increased due to two upcoming gigs for Glee, an hour long holiday concert at Penn and then a high profile one elsewhere. The Choral Society concert was also that week and so three rehearsals and the show were scheduled. More than that, the Penn Pipers had new repertoire for us to learn for both Glee Gigs and two of our own over the weekend.

After a really long day, and a night of rehearsal, project work took me till about 3AM. After that I couldn’t work anymore and fell asleep at my desk.

 


In Which The House Remains Quiet

The next morning everyone woke up really late. I came downstairs at around eleven for breakfast with Sarah, Moe and Ariella while everyone else remained asleep. Breakfast was delicious bagels with lox and cream cheese.  Eventually (almost) everyone in the house woke up, including Ben, who wanted to make a decent start on getting hope. Unfortunately for him Lily was still asleep.

After a while of chilling in the lounge, a bedraggled Lily came down the stairs. The majority of the words out of her mouth seemed to involve the word ‘coffee’. However, her collapsed state on the couch prevented her from making moves to rectify her caffeine deficiency. Eventually she recovered, and Ben inquired as to when they would be leaving. Lily and I caught each others eyes for a moment, from which I understood that the leaving wouldn’t be happening any time soon. Lily played on ‘Carlotta’, her ukuleke for a while, while Dani, Ben and I sat on the couch. Soon Dani left for coffee with a friend and wasn’t seen till much later.

The rest of the afternoon was spent between my algorithms textbook and in conversation with Moe and Lily alternately. As the day wore on, Ben became increasingly impatient to get home and do important things, and Lily gave us more and more exasperated looks as her strategies to delay him started to wear out. Just before Shabbat came out, Ben gave one final push and despite her efforts to stay longer, Lily was defeated.

With the two Gamse’s gone, the house was notably quieter. After Shabbat came out, we ordered Chinese take-away food (or ‘take-out’ as they call it here) and then afterwards I sat down to work again. The break was fairly productive but in my mind, should’ve been much longer.

The next day was the last of the break, and I woke up late for the final time. Ate breakfast, read some more, and soon it was time to leave. I thanked Sarah and Bob for their hospitality and hopped in the back for our ride back to Philly. Thankfully there was no rehearsal that evening, so after a bit more work and some food, I tucked myself into bed, attempting to get ready for what would be a really intense week.


In Which I Have A Really Wonderful Evening

I slept in late the next day after working hard the previous night. When I woke up I tackled another chapter of my algorithms textbook but was soon fast asleep again. Around lunchtime I woke up, had a bite to eat, and then started helping Sarah prepare for the evening’s meal. My primary task was to plate up dessert. I actually had quite an enjoyable time doing so and managed to set out the food in a most acceptable manner. Unfortunately I neglected to take pictures, but you can imagine cookies of different colours fanned out on a multi-layered platter. A little later in the afternoon Moe and Ariella arrived back from a black Friday shopping trip. Ariella had been successful in the purchase of a cut price pair of headphone, but the two of them were otherwise unencumbered.

After another hour or so of prep, it was time to get ready, so I showered and cleaned up my mess a little. Just before I had time to get into nicer clothes, the doorbell rang. Ben and Lily Gamse, Ariella’s step-cousins had arrived. I was soon introduced to them by Dani, and instantly struck it off with the two of them. Lily immediately came off as very jovial and on the bouncier side of things, very talkative and keen to meet people. Her brother Ben was slightly more reserved and a little older, but still an absolute pleasure to talk to. Seeing the two of them together and being so close made me miss my brothers Adi and Raph a lot, and caused me to look forward to a few weeks time when I would be home with them again for a few weeks. Shabbat came in soon, along with a slew of other guests, notably another young adult cousin Sarah, who was studying political science up in Vermont and Bob’s son Connor who I didn’t have the chance to get to know so well.

Dinner was really fantastic. Delicious food. Probably amongst the top two meals I had eaten since leaving home. Not only that, but having a crowd of friendly twenty-somethings up my end of the table meant I had a really great time talking to them. ‘King’ David, Ariella’s brother was in a great mood too, and all in all it seemed like we were having a better time than most of the adults. After a few hours, dinner died down a little and a few of us when over to the couches to chat for a while. Once most of the guests had left, Lily and Ben (who were staying the night), and Dani, decided to go to a bar to meet with a friend of hers. Predictably Moe, Ariella and I stayed home. For the next hour and a half, I tried to read more of my textbook, actually getting through a chunk.

At around midnight, Dani, Ben and Lily returned home. Every came downstairs again for a snack and noticed Sarah asleep next to Felafel and Peppers, their two Beagles. Apparently the temptation of a nap with the beloved dogs was a little too much! Similarly, Bob was asleep on a nearby couch. After most everyone headed to bed, Lily and I stayed up to chat for another hour and a bit, before both of us finally retired. I was enthused to have had such a wonderful evening and met so many people. I also really appreciated I had somewhere to go for thanksgiving with people who treated me as part of the family.


In Which We Eat, Drive, and Eat

With my backpack on my shoulder and Ariella beside me, we walked over to 39th and Walnut where her sister, Dani was waiting with her car. The drive was quite enjoyable, Dani had good taste in music and her friend from med-school that she was driving home was really nice. We arrived in the early evening at the Biser-Kravitz-Levine residence in New Jersey. We hung around for a while not doing anything in particular, and then when Sarah came home (Ariella’s mom) we had some dinner and then went shopping for ingredients for Thanksgiving ‘Sheini’. Some of Sarah’s friends unavailable on Thursday night, asked for a second night of Thanksgiving so a second night (‘sheini’ in hebrew) was being hosted at the residence. That night I was up late working on all my assignments, realizing that the due dates were closer than I had previously expected.

The next morning I was up at around 10AM. Got ready, had a nice breakfast and was soon prepared to embark on the four hour drive to Bethesda, Maryland, with Ariella’s family. The drive down felt like it took a while. I listened to Billy Joel, got a tiny bit of work done on my laptop, and napped. It was a welcome respite, having the opportunity to do nothing for a few hours, and though it may have not been the most riveting of car rides, the opportunity to stress less was most welcome.

At around 5.30PM we arrived at Sarah’s family’s home, where celebrations were already underway. Fancy hors d’oeuvres were being served by a Peruvian waiter, kids were running amuck and Turkey symbolism was everywhere. Ariella had made some delicious food for her and I given that the food at the meal itself was not kosher. The meal was a good opportunity to meet some more of her family and hear a little of their history. Sarah was pleased to explain to me all the connections and a bit of back-story behind everyone that helped me to place people. Particularly interesting was the oldest lady at the table, who had made aliyah from Europe (moved to Israel) before the war and had served in the IDF as a driver during the 1948 war. She also wanted to know about my family and how we had come to emigrate.

Following dinner, we drove right back to where we came from. Another good four hours. However with my workload, I couldn’t afford to go straight to sleep, so got to it for another few hours before collapsing.


In Which I Beg For A Break, And Get It

The next day I woke up around midday, exhausted from the last finish of the previous night’s movie. There was another rehearsal today, in prep for our upcoming high profile gig. Worked for a while in bed, had a delicious vegan lunch, and just took it fairly easy.

Monday the stress returned. Machine Learning was really interesting, focusing on real world machine learning, much of it ‘big data’. Algorithms was particularly intense and with the exam right around the corner, I was getting really nervous. In the evening was regular glee rehearsal (mainly Christmas music), dinner at Hillel and then choral society. choral society was starting to get far more enjoyable as we started singing the music at speed.

Tuesday was noticeably quieter as people started to leave for the thanksgiving break. I had one last class in the morning, physics, which was starting to wind down a little. I worked on my research project for a little. Didn’t make enough progress.

In the late afternoon I headed over to Luke’s for a pre-thanksgiving potluck dinner with the other first year PhDs. However, I had to leave early due to the 8PM Glee Rehearsal.

Glee rehearsal was sadly quiet, with many people having left for the break. Nord our conductor didn’t take it too poorly however, and we were soon singing many of our favourite holiday songs and perhaps dancing around a little too.

Finally Wednesday arrived. No classes, just work, lunch plans and a winter storm. Unfortunately due to the winter storm, my lunch plans that were already rescheduled to then took another hit and were moved further to the last week of semester. This provided me with the opportunity to lounge lazily in bed and work more from there. Even Nadia admitted that it was a pretty lousy day to be getting up.

I had a  guiet bite my myself, packed my bags, and headed to Rodin to meet Ariella in order to head to her place for Thanksgiving break.


In Which I Try On A Derbie

Friday was scheduled to be busy. Shabbat was due to come in at around 4.20PM and I had a full day planned before. From class in the morning, to a planned lunch with a friend and then Pipers in the early afternoon, I didn’t know when I’d have time to prep. However, after machine learning I received a text that my friend was in fact ill and couldn’t make it, thus we rescheduled for the next week. So too did I receive a message from the Pipers informing me of a rescheduling of our rehearsal to the next day (which I was not pleased about). I ended up using the free time to work a little more and then take a nap, which extended itself well past the hours it was supposed to. I woke up after services and headed to dinner at Hillel. Post people this week were at external meals and so I sat with a few new people which was lovely.

The next day I woke up late but immediately had to go to rehearsal, missing lunch at Hillel. Luckily I had been prepared for this and had bought challot and some grape juice for myself, which I promptly consumed. Rehearsal was fun, and much needed given our concert later that evening with the Brown Derbies, one of their more entertaining all-male acapella groups.

In the afternoon I attended a theatre show put on by Pearl and a company she was managing. It was really well put together and was enjoyable. I then managed a brief nap and a quick dinner before helping to prepare for our evening’s concert.

A Poster For Our Show

A Poster For Our Show

Soon the Derbies arrived and we started our show. First the Pipers performed a set of some mixed light barbershop and a few 70s pop tunes. Then the Derbies performed a very high energy set of more typical modern acapella. Finally, the Pipers closed off with another set of barbershop and close harmony singing.

From Penn Dance, Schmush, Avalon, Lainie and Kendra all came along to support us. Talking to them after the show Avalon mentioned that she was going to see the latest Hunger Games movie, and invited Bhavish and I along. I thought it was a nice opportunity to get to know both of them a little better and was eager to do so.

I rushed home to get changed, stopped off quickly at the Glouse, and then met Avalon at the theater. Unfortunately all the tickets to the 10:30PM screening were sold, and so after ‘umming and ahhing’ for a little, we decide to wait an hour and see the 11:30 screening instead. We purchased our tickets, and had a good hour to kill, so we walked to the Glouse to give Bhavish his ticket. Bhavish unbeknownst to us, had decided to stay in and work, and so when we arrived he wasn’t there. We ended up chilling for an hour, and almost went to a bar, but then realized we were low on time for it and so walked back to the theatre.

This was a great chance to get to know Avalon a bit better as Bhavish didn’t show up until just before the movie started. And so, I got to tell her my favorite story about how I came to be at Penn. Bhavish eventually arrived, and showed us a few of his magic tricks, which were superb as always and impressed both Avalon and I (though I had seen them before). The movie itself was fine, not spectacular but fun and probably worth seeing. We all walked back to Harrison together, and then I had the luxury of a deep sleep.


In Which I Dress Semi Formally

Wednesday was a mad rush to get enough homework done. Normal onslaught of classes. Crypto has been good recently in that I’m starting to understand some of the abstract algebra underlying the harder bits. Wednesday night was the usual rehearsal and work combo.

Thursday was back to Physics and an attempt to be productive. My interest in the physics died down a little this week as we were focused mainly on computing some coefficients I didn’t have too much interest in (Clebsch-Gordan). However, Thursday night was a little different. I ended up chatting to Nadia in the lab till quite late, and then pretty much ran back to my room to get dressed. I donned my 70s style shirt, binary tie, pants and jacket and walked to the Radian to accompany Natalie Eisner to drinks before Glee Club and Penn Dance’s annual semi formal.

Teddy, Natalie and I

Teddy, Natalie and I

Drinks were at Jane Dobkin’s place with the Junior class (and the lone grad student!) It was a nice chance to actually get to talk a little more with a number of them with whom until that point I’d had limited interaction.

Following that, I and a few of the PD girls and their dates caught the SEPTA (south eastern pennsylvanian public transit authority) train to Pulse Bar, Center City where our function was being held. For once I actually spent the largest chunk on the dance floor, and though it was not my regular choice of environs I managed to have quite a good time. One further point of note was that there were three Australians present! The other two being the dates of Katrina and Arjun respectively.

At just past midnight Natalie and I cabbed home and then I promptly went to sleep before my 9AM machine learning class.


In Which I Return with A Nap

I’ve recently found myself getting tired a lot again of late. I’m not entirely sure what the reason is for it. Perhaps overwork, perhaps too much stressing, not eating properly, or being a little sick. However, on the bus ride home, it exhaustion quickly came over me and I didn’t wake until someone nudged me letting me know we were back at Penn.

Sunday evening was my usual time to spend a few hours working with Luke, and I was glad to be so effective with him. However, I couldn’t keep it up past 11PM and was soon fast asleep.

Monday wasn’t anything special, more lectures, the release of the machine learning homework and more rehearsals. The machine learning project was quite a lot of fun to get started on, and was competitive with a leaderboard keeping track of teams’ progress. Luke, Dagean and I joined forces and weren’t doing too badly as of the start of the competition.

Tuesday was no less hectic, with reading group, piano, and plenty of work. Rehearsal came too soon and as per usual by the time it was over I was completely zonked.


In Which I Encounter the Spizzwinks(?)

Saturday I woke up, just as Sai was leaving the house to go to the accelerator, but I was far to tired to make a move. However, after a minutes thought and just as the door closed, I sprung up. I realized that this would be my only opportunity to explore Yale! I quickly got dressed and started sprinting in the direction of the science park hoping to make the 10:30 free tour. I arrived a few minutes late due to the lack of a map or a sense of where I was going. When I got there I saw a long long line, stretching all the way around the car back and looping back. As I had nothing better to be doing, I joined and waited, trying to spot Sai in the crowd. A member of the crowd then informed me that this was the line for the 11:30 tour, the 10:30 tour never existed! I now felt lucky that Sai had gotten the time wrong! About fifteen minutes later, I saw her join the line at the end and invited her over so that I had someone to talk to and could get to know her better. We chatted until just after 11:30 when we were finally let in. The accelerator was great, though not the most impressive I had ever seen. Things like that remind me why I choose to study physics.

After the tour, we both walked back to the apartment for lunch, and then I sat down to read again for most of the afternoon. As the sun was setting, it was time to head to the hall where we would be performing. When the Glee Club entered, we realized that the stage was far too small for most of our production numbers, and only barely fit the band and all of us. We quickly rejiggered our show to make the most of it, and soon the lights were down and the stage was set.

The New Blue of Yale were up first, and Liz completely blew the crowd away with a giant voice, that surprised many as coming from someone of below average stature.

Liz blows the crowd away

Liz blows the crowd away

They were really in tune, and quite fun to watch perform!

Next up was a standard Glee Club set, some choral numbers, vocal jazz, a little barbershop. However following that the Penn Pipers (including me) had a chance to show off some of what we had most recently been working on. Including some fun staging to ‘Goodbye My Coney Island’.

Bhavish Ressurected

Bhavish Resurrected

When we left the stage there was a large whoop as the Spizzwinks(?) (sic) ran on. Dressed up in black and white, they both looked and sounded mighty fine. While stylistically they were very different from us, I truly enjoyed their performance. Their sound was more modern, and they chose more recent pieces. However, one way in which they outshone us was in energy and variety of facial and bodily expression. Hopefully I wasn’t the only one to take note.

The Spizzwinks(?)

The Spizzwinks(?)

After the show, everyone went their own way. The residents of my suite went back and had a few drinks together and I stayed chatting with them for a few hours, before making sure I was well enough rested for a full day of work on Sunday.


In Which I Drop the Red from The Red and the Blue

Friday was most notable for my trip to Yale. Taking out the ‘red’ from Penn’s Red and Blue to Yale’s dark azure, I rode a charter bus with the Glee Club for a good four hours before arriving in New Haven, Connecticut. When we arrived, two of our hosts from “The New Blue of Yale”, led us to a dorm where we would wait for a while for the rest of them to arrive. My first impression as we walked around the buildings and into the dorms was awe at the ornate architecture and wood paneling on the interiors. Antlers hung from the walls, alongside large paintings of former Yalies. Every building we walked into seemed to have its own Steinway piano and for a number of Glee clubbers this was too much to resist.

Yale

Pretty soon we sounded off in a chorus of “Bogoroditse Devo”, a choral favorite of hours, and moved on to other pieces, not stopping until a sizeable gaggle of girls from “The New Blue” (Yale’s top female acapella group). Zach, Tom Peterson, Rigel and myself were led to the suite belonging to one Elizabeth, who we were informed in advance was both very short, and would not be arriving home for a while. Thus we were let in by two of her suitemates Aga and Sai. We put down our belongings and chatted for a little, soon meeting Liz, but shortly after the other guys became tired of hanging around and decided to head out to a bar.

As it was a Friday night, I sat in the room reading (QED by Feynman) and had a chance to talk more with the others as they came to and fro from their studying. Liz herself made quite the impression, with a strong personality that gave her a much taller stature than she would have displayed otherwise. I learnt that she was an investigative journalist and photographer, currently researching a novel sport and throwing herself into learning about it, for a Yale paper. Additionally, she was a classical violinist who had only recently taken up singing. There was another surprise about her to come, but it wasn’t revealed until later.

Aga was a prize winning horse rider, and animal enthusiast. We bonded over the fact that she wished strongly to visit Australia. She was also very friendly and though she was studying, kept leaving her room to come out and talk. Sai was probably the least visible of those I met, with her head down in the books deep in study. However she was also probably the one with whom I was most excited to talk. Being a physicist/mechanical engineer was had plenty in common, and I managed to go on and on and on about Feynman as it was her book that I was reading. Right before she went back to her room to study she mentioned that the Yale accelerator would be open for one last day of tours the next morning, before it was to be decommissioned. Tours started at 10.30 and it would be my only chance. I thought I would be too tired the next day, so kind of discounted the opportunity and went to sleep.